The Leap from Luddite

By Howard Nelson

I acquired my first boat as a child, a red MFG 14-foot runabout with a stinky 35-hp Evinrude. She was slow, noisy, and not at all seaworthy. Within in a year, the red fiberglass turned to rose and the blush was gone. Many years later, my first true love arrived in the form of a powder-blue AMF Sunbird 16. She carried a jib and mainsail and offered a small cuddy to get out of the rain. She floated in 8 inches with the centerboard up and was an angel when it was down. I loved pulling her up on our Nissequogue, Long Island, beach to watch the osprey fly overhead and then to sail back into the Sound and head home after a long day.

I was inflicted with that which has defied cure since a boy first floated a stick in a pond. There’s only one treatment, another sailboat. Years later I spotted an ad in the local paper for Chanty, an Ingera 23. She was of uncertain pedigree and a dubious past, fallout from a family quarrel, and for a pittance she was mine, complete with a real cabin, leaky ports, rotted hoses, an undependable outboard, and a serviceable set of sails. Together, we sailed almost every weekend, in and out of Huntington Bay and into the Sound. Each day’s outing was a joy. When grounded at low tide, which was often, it was time to take out a book and a beer until the water lifted us again.

As the years passed, I caught big-itis and found more nautical joy in My Pleasure, a Hunter 27. Then came Avalon, a Hunter 30. As my nautical mistresses grew, so did their complexity. Sailing became a coordination of systems and interfaces and schedules. Each year, despite time getting harder to find and costs growing, the joy of a day on the water still justified it all. Sometimes it was enough just to take the Sunday paper in the cockpit while the gulls and cormorants flew above. But when the wind was up, so were the sails.

What became of Avalon? She was lost from her mooring in a nasty northeaster. Then a job change and a relocation followed and sailing took a backseat in my life.

Here I am now in Mississippi, far from the sounds and feelings of sailing because that’s where life has taken me. I’m not young enough to go back or old enough to pack it in. I move forward. Sitting in my favorite chair, recalling the clink of a winch is music to my mind. I love the crack of a Dacron sailcloth in the wind, and the run of a nylon cord through my hands is like a mermaid’s song.

Cleaning out the attic I came across two large boxes of my Good Old Boat magazines, all the way back to the first issue. Each issue spoke to me in some way, but I can’t justify moving the boxes again and, in a not-so-distant future, I won’t be able to even lift them. Because there were no takers, I packed them up and consigned them to the refuse heap. To be honest, there was a tear or two.

I’m a Luddite. I loved to turn the pages of past issues of Good Old Boat because they are like home, a friend. I will continue to be loyal to our mutual cause, sailing for the rest of us, even if it is, for now, in my mind.

I loved to sail because it was slow, except when it wasn’t. Sailing was quiet, except when the wind howled. Sailing was without complexity, except when I sought it.

If I could remove the modernity that gets in the way of the pure joy of the boat, the wind, the sail, and even your magazine, I would (though that might make it hard to get home against the wind and tide).

It’s probably time to break ranks with my fellow Luddites and acquire the back copies of Good Old Boat in digital form. It won’t replace a day on the water or the slick pages I loved to turn, but at least I can still dream, even if I need an iPad to do so.

Howard Nelson was born and raised on the north shore of Long Island, New York. He Spent summers canoeing on the Nissequogue River and swimming in the Sound. Two of his adult kids love sailing, two not so much.. For the time being, Howard’s an arm chair sailor, but he has lake sailing on his mind…




The Empirical Battery Test

By Jim Shell

When they were new, the four Rayovac 6-volt golf-cart (GC2) batteries on Phantom, our Pearson 365 ketch, had plenty of electrical capacity to provide all the power we needed to go three or more days between recharging, perfect for the kind of local cruising we enjoy. As the batteries reached the 5-year-old mark, I wondered whether they still had what it takes, especially given that our need for power consumption is probably greater than it was a half decade ago. How could I determine their capacity from a fully charged state?

The guy at the battery store told me to bring them in. “We can simulate the quick load from an engine starter and measure the cold-cranking amps and the internal resistance. But, frankly, you’re better off replacing them as five years is about the limit on how long these batteries last.”

I thanked him and left. I knew enough to know that his test was relevant for measuring the health of a car battery (by simulating the starting demands placed on it), but not so relevant to measuring the health of my house bank. The electrical demands placed on my house bank are very different.

I needed something that would tell me whether our batteries retained enough capacity to keep up with our electrical demands during the 2- to 3-day cruises (unplugged) we enjoy taking during the season. What I really needed was a sustained-load test over a 20-hour period. This kind of test would accurately measure my battery bank’s capacity. But these batteries are too heavy to lug around to be tested!

