Thursday, December 17, 2009

The First U.S. Built Wharram Tiki 8-Meter

David Halladay and the Boatsmith crew have launched the first of two foam-core/fiberglass composite Wharram Tiki 8-Meter catamarans they have contracted to build for a south Florida resort as day-charter boats.

These first two boats are modified from the orginal design to suit the needs of the charter company, hence the extra aft beam and aft steering station that gets the helmsman out of the cockpit and frees up more space for the guests.  You can see this modification by clicking on the photo above to enlarge it. 

The other significant modification is the rig, which replaces the Tiki gaff wingsail main with a fully-battened, loose-footed main with a boom.  David says this configuration offers many more options for adjusting sail trim, as well as provides a larger sail area for light air, which is an important consideration for the variable light-air conditons typical of Florida's Gulf Coast.  The jib is equipped with roller-furling.   With this rig, both main and jib are easily furled and put away.

David is extremely pleased with how the boat sails.  The video below should explain why.  Look at it go in barey a puff of wind!

David and the crew trailered the boat fully assembled (with a wide-load escort) from the shop to the public boat launch at Burt Reynold's Park, on the Intracoastal Waterway.  Compared to the Tiki 30, it was quick and easy to launch, and he says that stepping the aluminum mast was much easier as well.

Beaching is a snap.  Note the kick-up rudders - another modification required by the charter company.  The crossbeams are composite foam core/glass as well, making them much lighter than standard Tiki beams of wood and glass. 

Although many builders, myself included, prefer the character that wood construction gives and the easier one-off building process, David expects that customers looking to purchase a finished boat will really like the low-maintenance of these composite Tiki 8-Meter cats.  This is an ideal sized boat in so many ways for so many things, which is exactly why I chose the Tiki 26, the wood composite version, for my personal boat to build. 

For more info contact David Halladay through his website: 

Monday, December 14, 2009

Paddling the Pascagoula, 1954

As I've mentioned here before, one of the greatest rewards of being an author is hearing from readers of my books about how reading one of them either inspired them to go out and do something adventurous or reminded them of a past pleasure from a similar experience.

This week I got an email from Mike Warnock, a reader of Paddling the Pascagoula who said he could relate to the narrative because he had made his own journeys down the river in the mid 1950's, along with fellow members of Boy Scout Troop 220 of Moss Point.

In the photo above, from 1954, Mike is the kid in the straw hat in the back of the second canoe. He said the longest trip they did on the river was 5 days and 150 miles. They saw few, if any people, and he doesn't remember seeing any of the sewer discharges or trash Ernest Herndon and I reported in our book from our trip in 2004, fifty years later.

Last summer Troop 220 had a reunion at a cabin out from Lucedale, not far from the river (see photo below). Mike is now living in Idaho and is still an outdoorsman. Their Scoutmaster, Sam Wilkes, now 83, is the man in the front center.

I told Mike that I envied those experiences he had at that perfect age for canoeing a river. Though I went on to become fanatical for many years about canoeing and sea kayaking, I never set foot in a canoe until I was 18 years old. Canoeing was almost unheard of around the small town where I grew up, and we did not have an active Scout Troop that did that sort of thing.

Ernest and I have often discussed the fact that Mississippi, a state blessed with woods and water, including thousands of miles of perfect streams for canoeing, just does not have a canoe culture. Even today, anyone paddling a canoe on the bigger rivers of the state like the Pascagoula or the Pearl is looked on with disbelief by the local fishermen in their John boats with outboards. This may never change, but for those of us who do recognize it, this state has some of the finest canoe waters in the country, and the Pascagoula River System surely has some of the finest in the state. I would have loved the opportunity to make such a journey down the river at the age or ten or twelve, but as it turned out there were plenty of opportunities later, and hopefully will be many more in the future.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Alberg 29 - A Great Deal in Texas

Below: The Alberg 29 Jubilee, offered for sale in Rockport, Texas.

I can't believe this boat has been on the market so long, especially at the price it's been reduced to since October - just $21,500. I guess it goes to show how much of a buyer's market it is right now for things like cruising sailboats. The Alberg 29 is a bit of a rare item, and not very well known among fans of Carl Alberg's designs compared to the much more common boats in this size range such as the Alberg 30, the Pearson Triton and the Cape Dories.

This example was built in 1982, and while it is classic Alberg, (see the out of water photo below) the 29 was intended to be an updated, modernized version of the famed Alberg 30. There are not many of these around, and information about the design is scarce online. One resource is Twentynine, an owner website devoted to the design.

Below is a photo of Jubilee's nicely-finished interior, which is still in good shape, as all of the boat appears to be.

I've been wondering when this boat would sell, and I am quite surprised it's stayed on the market for this long. For someone wanting to go cruising in a moderate-sized bluewater vessel in the tradition of the boats described in John Vigor's Twenty Small Sailboats to Take You Anywhere, this could be your vessel. Someone should buy it and send me a postcard from the Caribbean this winter.

