Shanty Progress

The Next Boat has come a long way since the last writing. There has been test launching, and work on both motor and mast raising systems.

Photo credit: Jon Mickel

GREAT AUK has gone into the water once so far, for the purpose of testing the rudder and electric outboard. The leeboards – which are simple plywood prototypes – were also tested, though not under sail. Still, with that flat bottom in a crosswind the boards made a huge difference with holding course. The boat tracks pretty well, with or without the boards down, but in a crosswind putting them down makes a major difference in leeway even under power. That big cabin is quite a sail in its own right.

We positioned the motor off to the side quite a bit, in order to avoid unhappy clashes between propeller and rudder. Photo credit: Suzanne Jean

This arrangement is not ideal for steering, requiring turning the rudder a good bit in order to steer straight, or turning the motor quite a bit to compensate for that side position; either approach wastes a lot of power. The possibility of a second motor to be mounted on the other side of the stern, to balance everything out, is under serious consideration. It has been pointed out to me – thank you Tim – that a second motor would also really improve control for getting in and out of docks, given all the windage on this boat. A decision will be made before the big 10% spring sale at Defender Marine (nope, not receiving anything for that mention).

Those studying the above photo carefully might also notice that the motor really is not deep enough in the water. The bracket has since been moved down.

One of the other interesting motor issues, discovered in that big test, has been the enormous strength of the springs in the motor bracket. This bracket was chosen because it has the greatest range of travel, moving the motor up and down by about 15 inches, to get the motor out of the water when it’s not in use, and deep enough down when it is. But the bracket is designed for enormous heavy gasoline outboards that can weigh as much as 150 pounds. With a 40 pound Torqeedo on that bracket, pushing the motor down against the springs and into its operating position required two strong boatyard guys, and even for them it was awkward and difficult.

After a good bit of puzzling by everybody, my friend Tim suggested removing the springs entirely, which seemed ideal; this just left the question of how to remove them – not always a simple proposition, with heavy springs under tension. Christopher, who runs the boatyard, came up with the idea of carefully and evenly grinding the coils of each spring, side to side, until it became thin enough to completely relax. This worked well, without drama. There were two springs, and the second one was ground and removed in the same way. Now the bracket can be operated with a handy billy, a small block and tackle fastened to the back of the cabin top overhang, for lifting the motor and bracket into its upper storage position and for letting it down.

I do want to emphasize, in case anybody thinks about trying this themselves, that strong springs can be extremely hazardous. Wear a face shield! And I’m not recommending this at all… Just saying what we did. This was a “torsion spring” – the approach may be completely inappropriate for springs that work in other directions.

Meanwhile, since that first water test the mast has been installed on the tabernacle, along with a worm gear winch for raising and lowering. Photo credit: Suzanne Jean [That’s Christopher, doing the honors.]

I’m quite happy about this arrangement. It’s incredibly easy to put the mast up and down, which means that going under low bridges will be very straightforward. That will come in handy, in protected coastal waters for which the boat is designed. Canals have also been mentioned…

The mast winch has a gear ratio of 30:1, which is more than needed, but appeared to be the only option for a winch using a worm gear rather than ratchets (ratcheting winches are the kind generally seen on boat trailers). The worm gear is especially appealing for good control when lowering the mast. You have to crank it down, as well as up, but this also means that the mast will not fall, and it will not spin the winch handle if somebody lets go – there is so much friction in a worm gear, that it holds itself in place whenever the handle is not being turned. Previous dramas with boat trailer winches and wildly freewheeling handles, especially when launching, were high in mind when putting this together. Again thanks to Christopher, in this design process. That worm gear was a brilliant suggestion.

Best of all, this winch can also be turned with a cordless drill. This comes in handy, because the downside of a 30:1 gear ratio is the zillion number of times the crank must be turned in order to carry out the operation. Here’s the link for the winch that we got:
and the attachment so you can use a cordless drill:

And here’s the link for the slightly more expensive winch version that has the hex shaft already built in. We got another one of these winches for moving things at home, after seeing how well the one for the mast worked. If I were doing it over, the second one with the built in hex shaft is what I would put on the boat too. The biggest advantage of this second one is that the crank comes off easily when you are not using it, along with the low fuss connection for using a drill to turn it.

Neither of these winches is technically a saltwater piece of equipment. But they are powder coated, and expected to be used outdoors. It’s an experiment, seeing how this will hold up. Healthy doses of lanolin spray lubricant are part of the plan.

Turning these winches with a drill also involves having a “socket adapter” that makes it possible to attach a regular ratchet wrench socket to the drill. It’s a simple gadget – and surprisingly hard to replicate with stuff around the house. Here’s an example: They are widely available, once you know what you’re looking for.

Just to be clear, I’m not receiving anything from anybody for sharing the links above – they are included for readers’ convenience, in case anybody wants to find this stuff, or would just like to see more pictures to illustrate the discussion.

The mast swings up and down on a 1/2 inch stainless pin that goes crossways through the tabernacle. We ended up needing to put the hole for that pin a little close to the forward edge of the tabernacle, so a couple of bronze straps have been added, in hopes of preventing catastrophe in case of a hard knock. Once the mast is up, a lower retaining pin holds it in place. The mast is raked forward, as is typical for a junk rig. Photo credit: Suzanne Jean Photo credit: Suzanne Jean

So that’s where we are now. The cabin was getting a berth, a couple of days ago: Photo credit: Suzanne Jean

Photos of the entire construction process can be seen on this smugmug photo page, which is periodically updated (click on the photo below to open the smugmug page – for some reason the link is not shown as text):
The orange stuff is protecting the new paint while work goes on. The two battery banks for the 48 V Torqeedo 4.0 outboard motor are visible below deck.

There are captions below those smugmug photos, if you look down a little extra, for anybody who wants more information about them.

The sail is being borrowed from AUKLET, but rigging won’t happen until the spring when the boat goes into the water in Joy Bay. The boat will be spending the winter at the boatyard. This will allow for some more work to take place over there, and will keep it safe from falling trees that could be an issue in the place where we could park it here at home.

Spring can’t come soon enough!

Photo credit: Jon Mickel


Thanks to Bill Whalen for this post getting done… “Blog you must.” ;-)

The Next Boat

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.


Fatigue and Seamanship

[Photo: Kent Mullikin]

[This post was mostly written about three years ago, but did not make it onto the blog until now. In hopes that it might be pertinent, and perhaps useful, to Race to Alaska participants, this has seemed like the perfect time to put it up.]

Sometime in 2016

The subject of fatigue has come up before in this blog, and now here it is again from this last trip in the Peep Hen, SERENITY. I’m not talking here about general, everyday tiredness, or sleepiness, or health issues, but rather about the broader impact of lack of sufficient rest when it comes to seamanship.

Specific effects of fatigue as it relates to seamanship involve impairments in several functions: decision-making; mental processing ability, including the time required for that mental processing; and the ability to hold multiple aspects of one’s surroundings in mind at the same time, or “situational awareness.” Lack of sleep, or of quality sleep, is the most obvious source of this kind of fatigue, but extended, continuous strain, for example from long hours of tricky navigation, and/or challenging weather, can also contribute significantly.

On this past trip, I came away understanding that my cruising routine has substantial room for improvement in the area of getting enough sleep, as well as with prioritizing something like regular eating. Both of these are more complicated in the Peep Hen than they are aboard AUKLET. For one thing, SERENITY is not nearly as forgiving in an uncomfortable anchorage. For the same size waves, with SERENITY being so much smaller, and flat bottomed, there is quite a bit more motion, compared to AUKLET, and it takes a good bit of getting used to. Buzzy-headed seasickness while at anchor was a new experience for me, which included waking up in the morning with no inclination for eating, for most of the day.

Additionally, eating itself is complicated in SERENITY, while underway. Having no electronic self steering is satisfying, and I enjoy being off for weeks on a boat with no 12 volt electrical system, but there is a price to be paid for that simplicity. In a fairly broad range of conditions, the boat will steer itself with the tiller lashed and the sail and centerboard adjusted just so. But being such a small boat, as soon you shift your weight – say, to go into the cabin to get some food – the balance is completely disrupted, and off the boat goes in a different direction. In open water and minimal traffic this doesn’t matter as far as running into anything, but it can really make a dent in progress with a nice breeze. Often enough, I’d opt for waiting until sometime later to eat… Which often led to “sometime later” meaning after anchoring at the end of the day. A better organized individual – which I hope to become – would be placing midday food in the cockpit before raising the anchor. (I did get better at this.)

