Saturday, August 29, 2015

Virginia, Maryland, Delaware ... Ducker

As the summer winds down, the days have been quite pleasant here in Virginia of late. So why go to Maryland? Because there in St. Michaels you can find a Delaware Ducker. A fairly rare bird, there are actually several at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. One you may even rent by the hour for $30. On Fridays you may get and extra hour for the same ticket. So, we went for a 2 hour cruise.

But to back up, long before I became a canoe stern addict, I had seen Thomas Eakins' painting, "Starting Out After Rail". I half thought the boat was fictitious. However, Eakins had made her look so right that I dreamed maybe such a boat existed.
Starting Out After Rail
Also, on previous visits to CBMM over the years, I'd often pause to stare at a simple moss colored skiff tucked under a shed. Seemingly cast off almost, I half thought they were on their way out or one step from a bonfire.
elegant deck beam

Only recently did the pieces of the puzzle begin to fit when I had saw photos of a boat built by Dan Sutherland at the Museum. Investigation revealed these craft to be versions of the Delaware Ducker.

Dan's boat
My edition of Howard Chapelle's American Small Sailing Craft describes this 16' boat as "a lightly built double-ended skiff" used by "market-gunners of the lower Delaware". The models varied little and were "exactly alike at both ends and were slack-bilged". A two men boat, this canoe features 

Forest and Stream: April 21, 1887
Much more history and detail are written by Ben Fuller in WoodenBoat Issue 48 and in their Small Boats issue 2010. The better documented models are the Greenbriar and York. The latter has a tad more stability in a slight turn to the bilge. I sailed the former. On with the show. After sorting out the rig's tangled lines, we shoved off in light breeze. The boat was quick to move. 

Selena II. A large Crosby design catboat.

the museum's Hooper Straight Light and Skipjack
In the light breezes we were sailing around Selena II. Her current captain is the original boat owner's grand daughter.

Sitting in the aft portion of the cockpit I was surprised at how balanced the boat was. Both sail and board are way forward. The steering was quite easy on all points. After 1.5 hrs we returned to the pier, left the rig, and went rowing. Again, the boat moved almost effortlessly. She is the best boat I've rowed really.

the 1888 Lawley designed 30' cutter "Elf"

Back at the pier I took detail photos of the skiff.

floors and sheet block

in the bow

rudder and tiller

Wanting to beat the traffic home, I was quickly on the road, but not before checking out "Greenbriar". Hanging in the shop rafters, I got a few pics of her up close.

The 3.5 hr trip home was well worth the visit. Wouldn't this be a great winter project?

It was a great day. Ducker on the left.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Melonseed Marginalia

Some of the best rewards from "messing about in boats" are the people one meets that become friends. One guy I've met along the way started from a long chain of email correspondences over the Melonseed skiff, a late 19th century New Jersey gunning boat. This fellow had built 2 simultaneously in his basement. They are pieces of furniture as the saying goes. A high standard for sure, but Barry isn't afraid to use his works of art. He and I got to share each others boats a few weeks ago.  His write up of our sail and his blog are here. Enjoy!

Barry and his Melonseed "Aeon".

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Mobjack, Ware, East

Yesterday was fantastic. My oldest boy is just back from working at a dude ranch this summer, and like music to my ears, he asked to go sailing. I couldn't think of a better idea. He got no protest from this old sailor. We went and had one of those rare August days, easy temps, good breeze, and a lunch in the cooler. Darn near perfect.


We're still struggling with getting Luna out of her berth when driving NE winds force her back in. This go-round we used our small 2hp Honda thinking its ability to swivel 180 degrees would provide reversing action and drag us out of the slip. Initially successful, the progress degraded as the wind won by grabbing the stern. We had no real steerage. So, like last outing we docked on the outer berth, but this time with jib and jigger we slipped to weather past a crumbling wharf and into the clear.

"Dory": a Cape Dory 28
Aside from a marina mate, "Dory", there were no boats out there. With winds 12-15 kts we rushed out of East River on a run, jibed and sailed to port out past New Point. There it got windy (18-20 kts) and lumpy quick. The standing NE wind bucked outgoing tide producing short, quick 6' seas. Reefing the main settled things down. Dropping the main altogether may have been a better decision. After 20 minutes of taking our lumps, we turned back into Mobjack and reached far up into the Ware River. Pretty. I look forward to seeing this river in the Fall.


As we turned, the crew was quick to catch up on shut eye.

