Friday, August 1, 2014

How NOT to do a kayak trip in Virgin Islands

When I published my trip narrative, On Island Time back in 2005, in the back of my mind it occurred to me that some would-be adventurer with the same determination I had at age 25 might be inspired by the book to set out on some life-threatening adventure and go missing or worse. I wondered if I could be sued by the family, but then put such worries aside when I realized that most likely, the odds of such a thing happening were slim, considering the limited distribution the book would get, published by a small university press in Mississippi.

But out of the blue one day, I got an email from of all places, Kansas.  Scott Finazzo, a professional firefighter there, had received my book as a gift from his wife, and the wheels began turning.  Already infatuated with the Virgin Islands from a trip there as a tourist, Finazzo was now inspired to paddle there.  No, he wasn't planning to try and paddle to the islands from Kansas, but he did plan to island hop among them, getting far off the beaten path in both the U.S. and British Virgin Islands.  The thing is, he had zero seat time in sea kayaks, not even a day trip on a Midwestern lake or river.  He also quickly realized it would cost too much to ship hardshell touring kayaks there, no outfitters in the islands rented appropriate boats for his proposed trip, and buying an expensive folding kayak such as a Feathercraft was way out of the budget.  Not to be deterred by such minor inconveniences, he enlisted two of his firefighter buddies as co-conspirators in the adventure.  One of them suggested building the boats for the job, so under his guidance an after-hours boatbuilding project was began in a suburban garage in Kansas.

There were so many setbacks and delays that the glue binding the fabric on the skin-on-frame kayaks was literally drying on the plane ride down island.  The boats were completely untested until they were assembled on a Caribbean beach for first time.  These guys didn't even know how to get in a sea kayak before they began!  Finazzo describes one such entry in this typically hilarious passage in his book: 'While still nestled firmly in the sand of Brewer's Bay, Eric squeezed, jostled, and cussed himself into his kayak.  The boat rocked side-to-side as he kicked his linebacker legs into position.  Once in place, he quickly scooted his ass forward and backwards a few times like a dog on the living room carpet. He successfully lodged himself in and gave me a nod affirming he was ready to go.'

Finazzo describes this whole adventure in a way that is both entertaining and informative.  He later enlisted my advice on writing and recently completed his book about the trip: Why Do All The Locals Think We're Crazy?  Three Men, Three Kayaks, The Caribbean, and One Bad Idea.  The book is available now on Amazon in both paperback and ebook formats, and is a read I highly recommend.  Yours truly even wrote the forward!  Finazzo and I have long since become good friends since that first email out of the blue, coauthoring The Prepper's Workbook for Ulysses Press earlier this year and last year sailing together across the Gulf of Mexico to bring my Cape Dory 27 home to Biloxi.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Reuel Parker Egret 31.5 Sharpie Build Blog

During my most recent visit with Reuel Parker, which has now been a little over a year ago but certainly doesn't seem like it, Reuel gave me the study plans for an enlarged Egret-styled sharpie.  Based on the original 28-footer made famous by Commodore Munroe in Florida, this 31.5-foot version offers much better cruising accommodations, although like all sharpies, still minimal for it's size.  Reuel said it was the most boat that could be built for the money and pointed out that it would be quick to build, trailerable and yet capable of crossing the Gulf Stream and exploring skinny water off the beaten track, like the Bights of Andros, one of his favorite places in the Bahamas to hang out.

I was intrigued, but not ready to start another boat building project so soon after selling my Wharram Tiki 26.  In fact, the reason I was in Reuel's neck of the woods in Florida was to inspect a Liberty 28  Cutter that was offered by a brokerage nearby.  I didn't make an offer on the Liberty, and ended up buying my Cape Dory 27 several months later, but I've pulled out those Egret study plans more than a time or two.  I kept hoping someone would build one, and now it is happening.  A Google search of the design turned up Dennis Woodriff's build blog, started in 2013.  Building in Virginia, he made rapid progress until winter and a move put him on temporary hold.  The hull has been built and turned and he is now finishing the interior, deck and house structures:

I got in touch and learned that Dennis has extensive sailing experience and plans more big adventures when he launches his new Egret sharpie.  I'm anxiously awaiting the continuation of the build, and I'm betting that once the weather improves we won't have to wait long to see this new Parker design launched.

For more on the Egret 31.5, the description of the design is available on Reuel Parker's site here.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Columbus Ship Replicas During Biloxi Stopover

Considered to be the closest replicas to the real thing ever built, the Niña and Pinta Columbus ships operated by The Columbus Foundation of the British Virgin Islands were docked in Biloxi most of last month.  Built in the traditional way in Brazil, both of these ships are full of authentic details on deck, despite the hidden engines and more modern crew accommodations down below.

The Pinta replica is larger than the original, but the Niña is historically accurate, at 65 feet on deck with an 18 foot beam and 7 foot draft.  This is the Niña below:

View of the Pinta from on board the Niña:

The Pinta on deck:

The Niña in profile with Deer Island in the background, just across Biloxi harbor:

More about these ships can be found on the The Columbus Foundation website here.  After leaving Biloxi they were scheduled to haul out for maintenance at Landry Boatworks,  Bayou la Batre, Alabama.  The next port where they will be open for visitors is Ft. Walton Beach, Florida.
"A boat is freedom, not just a way to reach a goal."
Bernard Moitessier - A Sea Vagabond's World


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