Get all the specs and details on the owner's ad here:

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Winter Wharram Rendezvous this Weekend

The Winter Rendezvous for Wharram Catamaran enthusiasts will take place this weekend in south Florida. The location has been moved this year from Hobe Sound to Peanut Island, near Lake Worth Inlet. This area offers a good anchorage, room to sail nearby, easy access to the ocean, snorkeling in the clear waters around the island and camping ashore. If you're out boating or kayaking in the area, look for the Wharram cats to be anchored near the northwest side of the island. The photo below is an aerial view looking north from south of the island.

David Halladay will be there with his Tiki 30, Abaco, and hopefully, one of the new GRP Tiki 8-meter cats he's currently finishing up. Guest will include another well-known British multihull designer - Richard Woods, as well as boat designer and author, Reuel Parker. Guest from as far away as Europe, British Colombia, Idaho and Rhode Island are expected. There will be a Tiki 46 on hand, as well as a Tangaroa, Tiki 26 and others.

If you are shorebound in the area and can't get to the anchorage, call 561-632-2628 or 561-632-5970 when you arrive.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Across Islands and Oceans

One of my favorite sailing writers of all time is James Baldwin, of the Pearson Triton Atom. Over the years I have eagerly looked forward to his magazine articles in Cruising World and Good Old Boat, and have learned much from the great resources he has published on his website: Atom Voyages.
Certainly what has attracted me to Baldwin's writings on the subjects of ocean voyaging, choosing and preparing a boat for cruising, and finding ways to finance the lifestyle is his overwhelmingly can-do, positive attitude. Unlike so many of the the advertising-driven articles that make up the bulk of most sailing magazines, James Baldwin goes against the tide in writing about simple and modestly-sized boats, a simple cruising lifestyle, and an attitude reminiscent of Moitessier about work and money. Baldwin didn't wait for comfortable retirement and the means to buy a 40-foot plus yacht before going to sea in search of adventure. Instead, at the age of 21 he spent everything he had to purchase a 28-foot Pearson Triton, took some shakedown cruises to see what he needed and what he did not need, then sailed the boat around the world - not once, but twice.
James Baldwin has since been based in Brunswick, Georgia with his wife Mei, who he met on his second voyage. I've corresponded with him a number of times on various subjects ranging from publishing books and choosing a suitable cruising boat to discussions of Wharram catamarans.
He told me he intended to write a book about some of his experiences, and now he has gotten around to doing so, posting it online chapter-by-chapter where you can read it free of charge. At a later date he intends to offer it as a Print-On-Demand book on Amazon. I really hope he does this soon, as I will be one of the first to order it and it will reside on the shelf with my favorite cruising and adventure narratives.
To read Baldwin's online version of the book, go to Across Islands and Oceans. Sixteen of twenty-two chapters are now posted for reading at your leisure. I can guarantee that reading this book will make you want to cast off the docklines and go.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Virgin Islands Kayak Adventure

As an author, it's always great to get emails from readers of my books who benefited in some way from something I have written. It's even better when I hear that something I wrote has inspired readers to go out and do some adventuring of their own. That's a big part of why I've written narratives of some of my trips, especially the account of my Caribbean kayak trip of twenty years ago:

On Island Time: Kayaking the Caribbean

About a year ago, I received an email from Scott Finazzo, a firefighter from Kansas City who read On Island Time while he was off from work on injury leave. He told me that the book gave him the idea of kayaking in the Caribbean and he passed on the inspiration to a handful of his coworkers and plans were soon made to spend a few weeks paddling the Virgin Islands.

Incredibly, despite the fact that none of them were sea kayakers or boat builders, they came up with their own designs for take-apart skin-on-frame kayaks, built them, and pulled this trip off in a little less than a year from that first email Scott sent me. Just a week ago, I received another email from him with a link to his blog, where he posted the above photo as well as a series of write-ups about their adventures and some video clips. I won't attempt to describe their trip here. Get it straight from Scott at his blog:

Lure of the Horizon

The photos and the descriptions took me right back to my passage through those fabulous islands. I'm really glad these guys got to go there and paddle and that my book played some part in it. I'll be looking forward to more in the future on Lure of the Horizon.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

In the Water Bottom Job

Here's a catamaran advantage you may not have thought of: the possibility of doing a bottom job (one hull at at time) while the boat is still in the water. This is a photo of circumnavigator, Rory McDougall's famed Tiki 21, Cookie, with one hull lifted for just that purpose. (Click on the photo for a larger version, so you can really see how it's done.)

Rory brought the Tiki 21 alongside a much larger catamaran that he was watching for a friend, and using the big boat's halyards connected to the beams of the Wharram cat, he was able to hoist the hull high and dry enough to prep and paint the bottom.

