In addition to Race to Alaska prep, this past winter and spring also included work on a boatbuilding project. When the trip out west for the r2ak had to be called off, it was quite a bit of consolation to turn full focus to working on this closer-to-home effort. Balancing both projects was a bit much, and dividing the blog across the two of them seemed particularly chaotic, so I didn’t. But it did feel like I was leaving out quite a bit of the story, and I’m glad to be coming to it now. On the plus side, readers get to see a whole lot of progress all at once, rather than waiting for gradual installments!

A couple of years ago at the end of the sailing season, folks might recall that for a period of time I had decided I was completely done, as far as boats. That feeling lasted intact until about March of the following spring. Then, on a comparatively warm spring day – probably meaning about 40°F – sitting by the bay and looking out from the trees I had the small stirrings of a little bit of an itch to be on the water again. This was in contrast to the entire winter of clearly feeling that I was completely happy to see the ocean, ongoing, from a nice perch on solid ground.

When this stirring happened, it led to the question of what felt different. What was the pull, and what were the parts in which I no longer had any interest whatsoever, that had led to my grand decision about coming ashore. Two things came to mind: fear of rocks, and being completely over the various discomforts of sailing and sailboats.

Fear of rocks did not mean just any rocks. It meant big rocks with substantial waves breaking on them, the kind that can smash boats; that are so unforgiving in the face of miscalculations and mistakes related to tide, current, wind, and so many other details. The kind of rocks that test your seamanship, in keeping those rocks beautiful and interesting at an appropriately safe distance, and that keep a person up at night, checking to see that anchors have held, in an unexpected wind shift, or sailing away at two in the morning. I was tired of that worry, and of the constant underlying tension that is an appropriate part of keeping boat and crew well and safe, in the face of the multitude of shifting variables that are also what make boats and sailing so interesting.

Looking out on that day in March, at our protected Joy Bay, it occurred to me that I could be floating in beautiful places well away from breaking waves. Following that thought, like a thin thread down a path, it occurred to me that boats designed for protected coves can be comfortable. Full headroom, space to walk around, shelter from the sun and rain, and room to sit visiting with friends who are also comfortable. In chairs.

What I was describing in my mind was a “party boat.” Like those craft with aluminum pontoons, and awnings, and people enjoying a nice day on the lake. However, the vision of aluminum pontoons settling on a small but perhaps jagged rock when the tide goes out really took the fun out of that mental image. Still, the wide-open deck, and sun and rain protection, fit the bill precisely. It reminded me of the workboats that I have admired up and down the coast: barges with a pilothouse, used for everything from setting and pulling moorings, to driving piles, to carrying work or fishing gear from one place to another. What was so appealing was the deck space, the shelter that was as simple as going through a door, all on deck level, and, because I am a homegrown engineering nerd, the lifting boom/crane, for doing all manner of projects. Added to all of this, I do still like the idea of sailing, to get from one place to another.

Next thing you know, especially after conversations with Dave Zeiger of, a boat plan was taking shape that would address this entire wish list. Bonus, Triloboats can be seriously sturdy. With copper sheet on the flat bottom, there are no maintenance issues to do with bottom paint, and the plywood construction has extra protection in case of the aforementioned possibilities of the tide letting the boat down on something other than plain mud or sand.

A high tabernacle, built sturdily, turned out to be acceptable to the folks who know the design issues. This allowed for the addition of a mast with a comparatively small sail that would clear the cabin, and would work for sailing downwind and across the wind, as well as for letting the mast down for travel underneath bridges, and raising it easily afterwards. Upwind possibilities remain to be seen, but the design goals for travel involve timing with the weather, and an electric motor with a substantial battery supply for mild upwind work. Leeboards were originally considered a possible later addition, but have now been included in the original building plans. This goes a long way to decrease worries about possible tracking and turning problems, as well as likely expanding the boat’s sailing capabilities.

About a year and a half ago this idea developed into a foamcore model.

Studying the model solidified my sense that what had happened was not that I was indeed permanently done sailing, but that my interests had evolved, and that I had grown into a different boat. I love AUKLET, for all of the boat’s capabilities and strengths, and for all the incredible time that we have spent. But for where things are now, it’s not the right craft. This might change, and AUKLET is not nearly up for sale, but we are now well down the path of the “next boat.”

Construction of GREAT AUK began this spring, at a small boatyard in Sorrento, Maine, about a 20 minute trip by road from where I live. Triloboats are easy to build, being designed for quick construction. It’s quite possible that the boatyard work will be done sometime next month, in August, and GREAT AUK will come here where we can complete rigging, and do the wiring for the electric motor system. It’s all quite exciting, and the next post will catch up on details of the build. It’s actually very close to done. I couldn’t be more thrilled.
[Photo: Jon Mickel]
[Photo: Suzanne Jean]



GREAT AUK’s design is a variation on Dave Zeiger’s SHANTY T24x8 Triloboat design, which can be seen here (once on this page, click on the link for SHANTY):

The GREAT AUK model was built by Chipper Daley, of Gouldsboro, Maine.

Detailed drawings are by Christopher Lariviere, owner of West Cove Boat Yard, Sorrento, Maine.

My very great thanks go to Dave Zeiger, Chipper Daley, Jon Mickel and Christopher Lariviere for all of their help in working out the details of this design. It’s been such a great process figuring it out together. Looking forward to seeing it float!

I’d also like to acknowledge the various friends who have talked with me about the design, and have led to it being a better boat: Suzanne Jean, Anke Wagner, Tim Pfeiffer, Chubba Kane, Annie Hill, Joanne Moesswilde, Janet Mascaro, Barbara Stone, Janine Georgette, Annie Keough, Peggy Drake, Warren Elliott, and Dave and Jeannie McDermott. Thank you all, for so many good “boat” conversations!

And many thanks to everybody at West Cove Boat Yard who have been building the boat. Special thanks to Jon Mickel, service manager at the boatyard, who has been doing so much to coordinate the project.