As for sleep, my sense of how to plan for a truly serene anchorage in SERENITY is developing. That will go some way toward improving the quality of sleep that is achieved; there is still the issue of quantity. Sailing a distance – say, to go the 60 or so miles to visit in Penobscot Bay from Gouldsboro – involves working with the tides. If the tide starts going the right way in the early morning, that can easily mean waking up at 3 AM. If you read the little clock wrong, and you think it says that the time is 0245, but you missed the microscopic “1” at the front, it’s a sad moment an hour later when you find out that you started your morning not all that long after midnight! Somehow, this happened twice on this trip (yes, I should be using the clock with the giant numbers). In combination with a string of already early days, those extra-early mornings put a real dent in the overall sleep tally. In spite of this, it can be very hard to decline a good tide and a fair wind, and off I would be again, first thing in the next almost-day, with only the occasional periods of time completely off.

The effects of these patterns of missed sleep are cumulative. There is fascinating reading in the book, Bridge Resource Management for Small Ships, by Daniel Parrott, on this subject (link is included for readers’ convenience – I’m not receiving anything from it). The book was written for larger commercial shipping captains and crew, such as folks on ferries and tugs, but a tremendous amount of it is relevant for the small boat sailor, and I recommend it highly. Among other things, the author discusses the deterioration of abilities that comes with lack of sleep, and the necessity for those lost hours to be recovered, in order to thoroughly regain one’s abilities.

On this trip, nothing dire happened as a result of all that missing sleep. But there was an event that I spent some time pondering over, and eventually recognized as exactly the outcome of this kind of shortage of rest.

While visiting with friends, and the night before having had an actual good, restful night for the first time in a little while, I was not thinking about any of the above issues. As the day unfolded, I was presented with a sailing situation that was unfamiliar, and that would have benefited from a simple, straightforward adjustment to the plan that had already been made. This would have saved my friend in the dinghy a lot of rowing! And my other friend on the shore from having to watch the craziness of what unfolded.

Oddly enough, considering that what I do is small sailboat cruising, more or less without a motor, I’m a creature of habit. The sailing thing works for me because of the ridiculous amount of time I spend thinking through how this or that maneuver, or process, or situation might be going to unfold. Sailing keeps life interesting, because of course there are multitudes of events that do not go according to how one might have thought, and then one gets to think through how to handle a similar situation in the future, for a more desirable outcome. In a perfect world, the cumulative effect of all that thinking would result in a certain amount of flexibility, applying previous knowledge and understandings to new situations, and arriving at the preferred approach the first time through.

This is where the effects of fatigue come in. Addressing new situations involves both thought processing, and a certain amount of speed for that processing, in order to come up with an appropriate decision within the timeframe of the event that is taking place. The dullness of thinking that is the trademark of lack of adequate rest can appear in such novel ways!

This particular situation developed from a planned stop at a half-tide dock, with the tide now falling, and the time having come to depart, before the boat would be aground. A lovely visit had been had, and departure was going forward in order, with the idea that I would anchor in the more protected corner of the cove some distance away. Another friend had been delayed, and was unable to come over for this rare visit before the tide made it necessary to go off. There was discussion that I would go anchor, and the other friend could row out in the dinghy later on.

About the time that the boat was away and under sail, there this friend was on the dock, and shortly afterward, as I was sailing down the cove, I could see that he was setting out, rowing in the dinghy. He has been very kind in accepting my apologies for what happened next! With a perfectly nice, mild breeze, and myself stuck in the plan that I would anchor and we would visit, for a ridiculous amount of time I continued tacking toward the anchoring spot. This with my friend (in his 70s) rowing – into the wind, no less – following at a distance much too far for talking. He has gallantly, and kindly, maintained that he really wanted to get a feel for more distance rowing of this particular dinghy, which our friend, the owner of this Peapod, is so pleased with for its rowing abilities. That opportunity has certainly been had, much to my chagrin. Watching from shore must’ve been even worse than rowing.

At the time, I thought, “There’s a right answer to this question, and I don’t know what it is.” After a bit, I finally hove to, my friend caught up with me, and as the two boats had started to drift toward the rocky shore we had some fun sailing away from it, the dinghy held alongside the Peep Hen as we sailed, and then tacking toward that anchorage goal. Of course, good sense might have dictated that once we were away from the hazard of the shore, we could have again heaved to, and had a peaceful few minutes visit until, being on a tight schedule, he needed to head back to the dock. Alas, this was another flexibility in plans that did not occur to me until later.

The right answer in that situation was that there was a perfectly fine, mild sailing breeze, showing no signs of imminent demise – and I was in a sailboat. There were no time considerations on my end, and no tide considerations. It would have been perfectly easy, and fun, and nice, to have sailed right back to that dinghy, as soon as it became clear what was happening. Conversation could have been had about the best next step – given the timing of the moment, probably heaving to together for a visit, and then each of us going to our appointed destinations. With fewer time constraints, my friend might have climbed into SERENITY, and we might have towed the dinghy, anchored, and visited until it was time for him to row back to the dock. Or if the climb was pesky, SERENITY could have easily towed the dinghy with my friend in it back to the anchoring spot.

Of course, the sensible approach is not what happened. It all worked out, if with a ridiculously thorough rowing test of the Peapod, and many wishes on my part for having done things differently. It took about two days for me to realize that, in fact, the unfolding of that event was a classic fatigue issue. There was a perfectly sensible resolution to what was for me an unfamiliar situation. That resolution included the need for a change in plan. As well, the pace of the unfolding situation required processing speed that I was not able to muster.

There have been times when I have declared myself “grounded,” as far as sailing any further, until I have rested enough to feel properly functional again. In the past, my criteria for staying put have included certain levels of not being able to solve basic navigational math problems in my head, or observing myself with noticeably slowed thinking and action for everyday routines. This last can be seen in tasks as simple as basic dental care or food preparation, and a rather surreal sense of slow-motion.

From the above rowing/sailing experience, I am coming to understand that my “fatigue evaluation criteria” need to be adjusted, to be somewhat broader. I now see that there is a middle ground where one is basically functional, but noticeably compromised for adjusting to unfamiliar situations. Also of note is that one good night’s sleep can be exactly what puts a person into that second category. Typically one thinks, “now I am rested,” after that first good night – but my experience has been that the day after that first good rest is when fatigue issues that are the result of the longer, cumulative deficit can especially lead to impaired functioning. It’s counterintuitive, after that good night’s sleep, but I have learned to watch for it.

The cost of the above experience was embarrassment and chagrin on my part, and hopefully no blisters or other effects for my rowing friend – as well as discomfort, I am sure, for the friend on shore, observing all of this. In the grand scheme of things, one would like it to be different, but, so far as I know, there was no serious harm done. The lesson, however, is about what could happen with the same degree of being compromised by fatigue, in a situation with higher stakes for the boat or boats, or their occupants. I am now, again, putting serious thought to the question of managing rest.

Boats are often uncomfortable; one adjusts to living with a certain amount of discomfort, and often simply ignoring it. But the discomfort of fatigue is not so simple as ignoring it and going on. For the safety of the entire operation, it’s important to say, “oh, this is *significant* fatigue discomfort – it’s time to stop!” This isn’t so easy to do, with a perfect wind, but it looks like it’s time for me to develop that ability. And at bare minimum, knowing that one is in that condition of “fatigue impairment,” it’s possible to be particularly vigilant for its effects.

A lot of this could be looked at as a singlehanding issue, and partly it is. But managing fatigue is important for everybody in a sailboat, and opportunities for fatigue abound. It’s my hope that by writing out this pesky tale, perhaps it will resonate with other sailors, and contribute to the idea of managing rest, toward the safety of all of us.


[Woodblock print: Dave McDermott]

r2ak go/no go…

[Photo: Shemaya Laurel]

Well, the sad report is that as our go/no go decision date of May 1st approached, I did a serious evaluation of the prospect of the cross-country car trip. There were benchmarks that I needed to reach, to pull this off, as far as so very many hours – and days – of car riding that would be involved in crossing the country. I’m sad to say that those benchmarks were so very far off that the conclusion was unequivocal, and I pulled the plug on AUKLET’s 2019 r2ak run, a couple of days before the 1st.