Then I came up with the idea of performing a “real-life” load test at the dock. It wouldn’t be the standardized controlled 20-hour load test, but I would unplug for 40 hours and over that time period, place the same loads on the batteries as we would during life at anchor — a custom capacity test, if you will. This was designed to replicate our usage, which, as empirical data, I think is more relevant than an estimate we’d derive from some capacity value, however precise.

The batteries were fully charged when I unplugged them. I noted the open-circuit voltage at that time as 12.8 volts (fully charged). An hour later, without my putting any load on the batteries, the voltage had dropped to 12.58 volts (87 percent of full charge). This “resting open-circuit voltage” measurement is a more accurate reflection of the batteries’ state (and general health) than the 12.8-volt measurement I got right after unplugging.*

I then began re-creating the electrical loads we’d place on Phantom during life at anchor, using refrigeration, the propane solenoid, lights, VHF radio, microwave (via an invertor), and fans as normal. My goal was to determine the battery-voltage drop over 40-plus hours under expected normal loads, and then extrapolate from this number to estimate the expected drop after 64 hours (closer to the amount of time we might normally spend unplugged). I wasn’t trying to quantify the capacity of the battery, but simply determine whether the capacity would be sufficient.

After 41 hours of imposing real-life loads, and with a trickle of charging power coming during daylight hours from our 20W solar panel, the house bank voltage measured 12.31 volts, approximately 66 percent of full charge. The slow, even discharge rate recorded indicates the batteries have good electrical capacity for our purposes. I can extrapolate that another 24 hours of use would drop the voltage another 12 to15 percent, to around 50 percent of full charge (about as low as we’d want to discharge, for the sake of battery longevity). We will do this custom capacity test as part of our yearly maintenance regimen. This is a stress test that truly indicates whether the batteries are good enough for our intended use. Batteries will not last forever, but with this test in our arsenal, we will neither go on cruises with inadequate batteries nor replace good batteries prematurely.

Jim Shell and his wife, Barbara, sail Phantom, their Pearson 365 ketch, off the coast of Texas.

* Editor’s footnote: One hour is probably not a long-enough resting period to get an accurate measurement of a battery’s open-circuit voltage. Battery manufacturer LifeLine recommends a four-hour resting period for an accurate voltage measurement. Trojan recommends six hours. Additionally, when measuring resting open-circuit voltage, it’s important to be sure there is no draw (or charge, in the case of solar panels) on the batteries. The best way to insure this is to disconnect at least one set of battery cables, but this can be avoided if the batteries are isolated.

Additionally, the values in this article, and in the accompanying voltage chart from Trojan, are accurate only for new batteries. A battery that has been in service for a few years is likely unable to maintain these voltages, and so they are not representative. Jim learned empirically that the voltage of his fully charged battery is somewhere south of 12.58 volts, for example. Further complicating things is the fact that older batteries are likely to suffer to some degree from sulfation on the plates. One characteristic of sulfation is that the open-circuit voltage may appear pretty good, not reflecting even severely diminished capacity that sulfation can cause. For this reason, Jim’s patient approach to determining that his batteries do have the capacity to meet his needs, is smart. And not drawing them down more than 50 percent is a practice that should help them outlive expectations. –Eds.




Photos by the Singlehander

By Drew Frye

Singlehanded sailing and photography don’t always go together. Throw in some brisk wind, maybe a tender boat, perhaps no autopilot, and capturing the moments and scenes on camera can be a real challenge.

As a freelance writer for magazines, I’m often in need of good photos of specific subjects, and sometimes these photos can be captured only while under sail. Sometimes I’m sailing alone. Sometimes my hands or I need to be in the shot. I’m always thinking of solutions.

The conventional tripod is out of the question while under way. The ubiquitous “selfie stick” limits POV options. And many of the hundreds of clamp-on brackets are either a bit too fussy or won’t grab where I happen to need them to be.

Some years ago, it occurred to me that a winch socket could provide an additional camera mounting point, and so I began watching for a broken winch handle to use as a base, but none came my way. Then I got an idea.

The first test image: me applying carbon/mylar tape to a laminate sail while under way. The camera is secure in a cabin top winch, the self-timer tripped the shutter, and the tiller pilot has the helm

I removed the tilt-pan head from one of my tripods. I cut a small chunk of wood, about 11/16 x 11/16 x 2 inches, and sanded it until it fit snugly in a standard 8-point winch socket. I shaped one end of the block so that it fit into the tripod head (a disc sander or pocket knife will do) and used a wood screw and washer to secure it. That’s it. One option is to varnish the wood chunk, to make it more durable and even to tune the fit.