This could be done in a lot of other ways as well, such as taking a line from the mast to a strong anchor point ashore, or using trees in a quiet, protected creek or bayou in the woods. One Hinemoa owner I know used to paint his bottoms at his own dock by hoisting the whole front end of the boat onto the dock one day, then reversing it the next day to do the sterns. This flexibility is one reason I chose a simple Wharram Tiki 26 to build for my own cruising. The ability to effect maintenance and repairs in remote, out the way places without paying yard fees is unmatched.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Wharram's Fiberglass Tiki 8-Meter Now in U.S. Production

Fans of James Wharram's catamaran designs will be interested to know that his fiberglass version of the popular Tiki 26 - dubbed the Tiki 8-Meter - is now in production in the United States. The prototype of the design, shown in these photos, was built in the U.K., and production was planned there, but never got underway. Now that Boatsmith Inc., of Jupiter, Florida has become the only official Wharram professional builder in the U.S., the company has acquired the molds for the Tiki 8-Meter. Two boats are now under construction from these molds, both custom orders from a south Florida resort hotel that will use them in the day charter business.

Like her wood-composite Tiki 26 predecessor, the Tiki 8-Meter is designed to be trailerable, and is light enough to tow even with an average-sized car.

Deck and cockpit layout is much the same as the Tiki 26. There is seating for eight in the cockpit, an outboard motor in a well, trampoline forward, and sitting headroom and space for two single bunks in each hull. Subtle changes from the original version include more rounded corners, cambered coachroofs and updated portlights. The Tiki 8-Meter retains the classic Tiki lines but looks a little more contemporary and refined. Note the canvas dodger in the photo below:

This dodger is one of the best designs I've seen on a small Tiki, and I plan to incorporate a similar one on my own Tiki 26, which is under construction. The dodger itself is made of Sunbrella, and can features two positions: one that is low and can be left up while sailing, as seen in the photos at the top of the page, and a raised position that protects and shades the entire front half of the cockpit.

In the drawings below, one can get a better idea of the versatility of this set-up.

The really neat thing about this dodger is that it was designed with the idea of attaching a zip-on tent to the aft edge, allowing the entire cockpit to be converted into a comfortable living area when the boat is on the hook.

Screened-in, with removable storm flaps aft, this deck tent allows for a comfortable double berth in the cockpit in addition to the berth space below.

David Halladay, of Boatsmith, is expecting that the Tiki 8-Meter will be a big hit among sailors in Florida, as it offers shallow draft for poking around all the thin water surrounding that state, and the seaworthiness to cruise over to the nearby Bahamas. Lots of boat buyers are wary of wooden boats, even of modern composite construction, simply because they may not be educated about the improvements of modern methods and materials. Having the option to buy one of Wharram's boats in foam-core fiberglass will ease their minds a bit. Boatsmith also plans to offer other designs in Wharram's line-up in this construction. Find out more at:

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Casio Ultimate Pathfinder

The following review was published in the August, 2009 issue of Sea Kayaker magazine, which is on the newstands now:

Time and tide wait for no man. The Pathfinder keeps track of both, not to mention direction, temperature, altitude, air pressure, and phases of the moon.

Casio Pathfinder PAW 1500 Review

The Casio Pathfinder series of watches are advanced digital timepieces designed for rugged outdoor use. I recently tested the Pathfinder PAW 1500 model, which is one of the most advanced in the Pathfinder line. The PAW 1500 is a solar-powered, multi-band atomic watch like others in the line, but also features three sensor modes in addition to timekeeping. These extra sensors are the direction sensor digital compass, the pressure sensor barometer and altimeter, and the temperature sensor thermometer. This is an impressive collection of instrumentation in a compact package that fits comfortably on all but the smallest wrists.

The timekeeping function offers the accuracy of radio-controlled calibration by receiving time signals transmitted in Germany, the United States, England and Japan. In the U.S. the signal is transmitted from Fort Collins, Colorado. The Pathfinder watch I tested had no problem receiving this calibration signal from my home in Mississippi. The watch adjusts its time automatically at periodic intervals, but I also performed a manual calibration and the signal was received within two to three minutes. Current time is displayed in hours, minutes and seconds. Checking the time over a four-month period against other timepieces and my cell phone, I concluded that the Pathfinder is extremely accurate and would be excellent for navigation purposes. Timekeeping functions also include world time, a countdown timer, a stopwatch, five different daily alarms and a tide graph and moon phase indicator.

The moon phase indicator is a graphic display in a small circle at the top left of the main display face that shows the current phase of the moon as viewed from the northern hemisphere. A glance at the indicator tells you which quarter the moon is currently in.

The tide graph is naturally a useful function for kayakers. You can set up the tide data based on your selected home city or nearest port city and adjust the tide graph to high tide time at a particular date. After setting this up, the current tide condition is graphically represented, showing the range from high to low and spring tide, intermediate tide and neap tide.

