No Spring Chickens

The Old Bay club had a tight gathering of seven boats last weekend. An invitation was extended to the group from the Boat Shop Director John England at the Deltaville Maritime Museum. Their exhibits and hands on activities focus primarily on the rich history of the Lower Chesapeake. John currently has two 20′ deadrise skiffs nearing completion. They are beauties. Go see for yourself.

John’s camp/sail event at Freeport Landing on the Piankatank has been going on for about 40 years. Attendance was relatively light. Weathermen can be believed at times and thus scare away sailors. The sailing was two days boisterous the first days and the last one sedate.

Most of us arrived Thursday afternoon to sail down river for the night off Berkleys Island. Friday proved to be much of the same. Fewer still headed downstream to Cobbs Creek, returning again to Berkleys for lunch and a swim. That night’s anchorage tucked peacefully in Harper Creek south of Freeport. Saturday was light, variable and sunny. More crew joined for several short sails, picnics and a laden picnic table potluck dinner. Too much!

It was wonderful to be reacquainted with UNA. She seemed to relish the higher winds and was getting it to weather. A good time was had by all as they say. More shows in this video following.

Miss it already!

Freak Flag

repurposed stake before moon rising

Over the winter I discovered a pound net stake had washed ashore lodging itself here in the marsh and salt bush. At 45’ long I wondered how many jet skis it had taken out in its journey. Obviously, this was a highly valued artifact. I was tempted to re-float it, allowing the battering ram to continue its laudable mission, but it’s straightness caught me. A more radical thought occurred. Might a flagpole be raised? Just how far our stick had travelled was a mystery. The closest stakes in use I’m aware of are off Reedville, many miles up the Bay from Mobjack. The local watermen stopped using pound nets decades ago. With a shovel, chain and tractor I dislodged the pole. Hefted upon several sawhorses, I stained it white, tapered the top for a soup can cap, tarred the base, hand dug a 9’ hole with post hole diggers and auger, and then, a fellow trimming the neighbor’s trees agreed to raised and drop our pole in its new home with a cherry picker. A bullet eye as a masthead hoist, $5 of crab pot line for a halyard, a hand fashioned cleat from ipe, a couple brass snap shackles and we had a flagpole. I was amazed at how solid just dropping gravel in the hole locked the pile in.

I couldn’t locate one of those pretty rainbow flags a few are so spun up about, so I’m sure the one I chose will offend a couple. What kind? Who knows these crazy times. Well, can’t please everyone and some can never be pleased. I’m happy and proud of our efforts though. Oh, and it works!

Cat Scratch

on her clothesline

Camille’s iron fastenings are rusting slowly away. Her fiberglass skin is likely keeping her together in the meantime. My Mom is fond of saying, “growing old is not for sissies”. Not complaining. This cat is dry. She doesn’t leak a drop and she’s provided some exquisite sunrise sails of late … and, who can ignore those lines?

Some recent improvements here: added a topping lift to keep the boom off the coaming when the sail is lowered, leathered the two travel and boom crutches, replaced the masthead fly cloth, added oak to the back of the centerboard case, varnished that and the cap of the same, but most importantly, we now have beer loops port and starboard!

Now Camille is perfect to my eyes. Afterall, “some girls are bigger than others”.

Now here’s to sunset cruises. Cheers-

Mounting Frustrations

Sailing has been happening. Mostly in my “wife’s” Beetle Cat. More on that sweet boat later. A few small projects have been done there after pulling it from the barn this Spring.

With an Old Bay gathering on the horizon, I wanted to finish my third engine mount iteration in order to continue acceptance by the local TSCA motor squadron. Honesty, I hate the idea. It’s contrary to the sailing I built UNA for, but asking for a tow is a pain for both ends of the line and I don’t like missing dinner or cocktails.

A little history: two summers ago I lost a brand-new Honda 2.3 at the pier in 12′ of Rockland, ME water. That was a chilly retrieval. and I was cussing above and below water. The teak motor “thwart” I configured had cracked, racked and gone for a swim. And, I was about to tether the engine too! The engine was washed and left in the truck for a great week’s sail. Once back home, I made what I believed was a good fix and had several windless outings. Then on last Fall’s cruise to the Chippoke, I almost duplicated my previous snafu when my motor shaft struck something under water that didn’t want to give way. Tree stump perhaps? Anyway, the fix broke, but we were tethered this time thankfully. However, as frustrations mounted, I was determined the next solution would be my last or the entire aft end of the boat will be torn off before the engine takes a swim.

