There are enough nice photos of GREAT AUK’s mast going up and down that the subject really warrants its own post. And it really has been a bit of a project, overall. Photo credit for all the above: Suzanne Jean

One of the design goals for this boat has been that the mast should be easy to raise and lower, without drama, or strain, and without having to rustle up extra-muscly help. This approach makes the mast consistent with the design goals for the boat overall: ease of use, ease of maintenance, and general comfort (not necessarily in that order). Thus we have that high tabernacle, which allows the mast to lie comfortably on the top of the cabin, with enough of the lower mast below the pivot to form a substantial lever that provides for simple winching, both up and down. (We had a couple of complications that led to that upper pin being so close to the edge; bronze reinforcing straps can be seen in the third photo below.) Photo credit: Christopher Lariviere Photo credit: West Cove Boat Yard shop cam
Photo credit: West Cove Boat Yard shop cam

Passage under bridges, generally, and under the bridge on the north side of Mount Desert Island, specifically, have been particular inspirations for this setup. Ease of trailer launching and retrieval has also been high on the list. I’m happy to say that testing the system has been quite successful. There will be some complexity when it comes to managing the junk sail bundle during this operation, which we’ll figure out in the spring, but all is looking very hopeful.

Originally, this boat was going to have an aluminum flagpole mainmast. I had tried once in the past to find a way to get a carbon mast for AUKLET, but was unsuccessful – the spar company that I approached said they could do it, but after a lengthy two months of repeated phone calls and emails to check on progress toward an actual work order, they very apologetically said that they could not do it after all. The boat was too small, and they did not have an appropriate mandrel for building a round, tapered spar that would suit the situation. Time was pressing by that point, and AUKLET acquired an aluminum flagpole. This worked out, but stepping and unstepping were not entirely smooth.

This time, at the ideal serendipitous moment in our building process I ran across a notice about somebody who had just gotten a carbon mast for their relatively small junk rig cruising boat. The company that had built it was quite happy about this, and featured the project on their website. How perfect! They were not only familiar with the overall concept (different in various respects from western rig masts), but happy about it! I was on the phone with them within days, and we started working out the design questions. Thanks so much to Nate Williams at GMT Composites in Rhode Island. Their website is here: (Nope, not receiving anything for posting this, or for any clicks – just eternally grateful!)

If I had known just how well the tabernacle and winch arrangement was going to work, I might have gone with the aluminum flagpole approach for GREAT AUK, in spite of the weight. The tabernacle structure and the worm gear could easily handle it. But at the time of decision-making, all of our struggles with the weight of AUKLET’s mainmast were high in mind. That mast is hard to put up and down, as well as being hard to move on and off the boat even after the mast is horizontal. Far too many times I have looked on with trepidation, as two strong people have dealt with the awkwardness of anything to do with moving that pole. It’s not even that heavy, as these things go, at about 80 pounds. But still, the whole process has not inspired confidence.

The mast for GREAT AUK would be 4 feet taller, and heavier, in aluminum. It’s also high on the boat, adding weight where you don’t want it on a flat-bottomed barge hull, with no keel to bring it back up if it goes over. Carbon masts don’t come cheap, but the trade-off in ease and peace of mind was substantial. And there was that serendipitous availability, at just the right moment.

GMT Composites was quite thorough in their design process, and it gave me the opportunity to learn more about mast design and boat stability tables, which involve a fairly technical calculation process from which I had previously shied away. AUKLET’s mainmast was originally wood, built as designed by Phil Bolger for that boat’s original gaff rig. But then before we launched AUKLET for the first time, we had a delamination nightmare. This led to swiping the aluminum mast from the Peep Hen, because it was available in the garage. The sail area for the Paradox rig that went onto AUKLET was smaller than that of the Peep Hen, so it seemed reasonable to do this. But that Peep Hen mast never inspired confidence. It flexed quite a bit, and just made you think it could break, looking at it under trying conditions. So when we did the junk rig, and needed a taller mast anyway, I got a flagpole that was 1 inch larger in diameter than the one from the Peep. It looked sturdy, and in use was never frightening, including in some quite demanding situations. I was confident in copying that for this new boat, especially since the plan was to use the very same junk mainsail from AUKLET. (Technically that was not quite comparable, or proper – AUKLET heels easily, reducing strain on the mast, while a big flat barge will be quite stiff, increasing mast strain for the same wind and the same sail area.)