My favorite feature of the Pathfinder PAW 1500 is the digital compass. With the push of a button, the main display switches from current time to a digital bearing readout. Turning your arm so that the watch face is horizontal to the horizon allows it to acquire an accurate bearing in just seconds. I was impressed with the accuracy of the compass when I tested it earlier this year while sailing in south Florida. Bearings were compared between the Pathfinder compass and the vessel compass and GPS chartplotter. The Pathfinder compass was consistently within a five-degree margin of error in comparison with the other compasses and was just as quick to acquire new bearings during course changes. The compass can be calibrated manually for magnetic declination and calibrated to match another compass such as a deck compass. The rotary bezel on the watch allows navigation to a precise bearing while keeping the north indicator on the bezel in a position indicating magnetic north. It’s certainly convenient to have an accurate compass right on your wrist at all times, and nice to have the redundancy it provides as a backup to deck mounted compasses and hand-held GPS.

The pressure sensor mode of the Pathfinder PAW 1500 allows it to function as a reasonably accurate barometer and altimeter. Like the compass, each of these instruments is accessed with one touch from a dedicated button on the side of the watch. The barometer shows current barometric pressure as well as a graph indicating changes to assist in making predictions. The barometer function has proven useful in monitoring the ever-changing spring weather in my region as low-pressure cells move in every few days, bringing rain followed by dry air high pressure systems.

The altimeter function uses a pressure sensor to estimate altitude. Although I haven’t tested the watch very far from sea level, the current reading of 140 feet at my home location is accurate to within 20 feet or so. This altimeter is not intended to be accurate enough for aviation of course, but can be useful to climbers. Sea kayakers aren’t likely to need it anyway.

The built-in thermometer is perhaps more useful, and in testing it matched readings on an indoor-outdoor mercury thermometer I had at the house. The thermometer will not function properly, however, when the watch is being worn, as body heat interferes. It has to be removed from the wrist and acclimated to the surroundings for about 20 to 30 minutes to get a true reading.

The Casio Pathfinder PAW 1500 not only combines all these instruments in a wearable watch, but does so in a package that is rugged and waterproof to 200 meters. It is rated safe for SCUBA diving at normal depths and is tough enough for hard wear in outdoor activities. I’ve worn my test sample through long days of hard work in the boat shop and in the interior refit of a classic Alden schooner where it was frequently banged against a bulkhead or other solid object and subjected to the dust and vibration of power tools. The watchband is black resin, and is tough, flexible and secure. It features a heavy stainless buckle and a wide range of size adjustment slots. The inner side of the band is grooved in a non-slip pattern so the watch won’t rotate on your wrist when it’s wet or sweaty. The built-in solar powered battery never needs replacing and only requires a small amount of light to keep it charged, especially when the watch is in the power-save mode. A green display light that is easy to see allows nighttime use and can be set up for manual activation or to come on automatically when the watch face is tilted up toward the wearer.

As rugged as it is, the Pathfinder is an attractive watch to my eye, anyway and it does not seem too big or heavy for everyday wear unless you have small wrists. It’s a serious looking instrument, and recognizable to many as I’ve had comments about it from coffee shop clerks and others who were familiar with the design. It’s not a cheap watch at the MSRP of $350, but for all the features and the build quality, I think it’s worth it especially as I found online prices as low as $217.90. More information on the Pathfinder PAW 1500 and other watches in the Pathfinder line can be found at:

I liked this watch so much that I ended up keeping it, working out a trade with the editor at Sea Kayaker. For anyone who is interested in getting a deal on one, I recommend getting it here:

Casio Men's Pathfinder Multi-Band Solar Atomic Ultimate Watch #PAW1500-1V

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Tiki 30 "Abaco" Delivered to Nassau

I had a great experience last weekend taking the Tiki 30 Abaco over to the Bahamas for David Halladay, the builder and owner. The adventure began Thursday, with a long delay in the Houston airport that kept me from reaching the boat until almost dark that evening. There was no time to relax, as we had to quickly get stores and fuel on board and get underway as soon as possible. At around 11:00 pm, David Crawford and I untied the lines and motored out of Lake Worth Inlet on a course slightly south of east, heading for the Gulf Stream crossing and the islands beyond.

The wind was on the nose, coming right out of the east-southeast, but was light and in the right direction to not kick up the seas in the Gulf Stream. Predictably, the mightiest ocean current in the world swept us inexorably to the north, but the reliable little 8-hp Yamaha that is Abaco's auxiliary allowed us to make up for the set as we angled our way across on a course that looked like a big curving arch. By mid-morning Friday, we were out of the main current and some 10-15 miles west of the tip of Grand Bahama Island. We corrected our course to aim for the north end of the Berry Islands, and slowly passed the long westernmost arm of Grand Bahama without ever seeing land.

