The awesome folks over at Mighty Goods put this awesome tribe together, check them out, lots of good reading on this blustery winters day.
It’s hard to imagine where the years have gone. I spent a fortune in 1999 preparing for the big computer roll back of millennium. Other than me killing the power at the stroke of midnight during a huge dance party I threw for my friends the New Years rang through without a hitch, the world didn’t end and my empty pocket book was yet another valuable lesson. Back in those days I was living in Seal Beach, my boat was 5 minutes away on my trusty beach cruiser. Sookie was on the next gangway where we often shared a glass of wine and the sunset. My office was in Beverly Hills, strategically as far away from my beach town as was tolerable. I don’t know why I’m so fortunate in this world but Art Of Hookie has been named by one of my favorite bloggers SV Terrapin. As a top blog to follow in 2018. I found them years ago, it was the photography that captured me but their story is as unique as any.
Each year I’ve listed a few of my favorite blogs but last year I did it a little differently and let the world name theirs on this little site. Again for 2018 I’m hoping many will chime in and share their favorite blogs and vlogs of 2018. My new favorite vlog for the year is sailing Tarka. The previous owners circumnavigated on this little boat and then again on their 27 foot Vancouver sloop. Some boats are just plain special and Tarka is one of them. This guy has no experience but is deep into his journey. His videos are fun and funny and while often far too short they carry me away on the coldest nights of winter.
So let’s have some fun, add you’re favorite blogs and vlogs and please feel free to share your own if it’s awesome. 2018 is the year of sailing. Work hard and I promise you your dreams will manifest before you’re eyes, cheers mates.
A friend of mine is trying to get answers out of me and why I’m spending so much time and money on a boat that’s already perfectly outfitted for the waters I sail in. He’s convinced I’m pushing out to sail around the world with Sookie. My answer is an unwavering no, I have no intentions of sailing out of the Salish Sea and yes I’m making her a 100% unstoppable blue water machine. By August she’ll have all new tan bark sails, a roller furling jib, 280′ of 5/16 G4 chain, a manual water maker, wind vane and a hard dinghy strapped on her cabin top. My new windlass and Herschoff dinghy will arrive within 2 weeks and I have the windvane in my hands and am currently rebuilding it.
It may just be temporary insanity but I want her ready for anything at anytime. I found this new windlass on eBay but it’s missing the brake clutch, a set screw and chain cap. I called Port Townsend foundry and they will make the missing parts for me. Sookie used to carry this same windlass and 200′ of 5/16 chain and it really made her sail like shit. I’m going to be cutting a hole in her foreword bulkhead so the chain can be pulled back to the base of her mast. I’ve never used this area and I think it will work really well and even add a bit of positive ballast to the boat. Its in the beamiest part of her hull so I’m hoping it will all work fine.
I also failed miserably with the hard dinghy on deck but if I can ever get Lefiell to return my call I’m ordering a new boom so I can finish my gallows. The main will be cut higher so I think I can raise the dinghy higher and be able to get in and out of the boat. When I decided on 1/4 inch wire which is a size up, I calculated that it only added 11lbs aloft and this seemed reasonable to me. There is also added windage but that is made up by dropping Hilliard size down a notch, everything on a small boat is a compromise.
I’m having a sea hood made which will hold a 50 watt solar panel and a second one will be mounted on my front hatch, that’s all she will carry so I’ll have to use what I can make wisely, lastly I’m still searching for LED lighting with a nice and very warm white. It’s been insanely fun around here with so much going on and I even was blessed with a visit from one of Sookies sisters although a peek from shore was all I got.
As usual, Sookie will continue on with no refrigeration and yes I’ve happily lived in the tropics without it. No AIS or any other forms of communication other than her little hand held vhf. I’m keeping her as simple as I can and ready to shove off to see the world with nothing more than a set of hands to untie her lines. Oh shit, I almost forgot to mention that Sookie has a new sister but I’ll dive into that one at a later date…
I hobble to the boat yard and let out a sigh of disgust. Once again they have stolen the ladder I stole from them. I need to get at my tools to do some tests on the fittings before I leave for Hawaii. I’m greeted with Christmas music when I walk into the bar, it isn’t even thanksgiving and it feels so alien. Two years ago in Maui my thanksgiving was spent on the beach with my adopted kitty Punani, the weather today is almost the same. It got up to 65 and is incredibly balmy. Walking around the West Wing shirtless and barefoot while Christmas carols were playing was a bit surreal. It was back then that I got the silly idea of sailing Sookie there to finish her projects uninterrupted with its year round perfect weather.
Winter seems to be a miss and I’m praying for one of our world famous no winter winters which is why I’m desperately close to splashing Sookie. If there is a science to underwater metal performance I don’t know it but I’m in the middle of determining if they can take another year before replacement. I’m still going to carry all the parts with me but the instillation will have to wait, maybe. The seller of my first trailer has vanished without a trace. a friend sent me a link that was less than a day old for a trailer from a Falmouth Cutter less than 40 miles away. it had been used one time to get the boat home then blocked and tarped essentially a brand new trailer, that guy has vanished as well, which is a shame because it was $4,000.00 cheaper.
Its expected that whenever I get into a major financial undertaking that it wont take long for the money carousel to start swinging out of control. This doesn’t perplex me at all, I just keep jumping from place to place, the term finished when pertaining to a boat will Never be realized, still it encompasses all projects large and small. A lot of stuff bouncing around in my head. if my knee doesn’t get better soon Im going to cut it off and get a peg like Tristian Jones…
The saga of this wayward sailor continues. Nothing exciting, no complaints, just keep putting one foot forward and wait and see which wins out for the year between the bike and the boat. Its good to have a plan B, now where did I hide that bottle of scotch.
We had to heave to a couple of days in gale force winds and seas, but the Falmouth Cutter
comes through once again…Two reefs in the main, lash the helm to lee slightly and go
below. The mainsail area is so far aft on the cutter that reefed way down and in high wind
and seas, it hasn’t the horse power to tack you through the wind. There is no need to back
the staysail to stay in the hove to attitude. Pardey’s rap in Serrafin’s Oriental Adventure and
The Self Sufficient Sailor on storm tactics and heaving to is very appropriate to the
Falmouth Cutter. On the trip from Hawaii to Puget Sound in May and June 1986, about
500 miles out from Cape Flattery, Washington we found ourselves in the true gale with
sustained winds above 40 knots and seas so high you wouldn’t believe me. I had to
heave to with storm trysail. The double reef was just too much and we were knocked down
a time or two before I wised up. I have a trysail on a separate track ready to hoist, but I
don’t like it! I let my sail maker, Kern talk me into it, but had to do over, I would put a 3rd reef
in the main and use that. It’s too much work getting the main furled and into the gallows, then
rigging and hoisting the try. Falmouth Cutter News
Timing is everything, for now and yes again I’m taking a step back from the BCC I don’t know how I’ll fit a life raft on this boat, or a BCC for that matter but I’ve decided I’m just not ready to move up in size. How the hell Im going fit a dinghy, life raft and ditch bag I don’t know but it will all sort itself out. Food and gear on the other hand I know will all tuck away just fine. I may have to resort to fishing and spear fishing but I’m going to avoid that until I have no choice. I continually remind myself that I have achieved every single goal in life I’ve set my sights on. I will have a BCC, it’s a matter of when, not if…
I’ve made dozens of drawings and try as I might there is no better set up than I already have. Just a few little tweaks. When ever I get off my ass and buy a video camera I’ll make a basic tour inside and out and share all this nonsense in greater detail. I don’t have crew but I will. I do have to load 90 days of this and that for two. I also have to add a few niceties that sweeten the package. For lack of ability to do any other work on the boat my current focus is on the v-berth and a new real bed, with a black out/ privacy curtain ” I’m thinking Hawaiian flowers” and new sheets, pillows and big squishy blankets.
I just bought a brand new Herschoff 6’8″ dingy by Montgomery marine, I’m thinking about cutting a hole in the transom and mounting it on deck as a dinghy/dodger. Mostly I really just miss having a fine rowing dinghy. I have lots of ideas. A manual water maker and in reach will round out the ditch kit. No AIS, no Radar, no chart plotter. Paper charts my iPad and a small gps. It’s all a matter of how much time, money and space I’m willing to invest. I won’t live on land again unless I’m on the bike. the water is my home.
Ok I’m not an artist but this gives an idea of what I have to work with.
I love Sookies 5″x6″ mast compression post but it’s does take a huge amount of space.
The stem from deck to ballast has a 7″ laminate for massive collision strength and it also cleans up the interior very nicely. She is bow light but 6 cases of wine solves that one just fine.
Every inch of her interior under the deck has storage boxes for light stuff like clothes and tp and paper towels.
All her lockers are below the water line. Lyle Hess intentionally under ballasted this boat almost 700lbs to account for long term cruising. In his 50 year carrier, this was the only design he did that wasn’t based off somebody else’s needs. He designed the FC from the ground up for himself as a hypothetical if I was going to sail offshore with my wife what is the best boat I can come up with. He’s mentioned it a million times that it was his best design. I have to remind myself of this when I get frustrated by…
Yes she is small, very small, gigantically small but to date I just can’t find a boat that is better suited to my personal needs and current solution. Now all I need to do is get her to Cape George and blow every penny I have saved multiplied by many factors. With a little luck there will be a few new videos posted by spring.
Gudgeons, that’s the girlie parts in case you are wondering, pintles are the boys parts, it all makes sense now right? The boy part goes inside the girl part and they fit together perfectly, sailing is sexy. The very first time I saw Sookie, back then she had no name, this was a big red flag. Well shit, those aren’t going to work., thought to myself. I had looked at and sailed many Falmouth Cutters and up until this point none of them sang to me. Sookie was different, she was exactly what I was looking for. Now six years later they are really starting to cause concern. Before I can install my new wind vane I need to re engineer these things. My quote for bronze from Port Townsend Foundry was $1200 back then, now it’s above $1600.
My options are to remove and re fabricate what I have, maybe $600-1000 bucks. To install the bronze ones that I prefer will be a little more. On top of the P&Gs I will need to fill 24 holes, drill 24 new ones. Have new rudder cheeks made and cut three slots out of the rudder so I can move it closer Inboard. Oh and fill that damn prop cut out cha Ching. My overly optimistic mind says 6k no problem. Of corse I can’t get that shit done on this island and while I’ve done some pretty extensive fiberglass work in the past my finish work leaves something to be desired. When I say something I really mean everything.
That’s ok just write a check and while I’m at it I can finally strip her bottom and install her new thru hulls, I can do that for myself for $2500 bucks. Yep they call it yachting for a reason. You see all those boats held together by a shoe string and this is why, yachting is damn expensive.
I’ve actually found a trailer for sale and it’s a perfect fit. It’s 1000 miles away and I don’t know the price yet but the stars are surely starting to align. I’ve calculated my total minimum at about 25k I think I can do that by August if the wheel of fortune keeps rolling for me. That isn’t anything fancy, just stuff to bring her back to date. I know a guy that just spent pennies under a million bucks refitting his 10 year old 50 footer. All of the sudden sookies relative small size is starting to look pretty ok. So that’s this years work load. Next years will be much more fun and with a little luck it will all happen in Florida 🙂 It may sound like a lot but I knew exactly what I was getting into when I took over stewardship of a boat that has less than 25 sisters floating about the world.
Serval years ago I received a letter from Roger Olsen saying “I’m not sure you are aware but the FC is my favorite of all boats.” I first met Roger in San Diego when I was working as a delivery skipper and forming some pretty firm observations when it comes to boat size and design. After sailing his home finished BCC across the pacific he sold her and bought The Sam Morse Co. it was Lyle Hess who designed the boats, Sam who started one off semi custom production but Roger who refined them into what they became. I could have never imagined way back then that I was talking to the man who had just laid up what would some day be my home and dream boat.
My keel would see many more miles before I would fully realize and appreciate how much I love and am suited to small boats. Having said that the battle is growing. I’ve never been close enough or in the right frame of mind to shop life rafts. For the better part of my sailing career I detested them and all other forms of abandon ship at sea devices. I always figured self rescue is the proper form of seamanship and I still do but on a small boat I simply can’t fit a hard dinghy that could be sailed on in a disaster.
The dimensions of even the smallest life-rafts simply won’t fit anywhere board, not even the smaller aviation ones. It’s a fact that Sookie was built stronger than any other FC and a smidge lighter but still… The hulls coming out of Sam Morse were considered to set the industry standard by which all other boats were compared. On a cloudy day off the Aleutian Islands a BCC sank less than three minutes after a collision with an unknown object. The go pro was running, a very slight shudder was all the could be seen and then nothing but water surrounded the men in their life raft.
No boat is bullet proof. A friend recently sailed to Hawaii and among other things he saw a 25’ propane tank and flipped over 30’ powerboat. Shit happens and now as my beard turns a bit salt and pepper the arrogance and invincibly of youth has me pondering when enough is enough and how prepared can I really make a 22’ sailboat. It isn’t weather I’m worried about, it’s all those things that go bump in the night and the fact that no matter how prepared I ever am, the universe always has one more wild card for me.
As much as I detest the thought I’m coming to terms with either stepping up to a BCC or setting off after a long talk with my family that I may be going down with the ship should a disaster strike. Explaining anything about the ocean to people who haven’t lived on it is nearly impossible. It’s that or swallow the hook and sail locally and be cold for the rest of my life. Nothing pisses me off more than people sailing around On unfit boats knowing a mayday call can save them. My little cutter is as strong as they get, well maintained and capable but my mind is torn. There is a very fine line between adventure and disaster.
Roger stated that the FC was his favorite boat, Lyle Hess said it was the design he was most proud of and the one he would want to take to sea. Fernec Mate called it one of the worlds finest sailboats but the three of them together didn’t have half the miles on one that I do. So back to the drawing board and the constant challenge of putting a 10 pound parcel into a 2 pound sac. I know I can do it, I just haven’t learned how yet…
The story goes that “Thomas Edison failed more than 1,000 times when
trying to create the light bulb”. When asked about it,
Edison allegedly said, “I have not failed 1,000 times. I have
successfully discovered 1,000 ways to NOT make a light bulb.
The email reads, if you had to chose a boat any boat around thirty five feet for cruising. Anything not designed by Lyle Hess what would it be, price cap 100k. Without giving it any thought, I replied Tayana 37. My first question was if you have a 100k burning a hole in your pocket why wouldn’t you buy a BCC. Back and forth we go, I’ve spent days racking my brain, this is an unbelievably difficult task as there are so many deal breakers.
I love boats like the Bristol 32 and Seafarer 31 but both have iron keels as does the Mason 33. Wetsnails would top the list but tend to be used hard as they were built for and in need of much love and a big checkbook to make them smart. They are also fast, have nice wide decks and delicious interiors.
Quality and integrity of both design and construction. They must be easy on the eyes and sail exceptionally well. Things like cored hulls, balsa decks and inboard chain plates are personal dealbreakers as are wheels and poorly laid out decks. As much as I love the lines of the older boats in production in the late 60’s and early 70’s I’m partial to newer builds with all wood interiors. Boats like the 33 Hans Christian may top this list but 30 year old teak on a balsa cored decks are a disaster.
The dumbest thing I ever did was turn down a Baba 30 that I was very familiar with and she was near perfect other than her rounded cockpit which makes it hard to nestle in on long watches, this drops the old Pacific Seacraft 31 off the list as well. While I’m bashing teak decks I should add that too much wood on any boat will make you a Slave to paper and brush.
Simple, strong, tall rigs. For a cruising boat I want to add 10’ to the mast, not subtract. I prefer cutter rigs with real bowsprits but a powerful sloop will do fine for me. I think the Crealock 31 is as close to perfection as one can get minus the ugly bow. He was brilliant when he stole the interior design from Fred Bingham, too bad he didn’t study the hull lines a bit more as the Crealock could have become a heart breaker like the Cape George 31 which would be at the top of the list if it wasn’t for a wood deck which is solid and beautiful but tend to leak at the joint in the older ones that fall in this price range.
It’s been a very interesting few days as every boat I scrutinized had at least three deal breakers while I’ve yet to find a single one in the designs by Lyle Hess although price may sink the cruise they hold their value insanely well. In a day and age where the average joe spends upwards of a grand for a cell phone, pays 5 bucks for a cup of coffee and doesn’t flinch at dropping 50-100 bucks on dinner and drives a 50k car… well reasonable boats seem to be a bargain no matter how you slice it. Below is a copy of the last letter I sent.
My 2 cents which is all it’s worth is that you buy an old Dana 24 for 40k drop another 20k in simple upgrades like stout rigging and ground tackle and a new suit of sails. For 60k you will have a great boat that’s near perfect and a pocket full of money that will easily last three years living quite well. If your still out there after three years you’ll have figured out a way to continue. Should it turn out that the reality wasn’t quite as sweet as the dream you can get almost all of your money back in short order.
PS please start a blog because you will be one of the few out there living and writing about a dream that is attainable to everyone from CEO’s to the French fry guy at Mc Donald’s. Cheers.
This is without a doubt one of my favorite pictures I have ever seen. Everything about it describes the quiet dignity of the true romance of sailing. Hank on yankee cut jibs, batten-less main, tan bark. Every sailmaker on the planet will tell you the error of your ways using this set up. Slow, tender, shorter life… the interesting thing is that rumor has it that Ron never lost a race to a BCC in his life.
My dream is to pull the mast and paint it mahogany yellow. A new suit of tan bark yankee cut sails, no battens in the main, no headboard and a teeny tiny tri sail. My. Bonus sail would be a drifter or a new asym.
We all know that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. What I find beautiful is simplicity. Minimal electrical systems, simple sail set up, wide decks and soft curvy lines. I understand the necessity for an inboard engine but seriously doubt I’ll ever have one. To me the heart and soul of a sailboat lies in her rig and design. Clean, simple interiors, rich wood, lantern light and a cozy layout. Systems make me crazy, I hate installing them, paying for them and maintaining them. The most complex system on Sookie is her galley sink, a few clamps and a hose.
Water comes from my 2 gallon gravity feed tank. Hot water comes from my tea kettle. Light comes in many forms from my soft white incandescent lamps to bronze lanterns, 12 hours a day it comes from the sun. I don’t live in my boat, I just sleep in it, I live on the planet earth and it has plenty of space for my needs. I chucked the cedar bucket years ago and went modern with a plastic one which I have grown to love.
There is an old saying measure twice, cut once. On sookie it’s more like measure 100 times and then think about it for a few years. She is perfectly functional as she is so any changes take me a very long time to get to. Her sails fill dozens of pages in my log book. Sookie isn’t just a boat, she is a work of art, so slowly and surely I make progress.