The reach was strong across Mobjack into Ware River.
wet decks

sweet rig
slicing through 


my good buddy

The day ended with a beat back up the East River watching the sunset. As I said, a fantastic day.

no complaints.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Patient Lady

One evening in Maine at the Small Reach Regatta, I got the opportunity to introduce my girl to some of the "riff-raff". Only after walking away from some introductions did I hear my buddy Mike say, "There goes a patient lady". I laughed, and then, I didn't. What was he implying? I think I know. I'm blessed.

More recently, over the past10 days I'd been watching for a weather window and saw predictions for a day that seemed ideal for August in Virginia. 82 degrees, sunny with NE winds at 5-10 mph. I wanted things to be as perfect as they could to introduce my number 1 girl to girl number 2. As luck would have it, the winds were virtually non existent, but the acquaintance was made and I think a friendship struck. Guess they'll start trading tales?

my cowgirl and Luna.

Our actual moments of sailing were fleeting.  Several porpoise entertained us as we drifted up river. They were chasing bait fish along our way. For the most part, it was a flat day, but ... on a boat ... no harm.

Dwindling breeze
To be enjoyed, the outing demanded patience. You had to pause and take in the lovely view. Luna made the best out of the wisps of air. She continually impresses. Like Una, her hull is so easily driven. And just like a dinghy, Luna is small enough that shifting our bodies to leeward helps shape the sails. That's all she needed. She loves to sail.

Schedules intruded calling us back home mid afternoon. No sooner had we tied to the dock, the breeze began to fill in. Still, all in all it was a pleasant afternoon. I'm glad the girls met. As always, it's tough to leave either.

Office view toward Mobjack Bay.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Three Boats, Three Sails, One Day

It is not often one gets to go sailing. It is rarer still to sail three different boats in a single day, but that is what happened this past Sunday. Sailing in the early morning was fantastic with Luna up East River. The boys and I then trucked across Mathews County to meet Barry at Freeport Landing. Upstream from the Route 3 bridge on the Piankatank, a private ramp and pier exist now where once a long gone ferry landing was. A $5 honor system allows you acess. A few boats, some more neglected than others rest in sheds along the loop drive in front of a 2-story building. Known as the Freeport Store, it was once the "overnight" building for the Piankatank Steamship Line before ending in 1932 when the automobile eclipsed the ferry's need.

A nice view of the surrounds is in Barry's blog from an earlier visit. He really captures the feel of the place. It was his idea to meet there and I'm glad we did. Aside from a few always annoying jets skis, you couldn't pick a better place for a Sunday sail. Winds were light and temperatures in the low 80's. The boys and I launched UNA and chased after Barry's midnight blue Melonseed named "Aeon". 

cross tacking.
Barry built two such boats at once in his basement. Talk about pieces of furniture! He lovingly thought about every detail, some I'm sure he borrowed, but others I know he created. All in all, these elegant boats are truly something to gaze at.

Farmer Brown and the paparazzi.

I wish I had taken closer pics, but the day was just about messing about in boats as we slid from shore to shore, looking for that ideal shack and pier along the water's edge. Several met the mark.

Ideal place. Just sink the jet ski.
Luna took us for a morning sail, Una carried us through the afternoon, and I got to take Aeon for a tail end sail. Just me and a small boat. That's sailing at its essence. Toes dragging in the water as we slid along. I felt like 9 years old again. Thanks Barry!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Woodas Creek

The heat dropped and the couple days of rain gave way to a strong NE wind this past Saturday. We decided to go sailing. With my two youngest boys as crew, we hitched up UNA and a couple kayaks and headed down to Mobjack to see Luna. Coaxing her from her berth posed a problem. Winds were in the upper teens and pinned us into the slip. Our little engine that can, a 5.5 hp Seagull ( yes, that's the original one), couldn't on this day as she has no reverse. Never did. We had to warp Luna from her berth to an outer pier 2 slips down.

Prior to first attempt.
With a hardy shove of the bow to windward and full forward throttle engaged we headed out, or so we thought. The wind would not allow Luna to take her bow to weather and we glided back past our slip and headed for the rocks. I immediately cut the engine and ran forward to jump from the bow onto the marina's rip-rap saving us from striking. Somehow we avoided any damage (other than ego). Not a scratch. We coaxed Luna back in a vacant slip. That is something impossible to have said with a 42' boat. 6,500 # is a far cry from Emily's 22,000#.  Undeterred, we sat and pondered for 30 minutes or so before the next attempt.
The pondering pause. Seagull ready. Nice stem!
I figured not only had we not gotten past the eye of the wind, but we really had no steerage.This time we waited for a momentary wind decrease, got the engine rolling, slingshot the stern with her docile while a stronger shove of the bow passed it through the eye and we were free. (I'm still not satisfied with this technique ad will figure out a better answer). Once out in the river we raised the mizzen and jib to sail up river. I've said it before, but I'm continually amazed at the increased cruising grounds in a boat that only draws 4'. We scouted both the east and western branches of the East River. Selecting the western end, we dropped anchor in the mouth of Woodas Creek.

