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...

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

This is Our Winter?

Northeast Florida presents a number of unique challenges to the small craft sailor in the summer. Our typical forecast is hot and relatively still in the morning with a thunderstorm in the afternoon. That has been the case this week but we have been through a drought in the past few months.

So I find for the most part that a decent wind has been either stifling or teamed up with an eminent or actual electrical storm. Not so good.

On the other hand winter here, although it can dip below freezing, is very often great for sailing. It presents good wind, brisk temps and wide open waters void of all except an occasional fishing boat. When my friends in Maine and England are buttoned up we are out and about on the rivers and coastal waters.

Fall and spring are mutually agreeable, but maybe our summers and winters are flipped. I wouldn't mind a bit of discourse on that.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Annie's Sculling Oar

The sculling oar I use on Annie is a modification of a design I was given in Cedar Key a few years ago by Alan Hall, a friend and Drascombe Coaster sailor from the mountains of Georgia. It is a long 12' 5" oar with a bent blade. I made it out of lumber yard spruce... two 2x4s for the shaft and a 1x6 for the blade. The blade drops 5 degrees from the line of the shaft. That helps me to keep the blade down in the water.

Steering with the sculling oar. Photo by Steve Early.

Alan and Ann Hall at Cedar Key. Photo by Ron Hodinett, WCTSS.

It was glued up with WEST epoxy and reinforced with bronze ring shank nails. The blade is 5 1/2" wide. 

Click me

Transom mounted sculling oars are common to Drascombes especially Luggers, Longboats and Coasters. I remade the sculling lock more robust by adding additional teak reinforcement, a larger oarlock that the one furnished and braided a tarred marlin lanyard to prevent the oar from jumping the lock. Marlin was also added to the inside of the lock to fill it out.

The chafing leather is more than required for I have moved the bearing point to get the best balance while sculling from the cockpit. 

The oar is actually more important for steering. Although the rudder kicks up, you cannot retract it if aground. The lower portion tucks up underneath the hull. The drill is to pull up the rudder and scull steer when shallow water is detected. I do that by dropping the centerboard, holding the hauling line and when the board hits ground and the line slacks I pull the rudder. The centerboard is deeper, warns first and gives me time for the tiller to oar move. What can I say.... it's a Drascombe thing.

Photo by Melinda Penkava,

Friday, June 24, 2011

On the Docks

St. Augustine has a rich maritime history. It was an fishing epicenter in the early days of modern shrimping in the US. The San Sebastian River that runs through the City was once lined with shrimp packing houses, boat builders, and 'log jammed' with rafted boats. Marine Supply and Oil that was started in the 1940s continues to outfit shrimp boats all over the world.

In the late 1990s I was asked by the Florida Preservation Board to research the industry and present at Marine Supply's 50th anniversary. My work revealed to me the importance of shrimping to our city and
how many people worked at these demanding jobs over the years.

Several years ago I was again fortunate to develop an exhibit on shrimping for the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum. They have a done a commendable job of collecting and interpreting shrimping history.

I grabbed these photos with my Iphone this afternoon on the San Sebastian and it brought back a lot of memories. If you have a chance, eat some Florida-caught shrimp... I guarantee you'll be glad you did.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Shop

As my bio mentioned I design and produce exhibitions for museums and park visitor centers. Terry, my fabricator and sailing friend, and I share a shop across town. He is currently finishing up a large historical exhibit I developed for the US District Courthouse in Ft. Myers, Florida. When we are between jobs we work on boats. Terry finds small fiberglass cabin boats and restores them. I built the interior to a Penobscot 14 that we picked up as a hull still in the forms in Miami. Its a fun place to hang out and attracts visitors frequently.

Terry resurfacing Gulf Coast 18

Compac 16 deck

Refurbishing Optis for SPARS ( kids sailing school)

Penobscot 14

Transom view

Picking up Penobscot 14 in Miami

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Annie is three years old. Like a young thoroughbred at the Belmont she has already been asked of and given back a lot in her short life. Here a few pictures from some of our days on the water.

Anchored on a sandbar, Passage Key Inlet
at the entrance to Tampa Bay. April. 2009

Lake Harris, Florida  by Ron Hodinett. December, 2007.

Swan Creek, NC by Steve of Log of Spartina. May, 2011

Cedar Key, FL by Ron Hodinott. May, 2008

Cortez, FL by Ron Hoddinott. May, 2009

Early morning, Hog Island on the St. Johns River
by Terry Drozd, March, 2010
(down to 36 degrees the night
before on the river. In Florida!)

Quiet evening, Back Creek, Mathews County, Virginia

Sunrise on the Chesapeake

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Waiting Around and Looking

Annie sleeps on her trailer in the side yard under cover. I worry about the heat these days and go out and open the cover ends to get air flow. I am working on a plastic pipe structure that will support a removeable tarp. Hurricanes are an seasonal way of life here.

Mark will be leaving for Atlanta tomorrow and has been a big help around the house. I dropped him and a kayak off at the boat ramp this afternoon. While he was paddling into a head wind up Salt Run I took time out to look around at a familiar place. What is most apparent is the relatively new mooring system that the City has installed. Along with the orderly-spaced balls reaching toward the horizon are new dinghy racks clearly marked for 'registered users' of the moorings.  Just to the side lay older dinghies- remnants of the days when live-aboards inhabited the run. It became a problem and thus, in part, the new system.