I’ve wanted to add a roller to sookie now for years, that 5’ bow-sprite gets pretty exciting at times. The staysail and tri are no brainers. The jib and main have me torn. Yes I know tan bark stretches more as do batten-less sails. I know roller furling makes sailing easier. Again size is a huge factor, that roller is heavy and adds quite a bit of windage aloft. It also makes for easy reefing and sail storage, keeps me on deck and in a pinch can help sookie point a bit higher. On my flicka I would roll out just a smidge in higher winds to help keep her nose up. Everything is a trade off but it’s almost time to start writing checks so I need to figure it all out.
When I get lost in it all I refer back to this picture and all the things that made me fall in love with this lifestyle. To be on the water, to see and feel things I’ve never experienced, to live a ferrel and wild yet civilized life. I’ve always loved living as close to the edge as I can, close enough to peer over without falling. The challenge has always been in less stuff more experience.
When it comes to outfitting sookie money has never been factored in, if I can’t afford it I’ll live without it till I can. It’s hard to think about but I might be hanging up my bicycle for a little bit so i focus on the blurry aspect of the refit.
Any damn fool can motor around on a ship. The ocean from the deck of a small boat will instill in you both fear and beauty that can’t be realized in the depths of your mind. There is no movie, there are no books… your all alone out there and nobody is coming to get you. The sea is indifferent to your suffering. Heavy weather can be a challenge yet the closest I’ve ever come to loosing my boat was in the calmest weather I have ever seen. You never stop learning, while it may get easier it also becomes more difficult. When I was younger I thought that with experience my fear of the sea would diminish. What a fool I was, with each and every mile I learn more about what the sea is and her cruel nature. The challenge isn’t in avoiding it, this is an impossibility. The challenge is to flow with it, to live so close that it flows through your veins. This is where I live.
Another perfect sunrise ride, but what else would you expect from these islands. I stuff Chika in the corner, strip off my salty Chlothes, make a piping hot cup of coffee and listen to the morning news. Its odd how the more money I have, the poorer I feel. I guess when you have nothing to loose is when you experience the truest freedom in this world, I'm at a serious cross roads.
In hindsight my little Brompton would have made it just as far as my Surly Minus a few hundred Miles of Dirt. It would have saved me 2K on the Front and another 1500 on the back. The Brompton truly is the best all around touring bike and easily fits in my little boat. Chika on the other hand is an Apocalypse bike and a nuclear explosion of fun. Try as I might I just cant fit her in the boat, even in a hundred pieces. Still none of this matters as she easily fits in my Tiny Home. On the other hand the rent on the tiny home Is 3K a year which would easily pay for any Brompty on the planet. Not that its about money but it all adds up.
I love my new house and its only 50 yards from the boat, my work is 100 in the opposite direction but still I'm far too tempted to launch Sookie even though I've promised myself I wont till her bottom job is done in the spring. The sail quote came in and is easily affordable for all new sails. I'm still waiting for the quote on the boom and Nylon mast track. My little Boat world is busy but so is my bike life and I've never been more torn.
Deep in the middle of a midlife crisis, I've had many and each one was amazingly fun in its own way but this one is different. Seriously how many good summers remain in the log book, 10? 15? doesn't sound like much time left. I've been in the battle of attention between boats and bikes my whole life but now they are both anchors in their own way. I have it good here and very easy. I could just spend my final glide path as a weekend warrior and do everything I want but deep down I know sooner or later my life will be Plus one and that opens the doors for long distance sailing, I just hope it happens before the universe has me wearing diapers and calling everybody laddey. Either way I've got to finish the boat now so we are both ready, willing and able.
Winter will be here at any moment so all I have to do is keep piling boat supplies and pray for an early spring, then again I could ship her south tomorrow and start the real work on her. Something about this quote resonates so much when I think about how much we take our youth and time for granted.
"When the last tree is cut down, the last fish eaten and the last stream poisoned, you will realize you cannot eat money." Cree Indians
I’ve truly loved each and every boat I’ve had the good fortune to sail and there have been many. Each new boat has been specifically sought out for one reason or another. I can say that without a doubt I love Sookie more than all of them put together. All boats have their limitations. Sookie will sail rings around the Roo my old Allegra 24 and the Roo would sail rings around S/V Dangerous my old Flicka. The end of this path that started over 30 years ago is the next one size up. I’ve worked my whole life to gain the knowledge to be worthy of this mistress of my mind.
Like a bad penny she keeps coming back to me and I can’t help but to wonder why. Sure she is a more capable boat as is the 34 more capable than she and the 40 and so on. I can’t help to wonder if I’ve been brainwashed by all the people who have been brainwashed that bigger is always better. Sookie is very small indeed but also carries a pedigree in her old bones that stretches back to when sailors used seamanship not credit cards to safely navigate the water ways of the world.
This summer I got to sail on a 50’ cat and in some fucked up way became very smitten with size and speed and a warm boat where my coffee will never spill. Thank god it cost over 3 million dollars or I might actually have changed my thirty year old boat list with just one name still not scratched off.
The last few days with Sookie have been nice albeit very chilly as she has no heat. I’ve missed the season to replace her thru hulls and pintles and gudgeons but I’ve also putout word that I need to borrow a sturdy trailer to move her indoors just long enough to set up a perfectly waterproof seal.
It spooks me to no end thinking about the bigger boat but still… a sit down toilet, heat, hot shower and that huge powerful rig, I’m not getting any younger and all
Of these things will be a necessary evil sooner rather than later. Tomorrow morning I’ll begin the project of removing her bowsprit to Bring home with me for paint and inspection.
I’ve promised myself a stove of some sort on a proper gimbal will be installed before Christmas. All her bronze bits will also be in my possession by then as well. Those blood red sails I’ve been working on should be bent on by spring but to accomplish all this means I’ll be here through the summer working to pay for it all. Again the slip in Santa Barbara is calling to me as is her sister who sits patiently on the other side of the planet.
While there may be many larger boats out there. Boats that are faster, boats that are more powerful, boats that make little Sookie pale in size comparison, there are few on this planet that are a testament to the sea like Sookie is. Big sailors on big boats will always tell big stories but when the dawn arrives blowing cold and fowl their stories stay in the harbor while Sookie always a slips her anchor and preforms like the lady that she is which sometimes is with a mighty tempest.
The All wooden boats have souls, they are built in with the extremely labor intensive commitment of the creator but not all boats have a soul. it’s with the blood sweat and tears that we create our mistress of the sea. Not until your ship has carried you safely across storms and calms alike can we become one with our vessel. I’m still highly traumatized by my last long term sailing partner to the point where I simply need to walk away from the water front and create enough distance to shake the curse. My love for Sookie was formed over the many miles we’ve shared at sea, a bond that can’t be broken. I’m not leaving her, I’m just leaving.
I’ve set every jack stand perfectly, gone though every inch of her and will be leaving her as safe as I can. I always get this sick feeling when I leave her behind, like I’ve forgotten some incredibly important part of me. I can feel her pulling me home from the distances I travel but still I must leave until I feel whole again and worthy of her. When a boat is your home its not just some toy or piece of property. I don’t know what Sookies soul is made of but what ever it is, hers and mine are the same.
My heart goes out to all the sailors and landlubbers alike as hurricane Irma is building her destructive path across the Atlantic Brittany has become one of my favorite writers and photographers over the many years. We read people blogs, look into the snap shots of their life’s and with time they become part of the family, part of my family. Millions of lives and livelihoods are in danger, strangers most of them but not all. I’m uneasy inside, everything her family in has worked and struggled for is in the direct path of a Cat 5 monster. I have many other friends in the region as well and I’m sick with worry for them, I hate nature.
All of these these thoughts and worries go through my mind every time I leave Sookie. I do the best I can but there is still a huge risk. It’s what we sign up for when we join the few who make this life thier homes, it never gets any easier but still we do it. When the time comes I’ll pedal away but between now and then I’ll spend all of my free time making sure she is as safe and comefortable as I can make her until I return .
My tiny little home has been an absolute chaotic work zone but I’ve been noticing less and less gear strewn around each day as I get in as many short rides as I can, packing a little better each time I do. Chika is really getting dialed in and her ride is amazingly well balanced. Slowly but surely the late nights and hard work are paying off, she is becoming part of me. All of these things are telling me it’s almost time to go.
A writer is a person who cares what words mean, what they say, how they say it. Writers know words are their way towards truth and freedom, and so they use them with care, with thought, with fear, with delight. By using words well they strengthen their souls. Story-tellers and poets spend their lives learning that skill and art of using words well. And their words make the souls of their readers stronger, brighter, deeper.
~Ursula K. Le Guins
Two ships passing in the night, soft lips, strong hands. Scars, tattoos, day drinking, dirty feet… pirates come and go, pirate ships come and go. This isn’t a lifestyle, it’s who I am, it’s who we are, my water tribe. Her siren voice serenaded me while she plucked on my ukulele. I could easily fall in love with her if she let me but the ocean is a vast place with strong tides and dangerous rip currents. The last words I said to her before she returned to her ship was that there is nothing wrong with being single. There is also nothing wrong with chasing the wind…
Carnal apple, Woman filled, burning moon,
dark smell of seaweed, crush of mud and light,
what secret knowledge is clasped between your pillars?
What primal night does Man touch with his senses?
Ay, Love is a journey through waters and stars,
through suffocating air, sharp tempests of grain:
Love is a war of lightning,
and two bodies ruined by a single sweetness.
Kiss by kiss I cover your tiny infinity,
your margins, your rivers, your diminutive villages,
and a genital fire, transformed by delight,
slips through the narrow channels of blood
to precipitate a nocturnal carnation,
to be, and be nothing but light in the dark. ~Pablo Neruda
A girl I know sent me these words. “Just today someone asked me if I knew of a poem filled with free winds and small gusts and thin moons that pulled the words easily over the water. Did I know of such a poem? I thought of you standing by the mast, hair blowing, and sent your name.” I’m expecting company but right now I’m alone with the still of the night.
A flock of tiny birds fill the rigging of all the boats. Seagulls Perched on every piling, eerily silent as the sun sets to a dead calm, rhythm exits even in the silent places. A lone eagle circles the bay but soon my resident owl will show up to take over the night shift. I’m going to miss this place but something deep inside me is calling to pull my anchor and let the tides carry me to my new home, wherever that is.
My exit date is etched in stone, I’m almost retired and it feels good. Freeer yes but not free, the second I clock out for the last time the clock starts ticking backwards until the cruising kitty is depleted. I’m not sure where I’ll haul Sookie but I need to install her new wind vane if it ever arrives. Too many projects not enough time or money but that’s the nature of this beast. I haven’t said no but I’m starting to waver on oppertunity that has been generously handed to me, it scares me as much as it excites me.
Sometimes it freaks me out how much I’m attached to Sookie, I talk to her often. Some people believe that boats have a soul, some don’t; I know they do. My box wine tastes especially good tonight as we gently bob around on a cloud of good music. The ocean never stops moving, she is my blood sister. The tides of my heart rise and fall, sometimes calm others with a tempest of emotion. I’ve been tied down too long but moving is as easy as untying the lines, hoisting my sails and watching the horizon come to me like a well trained puppy. Keep your lantern lit, I’m coming to find you.
Society, have mercy on me
I hope you’re not angry if I disagree
Society, crazy and deep
I hope you’re not lonely without me – Eddy Vedder
The lure of pilot boats, sailing and blue water. I’m not talking crossing oceans, I’m talking blue water. The kind you can see your toes through and the kind warm and inviting enough to keep you in and out of it all day. Balmy trade winds, fresh fruit and… The dream is as real as the reoccurring nightmares I have of nearly starving to death on my last trip to the tropics.
I found this picture while creeping a wooden Falmouth cutter 26 for sale on the east coast, then a glass 26 Hess appeared for sale, one of 9 built, I know of 4 others out there, none of them for sail. Why look if you aren’t going to buy? Perhalps I was just listening to my instincts, some inner feeling that forces me to walk away from every pilot boat that crosses my path but still I’m hooked. Hooked on sailing them, living on them and it goes without saying working on them.
If I sell everything I own that won’t fit in my backpack I can scrape enough money to fly one way to Papeete mid June. I’ll arrive flat broke and hungry after 24 hours of travel by thumb, bus, train, ferry and 4 flights. Why would I do this? Did Hawaii teach me nothing? Well all I’m saying is opportunity only knocks once and my destiny is calling me. On a piece of scratch paper I have two lists, pros and cons. I’ve been staring at it intently for days but have not put a single word on either side. I’m leaving this one up to the universe. If I’m still aboard Sookie by the middle of June I guess I’ll know the answer I’ve been seeking my entire adult life.
I’m scared, really scared and excited, really excited. Every experience I’ve had up until this point has been preparing me for the next voyage. The thought of selling Sookie makes me want to throw up. I could just sail her there but then again I could just arrive by plane. Sometimes I think I’m like the dog looking at the reflection of his bone is the water. He opens his mouth to bite the bigger one and loses both. I have to contain myself, I’m freaking out.
“There are winds of destiny that blow when we least expect them. Sometimes they gust with the fury of a hurricane, sometimes they barely fan one’s cheek. But the winds cannot be denied, bringing as they often do a future that is impossible to ignore.”
― Nicholas Sparks, Message in a Bottle
There is a price we pay for freedom and sometimes freedom is that price. Winter has done me in time wise, the ticking clock has me wondering if it’s time to throw in the towel for this year, re group and start the process all over again at a later date. I love a good challange but I’m on the line and ready to back out.
If I put every ounce of my effort, every minute of my spare time and every last dollar I posses and earn in the coming months I have a chance of breaking free and a potential residual income to support my freedom. It’s six ways this, half a dozen the other. If I fail I’m trapped on the boat for another winter in a merciless and hostile environment. This past winter took its toll and I don’t think I can take another. Desperation is the best of motivators but change is the best desperation eraser.
I could call it off now, work the summer and continue to install all my new gear with a few good months for sea trials. Heading out on Brompty September first is always a very exciting option and one that would wind my way south to warmer climates but again find me broke with a 10 page list of must haves for Sookie in the spring. My commitment level to either of these options is as high as it is low. I’m feeling lost, burned out, tired and fairly unmotivated.
Brompty sits collecting dust, Sookie sits patiently waiting for her spring outfitting, and the clock of time is backspinning at an alarming rate. It’s been exactly 2 years since I set off on my last long cruise on the boat. I still deal with daily bouts of depression over the loss of Chloe and even though I have every option on the planet, I can’t seem to commit to a single one of them. I’m so sick of being cold but it’s the very nature of why this is the most magical place on earth.
“Until the lions learn to write every story will glorify the hunter.” – African proverb
“look at those girly chain plates” I poke as I’m helping a friend measure for new cruising sails. His boat weighs over 40,000 lbs and his chain plates are the same thickness as Sookies. None of this matters but it’s fun to tease. Back on Sookie I’m hitting it hard. Tomorrow is opening day, a day I usually spend paying my last coat of varnish for the season. This year has been so horrible I’m just getting started today.
I bent Sookies main back on today, I’m still working in her boom but I couldn’t stand one more day with bare spars. I need to add a third reef point and also a third stitch to all of her sails which I’m slowly coming to the realization will be with me for quite some time. Her total sail inventory is main, Yankee, staysail, storm jib and cruising chute. All my sails need a bit of love but they are all in great condition for a person on a small budget.
I took measurements for my new sun awning and jib bags. Pulled tool bags, rigging bags, line bags, all my fastener bins and stared to prepare this boat to sail. I’m not shooting for day sailing but I will. I’m not shooting for gunkholing but I will. I’m getting Sookie ready to fly to the moon.
Yes 1/4 backing plates through a section of deck that is over an inch thick is overkill but my life depends on these baby’s keeping me on board. Every single addition to Sookie and there have been many have this same and completely insane level of finish. Upsizing to 1/4 inch rigging only added 11lbs to the entire system but now each fitting is strong enough to lift the entire boat out of the water as is each of the cleats I’ve added. New chainplates will be stronger yet and prettier although I’m still torn between bronze and titanium.
Now that’s a flat sail, I’ve wished for a third reef on more than one occasion. My staysail will get two sets and then I can sell my storm jib, when you live on a 22′ sailboat every inch of storage counts. The days are long, the nights quiet and new sailors are starting to swing through on their way north, I truly hope to follow in their wake but right now all my attention is on how to navigate solo with my shit eyes, I’ve actually contemplated a 5″ chart plotter but that’s just crazy talk.
I love the quiet of night, time to pull the logbook and remind myself not only how far I’ve gone but how far I’ve come. Today was one of those days that make the bitter winter nights worth it all. I never feel alone or lonely but when I start to get Sookie all dressed up and ready to go I can’t help but to wonder if all of this is better shared.
This lovely pocket cruiser is owned by a young sailorette on her way north. I met both her and her husband earlier this year, both good people, sailors and touring cyclists, they have 60 days off and a fine boat to chase the wild of the north. I’m not the only one out here with multiple loves but on days like today I’m equally pulled between my bike and Sookie.
From the log of Sookie, I write a bunch of private numbers in my log, lat and long if you must know but this journal entry is very private and my next personal goal…
It seems a bit idiotic to have a perfectly good boat but to be chasing the hustle and bustle of inter-island travel on the ferry system. Sookie is still winterized, taken apart and in general a complete shambles but that is about to change. Well, at least head in the right direction.
Any day now her bow Sprite is getting pulled for inspection and paint. The new boom is not coming along well, looks like I may have to do this one on my own as all the manufactures are putting out amazingly strong and beautiful booms at a very reasonable price but that would completely ruin Sookie. For now I’m going to rebuild my frail gooseneck again and pray it holds together till I can create a boom worthy of putting on my fine little ship. Making one out of wood is easy enough but I already have enough to maintain so Ive started shopping for a used mast with the right proportions that will be cut down and powder coated to match what was just a few years ago a freshly painted mast section. If I had a million dollars I’d replace that also with a tapered mast for both strength, beauty and a bit of weight savings. Boat restoration can be almost as volatile as drug addiction at times.
Either way I’m hoping to bend the main back on this week, service my engine if I can find a outboard stand otherwise I’ll slap one together with 2×4’s and I need to schedule a haul out to install the new windvane once I have completely rebuilt it. All fun projects but today I’m playing tourist and chilling on the ferry with a black cup of coffee on my way to pick up my new cushions.
