Fourth of July weekend, all the family gathered at Grandpa’s cottage on Harsens Island in Little Muscamoot Bay. The cousins caught fish off the seawall while the uncles grilled burgers and the aunts sunbathed. There wasn’t a cloud that dared form and the water was a cool escape from the heat. It was the perfect day to celebrate American Independence and to spend some quality time with family from out of town.
The water at the seawall was only a foot and a half deep, and the bay was just deep enough for my dad’s red 1973 Catalina 22 to sit 20 meters out, glowing like a ruby under the hot summer sun. I had spent weeks resurrecting her from the back yard where she’d slept for the past two years, home to racoons and varmints. On the driveway, I scrubbed the mold off her and refinished the wood. Today would be my first time taking her out for a proper cruise.
I waited all day for the wind to pick up with hopes of sailing into Big Muscamoot Bay past the lighthouses and into Lake St. Clair, where the bigger boats play. When the willow leaves began to flutter ever so slightly, I made a sandwich, grabbed an FM radio, and held both above my head as I waded through waist-deep water out to the boat.
Aboard and free at last, I fidgeted with the taped antenna and turned up Detroit’s classic rock station and raised the sails, ready to conquer the day. With the anchor up and the sails flying, I quickly found I had overestimated the wind’s strength as the boat side slipped into the phragmite. “No worries,” I thought as I lowered the outboard and motored further out, “the wind will be better farther out in the lake.”
A half-hour passed to the hum of the 5-horsepower outboard splashing in and out of the water, harmonizing with the waves. The wind had dwindled to complete stagnation and I decided to cut the sailing expedition short. Still, it was nice to sit on the bay and rock with the waves. I dropped anchor for an hour and then headed back in, figuring I’d detour up the canal behind the cottage, to grab some things from my car. But as I rounded the corner from the bay into the canal towards my car, the boat abruptly stopped before jerking forward, and in that instant, I thought I’d left the swing keel down and run aground. Then the mast crashed down into the cockpit, landing inches from me. The powerlines I had hit ripped from the neighbor’s house and shot sparks across their lawn and into the water. A middle-aged man then came storming out of the house, screaming every profane word there is, as the siding on his house went up in flames. I sat petrified watching his entire family joined in to beat the flames with towels and fill buckets with water from the canal. The fire department arrived shortly afterward to disable the dangling powerlines. Luckily, no one was hurt, but the relationship between the neighbors has never been the same.
My dad used the old pontoon boat to tow the wounded Catalina to the swamp behind the cottage, where she sat for the rest of the summer. Her stays were broken, her mast collapsed, and her mainsail torn. Guilt and embarrassment brewed in my stomach like leftover Coney Island. For the rest of the weekend, I felt something like the amplified sorrow of having stepped on the family pet’s tail. Worse, that old cheap daysailer was my only escape from society, my only freedom. Subject to jokes I thought would never end, my one uncle pulled me aside to say, “Don’t worry kid, I sailed my boat into powerlines when I was your age too, lit the whole damn neighborhood on fire.”
And he was right, his point being that we live and learn as sailors and there is always next year to sail again.
Kyle Dluge fosters big dreams, but without a lot of money to make them come true. In between working every job he can in hopes of one day sailing the world, Kyle sails Lake St. Clair aboard a sinking Catalina 22. Writing is one of his many hobbies.
I acquired my first boat as a child, a red MFG 14-foot runabout with a stinky 35-hp Evinrude. She was slow, noisy, and not at all seaworthy. Within in a year, the red fiberglass turned to rose and the blush was gone. Many years later, my first true love arrived in the form of a powder-blue AMF Sunbird 16. She carried a jib and mainsail and offered a small cuddy to get out of the rain. She floated in 8 inches with the centerboard up and was an angel when it was down. I loved pulling her up on our Nissequogue, Long Island, beach to watch the osprey fly overhead and then to sail back into the Sound and head home after a long day.
When they were new, the four Rayovac 6-volt golf-cart (GC2) batteries on Phantom, our Pearson 365 ketch, had plenty of electrical capacity to provide all the power we needed to go three or more days between recharging, perfect for the kind of local cruising we enjoy. As the batteries reached the 5-year-old mark, I wondered whether they still had what it takes, especially given that our need for power consumption is probably greater than it was a half decade ago. How could I determine their capacity from a fully charged state?
