Saturday, August 30, 2008

Small Reach Regatta, 2008

This photo of Hog Island courtesy of Douglas Oeller.

Sponsored by Wooden Boat Magazine, and organized by senior editor Tom Jackson, the third annual Small Reach (as it is affectionately known) was a huge success! Not really a regatta at all, but closer in spirit to the European raids, this year's event attracted over fifty traditionally inspired and mostly hand-built small craft. Attendance is by application only, and we (myself, my crab skiff Cricket, and crew Holly) were happy to have been included.

Situated on a beautiful old former dairy farm in Maine, Wooden Boat's spectacular property includes a floating dock and several hundred feet of waterfront, plus a large mooring field on Eggemoggin Reach, approximately east of Deer Isle, and southwest of Mt. Desert Island. Camping was generously provided free of charge in the old pasture and apple orchard overlooking the reach.

Most of the sailors arrived on Thursday afternoon, parking their trailers on the grassy lot adjacent to the launching ramp. Geoff Kerr of Two Daughters Boatworks served as launch coordinator and did a spectacular job organizing all the boats, trucks, and trailers. That evening we enjoyed a downeast chowder dinner in the pole barn next to the ramp, the first of three dinners provided by Wooden Boat's caterers for a very reasonable price.

Geoff Kerr's own Caledonia Yawl, Ned Ludd. Geoff is a well known builder of this Iain Oughtred design, and several of the CY's in attendance were built by him.

Another CY. This one built by owner, Chris Drouin.

Each morning in the pole barn, Tom Jackson would lay out the day's course and give us an idea of what sort of conditions we might expect. It is up to each skipper to familiarize him or herself with the course, and the prudent mariner will plot a few quick compass bearings and make a note of distances to be covered. Navigation is all line of sight... until the fog rolls in! It is amazing how quickly that can happen in Maine, and how short the field of view can become.

All boats were required to have a vhf radio, the appropriate charts, a compass, and a fog horn. We on Cricket were happy that we complied.

A typical course might take us around several islands, landing on one for a rendezvous and lunch (photo op), then to another location before turning home.

Island Lady, David Wymans lovely Canoe Yawl. David was responsible for running safety checks on each vessel.

A sloop rigged Swampscott Dory, here sans jib.

A beautiful Washington County Peapod.

Cricket on the beach.

An Exploration 18, one of the two or three non-wood vessels in attendance. Jack Rabbit II came all the way from Ontario to sail.

There were several outboard powered escort vessels in constant radio contact with the fleet, ready to lend a hand if the need should arise. In the evening, most of us chose to anchor our boats out in the mooring field to avoid having to haul and re-launch from the steep ramp. I learned several things about Cricket over the weekend. For one thing, she rows beautifully. I was afraid that all of those double-ended beachboats and peapods would leave us behind if we were forced to row, but not so! We rowed several miles all told, maintaining a very easy 2 mph speed, and stayed in position with the fleet.

This Dory is a great sail and oar boat.

Also, Cricket rode to her anchor quite well. She has been known to sail around it, but with plenty of scope, she sat happy as a duck. Some folks made fun of my extra heavy anchor and chain, but I slept well at night. Launch service was provided by the saltiest outboard semi-dory I've ever seen, complete with bow pudding and yard dog. John, the operator of Fetch, was an amazing boat handler, and atypically, not grumpy or taciturn at all (and neither was the dog)!

John, with Fetch and Yard Dog

On Friday afternoon, the fog rolled in along with some good wind, so the reach down into the moorings was very interesting, indeed. That night at dinner, Tom Jackson showed slides of his just completed voyage aboard the 98 foot viking ship Sea Stallion from Glendalough. His presentation of that extremely rigorous and daunting voyage in the North Sea made us all feel a little sheepish in our Helly Hansens and wellies.

By Saturday morning, the fog had thickened to the proverbial pea soup. I wondered if we would actually set out into the murk, but we did, hoisting sail and rowing with the rest of the fleet.

Pea Soup!
Another Oughtred design, the Ness Yawl Little Otter.

