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Twice Hooked

For me, there are few experiences as satisfying as finding a quiet, secluded anchorage where I can enjoy the freedom of a peaceful sunset and lazy morning. You’ll recognize my boat because there’s an over-sized galvanized anchor on the bow, perpetually coated with dried mud from the last night I spent on the hook. This sailor is firmly planted in the cruiser garden, where I till the watery thoroughfares of the Great Lakes.

So it was that I was on a week-long cruising vacation, exploring the northeastern shore of Lake Ontario. Past Presqu’ile Point sits Prince Edward County and miles of beautiful sandy beaches. The area is dotted with quaint towns and wineries, promising a slower pace of life that draws cottagers from far and wide, including friends of ours, whom we decided to pay a visit. 

Because there are no keel-boat marinas near, we decided to anchor off the beach at Pleasant Bay Camp. All that separated us from our friends’ cabin property was a few hundred yards’ tromp over a sand dune.

The day was sunny, bright, and warm. A moderate south-west wind was kicking up 2-foot waves on the white-sanded shore. Because of a very gradual seabed slope, we anchored quite far out. We sunk the Lewmar-made Bruce-style anchor from the bow. As the family packed beach toys and towels in our kayak, I noticed a slight wind shift, causing Nomad, our Luger 26, to drift broadside to the waves. In that moment, my inexperience allowed a dangerous syllogism to form in my mind.

Major premise – Anchors secure boats.

Minor premise – You can’t have too much security.

Conclusion – Two anchors are better than one.

So, before we went ashore to meet our friends, I pulled our secondary anchor (a Fortress), from its cozy slumber in the lazarette, tossed it off the stern, and pulled on the rode to orient Nomad perpendicular to the waves, bow pointing to deeper water. After I cleated the stern anchor rode, we disembarked for some fun with friends.

An hour later, having returned to the boat alone, I stood staring with absolute terror at the foredeck, where the anchor roller was bent and twisted and nearly ripped off the boat. Two of the four bolts that were securing the roller were severed.

One or both anchors had shifted and now both worked to keep Nomad positioned so that she was broadside to the increasing wind and waves. She was being pounded mercilessly, each wave hitting with brutal strength. Then in a moment I realized that the anchor roller is the deck fitting to which the forestay is attached. Nomad was simultaneously at risk of being beached and dismasted!

With the rest of my family watching helplessly from the faraway shore, I spent the most terrifying 30 minutes of my life trying to save Nomad. This meant starting our reluctant Mercury outboard and retrieving both anchors, on a pitching, heeling boat without the benefit of a tiller pilot. At some point, I managed to cast off the kayak so it would wash ashore and could be used by the family to reach me.

With everyone back aboard, we threw a long nylon rope over the spreaders and tied it forward to support the mast. For the next two hours, the mood was somber as we limped back to the marina at Brighton, Ontario, from where our week-long sailing holiday had begun the day before.

The next morning, we tore apart the front of the v-berth and the anchor locker, removed the severely damaged anchor roller, pounded it back into functional shape, and re-attached it to the bow.

Having since completed a few Canadian Power and Sail Squadrons boating courses, I have come to learn my syllogism was entirely faulty. One anchor is nearly always the best solution. Securing a boat at the bow allows the hull to flow freely with the natural forces of wind and wave, minimizing the forces on the ground tackle. In my case, adding the stern hook served initially to orient the boat in a manner which pointed the bow into the seas, but doing so raised the danger that should either anchor drag and reset, the boat could wind up trapped as she was. There are limited cases when anchoring with a bow and stern hook makes sense, but it’s not accurate to surmise that two is always better than one, not even if both are set off the bow. In fact, I might never have reason to deploy more than one anchor for the rest of my sailing career.

Do I regret my own ignorance which led to this near-disaster? No. It was this experience—this mistake—that led me to learn what I’ve learned. I’m a wiser and safer captain today.

Lee Brubacher is the husband of one, father of three, and has been the Director of Worship at West Highland Church, Hamilton, Ontario, since 2001. He is an avid sailor who enjoys refurbishing older boats and then cruising on them.

Moonward: An Off-Season Daydream

by Craig Moodie

Close your eyes and climb aboard your little sailboat. Hoist the sail and drop off the mooring and slip across the deepening waters, mainsheet and tiller in hand. Feel the worn cedar planks and sand grains against your bare soles and hear the thrum of sail as it tautens in the breeze and lifts the boat across the water, wavelets clucking against the carving hull. Smell the cool salty broth of sea air and the fishy funk of the sea. Keep heading outward. Settle back against the cockpit coaming and nod to the terns chittering and peering at you as they flick past.

The sun settles toward the far shore. You squint at it, its rays warming your face. Tilt your head skyward and watch the angled shape of the sail and the gaff and the masthead arc and pivot against the heavens. Keep heading out and watch the sun alight on the horizon, then melt away, leaving the scattered puffs of cloud ablaze with electric pink that cools fast to purple and then charcoal. A planet blinks on, and red and green and white navigation lights of vessels appear. The water reflects the last of the sky’s inky blue. Shore lights mingle with the lights on the water. Soon you slip over a darkening sea, the white sail above you offering a pale glow against the growing star population. Reach for the chamois shirt you stow beneath the foredeck. Shrug into it and thank it for its warmth.

Skim onward into wider waters. You know you’ll never turn around now. A hush embraces you. The shore lights diminish, the lights of vessels disperse. Quiet now. You sense the outer shell of you dissolving to leave you open to the wind and the stars and the dark presence of the sea. You have passed through a zone in which you have given your entire being to the world. You open up your soul like a great pair of wings to let the quiet enter you and cleanse you. You become the boat and the sea and the night.

The moon raises its brow above the horizon, unfurling a glittering ribbon across the water. You adjust your course to point moonward, your bow scissoring the shimmer.

The moon whispers words you first think originate from wind or wave, sibilant syllables sweet but nonsensical. You know the words are meant for you. You strain to parse these lunar phrases, these moon murmurs, and soon you find that the nonsense sounds transform into a message as if you have tuned through the static of a shortwave radio to land on a clear signal.

“Steady on, steady on,” you hear the moon intone. Will you allow this beacon of beyond to guide you onward, outward, moonward?

You know you will. You know you’ll never turn around now.

Craig Moodie lives with his wife, Ellen, in Massachusetts. His work includes A Sailor’s Valentine and Other Stories and, under the name John Macfarlane, the middle-grade novel, Stormstruck!, a Kirkus Best Book.

Better to Stay Ahead of the Game

By D. Renée Kelso

The ice from the previous Canadian winter had pushed, moved, and piled up a lot of rocks, wood, sediment, and lord knows what else, in the waterway. Above water, there was no way one could tell. No way one would suspect it would be there. No way I could have known.

BANG! And my Grampian 2-34 came to a jarring halt. She hit hard.

“What the…?” I’d been sailing this same area for 16 years without a grounding. Now, my Grampian stood firm on her keel, rocking slightly.

After some helpful souls towed me off the ragged mound, I turned the boat around and headed back to my slip at the marina. The boat seemed to handle well, but all the way home I worried and wondered about the damage that may have happened underwater.

The next day, I contacted a nearby Marina that services boats. They told me to bring her over. The marina was about an hour away by motor. Wasting no time, I headed out. The skies were sunny and windless. Not so much as a zephyr; so I threw on the iron jib and set sail to have the keel inspected.

At the mouth of the harbor, the engine began heating up. The temperature gauge needle was a hair away from the very top temperature reading. My blood pressure rose with it. I crossed my fingers, lowered the speed, and limped the rest of the way to the service slip.

A group of employees waited at the slip, a Travelift at the ready.

When she first came out of the water, I was relieved. At first glance, the hull and keel looked okay, dripping with weeds and water. But after pulling the loose weeds away, we could see that the keel had indeed been damaged. It looked as though the bottom edge of it had been pried apart. The bottom plate had become detached. There was also a stress crack in the stern part of the keel where it meets the hull. There was the overheating engine.