The dimensions of that 4″ flagpole are what I gave to Nate at GMT. He then asked if we had the “righting moment” for this hull. Now that’s a can of worms! Triloboats designer Dave Zeiger was gone sailing, and not reachable at that time. It turns out that righting moment is actually not one figure, but properly a table of figures, calculated from possible different angles of heel (leaning to the side) for the boat.

As it happens, the owner of West Cove Boat Yard, Christopher Lariviere, is both a person with a mechanical engineering degree and CAD skills. He’s the one who has done the nice CAD drawings of the plans for GREAT AUK, for our build there at WCBY, and he used work that he had already put together to calculate this new set of figures.

Christopher wrote this wonderful explanation of these calculations, at the time we were working through this:

The righting moment is not a single number but is a function of heel. Just so you know this is how it is done:

1) First you figure out where the center of mass of the boat is (mostly where it is vertically). You do this by figuring out the mass of all the individual parts of the boat and their individual centers of mass. Then you calculate the mass weighted average height for sum of the components which is the vertical center of mass. My calculation (on a spreadsheet) shows a total weight of components of 4900 lbs and a center of mass of 24.4″ above the very bottom of the boat.

2) You then place the hull at a variety of angles of heel in the cad drawing and let it figure out how much of the hull will be submerged and where the center of buoyancy is located. The horizontal distance between the center of buoyancy and the center of mass is your righting arm. The righting arm length times the mass of the boat gives you the righting moment.

For example, let’s say the boat heels to port 10 degrees. This causes the hull on port to submerge into the water a bit and the hull on starboard to come up out of the water a bit. So the center of buoyancy moves to port. The center of buoyancy is pushing up. The center of mass is pushing down. The result is the the boat tries to right itself.

Now if the hull continues to heel to port further and further, eventually you reach a point where the center of mass moves past the center of buoyancy. When this happens the righting moment changes sign and the boat flips over. So as long as your righting moment is positive you are ok.

I set the hull at different angles of heel and found the numbers:

As you can see even with 55 degrees of heel, the boat is still stable. However you can also see that the righting moment is dropping quite quickly at 55 deg of heel so you don’t want to go much further!

Attached [shown below] is a cad image of the hull sitting at 55 degree of heel and the resulting center of bouyancy. The starboard side of the hull is sitting way out of the water! Scary but still stable.

~ Christopher Lariviere, from May, 2019 email (shared here with his permission)

Drawing: Christopher Lariviere

Scary indeed! Makes my stomach do flips, just looking at that…

Meanwhile, I had sent that righting moment table off to Nate at GMT Composites. His conclusion was that we needed a 4 inch diameter carbon mast, at minimum. A 5 inch diameter carbon mast would be truly stout, but a lot more costly; the 4 inch version just squeaked in, for satisfying the design numbers. Interestingly, it turned out that the 4 inch diameter aluminum mast would have been seriously below the proper specs.

Since then I have had the occasion to really go through the materials at the JRA (Junk Rig Association) website for calculating junk rig mast dimensions (links at bottom of post). I did this for another project with which I am helping, and it was illuminating to finally get a little more understanding of those figures. In fact, going by the JRA-sourced calculations (thank you Arne Kverneland), an aluminum mast for GREAT AUK would indeed be more appropriately 6 inches in diameter with a 1/8 inch wall thickness.