Ship traffic in the Gulf Stream had been fairly constant through the previous night, requiring a careful watch at all times. Sightings of other vessels became fewer and father between once we had passed Grand Bahama Island and laid a course through the Northwest Providence Channel for Little Stirrup Cay, in the Berries.

The headwind against us increased in strength through Friday afternoon and evening, slowing our motoring progress from 5.5 - 6 knots to about 4.5 at times. But there was nothing we could do but press on under power. There was no time to fall off on a course we could sail and beat to windward, as our goal was to reach Nassau by mid-day Sunday, allowing plenty of time to make the boat shipshape for her next crew.

We reached the lee of Little Stirrup Cay by 10:00 pm and by 11:00 we were anchored just outside the cut that leads into Bullock's Harbor on Great Harbor Cay. At daybreak, we picked up the anchor and motored into the harbor, where we waited to clear customs and immigration at Great Harbor Cay Marina. The marina was laid back and quiet, with few other boats and lots of empty slips. The Bahamian officials did not even bother walking down the dock to look at the boat before granting us our clearance and cruising permit. With our Bahamian courtesy flag now flying from the starboard shrouds, we moved around to the fuel dock near the entrance to the harbor and replenished the gasoline we had burned in the crossing.

Leaving Great Harbor Marina, we were able to sail for a few miles as we rounded to the north of Little Stirrup and Great Stirrup Cays. Once back on course to the southeast on the east side of the Berries, the motor was once again needed to assist as we tacked back and forth along the chain, staying as close inshore as possible to avoid the chop that so quickly slows down the boat when beating to weather. Our long tacks took us in and out over the clear, reef-strewn waters off islands such as Market Fish Cays and Hoffman's Cay, in the photo below.

We reached Little Harbor Cay by mid-afternoon, and since we had some time to kill and not enough time to get to Nassau in the daylight that day, we ducked inside between Little Harbor and Frozen Cay, and then entered the well-protected anchorage between Frozen and Alder Cays. This was a place I had long wanted to revisit, having spent several days there cruising with the Olsen family on the schooner Whisper, while on my Caribbean kayak trip 21 years ago. I remembered it as an isolated and idyllic tropical island anchorage, but it has changed since I was last there. The beaches lined with coconut palms are still there, and the water is still air clear, but several modern houses and docks have been built on both Frozen and Alder Cays. Below is a view of the approach to the anchorage, a house and dock visible to the right on Alder Cay. The water here is impossibly clear. Depths under the boat in this photo are 16-20 feet.

When I was here around New Year's of 1989, both of the islands were completely uninhabited and undeveloped, all the beaches looking like these in the photos below:

I remember spending days here exploring the nearby islands in my kayak, snorkeling and spearfishing, and gathering green drinking nuts from the dense groves of coconut palms.

Someone has gone to great expense to build large, modern houses on tiny islands accessible only by boat. The constant sound of a generator running prompted us to leave the harbor between the cays and move around to anchor in a quieter spot off the southern tip of Alder Cay.

The next day we left Frozen Cay and the rest of the Berry Islands astern at daybreak and set out once again to motor into the wind on the final 33-nautical mile leg to Nassau Harbor. We got there just ahead of this summer thunderstorm that blew up out of nowhere just as we entered protected water.

Below, Abaco is safely docked at Nassau Yacht Haven Marina. We spent Sunday afternoon sorting her out, cleaning up, and preparing to hand her over to yacht photographer Onne van der Wahl for his trip to the Exumas.

Onne arrived with his two sons late Monday afternoon, just before David and I had to head off to the airport to catch our flight back to Florida.

Although David gave him a brief orientation on the boat, it was obvious after a few minutes of talking to him that Onne knows his way around a boat, and that he would have no trouble handling Abaco. He and his boys are bound to have a blast cruising the northern end of the Exumas in a boat so perfect for exploring these islands.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Tiki 30 Delivery to the Bahamas

After too much boatbuilding and other work, I'm finally going to get to go sailing, if only for a few days. I'm leaving tomorrow morning to fly to West Palm Beach, where I'll meet with David Halladay and his friend and Boatsmith employee, David Crawford. Halladay's Tiki 30, Abaco, has to be in Nassau, Bahamas by Monday morning. He is loaning it to noted yacht photographer Onne Vanderwahl, who will take it to the Exumas for a couple of weeks and get lots of publicity shots.

David Halladay has too many projects going to leave his business this weekend, so he asked me to accompany David Crawford on the delivery. Crawford has more time than anyone one Abaco, having delivered her to the St. Petersburg Boat Show, the Miami Boat Show, and the Wharram Rendezvous in Islamorada.

Our plan is to cross the Gulf Stream from Lake Worth Inlet on Thursday night, then work our way southeast to Nassau over the next couple of days. The wind forecast is not particularly favorable for sailing in that direction, being generally out of the east and southeast, but at least it's not going to be strong, so we won't be bashing too much, hopefully.