The money dance continues, I’m hoping to have all the stove parts and new water tank parts on the boat by June first, even if they aren’t installed it will give me something to do during the lazy windless afternoons of spring and everything can be done with a simple hand drill, add that one to the list. The real water tank and new cabin sole won’t come yet but a 6 gallon installed tank under the companionway will give me a real faucet for the first time in six years and clear my galley counter. With this and 4 portable 5 gallon tanks I have enough water all out of eye sight to cruise anywhere from here to Glacier Bay without a worry in the world. I have an additional four 5 gallon tanks and could add two to the cockpit if necessary giving me a total of 55 gallons of water all of it mostly out of the way. Everything on a small boat is like a puzzle, I can’t image how wonderful my real tank will be but I’m a patient man.
Running north though the Straights of Georgia was the wrong place to realize I forgot to add a preventer but it was easy to jury rig and my new one will cost about 25 bucks, be simple and very efficient, another thing on today’s shopping list in the big city of Friday Harbor I love how if you time it right it’s down wind all the way to Alaska and downwind all the way home, just one of the many reasons I love it here so much.
I look out the window at Shaw island, last time I was here we were buried in a blizzard of snow, where does the time go. I arrive in Friday Harbor with a long list and a pocket full of money. Going home I have a pile of sailors gold and empty pockets but it’s the only way when your trying to do this stuff on minimalist budget. Another week of lentils and onions but now I have a killer bottle of habanero and lots of fresh spices to fancy it up a bit. It was hard being back in Friday Harbor, so many memories and everybody asking about Chloe, she was loved by all. I walked up the steep razor sharp ramp and wondered how many times I carried her up and down that horrible thing, I feel my time growing short in this part of the islands…
The days of my life are slow, boring and predictable, just how I like them. Fall will be here all to soon but for now it’s one thing at a time, working in circles around my spring varnish and paint and lots of lazy afternoon naps after a mid day cool beer pulled from the bilge. It’s Island time kids, climb aboard your spaceship and come find me, I’ll cook you an average meal, pour a fresh glass of wine from my box and do my best to entertain you in this little place we call the Islands…
From the log of Sookie Note to self, don’t walk into the county office with your sailors knife on. You’d of thought I was wearing a bomb vest, what has happened to this world???
I was more than a little shocked to hear the words coming out of my mouth. Hearing them both in reality and in my brain was sort of like an omen. My life is pretty cush and I could stay here forever and chill but once again as I get to comefortable I’m reminded how little my life’s units are really worth when it comes to employment.
It had been an incredibly long week and quite a rewarding one in so many ways. I had more or less come to the conclusion that sucking it up for the summer would earn enough freedom chips for a nice winter bike tour but then what? I sure as hell don’t want to enter into a potential cycle of working the tourist season, I’m far too old for this shit. Without crew sailing would be a lonely boring afair. I could store the boat and have an amazing summer of bike touring but that would lead right back to another winter on the boat. What about… I scanned my brain till it hurt wrote a few notes in my log book and put it to rest for the night.
Perhaps it was a 14 hour day of bartending that had my brain scrambled but when talking with one of the visiting sailors the words slipped right out and as I heard them I wondered if they were my only real choice. I’m usually the most laid back guy in the room but some things just get to me and this was going to be one of those weeks. The easy way forward is just, well never mind, I hate talking about what I’m going to do as opposed to what I am doing, let’s just say my priorities are changing faster than the weather around here.
The month of August is etched into my brain, I’m not sure why as July seems an all together better month but… The words totally unprepared could describe every endeavor I’ve set out on in the life but somehow now more than ever even even with a lifetime of travel under my belt they seem to fit today like a glove. By the light of my lantern I make a list of all the stupid shit I’ve done in my life, it’s a long list and takes all night. Have I learned anything, or nothing? I ponder it all night; really, there is only one way to find out. The words penned into the cover of my journal, every journey begins with a single step. For the first time in my life I’m feeling a bit uneasy, maybe I have learned. Thing or two.
From the log of Sookie. All work and no play make stormy a dull boy. All work and no play make stormy a dull boy. All work and no play make stormy a dull boy. All work and no play make stormy a dull boy. All work and no play make stormy a dull boy. All work and no play make stormy a dull boy. All work and no play make stormy a dull boy. All work and no play make stormy a dull boy. All work and no play make stormy a dull boy. All work and no play make stormy a dull boy. All work and no play make stormy a dull boy. All work and no play make stormy a dull boy. All work and no play make stormy a dull boy. All work and no play make stormy a dull boy. All work and no play make stormy a dull boy. All work and no play make stormy a dull boy. All work and no play make stormy a dull boy. All work and no play make stormy a dull boy. All work and no play make stormy a dull boy. All work and no play make stormy a dull boy. All work and no play make stormy a dull boy. All work and no play make stormy a dull boy. All work and no play make stormy a dull boy. All work and no play make stormy a dull boy.
I pull the contents from my pocket, two crisp dollar bills, twenty some odd cents a piece of Pocket lint and a button. I’m not sure where the button came from but certainly it’s a sign from the gods. A windfall of cash came my way this week proving that not only can writers make money but sometimes they can make good money. Like the sands of time through an hourglass it’s all slipped through my fingers…
The glass half empty crowd will see this as a foolish expenditure of resources but the glass half full type like me, well; I feel like the richest man in Babylon. I think I have enough food on the boat to last till the end of September, my new windvane parts are in the mail or at least being lovingly packaged and all my ducks are almost in a row. If I can complete the whole boom gallows I’ll actually be able to have a sun and rain awning under sail. I’m not a fan of not seeing my main but there are times when you just need protection. I still dream about a Iverson Dodger but today it’s only a dream.
For the life of me I can’t figure out how I’m still alive having been more or less unemployed for the better part of the last 14 years but it’s been more of a dream than a nightmare as far as I’m concerned. I’m beginning to think this writing and photography hobby of mine might have a future in it for me. It’s not that I think I’m a better writer or photographer than anybody but being there is 90% of the battle and I’m living on the front lines. I’m sure there are a thousand better ways to do it but I found diving in headfirst worked best for me. I have so much more to write about but an email from a old friend just popped through and…
“Every dream has a process and a price tag. Those who embrace the process and pay the price, live the dream. Those who don’t, just dream.” Unknown
When I was a broker I would tell prospective clients to get three quotes on the upgrades they need. You notice I said need and not want, the wants come later. Take the highest bid, double it and then add 50%, this is half of what it will really cost. So why am I outfitting for blue water when I have no intentions of blue water sailing? Options I say, I like options and besides, a ship like Sookie should be whole.
I’ve been working with Brian Toss on my new boom, it will be 16″ longer and give me the space to install a proper boom gallows on Sookie and finally have full coverage in the cockpit including lee cloths. The real delema is my new head sails. My preference is a roller furling lapper and staysail. Roller furling instantly ruins the sailing performance on any boat, add two and your doubling your trouble. Not just with added windage aloft but also added weight to the rig, poor sail shape if furled and a measure of fragility. I love my hank ones but due to Sookies narrow beam there just isn’t room in her rat lines to work up there so I’m always riding the bowsprite like a bucking bronco, very exciting at times.
When I replaced all my upper standing rigging and spar shrouds I went with 1/4″ wire. This is complete over kill for Sookie but only added 11 lbs total to her rig, a very acceptable compromise in my opinion. In the fall Sookie will get new chain plates, she has split lowers unlike the factory single. When I do this I’ll be replacing all of her cover boards and re fastening her deck. Because the deck is fiberglassed to the hull she doesn’t leak a drop but I’m redesigning her toe rail so this is a great time to do it. I don’t know of any other boat that has a sealed deck joint like Sookie, just one of the many brilliant additions that makes her one In a million.
I’ve never considered things like electronics, liferafts, engines… to add to the seaworthiness of a boat, in fact they detract from it. I’m still waiting on my quote for pintles and gudegons but they will be installed this year and well worth the beans and rice diet that will pay for them. Some day I may add fancy things to Sookie but this year it’s all about blue water safety, and all new cushions but hey, a guys got to get a good nights sleep, both in the bed and in the head…
I’ve borrowed this from landlpardey.com enjoy
You Can’t Buy Safety
This chapter, from our book the Capable Cruiser, 3rd edition was originally written in response to a magazine editorial. It was printed in Latitudes and Attitudes several years ago but nothing has changed as far as the heavy marketing of so called Safety equipment. So Larry and I think it is worth sharing it with folks who getting ready to set off cruising.
The list of safety gear you “should” buy is endless; the potential to sink your cruising budget by buying it is definitely real. Some safety gear is essential, some is useful, most of it will never get used so where do you draw the line? It’s a hard call even for experienced sailors. The only way to make wise choices is by getting out sailing and racking up lots of sea time in lots of different weather situations so you can truly evaluate what equipment you need. In the rush to ready your boat and shore life so you can get out cruising, it is hard to gain this experience/sea time.
Here are some thoughts to keep in mind when you consider safety gear:
The first and most important piece of safety gear you have on board is a partner who has the knowledge and skills to handle the boat. There is not one piece of man-overboard gear that is going to help if the person left on the boat does not know how to get the boat back to you.
Your boat is your life raft. That rubber thing in a valise or canister is an abandon-ship raft, a flimsy replacement for the strong boat you are thinking of leaving and only a hopeful last chance. The vast majority of boats abandoned by their owners are later found drifting crew-less and afloat.
The harness you may or may not use on deck is just that, a harness to back up your hands. It does not insure safety, nor is it a substitute for learning to move around on deck using the old fashioned sounding seaman’s adage; one hand for you, one hand for the ship.
The only sure way of avoiding collisions at sea is by having someone stand watch in the cockpit. A watch keeper on deck will be able to spot that violent squall approaching in time to drop sail before it hits. Because he/she will have lots of time to look around the boat the watch keeper might notice a potential gear failure before it causes a serious problem. The more reasons (or excuses) you have for staying below deck, the less safe you become.
Gear that is used only in emergencies may not function properly if you and the crew have not practiced using it. Inflatable items like liferafts may also fail to inflate/deploy/work due to ingress of salt water, exposure to sun and heat or human error when it was originally packed or repacked.
Think prevention instead of cure. I.e. improving the non-skid on your deck and cabin-top could prevent crew from skidding overboard. Improving your boomvang/preventer-tackle-system could prevent an injury-causing accidental gybe.
Over the past few months we have had the pleasure of rendezvous with some highly experienced cruising sailors, folks who have each circumnavigated twice and sailed far beyond the normal routes including Noel and Litara Barrett winners of the Blue Water Medal, Alvah and Diana Simons, Beth Leonard and Evans Starzinger. Interestingly the topic of safety brought the same reactions from each of these master sailors, “it’s far safer at sea than on the freeways. Car’s whizzing past you at 60 miles an hour, only three or four feet to spare. Out at sea you are rarely moving more than 6 or 8 knots.” But we all agreed; with experience comes confidence, with confidence comes the ability to access safety or accept risks. Almost everyone who sets off cruising has far more experience on freeways than at sea. If you had a look at the boats each of these remarkable people sail you’d be surprised at how Spartan their “safety gear” list appears. Each of their boats is highly geared towards efficient sailing, each has very clear deck areas and an extensive system of handholds throughout the cabin, in the cockpit and on deck, and each has all essential systems independent of electricity. Each carries a plethora of back up rigging and sail repair equipment. Each has an abundance of anchors, anchor-rodes and a powerful windlass.
If you are outfitting for your first foray offshore, consider spending some of the funds you put aside for safety equipment on a learn- to- cruise charter. Invite that salty old guy who sailed around the world ten years back to go out sailing with you for a weekend and assess your gear, or lack of it, through his eyes. Hire a professional delivery skipper to join you for a day or two of sea-trails before you invest in any more “safety” gear. You will be buying something far more dependable than a piece of gear that might theoretically save your life in a theoretical situation; you’ll be buying first-hand experience that could prevent that theoretical catastrophe from happening in the first place.
I hobble back to Sookie, I’m wrecked. I barely have enough energy to pull a cool beer from the bilge and tuck into my quarter berth. I wake early to a half finished beer and a beautiful day. An early morning spending spree and my bank account has run dry and I couldn’t be happier, Sookie is covered for another year and her registration is payed till June 2018. I have enough boat supplies to keep me busy for a month but the paint for my bowsprite is still AWOL. I need to pull it and inspect and paint under her cranz iron.
The number one letter I get from this site is how do you afford it. The plain and simple truth is I can’t but I do it anyway. I’m a minimalist for sure but between the boat, my Brompton and my Nikon there aren’t enough hours in the day with all the mini adventures I find my way into. Last year I had a boat full of food and less than $150.00 to last me from February till the end of June, it was a struggle but I did it. Having just come off a sailing trip up the inside passage and straight into a bike tour of the Hawaiian islands I doubt anyone felt sorry for my predicament, I certainly didn’t, it was all just part of the dirt bag life I live.
I feel like a millionaire these days but unlike last year when my only choice was basic survival I have too many now and too many choices is a bad thing. I’ve been promoted to lead bartender at the resort I work for and they want me to stay forever… it’s interesting watching kids in the restaurant melt down at all the choices on the menue but when given only one they are instantly happy again. I wonder if we ever grow out of this. When I set sail north I had few choices. When it was cold, I was cold. When it was stormy I dealt with it. When I was lost, I found my way. It was all so simple because it was my only choice and I loved every second of it.
Freedom is a lie, we are never free, it isn’t the tax income the big wheel wants from us, it’s our labor. We are trained from birth to be endentured survants to the system. I fight this battle every day but if I want new paint for Sookies bowsprite I have to sign over X amount of the best days of my life in exchange, my youth slipping through my fingers as quickly as my dollars slip though my checking account and the cycle continues.
I’m constantly asked if I’m going to sail around the world and the answer is no, I simply can’t afford it and to be honest I don’t want it badly enough to trade my remaining life’s units being a slave to society to earn the money to accomplish the task. I’d much rather sail in my current region when I can and travel on my Brompton when the weather turns cold. Returning to Sookie at the end of a long journey is pure heaven. She does everything I ask of her and each year gets a little better and more comfortable.
Over the last decade Ive become increasingly disallsioned with the prospect of budget long term voyaging. I wonder if it’s even possible to cruise on the mini budget I used to do it on. The abundance of big boats and big budgets has raised the prices of everything, everywhere. I’m currently living in one of the most expensive places in the United States but according to friends I have out there, I’m living cheaper here than they are in Mexico. I’m beginning to see through the illusion and the more I do the more I love this wonderful area even if I do freeze my ass off 4 months out of the year.
It’s a shorts and tee shirt day and while I should be scrubbing the daily barrage of bird shit off of Sookie I’m still in the boat sipping on coffee and exploring a paper chart of the northern islands. I cleaned and oiled Brompty after my morning ride and am content with the world. The headline news is nuclear war, its interesting how little I care about what I hear on the news, Sookie isn’t just my home and bug out boat, she is an island of her own. I have loaded enough food and booze aboard that I could sail her half way around the world with 5 minutes notice. Yes it’s nice to know that I can but there is a secret little anchorage about 5 miles from here that seems much more enticing and after a few days out I can come back to my little world, plug in my heater and trade a few more days of my youth for a new roller furling unit. It’s all an illusion…
“Today as always, men fall into two groups: slaves and free men. Whoever does not have two-thirds of his day for himself, is a slave, whatever he may be: a statesman, a businessman, an official, or a scholar.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche
The Dove, by Robin Lee Graham was the first book I read, I actually learned to read from that book. When I was 9 I tracked him down and called him to interview him about his trip. Over the years I collected all of his articles that appeared in National Geographic. Many years later, in 2001 I was living in my truck traveling around America when I decided to pay him a visit. I was having nachos amd margaritas in his town when I found a full article on him in the local daily paper, I decided it was time to let go and drove straight to Ventura California to sea trial Mariko, the Falmouth Cutter I thought I was destined to own.
My life has thrown me a thousand curve balls since that beautiful day on the sea but I never gave up and soon enough Sookie literally fell into my lap just shy of about 12 years after first meeting her. It’s warm tonight, my kerosene lantern is burning bright and the music is draining my last bits of energy from a long day and lulling me to sleep. I can’t say I have the best life in the world but I have the one I’ve chosen. I’d choose it again if I could go back in time…
I love my tiny space, the freedom she represents and the hard work she commands to keep her looking and sailing smart. Both my master and my servant she is a good home and a brilliant travel companion. It’s been a few years now since I discovered a mysterious box sealed under an un accessible spot under her floor boards. I was drilling holes for an exploratory mission to create a new water tank when I found it but still have no idea what’s in this mysterious treasure chest. With a little luck her old sole will be removed this summer reavealing the mystery of a thousand dreams. I can’t even begin to wonder what could be inside. A new water tank and bare teak floor boards will replace the hidden treasure with an even more valuable treasure, water…
“Life would be pretty monotonous if the sky was always blue.”
― Robin Lee Graham, Dove
In all my life I’ve yet to sail a boat more fun than Sookie, from our first sail together on a beautiful full moon though all of our rough passages she has never let me down. I would wait till the world was asleep and push her back from her slip, sailing engineless out of Bellingham bay can be difficult and the first half dozen attempts were unsuccessful but being alone at the helm of my ship even in those short midnight sails I felt like the king of the world.
I always took her at night just in case… engineless sailing certainly has its risks. Eventually I did make it out of the bay and those brilliantly dark inky nights left only the stars to guide us. Always a lady Sookie responds as a ship or a dinghy depending on what you ask her to do. As much as I love charging along at or above hull speed it’s those balmy lazy afternoons where she gently pulls along always making way but in my favorite lazy fashion that I live for.
It’s hard to believe but today is our 6 year anniversary “happy anniversary baby”. She wouldn’t arrive until April second having literally been stolen by the shippers but six years ago today I was given my freedom and Sookie would be my magic carpet to the tiny world of the Salish Sea, my backyard. Bit by bit over the years I’ve added this and that. What was to be a 2 year hundred thousand dollar complete rebuild turned into a 30 year scrap her together as I go and sail as often as I can project. The economy literally left me high and dry one day after she arrived.
My friend Sara was the first to spot her in her trailer making way into town but within an hour the whole boatyard was buzzing with congratulations on Bellingham’s newest sweetheart. I nearly froze to death that week while the snow fell on my new home in the boatyeard and me with no heat but I didn’t care. I piled on everything I owned and snuggled in tight with Chloe. She arrived on a Sunday, Monday morning three deals had crashed and burned turning my 13k commission into zero and leaving me with a life savings of 13 cents and not a drop of hope in sight.