I gave a plywood mock-up and drawing to a metal fabricator. Stainless plates were crudely welded. I then eased edges, rounded corners and drilled holes for a solid chunk of chestnut oak. Pig leather was cemented to the inside face of the metal resting on the gunnel and to a shaped wood block pressing against the hull. I reused the bolt gunnel insert from the “thwart”. The result is a beast. 10# maybe. Lightening holes in the broad face of the steel will help some. Or, add a bucket of lead to port? Boat soup will suffice as a finish. This week we’ll take UNA will go for a spin.

For the record, some may recognize different engines posted here. My 40 year old Honda finally quit. All its bolts were rusted beyond extraction. A new Honda was bought before the “baptism”. Ended selling it after getting it running for more than purchased sale price. I bought a new, quieter, water-cooled Suzuki and still had a few pennies left over. No killer whales choked on engine parts in this small endeavor, and the lobsters continue to thrive.

Not proud of what I’ve done here, (but I can make things). I’m now beyond guilt by association. I’m one of them now!

“Lightening” holes added

UNA Pushes Along

Several years ago, at the Small Reach Regatta in Maine, a friend, John, took this photo. He has recently completed a Vivier Jewel kit and named it Umami. He passed on this image about a month ago. In it, I’m lazing to leeward, backseat driving, as my middle son keeps UNA pressing to weather. I don’t recall the passage we’re slipping through here, but I do remember the day. We had fun giving chase to others in the fleet. Not to brag, but we eventually captured the lead and then turned back to do it all again. Ah, but it wasn’t a race! Just don’t tell UNA that.

Not a Boat, but …

… it sure as heck could be a part of one! It’s is an 8-sided mahogany spar with tapered ends. Or, a stair handrail. Yes, sorry to disappoint, mundane, but this 12 foot stick got the boat building juices flowing. I had searched for an old Beetle Cat mast to serve the purpose. No luck and I wasn’t going to sacrifice Camille’s. This rail took 3 days of sporadic effort, some stain, 4 coats of poly and … it works!

Red, White and New

Old G4 socket with new G4 LED that lacked the lumens

Little Bird came with what appear to be repurposed cabin ceiling lights. They have wonderful glass globes with massive bronze bases. I don’t believe they’re original to the boat as evidenced by abandon holes behind the bases. I’m also doubtful the old G4 bulb sockets belonged to the fixtures’ manufacture.

New SPDT switch and sockets with old bulb

The G4 bulbs weren’t bright enough, drew extra amps and produced heat. Granted warmth is a plus in cool weather, but more sailing is done in warmer weather. Enough rationale, I decided to make the lights both white and red (no, not green of blue or whatever the latest night vision “fad” is). I also wanted the lower current drawing LED’s. To make this work, the single sockets were replaced with two BA15D bases per fixture and the switches replaced with SPDT, single pole double throw, on-off-on switches.

New glow

Now we’re ready for the disco!

What’s A Chippoke?

The Old Bay Club gathered for their now traditional James River Fall sail. 11 boats arrived. 8 continued on for the 3 day cruise. Fall colors were in bloom, temps were in the low 70’s, winds varied from none to small craft warnings. Our first night BBQ and oysters were a hit on the beach. Monkey business continued into the night. It was a great time with a fun group.

With several in the group taking “film”, UNA got some screen time. I’ll let our video convey the rest.

Oh, and as for the question, “… Chippokes”? See here.

First Flights with Little Bird

SEABIRD an “the guy” with crew.

She’s a beauty. Took almost 4 years to find this Frances 26. Those who have them tend to hold on to them. The first for sale ad I saw was for a boat in Connecticut. The fellow who answered said he decided not to sell, but he introduced me to a local guy who graciously let me see his. I was hooked, but of course, he too wasn’t selling. A year or so later another ad leads to a call to a doctor in Chicago. We talked for an hour or so. He confirms that he is indeed selling. I buy a plane ticket, rent a car, book a room and spend the better part of the following day listening to how wonderful the boat is. I make a strong offer. The crazy doctor says he’s not selling! I still want to bill him my travel expenses. Shortly thereafter I hear that there is an owner of two Frances and that he was ready to sell one. Nothing. Some months pass and I consider a project Frances in Maine. After study and survey, that made no sense. However, someone has bought that one and is overhauling it. Alas, I get the fine Chickadee to sail while waiting out somebody who will sell their Frances. Eventually it did happen. I’m thrilled. Little Bird, then Seabird, was actually the first one I had even seen. I fell for the boat then and can’t believe I’m sailing her now. She has been so well cared for with exquisite attention to details. Though 44 years old, she is as close to new as you could expect. From masthead to bottom, this boat has been loved. Little Bird is a distillation of all the cruising boats I’ve known. All in a 26′ package.

Here is a short video of three short overnight cruises thus far. Looking toward many more. With her diesel heater, the season is just starting.