A special thank you to 48 North Magazine for publishing my piece, Exploring Local: Kilisut Harbor, in their February 2021 issue. Kilisut Harbor was my go-to destination for 2020 for reasons I’ll let the essay explain.

You can get a subscription to 48 North Magazine or pick up a free copy at your local chandlery or marina.

There’s also a cool article about a new Maritime High School, and it looks like Sarah Scott bought a new boat too.

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 the link below for 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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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. 

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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.

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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. 

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‘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.

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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.

The Way it Was.
The Way It Is.
Image: John Gussman – https://nosc.org/restoration/kilisut-harbor-restoration-project/

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.

Sampaguita Tows the Kayak

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.

Red and Yellow by Sail – Green by Kayak

Here’s some GoPro video of me transiting the cut: (Caution: This might feel like watching paint dry.)

And Back

My second attempt (actually my third, but #2 was un-noteworthy due to early becalming and retreat) to circumnavigate Indian and Marrowstone Islands entirely under sail with Sampaguita, my Pacific Seacraft 1985 Flicka 20, was a success. 

I departed at 1100 hours, raising the jib as I passed by Boat Haven Fuel Dock. With a full WNW wind and a flooding tide, I sailed down Admiralty Inlet under full sail, making great time. Rounding the southern tip of Marrowstone Island, I tacked up to the entrance of the Port Townsend Ship Canal. 

Marrowstone Point Lighthouse
Full Sail
Wing and Wing

My timing was off, which really meant my departure was a bit too late, and I missed the tidal window by just a few minutes. I was stopped in my tracks halfway through the canal when the current reversed to flood. In combination with a headwind on the nose, it was too much for my full keeled cruiser. With the nature of the local hydraulics, the Admiralty Inlet and Port Townsend Ship Canal currents are not in synchronization, one of the dynamics which makes the trip exclusively under sail challenging. 

Rather than give up and engage the motor, I retreated, dropped the anchor, ate dinner, read a few chapters from Ginnah Howard’s book, Doing Time Outside, and snoozed. I just had to wait it out.

At Anchor
At Anchor

With the evening getting on, I pulled up the anchor and tacked back and forth at the entrance of the Port Townsend Ship Canal. I challenged the current, waiting for it to wane just enough to allow me in. With less than three hundred feet of width in the canal, tacking was early and often. I could hold my own, and even make a bit of headway with the sails powered up. But each time I tacked, the current would sweep me back.


Approaching Port Townsend Ship Canal

Around 2100 hours, I was able to make my move. Avoiding the riprap, the shallow edges, the bridge pilings, and the day markers, I short tacked my way through the canal around slack water. 

A gusting wind on the north side asked for a reef in the main, but the direction was nearly optimal. Only two tacks were required to make a beeline for Boat Haven and avoid the flashing blue lights of the Indian Island Navy Patrol Boats.

With fading twilight and a last-minute second reef as I close-hauled up the breakwater, I closed the circle at the entrance of Boat Haven. I dropped the sails and pulled into the slip as the Port Townsend bell tower struck the 11th hour. 

I was pleased to succeed but would have preferred to have had better timing and a faster journey. I suppose I’ll have to give it another go.

Trip Odometer – 29.31 NM, Max. Speed – 6.2 kts., Moving Ave. – 3.1 kts, Moving Time – 9 hours, 20 minutes, Total Time – 12 hours

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. 

Here is a link: https://www.sailmagazine.com/diy/know-how-marlinspike-seamanship-in-the-arctic

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.