I left the boat with the yard and stayed in touch. It was an expensive repair and it took a few weeks to finish, but the outcome was instructive.

Before deciding to haul the boat and inspect for damage, I waffled. After the grounding, after being towed off, the boat handled fine and the bilge was dry. Was I being too cautious in hauling to inspect for damage? Why waste precious days during the sailing season? With nothing seeming amiss, couldn’t I wait to haul at season’s end? Ultimately, I decided to play it safe; I’m glad I did.

The yard foreman explained to me that 60 percent of the plate at the base of the keel was detached, ripped off by the impact. If I had left it unattended, it could have snagged something and been torn off completely, or possibly have caused me to become stuck. And the gash at the trailing edge of the keel was allowing water to penetrate the interior of the keel. Had this not been repaired quickly, further damage would have resulted. The yard had epoxied the keel with a 105 resin, coupled with a 205 slow hardener and a 405 filleting blend additive for bonding and strength, and screwed the plate back into place. They then sanded to fair the repairs and leave a smooth sealed surface. Anti-fouling with VC17 was the final step and the job was done! (The engine problem wasn’t an engine problem at all, but a faulty gauge. Whew!)

At the first opportunity, I sailed my boat to her home slip to enjoy the rest of the season. It is widely understood that to keep an older boat in ship shape, an owner can’t ignore the little projects that pop up. I now know too that when in doubt about some aspect of a boat, whether damage- or maintenance-related, it is best to investigate and attend to anything aboard that needs tending, as soon as possible, whether the solution is a DIY fix or requires a professional. Waiting is never prudent. And staying on top of things keeps this sailor’s cursing tongue quiet.

D. Renée Kelso has been sailing on Lake Simcoe for the past 16 years. She’s not a racer, but enjoys her leisurely sails. She owned a Grampian 31 for 12 years and currently sails a Grampian 2-34.

Kiltie and I

by John Bailey

I get up and check the calendar. It’s late in the season and only a few days remain before the marina’s deadline for hauling out my boat. I check the weather; 7 to 9 out of the east, sunny with temps 57 to 62, a perfect fall sailing day.

We are going sailing—we meaning Kiltie and I. Kiltie’s my boat, named after the Scottish slang word for soldier. Just the thought of getting out on the water primes my spirit.

At the marina, the owner and I talk about where he might put Kiltie on the hard this winter. I tell him I need a spot where the boat won’t block other boats from going in early next spring, because Kiltie demands a bit more time to get ready in the spring. A 1966 Tartan 27 yawl, she’s got lots of wood trim and paint that needs attention.

Lots of bottom has passed under my boat’s keel these past 53 years. Her first owner sailed her out of the Hudson, up and down the northeast coast. He kept meticulous logs that make great wintertime reading these days. Her second owner refitted and re-powered her and sailed her around the Chesapeake. I’ve sailed her on the Chesapeake, up the coast to the Hudson, through the Erie Canal, and as far west as the Finger Lakes. She and I have been as far north as the Thousand Islands. One time, we secretly sailed over the US-Canadian border.

These days, her home port is Oneida Lake, Central New York, often referred to as the thumb of the Finger Lakes. Oneida Lake is a bit over 25 miles long, 5 miles wide, and, unlike the Fingers, it is relatively shallow and known for its choppy wind waves. It is also connected to the Erie Canal.

I fire up the old diesel, cast off the lines, and weave past many now-empty slips and through the breakwater. Outside the last channel buoys, I assess the wind. It seems to be blowing a bit more than forecast and it’s gusting. I decide not to set the mainsail, raising only the genoa and the mizzen. This sail arrangement is an old fishermen’s scheme and although a bit slower, it makes for a balanced helm that allows the boat to pretty much sail herself in rough seas. In my case, this sail plan will allow me to eat lunch with both hands.

We glide along between about 4 to 5 knots. Looking westward, the water and the sky meet; no land to see. Looking eastward, I see the sands of Verona and Sylvan Beach. In the summer one can hear, even this far out, the happy screams of children playing in the surf. I smile, reminded that this past summer we managed to introduce sailing to a couple of groups of kids. Today I hear only the wind, the lapping of the wavelets against Kiltie’s hull, and the occasional swoosh as she guides down a wave.

Lunch over, I look around to see only one other sail and a few fishing boats. Clouds are rolling in and the temperature is beginning to drop. The far shore is approaching. Soon I will tack the bow around and head back to the marina to begin the process of hauling her out. The winters here are long and the ice on this lake will soon be thick. I take solace only in the fact that I will have lots of time to sit by the stove and plan the next season’s adventure. Maybe we’ll drop the masts and head back through the canal to go further west, or maybe north again across Lake Ontario or maybe even east and north, locking through the 34 locks to Lake Champlain.

With Kiltie, it’s all possible.

John Bailey is a retired engineer. Before moving to Central New York, he sailed the waters of the Chesapeake and the coasts of New Jersey and New York in many good old boats.

Coming About

by John Laskowsky

My wife, Rhonda, and I didn’t grow up around boats. But after moving to Florida and raising a family, we grew fond of the idea of buying a boat and perhaps one day sailing away. New to the world of wind and water, we started attending the sailboat shows. “How many miles does she have on her?” I asked at one time or another. If any of the boats we saw was on wheels, I’d surely have kicked a tire like I knew what I was doing. After looking for a few years, we’d gained some knowledge (not much, just some) and set our sights firmly on a new 2015 Beneteau Oceanis 35. I was enamored with its twin wheels and light-colored wood interior. Surely this was the boat of all boats, one that could take us anywhere and everywhere.

We didn’t pull the trigger on the Beneteau, stopped short by a little voice inside that told me to start small and learn to sail. I listened. And we bought a 1980 Tanzer 7.5 shoal-draft sailboat that needed some attention. After spending a summer fixing her up, I knew every piece of that boat, inside and out. We sailed her almost every day for a year before our affections turned to a neglected 1980 AMF/Paceship PY26 in need of a new engine and lots of fiberglass work. The electrical and plumbing were in dire need of updating. As I worked, I was able to compare the construction quality of the Paceship to that of the Tanzer. They each had strengths and weaknesses, I learned more.

Rhonda at the helm of a Paceship PY26

In addition to the keelboats, we played with sailing dinghies, a total of seven we owned over a five-year span, starting with a 1965 Vanguard 70-series racing dinghy that we sailed as often as we could. I loved the salty life and wanted to be immersed in it wholly. I wanted to sail for a living and deliver boats for people. I earned my Captain’s license.

By now I’ve seen and sailed many boats, some that smelled of fresh fiberglass, others of wood and diesel, still others of old roach and rat excrement. I have seen good old boats that looked decrepit, clean up to look new. I have seen new boats turn haggard in just a few years, plagued by rusty stainless, spider cracks, and gelcoat chipping.

I’ve come to realize that older boats, given enough blood, sweat, or tears, will offer up the years of knowledge and experience they carry. This is how and why we become attached. Not a day passes where I do not feel connected with our current (and final) boat: a 1974 Gulfstar 41 Ketch. We gained a better understanding of what we needed in a boat and she fits the bill. She doesn’t have the latest greatest gadgetry, but I can draw the electric, plumbing, and navigation systems with my eyes closed, forward and backward. I am even becoming a Perkins diesel mechanic (if it isn’t leaking oil, stop, it needs more).

