Sampaguita’s portlights had sprung a few leaks around the panes. It was very slight in only a couple but was worsening and spreading. The outer gaskets were deteriorating too, so it was time to roll up my sleeves.
I did just that, and the project was the subject of my most recent Resourceful Sailor Series article, Old Bronze Portlights: Sealing the Pane. A special thanks to Monica and the crew at Latitude 38‘s online version, ‘Lectronic Latitude, for publishing it on January 18th, 2021.
Click Here for a link to the article.
As I moved to an anchoring mindset with my 1985 Pacific Seacraft Flicka 20, Sampaguita, I was going to need a dinghy. The main questions? What would it be, and where would I store it? At 20 feet, the storage space above and below is limited. After considering my options and values, I created a list of criteria I would need from a dinghy to suit my situation and narrow the focus.
A dinghy would need:
1) to stow below decks.
2) to carry two people and gear.
3) to double as a life raft.
4) to be durable and reliable.
5) to not detract from my sailing style.
The first criterion determined my dinghy would be an inflatable, and most likely, a kayak. Obstacles and clutter on Sampaguita’s deck would not be seamanlike. Therefore, it should be light and compact enough to wrangle down below, which would also mitigate UV exposure.
The second and third criterion defined that it needed to be conventional in function. SUP’s need not apply.
The fourth demanded robustness. A quality made item I could beach, use in adverse weather with confidence, and would not easily succumb to the abuse I was likely to give.
The last was more about my cruising style. I have hank-on headsails and prefer sailing over motoring to a fault, reinforcing the first criteria of no deck storage. If I chose to tow it, drag would be an unwelcome factor. Minimal electricity availability and use meant inflation would be manual. So would motive power.
With my options narrowed, I began to focus on inflatable kayaks. A friend invited me to test paddle his. We went through the process of inflation, launching, paddling, deflation, rinsing, and storage, and he gave a helpful review of the plusses and minuses. In the end, I decided on an Aire Lynx II, inflatable, sit-on-top, white-water kayak with a simple, light-weight, and floating hand pump.
Has it fit my criteria?
1) I store the kayak down below in a large rubber tote. It catches any residual water after use and deflation. I then put a freight crate upside down on top of that, allowing ventilation for drying, and doubles as a table. Since I store this just aft of the v-berth, it centers the 40 pounds of weight low and directly over the keel. I keep the accessories in a separate bin.
2) It is a two-person kayak for when I have crew, though more often I use it solo. I am then able to carry lots of gear. An unforeseen advantage is that solo, the kayak sits high in the water, keeping me dry, even with self-bailing scuppers.
3) As a life raft, the kayak is questionable. I can inflate it on deck in about fifteen minutes, but this is awkward and impractical in an emergency. If already in tow, it could be a go-to.
4) The kayak is PVC with three bladders on the inside. As a white-water kayak designed to take the punishment of river rapids, I can beach it without worries. It paddles easier than a standard inflatable dinghy will row. Windage is manageable to a point, though chop makes for a pounding and wet work out.
5) The simplicity of manual inflation and motive power suit my style and economics. When towed, it creates little drag as it skims across the water, its width aiding its stability. If below, it serves as ballast and furniture. Either way, the deck is kept clear.
The challenge of having a dinghy on a small keelboat is a common dilemma. While the criteria were specific to my style and Sampaguita’s size, the process may aid other small boat owners in their decisions. There will be compromises, as always with boats. I believe the freedom to explore beautiful, remote, and quiet anchorages is worth the mental and physical exercise. Bon Voyage.
‘Lectronic Latitude, the online counterpart to Latitude 38, published the lastest Resourceful Sailor Series installment, Don’t Chafe On Me, on December 14, 2020. This article demonstrates some easy and economical solutions that I came up with for preventing chafe on Sampaguita‘s anchor rode, bow sprit and platform, and standing rigging.
The intent of this Series is to demonstrate “outside the box” and affordable solutions to keep boaters on the water. I am not a shipwright or a tradesman. The goal is less about supplying a solution, and more about encouraging creative problem solving. Thanks for reading.
And thank you to Monica and The Crew for their support.