Only a very few decided to stay ashore. The going was pretty slow, and we on Cricket thought we might cut the course short, eliminating one island rounding to land at the lunch spot. By that time though, the breeze had filled in, and we were reluctant to sail away from the small mini-group that we could still see close by. One boat seemed to be heading off determinedly in the direction of the original island rounding, so we thought we might change our plans. Then, the boat we were following capsized, and immediately turtled! We now had a very serious situation on our hands. I immediately radioed the committee to advise them of the situation, and one of the other boats, a Norseboat picked up the very cold crew. Our last known position was a nun buoy, which we could no longer see. I have to admit to being a little disoriented after circling around in the near zero visibility, but tried to give John on Fetch an accurate fix. John quickly told me over the radio to forget the lat/long, and blow my foghorn when I heard his engine. I had given him the recent buoy sight, and soon heard him to the east of our position. He then quickly found us and got the crew on board. John was able to get a grappling hook on the turtled boat's shroud, and pulled her up, putting a mooring float on her masthead. By this time, we had worked out a bearing to the rendezvous point, and sailed on in. Hog Island emerged out of the fog only about a quarter mile away! It all ended well, but to think of the consequences, had no one been there to assist, was very sobering. Everyone involved learned quite a bit from the experience, a cheap lesson as they say. We on Cricket resolved to trust our boat, and our navigation, and to sail our own course. I think that in the end, our instincts had been pretty good.

Harrier off the port bow.

At lunch, the afternoon sun broke through the murk, and we had a lovely warm sail back to the moorings. We found ourselves trading tacks with Tony Dias aboard Harrier. Tony and I have done a bit of sailing together over the years, and he invited me to jump in Harrier, putting his crew, Keith, in Cricket with Holly.

Harrier, designed by Tony Dias, and built by the Rockport Apprenticeshop for Owner Ben Fuller. Harrier is a very fast and able beach boat.

This was great as I had really wanted an opportunity to sail Harrier, and as a bonus I would be able to photograph Cricket under sail.

Cricket, off Babson Island, with Holly at the helm.

Dinner that evening in the pole barn was a classic downeast lobster feast, with corn, salad, and grilled sausage. The night sky cleared completely, and we were treated to a nearly full moon, rising huge and orange over the festivities.

Sunday was to be the last day of sailing, and Tom set a shorter course so that we could all get our boats hauled in the afternoon.

An Alfjords Faering, another beauty in Ben Fuller's quiver.

Pepita, Mike Wick's beautiful, gaff-rigged Melonseed.

Peggy Bliss, an Ipswich Bay 18.

A frequent sight heading down Eggemoggin Reach.

With everyone lending a hand, all fifty boats were pulled and packed up, ending what was a very memorable event. I would like to express my sincere thanks to all of those that organized and helped run this truly splendid event! Thanks for sticking it out to the end of this post. To reward those who did, here is a link to Tom Hill's video.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


SPY sailing in the Miles River near St. Michaels, Md.

I was introduced to canoe sailing when I joined the Sebago Canoe Club back in the early nineties. I had been sailing for a while by then, and had built a few boats, but I didn't really learn to sail until got into canoes. I met Gus Schultheiss and Duncan Mooney, at that time the two most active sailors at the club. Both of them had decent ACA sailing canoes, and with their help I rigged up one of the club Grummans with the ACA rig. The boat was fast, but less than perfect with a mast stepped way forward in the boat, and no vang, so she was cranky off the wind, with an alarming roll. I quickly learned not to let the sheet too far out on windy runs, but if I stayed powered up, and moved well aft, she'd really fly.

After a season with the Grumman, I felt it was time to find my own boat. So I bought a used Mowhawk Blazer with an ACA rig (named by Duncan, the Beast), and sailed her for a season before completely stripping and rebuilding her from the gelcoat up that winter.

The BEAST- South Edisto River, S.C.

I was basically starting from a clean bare hull, and put in watertight bulkheads, decks, and built a completely new rudder and leeboard assembly. At that time, Gus was working on a new leeboard pivot system using a piece of stainless tubing which spanned the boat from gunwale to gunwale and was rigidly fixed to the leeboard via a tubing stanchion and bolt. The whole business pivoted within a pair of plastic pillow blocks which were mounted on the gunwales. The bolts that fastened the pillow blocks to the gunwales also adjusted the friction on the tube, and once set, never had to be touched again! (The more typical angle iron leeboard bracket with pivot bolt always either tightens or loosens as the board is pivoted up and down.) And, all of the parts for the pivot system were stock items from west Marine. This design has proven itself over many years to be excellent.

Leeboard Pivot

The new canoe, repainted and sporting a graphite/epoxy bottom, was christened SPY. I now had a boat that balanced well, steered effortlessly, and was a truly comfortable boat.

SPY- Cedar Island, N.C.

At about that time, we decided to get back into racing which was once a major part of the club. I bought an old used C Class sail, and entered my first regatta at Oquaga Lake for the Northern New York Divisionals. So began several years of attending and hosting ACA and C Class races. These regattas were always challenging and always fun, and just about the best way I know to sharpen sailing skills.