I have learned it’s not the miles on a boat that counts, it’s how that boat is made. Good bones are essential. Having the latest gizmo aboard doesn’t matter, what matters is knowing how to use what you do have aboard. I have an older, smaller chartplotter that is a back up to my paper charts. I bought a sextant and I’m certain it will never go obsolete.

interior of a Gulfstar 41 sailboat

I still think that Beneteau we turned our backs on is a gorgeous boat. It just is. But I have outgrown it. I was once turned on by that boat’s open, airy interior, but now I’m drawn to the coziness and warmth of our Gulfstar’s ship lap and teak interior and how it is comforting and seems to embrace us in a loving hug as to say, “Don’t worry, I got you.” Two wheels are cool and do allow for great visibility, but two steering systems means twice the risk that something breaks. The Beneteau’s thin, lightweight deck and hull are great for speed, but I will take my heavy, slow, and seakindly boat as she is time proven. And she has secrets still to share…for just a bit more blood, sweat, and tears; a cheap price to pay for the wonder she has shown us.

John Laskowsky is a USCG captain and owner of Sea’s The Day Yacht Services in Hudson, Florida. When not writing, he spends his time delivering sailboats, restoring sailboats, and diving and cleaning boat hulls. He and his wife, Rhonda, enjoy sailing the Gulf of Mexico with their two Jack Russel terriers Lulu and Pearl in their fully refitted 1974 Gulfstar Ketch, Impatient Winds.

An Exhausting Sail

by Bert Vermeer

We had been sailing the west coast of Vancouver Island over the past 30 days. Our final day dawned hot and sunny without a ripple on the water, and so we motored our 1978 Islander Bahama 30, Natasha, out of Victoria’s beautiful Inner Harbour. I briefed my wife, Carey, our granddaughter, Natasha, and Trixi, the dog, about what lay ahead. The forecast called for a light southeasterly wind later in the day. The tides would be the dominate factor for our 20-nautical mile trip home to Sidney, a huge flood tide would generate 4- to 6-knot currents in the narrow channels and 2+ knots would be the average push through the entire Haro Strait. A lack of wind had plagued us for days and we’d relied on our Volvo diesel for nearly the entire length of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

As we entered turbulent Enterprise Channel just out of Victoria, Carey went below for a moment only to call up with frightened concern in her voice. “Smoke’s coming from behind the companionway steps!”

The engine compartment! I throttled back to idle and we switched places, Carey at the wheel in the swirling waters of the channel and me opening the engine compartment. No smoke and nothing appeared amiss. The green Volvo idled along as usual. I wrote it off to an overly cautious imagination and put the steps back into place, more concerned with getting back behind the wheel and keeping us off the rocks in the narrow channel.

After throttling back up and getting my bearings while swirling currents pushed the boat around, Carey (not happy to be dismissed so casually) went back below, this time calling out insistently that there was smoke coming out of the engine compartment! Again we switched places and all I could see was a Volvo idling like a purring cat.

I had Carey turn off the engine for a minute so that I could tighten the alternator belt, it seemed a bit loose. Perhaps it had been slipping, causing some smoke. Nothing else appeared out of order.

When I was back at the helm, just as we were reaching the end of the channel, into calmer open waters, Carey reported smoke again! Enough already! I went below again and this time removed the side panel in the quarter-berth to have a look at the back of the engine. There was no smoke, not even a whiff of smoke. I called up to Carey to throttle up to cruising RPM. Immediately the compartment filled with a dusty grey smoke that billowed out from the exhaust riser at the back of the engine! Yikes! I had Carey shut the engine down.

We were now in clear, though turbulent, water, being swept along in the current away from any hazards. Common on many auxiliaries, our Volvo’s metal exhaust riser is wrapped (ours in fiberglass tape) to contain the dry heat of the exhaust pipe before the water injection point. Everything looked good. With a glove on I grabbed the pipe to give it a push. The whole pipe came off in my hands! The only thing holding it in place had been the fiberglass tape!

Houston, we have a problem!

As a timely light breeze floated over the stern, we raised the mainsail and gained some directional control. Back in the engine compartment I peeled the fiberglass tape off the exhaust pipe to discover that it had completely rusted through at the top of the elbow just before the water injection port. I opened a tin can, dumped the contents, removed the top and bottom and tried to connect the two halves of the pipe with the tin and aluminum tape. That didn’t work out too well, the fracture was right at the 90 degree elbow and with limited access, I couldn’t get the tin to wrap tightly enough to get even close to a seal.

Without an operating engine, our options were limited; head to the closest marina (Oak Bay) which was only 2 miles to port; try sailing back to Victoria (not going to happen against the currents); or try to make it home. The Oak Bay Marina was close, but being there would leave us stranded without transportation and it wasn’t a convenient spot for repairs. We opted for going home, where repairs could be undertaken at our leisure. The breeze had filled in a bit and the currents would be with us all day. Up went the spinnaker and off we sailed, through Baynes Channel and on to Sidney. A very quiet and enjoyable sail it was, right to the town waterfront, where the wind died completely!

Although it was a Sunday afternoon and there were plenty of boats nearby, I’m all about independence. We tied the dinghy alongside and with the 2.5 Yamaha pushing us along, powered into the marina and our berth. The next day I removed the exhaust pipe and discharge hose and took the pipe to our local marine mechanic. He welded together a new exhaust riser and within a few days Natasha was back in good health.

The interesting part of the smoke/no-smoke dilemma is that when the engine was idled back, the pressure inside the exhaust pipe was low enough that the smoke didn’t escape and the air intake sucked up all traces of smoke in the engine compartment before I could get the steps or side panel off. Carey had seen smoke, enough to cause concern. I should have been more diligent with my initial investigation.

We were fortunate that this failure occurred close to home. It could very easily have happened while we were out in the wilds of the west coast of Vancouver Island, far from any repair resources. That would have caused all sorts of grief. As a preventive measure, I now remove the exhaust riser/assembly every second year (every 200 engine hours) for cleaning and examination. An ounce of prevention…

Bert Vermeer and his wife, Carey, live in a sailor’s paradise. They have been sailing the coast of British Columbia for more than 30 years. Natasha is their fourth boat (following a Balboa 20, an O’Day 25, and another Islander Bahama 30). Bert tends to rebuild his boats from the keel up. Now, as a retired police officer, he also maintains and repairs boats for several non-resident owners.

Deadly Magnificent

by Linnéa Martinez

I was still green, having only a month ago traded my Great Lakes home in Michigan for the salty sea air and hot sun of the Caribbean. Now, here I was, crewing with a bunch of strangers aboard Windy and everything about sailing was new to me. And I had no complaints. Sunlight glinted on the tops of deep-blue waves while flashes of silver and a flutter of wings raced by the hull, a school of flying fish joining us on our 6-hour voyage.

Then we heaved to and the captain’s voice rang out from astern, “Hop in!” It was time for a quick cool-off swim.

I stood at the bow. The beautiful Caribbean Sea called out to me, and all I had to do was jump. I took a breath and leapt.

That first splash was bliss, the sunburn on my face and shoulders cooling to the saltwater’s touch. I paused to take in the peacefulness of being underwater. Then, feeling invigorated, I swam hard for the surface.

The bridge of my nose slammed into Windy’s hull. Pain erupted from behind my eyes and deep within my skull. I was dazed, confused — How did that get there? What was I doing underwater? — but I knew I had to move, to maneuver away from the boat and to get air.

Popping up alongside the hull, I gasped for air. And I couldn’t swim, my brain wasn’t working right. I could see the boat — two other crew on the bow, endless ocean and a white, brilliant sun and blue sky, but I couldn’t process it all, I couldn’t comprehend anything. Thinking back, it was the same feeling as reading a book and then realizing I’d not paid attention to anything on the past several pages and having to go back.

The crew was laughing. I could hear them wondering where I’d gone and why I’d swam under the boat. Later, they told me I looked normal then, maybe a bit confused.

“I need help,” I managed. The boat was drifting away. I knew I had to swim, but my body didn’t respond. I was just floating, my hands and legs still. My breathing was shallow. Help me, I remember thinking, I’m gonna drown.

One of the crew, May, dove in and swam towards me, asking me questions. I couldn’t respond. She wrapped an arm around my waist and started pulling me towards Windy. I heard the boat’s engine start and it moved closer. At the boarding ladder, I somehow pulled myself aboard and then plopped down on a seat, exhausted and dazed.