This has been sad for so many reasons: the sailing itself, through such wild countryside, and even more the tremendous community that is such a big part of the race. The contact with other racers is a treasure, and the enthusiasm of everybody – from marina staff and B&B operators to friends and family – when one says that one is signed up for the race is so incredibly much fun. I know for sure that all of this would be multiplied many times over, being actually there to do the race, and as it unfolds. I miss going forward with this, so much.

It was always a long shot, the possibility of pulling this off. The absolute miracle is how far it got: boat transport arranged; a full crew of dear friends signed on to help with my own travel; the boat, trailer, and minivan all in order enough that we could have completed it in time for the various departures. Crew for the first part of the race, and help with getting the boat rigged and in order in Port Townsend. All of these things fell into place, one by one, making this possibility very real.

On the bright side, in spite of this change, the organization for all of this is not lost. The boat is ready to go, and the trailer as well, with only small items still on the list. Unknowns have been resolved, in everything from where the boat would arrive in Port Townsend, to where it would stay before I got there, and where it and I would stay once it was floating. Huge questionmarks about requirements for meetings, and the pesky stairs, were all beautifully resolved with Daniel, the Race Boss, in a way that only added to the feeling of welcome and possibility. Transportation questions for folks coming and going, as part of helping with the team effort, were almost entirely clarified, as well as great headway being made on places for everybody to stay. If this gets tried again, so much is now sorted out.

It’s a good rehab goal, the prospect of riding across the country with enough comfort and stamina to make it doable. Although it was not possible to meet that goal in this timeframe, headway was made, and much fun has been had in the effort. With more time, I am not ruling it out. The r2ak organizers have said that they will make an announcement in September about changes to the race, going forward. For now they are not saying more than that… Who knows if the race will be significantly changed, slightly changed, or if this fifth year, in 2019, will have been its last. This uncertainty is what made it worth trying to do the race this year, even though it seemed improbable. And I am so glad we did.

It has been a perfect treasure, to get this far toward this goal that has been simmering for years. It will be enormously sad to not actually be there when the race sets out in June – but it would have been even sadder to have never applied. I thank every single one of the many people who made this possible:

Luke Tanner started it, when he said, early last September, “I could haul the boat to Washington – that would be easy.” And later when his schedule changed, he continued to say that if nothing else worked out, he would still do it.

Janine Georgette came forward and said, “I’ll drive you to Washington.” Our plan shifted over time, coming to include crewing on the boat, and some rearrangements in the driving piece. But like what Luke said, Janine also made the whole concept realistic, and, in fact, possible.

Chris Shelton, who I knew from fun in the Junk Rig Association, saw my note on Facebook about all this, asked if we had enough ground crew, and then volunteered. When I mentioned that leads on a person with a truck would be great, he responded with a photo, of his own truck.

Kate Fahey, early in the whole discussion, said she would be happy to come meet me – perhaps in Alaska – to be a “ferry buddy” for perhaps returning to Port Townsend that way, and then driving back across the country with me to Maine. “Ferry buddy” could just as well be “fairy buddy” – magic.

Suzanne Jean, when the westbound driving schedule became a little complicated, somewhere along the way had an epiphany to do with the prospect of this trip. Where it had previously looked to her like the worst idea in the world, and we had together completely rejected the idea of her doing it, she decided that actually it could work out just fine, and we went ahead modifying the minivan for both of us to camp in it, studying routes and making plans for fun places to stop along the way, and how we would meet Janine in Washington, where Suzanne would catch a plane home.

Suzanne did so much to make this possibility real. Working together on the boat, sorting out food plans, going for practice car rides, including whenever our icy, snowy road in the middle of the winter seemed reasonably passable. And so much more. None of this would have happened without her enthusiasm and generosity of time and effort. And we had fun!

So many other people helped with this project too: Dave McDermott did drawings, both whimsical, and a fantastic chart key. Chubba Kane was over here helping bolt parts on the boat in the late fall chill, and Chipper Daley brought his woodworking skills. Suzanne’s parents, Doris and Henri Jean, got out their pressure canners, and helped make boat food. Kate Fahey opened her home to be the first pitstop in western Massachusetts, where Suzanne and I would spend the night, including hosting a visit with Suzanne’s parents, so I could see them on the way through. Susan, Cuiee, and Aveour Masters said they would bring Doris and Henri over to Kate’s, for that visit, and I was so looking forward to seeing the three of them as well.

Judith-Kate Friedman, in Port Townsend, invited us to stay when we landed on that coast. Joanne Moesswilde offered enthusiasm and support, with ideas of coming to Port Townsend to help get the boat organized, and see us off. Tim Pfeiffer told me in September, “Let me know when you are accepted, and I’ll make a reservation in the RV park in Port Townsend, and be there for the days before the start.” Driving from Arizona! More friends offered enthusiasm and encouragement, from this continent, and from halfway around the world. As did folks I didn’t even know, who, after seeing the notice about Team AUKLET being entered in the race, wrote to offer everything from driving information for crossing the Rockies, to a friendly welcome in a harbor halfway up Vancouver Island. Junk rig sailors in the Pacific Northwest developed a plan to sail together, at the beginning of the race, with the fun of a junk rig boat being entered.

It has been such an incredible, unbelievable gift, to be the recipient of so much goodwill, and such generosity. I am so very touched. I would so love to be reporting in with pictures, a few weeks from now, of AUKLET with those snow-covered mountains on the BC coast in the background.

And what a ride it has been, just getting this far. I so thank you all.

r2ak preparation progress

This lovely drawing says it all. Thanks to Dave McDermott, who drew the picture, and to Chris Shelton, whose white pickup truck, with a little artistic license, is being shown. If all goes well, Chris and the boat will set out on May 6.

Boat transport related projects:

– Chris has gotten an electric brakes controller installed in his pickup truck.
– The boat trailer now has new tires, load range E, which is up a level from the previous set.
– Suzanne dug out the paperwork from when the boat and trailer went on truck scales a few years ago, and I was delighted to see that I had inverted the addition and subtraction for the weight of the empty trailer, in my memory, which means that the full load, boat and trailer, is actually around 4800 pounds. With the new tires, we are now well within a comfortable safety margin for the trailer load (the trailer is rated for 6000 pounds).
– Chris is planning to get new tires for his truck when he gets to Maine. He is also planning to drive up from MISSOURI to do this crazy trek… That’s some serious adventure spirit!

Still to go, for the trailer:
– squeezing lots of marine lithium wheel bearing grease through the special fittings on the hubs (bearings were inspected and repacked last year, and have only traveled about 20 miles since then)
– replacing the trailer’s electric brakes breakaway box. This activates the trailer brakes, if somehow the trailer disconnects from the tow vehicle while underway. That little box and its battery have been underwater one too many times during launches and retrieval, and have finally quit. The new box is going to have all its electrical surfaces coated with liquid electrical tape, holes drilled in the bottom of the box for drainage, and sealant put around the edges of the lid when it goes on. Theoretically, water will not go up into those holes, because of the trapped air. If nothing else, we might get one or two more dunkings out of it than the last one. Because of the tongue extension, and how deeply the trailer goes into the water, the submersion itself appears to be unavoidable.
– Doubling up the board we use across the bow to support the forward tiedown strap.

Boat projects:

Note: the rudder stock is actually completely vertical, and perpendicular to the deck – I have a mental block about getting good photos of this thing!

The lower part of the rudder stop, with the three dark screws, prevents the rudder from turning far enough to jam on the bottom of the hull, and has now been replaced – actually for the second time since the original got cracked during launching last year. Thank you Chipper Daley, for doing the wood shaping and drilling for this fussy part! In honor of the r2ak we redid the replacement version out of two layers of laminated marine ply, which thanks to Suzanne is now epoxy coated, painted, and reinstalled with dolfinite underneath. I was worried about the somewhat sharper corners on the latest version, and my toes in that rather constricted space, so we now have a foam cushion rounding off the edges. [Photo: Suzanne Jean]

For more about the rudder stop, see this post from 2014:

– organizer bag for emergency gear
and for safety harness and tether. [Photo: Suzanne Jean]
These were a winter sewing project, and we’re happy to see them in place.

