By Jackie Monies - Eufaula, Oklahoma - USA

Where We Join Ratty and Mole and Engage In a Messabout!
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Messing about in boats, a messabout, coined by Bob Hicks. A group of boaters coming together to sail, discuss boats, sail other people’s boats, look at others’ boats and methods, to learn, to share, to have fun.

Taken from “Wind in the Willows” by Kenneth Grahame, Ratty and Mole discuss boats and boating.

“Is it so nice as all that? Asked the mole, shyly..
“Nice? It’s the ONLY thing,” said the Water Rat solemnly, as he leaned forward for his stroke. “Believe me, my young friend, there is noting----absolutely nothing--half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”

“Simply messing---about in boats---or with boats…In or out of ‘em it doesn’t matter. Nothing seems to matter, that’s the charm of it. Whether you get away, or whether you don’t: whether you arrive at your destination or whether you reach somewhere else, or whether you never get anywhere at all, you’re always busy, and you never do anything in particular; and when you’ve done it there always something else to do, and you can do it if you like, but you’d much better not.”

“Look here! If you’ve really nothing else on hand this morning, supposing we drop down the river together and have a long day of it?”

Sunday morning dawned quiet and still over Lake Eufaula.  The lake's waters mirrored dozens of matching hulls and masts, waiting for the day to begin.  Early morning mists gently rocked the sleeping crews aboard the larger boats, tied out and anchored off the beach.

Sail Oklahoma! Lake Eufaula National Messabout or SOLEMN SAILORS!

Mike returned from sailing his first Texas 200 still reeling from the experience. Not just because he had sailed into history as a Legend of the Texas 200...he didn’t know that part of the story yet. It was the fact that for the first time in his life, having spent over thirty-five years building boats, he had actually met others who shared his enthusiasm and hobby. He described the shuttle bus as a deafening roar of “boat babel.” Like the tower.

A loaned tarpaulin and a crude 2 x 2 mast that began our involvement with the Ducks and the 4 x 8 foot rectangles they sail.  Mike's rescue by the resourceful sailors in the 2009 Texas 200 made him one of the Legends of the Texas 200 as he sailed his makeshift boat to Magnolia Beach and fame as "The Cartopper Guy."

Think on that, a hobby unshared and unappreciated but still loved for thirty-five years. Sort of like being the Birdman of Alcatraz,

So, in a burst of enthusiasm, Mike’s and my daughter Michele and our son-in-law Brandon got involved. We decided he should build a Laguna, join Chuck’s fleet and stop work on “Sea Biscuit”, our fiberglass boat rescued from a roadside junk yard. Next, I decided we should build Ducks in gratitude for being rescued by the Ducks during the legendary TX 200, We would build Ducks and go to the Puddleduck Worlds Championship in Georgia in October, 2009.

Another year and another TX200 saw Mike and son-in-law Brandon Khoury sail "Laguna Dos- the Blue Laguna" to the finish of another event in 2010.  By the time Laguna Dos reached Magnolia Beach she had completed the Everglades Challenge in Florida, the OBX in North Carolina's Core Sound and the BOOTS cruise on Lake Texoma, TX.

We did and that was another hoot of a trip. We didn’t win anything, our boats were barely finished, we lofted sails in a parking space in the campground of a lake under record floods just a bare week or so before. Michele and I cooked and fed all the Duckers all weekend. We had the time of our lives, met wonderful people and decided then and there we should host a Puddleduck Worlds as soon as we could put in a bid, which would not be until 2010.

In between, Mike and Andrew Linn sailed in the Everglades Challenge and finished, last in their class, but finished. He sailed with Andrew in the OBX in Core Sound, N.C. during a tropical storm and with Brandon the Texas 200 during a heat wave. All the while we were making friends, friends who shared our interests. We had decided back after the Georgia trip we would host a Messabout here on our lake, Lake Eufaula, Oklahoma in 2010 as a way of sharing with friends, both known and unknown, our home, our lake, our love of boats.

A cold and frigid Florida gave Laguna Dos her maiden trip for the Everglades Challenge's start off  the beach at Fort DeSoto.   Bundled like  Artic voyagers, Mike and his partner, Andrew Linn wait for the signal to start moving the boat across the sand to the water.  At 23 feet, Laguna Dos is the largest boat entered for the 2010 race and she finishes for a winning shark tooth on her first try.