Fetch up Woods Creek. Perfect evening.
There was still enough fetch to the NE to allow for knocking down bugs. We swam, scrubbed the bottom (the Hydrocoat is performing well), had cocktails and hors d'oeuvres, "dined" on black beans and rice, played cards, and watched the sun set.

First mate and mate 1.1.

A good find in Maine from Texas.

Mate 1.1 beat the skipper in gin. How he did it with 5 aces, I don't know. Incredible. First mate had hurt his back. He mostly lay in the cockpit reading. Accordingly his rank was in jeopardy. He didn't seem to mind.
Sancho Panza and First Mate taking his siesta.

We watched stars in the cockpit under our new oil lantern. It is a W. T. Kirkman #350 "Little Giant" and functions so much better than the Chinese brands we've used. They may look the same, but that's it. This model has a larger tank and nice wide base. The light is very clean burning and consistent.

1.1 exudes his winning card playing smugness.

Wonderful scenery.
Dropping sun.

W.T. Kirkman in action.
We all slept well. The evening was cool. Luna's deep ballast hardy gives notice to the slight wavelets pushing down the creek. One sailor berthed in the cockpit on an air mattress and 2 slumbered below. For some reason I awoke at 1:00 am and caught sight of a brilliant falling star.

Breakfast was simple, if not nutritious. Donuts, milk and later, oranges. A short 8:00 am sail further up river was sparkling. However, by 9:15 all went glassy and we fired up the outboard after getting past flooding it. Shutting off the fuel flow and 7 pulls later, we were rolling along back to the pier when the engine sagged and died. No more fuel. Had planned to go sailing, not motoring, and had left the extra fuel in the back of the truck. With only a tenth of a mile to go, we raised the jib and mizzen to creep back to the marina and into the slip. Nice and easy. No sails would have been needed yesterday. It was a short trip, but a fine trip.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

One Ocean Kayak's "Cirrus SLT"

Last September I gave my youngest boy plans to build a kayak. Designed by Vaclav Stejskal of One Ocean Kayaks, the Cirrus SLT is perhaps the best design I've seen for a growing 11 yr old boy. Now almost 12, he and I started the stitch and glue boat almost 5 months ago. With part time attention, today marked the boat's maiden voyage. Named "Bob", we we had a fun time paddling up a portion of the James River for lunch and returned.

Bob and paddler. Happy Birthday (10 months later).

Here's Vaclav's description of the kayak. I heartily agree.

This is a kid's first dream kayak with serious grown up performance that they will not so easily outgrow. At mere 28lb it is just about the lightest kayak of it's type available, even lighter than genuine racing kayaks. It was designed with great care to inherit all the nice tracking, efficiency and stability behavior from its parent design the Cirrus. The Cirrus SLT could also be the ideal craft in which to introduce your youngster to the joys of paddling in nature and perhaps even some practical woodworking skills in your shop; definitely a memorable building experience for both kids and the "adults". The size of the kayak makes building possible in the smallest of shops and garages. Even shop teachers and Scouts now have a kayak that is basically dedicated for paddlers from 88 to 145lb and under 5'6"in height. 

I'll have to say that this site has all the performance data you could possibly want. The rolled plans could not have been better for a scratch build. The full-sized paper templates worked great. We scored the plywood with a utility knife, cut close to the mark with the jig saw, and made the final trimming with a small hand plane. The stitched panels were dead on. Aside from that, the boat's rolled deck and Pettit Ocean Blue paint look great.

Some construction photos follow here:

Hull wired in cradle with molds.

Deck added.

Close up of deck. Copper wire and hot melt stitches.

Test fit to the user.
Taped edges for clean glass trimming.
Set up for epoxy end pour.
We have maybe $450 in plans and materials. Its all been worth it. The final product beats any roto-molded boat "bottle" by miles. My buddy can really zip along.

Passed a couple crewed shells.
The "Real Feel" temp was 102. Casting along in the shade was significantly cooler. Saw bass, brim, and gar. Water was done and pretty clear. We had a PBJ lunch on the bank before turning around.

We skirted the south shore in the shade.
Finally used my homemade and collapsible dolly. It worked great. A strap (not shown) holds the hull down. Pulled by the nose, now we can load the boat like a wheelbarrow and truck to the water's edge.

My homemade dolly.

Also ordered some stickers for the name plate.

I loved the grin on my boy as he rolled along. We're looking forward to some overnight trekking this Fall. Heck, I may have trouble keeping up with this water bug!