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by Robert Whitaker – King, North Carolina - USA

I've always had a desire to seek adventure. I think most of us do. It might even be considered a compulsion by some, Camping, Hiking and Exploring new places has had a wide appeal to me since a very young age. I guess getting involved in Boy Scouts of America was only natural. And that's where this adventure began.

I was fortunate enough to be able to attend Scout Camp in the foothills of North Carolina for a few years in my pre and early teens. I was eagerly earning Merit Badges to attain my next level of Rank and Camp was always a great place to attain a few more. And if memory serves me correctly, there was a lake of about 25 acres with a swimming area, Canoes and Sail Boats. AhhHa! you say. Finally something about boats. Yes indeed, that's where I got my first taste of Sailing.

Someone watching would have called it floating and paddling but all the same it was sailing to me. The Counselors were very wary about letting us out in the sailboats and even though I had earned my Canoeing Merit Badge and proven to be a strong swimmer holding 1 and 3 mile swim patches. And Junior lifesaver training if there was more than a whisper of a breeze they were off limits. However, I was still drawn to them and took one out every chance I got. On one of these lazy summer evenings a storm blew up unexpectedly and I finally got the ride I'd been looking for. I can still hear the Counselors calling for me to drop sail. No way was that happening. With the pending storm blowing in I secured the boat and escaped any scrutiny or scolding from the Counselors.

All that floating and bobbing around gave my young imagination a good work out dreaming about adventure on the open seas and living the life of an old salt with a knowledge and wisdom about my vessel unparalleled by any other mere mortal. Bear in mind that these were Styrofoam boats with wooden dagger boards and rudders and a lateen sail with what looked more like a big sunflower on it than anything. The actual make and name escape me, imagine that.

Duck Nutz
Mast Build
Island pic with Alex and Alexis
Rigged for yard sailing

Fast forward 35 Years, 3 Children, 2 grandchildren and all the usual things laid on the table for us as we raise families. After several power boats and even a place at the lake for a few years, I still had never pursued a sailing vessel. Building and Flying Radio Control Aircraft and Amateur Radio took most of my hobby time and budget. After the twins were born that slowed down also as they became older and more active in sports and Church and the usual activities. I was becoming much closer to the Five O mark than I care to admit especially with the recent passing of my Father at only 68 yrs old and my mother passing at the age of 58. I was compelled to examine my own mortality or should I say Bucket list more closely. Over the years building a boat had a wide appeal, but I never made the commitment other than picking up the occasional magazine. With the internet being what it is and the vast amount of home builder plans available, I absorbed all I could and checked out every book the Library had that had anything to do with boats. I eventually ended up with Dynamite Payson's Instant Boats and Jim Michalak's Boat Building for Beginners books. I consider them to be the bibles for the home builder interested in boat construction.

At this point I was chomping at the bit to get started on a project. But which one? I had joined a few forums of local sailing clubs and happened across a post from Dean Herring of Youngsville NC had a couple boats for sale and lived within a reasonable distance so I contacted him to find out the details.

Enter Duck Nutz. A John Welsford design Kiwi Racer all built and painted by a local builder and maidened by Dean with a sprit sail that apparently wasn't working out very well to winward. The Center of effort was way off. Dean contacted Dave Gray at Poly Sails International and arranged for Dave to make the Herring Lateen aptly named after him. This was graciously included. All that was left to do was to build the spars install all the rigging, purchase some PFD's and go sailing. Simple enough? Not quite, it was a good bit of work but quite enjoyable.

So I decided to build the spars from wood, purchase necessary hardware from my favorite Chandlery (Duckworks of course) and give everything a couple coats of epoxy and varnish. Now for the rigging, I had the plans but there's always more than one way to skin a cat so I found The Monies on Sail Oklahoma's website with a ton of great pics of Jackie's flawless Kiwi. Dave Gray was also very helpful with rigging the sail of course. Numerous questions were answered on the forums and everything finally fell into place on May 22nd 2011. After 35 years the Boy Scout found his way back at the helm. I may not have had the biggest boat on the lake but I had the biggest smile guaranteed. After a couple hours on the water we got much better at maneuvering around and were able to make a stop at one of the islands for a sandwich and a cold soda.

The Kiwi handled the three of us very well in what at times was very choppy wakes of 2' or more. We got lots of nice compliments and lots of looks from other boaters. When it was time to call it a day we found favorable winds back to the landing and I just wanted to turn around and go some more. The Twins however were ready to go. Hopefully they will continue to go with me and become comfortable sailing Duck Nutz which they named by the way.

I have firmly and undoubtedly became infatuated with small home built boats. I have also met some outstanding people who do a great deal to promote this Hobby or infatuation in my case. I definitely have plans for a future project but it seems the hardest part is picking one!

So many boats and so little time.

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