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, September 28, 2017

Up River

Last weekend Annie and I ventured out for the second time with new spars and 'new to me' sails. My friend Steve the musician had gone with us on this first 're'shakedown. Heading back from a nice beach exploration north of The Hole in the Wall, the port shroud parted at the deck end swage fitting. I had pressed the fittings myself copying the original (fire damaged) shrouds. We quickly backed over to the opposite tack and got the mast down before the tabernacle was damaged. We headed to shore, over for the day and back at the marine store. There was surplus wire to extend all the eyes enough to double up on swaged sleeves. Not a good experience but lucky to be close in and to have crew support.

Back to last weekend... another good friend Peter invited me to join the Old Bay chapter of the Traditional Small Craft Association for a meetup on the Rappahannock River. The group included a number of sailing mates that had helped me with the studio rebuild. The rendezvous was Belle Isle State Park located up river from Urbanna, Virginia.

I left out early Friday and, upon reaching Gwynns Island, made a few modifications including fastening new mahogany jib sheet cleat pads. This raised the cleats enough to clear the newly replaced cockpit cushions. The rigging was reattached and we were off to Urbanna to launch.

Early morning, Gwynns

While Annie rested at the ramp dock I stashed the road rig in town. Out through the harbor and long tacks up river led to the campground. It took about 4 hours but I surely didn't care. We were out and moving again. It has been nine months since the fire and it seemed like a dream.

I found the dock and parking lot full of beautiful, traditional wooden boats. A pot luck was underway in a nearby screen room and old friends were glad to see me. What's not to like. After quite a feast I steered Annie up the adjoining creek to anchor for the night. Even though we are having an indian summer, it was cool enough to make for a good night's sleep.

The next day I jumped on board my friend Peter's Caldonia yawl Nip. Along with the other boats, we all made way across the river to a deserted beach backed by a towering clay wall that had formed by erosion. After a snack lunch we headed back picking up a fresh breeze with a few sneaky gusts to challenge the 'captain'. Held fast.

It was decided that we would go as a pack to a restaurant deep in the Northern neck. A colonial house with plenty of fresh seafood including fine oysters.  On return I anchored Annie back up the creek for the night.

In the morning we were away, sailing alone back down the river. The gifted sails she was carrying are not the perfect fit but are much appreciated and we managed. She will have a new set as soon as I can find a suitable sailmaker. That's another day, another post.

not setting well but pulling nevertheless

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

From the Deep

Yesterday I ventured out in the early morning before the sun got too full of itself. Headed to Gwynns Island and on to Deltaville with Annie in tow. Much has happened in the past four months since my last log entry, but sometimes you need to lay low. The drive out east broke the spell.

I've spent much of the past months traveling back and forth to coastal Georgia to work, rebuilding Annie's spars and rig, and finishing the studio rebuild (almost) "with a little help from my friends." All has gone well albeit slower than I expected but then... where do I have to go?

Regarding the studio... thanks again to Kev Mac, Eddie, Barry, Steve, Mike, Harris, Michael, Rob, Jordan, brother Chris and nephew Noah for all the nail bangin' (and shootin'), 26 degree chops, roof sliding, dippin' and spreadin', and making me laugh. Final steps are to put up sheet rock and white wash interior. I'm there.


Reaching Deltaville I checked out a couple canvas shops and picked Island Canvas to remake Annie's fire-lost cockpit cushions. Jeane was really backed up it being summer so I agreed to make the patterns. Pulling Annie behind the shop under the shady pines I set to chalk, cut lines and swat mosquitoes. We'll see how that turns out.

Went by the maritime museum and they were in the second day of their family boat building week. Flat-bottom skiff were the week's challenge and about 12 crews were hard at it. I remembered my first museum skiff-build some twenty-five years ago and how much fun it was. I know by the end of the week when the fresh-painted craft hit the creek, there will be a bunch of proud folks.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Back to Work

The epoxy set up well on the spars but they have been left for another day (or so) as I have been working steady on a design job in Jekyll Island, Georgia.

Designing a new park exhibit that will tell the story of the survivors from the Wanderer, the last slave ship to Georgia and the next to US/African slave trade. She was a 106' square topmast schooner built as a yacht racer and sailed at 20 knots. Re-outfitted with slave transport modifications, she sailed the West Africa in 1858 and picked up 487 captives; reaching the Jekyll Creek where she went aground. Many of the 'cargo' were lost and this story and after is my task to interpret.

My concept is to present it as a family learning experience with children's book illustrations and re-created settings to attract children and youth, and more in-depth context to empower parents and caregivers to interact.

On the studio front... I (with the help of my friend Eddie) am finalizing the design and looking forward to a big build party in June. And maybe an invitation to crew on a small craft in the interim.

The Wanderer

Concept sketch

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!