Sometimes serendipity comes in many forms. Not driven hard, I think that the aluminum mast I was originally considering might have been okay. But I’m very happy to have a mast that is actually sized according to some appropriate math. I’m also very happy to have a carbon mast that, at an amazing 22 pounds (!), is truly manageable for people with a wide range of strengths. Feeling sheepish about the extravagance, I did get it painted an innocuous color, in hopes of very few people noticing that it’s not more basic aluminum… Photo credit: Nate Williams

Installing this nice carbon mast came with its own challenges, mainly to do with the holes for the 1/2 inch steel rods that form the upper pivot and the lower locking pin. Both of these horizontal holes in the mast need to be lined up with matching holes on either side of the tabernacle, which is not so easy to work out.

With an aluminum mast, you could use an extra long bit, start with the hole in the tabernacle (being very careful that everything is square), and then drill through into the aluminum, out the other side of the aluminum, and through the other side of the tabernacle. Easy peasy, the path for the pin would be all lined up. But with carbon, the holes for those pins need to be specially reinforced, and they are built at the same time as the mast. Photo credit: Nate Williams

Drilling through the tabernacle and hoping for the best, as far as hitting those existing holes, was a scary thought, and much pondering and a bit of postponing was going on at the boatyard, in the face of this task. I had no good solution either – Theo, in Holyoke, had done some very clever alignment by sight when we changed masts on AUKLET, and had to match existing holes in the aluminum. But it was chancy, even though it worked, and she has an extraordinary eye.

Fortunately, one of the crew at West Cove came upon that drilling conversation and had a much better approach (also saying, “no, that line up and hope for the best is never going to work!”) But he had a tremendous low-stress way to take care of this, which I’m explaining in detail for anybody who might be presented with the same problem:

First you take two pieces of “G 10″ tubing, with 1/4″ thick walls. G 10 is a fancy fiber-reinforced plastic that takes well to epoxy and is very, very strong (it can be found at places like McMaster-Carr). You cut sections of that tubing that are the length of the thickness of each side of the tabernacle (about 3 inches in this case). The outside diameter of that G 10 tubing is 1 inch. Then you drill a hole in each side of the tabernacle that is noticeably bigger than 1 inch – at least 1-1/8”. This way, you can position the mast, put the (well-waxed) pin through the hole in the mast, put the G 10 tubes on either end of the pin, slide them into the oversized holes in the tabernacle sides, and then glue those G 10 tubes into position inside the tabernacle sides, filling the gaps with thickened epoxy. Brilliant! This way the G 10 pieces can set themselves at exactly the correct alignment for the pin, and then become a permanent part of the tabernacle. Once the hinge pin and tabernacle/G 10 holes are in position, with epoxy hardened, then the mast is raised and the same procedure happens for the locking pin. You might notice in the photo that epoxy was injected through smaller holes perpendicular to the G 10 tubes… Photo credit: Christopher Lariviere

This is a puzzle that has followed me for so many years, and I am delighted to know this new approach. Thank you Durwood (aka Keith Fage)!!!

As described in more detail in the previous post, the mast raises and lowers with a worm gear winch. It’s working like a charm, and the whole thing looks so sharp, all raised. Photo credit: Suzanne Jean

Over the winter we’ll be working out a cap for the top of the mast, and a set of Dyneema webbing loops for a masthead fitting, to hold the various rigging lines and blocks. This will be somewhat similar to the masthead webbing on MARIGOLD, the Portland Pudgy dinghy seen in previous posts. Annie Hill and Arne Kverneland, both of the JRA, but on opposite sides of the world, have successfully used webbing masthead fittings for boats of around 24 feet, which gives me confidence in the approach. It’s easier than getting a custom metal fitting fabricated, and also adds much less weight to the top of the mast.

Originally I was puzzling about how to fit a bracket for a tricolor navigation light at the top of the mast, in a way that would not conflict with the webbing loops. There was also the question of a bracket for a VHF antenna, looking toward the possibility of AIS (the electronics that helps you not get run over in fog), like on AUKLET. I’m still curious as to how Annie made that work on her cruising boat, without chafe issues between the webbing and the light bracket – if she used one.

As the pondering was going on, Suzanne helpfully pointed out that this boat really isn’t intended for big open water, where lights mounted on the cabin or deck can be obscured by large waves. This point about the intended use is quite true, so that took care of the lights question, and bypassed some significant effort and complication that would be involved in running those wires up the mast, at the same time as allowing for its raising and lowering. Navigation lights will be mounted on the cabin.

