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Design and Story by Bob Throne - Willow grove, Philadelphia - USA

(Yet another Wanderer update)

I am a lake sailor, and not a particularly adventurous one at that. I learned to sail on northern Lake George in 1974 when Bob Patchett, proprietor of Trout House, put me up to trying a Snark 'Sunflower' (a baby Sunfish). I had so much fun that six weeks later I bought a Snark Wildflower .. 11' foam/plastic with a 100sf sloop rig. I sailed it with my kids for 12 or 15 years on CT and MA lakes, northern Lake George, and a few times on Saco Bay, ME. Great fun, but mostly pretty tame sailing. It did go over twice; but I was a “young” 33 or 38 .. no big deal. But all that was more than 30 years ago. I'm now in my late 60's with two artificial hips, lots of arthritis and,uh, another 80# of 'ballast'.

As previous articles detail, my Wanderer design uses the rig from that Wildflower but it's very eamy, under powered, and I tend to be pretty cautious. (I've got a couple of boarding steps bolted to the transom and a solid mizzen mast to grab on to if they are ever needed.) Prior to this year the only times my Wanderer design (the 'Terry Jeanne') had had 'a bone in her teeth' were an afternoon on the Delaware river in maybe 15 mph and a pretty good chop (½ of that from power boats), and another afternoon with a similar breeze and a foot or two of sea on Lake George. Up till now those are the only times there has been any spray that reached the windows or cockpit. My regular crew, Steve Bosquette, however, is a real sailor from Maine, and for more than a year now has been nudging me about how he'd love to cruise the Maine coast or, “she'd sail across the Atlantic except for her skipper”. He misses “big water” .. and thinks I'm too cautious.

1st sail this year (2010) with new jib & mizzen sewn by Steve Bosquette; 36 yr old Wildflower main.
(Yes, the "Wanderer" design name comes from needing a "W" .. but it's pretty apt for me.)
Sail maker, chief mechanic, first mate & 'big water sailor' sitting on the cabin roof that March day.
Yours truly .. come June we sailed down at Little Egg Harbor, NJ .. running on wing-a-wing here. I thought it was fairly 'big water' & we had a great sail, but Steve insisted it was pretty tame.
Mid summer; just grand-daughter Mattie and Grandpa sailing easy at lake Nockamixon, north of Phila. She's just 8. With a couple of turns at the helm she began to get the idea of the wind, sails & tiller.

Steve and Chuck haven't quite talked me in to a balanced lug main, but this Summer we finally did trailer down to the upper Chesapeake. The first time we put out from a private marina ramp at Hacks Point on the Bohemia River, ran out the Elk River to Turkey Point (almost the Chesapeake proper) in a 10 -12 NE breeze , and tacked back most of the way, motoring the last couple miles with the wind and sea on our nose. I was impressed with the ready handling of the boat and not having to attend to the sails and tiller every couple of minutes. And Steve couldn't wait to get out on “big water” again. We had seen the MD state ramp at Turkey Point from the water. It's about an hour south of Philadelphia .. 1:30 – 1:45 for me. More than worth the drive. Here's where:

Google Earth Map. You can pan around to get a feel of things.

Many of you know about the Chesapeake, but if you are a “lake sailor” within a days drive of this playground give it a try. And let me know .. I'll try to meet up and mess-a-bout with you. Eastern PA, Southern NJ, DE, MD, Northern VA.     

Needless to say, a second voyage was called for. Come September 14th we sailed out of that Turkey Point ramp at Elk Neck State Park, with the National Weather Service calling for 15-18 out of the NW, and building through the day .. gusts 20 - 25 “or higher”. It was an accurate forecast. In the lee of Turkey Point it was an easy but quick-going reach at hull speed (5 mph) out to the Chesapeake. That's going right along compared to most of the time I've been on the water. Beyond the tip of the peninsula, however, the wind was straight down the Chesapeake for 15 - 20 miles or more, and “building”. We only saw a couple of other sails, all twice our size or more. Two stayed on the Elk river, within the lee of the peninsula: the larger two went by us, motor sailing with only their mainsail and their diesels. As I wrote Chuck the next day:           “

“WHAT A DELIGHT! The boat just goes ... 4 - 5 kts, some heel of course, but very steady with only an occasional slap and a few real pounds. Very able .. we never did both sit to windward tho' I do take the the cleated main sheet in hand. Steve insists "it'll never go over" and I'm not sure he'd come over to sit .. too many years cruising the Maine coast. This was the second time down there and maybe the 6th or 7th time with serious wind, but this time on 'big water'.”

The ramp at Elk Neck State Park, MD fine facility; there's camping but it's on a bluff a ½ mile away. There are also transient slips, 'first come - first served' .. on the dock at the right.
This is Buttonwood Beach RV Resort, just across from the ramp at Elk Neck State Park. In addition to the transient slips, there are bays and coves just begging for an overnight anchorage.
Private enclave with beach, dock & moorings .. further out Turkey Point .. still in the lee of the wind. (Didn't see any Puddleducks anchored here .. but if there were, they would be out sailing, right ?!)
Lighthouse at Turkey Point; less chop here & photographed from 'above' .. more whitecaps out beyond This was taken maybe ½ hour after launch almost out to the Chesapeake proper .. the sun was still out.

