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.
When you have an itch, scratch it. When you have a rub, guard it. Chafe is your enemy. The Resourceful Sailor has a new installment available on Latitude 38′s online magazine, ‘Lectronic Latitude. A special thanks to the crew and Tim Henry for keeping the sails full in these curious times. I hope you enjoy it and thank you for checking it out.
CLICK HERE for the link to the article.
A boat that wants to achieve balance is motivating, fun, and easy to sail. An endearing quality of Sampaguita, my Pacific Seacraft Flicka 20, is her willingness to steer herself. I remember the feeling of excitement, having just changed boats from a squirrelly Columbia 26 MKii, when I first realized how easy it was to balance the Flicka. It was easy to imagine the fun and freedom I would have. When single-handing in coastal waters, this quality offers some relief from the helm without additional equipment, yet requires enough attentiveness to maintain safe, situational awareness.
I don’t think Sampaguita is an anomaly, so I’ll give kudos to the designer of the Flicka 20, Bruce Bingham, and his muses. New England workboat inspiration for good lines, a full keel for tracking, a bowsprit for a leveraged sail plan, and a large transom hung rudder. All the usual suspects for creating a stable, well-balanced boat. Thanks Bruce.
I have Sampaguita rigged with a touch of weather helm. When I am racing close-hauled(“is he joking?”), I can sheet the main in tight for maximum speed, a little extra heel, and rounding up for overboard safety. But, if I ease the main a bit, we find her sweet spot for balance, and she will happily take over. It backwinds the luff of the main, but creates better flow over the half-battened leech, streaming the telltales off.
Like any sailing partner, there are compromises. If I let her make her own way, we will concede a little in speed and heading. 5-15% and maybe a few degrees, respectively. On an afternoon sail in Port Townsend, when close-hauled with the main sheeted in tight and my fingers always on the tiller, we averaged 4.3 knots. With the main luffed enough to balance a still well-trimmed jib and no hands on the helm, 3.8 knots. If the heading suffered, it was because Sampaguita took a little longer to adjust to variations in the wind and waves than a focused helmsman. Wind speed, point of sail, and wave state are significant variables in performance.
Sampaguita has sailed herself with most sail combinations and on every point, including the asymmetrical spinnaker and wing-and-wing. However, it is most predictable to balance her when she is sailing close-hauled or on a close reach. The 140% genoa and the spinnaker will often overpower the main too much to be hands-free. A combination of the 100 or 80% jibs, with the mainsail and its reefs, will usually do the trick.
Understandably, quieter seas are better for balancing, especially when headed off the wind. Reaching and close-hauling, the boat can handle more. I recall sailing across the Strait of Georgia from Nanaimo to Plumper Cove Marine Provincial Park in BC, Canada. We sailed close reached for over ten nautical miles under working jib and a single reefed main with 15-20 knots of SE wind and 2-4 foot seas. The only time I had to adjust the helm was to steer around a fishing buoy directly in our path.
For those readers who are more technically and financially inclined, I have heard of electronic autopilots and self-steering wind vanes. Sampaguita came with an autopilot, but it was not wired safely and hasn’t been repaired. A trim tab wind vane would be well suited for her, but yet to transpire.
For the past seven years, I have enjoyed the simplicity of balancing the boat through sail trim. Simple is more zen for me, I guess. I am always impressed by how well Sampaguita handles herself and what a pleasure she is to sail.
Bricolage – French for Do-It-Yourself! When S/V Breskell transited the Northwest Passage in the summer of 2019, there was a bit of bricolage along the way. The link below offers a new Resourceful Sailor article on Latitude 38‘s online magazine, ‘Lectronic Latitude, highlighting a few examples. Thanks to Tim Henry for publishing it. I hope you enjoy and thanks for checking it out.
Click Here for a link to the article.
My landlubber friends sometimes snicker at me when I ride my folding bike. I hope it’s the bike that is drawing the attention. When compared to a conventional one, the proportions are all wrong. The wheels are small like a BMX bike, but the frame is trying to be adult-sized, with high-rise extensions for the handlebars and the seat. That’s why I have taken to calling it the Circus Bike. However, I haven’t ridden it around the home town much, mostly reserving it for trips aboard Sampaguita. In particular, voyages throughout Puget Sound, the San Juans, Gulf Islands, and the Sunshine Coast. It can be a convenient tool and time saver and good for exercise and entertainment. If you are considering carrying a bicycle on board, I offer these stories with the Circus Bike as an account of possibilities.
Why did I buy a folding bike to carry aboard my boat? When I purchased Sampaguita, a Pacific Seacraft Flicka 20, seven years ago, the seller also offered a folding bike and a Montgomery 7-11 dinghy. The bike was in excellent condition, and the dinghy had a sailing rig. I hadn’t considered having either before, but the price was right. I could sell them if they didn’t work out.
Now I have a bike, where do I put it? Following the previous owner’s lead, I initially stored the Circus Bike, lashed on the settee, next to the companionway. I quickly grew to dislike this location. I got tired of looking at it, and it took up valuable cabin space. If I forgot to lash it, it would fall to the sole. After the second time, I’d had enough. A Flicka’s diminutive size limits the options, but since Sampaguita does not have an inboard motor, I wondered if the Circus Bike might fit into that engine space. The Flicka mold accommodated an engine regardless. If the bike fit, it would be a great out of the way place.