The story behind the safety harness/tether bag is that I do not habitually wear those – I tried doing it that way, but found that I “lost my edge” as far as caution about falling off the boat. So now I just use a tether during weather that means that even when one is attentive one might get tossed. But often when that kind of weather arises the equipment is inside the boat and unreachable with everything going on. Now it can be retrieved from the cockpit. I’m quite happy about this – I thank the r2ak for providing the inspiration for taking care of a number of these sorts of boat improvement projects.

– “Snag preventer” across the top of cabin cleats and the winch. Hopefully I’ll be adding a photo of this soon. It’s basically done: two eyestraps installed near the back corners of the cabin, and a piece of 2 inch webbing with clips on the ends and a buckle in the middle for tensioning, stretched over the offending snaggers, across from one side of the cabintop to the other. When in place, this will prevent lines from the mainsail being caught when the sail goes across the top of the cabin. This generally only happens when the wind and the waves are just so – usually tacking upwind in a short, boisterous chop. But when it does it’s not only annoying, requiring more energy and attention to hop up and prevent problems, but in a tight spot it can be a hazard, disrupting a smooth tack when it really matters, or hanging things up when gybing. Thanks again, r2ak – I’ve been meaning to do this for ages!

– anchor regalvanized (thank you Luke Tanner :-) [Photo: Luke Tanner]

– The depth sounder installation is a work in progress, being a task with several parts. The transponder is now mounted on the transom, and its long wire is threaded into the boat, across and through a ridiculously convoluted passage inside the stern, that involved a stiff piece of wire and both frustration and eventual celebration, and then a trip through the port cockpit locker, also involving challenges. The tricky thing about boat wiring is that you really must secure those wires. The picture below is the passage through the port cockpit locker, fastening onto existing wires, with a bonus view of drogue storage and its underway access.
This requirement for fastening includes when the wires pass through places that are not particularly accessible. (The odd plastic thing that shows in a couple of the photos below is the bilge pump, with its hose.) [Photo: Suzanne Jean] The heavy black coil is the excess transponder wire, which cannot be cut to length because of the custom connector on the end.

There is one more hole to drill for this task, and to coat with epoxy, but the worst of threading the transponder wire is done. The meter end is also now caulked in place, ready for wiring. That involved a 2 inch hole, and more epoxy.

All I can say is that I had better go sailing in this boat, after all this work!

Still to be done:
– tie down masts and sail bundle
– short anchor chain extension to be attached with C connector. The primary anchor rode on AUKLET, for the last several years, has been made up of 60 feet of 3/16″ chain, followed by 250 feet of 7/16″ “Brait” eight strand braided nylon. 3/16″ chain is not ordinarily used for anchors in this country; doing this is a French sailors’ trick, which I learned from my Alaskan friends, who picked it up from their friend from France. The theory is that 3/16″ chain is plenty strong enough for a moderate size boat, and if you have 60 feet of that lighter chain, it weighs as much as the ordinarily shorter length of 1/4″ (or 5/16″). But if you spread that weight over 60 feet, and you are only anchored in 20 feet of water, then you have a lot less weight to haul up all at once. Rather, you are collecting the first 40 feet of chain while only holding the weight of 20 feet at any given moment, which represents a major difference in hauling effort. To have adequate scope, you almost always let out the full 60 feet of chain, so you have the benefit of that weight for your anchoring, but much less work to pull it back up.

AUKLET’s chain had been getting a little rusty, and the anchor line in the first 40 feet or so was starting to show a bit of wear. If I had known that Luke was going to have this perfect galvanizing opportunity, I would have sent that chain to get regalvanized. As it is, an alternative solution last fall was to turn the anchor rode end-for-end, keeping the old chain generally unused, because it is now the very last bit of a long rode. A new 60 feet of chain was then spliced to the other end of the anchor line which was nice and fresh, and that new chain will be connected to the anchor.

I’m quite happy about this arrangement, because the anchoring depths in British Columbia and Alaska can be considerably more than here in New England. Now, there is not only 370 feet of rode, but the last section to go in the water is chain, which is a good place to put some additional weight, especially if one is anchoring in the kind of depths that might make all that length necessary. Last fall when we did this, we also replaced the basket under the chain pipe with a bigger one, so the whole business no longer overflows when the now larger pile of line and chain is fed down below deck. Swapping out those baskets sounds pretty insignificant, from a project perspective, but it was actually quite an undertaking because of the “cozy” location far inside that locker.

Meanwhile, I have had some concern about the small links of that 3/16″ chain where the anchor swivel attaches to it. I’ve wanted something more substantial for when the last chain link might be pulled sideways against the jaws of the swivel connection, especially when the anchor is dug in hard, and the wind or current changes. Unfortunately, a simple shackle connection between the anchor and chain jams up on the anchor roller, which means that the tapered swivel is a necessity, more for its shape than for the actual swiveling.

So this is our one more project about the anchor: to attach a short, 1 foot length of 5/16″ chain, to serve as a connector between the anchor swivel and the 60 feet of 3/16″ chain that does the bulk of the work. Again because it’s the Race to ALASKA, all of this has been getting attention. The only task left to go, for getting the anchor rode in order, is attaching that additional short length of chain. The anchor will be stowed separately for the trip across the country, but it’s a small matter to put it back on, once we are reunited in Port Townsend.

The boat also has another anchor the same size as this one, also with a substantial chain and line rode, carried both for additional anchoring during storms, as well as in case the first one is lost. Then there’s another lighter anchor with 200 feet of line and a shorter chain for more routine two anchor arrangements. Fortunately, those are not on the task list, but they seem worth mentioning so nobody thinks that we are setting out with only one!

Other Preparations

Janine, the other onboard member of Team AUKLET, came for a lovely visit last week. Decked out for projects!

Though we have been meeting by video call to make plans for the trip, we had not met in person, so this was a special treat. Along with plenty of really good conversation, we also sorted out clothing, got the masts positioned on the top of the boat, and actually had some time on the water. This visit coincided with the ideal high tide for moving the float from its winter to its summer position, and it was wonderful to have Janine’s help. Joanne came over from Belfast (Maine) for the fun, which it was. The float-moving process involves a substantial amount of time sitting around waiting for the tide between stages – perfect for enjoying good company! [Photo: Suzanne Jean] [Photo: Joanne Moesswilde]
[Photo: Suzanne Jean]

Luke came over that same afternoon with the anchor, and Phil Brown, and Brenda and their granddaughter Ellie, also showed up, with Luke and Phil going after rocks out by the float. The rocks have nothing whatsoever to do with the r2ak – more to come on that, when we are not completely r2ak focused!

Other preparation odds and ends are also progressing:
– organizing food and beginning to pack
– turning the minivan into a camper for the cross-country trip. This is a substantial project, involving far more time and production than is properly represented by that one little line. [Photo: Suzanne Jean]

– I got a tetanus shot for the first time in decades, in honor of this event and its remote location… I’m not necessarily happy about having chosen to do that, but it sure did make things relaxing when I got an ugly scrape the other day!
– charts are finally actually ordered
– foul weather gear upgrade, in honor of sailing in the rain forest. Many thanks to Fisheries Supply, in Seattle, for their generous racer discount, and to the r2ak organizers for setting that up. [Photo: Suzanne Jean]

The plan:

Everybody’s enthusiasm (and participation!) is making such a difference in this project, and I am enormously grateful to all. For a couple of reasons it is still somewhat up in the air about whether this will go forward, but we have all chosen to carry on with preparations in hopes that it will work. A go/no go decision is scheduled for May 1, which is coming up fast! If all goes well, Chris will set out with the boat/trailer first, and a few days later Suzanne and I will follow. Suzanne decided that making the whole drive across the country is something she feels like doing (Tim, I heard that!) So Janine will meet us in Port Townsend, before Suzanne catches a plane home. All the moving parts are a bit daunting, but it does seem to be coming together.

I will keep everybody posted… We have a Team AUKLET Facebook page, and Janine is looking at setting up a Team AUKLET Instagram for photos once everything gets going; I’ll post that last once we have it. In the meantime, here’s the FB link:

Thanks so much to everybody who is part of making this possible – it’s a tremendous team effort! I am so touched.