It took a couple cans of very cold beer on my very swollen face and some friendly chatter to bring me back to my senses. Then we started going over what went wrong.

I didn’t know about the currents, about how the boat was still moving slowly forward while hove to. I didn’t jump far enough from the boat, and not in the right direction. I started to think “what if?” What if I had blacked out and not surfaced? What if May hadn’t seen me or jumped in on time? What if I didn’t float and just sank?

I’d heard the captain earlier go on about the dangers of the ocean. Just a few days prior, another sailor had shared words of wisdom in the context of recounting experiences aboard in life-threatening storms: “She can turn on you in just a minute, one mistake can cost you your life.” I remember wondering whether I’d ever see and experience that kind of fury, but I missed the important message: even a placid situation at sea can quickly and out of the blue become dangerous. My experience helped me to understand this truth.

I will always treat the water and the boat with respect. I will maintain an awareness. Because I know, first-hand, that the sea is just as deadly as she is magnificent.

Linnea Martinez is a recent college graduate who left her small Michigan town for a sailing adventure in the Caribbean. While on board she’s learned the basics of sailing, knots, the importance of being aware of your surroundings, and the joys of working with fiberglass. With her degree in Multimedia Journalism, Linnea hopes to continue sharing stories of the people she meets as she heads further south.

Click here to read more of September’s The Dogwatch.

Vigor’s Black Box Theory

Vigor’s Black Box Theory

By John Vigor

Article taken from Good Old Boat magazine: Volume 2, Number 4, July/August 1999.

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water …

is it that some sailors go quietly about their business, consistently making
quick, safe, and satisfying passages, while others lurch erratically from
port to port amid a series of catastrophes? Is it luck? No, it’s the Fifth

I first stumbled across the concept more than 30 years ago, when I was a newspaper
reporter in Durban, South Africa. One of my early assignments was to cover
a speech by a visiting American yachtsman and scientist, a talk he called
“The Fifth Essential for Successful Yacht Voyages.” He talked about it for
a full half-hour, but never once mentioned what the Fifth Essential was. “I’m
not superstitious,” he said, “but I am not going to name it. I’ll leave that
to you to work out.”

He listed the first four essentials in this order:

  1. A well-found ship
  2. A good crew
  3. Adequate preparation and maintenance
  4. Seamanship

Mighty Neptune

As he wouldn’t name the Fifth Essential, he could only describe how it worked.
He offered some well-documented examples of how it had affected the lives
of yachting pioneers.

We soon got the idea. Take Joshua Slocum, for instance. During his circumnavigation
he was chased by a pirate vessel off the coast of Morocco. He cracked on all
sail, but the pirates were still bearing down on him. Determined to give a
good account of himself, he ducked down below for his rifle. Suddenly a squall
hit the Spray. When his little vessel was under control again, he glanced
back and saw that the squall had dismasted the pirate ship, which lay wallowing
in the wreckage of its spars.

Then there was Harry Pidgeon, who sailed twice around the world singlehanded.
On one occasion, when a change in wind direction set his yawl, Sea Bird, sailing
toward the coast while he slept below, the boat ran aground on the only sandy
bay in tens of miles of rocky coastline. Furthermore she had to pass over
a rocky ledge at the entrance to the bay. Had it been low tide when Sea Bird sailed in so confidently, she would have gotten no farther. As it happened,
Pidgeon was able to refloat her, refit her, and carry on.

Over the years I noted the same theme recurring in talks with such splendid
seamen as Bernard Moitessier, Jean Gau, and Eric Hiscock. In fact, I expect
all of us who have sailed for any time have had similar experiences – and
thanked our lucky stars at the time. But it isn’t luck, really. There’s much
more to the Fifth Essential than mere chance.

In 1986, when I started fitting out my own 31-footer, Freelance, for a voyage
from Durban to the United States, I reduced the Fifth Essential to a simple
system of accident prevention. In the Freelance corollary to the theory, every
boat possesses an imaginary black box, a sort of bank account in which points
are kept. In times of emergency, when there is nothing more to be done in
the way of sensible seamanship, the points from your black box can buy your
way out of trouble. You have no control over how the points are spent, of
course; they withdraw themselves when the time is appropriate. You do have
control over how the points get into the box: you earn them. For every seamanlike
act you perform, you get a point in the black box. Points come in so many
ways it would be impossible to list them all. But I can send you in the right
direction. Let’s say you’re planning a weekend cruise down the coast, and
time is precious. You have been wondering for some weeks if you ought to haul
out the bosun’s chair and inspect the masthead fittings. It has been a couple
of years since you checked everything up there, but it would mean delaying
your departure by an hour, maybe more, should you have to change a shackle
or something.

If you finally give in to the nagging voice inside you and go aloft, you earn
a point in the box. If you don’t take that trouble, your black box will stay
empty. If you sniff the bilges for fumes before pushing the starter button,
you’ll score a point, just as you will for taking a precautionary reef at
nightfall or checking the expiration date on your rocket flares. Thinking
and worrying about what could happen is also a good way to earn points – if
the wind started blowing into your quiet anchorage at 40 miles an hour and
the engine wouldn’t start, or whether you should put a couple of reefs in
the mainsail before you climb into your bunk, just in case.

No matter how good your seamanship, there are times when there is nothing
left to do but batten down the hatches and pray. If you have a credit balance
of points in the box, you’ll be all right. People will say you’re lucky, of
course. They’ll say a benign fate let you get away with it. But we know better.
That luck was earned, maybe over quite a long period.

Not that there’s any room for complacency. If an emergency drains all the
points from your black box, you must immediately set about replacing them
by tending to your boat, your crew, and yourself in a seamanlike way and by
practicing extra caution for as long as seems right.

It may seem unfair that you cannot check your credit balance in the black
box, but it’s just as well. If I knew I had sufficient points to get me through
a weekend, I might not bother to go up the mast before setting out. Not knowing
keeps us on our toes.

In practice, however, your conscience will be a good guide. Have you put off
changing the engine oil for the umpteenth time? Does the port navigation light
still need a new bulb? Be careful. You may be running low on points.

In the same way, your conscience will tell you when you have credit. You will
glow with that quiet sort of confidence that inspires crews and makes for happy voyages.

Birth of Fiberglass Boats

The Birth of Fiberglass Boats

By Steve Mitchell

Article taken from Good Old Boat magazine: Volume 2, Number 6, November/December 1999.

Despite the popular notion today, fiberglass and plastic resins were not
“new” technology in the mid-1950s, nor was Clinton Pearson the first person
to use them to build sailboats. This begs the question: who did build the
first fiberglass sailboat?

Pearson Vanguard

Jeff and Nancy
Larson enjoy their 1965 Pearson Vanguard, Nordhavn, the 32-foot big sister of the Triton. The Vanguard was introduced in 1962.

According to Dan Spurr, editor of Practical Sailor, and the author of a
forthcoming book on the history of fiberglass sailboats, Heart of Glass,
“It probably was a fellow named Ray Greene in Toledo, Ohio. He built a fiberglass
and polyester sailboat in 1942, probably a Snipe. So a sailing dinghy was
the first fiberglass sailboat.” After a pause he adds, “But you have to
watch your terms.”

It turns out there were several earlier boats made of fiberglass and various
plastic resins, but most of them were too brittle for practical use. Dan
says it was the development of polyester resin that started the fiberglass
boat revolution. In part, this problem of terms revolves around the separate,
but parallel, developments of fiberglass and plastic resins.

The ancient Phoenicians and Egyptians made glass, and are said to have used
glass fibers as decorations and to reinforce pottery. (To add to the many
coincidences of the history of fiberglass boats, the Phoenicians were the
master shipbuilders of their day. One can only imagine what they could have
done with fiberglass construction.) Through time, many other civilizations
made glass strands, primarily for decoration. In 1870, John Player developed
a process of mass-producing glass strands with a steam-jet process to make
what was called mineral wool for insulation. A patent was awarded to an
American named Herman Hammesfahr in 1880 for a type of fiberglass cloth
also woven with silk.