While writing for Duckworks, so many people had told me they felt as though they knew so many of the builders and sailors through reading about them. They felt like family. This thought echoed in my mind. The internet and the boating magazines had connected us like family and friends. Maybe it was family we just hadn’t kept in touch with or friends we had yet to meet. So, we decided to host a our Messabout, as a family reunion of sorts.

John Turpin and Travis Votaw, two friends in a circle of friendship.  John Turpin sold Mike the Two Paw dinghy he had built but never sailed. While we were there picking up the boat he told Mike about this wonderful experience called the Texas 200 that he had sailed in.  Travis met Mike when Mike joined the Texas 200 group, sailing his beautiful Princess "Pilgrim".  We joined the two in  BOOTS, which sails on Lake Texoma, TX and John mentioned he would like to come to Lake Eufaula sometime.  The circle goes round and round and round.

Mike and I are Southern, especially me. Old South. I remembered the old style family reunions, church revivals and the dinners on the grounds. For those of you not Southern and not old enough to know this custom, it often involved long camping periods before the days of motels and fast food, and huge quantities of food put out on long tables made of boards, for all to share. People camped around the churches, slept in wagon beds or under tarpaulins strung from tree limbs. They did hunting and fishing camps sort of the same, but the food probably wasn’t as prolific or tasty. In my generation the wagons were gone but the gatherings remained.

Heaping pans of buttermilk biscuits with jelly and honey went down every morning before the sailors left for the water.  The Boat Palace had stations set up with grills and frying pans for sausages, scrambled eggs and pancakes daily just at daylight.  Night saw dinner served with country favorites like boneless ribs, bacon baked beans and apple pie cobbler.

So, after Mike finished the TX 200 this summer, we announced our Messabout. First it was Lake Eufaula Messabout, but there are two Lake Eufaula’s, one in Alabama, one in Oklahoma, both large lakes. So, I added Sail Oklahoma! to the name, so there would be no question where we were. One of our quixotic friends dubbed it Sail Oklahoma Lake Eufaula National Messabout or S.O.L.E.M.N. sailors.

His comment was that I’d have a hard time promoting an event filled with SOLEMN sailors. Well, that wasn’t really an obstacle it turned out.

One of the newer sailors to join our group was Trevor Akin from Springfield, MO.  Trevor built his Bolger Elegant Punt and taught himself to sail it.  Before Sail Oklahoma! he said he had never sailed another boat. He made up for that by winning third place in the Duck races in one of Mike's Ducks, as well as winning the Marshmallow Scooping contest in Jackie's Kiwi Duck.

The first boats started coming down our little road towards the launch and beach area early Friday morning. John Turpin and “Blue Peter”, Kevin Nicolin and “Jubilee” were the first sailboats other than Mike’s to ever come down that road. They may have been first, but they were not the last. Before the last boat arrived Sunday afternoon we had around thirty-six boats and almost sixty people attending Sail Oklahoma!

"Blue Peter" the exquisite B and B Lapwing 16 built and sailed by John Turpin.  John brought her to sail with us for just one day because of family commitments but he will testify it was a worthwhile trip.  John now has a Sail Oklahoma! dish named for him, "Baked Corn Turpin" which is guaranteed to be served in 2011.

John Turpin watched Saturday as our little armada started across the lake, watching from the causeway bridge just down from our house. I watched from the Belle Starr campground as they sailed toward me waiting with the picnic lunch. I do not know about John Turpin but I almost cried at the sight of those dozens of sails coming toward me, so beautiful to see.

When we first planned this, I was unsure how many would realize Oklahoma has large lakes and beautiful sailing venues. We had seldom seen even a single sail on our lake in fifteen years.

A downwind sail across the lake brought the first fleet of sailboats to beach at Belle Star campgrounds.  The beach rapidly filled with colorful sails and varied sizes of boats.  A noon picnic furnished energy for a return trip that required several hours of tacking to windward for the return to the home base beach.  Everyone made it back with only a few needing a tow as it grew dark.