This has been declared our team song, with many thanks to Judith-Kate Friedman, who lives in Port Townsend, and Aimée Ringle, Judith-Kate Friedman, Kate Copeland and Abakis – = Sirens Sing.
Judith-Kate’s YouTube page has more of her lovely work – it can be found by clicking on that tiny picture of her in the upper left corner of the video image.


Whatever you can do
or dream you can
Begin it
Just begin it
Boldness has genius
Power and magic in it
Boldness has genius
Power and magic in it

~ Composed by Venice Manley, based on quote from Goethe
(attribution from https: //

r2ak charts

Sorting out the chart question for the Race to Alaska has been an ongoing process. The choices range from stacks of paper charts, to dedicated electronics, to computers or iPads with chart software.

A full collection of paper charts to cover 750 miles is both expensive and heavy. On the other hand, electronic charts can be hard to read, and suffer all the failure possibilities of anything electronic. I can imagine few things more unnerving than to be out on the water in an unfamiliar coastal area with a piece of dead electronics, and nothing more than the sketches in the cruising guide (covering only immediate harbors) for any information about water depths, and the existence of both channels and rocks.

Chartbooks of reprinted government-produced charts, that are so convenient on US coastlines, do not appear to be available for the Canadian shore, possibly due to copyright issues with the Canadian government; NOAA charts in the US may be freely copied by anybody, including for secondary sale. There is a set of independently produced chartbooks, Marine Atlas, for which I had high hopes originally. Alas, volume 1 is in truly microscopic print (reading glasses + magnifying glass), and volume 2, for the more northerly section of the trip, does not show water depths, or latitude and longitude scales at the edges of each page. That last is a total dealbreaker.

As a result of all the above considerations, Team AUKLET will be carrying quite a few paper charts, along with a handheld chartplotter, and a Surface Pro 4 computer with additional electronic charts. But the paper charts will be our primary navigation resource. The computer uses too much electricity for routine navigation, and the handheld chartplotter can be seriously less than clear. I considered adding a hardwired chartplotter to the boat, but the combination of installation time, expense, and puzzles about where to locate it all nixed that idea. Besides, I really like paper charts: they are reliable, they show the big picture, and they add nothing to the electricity budget.

The hardest part about using individual charts for a long trip, to me, has been trying to keep them organized so it’s possible to find the right one at the right time without a crazy search. Sailing the New England coast, most charts are available in big Maptech chartbooks, with page numbers and an index chart at the front that has outlines showing the coverage for each individual sheet. Eventually it occurred to me that it would be ideal to have exactly such an index for the charts carried on the boat for the r2ak. Over the last few weeks, thanks to my cartographer friend Dave McDermott, we have been developing exactly that. The charts will be folded in quarters, plain side out, with large numbers written in a consistent corner of the fold; those numbers will correspond to the circled numbers on the chart index.

One might think that the overall chart indexes/catalogs available from NOAA and from the Canadian Hydrographic Service might do this job, without nearly so much extra work. But there are so many charts outlined in those catalogs that it truly becomes spaghetti, making it far from straightforward to sort out which is which. It has felt important, especially given the possibilities for functioning while seriously tired, to make this as simple as possible. Thank you Dave!

The resulting index is the one in the picture at the top of this page. It may be freely copied, just not for money, and with attention to the disclaimer about the possibility for errors and that it is not intended for navigation. For a PDF version with better resolution, click here to download: r2ak chart index-2019

Thanks again to Dave McDermott for this marvelous chart index. To see more of Dave’s cartography, and his thoughts on mapping, check out his blog:


Next time:

For those in serious suspense, news is that boat transport now has a plan – more on that soon. Thank you Chris Shelton!

r2ak: Expedition Prep

Thanks to Kent Mullikin’s friend in Mackerel Cove, Maine for this photo.

A lot goes into making an r2ak run happen. This is true for every single team, and even more for those who are traveling distances to get to the starting line. For Team AUKLET, the process breaks down into several categories:

Boat preparation – as in, any changes/additions to the boat itself

Boat transport preparation – tow vehicle and trailer (let’s talk about tires!)

Setting up cross-country travel for me, which involves friends to drive, minivan, camping and lodging arrangements, as well as transport for those friends to get to or from the part of the route where they are driving

And then, finally, the projects related to the sailing itself:

Provisioning: food; water supply; tools, gear, and other supplies; clothing for all aboard

Charts and navigation tools and references; electronics, and learning any new systems (yup, I finally got a smart phone – and a fancier handheld chartplotter)

Clearly the discussion of all this is more than one blog post! We can start from the top of the list:

Boat Preparation

This is not a large category, because the whole process has been ongoing for years. However, there are some bits.

Last year (2018), the rudder stop, which is in the cockpit and prevents the rudder from jamming against the hull when put hard over, took an extra strong hit while we were sliding the boat off the trailer into the water, and that crucial piece of wood cracked. The rudder did indeed jam against the hull, necessitating pulling the boat out of the water again so the rudder could be unstuck. We addressed this in the fall, with a replacement stop made out of teak. But when the Race to Alaska started looking really possible, I started looking at the grain on that new piece, and thinking about the way the old one had split, and the way the new one could split again, at 90° to the recent failure. This was somewhat concerning for local sailing, and absolutely not something I wanted to worry about halfway to Alaska. So a new piece, this time out of two pieces of plywood laminated with the grain for each one at 90° to the other, is in the works. It’s a fussy thing to make, needing to follow the original shape quite precisely, with screw holes to match the existing holes where it gets mounted. Thank you Chipper!

The most major addition to the boat is an electronic depth sounder. British Columbia and Alaska waters border on tall and steep mountains, and the topography continues below the waterline, dropping fast. Anchoring in 60 feet is not the least bit unheard of, and of course in order to do that properly you need to have determined that depth. Though my hardy Alaskan friends do this sounding routinely with a lead line, it’s more work than I am fired up to do, with multiple soundings and retrievals required for each anchoring effort. Relying on a lead line has been just fine when anchoring in 10 to 20 feet, as I generally do around here in New England, but particularly in the interest of staving off fatigue, electronics have felt in order for the Race.

Fancy fish finders are nice, showing all sorts of contour to the bottom – and maybe even fish! But compared to a simple numerical readout they use more electricity, and also have more lag time between soundings and on-screen presentation. Further, depth sounders work using sonar noise. It seems a no-brainer that all that additional information and charting of a detailed fishfinder is going to involve quite a bit more noise added to the underwater environment. In some regions, sailors are now requested to turn off depth sounders, of any kind, in order to reduce impacts on marine mammals, particularly orcas. So this very minimal sounder will hopefully be less intrusive, as well as being installed with an easily reachable switch so that it is only turned on when needed. It’s a perfect bonus that all of this will also conserve electricity/battery reserves.

Before the deep cold arrived in December, we got as far as laying out where the parts will go and how the various wires will run. It’s now almost warm enough – it got over 30°F yesterday! – to start thinking about getting back to this. I’m looking forward to it.

Another odd project is the installation of a single oarlock socket on the starboard cockpit rail. The route to Alaska includes passages with substantial current. Going through those without a motor can be just fine, in the absence of rocks in the middle, but if the wind quits one needs another way to control the boat’s position in the stream. A boat making no speed through the water will naturally turn crossways to the current, and be carried downstream. Think of a small stick, tossed into flowing water. With no relative motion between the boat and the water, the rudder will not be doing any steering, and it’s unrealistic to think that yuloh power will fight that chaotic current, to get enough relative speed for the rudder to work. I’ve experienced this, going through Plum Gut, off of the end of Long Island, New York. The current swirls quite a bit, and the boat has a life of its own, turning in the eddies as it is overall swept through the passage, with no wind to speak of in that dead spot in the middle of the Gut.

The only hazard in this situation, so long as there aren’t big waves or overfalls – and apart from traffic – is if the boat gets somehow pushed toward the shore. Control can be maintained with a single oar, positioned something like midships, which can be used to move the boat forward or backwards as it lies perpendicular to the flow of water and is carried downstream. I have not done this, but my Alaskan friends use this approach routinely, cruising in their engineless sailboat. It sounds good to me, and all we need is another oarlock, and a test for fit with the yuloh. In a pinch, the kayak paddle that is also carried aboard might work the same way, with the oarlock for a fulcrum. Of course the yuloh in its ordinary position would still be fine for moving the boat forward – it’s the backwards option that is really crucial, and makes it worthwhile to add this simple piece of gear. I’ve been meaning to do this for ages, and now is the time.