I'll report back on the trip with photos after I return next week.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

New Life for an Old Town Canoe

A recent project that I've spent way too much time on is the restoration of a badly-damaged and well-worn Old Town Canadienne canoe. Here is the finished result:

This canoe belongs to my long-time canoeing partner, Ernest Herndon, who has paddled it many hundreds of miles on rivers and lakes of the region, frequently using it on his research trips in the course of writing such books as Canoeing Louisiana and Canoeing Mississippi. When we paddled the Pascagoula River System from the headwaters to the Gulf in order to co-author the book, Paddling the Pascagoula, Ernest chose his trusty Old Town, while I paddled a hand-built wooden sea kayak.

The Old Town Canadienne is a classic north woods canoe with recurved stems, tumblehome sides, and a large load-carrying capacity. It's ideal for long trips on big rivers and lakes, and can easily carry two men and all their gear and supplies for trips of two weeks or more.

Below, Ernest Herndon getting ready to shove off in the morning after breaking camp on a river sandbar. Here, you can see that the canoe is well-loaded with dry bags, duffel bags and all the other assorted gear needed for a river trip.

Ernest bought this canoe at a local Mississippi salvage store. The Old Town, along with many others in a shipment, came into the salvage store's inventory after suffering some significant damage in transit somewhere. When he first brought it to me back in about 1993, to see if I could fix it up, it looked like it had fallen off a truck at highway speeds. There were several major cracks in the hull, broken all the way through in places, and the aluminum gunwales were bent and even broken in one place.

At that time my boat repair skills were minimal. I patched the fiberglass, reinforced the broken gunwale with a strip of aluminum riveted in place, touched up the red paint with a spray can, and called it good enough. He used it like that for all these years, finally bringing it to me for a complete refit earlier this year. The canoe had lost much of its shape due to the bent and broken aluminum gunwales. The fiberglass patches were finally peeling off, and the floatation bulkheads in each end had broken loose from the hull. Below is a photo of it right before I began the work. It's hard to see all the problems in the photo. It looked much worse in person.

The only cure for the gunwale problem was to get rid of the aluminum rails and rebuild the boat with inwales and outwales made of ash. I started with the inwales, scarfing them to length, then gluing on spacer blocks to the inner sides so they would have, in effect, scuppers all along their mid-length to allow easy dumping of water by turning the canoe on its side.

I first cut away the aluminum rails at the ends and glued in triangular blocks of solid mahogany to serve as a termination point for the inwales, as the extreme ends of the fiberglass hull were too irregular and rounded to carry the inwales all the way. I then removed one aluminum gunwale first, leaving the other one in place to maintain the shape, while the first wood inwale was clamped and glued in place.

After both inwales were fitted and glued in, the outwales came next, in two separate steps. You can see the scuppered inwales in the photo below.

The new ash gunwales imparted much rigidity to the tired old hull, bringing out its true shape and fairing the wobbly sheer that had been so distorted by the fatigued aluminum. I have no doubt that the boat will have an entirely different and better feel to it once it's in the water again.

Below you can see the detail at the stern, which is identical to the bow. The hull sides are sandwiched between the inwales and outwales of ash, and the mahogany end blocks finish out the bow and stern. Note that Ernest wanted me to replace the Canadienne graphic with the more appropriate for him, Mississippian.

A big part of the job I did not photograph step-by-step was the repair of the fiberglass damage and the filling and fairing of the hull. It was, as you would expect, a time-consuming and labor-intensive process, but in the end proved worth it. The hull exterior was then painted with four coats of Interlux Brightside in "Fire Red".

Four coats of spar varnish on all the ash and then the application of new vinyl graphics for the Mississippian name and the Old Town logo completed the job. Tomorrow, I'm meeting Ernest at the nearby Pearl River, where we'll break-in the new refit by paddling the canoe from Hopewell to Georgetown, a river trip of about 10 miles.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Florida Wharram Rendezvous

Next weekend’s 2009 Spring Wharram Rendezvous in Islamorada, Florida promises to be largest gathering of Wharram catamarans ever assembled in one place in the States. For the first time ever, James Wharram’s designs are represented there by a licensed U.S. Wharram builder: David Halladay, of Boatsmith, Inc.

Halladay and rendezvous organizers Dan Kuntz and Gene Perry are working tirelessly in their efforts to promote Wharram designs in south Florida and other regions of the U.S. Through email campaigns, postings on blogs and websites and word of mouth, they have reached out to every Wharram builder and owner they could find to lure them to the gathering in Islamorada – a jumping off spot for cruising the sub-tropical Florida Keys and nearby islands of the Bahamas.