It’s snowing today and chilly aboard, some things never change. There is a long story about how Sookie found me again but I’ll save that one for later. Ten years before she found me I found her and would often sit with her and drink wine admiring her beautiful lines while she gently tugged at her bits and as always when I said goodbye to her, I’d place my hand on her bowsprit and say someday… someday.
From the log of Horizon – I’ve found my new girl but today she is with another, I know this will test my patience but someday we will sail together, someday…
Of all the things that I have experienced on a boat at sea, being with someone who is loosing their shit in heavy weather is by far the scariest. It’s hard enough to take care of yourself and the boat but finding myself in this situation is something I work hard at avoiding. I was solo in the worst Gale I’ve ever experienced and in many ways it was a good thing because it’s the most frightened I’ve ever been in my life.
The mental fatigue wears at you, the motion feels like you are slowly being beaten to death and physically things go south surprisingly fast. For all my love of the sea, heavy weather sailing has never been something I enjoy although being caught in it has its finer points. It’s impossible to understand the power and beauty of the sea unless you have been a spec on the ocean caught in her mighty fury.
At some point in our lives we call it and say enough is enough and decide to live a more sedate and comefortable life. In thirty years of sailing I’ve met thousands of people who call them selfs sailors but less than a dozen with the skills to safely sail solo in Gale conditions in a small boat, it’s a whole different game. It’s a test 99.99% of sailors would fail if they had the courage “read stupidity” to show up. I’ve found my solace in this tiny sea that I dwell in but still the ocean calls.
My desire for a much larger and heavier sailboat is primarily based off of age and experience, I can’t tolerate what I could when I was 25 or 35. I get fatigued easier, cold faster and my brain goes stupid in half the amount of time, this latter point is the most dangerous place a sailor can ever be and where most bad things happen out there. To understand my position all you have to do is take your small boat, or any boat into a full blown gale in the straits a time and place very few will ever see.
I sent this amazing journey …continued in part two.
But I’m dancing in the rain. Sookie is as clean as she’s ever been, I’ve pulled her winter tarp and now I can enter and exit without getting down in my belly and slithering in and out. Her acoustics are amazing, I’ve got my favorite play list booming on her new wifi speaker, a hot cup of black coffee and a pile of unfinished writing and editing to do. Her tiny cabin smells of sandle wood and teak, a steady stream of smoke rises from an incense stick hand delivered to me from India.
My camera bag is packed, I’m down to my two favorite body’s and lenses but half my kit is on the chopping block. From now on it’s just one body and my 50mm, life is getting simpler by the day. I understand how all working pros need piles of gear, backup body’s, extra film and mega backups. My life is far to simple for that. I don’t work on assignment ever. If my brick packs it up I’ll pull out a pencil and piece of paper and draw my world, photography is one of the largest parts of my life but it’s a passion, not my day job. I love snap shots, it’s what I specialize in. My images are so plain and natural and mundane that they alsmost feel real, that’s my style, controlled monotony, like my life.
My company is shutting down for a while, it’s hard to survive the island winters, not just for us frail humans. Most businesses on these islands only turn a profit 75 days a year. If you don’t love this life you better get out because it will eat you alive. There is a journey in the making, my day pack, one camera and my iPad. This journey has no start point, no destination and no pre conceived end. Nothing more than a simple journey for my inner creative to explore a very tiny spec of this planet, my mind and a chance to have a long slow chat with my future.
I can’t help but to wonder what a much younger me would think of how we’ve progressed in this life. Would she approve of where I’ve gone or be disappointed at how slow my life is. I’m exactly where I started. Way back then I had little more than the contents of my small sailboat, camera bag and as always on old uke in tow. Now much older and a bit wiser I look back and admire my young determined mind , how someone so young and nieve could know exactly what they want out of this world and why. My one dimensional life has proven how truly wise she was.
Good music, laugher, the love of a good woman when the timing is right and my arts. My camera and ukulele have shaped my life. I’ve never progressed beyond those first days of simple chords and simple camera settings but they fit my simple life. I’ve spent the better portion of this journey watching my dreams manifest before my eyes. Maybe it’s finally my time to sit back and do a little bit of settling down, to enjoy the simple fruits of my labor.
From the log of Sookie, dancing in the rain. Maybe I’ve always known this or maybe I’m just figuring out how I made my way here now. One thing I know for sure is that my success has always been controlled luck. I find that the smarter I work, the luckier I get.
Sookies deck is covered with blood as are my now mangled hands which can only mean one thing, I’m actually working on the boat. No work today, I was given a reprieve, it’s actually warm, there is no wind, no rain and I have a few bucks in my pocket, it’s like the perfect storm of yacht maintence. It’s rare that all of elements align for me but today is that day and I’ve been going at it since dawn.
Exactly two years ago I was doing exactly what I’m doing today, working on the damn boat. Back then I had a greenhorn and a secret plan. The boat was scheduled to leave the dock by May to dink around the islands, the secret plan was to sail to Alaska in a trial by fire all inclusive sailing school for the greenhorn, then to abscond with her and sail the boat to the South Pacific via Mexico. Ahh the finest laid plans of mice and men… I figure I’d be in the South Pacific by now working some shit job to restock the kitty.
Turns out that plan was for shit and I realized it within a few short days, life goes on and about a year later having done very little in the way of upgrades to Sookie I did have another plan. Along with that plan I had my man drawer filled with fasteners that had literally taken me years to aquire from all over the world. Special sizes and shapes and… I knew I would get around to them soon enough and actually had finally aquaired ever single piece I needed to finish all the petty BS projects that never seem to end on a sailboat. Summer was rapidly approaching, I had a pocket full of money and was ready to rumble. I came back to the boat one night to find my then girl friend had undone 4 years of my sea proofing of Sookie, completely rearranging everything in to the form of a house, not a boat.
She was so excited to show me how she had made the boat perfect. I smiled gave her a hug and tried to sensitively explain why everything had to go back the way it was, this conversation didn’t go over well. The next day when I dug into my man drawer I was horrified. Turns out she had thrown away everything on the boat she didn’t understand which was, well… everything. Another year has passed, I’ve more or less lost the desire to go through all the shopping and measuring and… so Sookie sits and waits, I sit and wait, but time marches on.
Chaos has an order which is completely misunderstood by those who could never understand it. I’m shell shocked, near or maybe at and possibly past my breaking point. Months of high winds have taken thier toll, I’m done. I’m one of the few inhabitants of these islands that arrivided under their own keel but it almost never happened, it was never meant to happen other than through a random act of chaos.
I had been living in my car filming a documentary, the notion to drive to Alaska and build a log cabin seemed like a fun way to spend a bit of my freedom and so the car turned north and a new chapter was born. Slowly driving up the coast the trip was far different, less beautiful or interesting than when I was on my Brompton heading south from Canada or on my Fixie heading south from SF. Not the same but still an amazing migration north. The journey brought me to Port Townsend, a place I had never heard of. Instantly I was in love, I was so excited pulling into the boat yard I actually jumped out of a moving car when I spied John Guzzwells Endangered Species.
What was meant to be a very brief stop later in Bellingham ended with me accidentally buying a sailboat. I filmed the entire restoration and was rapidly becoming one of the original YouTube sailing channels. That boat was eventually sold and Sookie fell into my hands. We’ve been very slowly drifting about ever since. The spontaneous life can be a hard one but the rewards are infinite. I always have an idea of where I want to be and where I want to go but the reality is that I’ve thrown my entire life into the hands of the universe. Who knows what will happen next, I certainly don’t. What ever it is one thing for sure is that it will lead to an extrorianary experience, at least in the tiny scale of my simple life.
Chatting with a sailing friend from half way around the world be both agree that leaving is the hardest part. Closing one chapter to open the next, too many people spin thier wheels tidying up loose lines when they need to just cut them. Eventually the storms will pass, the calms will fill in and if your very lucky you will start to appreciate the chaos you have created, not only in your life but in all of those who know you and who will never, who can never uunderstand this order…
From the log of Roo, living on the Res… This is getting out of hand. I was just chased down by a couple in a car who recognized me from YouTube. Ok they actually recognized Chloe who was hanging her head out the window but still.
Working my way around the boat scrubbing and cleaning both inside and out these are the words going through my painfully simple mind. All hosed off, aired out and prettied up I end on the last sentence, she loves me and why shouldn’t she, my love for her is constant, unwavering. She is always at the forefront of my mind. We have both gotten used to the fact that my wandering eye will always appreciate other fine yachts but better than any other she knows where I sleep every night and with who.
Yet another BCC is attempting to catch my eye, this one is already in the South Pacific, could be had for a song and a dance and has been lovingly maintained and appointed with a brand new diesel and new sails. Sure she’s pretty but she’s not Sookie. Winter is getting tired, I can feel it. The clock of time stands still for no man and anyday now the islands will settle into spring.
I arrived back from Hawaii and back on Sookie on super bowl Sunday last year, a day I couldn’t care less about other than it was a bitter sweet home coming. Sookie was as I had left her in my rush to get Chloe to first rate medical attention but we both knew I would be returning alone. Our last moments in Sookies cabin with treats and a bowl of cool water from the hotel. I lifted her carefully and spun slowly in a circle giving her one last look at what had been her home for the last 5 years. Our summer had been a blur of islands and beaches and everything she had loved her whole life but on this trip exploring was done while hanging her nose over the bow of the dinghy or laying lazily in the shade of a new island paradise every day.
Returning solo was hard to swalllow and that first night back I elected to stay in a hotel not ready to deal with my future. A year later it isn’t much different, her tag hangs from the lantern bell where I ding it every morning missing her pre dawn shenanigans of attacking me with her wet nose and playful way until I would kibosh her, grabbing her and flipping her over me for some morning fun, that’s how every day started. It’s painfully lonely without her but there won’t be another on this boat.
So another winter is quietly slipping away, another spring growing close at hand and the list is longer than ever. My self imposed date of departure is 76 days away. All I have to do is add a new water tank and cabin sole, install the new hobb. Install the wind vane and replace all of my now very old lower shrouds, 7 of them to be exact. A third reef point is on the list for very good reason and solar and a new panel to replace the ancient and dying one I have now. New anchor line, a solar panel, a few charts, most importantly the one I needed most, crossing the straits of Georgia from Pender harbor to some other place who’s name I can’t remember and that’s about it. Shit, rebuild the rudder, new berth cushions and ceiling boards. There must be more, there is always more.
I woke to a beautiful sunny day, the 34 degree temperature felt like 75 and it was finally a day to work on Sookie, her new engine survived the big freeze and runs like a champ as a motor with less than 5 hours on it should. I almost got to rebuilding the gooseneck and in the morning will design a preventer, something i forgot to do for my last journey and paid dearly for my mistake. My log book has three probable futures for me. A, just say screw it and leave totally unprepared and pennyless. B, sell everything I have in the world, put it all into the boat and sail away penniless. C, stay right were I am, work all summer and save enough to ship the boat to Florida where I will arrive penniless. Not sure how to flip a three sided coin but each of these options is very appealing to me although plan B will be the first crossed off the list I’m guessing.
They call it yachting for a reason and after months of misery today I was given a glimpse of why I go through all of this. A long bike ride, I restocked my empty boat, got a ton of work done and watched the sunset with a nice glass of shitty scotch. In like a lion out like a lamb, isn’t that what they say. The tides are turning if I can just survive a few more weeks.
From the log of Sookie, winter is dead!
I sailed my first boat solo, my second had no crew, on my third I was alone and my forth found me as captain, crew, chief navigator and dishwasher. It was an important time of my life and one in which I learned the many things that only a solo sailor can learn. My classroom was the sea, my instructor, the wind-n-tides and my text and tools big sheets of white canvas called sails, controlled with little strings called sheets of all things. That first boat had two motors, one an inboard and one an outboard, neither of them ever worked so I sailed.
Finding a copy of Wandering Under Sail is a goldmine, printed in 1939 the bulk of the first editions printed copy’s were burned by Nazis. ” I sailed alone simply because I was seldom able to find a suitable companion with whom to share the somewhat cramped space in my small boat. I was often frightened and occasionally lonely. I find that cruising with the right companion who understands small sailboats and apprecites the sea in all its moods is a very much simpler and infinitely more delightful buisiness. That I bought my first boat on a Wednesday, sailed her away on Thursday and found her wrecked on a Friday, is an unfortunate fact…” Eric Hiscock
We all have sailing heros, mine Lin and Larry Pardey and theirs Susan and Eric Hiscock. Admiring the salty lines of wanderer II, It isn’t difficult to ascertain where Larry fell in love with the lines of what would eventually be the little boat that could, Seraffyn. Something I find interesting is that all my favorite sailors who started on small simple boats and loved them like no other. They all also eventually moved to larger boats but were never able to replicate through story telling the romantic notions created on their smaller boats.
It’s only natural that I’m rapidly falling into a deep depression, the cold, the storms, the isolation, winter is a bitch. I have to be extremely careful not to devour this book. Like the boat who’s story it tells, this book crossed the Atlantic to find its way into my hands. It was delivered from the place it was created, from the place of Sookies origin and from the number one place in the world I want to sail to.
Its hard bound blue jacket sits waiting to tell me new stories, stories of a time when sailors carried knives and shackle keys, not go pros and buisiness cards. Their simple message was go small, go simple, go now, not please follow us and don’t forget to like us on Facebook and follow us on twitter and herein lies my quandary. How do I make short simple sailing films that are worthy of the ship they are made from without ending up spending half my life attached to the web, having conversations with a small plastic light box and missing out on the number one reason I do all of this in the first place, to actually wander under sail.
From the log of Sookie, gold comes in many forms, freedom, time, and every once in a blue moon printed on paper, but it’s not currency I’m talking about, currency has no value. This printed paper is true wealth.
Years ago I moved from the South Pacific to Madison Wisconsin and with my arrival came the longest stretch of below zero temps in the history of the state, I think it was over 30 days. When you live on the water it’s a different type of cold. 25 degrees here is always colder than below zero in the dry Midwest. Sure, it’s not the snot freezing type of cold where your hair crunches up if you washed it that day and your eyeballs start to form icicles. Here it’s a bit more like being slowly beat to death.
I have unsubstantiated reports of the wind topping 70 last night. Sookie isn’t in a marina, there is no breakwater, she is fully exposed the the fury of Mother Nature out here in the islands. The cruising boat takes a beating out here but Sookie took the storm in stride. I tied 12 half inch lines keeping her as safe as I could and can only pray that this is it for our winter storms but history tells me that the worst is yet to come.
It’s all part of being a liveaboard sailor in these parts of the world and for as many times as I’ve made this statement, mark my words, this will be my last winter aboard in this part of the world… which begs to ask what is next, it’s a solid 10k to ship Sookie to Florida and while they may have hurricanes in that part of the world at least it’s warm there. I have no interest in cruising Mexico again, for all of it’s amazing beauty I’ve been there and done that. Florida keeps coming out of my mouth so now the question of how to get there. Shipping a boats sucks and it’s incredibly hard on them but nothing like what Sookie was put through last night.
I can see smoke coming from my fireplace across the bay so at least today will be spent warm and toasty, after a nice bacon and eggs breakfast and much coffee that is. As usual the weather guessers are calling for 10-16 right now and we’re still getting hammered, this place is an enigma, a vortex of unknown powers, we seem to get the harshest weather of all of the islands. Paradise comes at a cost but I haven’t forgotten what summer is like in this part of the world.
From the log of Sookie, Never again…
I don’t know why my parents gave me the freedom that they did, maybe it was just a sign the times. At 8 years old running around Paradise Island in my little blue mankini with nothing but my third hand flippers, mask and snorkel I made a vow that this was the one and only life I wanted. Decades have passed under my keel and I’m still living every day just like those balmy days in the Bahamas.
My moods are still controlled by the smell and feel of the trades, the sound of palms rustling and clear blue water that is always a shock when you dive in by how warm it is. Sugar whilte sand sticking to my bum and toes, dry salty water evaporating on my sun kissed skin is still the most natural existence for me as is exploring the unknown. I hate back tracking and can’t see the logic in having a favorite place when there are so many more to explore. Searching the pages of AOH I found this post and while I don’t remember writing it, every word stands true.
If your a lover of small sailboats, simple living and making the dream your reality you really need to stop by Sailing Ontology, he doesn’t post nearly as often as I’d like but when he does, every data bite hits the mark. Stop dreaming, buy that boat and start the next chapter. Yes at times you will be too hot and others too cold. You will find countless days of perfect sailing, a fair bit of boredom and moments of sheer terror. Your body will become strong and your mind free.
From the log of Sookie, winter. Battening down the hatches for round 35 of winter storms and sub Arctic temps. I hung my mankini on a lamp to remind me why I do all of this, summers coming.
It’s official, the Ratcliffe windvane is mine, as soon as I can find a way to pay for it and I will, I always do. One more piece to the puzzle and again I can’t help but to stop to ask myself if I’m crazy for loving such a small boat. I’m sure they are still out there, young couples crossing oceans in small well found boats but I can’t seem to find any trace of them in the thousands of searches I have done.
I found a copy of Wandering under sail in England and now it’s in the mail. I also found a copy of White cliffs to coral reef in Australia and that one is crossing the pacific as we speak. Both books written about Wanderer ll a Virtue 24 and both a goldmine I’m hoping for information and insight into crossing oceans in a small boat with a modest budget.
It was Lin and Larry Pardeys books that got me to rethink my Cal 40 and turn my eye to smaller more traditional sailing boats. Deep in the recesses of my mind I’m always at some stage of trying to convince myself that I need a bigger boat but I don’t know why. I have 100% confidence in Sookie and know her two and only weak points quite well. She won’t drive into more than 40 knots and she has no cockpit combing which can be a huge pain in the ass when you hit the death rolls.
I know hundreds of people have happily made do with their small boats. While I have made some pretty impressive passages in small boats I’ve yet to cross any oceans on one although it is very high on my list. Small as she is, I’ve never been uncomfortable on Sookie other than in foul weather or from the cold, her tiny cabin is a pretty good fit.
It’s calm today but more storms are forecast, more cold is on the way, this has been a brutal winter. Up early I cleaned Sookie from stem to stern and now am drawing sketches and trying to decide were to store 60 meters of 5/16 chain. 5 minutes with a 2″ hole saw and I can have it all in the bilge right at the base of Sookies mast.
I think most people believe that small boats are simple, their not. They may have simple systems but it’s much more complex when it comes to fitting each and every piece in just the right spot. Done right my new chain and water tank will add 400 pounds of ballast right where it should be, low and centered. It was genius of Lyle Hess to under ballast this boat by 700 lbs leaving that extra bit to stores, and water. Every inch of her build mirrors the prime directive of her design, a blue water yacht…
From the log of Sookie, Frozen bay – I should have bought a bigger boat but I’m glad I didn’t…
The only thing worse than the constant damp bone chilling cold is the insult of being able to see the sun without actually feeling it’s warmth. At 22 degrees with a 40 mile an hour wind that makes a negative 20 windchill and I’m not sorry to be happy to say sianara to you winter, you miserable fucking hell! I’ve been given a reprieve.