Singlehanded sailing and photography don’t always go together. Throw in some brisk wind, maybe a tender boat, perhaps no autopilot, and capturing the moments and scenes on camera can be a real challenge.
As a freelance writer for magazines, I’m often in need of good photos of specific subjects, and sometimes these photos can be captured only while under sail. Sometimes I’m sailing alone. Sometimes my hands or I need to be in the shot. I’m always thinking of solutions.
The conventional tripod is out of the question while under way. The ubiquitous “selfie stick” limits POV options. And many of the hundreds of clamp-on brackets are either a bit too fussy or won’t grab where I happen to need them to be.
Some years ago, it occurred to me that a winch socket could provide an additional camera mounting point, and so I began watching for a broken winch handle to use as a base, but none came my way. Then I got an idea.
We tend to forget how much GPS, accurate weather forecasting, and modern hull, sail, and communications technologies have improved our ability to get around faster and more safely on the ocean. Oh, and the wisdom that comes to most of us as we leave our 20s behind . . .
In 1974, Judy and I took a sabbatical from work for as long as our savings would last. We left our jobs in Dallas, sold most of our possessions, and began exploring Mexico by train and bus. We were staying on the beach (in hammocks under the palms) on the tiny island of Isla Mujeres when we heard of a young fellow named Troy who was looking for crew to help him sail a boat from Cozumel to Key West, Florida. I’d been sailing most of my life and, as our savings were getting thin, this sounded like a fun and inexpensive way to return to the States after our adventure.
Over the years, I’ve often used a sun shower to heat water for onboard showers. If conditions are right, they can get to be too hot to use. But more often, a cooling breeze saps the heat generated by the sunlight, leaving me a lukewarm shower. I experimented with placement of the solar shower, in a bid to protect it from the wind, but shade was then my foe.
If you’ve been to Hawaii, you’ve maybe seen the Falls of Clyde, an historic sailing ship lying in Honolulu Harbor. She is a rare one: a four-master made of riveted iron. She was built on the river Clyde in Scotland, nearly 140 years ago. She’d be a strong contender for the ultimate good old boat. During her past, she traded around the world, hauling a wide variety of cargo until 1907, when she was fitted with integral steel tanks for carrying kerosene.
For another, more comprehensive look at a hatch tent solution, see Don Casey’s “A Rain-Defeating Hatch Hood,” in the July 2012 issue of Good Old Boat magazine. –Eds
You just docked after a nice sail. The weather is warm. The plan is to grab a bite to eat at a local restaurant. You leave the forehatch open wide to let the boat air out a bit. About halfway through your meal, the rain begins! You begin to race back to the boat, images of a soggy V-berth and bedding pushing your legs faster and then . . . you stop . . . and you smile, because you remember that you have a hatch tent.
The accompanying pics show our hatch tent in its deployed position. It is suspended from a jib or spinnaker halyard and attached at eight different points by bungee cords. Basic dimensions are: length to be 65 percent of the distance from the mast to the bow, width to be 75 percent of the beam measured aft of the fore hatch.
In warm weather, full-length foul-weather pants are rather uncomfortable to wear for too long. A more comfortable option we’ve found is to take a pair of full-length pants and cut them so that the legs fall about 2 inches below the bottom edge of the shorts we usually wear (plan to cut a little longer to allow length to fold and hem). These improved foulie bottoms are cooler to wear while still keeping our shorts, and everything in our pockets, dry. Most anyone should be able to make the necessary alterations with needle and thread, no machine sewing is necessary.
Jill and Rudy Sechez have cruised for 20 years and still enjoy using paper charts, lead line, compass, and oil lighting. They have built seven of the nine boats they’ve owned, including their current boat, a 34-foot sail-assisted trawler, Briney Bug, and its 8-foot rowing dinghy, one of five they’ve designed. They have written numerous articles for boating magazines and their book, Anchoring, a Ground Tackler’s Apprentice, was published by Waterway Guide Media. The couple are available for speaking engagements: email@example.com.
