I chose to build a John Welsford Houdini.
It has one sail (quick to setup), high freeboard (therefore
dry), and most importantly, it would fit in the garage.
With work starting late in the summer I would be sailing
by next season. Each step, except two, was easy and
yielded a sense of accomplishment. Getting the bottom
panels attached at the bow was difficult, and installing
the rub rails took four tries.
The Hull of
Gertrude is coming together
I was right on schedule halfway through and the basic
hull was together. The second half of the schedule
was spent installing the little bits to complete the
insides. But each piece took the same amount of time
to install regardless of size. And there were a lot
of little pieces. I persisted; it was mid summer and
soon I would be sailing. The third half of my building
was the finishing work, painting, and rigging. At
the end of the summer I said good enough and "sea
Having never sailed before, each trip out was an
adventure, and resulted in a list of small changes,
to get things right. Winter put an end to the sailing
season. The cruising camping trip would have to wait
until next summer but I would be ready! The customization
continued. I built and provisioned a galley box, bought
tarps and sewed a boom tent, made a set of oars (but
they were too much trouble with the electric trolling
motor always there, so the oars are unfinished.),
inverted and reinforced the mast because rough handling
dented it right at the deck level.....
But a years worth of household maintenance items
and "honey do's" could no longer be ignored.
So come summer, I would hit the list hard for a month
or two and the rest of summer would be dingy cruising.
I dig, landscape, haul, mow, plant, and fix. I get
things caught up and winter comes again, putting an
end to the dingy cruising before it starts. After
cleaning up the garage to have a work area again,
customization continues: I add a cover to the centerboard
case, install pigeon holes along the sides for storage,
discover the fittings in the deck need to be set in
sealant to stop leaks, figure out a low tech composting
Finally summer comes again, I get packed and I am
actually starting on a cruise on the estuary of the
mighty Columbia River! Too bad the wind is only an
occasional breeze (but the sun is in full force!).
My wife comes along to keep an eye on me. As we slowly
drift and motor along the list of needed improvements
grows: we need shade, we need pole to check depths
because sandbars are in the most unlikely places,
we need more sealant around the ring at the bow. We
anchor near the bank for the night. At low tide we
wake up and the boat is at a very odd angle with the
bow high in the mud and the stern low in the water.
We really need a LONG pole to figure out depths! Although
we do more drifting than sailing, the trip was a success.
The next cruise is real sailing. Wind at 5 to 10
knots, and the temperature is perfect - we are free
to go anywhere.
day for beginning a cruise. I can sail to anywhere
in the world.
Well... free to go anywhere the water is deep enough!
The two and three feet deep water looks the same as
the 30 feet deep water. On a different course, we
tour the edge of a National Wildlife Refuge. No wildlife
in sight but the island is scenic. On the other side
of the channel, we sail past a fiercely scowling heron
guarding HIS pylon. Safely past the pylon is a little
nitch for the night's anchorage. Dinner is enjoyed
with a wonderful view and the boom tent goes up. At
nightfall the full moon reflects off the water.
|Plenty of room in
the boom tent for the night.
Rocking in the waves is almost pleasant, except
for the incessant creak, creak, creak, creak: aarrghhh!
So that must be the big deal about finding a calm
anchorage. Again low tide finds us half grounded.
I really need to get a good way to measure depths!
At least the creaking stopped for a while.
In the morning, cool marine fog has moved in but
it is cozy in the tent. After a relaxing breakfast,
the fog burns off and the tide is in. A spoon accidentally
goes overboard; the spot was just mud a while ago,
but now sadly out of reach.
As the days goes on, the wind picks up, the waves
build, the sailing is exciting and fun. A seat cushion
blows overboard. Surprise Man Overboard Drill! Oops!
turning the wrong way, the wind is too strong to jibe.
We come about and recover the cushion. That feels
It comes time to head back and run with the wind.
We spot an enticing sandy beach in the lee of an island.
The perfect place to stretch the legs and reef the
beach for a rest. This is the whole point of
the last 3 years!
The beach is secluded and totally sheltered from
the wind. Ahh! This is why I built Gertrude!
The sail back is a blast! Wow, we are surfing down
the waves and making a wake. A great end for a dingy