Fiberglass experimentation continued into the 1920s, with the first actual
fiberglass fibers we know today being made in 1932 – by accident. A young
researcher for Corning Glass named Dale Kleist was trying to weld together
two glass blocks to make a vacuum-tight seal when a jet of compressed air
inadvertently hit a stream of molten glass. The resulting spray of fine
glass fibers turned out to be what researchers had been trying to make for

In 1935, Corning Glass joined forces with Owens-Illinois, which also had
been experimenting with fiberglass, to develop the product further. The
word “Fiberglas” (note only one “s”) was patented in January 1936, and the two companies merged to become Owens-Corning in 1938. Research showed the
glass fibers to be light, yet very strong. On an equal weight basis, a strand
of fiberglass is actually stronger than a strand of steel.

Development of plastics began in the mid-1800s, in part due to a challenge
from a billiard ball company to find a new material to replace ivory for
its chief product. Patents were awarded for a variety of plastics by the
late 1800s. Research speeded up in the 1920s, and again with the approach
of World War II, due to the shortage of many natural products. Carlton Ellis
of DuPont was awarded a patent for polyester resin in 1936. The Germans
furthered the manufacturing process of this early polyester by refining
its curing process. Early in World War II, British Intelligence stole these
secrets and turned them over to American firms. American Cyanamid produced
the direct forerunner of today’s polyester resin in 1942.

This early polyester resin quickly ended up in a number of manufacturing
hands. Owens-Corning had been experimenting with fiberglass cloth and resin
combinations to create structural elements for airplanes. By 1942, the company
was turning out fiberglass and polyester airplane parts for the war effort.

Back in Toledo, Ray Greene, who had studied plastics while a student at
Ohio State, had been working with Owens-Corning on fiberglass composites.
He had made composite boats as early as 1937, but was searching for just
the right plastic to use for boats. He received a shipment of the polyester
resin in 1942 and produced a daysailer.

Others followed suit. Dan says, “B.B. Swan made a small fiberglass catboat
in1947. Carl Beetle built fiberglass boats at a GE plant in Pittsfield,
Mass. He exhibited his fiberglass boat at a show in January 1947.”

The first sailing auxiliary made from fiberglass appeared in 1951. “It was
called the Arion, a 42-foot ketch.” states Spurr. “It was a one-off design
by Sidney Herreshoff. Then Fred Coleman’s Bounty II came out in 1956.”

Dan goes on to explain that Ray Greene was not finished either. “He formed
his own boatbuilding company and produced a 25-foot Sparkman & Stephens
design in 1957 called the New Horizon,” says Spurr. “He built 175 of them.
That was a pretty good number of boats, and right before the Triton, too.”

Tom Potter, the driving force behind the Triton, agrees. “Ray Greene did
bring out a fiberglass boat before we did, at least what you would call
the first sailing yacht,” he says. “It was kind of an odd looking boat,
though. The Triton certainly was the first mass produced boat that sold

Bill Shaw also acknowledges Ray Greene as the first to build a fiberglass
boat. “And I worked at Sparkman & Stephens when we designed the New Horizon,” he says. “I remember Ray Greene very well.”

How the Pearson cousins came to be viewed as the fathers of the modern fiberglass
industry is not clear, given the many boats that preceded the Triton. Nevertheless,
it was the Triton that captured the buyer’s heart – and pocketbook – in
1959. In the end, that’s all that matters.

Five Year Plan

Budget Boating

By Bill Sandifer

Article taken from Good Old Boat magazine: Volume 5, Number 4, July/August 2002.

Here’s the five-year plan that rescued a $1,200 boat

A boat in the barn

Not so long ago I did not have a cruising boat, but I wanted one badly.
My wife understood and said, “Take the $2,500 we’ve put away, and
buy a boat.” You may not believe that $2,500 will buy a cruising
boat, but it did. I got a great boat plus money.

How is this possible?
I began with a search for all of the cheap boats in the newspapers
and looked at every one. It was discouraging. I contacted a local
yacht broker, who said, “What do you want for $2,500? I told him
I wanted a Pearson Ariel. He said he might have one for sale and
to call him the next day. When I called, he offered to show me the
boat. He said it had been raced hard and was not in good shape, but “What
do you expect for $2,500?”

When I saw the
boat it had a frozen Atomic 4 engine, loads of sails, deteriorated
deck and maststep, and what felt like a shark-bitten rudder, but
it was an Ariel, and it was floating. I bought it for $1,200 “as
is, where is.”

But I had to move
it within 48 hours to clear the slip. I removed the plugs, filled
the cylinders with Marvel Mystery Oil and waited 24 hours. I then
bought a new battery and returned to the boat with a mechanic. He
was not very optimistic but was willing to try to start the engine.
When we spun it over without plugs in the cylinder, it sprayed Mystery
Oil all over the engine room, but it was freely rotating.

A new electric
fuel pump, a little carburetor cleaning, and the engine came to life.
I backed out of the slip and motored home towing a dink with a dependable
outboard “just in case.” It was never needed. Once we were home I
developed a five-year plan for the boat resurrection. Notice I did
not say restoration. That is too ambitious. It was a resurrection.

Surprise profit

First, to raise money for the boat, I sold most of the sails through
a used-sail broker. I received $1,500 for them, which surprised me.
Now I had a profit of $300 on the purchase price. Of course I promptly
spent that, plus $500, on a bottom job. I dropped the rudder by digging
a hole in the yard and took it home for epoxy repair.

The five-year
plan starts with finding the boat. Vessels like this are usually
shunted to the back of the yard and neglected. You have to find the
owner and make a deal with him and also with the yard owner to obtain
free and clear title to the vessel. This will not be easy. The boat
owner will see a way to make some money and rid himself of a liability,
and the yard owner will want payment as he has been “storing the
yacht” for a long period of time. Your job will be to make a deal
with the yard man to move the boat once you have title free and clear
of any and all boatyard liens. Next you’ve got to convince the owner
to give you title to the vessel for something like $1,500. This can
be done, but it requires great diplomacy.

There is no question
of making an offer subject to survey. In a case like this, you have
to be your own surveyor. The owner of the boatyard will probably
not, for safety and liability reasons, let anyone board the boat,
so you will have to survey her with your eyes and fingertips.

One potential
problem is ice. If the boat has lived through winter weather on the
hard, water will have gotten inside. There must be an open hull drain
or through-hull to let the water out, but some probably remained
and froze. Make sure it did not split the hull somewhere. Through
careful observation of the outside of the hull, including the bottom
of the keel, you should be able to tell if there is a problem or
not. If it froze and split the hull, the boat will not sail again
without a lot of help. This should affect your future plans for the
boat and the amount you are willing to pay for her. Enough said.

First year

Many people start out these resurrections with lots of enthusiasm and
little money. They decide to “do it right,” and try to make the boat “like
new.” After a time, money runs out, the enthusiasm wanes, and the
boat is once again a derelict. With good planning and a little patience
this does not have to happen. What is needed is a five-year plan
with definite, practical goals for each year.

It doesn’t take
long to make most boats weathertight and to get them floating. Pretty
and glossy no, but usable yes. The object is to have a useable boat
to enjoy, not one sitting in a yard to be worked on ad infinitum.
The boat may only need a coat of bottom paint, a good cleaning, and
a motor to be able to be used as a power launch. The professional
mechanic and a battery for my motor cost $300. Old but good, these
Atomic 4s. In the first year I had a boat good for picnics, beach
runs, and quiet times on the water. Get the boat back in the water
and enjoy it. Don’t try to accomplish too much at the expense of
no fun for the first year.