That’s about it for modifications to the boat. This is a good thing, because there is quite a lot else to take care of! Further preparations will be described in upcoming posts.

Race to Alaska

It’s a long shot. In September, when I applied to enter the 2019 Race to Alaska, May seemed far enough away for preparations, and I was – and remain – delighted to have been accepted.
See details about the race here:

The biggest complication to making this happen is that the Race to Alaska (or r2ak) is on the west coast, and I am 3500 land miles away in Maine, with a certain number of complexities to the prospect of getting across the country. When this past December rolled around, with some clarification of who was interested in being part of this crazy trek, and who was (very sensibly) not, I one day decided that, realistically, 2020 would be my year, and not the upcoming 2019. But the universe apparently has other ideas.

The evening of that very day, after my grand decision to wait for 2020, I happened to check the statistics page for this blog, which I had not done in quite a while. That page shows how people have come to look at the blog, with links to other pages that have referenced Sailing AUKLET; one of those links was to a not to be named sailing website. Now, I ordinarily, these days, refuse to look at that particular site, having to do with massive sexism and very obnoxious email exchanges between the person who runs it and women who have written to encourage a more inclusive approach, including me. But there it was, that link. When I followed it back to the AUKLET reference, I happened to read the somewhat secret information, apparently disclosed only at the previous fall bash for r2ak racers, that 2019 would be the last year that the Race would be put on in the way that it has been for the last four years. At least that’s how I heard it. This statement, in the version confirmed a couple of days ago by Kate Philbrick, one of the race contacts at the Northwest Maritime Center, is that “There will be an announcement this fall about a change in the race for 2020.” It’s more ambiguous than how I took it at first mention, but you never know.

Now, I have been preparing for the Race to Alaska, in its current form, for at least five years, since it was first proposed and its rules were made public. AUKLET has been outfitted, and I have been developing my sailing skills, all with that race as a guiding theme. The idea of actually doing it has always been far-fetched, given some of the assorted obstacles, but nevertheless, as we now say, I have persisted.

Quietly, the various requirements have been ticked off the list: night sailing; heavy weather capabilities (the junk rig has been part of this); building, testing, and becoming comfortable with the yuloh, as no motor is allowed to be on the boat for the race, but you still need a way to move around when the wind dies.

Furthermore, on the yuloh subject, human power is required to get in and out of Victoria Harbor, because raised sails are not allowed past a certain point by the Port of Victoria harbor authorities. This restriction means that one must do something else for the last mile from the harbor entrance to the dock in the inner harbor, where the bell that marks the finish of the qualifying leg of the race is located. My entire effort toward becoming a motorless sailor, though interesting to me anyway, has been particularly inspired by the motorless aspect of the r2ak.

The list of race-inspired undertakings goes on and on: water collection; the boat farm; the trip in 2013 with enough stores for five months, and no shore support at all for six weeks (because if you are going to make the roughly three-week trip to Ketchikan, you might as well sail further into Alaska after the race is over). The Race has been a fantastic guide.

So I have not been excited about the prospect of postponing to 2020, with some kind of unknown changes to how it might be run.

A couple of issues had been bothering me, thinking about the 2019 possibility. One is the pesky stairs at the beginning of the Victoria start. But here’s the real laugh: I’d gone from seeing them in a video a couple of years ago; to building them up to truly gigantic in my mind, and an almost insurmountable obstacle; to the point of being completely confused even about their actual location. Then the 2019 race information came, and referred to the start being from the seawall above the marina, and I thought, “how cool, no stairs!” But this was also not correct. In checking about the above-mentioned changes to the race for 2020, I also threw in a question about the stairs, and which part of the seawall would be the starting point for the 2019 race. Answer: top of the stairs. So I went to find them again online, to get a good look. Although they are not tiny, they are not the gargantuan sweeping staircase from my mental image. And they have a fantastic railing, looking quite doable (at an appropriate pace, after the crowd has passed). You can see them here:

Another issue that had been bothering me was the last stretch of the main leg of the race. Ordinarily, after you cross an international border by sea, you are not allowed to “touch land” – whether the shore itself, or the bottom underneath the water (say, with your anchor) – before presenting yourself to the border authorities at an official check-in location. Ketchikan is the nearest one of those locations, after crossing the BC/Alaska border, but it’s a solid (so to speak) 40 miles from the closest anchorage on the Canada side, to get to that port of entry. That’s a bit of a long coastal run, especially solo, in the best of conditions. And crossing Dixon Entrance – the open water that helps define the British Columbia/Alaska boundary – is known for horrendous weather and seas. It can be hard sailing, both strenuous, and long.

After the open water crossing there are 30 miles of narrower channels (read: no naps), which depending on the wind might be easy, or also long and tiring, before one actually gets to Ketchikan. With poor wind, the sailing time could be measured in days, rather than hours. Very good-looking anchorages exist on the Alaska side, in that extended stretch before Ketchikan, but then there’s that border rule. In a second bit of excellent news, the race organizers have worked something out with the US authorities, so that boats participating in the Race to Alaska are allowed to anchor on the American side before they check in at Ketchikan.

The evening that I read the piece about unknown changes to the race after 2019, I ditched the postponement idea, and designed and ordered T-shirts. (In a break with the usual routine on this blog, I might actually receive something from sales of these shirts.)

Not too long after the T-shirt fun, I discovered that my imaginary gigantic staircase was not quite such an issue, as well as the piece about anchoring being allowed on the north side of Dixon Entrance. The possibility of actually doing the 2019 race became quite a bit more real, though getting across the country remains the largest complication. On this too, there have been developments.

Once the T-shirts were designed, I delightedly showed off the link to a friend who also has a T-shirt project going, related to her own sailing efforts. She declared herself part of Team AUKLET on the spot, sweetly asking what she could do to support this expedition. Things have since developed, and we have a tentative plan for driving across the country, and sailing together for at least the first part of the race! See what Janine has been up to here:

Enthusiasm and offers of help have been coming from numerous directions, all contributing to the possibility of this crazy idea actually going forward. My dear friend Kate will be on summer break from her work in the school system when it’s time to come home, and likes the idea of driving back from Washington state together. “Driving together” is a euphemism – I actually don’t drive at all nowadays, and these driving friends are gamely signing on for all of the time behind the wheel, 3500 miles one way notwithstanding.

Getting AUKLET across the country is yet to be sorted out, but I would not have even thought this overall idea was possible without another friend, Luke, who initially suggested that it would be perfectly easy for him to haul the boat with a truck, and he would be happy to do it. Scheduling constraints are not working out for him after all, but when he said it in early September it really opened the door to the overall possibility, and his original offer seriously contributed to my putting in the race application in the first place. There are definitely other ways to get AUKLET across the country, with many boat transport companies out there; alternatively, if anybody knows a reliable person with a full-size truck capable of trailing 6000 pounds over the Rocky Mountains (expenses/fee paid), and time for doing that in early May, there is also that opportunity to be part of this crazy effort.

Further inspiration has been provided by Tim, who comes to Maine during the summer, and has been particularly enthusiastic about this race proposition. He and his wife Jane travel by RV, and he was already familiar with the RV campground that sits right on Point Hudson, overlooking the Port Townsend start of the r2ak. Not long after we talked about it all, he wrote to say that he had reserved a site for most of the week before and up to the start of the race. That certainly made it real!

Here at home, boatyard projects have been proceeding with the possibility of all of this in mind. Suzanne has generously been out in the shed with me, drilling new holes in the boat for proper eye straps for the solar panel tiedowns, which up until now have been less than ideal, and Chubba came over to help with the installation. Other projects are ongoing, some of them now waiting for the winter cold to break.

Inside the warm house, I’m studying charts, and working out plans. Earlier this month the r2ak registration went in, which is cheaper if done by January 15, and we are now official:

The whole prospect is still far-fetched, but if the pieces keep dropping into place it could happen. I’m approaching it with openness to cosmic guidance, and thoroughly enjoying the ride.


