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...

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A New Path

Annie has gone through a few changes lately. When Terry and I got to Bokeelia to launch last month we noticed the the bumpkin was missing. I had seen it at the shop and assumed that it had been packed onboard before the trip. We fashioned a substitute using the boat hook and a piece of line tied with a loop as a turning 'block'. It worked suitably even in a 25 knot wind. I guess it was good that the mizzen is a small sail.

Boat hook deployed

When we returned there was no spar waiting for us at the shop. A real mystery. I have gone ahead and made a new one out of radiata pine. Yet to try out...

She also has a new cover that my friend Edward, our local sailmaker, made for me. It has snaps and a shot-weighted apron on the back to protect the transom varnish. No more plastic tarps disintegrating in the Florida sun.

Eleanor and I celebrated our 30th anniversary on the 12th. It coincidentally corresponded to our 'coming out' on the decision to move along. We will be listing our house in February and heading for Europe for an extended adventure. I will take Annie to North Carolina for storage and we plan to spend some time in Richmond, Virginia next year. I am excited about the possibility of sailing the Chesapeake. 

St. Augustine has been a great place to live. We met here in 1980...  Eleanor arriving from Mexico and I, aboard my Buchanan Spartan. We still have a lot to explore together.

December 11, 1980

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Clear and Burn

My friend Mel and I spent the day on Drayton Island. Since we had gotten needed rain we decided to re-clear the area along the river. Our land has 300 feet of river frontage that drops 20 feet to the shore. The river has been eroding along that stretch of pre-colonial shell midden for years. Large trees, both deciduous and palm are slowly dropping over the edge.

We took a chain saw and other tools over in Mel's Key West 17. The day was perfect ... clear and in the 70s. Since there was only a slight breeze we decided to burn the dry limbs and fronds that had been cut and left last year. We took a ride down island on the 4-wheeler and got home by dark. Still have to wait a day to see if the red bugs found us.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Wilderness Island

About eight years ago two groups of friends (including Eleanor and I) purchased contiguous property at the northwest corner of Drayton Island. The island sits in the St Johns River in a sparsely populated area of inland Florida. It is accessible by boat or a small, infrequent car ferry pushed across by an outboard-powered yawl boat. A few people have residences but for the most part 'full-timers' are deer, alligators, a few bald eagles and in the summer- ticks. Our scene is undeveloped and wild.

Drayton Island

Eleanor and I explore the shore by kayak

As late fall and winter bring cool weather Drayton becomes a great place to camp out and sail around. In years past we have had a lot of fun on the island and its time to go again...

Rafted up

Cypress along the Salt Spring Run

The grill is ready

Bluegrass in the smoke

Ferrying 'Becky Thacher- style'

Jack's camp

Oatmeal and coffee breakfast on a cold morning

Friday, November 18, 2011


A couple of nights ago I spoke to a meeting of the Traditional Small Craft Association chapter at the St. Augustine Lighthouse Museum. TSCA is a national group of enthusiast that share information, boatbuilding efforts and have meets in the form of festivals and 'mess abouts'. My talk centered on my experiences cruising in small boats with the help of a video projector and lots of 'slides'.

The St. Augustine chapter is part of LAMP Boatworks associated with the Lighthouse Archaeology and Maritime Program. The group has completed several small craft and others are in progress including a ship's boat for the Galveztown, a Revolutionary War ship being built in Spain.

LAMP Boatworks

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Cayo Day 5

Up early, last of the eggs. Weighed anchor and motored against the wind until the channel turned west enough to motor-sail with the jib and mizzen. Returned to the ramp at Bokeelia, hauled out and spent the next 5 hours heading back to St. Augustine. Stopped at Pollo Tropical Caribbean chain restaurant and filled up on the way with  enough for to-go bags. Although the fishing left it bit to be desired, it was good time. Tropical Florida in the late fall....

Boca Grande Day 2

Click me

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Cayo Day 4

Granola bars, bananas and coffee for breakfast. Set out south down the east side of Pine Island. A very easy run downwind using the whisker and bamboo poles to wing out the jib and main with a make-shift preventer settling the head sail. We picked up the markers rimming the north end of the island and slipped into what we would learn is called the Miserable Mile. Green and red markers zigged and zagged as we followed the narrow cut toward the village of Matlacha (mat-la SHAY). Arriving we tied up to a work dock by the bridge we came across days before on our way to Bokeelia. Inquired about a lunch place and ended up moving through the nearby canal and tying up at Old Fish House Marina. Terry had an oyster sandwich and I, a mullet wrap.

Old Fish House Marina

Pine Island shrimper


We walked along the small, funky shops and grabbed an ice cream before heading back north. Crossed over to the east side of the cut into the flats and fished with new 'shrimp lures" we picked up at a bait shop. Had a few bites but guess what... no luck. We continued north anchoring by a hammock and got hit hard by mosquitoes. Re-anchoring nearer the channel we finished dinner in a breeze and turned in early.

Moon over the mangroves

Monday, November 14, 2011

Cayo Day 3

Up at daybreak and started fishing the mangrove line. Caught some small 'throw backs" and Terry cooked up scrambled eggs with onions and brie. We made our way over to the state park docks and went in the ranger's office to check out their chart and get some local knowledge.