It’s been so cold in the boat that it actually hurts. My skin hurts, my body hurts, my mind would hurt and it will if it ever defrosts. I’ve been like the stay puff marshmallow man wearing every bit of clothing I have with every blanket and both my down sleeping bags and still haven’t been able to stop shivering for one single second. All that extra body fat and I can assure you it’s ample, has done nothing to cure the cold.
The wind has been pile driving out of the north east, funneling through the small cracks in my companion way floppy doors and there has been nothing I could do to keep the free and constant air conditioning at bay. Now it’s so calm it’s erie and up to a warm and toasty 31 degrees but that’s not what’s keeping me warm, nor is it my trusty and useless heater. Today I was given word that everything is about to change and again the suggestion that I split to the South Pacific for a few weeks and that’s just what I’m going to do.
Have you worked for a company that actually gives you everything you want without asking and then with no hinting or hollering up and says hey, bro… the islands are calling your name, take off and go surfing for a bit, get tan, have a few drinks and we’ll have this whole place revamped for you when you get back. They also offered me a house to live in, I shit you not, my own little studio right on the water overlooking the bay and Sookie.
And here lies my dilemma, fist of all I don’t deserve the rockstar treatment I’m getting and second of all I have to be very careful not to fall into the abyse of comefort and complacency. I don’t want to be comefortable in life, I don’t want it to be easy and I don’t want security, that’s what has people dying alone of old age. One wrong step and I’ll be sitting back in my big leather chair in an office that is never half a degree too warm or too cold.
I’ll spend my life saying someday as I stare complacently out the window waiting for the right time which will never come because there never is a right time. I’ll grow fat with mortgages and credit card debt to pay for my car that never gets driven over 5mph in bumper to bumper traffic and only transports me from the Job that steals my youth to pay for the house that holds me financially improsioned but never gets used for anything other than sleep. Every year I’ll swear to myself that I’m almost ready and that for sure next year will be my year but next year will turn into decades and before I know it I’ll be too old, too soft, too lazy too…
Yeah fuck you winter, you can’t break me and nothing will send me back the hell on earth I lived, that so called financial security. I fought hard the gain my independent freedom to roam, to learn to live with almost nothing and to love it. To wake to a day that I own and to do what I want, when I want for absolutely no reason on earth other than because it’s my choice. Choice is a freedom worth fighting for at any cost…
One of the most frequently heard comments? concerning my boat is that it is not comfortable. It is a very true statement. But I design and build boats and go to sea in them not for comfort but because I am curios and the activity gives me pleasure and excitement.
Comfort diminishes activity; lack of activity leads to lack of stimulation, without stimulation you become bored, fat and tired. You get energetic only by using energy, not by resting.
Eating and entertainment work like drugs or borrowed money, they lessens the boredom ordeal momentarily. In the long run they make the situation worse.
Strive on the other hand is painful at first, but as time passes will bring curiosity pleasure and excitement. The problem with that healthy solution is that it is to abstract for most people. Historically man has never had to worry about to much comfort and is therefore not designed to deal with it. On the contrary lack of food and rest has been the problem.
Modern society has changed that. Industrial and farm factories are now producing more than we need. Few free spirits has survived a new species of man has been breed, the obedient man. He eats not real food but ersatz food. His experiences are ersatz screen experiences.
It is so much easier to watch sport than to compete yourself. It is so much easier to do ersatz sailing and to start the engine when the wind fails than to use an oar or wait for wind. But like all ersatz things there is no thing like the real thing.
A captured animal in a zoo is not a happy animal. He tells us that without talking, still he gets plenty of food and good shelter and his life is without danger. Still he would rather bee free.
Modern man in the big cities are like captured animals. We have all the comfort and food we need, still we are bored. But because we live among millions of equally bored people we do not notice the gloom. Only occasionally do we meet a surviving free spirit and wonder why he is so happy. It is not comfort which makes me happy.
written by Sven Yrvind
Ive never been truly seasick, I’m one of the lucky few but I’m feeling really queasy and suffering from my own form of the bout. My abandon ship bag is packed, ID, medical card, ships documents, knife, camera and iPad. Nothing else matters, the strain on the boat is amazing but it’s not the boat I’m worried about, it’s the rickety old dock.
We had our first tragedy this week, a boat was beat to smitherines and sunk at the dock in high winds. These docks are old, very old and the the bay isn’t protected at all. In calm weather this place might seem like a dream come true but right now it’s rapidly decending into hell on water. To add insult to injury the power has just gone out and I can feel the chill creeping in rapidly. It’s 6:00 AM and I have nowhere to go.
Wedged into the quarter berth the VHF is calling for gusts to 60 and 18′ seas in the straits just a few miles from here, Gale warnings are the one thing I find truly annoying about living on a sailboat out in these islands. There are no breakwaters, no protection, the elements are very real and today the wind is angry. I peer into the darkness wondering if the gangway will go, the docks are completely awash, it’s hell out there and that’s where I’m headed, to check on all of the boats.
In these conditions, walking is difficult if not treacherous, I’d like to say I had forgotten how bad it gets here but you never forget, it’s ingrained in your mind which is why I have three sets of lines out, why I’m the only person here in the winter. People make fun of me, the same people who’s boats I pull off the beach in their absence, the same people who expect me to watch and care for their boats, the same people who…
I’m on dry land now, the machine gun fire of pelting rain blinded me as I made my way to the warmth of the jacuzzi room trying to find any feeling in my fingers, I’m bleeding all over my iPad. The wind sounds like a jet fighter zooming in for the kill, close enough to touch, it’s just beginning. When I left Sookie she was in her most dangerous state, bucking hard at her lines from the surge, she is strong but piles of half inch line can only take so much. I’ll check on her every half hour or as often as I can warm my fingers, there is nothing else I can do.
It’s impossible to show the depths of weather on film, i snap a few shots in near darkness and am surprised they show a sky I can’t see. One image for the record, Im reminded I don’t need yet another reminder that the sea doesn’t care, she doesn’t care if your cold, wet, hungry, tired or scared. Turn your back for one second and she will take everything from you. In a lifetime of sailing I’ve been witness to many experiences. Of all of those, honestly and truly, the most scared I have ever been for the boat is when she is tied to the dock.
There is an old quote, the safest place for a ship is in the harbor but ships are made for the sea. I don’t know who wrote those words but he obviously wasn’t a sailor. The safest place for a boat in conditions like this are out there where she was designed and built to rein, the docks can be treachery to the sailors craft.
My plan was never to have a brand new outboard hanging off of the back of my boat but now that it’s there I would never consider anything else. It’s surprisingly capeable of pushing Sookie around, light enough that I can pop it off easily and unbelievably efficient. The key is moderation, it’s an auxiliary form of propulsion, my primary form being my big beautiful sails, and I have all of the right ones in my minimalist sail plan.
This guy, a friend of a friend recently tried to convince me that electric is the future and that I should scrap my gas engine, add a pile of new batteries and solar pannels and a wind generator and a water generator and a gas generator to pick up all that slack. It was immediately appearant that this guy had never sailed before in his life, I did my best to change the subject. I like my simple traditional sailboat and am just fine with the 4 gallons of fuel a year I burn.
Technology has its place in my world which is usually the back seat as I find candles, a lead line and good old canvas to be the right way for me. My sailing life is about sailing, not taking all the convinces of land with me. Of corse I do love technology in some forms. Literally minutes after giving up on a new PC and camera gear I made a hand shake deal on a camera I had never planned on owning. I didn’t bother to do any reseach, it was higher in the line of what I had been using and wanted to use so I just accepted the price on an almost brand new camera but with a huge discount.
The camera doesn’t matter and the one I’ve been using for years was light years ahead of what I use it for. I’m not a pixel counter and rarely taken by all the flash of digital cameras. Auto focus is something that I need as my continually failing eye sight has me shooting more and more Fuzzy images. A friend recently asked me to snap a few pics of him sailing by the dock, when I handed him my card he was like there are 233 pictures. I smiled him and assured him there would be at least one good one.
Back when I interviewed for my first big daily they were very impressed with my book and the number of times I had been published even though I wasn’t old enough to buy a beer. They asked to see my film rolls and when I asked why he said, I can clearly see that you have a good eye and can get the shot but I want to see how many images it takes you to nail it. Back then it was about 3-5 images per shot and one roll per assignment. Now having to take so many images to get a good clear picture is a nightmare so yea auto focus.
Of corse knowing nothing about the camera I just acquired I watched a few videos and viola Wifi :)~ I can now load my images through magic straight into my iPad and so for now I don’t need to upgrade to the Mac that will eventually be my video editing machine. Life just got a bit easier, one less headache in my life and that image above… it was taken handheld in a damn near pitch dark boat, oh joy of joys I love the low light capability of this hunk of metal. I’ve decided to sell everything in my bag and my bag and try a year with just my 35 1.8. I did this for a year as a photojournalist and it was a game changer but somehow over the years I’ve continually complicated my life to no end.
So is gasoline really the new green? In my life it is, that motor will last forever as long as I use it for it’s intended purpose and that is the whole point of this post… moderation… when used preoperly gasoline is one hundred times greener than solar and wind power. From a manufacturing stand point solar, wind and electric power is amazingly destructive to the planet as is the disposal of all those batteries. Gas is good, Umkay…
I can’t say that I believe in reincarnation but I do believe in miracles so anything is possible. It’s cold outside, too cold. The lows tonight will be around 24 which is plain just not right. I miss Chloe especially on the cold nights, she was a snuggle ninja and always kept me warm. You can never feel lonely when you’re with your four legged companion. I keep waiting for her to show up in another form so we can continue where we left off.
Little reminders of her are everywhere, tiny hairs still waft around the boat, her tag, claw marks in the wood around the companion way. I still haven’t figured out how to go on without her. It’s cold and empty in the boat, loneliness and a bit of depression is setting in faster with each of the shorter days, I need to get out of here and feel the sun on my back, the earth between my toes and a bit of liquid sunshine on my naked body.
In a random act of insanity I pulled a pile of cash out of the boat fund and blew it all on good food. Real nacho chips with Spanish salsa. Fruit and veggies of every kind, a hunk of cheese, tonic to mix with the last bits of gin and a box of wine for next week. I’m surrounded with all of the the things I never allow myself, tonight will be a feast for two as I’ll put out a plate for Chloe just in case.
I’ve been waiting and planning all week for tomorrow, the plan was to order everything I’ve been working so hard towards. My new water tank and all the pumps and fittings, the gimballed stove, a new dslr and Mac book and so forth and so on. I’ve deleted all my order forms, stopped with everything, deciding that a bit of limbo and contemplation is in order. I could buy a ticket somewhere warm today and leave in the morning or go to the rescue and save a pup or just relax and start living like a normal person for a bit.
Ive grown tired of going it alone so everything stopped today. A trip to the jacuzzi, a hot shower and a cold drink are all I care about. In the morning I spin the bottle and see where I land.
“If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.”
― Will Rogers
Desolation Sound, June 2015 – it isn’t what you’ve done in this world that matters most, sure memories are there, but often blur with time. They are valid and have meaning but they have gone. The future holds nothing for it can change in an instant, a life of planning for some other date can be derailed in a millisecond. Right now, this is it, the gift you have created with your past, leading to your future. It’s now or never.
It’s really creepy out, I hear the moan of a Sasquatch calling, and then an answer. The sunset was blood red and beautiful but now the darkness is taking over, I’m a bit scared and secure the lifeline as one added protection against things I don’t understand. I hear splashes that sound like they are being made by something the size of cars being thrown in the water, the moans go back and forth, I try to convince myself it’s just grizzly bears but the chill in my spine tells me that Sasquatch is real and really close.
Its hot, too hot and muggy, mosquitos are eating me alive but I can’t take refuge in Sookies interior, I’m fixated on what lies out there, the sounds are haunting and growing closer, louder, more frequent. I’ve traveled many hard miles to be here and here I am. It’s easy not believe in things you have never experienced but I’m here, now and experiencing them, I’m a believer. I swat at another dive bombing mosquito and watch the twilight fade as the stars appear one by one.
We should have turned around when the motor started to go south minutes into the journey, we didn’t. They told us our boat was too small, it wasn’t. They told us “you can’t sail the inside passage” we did. They told us we wouldn’t find any secluded anchorages, a picture is worth a thousand words. I sat back enjoying the sounds of night, knocked on the hatch asking for a beer which was quickly handed out before the monsters could invade the safety of Sookies cabin. I cracked it and enjoyed living in the now, a place very few will ever know due to all the limits set by those who never been there, who haven’t experienced sailing from the deck of a good ship with a confident and adventures crew, the greater the challenge the bigger the reward. My Luke warm beer in a completely isolated anchorage was one of the best I’ve ever had. Serenity now…
From the log of Sookie, December 2016. Another brilliant day, found a new secret spot with Brompty, installed the new toilet paper hanger, can cross that one off the list after only 68 months, she is coming along but time is a rare commodity, March is looming…
Quality, durability, epic design, and fun. Take a peek though my compainionway and the first thing you will notice is that these are the qualities I surround my life with. I didn’t get here by accident, I’ve driven boats, bikes, cameras, computers and all of my gear into the ground. There isn’t one gear company on the planet that will let me torture test their products because they know there is a 99% chance it will fail me and I’ll write the truth about it. I use my shit hard.
The things that can survive me, my Nikon’s, Mac’s , Sookie, Brompty, these are the things that I have pushed far and hard, always expecting them to care for me no matter what foolish hell I take them through. I’ve had a pile of Nikons blown up in a methane explosion when I was on a moving live lava flow. Dropped, splashed and smashed my Mac’s as well as subjecting them to high humidity and freezing temperature. Sookie has been put mast head in the water as well as literally submarining through a huge wave in the straights of Juan de Fuca. Brompty has been covered with so much mud you couldn’t tell what she was, hit potholes at 40 mph while fully loaded, been off road, through knee deep rivers and ridden harder than she deserves. All of my gear always shows as new eventually as I care for each item as if my life depends on them and they often do. As a documentary photographer my life is a hard one but one well worth living even though I put my physical body through these same tortures.
I got letter from a girl in Australia today inquiring about my Brompton and a Essay I was recently asked to write. I’ve been so busy I forgot to mention it here but the letters are pouring in and I’m loving it. I little back and forth I got the idea she was trying to get me to talk her out the hair brained idea, I didn’t. I gave her my 100% support and even offered to join her if she needs a little extra crazy in her life. I’ve been seriously considering upgrading to a Titanuim Brompton and this would be the ticket.
So there I was lost on some lonely stretch of road in Oregon, feeling like the last human on the planet earth when Brompton stumbled across my blog and now I’ve been found by a group of fun loving criminals seeking to steal every second of their time for a bit of plain old living the dream. I’ve never been one to tell others what to do but I might suggest that a nice long bike tour will be one of those things you talk about for the rest of your life, it’s a game changer for sure.
Those days out under the sun and often trapped in a deluge of rain were some of my happiest on this planet. My mind was blown by the constant beauty of my surroundings, how often I was faced with challenges and how strong my body became in such a short period of time. Touring on a Brompton? It isn’t for everyone but as far as I’m concerned for me it’s the only way to fly.
From the Brompty journal. My tent had three inches of water in it at the peak of the storm. In my sleep my head slipped off of the little inflatable pillow I was using and I almost drowned, I’ve never seen it rain so hard in my life, the island is sinking. A comment from a rockstar I met in camp searching for his next sound. ” boy you sure were taking it all in last night, it must have been blowing 50 and that rain, we saw you standing naked, hands raised to the heavens, a vision neither of us will forget for a very long time”. I’ve survived yet another challenge but maybe survive isn’t the best use of wording for what I’m doing out here.
The owner of my buisiness cornered me at our Christmas party “I want to ship you off to Hawaii till it gets warm, then you can come back”. It’s good to be loved and I dare say having a place to warm my frozen bones all the while being surrounded by happy people is a pretty good option these days. Although… its kind of like robbing Peter to pay Paul.
I never know what to say in these conversations, I work so hard at being unemployable, hell I can’t even commit to tomorrow let alone the rest of the year. My maintenance log is a matrix of concentric rings, almost every item that has topped the list somehow slips to the middle before taking its high ranking position at the bottom.
What can I sell, what should I keep. How do I spend, where can I cut costs both today and tomorrow. How much do I earn and how much can I save, it’s a rollercoaster, often one step forward and two, steps back. Some days I swear I’m just going to keep her as a day sailor and go buy some really good food instead of bronze, stainless and teak.
If you’ve never heard voices from the sea it’s because you’ve never been out there, alone with nothing and everything filling every gap of you sanctity. When the wind hits just right you hear words clear as day. Not the words you hear in your head, these are real, real voices and they speak to you. Thousands of years of sea faring souls converge in one tiny body of water that connects 71.8 percent of the planet and holds 80% of its life force.
I could hear them tonight in many forms. A good friend sent me a writing piece almost identical to a piece i am writing for one of those Big Bang, flash yachting rags. The kind that suggest you just cut the lines and go on one page and have full page adds of a tidal wave crushing your boat on the next with and add for a life saving this or that. Below are my words, the essay has been deleted, he is a far better writer than I will ever be.
The waves are higher now, higher than my cockpit, higher than my head, higher than the roof that covered the brick house I grew up in. Deep blue with pure white horses tumbling down their faces. The boat dips and I drag my fingers across the surface and lean with the boat, were surfing. A small ship on the sea is as close as you will ever come to walking on water. This experience was first learned on a surfboard at Rincon, my childhood stomping grounds. Big waves are fun, they are life and power and they will set you fee.
You can never gain this experience from the deck of a large ship, you are just an observer but from the deck of a small ship you are a participant. My favorite thing is to watch the gulls in heavy weather, gliding and dipping just over the crest of the waves that thrown me around like a rag doll. They touch the water, so small yet they float over the massive wave without even noticing. The gull has many lessons to teach us if we can only slow down long enough to observe their games.
It’s rapidly becoming apperant that my current trajectory is way off course. I need a new perspective, to see my goals from a different angle, to reassess again, adjust my sails and steer a true course.