We tied up and beached down at the end of our street on a private beach, part of our lake’s Corps of Engineers property, not an official Corps launch or campsite, so no fees but no camping on shore. Boaters could sleep aboard their boats so long as it was for less than a week at the location. Many did just that.

Others pitched tents in our back yard where we rapidly had a tent city of boaters, trucks, campers and trailers. Jim Michalak, our “honored guest designer” got the guest bedroom but had to share his bathroom. Jim had just completed the TX 200 with Chuck and the gang, so we figured he would find the bed and bath luxurious.

The grass around the Boat Palace filled with tents and campers, trailers and boats, as people came and went over the weekend.  Just down the street is the Corps of Engineers lake with the community beach and launch area used by the sailors and boaters.  People could walk and children could bike back and forth during the day.

Some stayed in the motels in Eufaula… a major town on the bass and crappie tournament circuit motels here are accustomed to boats and trailers. Some stayed just down the road in a small fishermen’s motel, some stayed in campers in campgrounds run by the Corps of Engineers. Some slept in truck campers and small travel trailers in our yard.

We all ate at the Boat Palace except for picnics down at the beach or across the lake when we cruised to the other side. We put plywood not yet turned into a boat on saw horses and spread the food out just as I had envisioned. We set up grills and cooked hamburgers, cooked sausages and eggs, buttermilk biscuits, homemade pancakes for breakfasts every day. My husband does keep a clean boat shop, clean enough to eat from.

More meals and the food kept appearing.  No one went hungry, as Southern specialties like peach cobblers, shrimp and chicken gumbo, red beans and rice, roasted chickens and baked cheesy potatoes made their meals hearty and homemade.

People came, people went. Some could only come for one day, some stayed all four and a couple spent a week with us. I think a number would have been here a week, could they have arranged not to have to go to work. It was a magical weekend.

The weather was beautiful, an Indian Summer long week. The winds were up enough to sail and create some whitecaps but not enough to challenge too badly.

A fast and dapper Welsford, Jackie's Kiwi Duck, "The Wooden Duck" was sailed across the lake by Chuck Leinweber.  Her paint job of hunter green, burgundy and sand beige mimics the colors of the wood ducks, but the signature of her hull is the beamy Welsford dinghy painted into her decks.  A Welsford is a Welsford, no matter how small.

There were Bolger designs like the Shearwater and the Chebacco with a cabin that I had never seen, Michalak designs like the Caroline and Piccup I had seen in photos. There were fourteen Puddleduck racers who came, setting a new record for most Ducks in the water, but that is another part of the story. Two
Skiff America 20”s so elegant and beautiful they defied fiberglass bass boats to come near them and compete.

Jim Michalak, noted boat designer of Mike's Laguna Dos, came from Illinois to be our guest.  Here he pauses on the beach with one of his most popular designs, the Piccup Pram, this one built by Stan Roberts of Texas.  "Peter Pram" has sailed on many adventures with Stan, a veteran of the Texas 200.

My theory of a successful party is that it depends on interesting guests and good food. The boats and their builders and sailors provided the interesting guests. I provided the food that glued it all together in shared meals and fellowship. It probably qualifies as the best party I have ever held, most positively as the best boating event Mike and I ever were involved with. The good vibrations and karma floated in the air.

Jim Michalak said he would be interested to know why I would want to do something like this, to open my home and property to people I did not actually know, to do the work to clean and get ready, to cook for at least three weeks in advance. Cooked and froze meals until the purchased- just for this event -freezer and the house’s fridge could hold no more.

Kathy Wright and Chris Tomsett of Texas launch "Shake and Bake", Kathy's Duck.  They also own another, "Half Baked" which stayed in Texas.  They did bring their colorful Caroline by Michaela, the "Easy Bake", so named by John Turpin for its resemblance to the childrens' toy oven.  "Shake and Bake" is an elegant, curvy Duck with a mini-cabin who came unpainted in an effort to boost the number of Ducks in attendance for our Worlds bid.

Jim, this is a simple explanation. This was a thank you party, to you, to Phil Bolger, Dynamite Payson, to Chuck Leinweber, to Chief at the Everglades Challenge. , Shorty Routh of the Ducks. A thank you party for Bob Hicks, of MAIB, Josh Colvin and Craig Wagner of SCA, Andrew Linn, Mike’s sailing partner. A thank you to Rob White, to John Welsford, Mik Storer, and Graham Byrnes

All were guests at our Messabout, their spirits sat alongside in a ring of camp chairs every night or sailed along. “Flaco Vero” the patron saint and angel of Puddleduckers was everywhere .

