Toby the Gull's Maiden Voyage
by David Ryan

Recently David Ryan and Susan Davis built a couple of Bolger Gulls over the weekend.  The pictures are from the construction - the story is not.  I think you will understand why.

Although my Gull is not completely finished, today offered conditions that could not be passed up. Bright blue skies, a small swell, and light offshore winds forecast to become onshore in the afternoon. I loaded the Light Dory onto the roof of my car (rather easy because it is *light*) and headed down to the beach.

Sue's Gull hull
(click picture to enlarge)

"Toby" was much admired by both friends and strangers, and I'd be lying if I said that I didn't enjoy the attention. I fixed the oarlock sockets in a trial position, loaded my fishing gear into the boat, and then waited for a lull in the waves. After about five minutes, I pushed off the beach, hopped in, and started threading my way through the channel.

Normally the channel at Ditch Plains is easily negotiated, but the sandbar to the West has been built up and the swell running today has more South in it, so getting out was a little tricky. The increase flair and freeboard of the Gull, as well as it's faster speed were very much appreciated as I pulled through cresting breakers on my way through the impact zone. Once outside I was in heaven. Terns were working here and there, the water outside deep green-blue, and the breeze was just switching to onshore. I started casting a bucktail in the hopes of finding dinner.

I intend to set up some sort of rod-holder for trolling, but haven't yet. I foolishly set my rod down and left the bait in the water as I rowed to a new spot. I was sure the the drag was light enough that if a fish picked up the bait it would just take line. It wasn't.

Toby faired and painted
(click picture to enlarge)

Suddenly the rod (my wife's by the way) shot out of the back of the boat like it had been fired out of a gun. I took off after it with a dive, trying to ship my oars as I went. I swam after the butt end of the rod that was showing just above the water, but just as I reached it, it disappeared under the surface. I had a pullover kayaking PFD on so it was all I could do to dive after it. As I swam down I could see the silvery flash of the reel. I grabbed and let the life vest take me back to the surface. Even before I bobbed up I could feel the rod throbbing. Fish on!

So now what? In one hand I've got I've got a rod with a fish unknown dimensions, and with the other I'm paddling towards an oar about 25 yards away, and the boat is another 25 yards away from the oar. On top of that, the fish is pulling me in the wrong direction! Finally I get myself, the rod, the oar, and the fish back to the boat. I got the three of them into the boat, but I was stuck on the outside. No way in without swamping. I had my tackle box inside, and I didn't want to risk trying to roll in and end up loosing twenty years worth of plugs, feathers, etc. So there I am, swimming my boat in to the beach, hoping one of my friends might paddle out and hold the rail for me so I could climb in. Finally Jim, a boat builder of the first order from the North Fork, paddled out and helped me in. After that he complimented me on my boat and I towed him back to the lineup.

Sue's hull turned over
(click picture to enlarge)

Getting back in required a lot of patience. The tide was higher than when I launched and should have made it easier, but the swell seemed to have come up with the tide and the larger sets were shutting down the channel completely. I circled and circled like a salmon troller waiting to run the Columbia Bar on a crappy day. Finally my chance came and I pulled hard for the beach, keeping an eye out for the next set. Toby the Gull behaved much better the Teal Lil'Winnie with a following sea and I was able to get a nice boost from the smaller waves without feeling like the boat was in danger of broaching. The next set came breaking all the way across the channel, but I was already well inside and nearly on the beach. I hoped out in knee deep water and hauled the boat up the beach before the larger waves could reach the shore.

I had teased Sue about wanting to add floatation to her Gull. The boat is so pretty it seems a shame to ugly it up with such considerations. Jim had some clever ideas for hiding the foam with luan, and I just might give it a try. I'm certainly going to work out some sort of rod holder arrangement!

detail of oarlock cleat
(click picture to enlarge)




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