CLICK HERE for a link to the article.
Sampaguita, a Pacific Seacraft Flicka 20, and I went out for a sail one late November day in Port Townsend Bay, WA. I took this video with a head-mounted GoPro HERO 7 and have created clips centered around a few activities. There is no mood-inducing music added, just the sounds of sailing. Splashing water, roaring wind, flapping sails, winches and lines, my breathing, and the occasional talking to myself. And most of the bird-like sounds are actual birds. (If you must, think John Cage’s 4’33”)
These clips are not how-to lessons or the epitome of anything. They are “live” recordings, warts and all. No do-overs, no what-ifs. What struck me most when I reviewed these clips was how natural these maneuvers had become for me on this boat. It’s not that I am a spectacular or talented sailor. No, I am just well-practiced on Sampaguita. As I wrap up my eighth year with her, I have done these actions countless times, and my comfort with them seems evident, at least to me. It certainly helps that the boat is well-behaved, predictable, and easy to balance with the sails. This propensity to handle herself affords me the ability to handle lines and sails single-handed in a fairly low-stress, low-tech manner.
The knotwork is also second nature. Much of it occurs just off-camera. Figure eights on one end of the sheets, bowlines on the other. A reef knot here, a cleat hitch there. Wrap, lean, and pull.
It’s not all roses. The restricted deck space and rigging clearance require specific footwork, an inboard lean, and one hand for the mast. I have grown accustomed to this too. (The irony that Sampaguita has her lines led aft to the cockpit, but no roller furling headsail isn’t lost. Maybe I’ll make that change one day. Or not.)
Even when things don’t quite go right, like in Reef the Main (1’09”), the clew isn’t tight enough. It was an easy correction as if I had been through it before, many times. Or in Changing the Headsail (1’09”), the halyard doesn’t run clean. As soon as I felt resistance when pulling the sail down, I knew what was wrong and how to fix it. It wasn’t the first time.
The unexpected takeaway from these clips for me is the tremendous value in a boat I know. I will remember this the next time I wonder whether Sampaguita is the right boat to go voyaging in.
Reef the Main
Change the Headsail
Shake out the Reef
Dictionary.com defines bricolage [bree-kuh-lahzh] as “a construction made of whatever materials are at hand; something created from a variety of available things.” With financial means and healthy supply chains, this definition can have a broad interpretation. But when these break down or are nonexistent, creativity and ingenuity must prevail. Whether sailors or landlubbers, many people are ‘bricolagists,’ and they often have similar materials at hand.
A special thank you to Monica and the crew at ‘Lectronic Latitude, the online counterpart to Latitude 38, for publishing Tales from the Northwest Passage: Arctic ‘Bricolage’, Part 2 on October 21, 2020.
Click Here for a link to the article.
Little Thunderbird I see your face. Little Thunderbird Ready to race. Your suit is creased And your shoes are worn Still you cut the waves For which you were born. * Made fast to the dock You patiently stand Awaiting a skipper To take your hand. Your regular dance The summer through Wednesdays and Fridays Sometimes Saturdays too. Whatever tempo The band will blow You take a deep breath And go on with the show. * Your suit is creased And your shoes are worn Still you cut the waves For which you were born. * When the horns tune up And the downbeat drops You approach the line Pull out all the stops. To starboard you step To port you swing Around the buoy Then back wing on wing. When the band packs up And the floor is clear Another has won But there is no tear. The next time you’re asked You’ll do it again The feel of the music To draw you in. * Your suit is creased And your shoes are worn Still you cut the waves For which you were born. Little Thunderbird I see your face. Little Thunderbird Ready to race. Dedicated to Blackbird Associates
I crabbed the inflatable kayak along the sand bar, looking for a channel. There wasn’t one. The current was against me, spilling over the wide breadth of the cut like a fan, the bottom visible a couple of feet below. I made for the eddies along the starboard shore, staying as close to the bank as possible. It was the inside of the dogleg and offered the most current relief. As I approached the turn, I was forced out into the center of the stream to stay in navigable water. “If I can make way here, I can make it all the way.”