The mast goes up on Eugene Dixon's "Sweet Pea", his brand new Piccup Pram.  In his 70's, Eugene had never sailed before, nor built a boat.  The "Sweet Pea" was Eugene's inspiration after President George W. Bush parachuted from a plane for his 80th birthday.  Eugene decided that he was not to old to do something new  either and "Sweet Pea" was the result. She launched and hit water for the first time at Sail Oklahoma!

Thank you for all the boats, the designs, the magazine articles, the books, the events to sail in, the parts for the boats, the inspiration,, the joy. I am a great believer in karma, the Golden Rule, that what goes around comes around, the ripple effect of throwing out a pebble. If by sharing the joy someone else enters boating, builds a boat, learns to sail and shares with someone else, then we will not have to love a hobby for thirty-five years without knowing another to share it with.

More than one person who came last weekend had not seen another homemade boat, had not known another boat builder, had not sailed with others or in another boat than their own. That is no longer true for them and those of us who shared this experience are better for it.

Loyal crew Sadie the yellow lab waited on the sand while Chuck Pierce administered first aid to a scraped elbow.  All weekend long, children and dogs played in the sand and water along the shores, sailed in the boats, played games throughout the yard and house.  A wonderful event, where grandparents, parents, children and grandchildren mixed and joined together, boating.

About those fourteen Ducks, we got every Duck we could here not only to sail together and race, but to win a bid to host the Worlds Puddleduck Racers coming to Oklahoma in 2011. We bid thirteen Ducks and will know in a few weeks if we have won the bid. Forty-six Ducks have already indicated they hope to come to Oklahoma in 2011, an unbelievable number of little Puddleducks. If only part make it, it will still be a record number. People with bigger boats got to sail and play in our loaned Ducks at Sail Oklahoma! They went away deciding they wanted one of the little square boxes to play in next year. People who came to look at a Duck for a child are now building two, people who built their first Duck are now starting additional and better designed Ducks.

An event requiring both dexterity and sailing skills, the Marshmallow Scooping Race, involved hundreds of fluffy pink marshmallows and butterfly dip nets.  Competitors sailed, jibed, came about and scooped simultaneously.  Less toxic than the Gulf oil spills, the biodegradable marshmallows floated in pink slicks across the lake to be chased down and caught by the sailors.  Trevor Akin won a hotly contested race with 126 marshmallows caught.

Mike and Brad Hickman and Dockdog, along with JO Boatbuilders are planning a Duck Hatch in the Spring to help launch even more of the little Ducks. Held here in our yard around the Boat Palace.

You see, boating events are just like the ripple in the pond caused by that pebble. The ripples just keep moving with the water, never knowing where they end.

"Spring Fever" came from Louisiana with her owner and builder, Gene Leug.  Gene and Carmen, his daughter stayed with us while his wife Kay took care of her new grandchild in Norman, OK.  Mike was honored to get to pilot the beautifully crafted Skiff America 20, the first time he said he had ever driven a piece of furniture!  Built of mahogany and other fine woods, she gleamed and glistened in the sunlight.

So, next year we will host our second annual group of SOLEMN sailors and by then we may even have a t-shirt to mark the occasion since we already have an acronym. Sail Oklahoma! is set to happen Oct. 6 though Oct. 10, 2011. Jim Michalak plans to return, as does Chuck Leinweber and everyone who was here for this years sailing. John Welsford plans to come from New Zealand as our guest designer.

So, Mike and I still have friends to thank, friends to meet, friends to share with. Old friends and new friends who share a love of building and sailing little boats.

Lake Eufaula, OK, the 14th largest lake in the U.S., counting down from the Great Lakes. We made it five miles across the lake this year, the furtherest distance many of our sailors had ever sailed. That was an achievement to be proud of. With a lake this big, hundreds of miles exist to explore and sail to, either as a group or as an individual. Come join us in 2011 and Sail Oklahoma!

Jackie Monies
“Notes From the Boat Palace”


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