Couldn't have waited any longer

Terry's handmade 'Costa Rican' coffee machine

Cayo Costa State Park docks

Where's that big snook?

About 0900 we decided to head north up Charlotte Harbor. The wind was NNE at 15-18 knts with gusts. The chop was on the nose 1-3 ft. at 2 second interval. So we held on and made long tacks under double-reefed main, full head and mizzen. Packed the scuppers with sponges on the inside to minimize water coming onboard and made Burnt Store Marina below Punta Gorda around 1600.

We tied up to the gas dock and trudged into the 'all you can eat pizza and pasta night' restaurant. That was an unexpected treat. We had learned earlier that an overnight tie-up was $49 minimum (!) so we grabbed a shower (the door was open) and motored out to the leeside of a hammock near the entrance. Its trees were covered with hundreds of nesting birds... we anchored off and tried to keep quiet not to disturb them. 22.4 earned miles.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Cayo Day 2

Slept well, woke early and cooked eggs for breakfast. Hoisted anchor and drift fished along the mangroves to no avail. Continued south along the inside of Pelican Bay and back north after finding the lower island hammocks a bit shallow. We crossed the inlet close hauled and entered Boca Grande.

Crossing Boca Grande Pass
Old Boca Grande is the quintessential Florida fishing village known as the "Tarpon Capital of the World". Lush tropical vegetation and boats tucked away in tight canals. Anchoring just off the docks we had lunch and after idling through the canal, tied up at Whidden's Marina in search of live shrimp. The bait was 'do-it-yourself' as the family lounged and played on old furniture strewn around the covered dock. We walked into the grocery room and it was straight out of the past with product that had most likely been around for years. We payed and Terry tied the bait bucket off the stern.

Along the canal

'old school' style


Returned to Pelican Bay and tied up at Cayo Costa State Park docks, hiked the trail to the beach and ended the day back in the same anchorage. We cooked black beans and rice for dinner and after setting the mizzen tight, pulled in close to the mangroves ready for early morning fishing.

Washed ashore on Cayo Costa

Days End

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Cayo Trip Day 1

We returned yesterday afternoon from a 4 day trip to southwest Florida. Good sailing for sure...

Day 1
Terry and I left St. Augustine Saturday morning after picking up Annie at the shop where we had loaded her. We headed down I95 and then I4 through Orlando. I decided to take a slightly longer route south to Sebring. Our firm had designed and built an exhibit on the Civilian Conservation Corps in Florida at Highlands Hammock State Park and I thought Terry would like to see it. The CCC was a national work project that built the original Florida State Parks during the Depression. As we arrived we found that the park was having their annual CCC Festival. We walked around, saw the exhibit and spoke to the assistant manager I had worked closely with 9 years ago. Sometimes going back to a place in your past isn't the best idea. This was good.

We continued to Cape Coral, crossed the bridges to Pine Island and made our way to Bokeelia on the north shore. Lavender Landing boat ramp charged $10 a day to launch and park. As we were rigging Terry noticed that the boomkin was left behind. It is a spar that support the turning block for the mizzen sheet. The boat hook took its place, tying a loop of line to act as a block.


We motored out the canals and passed through Shell Cut into the sound. It was around 1630 and the wind was a solid 15 with gusts to 25 out of the NNE. I had tied in a double reef in the main to stay on the safe side.

As we made our way around west up and around the shoal markers the sun started setting. Terry held course as I prepared the running lights. He had been getting some oversized waves and when I returned to the cockpit from the foredeck a gust hit just as a large wave lifted us up. The rail dipped and water rolled in to the cockpit. She righted quickly and I started pumping. All was well in a couple minutes as night set in.

Around 1930 Annie rounded the markers at the north end of Cayo Costa and hugged the downwind side of the opening to Pelican Bay where several anchor lights shown beyond. After clearing we anchored in a cove protected by thick mangroves and tore into a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken. We set up the cockpit tent (Terry's 'cabin') and I went below for the night. The exploration had started.

Down below

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A Couple More Days

Terry and I are leaving for Cayo Costa this Saturday. We moved the departure up to coincide with favorable weather. Today I took Annie to the shop and we started going through gear and making a grocery list. Tomorrow we will finish alterations and Friday load up for road. 

Terry modifies the removable sleeping board supports in the cockpit

Appears that we will have good wind out of the north

An aside... I played music at an environmental meeting down south along the Matanzas River this afternoon. Lots of salty oysters and fish stew!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Back for Dinner Continued

I returned to the ramp dock, set up running lights and meandered south up Salt Run. Found a quiet place and anchored for the night. I got a good nights sleep... the rocking and trickling of water under the hull affected me like a couple of sleeping pills. The sunlight broke the horizon about 6 am almost an hour before the sun itself. We live a couple of miles from the beach but with trees and houses between us, this display is never as dramatic. I guess that's why folks spend the big bucks 'over there'.

I returned to the dock and later was joined by the girls for a onboard picnic before taking our daughter to the airport to return to school. A good family and a boat... number one and number two on my list!