There is no right or wrong when it comes to choosing your ship. It was a lifetime of sailing that put my bare feet in the cockpit of Sookie, the small things really added up. Wide decks, a seaworthy cockpit, a real mast compression post, and a true full keel. I don’t know of any other production or semi production boat that has all of these. Her tall rig and lowish 34% ballast to displacement ratio were an absolute bonus, she can carry a load and then some.
It wasn’t by accident that Lyle Hess underballasted this boat by 700 lbs, designed and built for blue water cruising he knew owners would need the extra volume which is at a premium on small sailboats. In my five plus years of sailing Sookie I’ve never found her to be slow, wet or tender, I’m actually still surprised on a regular basis at how awesome she sails and handles the harsh conditions of northern latitude cruising. To date I’ve still not been able to actually fill her to her LWL and believe me I’ve tried.
Her stern hung rudder is an additional bonus but also comes at a price. In addition to her boomkin and outboard motor it makes adding a windvane a challenge. Sookie is getting a simple trim tab vane similar to the one Taleisin carries, it’s the only vane that not only doesn’t ruin her lines but adds to them. I spent years looking for the simplicity of an outboard engine, deep down I know eventually il sail sans engine again.
Sookie doesn’t have many fancy features, a lead line and paper charts still rule both of her full sized chart tables and while I will always carry a basic back up gps I’m seriously in the market for a sextant. I’ve yet to ever miss any modern day conveniences that most sailors call standard fare and while I’ll admit they may be nice to have someday, on my budget I don’t even dream about them, I just use the tools I have at hand. One great sailing knife, thank you Ninà and a wood cutting board can do everything from chopping cabbage to filleting garlic. A cast iron skillet, my steam pot and one soup pan make up the galley.
Years ago I broke with tradition when my cedar bucket was blown overboard and updated to a modern plastic bucket/head and that’s about it for Sookie. She is almost completly outfitted for blue water voyaging without actually having been outfitted. I fondly remember cruising on my friends old folk boat with no cockpit drains and a non draining bowl for a sink, we just dumped it overboard. We sailed that boat home from Baja to shelter island with no engine in 19 delightful days, Sookie is a veritable masterpiece of technology compared to that old woodie.
Yes I’ve always enjoyed smallish simple boats sailing by skill rather than technology and all the adventures that can never be realized on a large modern boat but then I guess I really like sailing as opposed to motoring around on a boat that has a mast. The challenge of working in and out of harbors and the sense of satisfaction that can only be found from the deck of a small simple ship. I can’t remember a single time I’ve ever rowed away from Sookie without turning and admiring her beautiful lines, with each passage my love grows for the designs from Lyle Hess’s drwing board. An old friend once told me that Lyle was responsible for beautifying hundreds of ports around the world…
“I have a knack for getting a lot out of a small boat. My whole psyche at sea is the security of a small, tight boat. Big boats—with the roar and the crash and the tremendous forces—can be just frightening. I prefer the real pleasure that you feel on those little boats—the motion, the closeness to the sea (you’re almost in it, you know). And I value the real companionship that people have on a small boat.” Lyle Hess