Then there’s the question of AIS, but this also has has a simpler answer. Powerboats, without masts, also use AIS. The antenna is different: tall, skinny, and flexible, intended to be mounted on the top of the cabin, with a hinge so it can lie flat when not needed, or for trailering. This setup will be easy, and with the cabin top already about 7 feet above the water it should be high enough to work just fine. So the mast can be completely uninvolved in wiring, which is a great relief. All wires from lights and possible AIS can run directly into the cabin, right near their eventual destination. It’s nice to get to cross a complication off the list before it even starts!

So that’s the full story on GREAT AUK’s mast. When spring comes we’ll put on the sail and have some fun seeing how it goes. In the meantime, we get to keep tinkering with the boat, which is being a pretty good time in itself.

Thanks to everybody who is involved in this project! What a great group.

Photo credit: Suzanne Jean


For more information:

Junk Rig Association

Junk Rig Association: Arne Kverneland’s book – see chapter 6b for mast size calculations

West Cove Boat Yard
Sorrento, Maine

GMT Composites
Bristol, Rhode Island

GREAT AUK construction photos (click on picture to go to link)
Photo: Jon Mickel

Triloboats design info

(I am not receiving anything for any of these references; they are included for readers’ convenience.)


Second Float Test for GREAT AUK

The day after that last post, the boat went in the water again for another quick dip. We were planning to leave it in the water after its test, tied to the West Cove Boatyard pier for a week or two, but the weather forecast was going downhill. With 20 to 25 knot wind forecast out of the north – for three days – it did not seem like such a good idea. The worst of the wind was forecast for the holiday when nobody would be around to even check on things. It’s a well protected cove, but north wind is exactly the worst direction, so together the decision was made to get the boat back onto land that same day. But we sure did have fun!
Photo credit: Suzanne Jean

The mast went up, the motor went down, and Christopher (West Cove Boatyard owner, and engineer), Kyle (who has done a lot of the recent building on the boat), and I set out for the slightly more open water to find a breeze. We didn’t plan to sail – no rigging yet – but wanted to see how the motor would perform now that it’s deeper in the water, and with the boat working against the wind. Photo credit: Suzanne Jean

Photo credit: Shemaya Laurel

I’m very happy to say that this sea trial was quite successful. Besides being lower in the water, the motor now has a cable turning system, so its angle can be adjusted from inside the cockpit. That’s really helpful for counteracting the motor being located so far off to the side of the transom. Interestingly, the ideal orientation of the motor changes quite a bit depending on the orientation of the boat to the wind. I suppose one could have predicted that – either way, it made the fussy engineering for the motor-turning arrangement feel quite worthwhile.

The other good news is that we were able to maintain full control of the boat even after we got out into a little bit of breeze. Moderately increasing the throttle took care of steering problems in the wind; with the motor so much deeper in the water than it was during our first test, we made plenty of headway – about 2.5 knots, without strain – so the rudder had a good grip. This was quite a change from the previous outing, when in a virtually identical breeze – approaching 10 knots, with a little bit of waves coming the long way up Frenchman Bay – we had to turn back because we couldn’t make enough headway through the water, and steering was not reliable against the wind and waves. Having repositioned the motor bracket so the propeller is further below the surface has made all the difference.

It did become clear during this trial that setting the boat up with two motors would make a lot more sense than the current arrangement. It has been suggested that an alternative would be to put the motor in the middle of the transom, and have two rudders instead, on either side. This approach would also address the motor offset issues.

However, the present rudder mounting has been quite a project. More on that in another post, but it has lacing instead of gudgeons and pintles, and we’ve gone through quite a process to get this something like right. It would be easier the second time, but you just hate to tear something off and redo what has been such a job. Besides that, two motors will help a lot with tight maneuvering in a crosswind or current, and motor redundancy is a nice thing, especially with a boat that, with all those broad surfaces above the water, is not going to be the most agile creature under sail.