My first regatta. SPY is number 37

Oquaga Lake, N.Y.

A lot of the canoe sailors that I met at this time were sailing the Mohawk Ultima hull design. I was really keen on getting a faster boat, and a brand new, bare Ultima hull was going for around $500, so I bought one. This really was a slick, beautiful hull, and I spent another winter building ALIEN. I refined the bulkhead and deck design, and built more efficient, NACA section foils.

Fitting bulkhead and mast step into the Ultima

Shaping the rudder blade

Alien's completed rudder

I also had a new, full batten, C Class sail built for me, and bought new spars. Alien was initially more tender than Spy, but I quickly grew to appreciate the speed and grace of the new hull. With hiking straps, I could virtually wear the boat, and it is still the most perfectly balanced boat I've ever owned. In moderate wind with the sheet cleated, I can set the tiller down on the rail, and read, eat lunch, or generally gather wool on the long reaches between the islands of Jamaica Bay, NY.

ALIEN (left) and SPY- Jamaica Bay, NY.

I was caught, early on, by the lure of multihulls, and I felt a particularly strong attraction to outriggers and proas. In '94, we were car-topping the Beast down through the Carolinas when we dropped in on Mark and Sam of Balogh Sail Designs on Cedar Island, having just come from Ocracoke via the ferry. We had a pleasant afternoon talking about kayak and canoe sailing, the trimarans of Dick Newick and Jim Brown, and I heard Mark's story of sailing with Russell Brown on the proa Jzero down in the Caribbean. Later that year, I began fiddling with an outrigger design of my own, and built models of a tortured ply ama from info I found in the Gougeon Brothers excellent boat building book. I wasn't to build my full size outrigger for a few years yet, but the seeds were sown.

After designing and building a sailing kayak with a beautiful, BSD full expedition BOSS rig (that's a whole other story for a different chapter), I began work on the single outrigger One Legged Alien. I built hollow, box beam akas which proved to be really light and stiff, and a tortured ply ama from 4 mm occume. I added a roller furling jib, and replaced the leeboard pivot tube with a much heavier one to better deal with the much higher loads that the new rig would impart.

ONE LEGGED ALIEN on the beach- Jamaica Bay, N.Y.

The new outrigger was a blast to sail, very fast and very wet! It was not a perfect design by any means. The ama should be longer, and set further forward. And the leeboard should be replaced with a dagger board. But I had a lot of fun with the boat, and learned a great deal from it as well. And if I ever build another outrigger, I'd like to try out Gary Dierking's T2, a real proa.

ONE LEGGED ALIEN and SPY on the beach- Jamaica Bay, N.Y.

We have since moved on to other boats. There was a Hobie 16 for a while, and then a much larger cruising catamaran, and now I primarily sail my Windward Skiff CRICKET. At Sebago, our focus is on teaching dinghy sailing and racing the Laser and Sunfish. Our sailing program there has really grown as a result. I still however, sail the monohull ALIEN quite frequently, and it's still the best balanced boat I've ever owned!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


Recently I met up with an old sailing acquaintance of mine down in Barnegat Bay, NJ for a group sail with some members of the TSCA (Traditional Small Craft Association). My friend Kevin was launching his newly completed Welsford Navigator Yawl, built in his Maryland home shop last winter. I was very curious to see the boat, because this is a design that I am considering for a future building project of my own.

We launched from the Ocean Gate Yacht Basin at the mouth of the Toms River, sailed out to the barrier island before a light westerly, and anchored for lunch. There were ten boats in all, including several Joel white designed Marsh Cats, a Melonseed, and recent version of an Ed Monk sloop design
from the 1930's.

During lunch, the southerly filled in, and we had a lively thrash towards Barnegat Light in a good 15 knots of wind, with a steep chop. The Navigator acquitted herself well in these conditions, carrying full sail without alarming her crew in the least. She's a full-bodied boat, with a ton of interior space on a relatively short waterline, but with bow sections fine enough not to pound unmercifully.

We again joined the other boats at anchor behind Island Beach State Park.
This is a popular anchorage with the power boaters as it allows access to the ocean beach and bathhouses. Some of the group crossed over to swim, and some hit the heads facilities. We tucked a reef into the Navigator's main for the run home, jibing frequently (planned and otherwise) without incident. The other boats were reefed down as well.

Barnegat Bay is an excellent destination for sailors or kayakers, with a lot of challenging, open water, and excellent beach access. The marina at Ocean Gate charges $10 to use their ramp, and parking for boat and trailer is available. This is probably a better weekday destination, as I'm sure the area fills to capacity on the weekends.