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.


Regent Point

Hard to even believe there might be any projects given the excellent care and attention this Frances has received prior to my ownership. I believe I am the 10th in a good line of stewards. I pray I don’t muck it up!

I’ve now had three overnight outings in Little Bird. Two short trips originated from Regent Point Marina on the Rappahannock River where the boat was recently hauled. We sailed to the Corrotoman River and later to Carters Creek. On the sail home we ducked into Horn Harbor. Perhaps more on those later.

So, projects, or better, additions. I’ve installed a Noco 2 bank battery charger. Chickadee burned through 2 Powermania chargers in short order. The company has since closed its doors. Wonder why? This Noco unit claims to be waterproof and “smart”. An identical unit was lastly used in Chickadee and seemed to deliver. So, here we are again. Good so far. It’s tucked up in the starboard quarter berth out of the way, but easily readable.

Green means full.

Also, I put another USB plug where a hole once was inside the companionway. Perhaps a vulnerable location, but like I said “hole”.

Twin USB’s in old hole.

Otherwise, we’re making efforts to bring aboard only gear we need. The tool bag did start out slim, but it is getting thicker. Projects!

Farewell My Chickadee

Some boats stay with you longer than others. What can I say? Things change. We’ve a lot on our plate, most self-inflicted. In any event, this sweet little boat has found a new owner who I believe will carry on her renovations. I know he likes the design because he has a 1965 Tartan 27!

I’d be lying, if I said I didn’t have some remorse. What a wholesome and easy sailing boat Chick is. That old adage about a boat owner’s best two days, the buying and selling of, has never set right with me on the back end. I’ve missed them all. Nonetheless, Chickadee sailed off last Sunday to live on the Coan River off the Potomac. I expect I’ll see her again. Hope so.

Chick heading out.


Generally, Chickadee’s old Atomic 4 engine has been running great. It is one of some 40,000 built for marine use over the many decades and half are still pushing boats! Good Old boat has a write up here. The Atomic 4 is a well proven concept of four smooth running cylinders on gasoline versus in this case what would be two banging diesel sleeves rattling your teeth out. At half throttle, Chickadee reaches hull speed easily. Still, long ago, back when it was warm, there seemed to be an occasional problem with the transmission (technically called a reversing gear). The prop, on occasion when asked to push forward, wouldn’t spin or did so weakly. Fortunately the solution wasn’t difficult, or so it seemed. The cockpit shifter’s linkage wasn’t throwing the “reversing gear’s” lever arm far enough to engage fully the prop shaft and engine. As luck would have it, while adjusting this travel range I elbowed the water lift exhaust hose. Chaos ensued. Water began spraying everywhere. The original iron pipe exhaust had crumbled and given way. Thankfully we were at the pier and not out cruising. After shutting the engine down and closing the thru-hull a harder look at the exhaust revealed all common black iron pipe and fittings. They weren’t at the big box stores, but Ferguson’s had the pieces to assemble a new exhaust.

After some wrestling, the new plumbing was installed and tested.

Running and ready for heat tape.

Hard to believe, but it will be warmer again, hopefully soon. There is a haul out for a few more projects to get Chickadee ready for the season. That first sail, as always, will be sublime.