The other Torqeedo issue is the problem of picking up weed on the propeller, and we got a good test of that also. The cove from which we set out has quite a bit of floating, unattached rockweed, and we did indeed have complications with propeller tangles. More tools were in order for dealing with this, and fortunately the boatyard has a barge on a mooring a little further out from shore. Rather than going back to the dock – and having to get in and back out through the weedy section again – Christopher suggested we could go to the barge, and there find a boat hook, a suitable knife, and some tape. Naturally, once we had gotten those things and Christopher had assembled them, we did not pick up another clump of weed for the entire rest of the outing. Photo credit: Shemaya Laurel

I really loved the way GREAT AUK’s square bow could go right up to the side of the work barge.

Those first two times of picking up rockweed clumps on our way out had meant that we had to stop entirely, raise the motor, and scramble to reach the propeller. Once the propeller picks up a significant clump of weed the motor is pretty much ineffective, so there’s no ignoring it. There was some hope that with the motor deeper in the water, and the rockweed floating, that the propeller would miraculously pass beneath without picking it up. Sadly this does not seem to be the case. On AUKLET, with its smaller Torqeedo clamped right onto the transom, clearing weed isn’t so hard. This new situation is going to require a different approach.

Fortunately, just in the last few weeks I was reminded again about folks who deal with stray lines in their sailboat propellers by having a serrated knife taped onto something like a broomstick – pretty much like what Christopher also thought to put together. They keep that tool always assembled, so it is handy when needed. With all of this fresh in mind, I am thinking it’s exactly the way to go for this Torqeedo weed issue. Then the inevitable tangles can be cut away maybe even without raising the motor, which would save a lot of effort. (It does make the case for sailing everywhere, which completely bypasses this problem.)

On this trip we also happened to have a nice push broom on board. Kyle stationed himself at the bow, broom in hand, as we went back into the cove that had so much weed. Between steering to miss the big clumps, and Kyle’s efforts, we got back to the dock without further problems. It was a lot of fun seeing that trick with the broom work – kind of like curling!
Photo credit: Suzanne Jean

The other system we were testing with this trip had to do with the rudder. This rudder is “balanced,” meaning part of its area is forward of the axis of rotation for the rudder. When done just right, this balanced design takes strain off of the steering, so the person at the tiller or the wheel doesn’t have to work so hard. The crucial question is how much balance is enough, without being too much and causing other problems.

When we did the first test launch, it was quite striking how heavy the steering was. In discussing this with Dave Zeiger, the designer of Triloboats, I learned more about balance, and a simple approach to adjust the shape of the lower rudder so it can swing further forward. A small change in that pivot angle moves a significant amount of rudder area forward of the vertical hinge that the rudder turns on. The question is how much of the lower rudder hook to remove, keeping in mind that it’s better to take too little than too much. It’s so much easier to take away more later, than to put any of it back!
Drawing: Christopher Lariviere

With all this in mind, in the intervening time between the first launch and this one, a 1 inch sliver was taken off the curve of the lower rudder. Epoxy was applied, to keep everything sealed, and we gave it a try.

I think that the steering is now a little easier than it was, but it’s still pretty heavy. So another sliver will be coming off, and it will be interesting to see how we do. Along with this rudder shape adjustment, the boat is also going to be getting wheel steering. The engineering for that is providing some puzzles, but we are working on it. In the meantime, we have the tiller, and we are gradually making progress toward really workable steering.

GREAT AUK is now snug on land, and everybody has gone off for the Thanksgiving holiday (and to watch the wind blow). We have made some headway on crucial information, and got to have loads of fun while we were at it. It was a real treat to be out on the water on November 26th – this is incredibly late in the season for recreational boats in downeast Maine. The day was warmish, in the 40s Fahrenheit, and with the sun, and that nice cabin, it was quite delightful. The possibilities are really opening up.
Photo credit: Shemaya Laurel


GREAT AUK is a variation on the SHANTY T24x8 Triloboat design, by Dave Zeiger. For more information on Dave’s designs, see
(Patsy, there you go!)

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