They are expecting thirteen Wharram cats to make the rendezvous, as well as a “half-boat” and a “boat and a half.” Some of the Wharram designs expected to show are: Melanesia 17, Tiki 21, Tiki 26, Taneuei 29, Pahi 31, Tangaroa 36, Tiki 38, Narai 42, and of course, David Halladay’s Pro-Built Tiki 30, Abaco. This is a good place to look over the various sizes and designs if you are considering building a Wharram.

Some of these boats in attendance are for sale: including the brand new Abaco. You can buy this well-appointed and beautifully finished Tiki 30 in sailaway condition right on the spot. You can also meet with David Halladay at the rendezvous to discuss any size Wharram cat you might be dreaming of, and talk with him about contracting its construction. Used boats for sale that you can inspect at the rendezvous include Dan Kuntz’s 2002 Tangaroa 36 MKIV, a 2007 Tiki 38 offered by Hans Bortmann, and a Narai 40 MKII.

Other attractions will be local Florida authors signing their books: including Frank Pappy, Cruising Guide to the Florida Keys, Charles Kanter, Cruising Catamaran Communique and others, and Corrine Kanter, Cruising KISS Cookbook. The sailing magazine Latitudes and Attitudes will be represented and will have free subscriptions, hats, books and other items for door prizes. All in all, this year’s Spring Rendezvous is on track to become the largest ever, with as many as 70 or possibly even 100 visitors expected, coming from across the U.S. and England and Canada.

The Spring Wharram Rendezvous takes place May 15, 16 and 17 at Islamorada, Florida. Shoreside headquarters will be centered around the Lorelei Restaurant and Cabana Bar, located at 81924 Overseas Highway in Islamorada. The Lorelei is open for breakfast lunch and dinner. The boats will be anchored nearby and open to visitors. Dinghies are in short supply, so visitors are asked to bring one if they have one available.

For more information, email or

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Grampian 26 Review (Part One)

Below: My Grampian 26 the day I bought her:

Readers of Good Old Boat are already aware that the current issue of the magazine features a boat review of the Grampian 26, written by Gregg Nestor. I picked up this issue with interest, as reviews of this popular Canadian design have been few and far between - and, of course - because I owned and sailed a fine example of this vessel for six years. I've been planning to write about my experiences with this particular good old boat for quite some time. So I have now decided to begin a multi-part series on how I came to own, refit, cruise and ultimately lose the boat I named Intensity.

I found my Grampian 26 in the late summer of 1999, when I drove to the Tampa/St. Petersburg area with cash in hand and intentions to buy a different boat, a Bristol 24. The Bristol seemed like a good deal from the seller's ad in the Florida Sailboat Trader, and from what he told me in our conversations on the telephone. As it turned out, this particular example of that fine design had seen better days, and was far from being ready to make the trip back to Mississippi on her own hull. I had to pass on it but I was in Florida to buy a boat; with all my gear in the truck , money still in my pocket, and a block of free time available to sail home. I was determined to find a cruising sailboat that I could purchase and make ready in a reasonable time frame. I called about several boats in my price range (about eight thousand dollars max) and went to look at more than half a dozen.

Most of these boats were either too run-down for the asking price if they were big enough to meet my needs, or too small or lacking in sea going quality if they were in great condition. I looked at a Kenner Privateer 26, a Colombia 24, a Pearson 26, an Albin Vega 27, and a couple of custom built boats. None were up to the 450 nautical mile trip from Tampa Bay to the Mississippi Sound without a lot of work and expensive upgrades. Since the Gulf coast north of Tampa is an area of extensive shallows many miles out from shore, following the coastline in series of day trips was not an option in a boat of this type drawing 3 feet or more of draft. The first leg of the trip would include a 160-mile offshore passage from Anclote Keys to Appalachicola Sound, so needless to say, I had to be picky about choosing a boat that could do this with reasonable safety.

I was staying at my brother's house near Tampa during all this searching, and was beginning to get frustrated after several days of running around all over the bay area looking at boats that consistently disappointed. I was about to give up when I made a last drive to Clearwater to look at yet another one and while walking down the dock noticed a "for sale" sign on a very clean and almost new-looking boat that seemed just the right size. From the new paint, crisp green Sunbrella bimini and sail covers and varnished toerails, I assumed this boat would be well out of my price range. There was also a new-looking Honda 9.9 outboard mounted in a cut-away on the transom. I was actually looking for the simplicity of an outboard-powered sailboat, as I did not want to mess with the complexities of an inboard diesel. The one feature of this boat I did not like was the pedestal wheel steering, but everything else just seemed right. Despite my fears that this boat was well out of reach of my limited boat-buying budget, I called the number posted on the sign.