“I’m going to find it and I’m going to destroy it. Im not sure how, possibly with dynamite.” – Steve Zissou
Turn the clock back a few clicks and I was living in San Diego working as a manufacturing engineer. I was on the R&D team developing all sorts of top secret shit. You know the old story, I could tell you but then I’d have to kill you type of shit. One of my favorite things was testing torture testing new products which usually involved shooting a 4×4 out of a pneumatic cannon at our test product, we got to play with dynamite, flame throwers, you name it, I’ve always loved blowing shit up.
So one night I’m sitting out on the delivery pad smokin a ciggie with the fork lift driver laughing about how I almost blew the whole damn warehouse up, in hind-site it was pretty commical. I’m wrapped in all my winter clothing shivering, i look over at him and I’m like, you know what… I can’t take another bitter Southern California winter. Back then I had three full time jobs, in addition to blowing shit up I also was a stringer for the big daily and serveral smaller rags, and owned a photo studio. Three months later haven given away everything I owned I set off for the South Pacific.
From the log of Sookie, winter – Freezing my ass of I can’t help but to wonder, where did I go wrong...
Years ago I was coerced into studying Kung Fu San Soo, now SCARS under Jerry Peterson the deadliest human on the planet. His number one tactic was conflict avoidance. I graduated far beyond that first lesson but we have to start somewhere. Storm tactics like self defense is little more than conflict avoidance by controll. A good offense is always better than a good defense, so let’s start with the boat.
I’m truly sorry but I can’t possibly answer all of the emails I’ve been receiving for boat buying advice so I’m posting a letter Mike Anderson sent me a very very long time ago. Its been my bible when it comes to boat selection. It’s a long one so grab a glass of wine and enjoy. If you need more clarification after reading this I can be bought for a shitty bottle of scotch, just show up and well go for a sail and figure it all out.
We all know that sailors like Webb Chiles could sail a Naples Sabbot around the world but let’s face it; I’m not him and neither are you so we’ll start with the basics, the boat, part one of three of our best defense strategy against foul weather.
Sailing vessels, like most anything you buy, are available in various levels of quality depending on their intended use. Some are designed for racing, others for recreational sailing on a lake, harbor or coast; while others are for long distance cruising. These vessels will vary in price because they are built differently. Our objective is to build a boat that will last a lifetime, and is capable of crossing oceans without worry of deterioration or breaking apart in the roughest of seas. To build a boat of this quality requires hundreds and even thousands of skilled man-hours, and use of the best materials and building methods available. Unless the buyer is a boatbuilder or has extensive offshore sailing experience, it will be difficult to determine what separates the quality of one boat from another. A buyer may listen to a salesman or read articles about the boat and presume what is said or read is correct, then later discover that there was information missing and more research should have been done before making such an expensive purchase.
Recent boat building technology has been aimed at the lighter, faster vessels with as much living space as possible, but at the sacrifice of structural strength and offshore safety. The Sam L. Morse Co. feels that this new technology is excellent, but in some cases does not belong as a building method for long distant cruisers. Our intention is to explain the advantages and disadvantage of the methods and designs now being used by other builders and compare these to those being used by the Sam L. Morse Company. We hope to enlighten the reader with information they may not have considered.
HULL DESIGN: There are four issues to be addressed: The underbody hull shape, the transom design, rudder and the topsides surface area. Reference: SEA WORTHINESS The Forgotten Factor by, C.A. Marchaj.
HULL SHAPE: There are many different hull shapes, lets separate them into two categories: the racer type and the cruising or offshore type.
RACER HULL SHAPE: The racer’s hull is usually round with a deep fin keel and spade rudder. The advantage here is that there is less wetted surface so the boat will sail quicker than other shapes and designs. With a fin keel and spade rudder, a grounding or collision with something in the water will be abrupt and could cause severe damage. When a deep fin keel boat does go hard aground, it is more difficult to kedge off because the anchors are set lower than the deck level of the boat, thus pulling the stem downward aft, digging the back of the keel deeper into the bottom. The deep, nearly vertical keel and spade rudder will catch fishing nets and may be damaged by even a small log. If damage were to occur at sea, it would be nearly impossible to make repairs until a proper boat yard was reached, where the vessel could be taken out of the water. This hull shape is difficult to beach for bottom cleaning or repairs, and it is no simple matter to stand on the hard without ample support to keep it from falling. If the rudderpost is bent and the boat is out of the water a hole in the ground must be dug so the rudder can be removed from its housing.
An equally important concern is that the fin keel with spade rudder is quick at the helm, meaning it will turn quickly with the slightest movement of the helm. This is important for the racer but the offshore sailor wants a longer keel shape, so the boat will track and hold her course for long periods with little work at the helm.
Because the fin keel is deeper with less wetted surface fore and aft of the keel, it is difficult to impossible to “heave to” in storm conditions. The ability to “heave to” easily is an essential storm strategy for the offshore sailor.
CRUISERS HULL SHAPE: Unlike the racer’s hull, the cruisers hull will have a wider beam which gives more living space and add to its “Form Stability”. The cruiser will be concerned with a comfortable motion of the boat both at sea and at anchor, so it will be considerably heavier than the racer hull. The keel should not be as deep or as vertical. For the offshore sailor the concern is also one of speed, but more importantly, a structurally strong boat with less draft and a keel shape that isn’t so vertical, because these vessels will be sailing into unfamiliar waters, and the likely hood of a grounding at speed may occur. There is also the possibility that they may hit a container, logs and general large flotsam, which is increasing daily. There is even the danger of a collision with large sea life. It would be better if its shape was more gradual, with less draft, so it can go into shallower waters with less danger of a grounding. If a grounding does occur, the keel will hopefully ride up onto the reef rather than coming to an abrupt stop. The rudder will be supported by a skeg or attached to the transom for protection. There are two common types of cruising keel shapes, the full cutaway keel and full swept back keel. In the old days of building offshore vessels, a full keel ran the length of the boat from bow to stern and was nearly parallel to the waterline. This shape provided excellent tracking but didn’t go to weather too well because there was too much wetted surface forward. This long keel was slow to respond to the helm. The cutaway and swept back keel shapes are a compromise between the full long keel of the past and the fin keel of today.
The cutaway keel has a “dog leg” shape where the keel meets the hull. It is like a swept back keel with a notch forward. The rudder is supported by a skeg or extension to the aft end of the keel. The concern here is how this skeg is attached to the hull. Does the skagg support the bottom of the rudder, or does the rudder support the bottom of the skagg? If it is part of the actual hull, built into the mold, it will be strong enough to support the rudder even in a grounding. If it is attached afterward, the buyer should look carefully at its construction and method of fastening. The abruptness of the cutaway forward will determine how much damage will occur in a grounding at speed. Carefully inspect the depth of the keel and skeg. The keel should be considerably deeper so if a grounding did occur the skeg and rudder would not be damaged. The swept back keel used on Sam L. Morse boats is similar to the cutaway keel. It has about the same wetted surface forward but without the notch or cutaway so it will point as high into the wind as any cutaway keel.
The swept back keel continues sloping back to the stern where the outboard rudder is attached. This keel shape will ride up, onto the reef or obstacle without an abrupt stop, and can be easily “rocked” loose and backed off. Since the rudder is attached to the end of the swept back keel and sets considerably higher, it is protected from damage during a grounding or collision.
TRANSOM OR POINTED STERN: There are two basic stern designs, the Transom stern is flat while the Pointed stern isn’t flat. If the shape of the pointed stern is similar to the bow entry it is called a Double Ender.
POINTED STERN: The advocates of the pointed stern claim it is safer in a stormy following sea because it will break or split the wave when it hits the stern. There is no doubt that a pointed stern is going to part a short following sea. I say short, because that is all it will do is separate a wave that is about 3 feet high. Because the pointed stern extends considerably further aft of the waterline, which gives lift, the stern will bury deeper into the wave before the boat will lift. Now the wave is further over the boat before it will break.
The pointed stern will lose a considerable amount of effective waterline length lift, because the waterline turns inward toward the centerline eliminating lift in this area. The pointed stern has less carrying capacity for the same deck length.
TRANSOM STERN: The transom stern is a flat surface at the back of the boat. It has the advantage that it will provide lift sooner in a tall following wave. It uses every bit of its waterline length for lift, and has much more carrying capacity for the deck length. Admittedly, the transom stern will be subject to slapping in short following seas, this however, is not a danger to the vessel but it could be annoying if sleeping aft while anchored bow and stern.
Lyle Hess designed his boats to be sea kindly. He accomplished this through the shape of the hull. By adding more reverse curve to the Garboard and widening the transom, the boat has flatter floors and less deadrise. The transom stern boats designed by Lyle Hess will be more comfortable at sea and at anchor than the pointed stern.
RUDDER: Most rudders today are made around a stainless steel rudder post which goes through the hull within a watertight fitting; the bottom is supported by the skagg. This is a good performance design, however it has some limitations. In a severe grounding the quickest and easiest way to get off is in the opposite direction it went on, or in reverse. As soon as a grounded boat begins to be pulled backwards, the rudder will take the strain first and will be damaged or broken. Because of its design and installation it cannot be removed for repairs until out of the water. The outboard rudder, on the other hand, can be easily removed in or out of the water. In a severe grounding the rudder can be removed by unscrewing two retainer bolts on the upper Pintles above the waterline. With the rudder removed the boat can to pulled backwards without damage until the rudder can be reinstalled. This all may not seem important now, but if you sail long enough you will know, first hand, how important this is.
TOPSIDES SURFACE AREA: This is the total area exposed to the wind and seas that is above the waterline. This surface area is constantly exposed to the weather. Every sailboat ever built has a point where “the forces on exposed surface area will exceed the windward driving forces of the minimum sail area set”. An example: If you were caught on a lee shore with the wind increasing in strength, and you had your storm sails set to drive the boat off the lee shore but she would sail no better than 90 degrees to the wind, you would have reached the point where surface area exceeds the driving force of the sails. This problem increases rapidly as the surface area increases or the wind increases. Similarly, the driving forces improve as the surface area is reduced or the winds decrease. So it would be best to have a boat with minimum amount of exposed surface area. Boats that are most likely to have problems are split rigs such as ketches with a large cabin. The boat less likely to have a problem would be a sloop or cutter with a flush deck (if the freeboard is not too high).
HULL CONSTRUCTION: There are two ways to have a fiberglass hull constructed, cored or solid fiberglass.
CORED HULLS: The primary purpose for a cored hull is lightness and stiffness. The hull gets a thin layer of fiberglass, about 3/16″ depending on the builder. This is followed by about 5/8″ of lightweight core material, which also varies with the builder. This is all followed by another thin layer of fiberglass, about 1/8″. The result is a hull that is about 1″ thick, about 5/16″ of total fiberglass and 5/8″ core material. This hull will be light and hold its shape well because it is stiffer than if it were only 5/16″ fiberglass.
Although light, this construction method has the disadvantage that it has less impact resistance than a thicker solid fiberglass hull. That is, if the cored hull boat hit a log or a heavy or sharp object it would be penetrated easier than if it were nearly the same total thickness in solid fiberglass.
We also know that osmosis now exists in fiberglass boats, which means that water will ingress through the hull. All builders are attempting to use modern materials to retard this from happening, but the truth is that it still happens only more slowly. What will happen to the core material if it is absorbent? Visit some boatyards and talk to the yard’s owner to find out if blistering is more prevalent on cored hulls than on solid hulls. What happens when two different materials, fiberglass and core material, are bonded together? Will they react differently under different temperate conditions? Will they expand and contract differently? Will there be eventual separation? Will the cored hull be as easy to repair as a solid fiberglass hull?
Another concern is the interior furniture is bonded to the inner liner or inner hull, which is separated from the outer hull by the core material, will they move differently when under the stress of rough seas over the years of offshore sailing? How do you install a thru-hull fitting in a cored hull for strength and longevity?
These are all questions that most builders will have answers for, but unfortunately, even they don’t know the answers until time passes and it is proven otherwise.
Solid Fiberglass Hull: The solid FRP (fiberglass reinforced plastic) hull should be nearly as thick as the cored hull. It will have similar stiffness characteristics but it will be considerably heavier. The additional weight on a cruising vessel will give the boat a better motion in a seaway, so this is not a disadvantage but an advantage. The solid thick hull will be stronger with better impact resistance. Because it is a thick, solid hull, it will resist moisture ingress longer as there is nothing to hold the moisture. The solid glass hull will have the furniture bonded directly to the hull, adding to the total strength. Unlike the cored hull, the thru-hull fittings will pass through and fasten to the solid thick hull.
The solid fiberglass hull is only as strong as the method and materials used for the lay-up. Fiberglass hulls get their strength from the resin-saturated fiberglass matt, roving and cloth. Resin by itself has little if any strength, in fact it is brittle. To produce a structurally strong lay-up there should be a layer of matt to absorb and hold the resin, and a layer of heavy roving also saturated with resin. The important factor is to remove all excess resin, and any air bubbles that may be trapped within these layers. If any excess resin remains it will be a brittle spot. If any air bubbles remain, it will react with the moisture as it enters the hull, and will expand causing separation and huge blisters. There are many different methods used to remove the excess resin and air bubbles. The Sam L. Morse Co. contracts Crystaliner to build their hulls. Crystaliner has a long-standing reputation for building strong offshore vessels, such as the Westsail and lifeguard rescue vessels. The hull is laid up entirely by hand; each and every square inch is hand squeegeed of excess resin and air bubbles. This procedure is closely supervised so that each hull receives the same treatment and number of lay-ups.
When you visit a boat yard, ask to see the plugs from the holes cut for the thru-hull fittings. The plugs should be of various thickness from different parts of the hull. It should increase in thickness as it gets deeper into the hull. It should be thicker forward to take the pounding when sailing hard to weather; at the location where the chainplates are installed; at the transom and anywhere you would expect impact or additional stresses. Also, look to see that the layers are all of equal thickness. If not, that means the excess resins were not uniformly removed. Look for air bubbles or any signs of anything but a solid thick hull with evenly spaced lay-ups, count the number of lay-ups in the different parts of the hull. Be concerned when a builder tells you that they have reduced the number of lay-ups and the thickness of a hull because they are using a new, stronger fiberglass roving to achieve the same strength. Why not use the new roving and keep the original thickness for an even stronger hull?
INTERIOR INSTALLATION: The interior furniture of the boat should add to its structural strength.
Thwart Ship Reinforcement: A thick, properly laid up fiberglass hull will still work or flex in a seaway without additional reinforcements. The submarine would collapse if it were not for the internal bulkheads that strengthen an already strong steel shell. Sailing vessels use bulkheads to strengthen the boat athwart ship.
The most important bulkhead is the one at the mast location. The rigging and forces of the wind put tremendous compression on the base of the mast. This “pulling down” by the standing rigging adds stress to the hull at the location of the chainplates. The hull wants to pull towards the center of the boat to reduce this stress. This “main” bulkhead prevents it from happening. Additional bulkheads should be located forward to absorb the stress of the pounding seas. Other bulkheads should be located aft to prevent the hull from “tweaking” or “twisting” in a seaway. In fact, the more bulkheads a boat has installed the stronger the boat.
In order for the bulkhead to add maximum strength, it should be bonded to the hull and deck all the way around and on both sides. The wider the fiberglass bonding or “tabbing” the stronger the join. This wide bonding also distributes the pressure over a wider area. One concern is that the bulkhead should not make direct contact with the hull, because it will cause a “hard spot” where the hull will work on either side of the bulkhead – For the bulkheads to provide maximum strength they must be bonded to the underside of the deck as well as the hull .If a builder uses teak plywood for the bulkhead the amount of bonding used is dependent on how much teak trim they are willing to use to hide this bonding. If the interior is completed before the deck is set into place it is unlikely the bulkheads will ever be bonded to the deck. The next time you go to a boatshow, look at the size of teak trim used between the teak bulkhead and the hull and deck. You can be certain that the amount of bonding or tabbing is less than the width of the teak trim.
The Sam L. Morse Co. installs four completely bonded bulkheads to the Bristol Channel Cutter and three to the Falmouth Cutter. In addition to these full bulkheads, there is a half bulkhead further forward and four quarter bulkheads in the center of the interior. Twelve inches of bonding fiberglass material is used on the main bulkhead, and 8″ on the others. There is a 1″ rigid foam strip installed between the bulkheads and the hull to act as a cushioning strip to prevent a hard spot. To further strengthen this installation method, 2″ holes are drilled, evenly spaced at about 18″ around the circumference of the main bulkhead so when bonded on both sides of the bulkhead the fiberglass material makes contact through the holes, locking the bond to the bulkhead. After the deck is installed and bulkheads bonded to the deck, the bulkheads are covered with a fiberglass T & G panel.
Longitudinal Reinforcement: Equally important to add structural strength to an already strong hull is longitudinal reinforcement. On smaller boats the furniture is bonded to the hull, providing this longitudinal strength. On larger boats over 35 feet where there is more space between the pieces of furniture, stringers are bonded to the hull. For our purpose, smaller boats, it is the furniture and how it is bonded to the hull that determines the structural results. At one extreme you will find manufacturers who use one huge fiberglass liner for the entire interior. It may only make contact with the hull around its circumference and few other places. This gives little if any additional strength to the boat. As the liner is reduced in size and becomes more modular, the more contact it has with the hull, adding to its strength.
There are two things to consider. First, is the ability to bond both the outside and inside of the liner to the hull. Is it accessible or is it only bonded to the outside, which provides only half the strength? Next, is the gel coat ground away before bonding to the hull? If not the builder is bonding to the gel coat, which is like gluing to paint. The more bonding material used and larger the area bonded will distribute the strength over a wider area. Unfortunately, since the liner is already finished, only minimum bonding can be used or it will be exposed. Another limitation to liners is that it does not permit variations to the interior. It prevents access behind the liner where it could grow mildew or algae, or even house small animals and insects. It makes it impossible to access if unfortunate enough to be holed. However, it is cheaper to build a boat with a fiberglass liner because it is already formed, finished and does not require skilled workmen to install.
The Sam L. Morse Co. does not use liners. We build our interior out of marine plywood in progressive segments so that each piece is individually fitted and bonded to the hull on both sides as well as inside and outside. As one owner put it, “Every compartment is basically watertight, if I am holed all I have to do is seal the bin lids.” The only concern with this building method is should the wood become constantly exposed to moisture, rot could develop. To prevent this, all the wood is sealed before it is installed and after. Most all builders use marine ply for their bulkheads and use the same sealing methods, I hope.
DECK CONSTRUCTION AND INSTALLATION: The deck, like the bull should be strong and properly bonded to the bull to last the lifetime of the boat.