We ate our lunch as we zipped along, attentive to the tiller to make the best of the 2–3' sea, but otherwise pretty relaxed. After a couple hours of reaching down past a big dredging barge, with a tug busily servicing it, and a smaller barge a ½ mile away, we rounded a buoy and began a close reach back towards Turkey Point. We had heard a couple of distant “thumps” and began to hear several more, a bit louder. We're guessing that these were coming from Aberdeen Proving ground to the West across the Chesapeake. I don't think we were a threat so they weren't shooting at us, but if they were - they missed!

The luff on that old main is just shy of 16'. We were flying the original poly-tarp homemade jib. It's self-tending .. not as powerful, but happily easy on a not-so-spry helmsmen.
I'm jealous of Steve's hat .. maybe Sandra will order up a new round of hats, tee-shirts & decals now that Duckworks has been featured in Small Craft Advisor AND Wooden Boat. Still sailing SW here.

By now conditions were on the high side of that forecast and I had to take care to slice into the white-capped sea to avoid serious pounding. Steve just leaned back and eased his arm onto the he leeward rail (still a foot above the water, but taking some occasional spray) as if to say “this is more like real sailing”. I fact I think I said exactly that to him! Making hull speed, rolling along with the Sun peeking behind building clouds .. real sailing by any standard. And this is about where we encountered the mun-mun in the luxury yacht with blackened windows .. probably on auto-pilot and down below. From that note:

“We had right of way but a 60' cruiser passed within 75' without slowing (SOB) and we had to cross a bow wave of at least 6' ... glad I could ease off the wind and take it with enough speed for a solid rudder and at maybe 75 - 80' .. but she just worked up one side and tore down the other. Great fun .. tho' I won't be disappointed if I never do it again.”

That wasn't the end of the excitement, however. I didn't include it emailing Chuck, still being full of it and not wanting to tarnish the day, but a more complete account should include this. Ten minutes after dealing with that BIG bow wave, we caught a huge gust and there was a loud “crack” and the port (windward) shroud came flopping and banging over the roof of the cabin. The boat didn't seem to miss it, but Steve took the tiller and I stepped into the cabin, grabbed the loose wire and looked over to the port deck to see what was up. The brass shackle had snapped off at the lower end! Nothing else seemed amiss. I had sailed the first two seasons without the shrouds .. the mast steps on the floor and passes through the beefed up forward cabin frame 3' 9” up, then extends up another 16'. Except for some hairline cracks at the corners of the frame, nothing had ever seemed damaged. I added the shrouds because the mast would bend 8 - 10” at the tip when the winds got over 10 or 12, de-powering the sail some .. 'and I tend to be pretty cautious'. Besides, Steve had the high-strength steel wire and know-how to do it.

Still sailing along on a port tack at a pretty good clip, I took a piece of 3/8 line and tied the shroud back on to the u-bolt on the outer deck as best I could; it wasn't tight, but seemed to prevent most but not all of the bend at the tip. Ten minutes and a ½ mile further and we came into the lee of Turkey Point and the wind eased some .. maybe just 15, and only a 2' sea. We tacked back in to the ramp with a sky growing a bit ominous but without any real concern, slid up onto the trailer, took down the rig, and headed home. I was a bit giddy .. this was surely my best sail on a 15' pocket cruiser I had designed myself, built under a tent in my back yard, and sailed four seasons .. now including “a real blow on big water”. I no longer felt self-conscious about using the phrase “having a bone in her teeth”. I'll probably never get to it, but riding home I couldn't keep myself from speculating that 'I could sail her down the ICW to Florida if I kept an eye on the weather'. (How 'giddy' was I ? … we left the rudder on the ramp dock ... I have since built a new one.)

Now this might have ended the story and having sent that note (that Chuck promptly put in DW Letters), I might not have bothered to write this except ... a couple weeks and two outings later (one a power-only afternoon), after a sail at Lake Nockamixon here at home, I noticed that my mast, two 10' sections of serious extruded aluminum with a slot for the main bolt rope. The mast tip was bent at least 10” to starboard from mid-point of the lower half , just above where it is secured to the forward bulkhead!

You can't see the reinforced forward bulkhead here but the mast box & partner at the top are shown. Photo taken a month before launch .. clean paint! There are more pictures in earlier build articles.
The mast emerges at that bulkhead & that's where it bent .. taken sailing north towards Turkey Point. It's about ½ hour before the shackle on that port shroud went "crack". (Paint not so shinny; 4th season)
The cleats are just below the roof / bulk head top .. and ½ of the bend has been "fixed" by placing it on the trailer tongue and standing on it just above the bend. To the right is the mizzen mast and mount.
The starboard shroud & shackle (stainless steel .. the port shackle that broke was bronze).

It had to have happened during that 3 – 5 minutes it went un-stayed and an hour loosely tied returning from the Chesapeake! There hadn't been any noticeable bend after any other sail, no matter the conditions. The main is only 75sf so the marine engineers among you can no doubt calculate what kind of force it was under up there .. and what kind of wind it took to cause that. (I suspect the actual wind that day, at least the gusts, was considerably higher than the forecast). There is no sign of stress on that reinforced bulkhead but I have replaced the shackle (more accurately, Steve replaced it). So you can see now why I feel comfortable titling this “A Real Blow on Big Water”. And I've concluded that the boat is a far more able sailor than her captain.


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