I was paddling the new Oak Bay/ Kilisut Harbor tidal cut between Indian and Marrowstone Islands. This project was spearheaded by the Northern Olympic Salmon Coalition and coordinated with the Washington State Department of Transportation. It involved replacing a causeway with a 450-foot bridge and re-establishing a natural tidal channel between the two islands.
My journey began the day before when I left Boat Haven on Sampaguita, my Pacific Seacraft Flicka 20, with the Aire inflatable kayak in tow. Strong Labor Day winds blew us quickly to Mystery Bay, where we anchored in the lee of the point, just off the Marine Park dock.
The weather blew itself out that evening and the next morning switched to a light southerly. It could be easily overcome in the kayak and would be a help on the return trip. However, a predicted wind shift to the North in the early afternoon could be a bit more disagreeable.
The first order of business was a paddle to the Nordland General Store for an Americano and a peanut butter cookie. An old-fashioned place with a dock across the street for small boat access that harkens back to the country stores of my youth. With those morning pleasantries taken care of, I headed for the cut.
Mystery Bay is in the middle of Kilisut Harbor, while the cut is at the southern end. I still had a couple of miles to paddle. Just recently opened, I was unaware of any published information about the cut. But embracing the spirit of exploration, I didn’t search too hard. It would be what it was when I got there.
In the center of the tidal stream, with strong and steady strokes, I was able to keep forward motion, crabbing around and across the dogleg to the port side of the cut. The current runs along this edge with a deeper channel, but the uneven shore offers relief eddies. Rounding each mini-point put me right back into the stream, though I never feared I wouldn’t make it.
Prevailing, I rounded the spit to the hazy expanse of Oak Bay and landed the kayak for rest and refreshment. After my summit moment, I pushed the boat off the shore for the return trip. Paddling in the current, making four knots, I descended back into Kilisut Harbor. As I rounded the dogleg, the shallow inside corner that forced me into the current on the incoming trip was now exposed. With the depth decreasing, I was a little concerned about running out of water over the wide, shallow sandbank that extends into Kilisut Harbor. However, the kayak only requires a few inches of depth, and we glided over with no troubles.
I made it back to Mystery Bay just before the winds shifted to the North, having completed the main objective for my holiday weekend. Sampaguita and I would swing on the hook for the rest of the day and head back to Port Townsend the next morning. Paddling a newly accessible stretch of water was exciting, and got lucky with my ‘spirit of exploration’. Judging by the currents and depths witnessed, there are tidal states when it would not be navigable by even small boats.
Besides my amusement, it was evident the cut was also serving the purpose of exchanging water in the Harbor. During my paddle, Scow Bay, the lower half of Kilisut Harbor, was a murky brown with about one foot of visibility. The waters flowing through the cut were crystal clear and mixing in the Bay. With refreshed infrastructure for the islanders, improved water quality and habitat for plants and animals, and a new destination for small boat enthusiasts, I give the new cut a thumbs up.
Here’s some GoPro video of me transiting the cut: (Caution: This might feel like watching paint dry.)
When Captain Olivier Huin asked me to secure the gear on the deck of Breskell for her transit through the Northwest Passage in 2019, I was happy I knew my knots. A special thank you to Adam Cort for publishing my article, Marlinspike Seamanship in the Arctic, in the June 2020, (Vol. 51, #6) issue of Sail Magazine. You’ll find it on page 56. The article is about getting creative when securing deck gear and gives insight to an angle of logistics for offshore sailors. It involves seamanship, marlinspike, and making do with what you have. I hope you enjoy and are inspired to take on your own adventures.
Sail Magazine is available through subscription and where sailing magazines are sold.
I would like to thank Joe Cline, Andy Cross, and all the crew at 48° North for choosing and publishing my poem about the meaning of May. It appears in the Lifestyle section of their online version, dated May 14, 2020. You can view it by clicking this link:
48° North is a long time Pacific Northwest sailing magazine, which in 2018 became part of The Northwest Maritime Center in Port Townsend, WA. Even more recently, they brought in Pacific Northwest’s biggest boating website, Three Sheets Northwest, combining to bring you both analog and digital formats under one name. I have been fortunate enough to have been published in both.
Thank you for taking the time to check it out.