Deck Construction: To build a deck out of solid fiberglass would be uncommon because the results would be extremely heavy. So builders use cores in the deck to provide the strength and stiffness required. Most builders use balsa wood as a core material because it is light, inexpensive and simple to use. The major advantage using this lightweight core material is less weight and cost. The disadvantage is that the core material is extremely water absorbent if water enters through a bolt or screw hole. This could result in separation, and dry or wet rot. Also, it has poor compression strength. That is, if a piece of hardware is through bolted the bolt or its nut could pull through the skin as the core material compresses as the nut is tightened. To prevent this from happening, builders use a high compression material at the location where cleats, winches, etc. will be located. Some builders use solid fiberglass and others use plywood. If the buyer knows where he will install the dinghy, life raft or other unexpected hardware, they can have the builder install the plywood or additional fiberglass at this location. If there is a need to add something later, a large back up plate must be used to distribute the pressure, and even then it will compress in time as the hardware is put under continual stress.
The Sam L. Morse Co. uses only sealed marine plywood for their core material because it has excellent compression and stiffness characteristics, and is more resistant to rot. Double thickness is used at the bitts, mast locations and anywhere excess loads are expected. The result is a structurally stiffer deck where hardware can be installed at any location. In the 25-year history of the Sam L. Morse Co. there are no reports of a deck having rot or separation. A major reason for this is that plywood is not nearly as moisture absorbent as other core materials, and will not compress, which would break the watertight seal of the deck hardware. A disadvantage to the plywood core is it is heavier. That would be of concern to the racer, but the little additional weight would have little effect on the boat’s performance, and the additional strength might be appreciated when the weather shows it’s worst.
Hull to Deck Joint: The deck adds to the strength of the boat. No matter how strongly the deck is built, it is only as strong as the method used to attach it to the hull. There are many methods builders use to make this joint. Some use an out turning flange, some a vertical connection and others an in turning flange. The out turning flange must be small or narrow, because it would stick out too far beyond the hull if it were wider. The vertical connection has many variations, but the major concern is that it will retain water, so drains must be installed. The in turning flange is more popular because it adds strength to the sheer line; the wider the flange the stronger the sheer. The problem with this method is that it costs more to build the molds because it must be in two parts so the “piece” can be removed. The wider the flange the more surface on which to set the deck so the joint will be stronger. On a wide flange the deck can be through bolted, staggering the bolts so they are not in line. The wide flange provides a larger surface area for the bonding material.
Some boats have a small flange, and after the deck is set in place the joint is fiberglassed. This is an excellent method as long as the flange is wide enough to provide structural support for the deck and the fiberglass bonding is heavy and on both sides.
The Sam L. Morse boats use an in turning flange. The Bristol Channel Cutter uses 3-1/2″ flange, the Falmouth Cutter uses a 2 1/2″ flange. The deck is first set in place, then 1/4″ holes are drilled every 5″, staggered from side to side to distribute the load across the flange. The deck is then raised and cleaned before ample amounts of 3M 5200 marine sealant is applied. Then the deck is bolted in place using 1/4″ stainless steel bolts, back up washers, lock washers and nuts. This joint is further strengthened when the bulwark stanchions are through bolted every 20 inches with 1/2″ S.S. bolts. In the 25 year history of the company there has never been a leaking deck to hull joint reported.
Note: because there is a parting line down the center of a hull does not mean the hull was made in two pieces and fastened together after. It means the hull has an in-turning flange and a two-part mold was used to remove the part leaving the parting line.
BALLAST: Most all boat builders are now using lead for their ballast. The controversy is should the ballast be internal or external?
External Ballast: External ballast is when the lead keel is bolted through the hull. There are several concerns with this method. The hull, at the location where the keel will be attached, must be exceptionally strong and will not compress with time. Look carefully at how the builder lays up this area, and if it will take a hard grounding without damage. The keel bolt material is another concern. Water will eventually reach the keel bolts. This means they will be exposed to oxygen starvation corrosion and electrolysis. If the bolts are made of monel there will be little problem because it is high on the Galvanic Scale. If stainless steel is used, it is less noble than many other metals and could act as an anode. Another concern with the keel bolts is their size. If a one-inch rod is threaded, then the minor diameter of the rod is 3/4″ and will have the same strength as a 3/4″ rod. Another concern is the method used to attach the keel bolts within the ballast. Since lead is soft it is possible that the bolts may work loose after years of stress. In a recent article in Professional Boatbuilder, the writer talks about keel bolts that loosen and need to be tightened as the boat gets older. His comment was that the nuts don’t loosen but everything else compresses and works which requires the nuts to be tightened periodically. Presuming that all the above is satisfactory, and there is a hard grounding with the external ballast. The advantage is that the lead will absorb a lot of the damage but the joint between the hull and the ballast will take the maximum stress. It is possible to break this bond and elongate the keel bolt holes, which could let water dribble into the bilge. How many groundings will it take before the ballast must be removed and resealed to the hull?
If the decision is to have an external ballast boat, make certain that the keel bolts are all accessible for regular inspection. It would be advisable to look at an older boat you are considering to see if there are any signs of water ingress or separation between the ballast and hull. Also visit boatyards that have external ballast boats out of the water. Look for repairs, cracks and water weeping out of the ballast to hull joint.
Internal Ballast: The Sam L. Morse Co. sets the lead ballast inside the hull. The hull is extremely thick throughout, but exceptionally so at this location. After the boat is leveled the pre-cast lead ballast, which is shaped to the hull cavity, is set in place. A dam is bonded to the aft end of the ballast to hold the resins that will encapsulate the lead. The ballast cavity is filled with slow curing resin totally covering the lead. This is followed by multiple layers of mat and roving to further strengthen this installation. The ballast will never make contact with any water or moisture for the life of the boat.
If a hard grounding occurs there will be some gel coat chipped off but the hull is about 1-1/2 thick at the bottom and it would take a considerable amount of time to grind it away to the lead. Boats do not sink as a result of a hole in the bottom of the keel. If either an external or internal ballast boat is grounded and continues to set upright, it is 99% floating, which means it can be kedged off. Boats are lost when they fall over on their side and the damage occurs at the turn of the bilge. In this situation it would be best to have the thickest hull with strong internal strengthening, regardless if the ballast is internal or external.
MAST STEP: The mast can be deck stepped or keel stepped.
Deck Stepped Mast: The primary reason a mast is stepped on deck is for ease of raising or lowering during transport or going under low bridges. Another is to provide more living space below decks. This method is well accepted in the boat building industry, as long as there is a substantial compression post installed to transfer the compression load to the mass of the keel. Make close inspection of the material between the two to be sure it will not compress in time. It is a good idea to look at older boats to see if there is any dimpling of the deck under the mast.
Keel Stepped Mast: The keel stepped mast passes through the deck and sets directly on the solid mass of the keel; there is nothing to compress. The advantage is that it is structurally a stronger installation. After all, the mast will stand by itself if all the rigging were removed so it has to be a stronger installation. The disadvantage is that the mast passes through the inside of the boat, taking up living space.
Some boat builders who build deck stepped masts state that the keel stepped mast will tear off the cabin if the mast is lost during a storm. I would ask this builder if they build their cabins so lightly that this could happen. The mast is an aluminum tube and would break in half before it would ever threaten tearing off the cabin. The Sam L. Morse Co. Bristol Channel Cutter passes the mast through the deck, not the cabin. The deck is reinforced to 2″ thick at this location.
MISCELLANEOUS ITEMS TO CONSIDER:
Sailing Performance: No matter which boat you consider buying, be certain it has good sailing characteristics. It should be fast enough to make a comfortable 150 nautical miles a day without being over burdened. It should point as close at 30 degrees off the apparent wind, or tack at 90 degrees on the compass. Most importantly, it must heave to without difficulty. Both the Bristol Channel Cutter and Falmouth Cutter will meet or exceed these requirements.
General Quality: When looking for a quality boat there are other factors to consider other than those directly related to structural integrity. These may seem trivial but they reflect the builder’s attitude towards expense rather than quality:
Does the builder use the best quality hardware and materials, such as metal portholes and cowl vents instead of plastic ones?
Are the lifeline stanchions double walled for strength?
Is the cabin sole solid teak or is it a plywood veneer?
Is the mast tapered at the top to reduce weight and windage? Based on the height of the mast, does it have double spreaders for additional strength?
Marine heads come in many various types and costs, what is being installed on the boat you are considering? -This list could go on for pages, but take the time to look closely and compare.
Deck Space: Your boat should have wide working decks. This makes it easy to drag sail bags back and forth as well as a safe area for a good foot hold when moving fore and aft. Sam L. Morse Co. boats have up to 24 inch wide decks on the Bristol Channel Cutter, and 20 inch wide decks on the Falmouth Cutter.
Bulwarks: Bulwarks are like a short wall going around the sheer of the boat. They keep your feet and other items from sliding over the side. To be effective they should be as tall as possible without looking out of place or disturbing the sheer line, and they must drain as quickly as the water comes aboard. Sam L. Morse Co. boats have 7 1/2 inch tall bulwarks, with an inch gap underneath for rapid draining.
Dinghy Storage: Surprisingly, buyers rarely consider where they will store a dinghy on deck. The Bristol Channel Cutter and Falmouth Cutter will take a 7’4″ hard dinghy on the foredeck, inverted over the Scuttle Hatch, or it can be set in chocks on top of the cabin. If a longer dinghy is needed, a 9 foot one can be used on the BCC, but it covers the bitts. We are now producing CHERUB, a 7’4″ lapstrake rowing and sailing dinghy that fits perfectly on both the BCC and FC.
Interior Insulation: Fiberglass does not have any insulation qualities. It’s not uncommon for a boat to “sweat” in warm climates. This “sweating” often results in the growth of mold and algae. This can be a serious problem on a boat with an interior liner. The Sam L. Morse Co. insulates their boats under the coach roof, under the decks and down the side to the waterline. Inside the lockers and bins can be insulated as an option.
Cockpit Size: A large cockpit is great when entertaining or lounging under the sun, but it can be hazardous if it can hold too much water if a breaking sea comes aboard. Most importantly is that the companion way have a bridge deck so that any water that goes into the cockpit will not enter into the boat. One cubic foot of water weighs 64 pounds, and this can add up quickly in a large cockpit. The cockpit well should be small and equipped with a cover so it can be used for sleeping outside.
Steering Methods: A boat can be steered by a wheel or a tiller. The wheel is usually used on larger boats with large cockpits, and tillers on smaller ones. The advantage of the wheel is that there is less strain on the helmsman than the tiller. The disadvantage is that the pedestal and wheel are not removable and are always in the way. The other downside is that there are many working parts that can fail. If it fails it is usually during periods of stress, like in a storm. If a boat with a wheel is selected be sure that repairs can be easily made at sea, and that there is a tiller back up. There will be fewer problems with rack and pinion or worm gear designs.
The Sam L. Morse Co. uses a tiller because a wheel would take up too much room. The advantage of the tiller is that it can be removed when sailing with a wind vane, autopilot or while at anchor, leaving the entire cockpit open for sleeping or lounging. Since the tiller is directly attached to the rudder, the helmsman has a better feel of the performance of the yacht. Also, it is easier to steer the boat in close quarters when picking up a mooring or anchoring. The downside to the tiller is that it swings in a wide arc when hand steering and has a direct load line to the rudder.
Accessibility of the hull: Any vessel that goes offshore should have access to every square inch of the hull. This is not only necessary in case of an emergency but for inspection and cleaning. This is one problem with many boats built with liners, there is no access behind the liner without cutting it out. The Sam L. Morse Co. has access to every square inch of the hull except behind the ice box where there is insulation between the hull and ice box liner.
Engine Access: Equally important is being able to access the engine on both sides, top and bottom in any sea condition. The larger the access area the easier the job will be. It is a bonus if there is a light installed as well. The Sam L. Morse Co. boats engine compartment is so large that a person can crawl inside to access the back of the engine and stern tube without difficulty. The engine access is from inside the boat, and repairs can safely be made in any weather.
Lifeline Stanchions: Lifeline stanchions are provided to keep the sailor aboard in rough seas. The sea conditions may be such that the person may be thrown against the lifelines with considerable force. The stanchion and lifelines must be strongly installed and capable of standing up to this force. The Sam L. Morse Co. uses 28″ high, double walled stainless steel stanchions with stainless steel lifelines. The stanchion bases are bolted through the deck and top of the bulwarks, providing maximum strength.
Water Tank Location: Water tanks are made of stainless steel, fiberglass or polyethylene. They are all good materials and all have some limitations. The stainless steel tanks have problems with electrolysis attacking the welds, and after a few years small pinholes will dribble water. This can be prevented by using the proper welding rods that match the tank material. Fiberglass tanks will always taste like fiberglass, but will not leak and will last a long time. Polyethylene is what most of the marine industry is now using. It is the same material used in bottled water purchased at the local market, so it is tasteless. The only disadvantage is that it is a softer material and can ware away if not properly supported during installation. Since baffles cannot be installed in these rotary molded tanks, individual tanks can be installed providing the same capacity. This can be a bonus because a diverter valve can be installed between the tanks, so either tank can be selected in case questionable water is taken aboard. Regardless of the water tank material, they should be capable of replacement if damaged, and there must be easy access for cleaning the inside.
As mentioned above, water weighs 64 pounds per cubic foot, or 8.4 pounds per gallon. There is only one place for water tanks, and that is in the center of the boat as low in the bilge as possible so it adds to the yacht’s ballast. The tanks must be easily removed for accessing keel bolts (if external ballast), repairing leaks and cleaning. They should have an easily accessible inspection plate for cleaning. The Sam L. Morse Co. boats use polyethylene tanks installed over the internal ballast, under the cabin sole, as low as possible and in the center of the boat. They can be quickly and easily accessed by removing a few screws that hold the sole cover.
Berths: Most boat builder have a “V” berth forward because it is a simple place to install a double berth without interfering with the rest of the boats interior. The advantage is that it can be a wide, long comfortable berth. The disadvantage is that it is the most uncomfortable berth on the boat when underway or in a rough anchorage. The most violent motion on a boat is forward. While at anchor, the sound from the anchor rope, chain and waves slapping against the hull is transferred into this area. A long “V” berth forces the builder to install the chain locker far forward, which can effect the safety of the boat in rough conditions. The best location for a berth is amidships in the center of the boat, at the waterline. This is where there is minimum movement. However, it is difficult to build a berth at this location because it is the living area.
The Sam L. Morse Co. Bristol Channel Cutter has a double, pull-out berth located amidships on the port side, a single settee berth amidships on the starboard side and a quarter berth on the starboard side aft. Because we are a custom boat builder, we can add a single or double berth forward. We can make the starboard single settee into a pull out double. By using inserts between the settees the backrests can be used as fillers for a large double to sleep thwart ships. We can make any necessary changes the owner may want. The Falmouth Cutter has a large quarter berth on port and starboard sides, and a double berth forward. If the buyer wanted an outboard engine instead of an inboard, the area between the quarter berths could become a huge double.
Head and Showers: A totally enclosed head and shower has the advantage of privacy. The disadvantage is that the space is used for 10 or 15 minutes a day, and the rest of the time it takes up valuable space. Many head and shower installations are not properly vented and will not dry out adequately in warmer climates. The Sam L. Morse Co. installs the head and shower forward. The shower curtains is set around the inside of the scuttle hatch, which can be opened during and after showering for maximum ventilation. The head and shower area is also the location for the work bench, hanging lockers, clothes, sail locker, chain locker, storage for the awning, oars, sewing machine, fishing poles, tools, etc.
Propane tanks: Most all boat builders today use propane as the primary cooking fuel. If properly installed it should never give an owner any problems. The primary concern is that the tanks be installed so they will vent overboard even with a bad leak. Coast Guard approved installations require that the propane locker be used only for stowing propane tanks and nothing else. The Sam L. Morse Co. boats have the aluminum propane tanks stored in deck boxes located on both sides of the mast. There would be no problem if a buyer wanted kerosene or natural gas installed instead.
Chain storage: Anchor chain is heavy and should never be stored above the waterline or too far forward. The best location for anchor chain is low, near the centerline and as far aft as possible. The Sam L. Morse Co. boats store the chain deep into the bilge, and as far aft as possible. When making a passage 300 feet of chain can be pulled back into the shower sump just forward of the mast, and still lead out as normal if needed.
Boom Gallows: It is hard to understand why all boat builders don’t use boom gallows. They support the boom when the sails are down. In rough weather the boom can be lashed to the gallows, making it impossible for it to come loose and swing across the deck. They provide a perfect place to install an underway sun awning between the dodger and the boom gallows. When going offshore an additional chest high lifeline can be tied between the boom gallows knees and the upper or aft lower shrouds. They provide a strong support to grab when coming aboard from the dinghy. A fishing reel can be installed on the boom gallows stanchions. An auto pilot bracket can be attached to the boom gallows stanchions. They provide a support when taking celestial sights by leaning elbows over the gallows cross piece. When entering a port the helmsman can sit on the top of the stern rail and rest his arms on the gallows while steering with one foot. It is a place to install a life ring, an outboard engine, and the list could go on.
Bowsprit: One of the major concerns for buyers considering the Bristol Channel Cutter and Falmouth cutter is the long bowsprit. The major advantage of the bowsprit, other than adding to the lovely lines, is the increase to the “J” measurement. The longer “J” permits the boat to carry more sail area. It increases the angle of the headstay, which makes a longer sheet lead, all of which permits the boat to point higher into the wind. This increase in headstay angle also works well with roller furling because the sheet lead is nearly 90 degrees to the headstay. When the headsail is roller reefed the sheet lead does not change, leaving a good sail shape.
The downside is that no one wants to go out on the bowsprit in anything but mild weather. There are several ways to solve this problem. The first is a quality roller furling system. With this method only one sail is set on the roller furling headstay, and it is used from light to strong winds. As the wind increases the sail area is reduced by rolling it up until there is no sail left. The staysail remains set and provides the necessary drive. Today, roller furling and reefing systems are built to high standards, and will be trouble free if properly used and maintained. There is no need to go out on the bowsprit. If conditions are real light and a drifter or lightweight Genoa is required it can be set aft of the roller furling headstay and raised “free flying”. This would require that the tack be connected to the snap shackle on the bowsprit, but in such light conditions it would not be a problem. If the snap shackle pin has a line leading back on deck the sail can be released without going out on the bowsprit.
If you are still a purest and want to use a hanked on Yankee sail with a downhaul, then a close heavy netting can be lashed between the Whisker stays, below the bowsprit, to walk on. Never walk on the bowsprit; instead walk on the netting, straddling the bowsprit. The netting will stretch and the lifeline will be above waist height if a pulpit is installed. In the 25 years we have been building these boats no owner has complained about the bowsprit, probably because they realize the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.