The owner was out of state on vacation, but at last I reached him after talking to other boat owners on the dock. It turned out he was an employee of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, which was why the boat was docked there alongside various donated boats in run-down condition. I learned that the boat was a Grampian 26 - a Canadian design that I knew nothing about. I called my experienced sailing friend in Winnipeg, Lawrence Pitcairn, to ask his advice regarding the design. It just so happened that he had the issue of Practical Sailor in which the Grampian 26 was reviewed. He read the entire article to me over the phone. The editors of this publication strive to be as objective and unbiased as possible. Like all boat designs the review, they find the faults, but there was a lot they liked about the Grampian 26. Excerpts from the review that caught my attention included:

"The Grampian 26 was heavily built and, happily for their owners, no chronic problems have surfaced in the nearly quarter century since the first boat was launched."


"In the past 24 years, this Canadian boat has been spotted in waters around the world. During one notable voyage an owner sailed from Lake Ontario to England and the Mediterranean, then returned to Canada via the Caribbean. Several of these boats have made good the trip through the Intra-Coastal Waterway to the Bahamas and the Caribbean, returning to their ports with a contented crew."

Designed by Alex McGruer, the Grampian 26 specs sounded good as well:

LOA 26'0"

LWL 21'9"

Beam 8'4"

Draft 4'3"

Ballast 2,600 lbs.

Displacement 5,600 lbs.

Sail area 325 sq. ft.

Like the other boats at the dock, the Grampian had come in as a donation, (someone's tax write-off) but the employee who was the current owner took a liking to her and decided to rescue her himself. He was in the process of a complete rebuild from the inside out, using Don Casey's excellent book: This Old Boat as a manual. Work completed thus far included most everything on the exterior: new Imron paint on the topsides and decks, a new professionally fabricated rudder, a custom stainless steel bow pulpit and anchor platform/bowsprit, recent bottom job, new bimini and sail covers, and a like new Honda 9.9 outboard. The inside had been gutted of the original cabin sole and furniture, and bulkheads stripped down to the bare plywood. All new wiring had been completed, including cabin lighting, fans, shore power charging system and top quality DC and AC switch panels. The owner had obviously poured a lot of money and time into this boat. The reason for selling? He was about to get married and his wife didn't like to sail. (I wonder if this has ever happened to anyone else?)

It was a lot more boat with a lot more stuff included than I would have ever expected to find on my budget. But best of all, I didn't even have to spend everything I brought to buy this boat. The price was $5000 firm. I couldn't believe my luck. All this for just five grand. I didn't even consider argueing price and immediately said I would take it. The only condition was that I wanted the boat hauled out so I could inspect the bottom before I handed over the cash. The owner agreed and I had to wait a couple more days until he returned to Florida, then we motored over to the Travelift at the boat yard next door to the aquarium. The haul out proved that he had done what he had said was done below the waterline. After seeing the keel and knowing for sure what was under the bottom, I felt confident I could sail this boat home.

Just when I had been about to give up, I had found everything I wanted and more in a small cruising sailboat. Money exchanged hands and I was the proud owner of my first cruising sailboat. My free time was running out, however, and there was still much work to be done before I could untie the dock lines and sail away.

(Next Installment: Moving aboard, making ready for sea, and sailing home)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Reuel Parker Update

I spent the last two and half weeks of January working in south Florida with my friend, David and the Boatsmith crew on an interesting interior refit of the Alden schooner, Summerwind. I will post more about that project here soon. One highlight of my trip to Florida though, was a Sunday afternoon visit with Reuel Parker. David and I had last visited his project in April of '08, just before he was ready to shut it down for his annual summer migration to Maine.

In the meantime, I've been in touch with Reuel from time to time since then, as I have been putting together a building blog for the Ibis project for him from the photos and captions he has been sending me.

Reuel returned to Florida in October, 08 and the progress he has made in November and December is remarkable. With her exterior paint all finished and hatches and portlights installed, Ibis is looking much closer to launch than when I last saw her. I love the unusual color he picked for the deck houses and cockpit. It goes great with the traditional lines of this shoal-draft sharpie schooner.

The interior is coming along at a nice pace as well. Reuel is keeping it simple, with lots of painted surfaces and hardwood trim he milled himself from his land in Maine.

Below: David Halladay, right, and Reuel Parker, left, discussing various aspects of the deck layout. As always, Reuel is griping about what a pain in the ass it is to build a boat and says this will be his last. I doubt that though. As much as he complains, he works on it seven days a week and when he is in Florida, the project is his life. What he really wants is a young female partner that can sand and varnish and then sail away to the islands when Ibis is launched.

Reuel has sent me detailed photos of his November to early January progress since I returned from my trip. I'm now in the process of updating his blog with this new material, and I've talked him into expanding his captions into more blog-style text to give interested readers a better idea of what he's doing and why, in each step. Reuel hates computers, but he is a fine writer and hopefully he will expand all of the earlier blog posts as well so that all who are interested can see how he goes about building one of his new maxi-trailerable sailboats. Check it out here:

"A boat is freedom, not just a way to reach a goal."
Bernard Moitessier - A Sea Vagabond's World


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