I understand the problem. I have always known that St. Augustine is a small town with a large need to protect its image. Many times the City has acted to control that image, sometimes proactively but often in lieu of enforcing their own ordinances. Take the banning of street performers on St. George Street. But that's for someone else to explore. Maybe its just that I have a soft spot for old, funky dinghies. Maybe that's all it is.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A Hot Time in the Oldest Town

It has been mighty hot here this week. 95-100. My young cousin Mark is helping me out this week refinish the bedroom floors and painting around the house. He will be a junior in college in Georgia and was having a hard time finding work like so many other young people. So we have moved everything out and are camping out wherever we can find a cool spot. Today I finally had had enough and hitched up Annie's "li' sis" Becky Thatcher and headed out to Salt Run.

We put in at the lighthouse ramp and sailed north out past the St. Augustine inlet. The tide and current were opposed and we slipped from side to side and crossed over many whirlpools. After a couple of cool down swims we sailed to the north shore of the inlet at Vilano. I grabbed this shot of Mark and Becky with my Iphone. We might have to do this again tomorrow afternoon.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Back to Anastasia Island

I live on Anastasia Island just across the Bridge of Lions in St. Augustine. It is real hot here this week as are probably most places in the US. I spent the past few hours at Anastasia State Park helping with SPARS, a non-profit that offers summer sailing classes to children. I am on the board and we were meeting the kids and parents for a pre-season sail and cookout. Here is a shot I took a while back of the lagoon on Salt Run where we have classes.

And... I forgot to mention... the mountain camping trip was a lot of fun for my brother Chris, Dad and I. 

A number of folks have asked about sculling. Tomorrow I am planning to write about it. Later.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Return to the Outer Banks, The Last Days

Thursday, May 12. I decided early that I would stay in town. I was a social day in Oriental with a warm, healthy dose of nice people on the docks. I met Malinda and Keith from They were interested in writing a feature on my trip, I agreed, and Malinda took pictures with "real" cameras and lots of notes. In the afternoon I sculled them around the basin and we had fun talking about boats.

As I was cleaning out the "down below" a kayaker came by and chatted. We struck it off and he invited me to the marina where he and his wife, Julie, were preparing for a new life as live-aboards on their 35' sail. Hunter cooked a tasty stir fry and we talked about cruising. Hunter offered to take me to Paradise Marina to get the truck and trailer. I happily agreed and left the rig next to Annie for the night.

Time to pack up

The next morning I hauled out at the NC Wildlife boat ramp and headed south. I decided to drop by Frogmore on St. Helena Island outside Beaufort, SC. My friend and fellow bluegrass player Beek owns a restaurant there. When I arrived I found that he was away so I had a great dinner and left again to look for a campground. I found one late near Hilton Head with everyone asleep and the office closed. Parked, jumped in Annie, awoke early, showered and headed home.

Annie and I had tracked 255 miles over 12 days. It was an unforgettable adventure. Time to started planning...

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Gone to the Mountains

I just arrived in NC at my Dad's house. My brother is flying tomorrow from New York and the three of us are heading up to the Blue Ridge Parkway outside Blowing Rock for a few days of camping. Will take some snapshots to share.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Do you know Dutch?

My friend Wouter von Eldik has a beautiful Lemster Aak... a classic Dutch shallow draft yacht. She is docked at the Mathews Yacht Club on the western shore of the Chesapeake in Virginia. He and his friend Catherine have asked me to sail them over to Onancock as part of the club's summer regatta. Since my girls are in Richmond this summer I am planning to stay with them the last two weeks in July and spend the weekends onboard in the Chesapeake. Fun... right?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

ROB Day 11

Wednesday, May 11.  Getting up and setting out pre-dawn is the best. It is very quiet and you slip away unnoticed. I cleared the entrance to Silver Lake on Ocracoke Island and started retracing my track from two days back. Within a half hour there was enough light to make markers with light winds out of the NE. With the tide running out, I motorsailed through the Nine Foot Shoal Channel, killed the engine and beat around Royal Shoals. The wind had picked up to around 12 with one foot chop, 5 second interval.

Click me

I continued west for several hours having shook out the reef wind increasing to 15 , full sail. We skirted the south edge of the prohibited area (large bombing sight) moving well at 5-6 knots with waves on the starboard stern quarter. Within 5 miles of of Bay River the wind picked up again gusting 20+ and I dropped the main and continued with 1/4 reefed headsail and mizzen.

Luckless trolling across the Pamlico Sound

Got a bit too close to Maw Point and had to face the now 4' waves (still 5 second interval!) and claw off to the SE. Very wet and exciting. Smoke from fires to the north had spread into my planned route to Bath up the Pamlico River so I decided to head south. The swells were quite big by our standards and as we clicked off miles we passed a number of yachts plying north along the Neuse/ICW. They were bashing into the waves and throwing nice bow spray.

Rolling with the punches

Northbound exodus along the ICW

I had decided not to chance Broad Creek and Paradise Marina where I had put in for there was no breakwater. Once Cedar Island started blocking the wind a couple of miles to the east the wind settled down. It became very overcast and rain looked eminent. It held dry and we turned north around the Oriental rock jetty at 4:30. I tied up to the Town Dock for the night and had a celebratory dinner at M&Ms...  chorizo black bean quesadillas and you guessed it... Red Stripe!     (46.5 miles today)

Whooped but happy

Safe harbor

At ease