Storage Area: Another important factor on a cruising vessel is the amount to storage space available. Surprisingly, many larger boats have far less storage space than the Sam L. Morse Co. boats. It is advisable to compare the boats you are considering by counting the number of lockers and bins and their estimated size or square footage.
Conclusion: I would like to conclude with a few comments about the Lyle Hess designed, Sam L. Morse Co. Built boats for the people who are not familiar with the traditional design and its sailing performance.
-The Bristol Channel Cutter and the Falmouth Cutter have recorded remarkable speeds and passages. There are many recorded passages in excess of 180 nautical miles a day. One such passage was on a Falmouth Cutter “POPEYE” that made 200 nautical miles from noon to noon sailing from Ensenada, Mexico to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. The Bristol Channel Cutter, “XIPHIAS” sailed 3,200 nautical miles in 22 days, for an average speed of over 6 knots. Read about other major accomplishments on this site.
Both boats have remarkable windward sailing ability. They both can point 30 degrees to the apparent wind, or 45 degrees on the compass.
Both vessels are exceedingly seaworthy with proven ocean crossings and are capable of sailing anywhere in the world. Because of the design and size of these boats they are delightfully fun for a day sail within the harbor, or can be provisioned and cross oceans.
All the critical systems of the boats are designed for ease of service and maintenance.
Unlike modern designs today, the proven interior layout does not compromise comfort at sea or at anchor. If the buyer wants to modify the standard interior, we can easily meet your needs.
The Sam L. Morse Co. has been in business for over 25 years building and improving the same two vessels. The two top shipwrights have been building these same boats for nearly as many years.
The general trend today is for couples to buy boats that are really too large for two people to handle in anything but ideal conditions. There will be many times when one person is unable to assist reefing, sail changing, anchoring, etc. and the chore must be done alone. If the weather is bad and the boat too large or the sails too big for one person, serious accidents can occur. Think carefully before you buy a bigger boat, big is not necessarily better. The bigger the boat the sooner it’s anchor will drag; it will be more difficult to get underway in a hurry; it will be harder to pull up to pile moorings and docks; it will require deeper water when anchoring, so you will be further from shore; because of its size there will be places you cannot visit; it will cost more to haul-out, replace sails, rigging, engine, etc. A larger boat relies more on the engine than a smaller boat; it costs more to enter a country; and the list can go on and on. Talk to experienced cruisers, not arm chair sailors at the dock, and ask them how often they saw larger boats in trouble compared to smaller boats.
Our goal is and has always been to create a sincere but beautiful offshore cruising vessel for two. To summarize, a quote by Ferenc Mate from his book, THE WORLDS BEST SAILBOATS. “I might as well start off by telling you that the Bristol Channel Cutter and the Falmouth Cutter are the most beautiful 28 foot and 22 foot sailboats in the world”.
Freeze up has arriveed, I’ve just ice skated down the long lonely dock to Sookie, my world is frozen. I was tending to my fire when I actually smelled the first snow and exploded out of the building like I was a fifth grader on the first day of summer vacation. I raised my hands to the heavens, opened my mouth and had my first taste of winter. I love weather, it’s always been the guiding force in my life
Back on the boat I received a letter from a sailing soulmate who literally sailed Sookies sister to the South Pacific. The letter is the highlight of my day, week and month. There is so much alive in my world, birds by the hundreds, seals, wharf rats and all my bunnies, my world is a magical place and also a very dangerous one at this time of year. One slip and it’s all over, there is not a soul down here, just me.
I pull my uke and butcher Paint it black and it makes me smile. As of today I have half the cash for my new one off wind vane, another piece of the puzzle and another night of potatoes, cabbage and Ramen, my focus and dedication is one demensional, the sailing season is almost here and I’ve slipped a whole page down on my todo list, they call it yachting for a reason.
The biggest casualty of the day was learning that no matter how hard I try I can’t load my video into my I pad. Guess that one will have to wait a bit but I’m a patient man. I look around Sookie, read though my notes and again wonder how little I can thrive with, am I overly ambitious, have the paranoid land lubbers with boats finally rotted my brain or am I being completely reasonable and how would I know. I put down the list and sing the song that seems to fit outfitting s sailboat and my mood the most…
I see a red door and I want it painted black
No colours anymore, I want them to turn black
I see the girls walk by dressed in their summer clothes
I have to turn my head until my darkness goes- The Rolling Stones
When I first moved to the Pacific North West it was trial by fire, one day I was living in my car driving to Alaska, the next I was living in the boat yard in my new to me Allegra 24. Winter came hard and fast that year and as soon as It did I made a break for the nearest island and land. Back then I thought my new friends who lived aboard during the winter were effing nuts.
Now entering into my 5th or 6th winter aboard I don’t think they were nuts, I know they are certifiable. For all the bitching I do about winter and the cold I actually love living aboard. Here and there a few storms blow through that are comepletly intolerable but other than that it truly is living the dream. I’ve moved from boat to boat till I found the perfect fit, relationship wise I’ve been reluctantly following the same path.
I’ve had three liveaboard relationships aboard Sookie and while they were all quite fun, none of them were worth Persuing in the long run, mostly because none of them were sailors or cared about sailing. They say the spots on a leopard never change and that’s my curse, I’m afflicted with water on the brain and always will be, I was born under the sign of cancer, A true waterman. Trying to change a city girl into a sailor is a tough thing. Also I’m appearanty an A-Hole because I won’t buy a Bene 40 with diesel heat, a water maker and a real shower and yes I know how important these things are for people who spend their life’s chasing careers, statice symbols and the American dream. Nothing wrong with any of those things but they are like kryptonite to me. I have a sign on my mirror aboard Sookie that reads “it’s all your fault” I smile every time I read that sign and it makes me feel just a little bit freer.
I don’t know why but I’m so turned off by the so called persuit of happiness that I actually came to the realization that I’d much rather be single than to date a person who thinks that success can be measured in anything other than happiness. Then one of my a brilliant girlie friends pointed out that I was fishing in the wrong pond. Her exact words were “you need to find an unmotivated wanderer for the wind who stinks of pachouli, doesn’t know what shoes are, is allergic to careers and gainful employment and has a wanderlust based off of discovery and exploration, not a bucket list. You know, a total looser, somebody just like you;)”. She gave me one of those super sexy consoling hugs and a sympathetic awwwe…
Right then and there it hit me like being smacked with a 2×4 across the head. I smiled when I realized how right she is. I’m not a baby maker, sugar daddy, don’t collect debt, have opted out of the 9-5 and sucessfully stayed out. I’m not impressed with titles or fame and pretty much don’t have a single thing to offer in this world other than my hyper excitability about living in the present. Going back to those relationships I could now see how doomed they were from the start. One wanted babies, one wanted debt and one wanted… kryptonite
Funny how we can amble though life never seeing what or who we really are until forced to look back at ourselves through the one way mirror of reality. Solo… that’s a big word and one that I have all but erased from my vocabulary. Dirt bag, it’s such a wonderful word, it congers images of dirty blond hair in braids with flowers, bare tanned feet and a hairy hippie girl two days passed due for a shower dancing around a fire. There was a time in my life when I truly thought that the gobs of money I was making meant something. For every rung I climbed in the corporate ladder I was actually descending one step lower towards the fiery gates of hell. That hippie girl with her hula hoop is on to something. She didn’t need hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt to her education or a lifetime chained to a cubicle to figure it out. Life is best lived in the present. I had been searching for so long for a paper doll that I didn’t even realize how flimsy paper is.
Tonight was spent laughing so hard I almost peed myself. My feet are so cold they are burning but I have a big thick pair of socks sitting around here somewhere. I burned my dinner but it still filled and nourished me and I’ll be warm and snuggled in bed long before 900pm. Boating relationships take a very special bond, I look back at all of my passed sailing forays fondly as the time spent was precious and priceless!#*#SCREECH—-Or maybe they just weren’t aligned with the voyage of Sookie, Aduhhhhh 😉 night kids.
From the log of the Dangerous. Anyone that a) doesn’t believe in hell and b) thinks that money can buy happiness has never spent their days shackeled to one of the largest lending institutions on the planet earth. I can assure you that hell does exist, for me it was in Lake Forrest Ca and no, money can’t buy you happiness, although it can buy you a kickass boat and a bottle of really average whiskey, go figure. Life is an enigma but I’m learning, slowly and painfully…
Can you imagine coming home and finding your house missing? This has never happened to me but I have woken up in an entirely different place than where I was when I went to sleep. Ever since taking 350 lbs out of Sookies bow by removing serveral hundred feet of chain and her windlass she has pointed and sailed like dream. Now I’m only carrying 30′ of chain with 300′ of line which has been perfect for this area but what about the South Pacific.
I have friends who only carried 60′ and have read about people who have used even less but I like to sleep at night and am trying to come up with the magic number. If I wanted to I could drill out the bulkhead from my anchor locker and store 300′ of chain down low, just forward of my main bulkhead but could I pull it up. Ive pulled Sookies current rig weighing in at 55lbs from 100′ and it damn near killed me. I won’t be putting Sookies windlass back on so what ever I end up with it will be hand pulled. I know that there are many other ways to get it up but I’m impatient and just throw my back at it, a chain stopper would certainly help.
At 25lbs my rocna is beyond overkill, I have a friend who has survived two hurricanes on his 14,000 lb boat with a delta 22 lb as his primary and a few danforths for when it gets snotty, he’s been cruising more or less full time for over 30 years so I have to imagine he knows what he’s doing. I’m still searching for my seconary bower and will more than likely get. Fortress 13, my current stern is poor mans version fortress makes and at 7 lbs it has amazing holding power, i don’t now and have never used chain on my stern, this set up has served me well 100% of the time and since adding rocna my only fear is having a boat drag down on me because my rocna has never dragged an inch.
Again Sookies smallness comes into play and yet another strike against choosing a small sailboat for longer voyages. I chose her because she is so unbelievably fun to sail and so while she can carry a mammoth load, I try very hard to keep her ends as light as I can, her new roller furling lapper isn’t going to help with the weight foreword or aloft but I’m committed to it 100%. A roller staysail would be a dream come true but that’s just crazy talk, right? Time for more whiskey and a bit more contemplation and…
“The sky never falls with the rain.
It is never weighed down by all that
it carries. It takes all of its anchors
and turns them into stars.
Learn from this.”
― D. Antoinette Foy
I don’t really know how to answer my parents when they ask me if my upcoming voyage is safe. I’ve never lied to them and I don’t want to start now but trying to explain this lifestyle to a landlubber is like trying to teach flight to a worm. On the plus side they have more or less reluctantly supported every hair brained venture I’ve set out on and there are too many to count.
I can hear an admirer outside Sookie so I pop out and invite him aboard for a glass of scotch, it’s crazy good stuff my friend Elise dropped of for me when I was playing Tarzan up in the hills. We started talking about boats and designs, after a complete tour he smiled extending his tin cup for a refil asking if she was insured. I had already pointed out the rebuild of my mast, my rocna, the new bow Sprite and boomkin all the fittings, the whole boat. I stared blinking at him like I was looking in a mirror. He took a sip, I took a sip, he lit his pipe, I lit my pipe and then he asked me again adding “I know she’s a seaworthy vessel”. When I gave him my answer his eyes bulged, Stormy, a craft like this in her current condition is worth nearly 90k, the replacement would easily double that, “one asshole is large enough to sink anyboat”. “To me she has no monetary value, she is just my humble home”. And with that he offered to survey her for free, more scotch was poured.
“Most people buy the last mans bankruptcy, poorly designed boats built by amateurs and maintained by madmen” he went on, and on and on till the bottle ran dry. His old blue eyes wandered down Sookies sheer as he walked away, “I’ll bring the bottle when we write her up, order those rudder fittings, I’m not going to lie for you”. I tapped my pipe on the bull rail and climbed inside, we had been sitting in the rain for two straight hours, thank god for my wool sweater.
When I purchased Sookie I literally took her apart, the only things I haven’t replaced are her rudder fittings, electrical panel, a few bits of rigging and her deck to hull fasteners. Sookies hull is fiberglassed to her deck but the cap rails need replacing so in the spring when I do this I will also refasten her deck which will be just about the cheapest and easiest project I have done to date. When I think about safety at sea, it’s the boat that comes to mind first, followed by my sea faring skills and lastly the things I wish I had but may never, like a life raft, Epirb and emergency water maker.
Every coast guard rescue at sea that I’ve seen with a sailboat involves a boat that appears to be sitting fine in the water with no signs that it is going to sink, mast still up and it makes me wonder…
“If you aren’t afraid you just don’t know all the facts” Gordon Yates, Taleisins Tales
My ukulele skills don’t warrant the quality of the instrument I play but the smile it gives me dwarf this little hunk of wood like an ant standing next to an elephant. A good friend keeps pushing, tying to crawl inside my head and figure out what I want from this life. When I tell her I’m seeking nothing it draws a blank.
People, not things has always been my motto, even before I had heard the words spoken out loud. I have very few possessions in this world but the things I do have are quite meaningful to me, I take good care of them and use them constantly. When I wrote the ukulele site in Hawaii my letter laid out my simple request, budget, purpose and the sound I was looking for. Not only did they write back but sent me a very detailed letter teaching me that buying the uke was just one of many steps. They went through all of their ukes to find the one that suited me best and had it professionally set up and shipped it two day air at no additional charge.
Ive never advertised on this blog but I love sharing and do it often. I’ve gotten so many emails about my little uke I wanted to share this video and the process that every uke from their shop goes through before it goes out the door and yes this is a free service.
It’s no secret that I demand quality, I’d rather have nothing if I can’t have a good investment in my happieness. Finding good quality products is getting more and more difficult in this world but for me what’s even more important is the quality and integrity of the company that provides the service. Should any product or project reach the pages of this blog it’s not by accident and it has come with no shortage of research. I only write about what I love, things that make me smile and experiences that enrich my life.
I sit perched on Sookies bowsprit dragging my blade against a hard stone. I can tell by the sound it makes how sharp my cold steel blade is. I take the knife and set it gently against my throat and slowly pull the blade against baby smooth skin.
All my edges are sharp enough to shave with. I slip my blade back into its leather sheith and watch the sun set, they say it’s going to snow by the weekend and I can feel it in the air. It’s cold as hell, the wind is nuking, I have no food and the days light is vanishing fast, half my life is dangerous, to dangerous. Closing the boat I walk to work, a big leather chair, a hot burning fire close by, the smell of hard wood burning. I get paid to tend the fire, I push a button and a hot meal is delivered to me, sitting in complete warmth, my appetite is satisfied yet I’m starving, desperate, afraid of the security I have in this world, it’s dangerous and it scares the hell out of me.
its one thing to fantasize about living on the edge, but I know it’s only a matter of time until I’m standing, toes over the cliff. Staring at the abyss and I know I will step off again, no parachute and as often as I’m present in this world, it’s my nature. I throw another log on the fire, lean back and take a bite of half raw meat, I’m vegan… everything about my life is wrong but I do it over and over again. Like a man trapped in a cubicle daydreaming about living wild, I live with a pack of wolves daydreaming about living a safe, normal, boring life.
Fantasy being what it is, i know this so called security I’m experiencing is temporary, it’s why I always have my knife at my side, so I can cut the binds that tie and again escape to the cold dark world, a place where there is never enough food, or warmth or security. A palace where hardship flows like a waterfall, a place I call home. Reality bites like the cold and I bite back, I’ve fallen to far away from the ship of fools, I tread water and watch it sail away. I’m on my own now I can tread water or swim to freedom, but what is freedom???
From the log of Sookie- Maui, I just want one fucking good nights sleep. The rangers are after me again, they think they are chasing me into the jungle but I’m leading them deeper And deeper into a place where badges have no merit, a place where survival is a hierarchy of desperation… freedom is not granted in this world, it is taken.
Growing up in LA in the eighties was awesome. Back in those days you couldn’t just get into a club, you had to be picked. If you were a hot chick you may get in, if you were a guy, well good fucking luck, unless you were me. Sporting a bronzed tan that only a dirtbag surfer could have and rolling my suede creepers, way too tight 501 button flys with a white v neck tee, a black velvet smokers jacket and dreadlocks down to my ass crack all I had to do was show up and I was in.
Back in those days I smoked Dunhills, reefer and what ever else the club would find my way. The eighties were an explosion of insanely good music and while I rocked to Van Halen and Jusdist Priest as much as Madness, The Specials and Jimmy Cliff my heart has always belonged to Jah. I’ve been living with reggae since before I was old enough to know I had a scratch to itch between my legs.
I was young and thought I owned the world and in many ways I did and still do. I got this wild hair up my ass to make a quick fortune and move to the Caribbean. I’ve sailed through but never actually lived there. I came up with this crazy idea that if I could invent a popcorn that would be 100% addictive from the first bite and make people crave more beer i could strike it rich selling it to bars. It was all quite a simple recipe, spicy popped corn makes you thirsty. By this point in my life I’ve made thousands of batches and while back then my entrepreneuring ways eventually lost out to voyaging under sail I’ve never given up the dream of a perfectly poped batch of kettle corn, or moving to the Caribbean.
like just about everything in my life I’ve failed miserably at my golden kernels but I try and try. I find failure be soothing because while nothing went as you expected you had a great go of it, learned a bunch of shit and can jump back into the kettle whenever you choose and start the whole journey again a day older and wiser. Some people think Im a Mother fucking genius and while I may be it’s for no other reason than I’ve failed at thousands of things in my life, many times over. You can’t fail that often and not learn at least something in the process and that’s what life is, it’s a process.
Well, tonight it happened, its cold as hell in Sookie , I’m hungry and tired but not too tired to break out my spicy corn. One part coconut oil two parts extra virgin olive oil and my secret sauce. Not only did I make the best damn batch of corn I’ve ever made but I poped 100% of the kernels, something I’ve never done in all my life. Blessed are those who blindly stumble and stammer through life with a tunnel vision so great you could cross under the mighty pacific without getting a single drop of water on you.
My hair is almost long enough to re dread “insuring that no self respecting company will hire me”, although it has a mind of its own and has already started the process without me. Remaining gainfully unemployed has been the second biggest failure in my life but I know if I keep at it some day I will succeed and fail to ever work again. No job, No woman no cry…
Old pirates yes they rob I
Sold I to the merchant ships
Minutes after they took I from the
Bottom less pit
But my hand was made strong
By the hand of the almighty
We forward in this generation triumphantly
All I ever had is songs of freedom