During the last year-and-a-half
I built a Michalak designed Mixer
(only slightly modified by me) to use as a kick-around sailer
and row boat. Towards the end of the construction, I got this
crazy idea to enter it in the WaterTribe's
Everglades Challenge, a 260-300 nm adventure-style
race down the West Coast of Florida. The Mixer has sealed storage
in the bow and the stern, so keeping stuff dry and in the boat
would not be a problem. But I knew that I needed to test the
boat out in a number of different environments before entering
So after rowing it through lots
of powerboat chop, sailing it through fickle winds, and taking
it offshore in 4 ft. swell and light winds (almost getting swept
away to oblivion from the current), I figured on a most significant
test. A 38 nm training cruise through the sounds of North Carolina
and Virginia. I picked this area because it would duplicate
some of the navigational challenges of the Everglades.
The preparation and planning
for this event was fun. Picking and entering waypoints in the
GPS unit, buying the proper equipment that was required for
the race, organizing food, etc. Finally, I loaded my 80 lbs.
of gear aboard my Mixer and shoved off from the departure ramp.
Ideal conditions for my cruise would be SW winds at 10 kn, sunny
skies, and 80 degrees. What I got was N winds 20 - 25 kn (together
with a Small Craft Advisory), periods of rain, and 70 degrees.
I had reefed my balanced lug sail, so I had only around 55 sq.
ft. of canvas.
Needless to say, once I got beyond
the protection of the shore and turned upwind I got blasted.
Every wave created a fire-hose of spray in my face, several
gusts heeled us over enough for water to pour in over the rail.
A mere 1/4 mile from the beach I had significant water sloshing
around the cockpit. I couldn't lean over and start bailing since
the boat will heel over and more water would pour in. The N
wind had made my 38 nm trip into an estimated 70 nm slog to
windward. And there was no let up in the forecast for the next
2 days. As I was struggling with the conditions and contemplating
my dismal future aboard an ever sinking boat, Providence stepped
in and untied the line holding the head of the sail on the upper
yard. In order to fix this problem I would have to lower the
sail and retie it. I could have done it in the middle of the
sound, but I decided to tuck my tail firmly between my hind
legs and limped back to the launching beach. Thusly I ended
my self-imposed torture and expunged myself of this silly idea
of entering the Everglades Challenge; all before progressing
even 0.4% into my test voyage.
The Mixer functions perfectly well as a knockabout sailer and
row boat. It is more comfortable than my Sunfish and will carry
more also. But it's not ideally suited for a long voyage in
open water during Small Craft Advisory conditions. I also realized
the relativeness of comfort. Yes, I am becoming soft in my relatively
modest-and-not-even-middle age. I would rather engage in longer
voyages aboard my 18 ft. Norwalk Island Sharpie, (see photo
below) the one that has a cabin, and 700 lbs. of lead in the
bottom to stand up to most conditions. I guess I learned my
Norwalk Island Sharpie
And that, my friends, is why
tests are important.