You can’t fit a 10 pound parcel into a two pound sack. On my most recent trip up to Sookie for a gear swap I didn’t even recognize her sitting in full glory in the boat yard she seemed huge and she is for a 22′ sailboat. Drop her in the water and she fits like a glove with the right amount of everything she is by far the worlds largest pocket cruiser when it comes to neatly packing everything away. I can load a few thousand pounds of gear and stores in her and still have room for two sets of Xtratufs. She has room for everything I need and nothing I don’t.
Sookie is one of the only FC 22’s built straight from Lyle Hess’s drawing board. From her double lower shrouds to her massive interior storage she is a working work of art but all boats have their size limitations. The new iPad isn’t as much as a physical size reduction as it is one on her electronic footprint. With a little bit of conservation Sookie can go a full month between charges and at some point solar will find its way aboard the boat completely freeing me from that electrical ambilical cord that keeps me paying prime marina rates year round in the islands.
The iPad is a test to see if I can use a bit of technology to ease the burden all around. Rowing to shore in a blow with 5k worth of computers and camera gear is just another in the day of the life of a sailing blogger but it also represents my annual salary where accidentally going for a swim could shut me down.
I think the only downfall of owning a traditional sailboat other that the constant wood work is that it’s virtually impossible to add anything to the deck without destroying her beautiful lines. On Sookie it’s more about keeping her electronic systems to a minimum although I hate to use the word simple as there is nothing simple about outfitting a small boat. In essence I still need all the things the next guys does but on a pocket cruiser they just need to be smaller and more efficient. Fitting it all in can not only ruin the looks of the boat but also how she sails.
I do my best to keep her ends light which makes a huge difference on how she drives and runs. Adding an outboard, steering vane, fuel tank and two adults can throw the whole balance off causing her to hobby horse as did her 75lb bronze windlass and 200′ of chain all stuffed in over her hollow bow which took away her beautiful sailing characteristics. I went to a lighter more efficient anchor, removed the windlass and shortened her chain. One season on our new three strand shows the effects of oyster covered anchorages on those windless nights but it’s also the swing radius when you have out 150 feet of line and 15′ tidal fall, rope takes much more care than an all chain rode to keep the boat from visiting your neighbors in the middle of the night. Every year I try something different and eventually I’ll find that middle ground. The bottom line is if you can’t live a minimalist lifestyle you will need a larger boat.
Last year found Sookie ready to sail anywhere I point her bow for the first time since starting this whole project. Now the fun starts as I can work on performance and add a bit of luxury to her cozy little foot print. As always when I find a new boat first I make her safe, then I make her comfortable, then I make her pretty. Nearly five years going without has really taught me what I need and what I don’t. She will never have a depth sounder, radar, refrigeration… I simply don’t need these things and there is always a safer and simpler alternative such as my lead line. An over the side canvase beer bucket, drop it low enough and you will find cold water even in the tropics. The “cedar bucket” has been upgraded to a plastic and still remains infalable, paper charts and a hand bearing compass tell me exactly how deep my water is, there is always a safe simple way. I think technology is a good thing but it has in a large part taken the process of sailing and navigation out of our lives. I enjoy my hank on sails. The challenge of navigation keeps me active on the boat and also keeps us safer as there is a fear factor when coming into an unknown anchorage that makes us slow down, gives time to communicate and ultimately makes the boat safer and more seaworthy as compasses and paper charts don’t fail if you take care of them.
In all the world I don’t know any greater joy than bringing a hard passage to an end. Ghosting down wind in dead silence, finding that perfect spot to drop the hook. The feel of chain slipping through my calloused hands and the sound it makes rattling through the chain pipe. The bite of the hook as Sookie slowly rounds into the wind and I am safe for another night, my whole world gently bobbing on a half inch of string. Every passage long or short ends with a beer, sitting on the scuttle hatch visually exploring my new surroundings. There is a freedom in this life that can’t be explained with words, it can only be tasted by a tested crew. If you think sailing is boring throw your engine overboard and unplug your batteries. You surely will discover that it is the most challenging and exciting sport in the planet earth. It’s through sailing that I have found the fountain of youth.