Editor’s note: Has this happened to you? You’re out for a sail and realize the cockpit-led reefing line or mainsheet that has sailed many years with you is showing signs of wear or UV damage. Back at the dock you remove it, buy a replacement line from a chandler, and then, ready to run the new line, realize you don’t remember whether to run the new line inside or outside the lazy jacks, or how to thread it through the multi-sheave blocks to gain the necessary purchase… contributor Gregg Bruff has the answer:
In a plastic notebook binder, I keep a sketch I made of how the mainsheet runs through the blocks correctly. In the same notebook I keep also a cheat-sheet on the Mayday procedure, a layout of my switch control panel (upside down, as I access it from the cockpit), and any notes I make while sailing.
British Columbia winter months are cool and damp with short days, rain, and minimal sunshine. Having a heat source on board is essential to keep the mildew at bay and so we keep Natasha, our 1978 Islander Bahama 30, plugged in all winter. For the past 15 years, our yellow Marinco shore power cord has been subjected to everything the weather and dock can throw at it. Bright yellow and shiny when purchased, it had gotten dirty and sticky to the touch, not something I particularly wanted to handle.
I tried every marine-focused vinyl cleaner available, along with chemical and abrasive cleaners from the local hardware store. None were effective. And with 50 feet of cord to clean, I needed something effective.
Before we sailed Sionna, our 1963 Triangle 32 ketch, south from Maine in August 2016, my wife, Nicki, and I spent many, many hours on repairs, preventive maintenance, and upgrades to ensure we had a reliable, comfortable home for our planned 8-month sojourn to the sunny south. But one of the tasks on our to-do list we didn’t complete was to re-bed her stanchion bases. Predictably, we discovered leaks shortly after we left. When I finally tackled the project, we were in Florida, at Marathon’s Boot Key Harbor. The job was straightforward, but it did require I draw on the following tips and tricks.
Editor’s note: We have a hard time relating to David’s story. We’ve a 40-year-old boat and it’s difficult to imagine ever polishing her hull and losing track of where we finished off. Perhaps our incredulity is simply jealousy.
As our boat is 40 years old, she’s not free of blemishes but so far there is no indication of chalking on the gelcoat. Accordingly, every year when my wife, Eileen, and I polish the hull of our good old Mariner 28, Day by Day, we have the same problem: locating the area we just covered so that we don’t laboriously re-do parts of the hull twice over. We have made sporadic attempts to indicate the polished sections but nothing systematic. This year was going to be different!
We occasionally go to potluck events in our marina where four or five couples are trying to cook their food on a single gas/charcoal grill. There is usually too much food to cook on the grill at one time and we struggle to jockey the food so we all can eat at the same time. Side dishes in pots are usually cooked aboard and brought up the dock to shore to sit and get cold.
Editor’s note: A Taste of Sail! I love this concept and I know it’s practiced at clubs all over. But if it doesn’t happen in your community, hopefully you’ll be inspired by A Taste of Sail to start something similar. It’s having fun doing good.
To spark sailing interest among our community (and to attract folks to join our little dry-land yacht club), we of the Rockford Yacht Club of Rockford, Illinois, have for many years now hosted an annual public event we call, A Taste of Sail.
2017 was a disastrous sailing season for the boaters of the lower Great Lakes. At launch time in late April, the water was several feet higher than normal. Owners donned rubber boots to wade through several inches of water covering the docks just to get to their boats. Because they were under water, the docks were soon slick with algae, making the stroll to a boat perilous. Shore power was cut off because the electrics were under water. After a few of us experienced tingling while wading on the submerged service dock to step our masts, the crane was shut down and we worked to re-route the wiring to higher ground. Soon, every club on the lake was closed to visitors for safety considerations. Even for those who were determined to sail, there was no place to go. What is normally a six-month sailing season turned into two and a half months.
Upon upgrading from a cozy, wooden Swifty 13 to a Montgomery 15, I was struck by the stark fiberglass interior of the Monty. I missed the warm, soothing ambiance of a wood cabin. There’s just something about wood — it’s alive, it’s organic, and so somehow helps to ease the sense of loneliness and anxiety lurking in the background of the human condition.
After replacing the screens that fit the opening portlights on our Bayfield 32, I noticed a narrow gap around the perimeter of the aluminum frame, between the screen and the portlight frame. The tiny gap was large enough to let the ravenous mosquitos through to feed on us while we slept.
