Since 1978 I have been fortunate to sail wooden boats. In 2006 I set out to find a Drascombe Longboat Cruiser for single-handed expedition sailing. This is the continuing story of how it came to be, our adventures, notes on the maritime world and other things I don't want to forget...

Sunday, February 19, 2017


Spar-making is going along real well. Have been making the "commute" to John and Vera's. They are on a trip to Texas and I am alone to progress. Shaped the main halyard sheave with files and coarse paper by making an axle out of a threaded bolt and locking nuts, then chucking in the drill press. Drilled through the mast and with a few adjustments to the rectangular hole... she spun freely.

The mast band that carries the shrouds and jib wire/forestay required a rabbet around the top of the mast and the tabernacle bolt hole was oversized to accept a pivot bushing. John had shaped a white oak crook into two gaff throat sides and I inset them into the gaff end. With all the tooling complete, the spars got sanded again.

Yesterday I returned and flow coated with WEST thinned with acetone. This, hopefully will penetrate the soft spruce and protect the varnish surface from inevitable dings and discoloring. This morning they were dry and ready for sanding in the near future.

Forging ahead... slowly.

Someday soon

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Pheonix from the Ashes

What a month. The insurance issues settled and they made out the best. Due to the language that stated that our homeowners policy would not cover the out structure harboring a painting business, we got zip for removing and rebuilding the studio/workshop. They did pay for a portion of the contents and $1000 for the boat spars, sails, rigging and cushions. So... read your policies, get extra boat insurance, and be careful. Shit happens... in the middle of the night.

I got bids and proceeded with having the building and debris removed. After 6 weeks we were very happy to have it taken away. We salvaged as much as possible including a number of tools that were worth cleaning up. Eleanor helped me rebuild the fence and we feel a bit less exposed.

Annie's spars were charred but useful in taking measurements. Gathering up info and pieces I headed to Urbanna where John and I interpolated the info and set to work. John had Sitka spruce from way back and laminated it up for the two masts. The burnt main mast was trimmed down and recycled for the gaff. After he cut the tapers I set out planing both with a power planer and a bench plane. Before long the floor was deep in shavings, the cold shop air full of wood scent, and I was happy again.

My new friend Andy from Virginia Beach generously gave me an old set of Longboat sails. With a little alteration they will fit the new spars and give Annie wings until I can afford new ones.

My bivouac studio in a spare bedroom is working out. I have a large deadrise painting on the easel and have made progress on the Wanderer slave ship exhibit design for Jekyll Island, Georgia. More on that later.

We plan to build the studio back in the spring/early summer. I need to set aside a few weekends and share the dates with friends that want to join the work party. Will get that done this week.

All and all life is good and the winter mild. The one big snow brought ten inches of powder and was gone in a few days. Tomorrow it will be in the low 70s. Perfect.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017


The snow is melting fast and it may go up into the 60s F. today. Monday I received the fire claim decision. Due to my studio ( a detached structure) being a place where paintings were produced and then sold through galleries, the homeowners insurance would not cover the removal and replacement of the structure, nor the paintings and painting supplies. Watercraft limit was $1000, so Annie's spars, sails, rigging and cushions were, for the most part, were uncovered. I had failed to read the 'finer points' of our homeowners policy. I hope that others with home-based businesses check their policies closely and avoid this type of situation. I surely would not want anyone to go through this.

On the high side Lingering Lunacy Eddie came by and we commiserated on how to rebuild. Eddie is a very capable architect (as well as a stellar boat builder/sailor) and together we are starting to plan a studio raising for the spring/summer. Many good folks have volunteered to pitch in. I foresee a tent city.

I also talked with John, shipwright and captain of the F.D. Crockett. He has a stash of spruce just right for spars. As soon as I get particulars on Annie's sails we will schedule a time to start ripping and laminating. I'm in good hands.

In the meantime I have been immersing myself in pottery. Taking it out on big lumps of clay. Its helping.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Shiver me Timbers

It's 3 degrees this morning. There is a small craft warning. Seems like stating the obvious. Think I'll put a splash in my coffee!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

A Carving Chisel

I finished the inventory of what I lost last night and sent it along to the insurance adjuster. Quotes on clearing and rebuilding are also being finished and submitted. I am hoping for some help from insurance but not at all sure how much... or when.

Annie's spars are well charred and the sails, sheets and halyards are completely gone. There is metal gear- furling swivel, tangs, wire shrouds, mast band and more- that is intact but need replacing. A house fire is around 1100 degrees F. and I do not trust the metals strength. After taking measurements I sawed the mast ends off and there is a lot of good eastern red spruce still inside. It may be possible to get a smaller spar out.

I spent a good amount of time yesterday digging through the debris to remember things for the inventory and found a few pieces intact. Cleaned up a carving gouge that could still 'still plow a row'. It felt like a start and that's a good feeling.

The only discernible remnant of a set of tanbark sails.


Salvageable spruce

A bucket of found objects

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Up Early

Its early Christmas morning and I am up alone. The house is still cold as the furnace catches up with the new day. The girls will get to sleep in and I'll have this time to remember this past week.

I have had a lot of friends checking in. Thoughtful messages, letters, deposits on future artwork and small checks from folks I've not seen in years. Richmond friends have passed along spare house tools. Many of my 'boat buddies' have pledged to rally for a building party when the spring returns.

When I can bring myself to it I have picked through the wet ashes. Found my grandfather's WWI knife and several tools that I used in the '80s when I carved and sold sugar pine fish in Santa Fe. One of the megalodon teeth kept from my work on white shark in South African survived. I hadn't known how much these small things would remind me of the long, rich life I've been fortunate to experience.

Good news... although Annie's sail maker is out of business, their sister shop is still in going in Burlington, Vermont and have all the original accounts and specifications. They have quoted me and new sails are my first priority. Shaw & Tenney have the spar plans but due to cost I will opt to build myself. Friend John has a stash of seasoned spruce that might come into play.

Now I'm selfishly hoping the girls get up soon. Thank you to everyone for your support. And Merry Christmas!

"Seeing If I Still Have It", acrylic on canvas, ©Curtis Bowman 2016