One of the first
things you must do is be sure the boat is watertight and safe to
operate while it is still out of the water, assuming you bought her
in the yard. All below-the-waterline valves should be operated, greased,
and tested. One way to test the valves “in the yard and on the hard” is
to disconnect the old hoses attached to the inside of each through-hull

Attach a 54-inch-long
hose (one foot longer than her potential draft in cruising trim)
on the inside of the valve. Suspend the open end of the hose vertically
and tie it off so it stays put. Fill the hose with water and go around
to the outside of the hull and observe the through-hull. If water
is seeping out, the valve leaks and needs to be adjusted or replaced.
If there are no leaks, go back inside and slowly open the valve.
The water should run out. Close the valve, dry the outside of the
through-hull, and try again. If it is still dry on the outside, chances
are the valve is good. Move on to the next one. Once you have checked
all of the seacocks, replace the old hoses with new ones, and you
should be ready to go. Since my boat was purchased in the water,
I left all of the above until I hauled her out in the yard.

Good cleaning

Once the valves have been checked or replaced, it’s time to move inside.
First in importance is a good cleaning, followed by removal of all
old, non-working, or broken items. This includes the old direct discharge
head and all of its hoses and fittings. It is no longer legal anyway,
and you really do not want to pollute. The valves should have been
tested previously, so all you need to do is close and cap them off
on the inside. I have found that PVC pipe caps from the local hardware
store plus some Teflon tape works well. Replace the head with a Porta
Potti or similar. Even if only temporary, this will work fine for
limited use.

The other thing
to check is the rudder tube and the top bearing. Check the bottom
bearing for excess movement and play. If necessary, drop the rudder
heel shoe and insert a bushing to take up the space and restore the
smooth movement of the rudder. If there is no top bearing, consider
adding an Edson rudder stuffing box to the top of the glassed-in
rudder tube. It is well worth the little effort and moderate cost
involved. I installed mine in one easy day of work.

Before you start
to use the boat, you need to register it and get good life jackets,
anchor and rode, and other U.S. Coast Guard-required equipment. All
except the registration can be purchased inexpensively at a marine
discount store. A Danforth-type anchor has worked for me and is not
overly expensive. The idea is to get the boat in use again, not to
make it perfect. In most states, the department of licensing oversees
the titling and registration process. You can register at your local
county auditor’s office or at subagency branches of the Department
of Motor Vehicles.

The cabin trunk
windows may leak, and you will probably have to redo the entire interior,
but for this year the boat is ready to provide on-the-water enjoyment
as a power boat. Your family will really enjoy the boat and think
you’re wonderful for finding this great boat.

Second year

What you do and when you do it needs to be determined by you and your
pocketbook, but for year two and beyond a practical plan would be
to check all of her blocks and deck fittings. Check the deck hardware,
cleats, chocks, blocks, and the rest. Check the maststep and chainplates.
Verify that the standing rigging is good, grease the turnbuckles,
and check out the mast, particularly the mast base. I had to support
the mast (it was stepped) with a jack and a 4 x 4 just to keep it
upright so I could power the boat home.

Older boats usually
have oversized (by today’s standards) bronze turnbuckles and through-bolted
chainplates. The chainplates need to be unbolted and pulled for inspection,
but they are probably fine if they’re bronze. If they’re stainless
steel, give them a really good inspection. Use new bolts to reset
them and caulk under the chainplate covers with a removable caulking.

The masts and booms
of this era are oversized by today’s standards, too, and probably
need only to be cleaned. Be sure to clean and lubricate the sail
track before you step the mast. A product called Fast Track works
well. I almost replaced my old mast track with one of the newer slide-in
tracks before I tried Fast Track. I learned to grease the luff groove
twice a year, and the main went up and down easily. Remove the spreaders,
inspect each end and replace if necessary.
Rebolt them if that is the way they were attached. The cast-aluminum
spreader bases are not of the same high quality as the mast, and they
may crack over time. Try cleaning them up really well to be sure they
don’t have a crack in them. There is a product on the market called Dye
Check. You can find it in welding supply houses. This is good for checking
spreader bases, swage fittings on standing rigging, and the stemhead

Lots of sails

It will not be a problem to find good used sails for her if you need
them. Used-sail brokers and your local loft will have lots of listings.
Allow about $900 for a good used main and jib. This is for a 26-foot,
sloop-rigged boat. Even if it exists, the old running rigging will
be useless. Plan on about $250 for new halyards and running rigging.
For the Ariel, we chose 3Ú8-inch low-stretch Dacron for all
uses. Anything smaller, while strong enough, is too small for my
hands. The mainsheet and jibsheet can be similarly sized.

Our Ariel had
winches, which only need to be cleaned and greased, but the operations
that sell used sails generally sell used winches also. Size l0 self-tailing
would be nice, but you can use size l0 non-self-tailing if the budget
demands it. You don’t even need winches if you are willing to luff
up into the wind, set the sheets, cleat them, and then fall off.
You can live that way for a while in order to use limited resources
for other priorities.

Since I am taking
the liberty of listing my priorities, the rest of them would go something
like this:

Happily sailing your new boat

the ability to power away with a clean boat.

the ability to sail.

By the third
add the ability to picnic aboard, which calls for an ice
chest and a Porta Potti.

In the fourth
, start the rebuild. Begin with the interior, first the
V-berths (easy) and work aft to the galley (hard due to the drawers).
Next, the main deck (new grabrails, lifelines, anchor roller, varnished
tiller, rubrails, and so on). The Ariel had an original teak tiller
that might have cleaned up enough to be varnished, but it was easier
to replace it with one from a marine discounter. Finally, replace
the old Plexiglas in the portlights if it’s crazed or frosted.

In the fifth
you’re ready to outfit for cruising (sun awning, lights,
water tank, sun shower, and so on).

By the time you
are at year five of a five-year plan you should have had a lot of
fun already. We used the boat every year and did not notice that
we were lacking for anything. I accepted the boat’s limitations and
worked to improve her slowly as money and time allowed. What was
important was the fun we had, the peace of a quiet sail, and the
thrill of a brisk reach.

When five years
had come and gone, the Ariel was once again a boat to be proud of.
More than anything I was proud of myself for finding a derelict and
recreating the swan hidden under the dirt all these years. There
is no better satisfaction than saving a wonderful sailboat to sail
another day, month, and year. It is worth doing, and the boat will
return the favor with safety, peace, and tranquility.

You can afford
a small cruising boat on a small budget and have a lot of fun and
satisfaction in the bargain. Good hunting!

The Fourth of July Meltdown

By Kyle Dluge

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.

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The Leap from Luddite

By Howard Nelson

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.

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Easy Trip to Key West

By David Sharp

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.

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Fall and Rise of the Falls of Clyde

By James Barry

Falls of Clyde today. Photo by Jamie White.

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.

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A Taste of Sail, One Sailor at a Time

photo by Bruce Lombardo

By Allen Penticoff

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.

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There Ought to be a Law

By David Lochner

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.

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The Mysterious Fish Magnet

By Bob Baker

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.

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Chat With a Catboat


By Craig Moodie

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.

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I Love Sailing , Mainly for its Harsh Side

By Martina Sestakova

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.

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Chasing Silver in a Good Cause: The Hospice Turkey Shoot Regatta


About 27 years ago, a group of sailors at Yankee Point Marina, off the Rappahannock River in Virginia, decided that a sailboat race in November would make a fine climax to the sailing season. Some of these sailors were approaching a mature age, and so were their boats, so they reckoned they would elevate their chances of getting into the trophies by placing an age restriction on the designs of the boats invited to participate. So began the Turkey Shoot Regatta, named for its proximity to Thanksgiving, for any sailboat built to a design that was at least 25 years old. A boat still in wet paint from its builder qualified as long as its design qualified.