Huh? How do I do that? Here is where it gets very builder specific. Pacific Seacrafts have a removable cockpit sole, held down with four knobs. While this gives full access to the engine space from above, it is an awkward reach. I found that standing inside the cabin and leaning against the companionway ladder, facing aft, I’m able to reach over the bridge. I can leverage my lower body off the bulkhead and ladder to lift the bike in and out. Coincidentally, it is also the best approach to remove and replace the cockpit sole. I put the sole on one side of the cockpit and the bike on the other. After trial and error, I was able to find a way to angle the Circus Bike in. It takes some shuffling around of other gear I stow in there, but everything still fits. I add some padding to protect the contact spots.
When do I use it? Having a bike pays off when tied to a dock. As a convenient, time-saving tool, it can be simpler and faster to use the bike and jerry cans to get gasoline for Sampaguita’s outboard than it is to move the boat to a fuel dock. Pumps aren’t always close. I have also seen them broke and stations out of fuel. Grocery runs have been great too. There is no cab fare and no waiting. For example, I was staying at the Orcas Island Yacht Club in West Sound of Orcas Island. There are no services there, but I was able to ride the bike to the village of East Sound, 6 miles away, for fuel and groceries. And the Orcas Island countryside is beautiful.
What else? I needed to top off my propane tank before I headed up to Princess Louisa Inlet one summer. I had aimed to do this in Port Townsend, but the propane station there was out of order. I waited until Nanaimo, thinking there would be some available there, but the closest filling station turned out to be two miles inland. I was informed taxis may consider a propane tank dangerous cargo and refuse service. Since everything on a Flicka is small, I have the 1.4-gallon, tall and slim, Worthington tank. It fits in my backpack. I used the Circus Bike to get to the station and back. It feels a little dangerous, but probably only marginally more dangerous than a car, and it worked great.
Is it only for work? No, not at all, I have explored many an island and peninsula on the Circus Bike just for fun. Lopez, San Juan, Orcas, Stuart, South Pender, to give just a sample. While docked in Prevost Harbor on Stuart Island, I rode the bike six-miles round-trip to the Turn Point Lighthouse. The bike did well, considering the dirt trail/road was more suited for a mountain bike, with its washouts and hills. Without the bike, I wouldn’t have had time to make the trip.
In Egmont, British Columbia, the bike first served for two gas runs to town. Back Eddy Resort’s gas pump, where I was staying, was broken(I don’t need to make this stuff up.) I then used the bike to get most of the way to Skookumchuck Narrows to watch the kayakers ride the standing waves in the Sechelt tidal rapids. From Back Eddy, it was seven miles round trip. Some of it was paved roads, but the park trail was not. It was early in the season, so I was able to ride on the trail without disturbing others. The Circus Bike got me to the rapids in time for the maximum flood and home for the sunset.
What about at anchor? All of my bike experiences have been with Sampaguita tied to a dock. I use an inflatable kayak when at anchor. The kayak is stable, but it doesn’t feel secure for transporting the bike ashore. I have yet to try this since I am nervous about it going in the water. What about the Montgomery? It was too big for long journeys with the Flicka and too tippy for me, so I sold it to buy the kayak.
If you have a small boat and can find an acceptable place to store a bike aboard, it could expand your shoreside possibilities when cruising. Each boat will require its unique approach to storage, but that is part of the fun of messing about. Whether it be for running errands or exploring, you will be able to travel farther and faster. Mine has a bike rack, so I can strap a small jerry can or a box of groceries to it, in addition to wearing a backpack. Folding bikes look a bit weak to an avid rider, but they are surprisingly strong. I have had mine for seven years. Since I reserve its use for cruising on Sampaguita and as a back up for my regular, land-based bike, it has required little maintenance. I have had to add a shim to one of the folding latches, for a more secure fit, and of course, keep the chain lubricated. Since I store it inside out of the elements, salt has not been an issue.
I have a memory of when I was quite young learning to tie my shoes. It was in the front yard of our Five Maples Farm in Pittsfield, New York, next to maple tree number 4. It was my sister who finally drove the lesson home. Not that she was the first to try. I’m pretty sure she was just fed up with tying them for me.
It occurred to me that many people who say they do not know knots, or can’t tie knots, may not be giving themselves enough credit. If we refer to the definitive guide, The Ashley Book of Knots (ABOK), we can find some of the classic functional knots we may have learned at an early age. We did not learn these knots to master marlinspike seamanship, but rather, to self-sufficiently wear a pair of sneakers.
For example, tying our shoes starts as a Half Knot, ABOK #1202. This progresses to the Bowknot listed as #1212. This is the same knot as #1214, which is the universal way to fasten shoestrings. These are bowed versions of the Reef Knot (or Square Knot, if you prefer), #1204, which could be unwittingly tied as a bowed Granny Knot, #1206. The Reef Knot will lay the bow side to side, the Granny Knot, end to end. Landlubbers “double-knot” their shoestrings to keep them from coming untied, or if they are too long, by adding another Half Knot in the two loops. This is actually called the Shoe Clerk’s Knot, #1215. A friend of mine refers to a Double Bunny to achieve a similar result, which I did not find in the ABOK but is just an additional Bowknot made on top of the first.
Most people have laced their shoes too. For me, #2034 and #2038 are standard. I sometimes do a variation of these not represented in ABOK. I am intrigued by #2033 too. #2035 and #2036 have not yet made it into my repertoire. These are crafted for a tidy look sans the bowed knot, but require more effort adjusting and tightening the laces. #2039 achieves a similar facing look as #2033 but is for shoes with an instep.
I would wager that any adult, and most children, who can tie their own shoes can do it with their eyes closed and the repetitions have made them masters. If someone tells you they don’t know knots, have them tie their shoes. Thanks, Sis.