“No,” I said into the satellite phone, “why would I do that?”
“We’ve had some instances where the prop fell off those saildrive units.”
A quick dive revealed that the mechanic knew what he was talking about. I had no prop and I was stuck in a small, remote cove on the west coast of Vancouver Island. It took seven days to rectify the situation.
This project, like so many others, just didn’t go as planned.
A surveyor had pointed out the need to replace a failing exhaust hose on Second Star, the 1993 Sabre 362 I’d just bought. Complying with that recommendation had consumed my day. At first the work progressed as I’d hoped, both ends of the hose were easily accessible and within a few minutes I’d disconnected the hose and clipped the wire ties securing it. But then the battle began, with me losing at several attempts to remove the hose.
The best fishing is behind my boat, a 1967 Morgan. I know this because every time I settle into a new anchorage, one, two, or more fishing boats inevitably appear, only a fish’s throw from my cockpit. Clearly all the fish have schooled around my boat and the fishermen somehow know this. When they arrive they drop their lines, sometimes at an uncomfortable closeness. Not being much of a fisherman myself, I have never myself reaped this bounty off my transom.
We’re not like the other sailing magazines, but I know you know this already. The point I want to make is that we’re not really of a place. At the Annapolis boat show last fall, introducing our almost-20-year-old magazine to show-goers, many would immediately ask, “Where are you guys based?”
Many of us have Barient winches on our good old boats. If you’ve got them, you may have noticed that they aren’t what they once were. My late 80’s cruiser/racer has 8 of them.
Years ago, servicing the winches, I noticed that all of the cage bearings (two per winch) needed to be replaced. The plastic containment cages were intact, but many of the nylon/plastic rollers were either flattened or split. At the time, replacement bearings were available at a fair price, so I installed new bearings and went on my merry way.
In late September, our marina manager asked if I would be interested in salvaging a few sailboats in the winter storage yard. All had been neglected and eventually abandoned by their owners. In each of these once beautiful and functional sailboats, water had accumulated inside, in some cases 1 to 2 feet above the cabin sole.
When we retired from full-time cruising and built a house on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay, my wife Dee and I bought a thoroughly dilapidated 1966 Marshall 18 Sanderling catboat for exploring the Bay’s shallow waters. We used brutal methods to give her a complete makeover. The result was a cat yawl with a permanent doghouse, easy chairs, a small galley, and a woodstove (“Good Old Catboat,” September 2001). We called her the Dabbler, and explored much of the lower Chesapeake in her.
I stood in the cockpit of our boat, my trunks dripping wet from the swim out. Usually being aboard releases a spurt of euphoria within me. If I’m on the boat, most likely I’ll soon be sailing.
Instead a shiver coursed through me. My shoulders and back ached from hauling myself aboard. My knees throbbed from bouncing around during our earlier sail that day. The wind puffed in my face, taunting me. But I balked.
Novice, beginner, nimrod, greenhorn; we have all been this kind of sailor at one time or another. Many of us still are, and so this is written for you. You are the ones who have not (yet?) sailed on an ocean, let alone across an ocean, but have cut your teeth on a pond or larger lake in a summer camp Sunfish or a friend’s old Chris-Craft sloop.
I am somewhere between the middle and end of refurbishing for fun and charter my 1982 Islander 48, Crescendo, hull number 1. She’s just about ready to move from Port Charlotte, FL where she’s been on the hard for just under three years at Safe Cove, Inc., undergoing some major repairs and a lot of minor repairs. She is finally in the water and we’ve just completed installing new halyards. All that remains is planning the best time to move this deep keel boat during the right tide and weather window.
I rush to the Chesapeake Bay to fill up on sailing adventures. I explore the Bay with my boyfriend, Jordan, on Base Camp, our simple and reliable Pearson 31. You too may know the magical moments: smooth winds, gentle waves, fiery sunsets, jumping into the water to cool off on a hot day, laughter at dinner on a boat, the calming of the body and mind at the end of the day. I am grateful for all of this, but what I truly love about sailing is its harsh and unpredictable side. It is the unexpected, uncontrollable sides of sailing that are changing my life, for the better.