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Travels with Mystic

This is related to an article in the July 2013 issue call The C&C 30 Mk I.

by Karen Larson

Excerpts from the logs aboard Mystic, the C&C 30 sailed by Jerry Powlas and Karen Larson. They purchased Mystic in the fall of 1992. Their log began in earnest the summer of 1993. Karen reviewed all the logs while cruising in 2011 and chose the nuggets to share with fellow sailors.

Getting started

Our first full season was memorable in many ways. Jerry was at the top of our mast when a fast-moving storm swept over the hill and a nearby boat was struck by lightning. That was also the year that the prop shaft and propeller fell out of the boat and we took on water at an alarming rate. It was the first and only time (so far) that we broadcast a Mayday alert.

All were not near-death experiences, however, or we wouldn’t still be cruising. There were magic moments. Over the years, my notes have been dotted with exclamations over northern lights, loons, moose, caribou, otters, beaver, and eagles along with the fantastic scenery including sunrises, sunsets, and inky star-filled nights.

We had lots of company aboard that first year and soon learned that we preferred the simplicity of sailing as a couple. My son, Ryan, was 12 years old when we bought the boat and was our most constant companion. But because Ryan also had activities that conflicted with weekend sailing, Jerry grew comfortable sailing solo in those early years.

One of the best chuckles I got from our first year’s log was caused by a quip Jerry made that season following the Mayday call. The loss of our prop and shaft had been caused by our allowing the prop to unscrew itself a few weeks after we’d managed to back over our dinghy painter. After that, Jerry added this pointer to the log: “How to determine the proper length for a dinghy painter: Go to the hardware store. Get some line. Run it through the prop. What gets whacked off was excessive. What is left is just right.”

Baby it’s cold outside

A couple of years later, in 1995, I was ranting about the cold conditions typical during our overnight passages on a lake that never really warms up.

“Right now I’m wearing red, white, navy, purple, rust, off white, pink, and yellow. (Yes, ‘yummy yellow’ — or so we’ve been told — from a shark’s viewpoint. Fortunately, there are no sharks here, and I’m not swimming.)

“I’ve got on long underwear, a T-neck, a fisherman’s wool sweater, hooded sweats, my cross-country skiing pants and down parka, and on top of it all — extraordinarily since I’ve never been considered ‘small’ in my life — I’m wearing an Extra Small foul weather suit. I figure this was designed for extra small male foredeck gorillas. And I’ve got my life jacket on over that! This year we bought new life jackets primarily because my old medium-sized one wasn’t up to that kind of a task. Even now, it’s a bit difficult to inhale and move all those layers. (Yes, that includes two pair of pants with suspenders … with all the hassle that a head call entails. I try to avoid going to the head because the process is so elaborate.) Oh, and I’m tied to the boat like a fat little fishing bobber, in case I should happen to go overboard.”

But later in that log I was also making cheerful noises about nature, specifically the birdcalls at Isle Royale, a marvelous national park in Lake Superior.

“I had forgotten how many birdcalls and other sounds of nature you hear up here. Even before we reached land at Isle Royale, we could hear the high loud notes of the white-throated sparrow singing ‘Pure, Sweet Canada, Canada, Canada’ (kind of a commercial, but it works). The bird is also reported to sing about Old Sam Peabody, Peabody, Peabody, but I like the Canadian version better. It is amazing that a bird that size can belt it out like that, but it does. Closer to the land, it becomes clear that the sparrow is only the lead vocalist in a chorus of calls we don’t even recognize, but punctuated with loon calls, gull squawks, warbler trills, woodpecker drummings, and other delightful noises all orchestrated by serendipity.”

Porcupine pursuit

The passage in that log that made me laugh was the memory of our pursuit of the wily porcupine on the Ontario shore at Otter Cove.

“It was so warm that we had dinner in the cockpit. While we were eating, an osprey flew by and Jerry saw anther furry critter (probably another porcupine) at the water’s edge. After dinner, we went paddling in the kayak again. This time we definitely saw a porcupine.

“There was some movement by the bank of a small stream, a very small stream, so we paddled in stealthily to get a better look. I had the camera set to ‘capture’ whatever it was and was trying to signal for Jerry, who was providing the ‘go power’ and steering from the back seat, to stop and be quiet because it was right ahead of us, whatever it was, and if we stayed quiet it would come back out again. He thought I meant by pointing ‘right there ahead,’ that he should go ahead, so he shoved us another five feet over a bunch of shallow deadfall and through a thicket of prickly pine branches. The person in the front, naturally, is the first to encounter the prickly pine branches, while the person in the back, the steering person, begins making valiant efforts to free the boat from the deadfall where it is beached and wedged in an awkward position for effective retreat. A two-person kayak, when in a very curvy stream, is suddenly much longer than it would otherwise seem.

“I feared by this time that the creature might be a beaver (and we’ve had close encounters of a somewhat unpleasant kind with beavers in the past) or, worse, a small bear. It was definitely black and rather large and it lumbered when it moved. Finally the creature reappeared. It was a huge black porcupine and, incredibly, it hadn’t noticed us flailing about wildly in the pine branches. By now we were in full shade with my low-speed film, but I shot a few anyway at a 60th, although I knew better. Finally, the porcupine figured it out and climbed slowly up a tree for safety. Then it thought better of it, since we weren’t leaving (wedged there as we were), so it climbed slowly down the tree and lumbered off into the woods. Eventually we did disengage ourselves and left with some dignity.”

No engine, no electronics, no planning

Intervening years included the year we sailed without an engine, the year Mystic was hit by lightning (and we continued that summer season without a depth sounder, a chart plotter, and many other electronic instruments), the year of the 600-miles-in-two-weeks-vacation (my poor planning produced too many grand passages and no time to enjoy the destinations once we’d arrived), the cold year with the malfunctioning cabin heater, the year we sailed to and cruised in the North Channel of Lake Huron, and the following year when we cruised there and then brought Mystic back home to Lake Superior. There was the summer the lake level was a foot low and the year of the unseasonably cold summer.

Mal de mer

In the log of 2007, I made another attempt to describe the cold conditions we face on passages, particularly early in the season.

“It was lunchtime by then, so I went below to make lunch. I had planned to make soup and salad but quickly revised those plans to something less hot and sloppy. Mystic was jolting around rather significantly and the galley was no place for the timid. I began making sandwiches instead. Turns out the galley was no place for the weak of stomach either, because by the time I’d finished making lunch I knew I wanted no part of it. My appetite was gone entirely. I managed three baby carrots and a forkful of ham salad and realized that someone in my condition should not be eating. I haven’t been seasick since before we got married, more than 15 years ago, but I’ve had a few queasy spells. I figured this was a queasy spell.

“As freezing as it was, my place was clearly in the cockpit and at the helm as often as possible. I dressed in all the clothes in my possession. (This included a sweatsuit, the wind outfit, and also two parkas: the winter one and my foul weather gear, not to mention two pair of fleece socks and my sea boots and the overalls that go with my foul weather rig. Oh, and the life jacket too, of course. Did I mention the hat, face mask, and ski goggles?) With all that, it wasn’t too bad out there, but it was going to be a long day.”

Weather watch

There was also a description of a fast-moving storm that overtook us as we approached Thunder Bay, Ontario.

“We had some wind during the night, but nothing significant. We slept like babies. This morning we got going at a leisurely pace. There wasn’t much wind so we motored out of the Flatland area and toward the first patch of wind we could find. We put up the 150 and main and drifted toward Welcome Island. It was a lovely downwind drift in the sun. Not too hot. Not too cold. No stresses or surprises with gradually increasing speed.

“But wait! What’s that cloud formation to the northwest over Thunder Bay? Probably should keep an eye on that. Yep, it’s getting mighty dark over there. It’s clearly raining over there. Meanwhile we saw a ship and decided to turn the AIS receiver on to see what’s what in ‘the shipping news.’ One ship? There were five all around the area! Who knew? But the other four were not under way. Two were outside the seawall, which we thought was a bit unusual, but the other two were in port, as they should be.