Photo from the Facebook page for Team KELP, two women who did the race – and did science along the way! – in 2017. This is in Johnstone Strait, inside of Vancouver Island

Portland Pudgy ~ Junk Rig Conversion

*** A version of this article will be appearing in the February, 2019 Junk Rig Association magazine; for unfamiliar terminology, be sure to check out the links in the “glossary” tab at the top of the Auklet blog. For loads more information on junk rig, and to receive the upcoming JR dinghy issue electronically or in print, consider joining the JRA! ***


The Portland Pudgy is a roto-molded polyethylene double walled 7’8″ dinghy, marketed as a combination dinghy/lifeboat for cruising sailors. A sailing rig, designed to break down and stow in the compartment in between the inner and outer hull, is available complete with a telescoping aluminum mast. In many ways the original sailing rig is well thought out, but it is not designed with easy reefing in mind. Other than the reefing issue, the Pudgy is an outstanding boat for sailing on its own. This made my own Pudgy, Marigold, seem a particularly good candidate for conversion to junk rig, for local sailing from our tidal dock. An endearing characteristic of the design is that when the boat is not loaded the drain plug can be removed, which makes the cockpit self bailing, so the boat requires no attention after heavy rains. All Marigold needed was a junk rig to make the sailing just as easy.

The original rig, perpetually reefed for safety when gusty wind could come up at short notice. Photo credit: Suzanne Jean

Fortunately, this Pudgy JR conversion has been done before! Marcus Raimon, and his little Portland Pudgy Pugwash, have already demonstrated just how well it can work. Marcus kindly provided dimensions of his rig, which made for a great starting point.

Designing and building Marigold‘s junk rig was fairly straightforward. The boat already had mast partners and step, rudder and tiller, and daggerboards that fit into molded slots port and starboard. Looking at the book Practical Junk Rig, and thinking about the length of the boat, it seemed appealing to go with a Hasler/McLeod sail, with a 6 foot batten length that was only slightly longer than what Marcus was using.
We really miss Theo, since moving from Holyoke – she did such beautiful drawings, but we are muddling through. Suzanne and I traced this picture from Practical Junk Rig, and then filled in the measurements. This method really suffered at the throat of the sail, because of the small scale, and I can think of better ways to do it now, to more clearly show that topmost 4 inches of the luff. But I’m including this rough sketch and notes to show that you really can make it work anyway.

This is what we built the sail from, and it does still drive the boat, including upwind. Approximate math tells us that the sail is in the neighborhood of 45-47 square feet, without the missing bottom panel, which would add another 7.25 square feet. The diagonal measurement of 7’9.5″ sets the angle of the lower battens, which are intentionally not 90° in the H-M design. That diagonal line should land right at the throat, where the yard meets the sail, and there should be 2 inches, on center, from the uppermost parallel batten to the fanned batten, and then two inches again to the yard. But it works even if you goof that up a little bit, as we did…

Construction was a simple operation with UV stabilized polytarp, cord, and tape, with no sewing whatsoever. Our approach followed the assembly guidelines on the website, as well as instructions that came with a different sail kit from PolySail International, saved from another project. In the end, we used bright orange UV stabilized polytarp, bought from a generic tarp store online. The color was chosen in hopes of avoiding getting run over while sailing such a small boat.

Starting off with a flat sail design made layout particularly easy, with one complication. Actual tarp sizes are smaller than the dimensions under which they are sold. The original sail plan called for five parallelogram panels, which we happily laid out… And discovered that the fanned top of the sail ran right off the edge of the tarp. Nominal and actual tarp dimensions are not the same! Which I knew, but had not realized by quite how much. Photo above and below: Suzanne Jean

This was solved by redrawing, with one less parallelogram panel, and rubbing off the original lines.

With the outline in place, and batten positions marked for later, the next step was to put double-sided carpet tape just to the outside of the perimeter outline.

Below, Suzanne is trimming the excess tarp from the outside of that additional width of tape.

Once the tarp (now a sail cutout) was down to a manageable size, most of the rest of the work took place indoors, where it was considerably warmer. A non-stretch polyester perimeter line was laid alongside the inside edge of the double-sided carpet tape, the second backing pulled off, and the edge of the tarp folded across the non-stretch line and stuck down with the tape. Because we used tape rather than stitching, the usual edge-webbing for junk rig sail construction would not work, but the line folded into the tarp seems to be doing the job just fine for this small sail. Shemaya folding in perimeter line. Photo: Suzanne Jean

Corner patches were added to the head and throat, using more double-sided tape and triangles of tarp.

After all that was in place we added Gorilla Tape – especially heavy-duty duct tape – to cover all the folded edges. I believe that the layers of tape are also helping to take the place of the webbing that would normally be added to the perimeter of a stitched JR sail. The purpose of the webbing is to prevent stretch; the tape layers seem to be adding quite a bit of additional support to the perimeter line, together making the edge of the sail quite stable.

Once the tape was on, grommets went in at the head and throat. This could be done more simply, but we had the grommet kit already, so we went ahead with this version. For an effective low-cost alternative, check out this riveted “jiffy grommet” available from Sailrite (link included for readers’ convenience – I am not receiving anything for printing it):

Photos below are of regular spurred grommet installation with hammer and dies.

Battens were attached next, made up of 1/2″ OD x .035 wall thickness aluminum tube ( – nope, not receiving anything for posting). Wooden molding from the hardware store went on the other side of the tarp, with plastic wire ties sandwiching it all together. We simply used an awl to poke the holes, not being inspired about breathing burning plastic that would have come with the method that involves burning – and thus sealing – holes with a soldering iron. The small holes seem to be holding up just fine in use, without the melting. Machine screws, with flat washers and nyloc nuts, fasten the batten ends, and the same screws hold webbing loops for attaching rigging. If I were to do this again, I would fasten the aft webbing loops so as to straddle the ends of the battens, which would help the sheetlets avoid getting stuck on one side when tacking. It was a bit of an ordeal getting the machine screws through the heavy tape, so I’m in no hurry to take it apart just to change it over.

The yard was not yet in place in the above photo, but it’s just a piece of dowel “closet rod” from the hardware store, 1 1/8″ in diameter. I was concerned that this might not be strong enough, and planned that if there were a problem I would add more material by lashing it on, but it seems to be just fine in use as it is. The yard is attached to the sail with plastic wire ties, as well as with lashing through holes drilled at either end for tying to the head and throat grommets.

The boom is simply another batten, on the foot of the sail, with no extra reinforcement. It’s an endearing characteristic of junk rig that the boom carries very little strain, because the sheet parts go to each batten. For this reason the boom can be lightweight, making it much less of a swinging hazard than the heavier Western variety.

The masthead fitting is particularly important in a junk rig, because of the various lines that support the sail bundle. This fitting is ordinarily a custom metal band or cap with rings for attaching the rigging. The one for Marigold, however, is made out of webbing. My many thanks go to Annie Hill for this suggestion, which is what she did on her bigger boat Fantail; the webbing masthead fitting is easy, lightweight, and simple, and works like a charm. It fits snugly on the top of the mast, and though I had originally planned to add a couple of small screws to make sure it stayed in place, inertia set in and I decided to try it without. With all the downward pull of the lines, the webbing has shown no inclination whatsoever to come loose, and being such a small dinghy it has felt acceptable to leave the webbing unfastened, avoiding holes in the wood and possible water issues with screws that are removed every year.

One caveat is that it’s important to use webbing that is UV stable. The polypropylene that is often used for sail ties will degrade in the sun in short order, completely losing its strength and becoming a safety hazard. Polyester is more suitable, as are some of the high-tech modern materials, though I used nylon because I had it on hand. The nylon seems to be working out just fine; in this use there is no problem if it stretches a bit, and it appears to be holding up well enough to the sun. For a detailed discussion of webbing material characteristics, see (Link included for readers’ convenience – I am not receiving anything for printing it.)

The knot seen in the masthead fitting picture below is the “water bowline,” which I happened to come across last year; it has become my new favorite knot. This photo was taken after the end of the sailing season, without any adjustment or retightening. The water bowline has been great for rigging, because even with slippery modern line it does not work loose on its own in the way that regular bowlines or two half hitches often do when they are unloaded and shaken, as happens so often on a sailboat. I’m delighted to have done away with using waxed thread to secure the tail of every rigging knot. As an aside, here’s my favorite video for how to tie this knot: Shown on a scrap of dowel, not the actual mast. Photo: Suzanne Jean

Once we had all the various pieces in order, we had a tremendous amount of fun rigging the whole thing in the living room. I could not be more pleased at the ease of working on such a small sailboat rig. My fun seems to be magnified, the smaller the boats get – it’s easy, it’s lightweight, and something about raising the mast and sail right there in the living room still makes me laugh.