“Was that thunder we just heard? Next thing we knew the wind picked up. We decided to get the sails down and did that without delay. Then the rain began. Jerry had just gone below to get his foul weather bottoms. We were already in our coats. While I was at the helm during this brief moment (it was my choice — he gave me first right of refusal to go get my foul weather bibs and boots) all hell broke loose in three stages. First, it began to rain. Then it really began to blow and strong seas began coming at us from abeam. Then all the visibility went to zero and it POURED! That was when I was a bit sorry about having given up my chance to put my pants and boots on. My shorts and socks were soaked immediately. And I needed goggles to see!

“Jerry came back to relieve me. I went below to dry off and suit up. About that time three of the four ships in the area decided to get under way! Visibility returned for him, fortunately, while I changed, sorted out the radar and AIS signals, and realized that one of the ships just outside the seawall was not showing up on AIS (apparently not sending his signal) and he was under way. It was all rather exciting, but it didn’t last long. The rain quit and we arrived at the end of our journey.”

Call of the wild

As compensation for the fortitude one has to have to sail in northern climes, that was the first year we ever heard the wolves of Isle Royale howl.

“The highlight of our day had to be our event of the morning in McCargo Cove. I awoke at 0500 to the sound of wolves howling. It went on long enough for me to figure out where I was, what I must be hearing, and to wake Jerry up so he could hear it too. We have never heard wolves at Isle Royale in all our many trips over the past 15 years. And they seemed pretty close and loud. There must have been at least three singing together. Jerry was surprised at how deep and low-pitched the voices were. I’m not sure what we were expecting, Hollywood’s version of wolves or coyotes baying at the moon perhaps.”

The zoo around us

There were a couple more memorable moments with wildlife. The first of these was in 1998. It was also in McCargo Cove. No wonder that place is so special to us.

“Jerry and I were up by 0530 and went for a pre-breakfast paddle. It was better than a trip to the zoo. A bald eagle flew off in the distance. Then we saw otters, golden eyes, and the heron. Around the bend in the creek was the most magnificent bull moose we’ve ever seen. He stood sedately for photos like the prince that he is. Next we saw a beaver, parts of the loon family again, and finally one otter came and checked us out in some detail, intrigued, it seems, by the clicking of our camera. Once we got to our boat and I was making breakfast, a cow and calf moose swam by. It wasn’t yet 0800 and all this had already happened. How would we ever top it?”

Otters, beavers, and caribou, oh my!

Perhaps we did top that a few years later (2002) in the Slate Islands.

“Several neat surprises on our exploration: a hummingbird that hovered right in front of my face about a foot and a half from me wondering, I suspect, if my life jacket offered any nectar.

“Next we came across a family of otters — a mom and three little ones (three we think; it was a bit hard to count all of them at once). First we saw the adult and were taking photos when we realized that there were three little heads watching from nearby. And as the adult rounded them up, we noticed that a beaver was also in the picture and where the otters had been was the beaver lodge. Jerry noted that the beaver was the humorless sort and was trying to run all of us off and otters were everywhere around the kayak since we were blowing downwind into the fray, clicking photos all the while, of course. The beaver did an impressive tail splash at one point, and the otters retreated. But the next time we looked, they were back at the lodge (or at least some of them anyway). We wore ourselves out shooting photos and figure this was not an uncommon scene. The beaver lodge is there and so are a bunch of otter slides, signaling that they live there too. Anyway, it was fun to see.

“Around the next bend, Jerry noticed a magnificent caribou right on the shore. Wow! A big rack of antlers and not particularly worried about our being nearby shooting photos. He wandered along the shore and eventually went into the bush, but not until after we’d taken lots of pictures.”

What else can go wrong?

I got a last chuckle at our lack of preparation for our vacation cruise in the log of 2008. This one only tops the year that we headed out on vacation and made several miles before we realized that we had had forgotten our dinghy (the loyal kayak).

“The nice thing about a 17-mile run in those conditions (from Superior, Wisconsin, to Knife River, Minnesota) is that it can’t last forever. We arrived in Knife River sometime after lunch, about 1400 or 1430. The wind continued to build all day and was good for one thing: drying our soaked clothes as well as our towels from morning showers.

“Since there was no time for a test sail or short cruise in advance, we’re referring to this as our breakdown/shakedown cruise. Here is a list of what went wrong:

  • The previous night we discovered that the GPS/NavX/AIS wasn’t working on the Mac PowerBook and that I had accidentally trashed all the U.S. Lake Superior charts. So the navigation software we’re familiar with was not available to us, and I couldn’t get ‘the shipping news.’ But hey! We remember how to navigate the old way and besides we had Tiki Navigator working on the PC.
  • Unfortunately, halfway through the very bumpy voyage, the PC couldn’t see its mouse anymore, and new batteries didn’t help. But hey! There’s always the finger pad on the keyboard. Too bad we didn’t know our way around Tiki Navigator very well (since the program was new to us).
  • Meanwhile on deck, the kayak was swinging in its carrying strap, which we’d raised to take the pressure off the shroud (but too high), the kayak’s rudder wouldn’t stay in its holder due to an accident when we launched it (poor thing), and the depth sounder was almost illegible because of humidity in the readout.
  • Down below, we had major leaks port and starboard now that we were taking gallons of water on deck, and I didn’t like being down below much because I was queasy. But I also didn’t like being on deck and being splashed upon with ice water.
  • And when we arrived at Knife River (where we’ve never been before), we discovered to our utter chagrin that we didn’t have our Superior Way cruising guide aboard. But hey! We had the Great Lakes Cruising Club binder, a working chart plotter (although much of it was a mystery to us), and actual charts. We made it inside safely.
  • When we arrived, we discovered a final calamity we didn’t know about. The sail slide holder that we’d just installed the previous day when we installed the new mainsail, had fallen out and was sitting on the sidedeck waiting for one more slam dunk and big wave to finish its trip overboard. It was like a diver poised on the high dive considering the distance.“So we docked, paid for the night, introduced ourselves to a couple of neighbors, and set about drying clothes and repairing equipment.
  • I loaded charts on the Mac, but the rest of the GPS/AIS failure continues to baffle us.
  • Tiki Navigator could see its mouse following a restart. And learning to use it will take time. Knowledge comes with experience.
  • Jerry dried the depth sounder with my hair dryer.
  • We searched the big cabin access ports and tiny access port in the head for leaks. Dry as could be. We removed the Vetus vent on the cabintop near the big hatch. Nothing. Just a bunch of dry spider webs. So we cleaned the mildew that accumulates under it and rebedded it. The mast boot looks OK. Hull-to-deck joint? (It’s probably too low to cause these leaks since water seldom travels uphill.) Chainplates?
  • Jerry replaced the sail slide holder with a more robust version that’s screwed in.
  • We’ll buy Bonnie Dahl’s newest version of Superior Way (4th edition) as soon as we find it. Silver Bay maybe? Isle Royale? Thunder Bay? “Clothing and towels dried. Heater works. We have plenty of food. Life is good.”

Bad with the good

In reading our logs, I’m reminded that we have our good days and our bad days aboard. There are funny and exciting moments to compensate for the frustrating and anxious ones. We manage to maintain our sanity and sense of humor most of the time. I generally end each log entry on a positive note, as I did on a September day one year.“Along with the eagles, there are two other boats in the anchorage with us. It was a beautiful day for a sail. There was a terrific sunset just now. Dinner is over. Life is good. Tomorrow we hope to paddle up the stream here. I like to see the wild rice growing there.”

Allied Boat Company

Builder of the Seawind and other legends

by Dan Smith

The Allied Boat Company established its building site on Catskill Creek in Catskill, N.Y., 100 miles north of New York City. Just off the Hudson River, it was an ideal place from which to build and launch boats. For the company’s entire time in business, from 1962 to 1981, it remained at this location.

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