The original aluminum mast was too short for the new rig, mainly because the telescoping tubes had frozen with corrosion in the mast’s shortened “reefed” position. Being inclined for very simple test materials, we got a 12′ piece of “closet rod” dowel from the hardware store, which is hardwood of some indeterminate kind. This is the same material that we used for the yard, except that this one for the mast is 1 1/2 inches in diameter, which is the largest size available at our local store.

On the boat, a 3 foot piece of aluminum tubing with an outside diameter of 2 inches fits into the original partners and step. The closet rod mast drops down into that aluminum tube, with a bit of play at the top of the tube, which benefits from the addition of a couple of small wedges. The mast step that is molded into the Portland Pudgy is slightly tapered, so the heel of the whole arrangement has been without play, both for the aluminum tube and for the dowel mast inside it.

The original theory of this tubing arrangement was partly that it would provide extra strength at the partners, along with being the correct size for the existing partners and step. But the bigger reason was that the sail bundle, with all the batten parrels, could then be dropped down over the aluminum tubing, and the wooden mast could be removed without fussing with the parrels, which would be all in order when the mast was put back in place for sailing.

In practice, the dinghy does not seem to mind having the mast left up at the float, including in some pretty bouncy waves, and when the little boat dries out with the tide it has seemed fine as well. Some of the lines that go to the masthead are also not perfectly simple to release, which one needs to do in order to allow enough room to lift the mast clear of the aluminum tubing. Because of this complication, and because the boat was faring well with the mast in place, in the end we just left the mast stepped until the time came to break everything down for winter. I do think that the tubing has provided useful additional support for the lowest part of the skinny dowel, especially at the partners.

The sail bundle stows well in the boat when not in use. There is only one aft lift (lazy jack), and it fastens to the boom by clipping into a small carabiner that is lashed to the boom. To stow the sail, the aft lift is unclipped and slid forward, allowing the sail bundle to come down securely into the cockpit where it gets tied to one side. Photo: Suzanne Jean

The boat sails nicely with the new rig, and is generally balanced in spite of the changes, except for upwind when it rather predictably tends toward lee helm. This upwind issue is a result of the new sail area forward of the mast, and is easily corrected with the tack hauling parrel, using it to shift the lower part of the sail farther aft which restores the overall balance. Batten parrels are cut long, so that off the wind the tack hauling parrel can be let out, easing the sail forward across the mast and doing away with weather helm.

After sailing in choppy water it became apparent that the rig would also benefit from a yard hauling parrel. It’s completely unnecessary under many conditions, but in the right kind of chop the yard thrashes enough to make one worry about breakage. The yard hauling parrel was simple to add, and took care of the hazard while also improving the sailing, as it stopped the wind from being repeatedly knocked out of the sail in light air conditions with waves.

Then there’s the sheet arrangement. The original rig for this boat used a line traveler for the sheet block, simply attached through holes at either side of the tiller on the transom. With the JR rig, using 6 foot battens, it works well to run the sheet back and forth from the blocks on the sheetlets to three blocks at the transom, which are tied individually into a substitute line in place of that original traveler. In this photo the sail was reefed, so the lowest section of the sheet is bypassed, using the sheet as it exits the second stern block instead of the third.

Some discussion has been had in the JRA fora that perhaps all those sheet parts are not necessary for such small boats. I figured that rigging it this way was an experiment, and that I might end up doing away with some of those parts. In practice, I’ve liked them after all. They require much less strength than a single sheet, which is convenient when one is not in the most ergonomic position for hauling on lines, being reclined in the bottom of a dinghy.

Also worth a mention, for those of us in the “not perfectly spry” category of years or circumstance, is that I ended up leading the halyard and the tack hauling parrel back to a handy spot that is reachable from the comfort of my usual sailing position. This is not fancy: the boat has attachment points forward and aft, low in the cockpit on each side, that were originally intended for lifting the boat on davits. A scrap of line, with two loops tied into it close to hand, is stretched out between the two starboard lifting rings; those loops make perfectly reasonable spots for quick slip knots for the halyard and tack hauling parrel. Someday cam cleats might be nice, particularly for one-handed use while also steering, but the present set up is working well enough for now, and is quite an improvement over scrambling forward. This arrangement is a little bit visible in the earlier photo of the stowed sail in the boat at the float.

Photo: Craig Pursell

All in all, the junk rig for the Portland Pudgy feels like quite a success, and a real improvement on the original rig when it comes to local daysailing. The junk rig reefs quickly and easily in our gusty and changeable protected-water winds, and over the summer and fall I was impressed with how much more secure I felt in the little boat, compared to previous forays with the old rig and too much sail area, which had made for a bit of a reminder of the real possibilities for dumping an 8 foot dinghy. Furling the sail is also vastly easier than the previous arrangement, which had required standing and wrestling the sail and boom up against the mast for tying, and removing the whole business, mast and all, when not in use.

Additionally, the original rig was prone to substantial lee helm and weather helm, as wind intensity and point of sail changed. This was a particular problem with the somewhat flexible plastic rudder, which was strained by these steering issues in strong wind. Being able to shift the JR sail forward and aft, using the tack hauling parrel, has meant a significant improvement in both safety and comfort, as it has taken the strain off the steering.

Since the new rig feels like a keeper, a “proper” mast is now in the works, being built of tapered spruce and close to 14 feet in height. This extra height will allow plenty of room for adding that bottom panel back onto the sail, which was otherwise going to be a bit cramped. The new mast will fit the existing partners and step, with no aluminum tube. I am also having some small thoughts of trying a cambered sail for comparison, though there are no immediate plans.

Just as it is, the new rig has made the Pudgy even more of a pleasure than it already was, for all sorts of sailing around the neighborhood.
Photo: Suzanne Jean


New England Junket

Over Labor Day weekend, now just past, we had a gathering of junk rig sailboats and sailors here in Joy Bay, and in Gouldsboro Bay. What a good time we all had! There will be articles in the Junk Rig Association magazine, but in the meantime here are some pictures.
[photo credit Craig Pursell]

We had five junk rig boats sailing, one on the dock, and four more boats that were not junk rig, for a total of nine boats out there with sails up. MARIGOLD, my Portland Pudgy, had it’s just completed junk rig, which has been working out quite well. So AUKLET stayed at the float, while I had some fun tearing around in MARIGOLD.
[photo credit: Craig Pursell]

There was another small boat, trailered all the way from Missouri, a Mirror dinghy with a bright red sail.
[photo credit Jeannie McDermott]

And this one, an O’Day Widgeon, which is the boat design on which I learned to sail. [photo credit: Shemaya Laurel]

Along with yours truly, happy camper.
[photo credit: Craig Pursell]

[photo credit: Craig Pursell]

Dave and Jeannie sailed over from the other side of Joy Bay, to join in the fun:
[photo credit: Mike Lyons]

The biggest boat, TERRAPIN, at 38 feet was the grandest thing not only here at the junket, but that I have ever seen here in Joy Bay. Breathtaking.
[photo credit: Suzanne Jean]
[photo credit: Craig Pursell]

The intermediate size boats were gorgeous too. This one came under sail from Penobscot Bay:

And this one on a trailer all the way from North Carolina, specifically with the junket in mind:
[photo credit: Mike Lyons]

[photo credit: Mike Lyons]

My friend Chubba brought his Cape Dory 25, as well as extending wonderful hospitality to the whole group.
[photo credit: Mike Lyons]
[photo credit: Chubba Kane]

AUKLET dressed ship for the occasion, and TERRAPIN came in to our float at high tide. That was extra special!
[photo credit: Suzanne Jean]
[photo credit: Shemaya Laurel]

We all had the best time, from Thursday until Sunday, with gorgeous weather to match. [photo credit: Luke Tanner]

Thanks to everybody, for making it such a treat!

[photo credit: Luke Tanner]


For more information about junk rig:

Junk Rig Association
worldwide membership organization; much information available to nonmembers in information pages as well as in publicly available forum discussions

Junk Rig Sailing
public Facebook page, readable for everybody including nonmembers of Facebook

International Junk Rig: Sailing Old and New
closed Facebook group, must be Facebook member and request to join group. Fairly active membership with photos and discussion.