Using my newest camera mount is as easy as dropping it into a vacant winch socket. It will swivel and tilt in any direction and won’t fall out or fall overboard. If I were worried about the mount coming out of the winch, I could simply noose the camera’s wrist lanyard around the winch. Using the four winches on my Corsair F-24, I can shoot unobstructed in most directions and cover most of the cockpit and deck. I can pop the holder out in a moment for hand shots and plop it right back into the winch. This is easier to do than it is with one of my clamp-on brackets.

Detail of the Mount

The Mk II version may be teak, fiberglass, or even aluminum, but cedar is what I had on hand and it seems adequate so far. I may attach a longer wrist lanyard or add a quick disconnect, but those are just complications to an elegantly simple design. I’m fully satisfied as it is.

For another take on a versatile DIY winch mount, see “Winch Handle Instruments Mount,” in the September 2017 issue of Good Old Boat.

Drew Frye draws on his training as a chemical engineer and pastimes of climbing and sailing when solving boating problems. He cruises Chesapeake Bay and the mid-Atlantic coast in his Corsair F-24 trimaran, Fast and Furry-ous, using its shoal draft to venture into shallow and less-explored waters. His book, Rigging Modern Anchors, was recently published by Seaworthy Publications.



Easy Trip to Key West

By David Sharp

We tend to forget how much GPS, accurate weather forecasting, and modern hull, sail, and communications technologies have improved our ability to get around faster and more safely on the ocean. Oh, and the wisdom that comes to most of us as we leave our 20s behind . . .

In 1974, Judy and I took a sabbatical from work for as long as our savings would last. We left our jobs in Dallas, sold most of our possessions, and began exploring Mexico by train and bus. We were staying on the beach (in hammocks under the palms) on the tiny island of Isla Mujeres when we heard of a young fellow named Troy who was looking for crew to help him sail a boat from Cozumel to Key West, Florida. I’d been sailing most of my life and, as our savings were getting thin, this sounded like a fun and inexpensive way to return to the States after our adventure.

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Sun Shower Wind Break

By Mark Branse

Over the years, I’ve often used a sun shower to heat water for onboard showers. If conditions are right, they can get to be too hot to use. But more often, a cooling breeze saps the heat generated by the sunlight, leaving me a lukewarm shower. I experimented with placement of the solar shower, in a bid to protect it from the wind, but shade was then my foe.

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Fall and Rise of the Falls of Clyde

By James Barry

Falls of Clyde today. Photo by Jamie White.

If you’ve been to Hawaii, you’ve maybe seen the Falls of Clyde, an historic sailing ship lying in Honolulu Harbor. She is a rare one: a four-master made of riveted iron. She was built on the river Clyde in Scotland, nearly 140 years ago. She’d be a strong contender for the ultimate good old boat. During her past, she traded around the world, hauling a wide variety of cargo until 1907, when she was fitted with integral steel tanks for carrying kerosene.

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Open Hatches in the Rain

By Jim Shroeger

For another, more comprehensive look at a hatch tent solution, see Don Casey’s “A Rain-Defeating Hatch Hood,” in the July 2012 issue of Good Old Boat magazine. –Eds


You just docked after a nice sail. The weather is warm. The plan is to grab a bite to eat at a local restaurant. You leave the forehatch open wide to let the boat air out a bit. About halfway through your meal, the rain begins! You begin to race back to the boat, images of a soggy V-berth and bedding pushing your legs faster and then . . . you stop . . . and you smile, because you remember that you have a hatch tent.

The accompanying pics show our hatch tent in its deployed position. It is suspended from a jib or spinnaker halyard and attached at eight different points by bungee cords. Basic dimensions are: length to be 65 percent of the distance from the mast to the bow, width to be 75 percent of the beam measured aft of the fore hatch.

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By Rudy and Jill Sechez

In warm weather, full-length foul-weather pants are rather uncomfortable to wear for too long. A more comfortable option we’ve found is to take a pair of full-length pants and cut them so that the legs fall about 2 inches below the bottom edge of the shorts we usually wear (plan to cut a little longer to allow length to fold and hem). These improved foulie bottoms are cooler to wear while still keeping our shorts, and everything in our pockets, dry. Most anyone should be able to make the necessary alterations with needle and thread, no machine sewing is necessary.

Jill and Rudy Sechez have cruised for 20 years and still enjoy using paper charts, lead line, compass, and oil lighting. They have built seven of the nine boats they’ve owned, including their current boat, a 34-foot sail-assisted trawler, Briney Bug, and its 8-foot rowing dinghy, one of five they’ve designed. They have written numerous articles for boating magazines and their book, Anchoring, a Ground Tackler’s Apprentice, was published by Waterway Guide Media. The couple are available for speaking engagements:

Sketch It First

By Gregg Bruff

Editor’s note: Has this happened to you? You’re out for a sail and realize the cockpit-led reefing line or mainsheet that has sailed many years with you is showing signs of wear or UV damage. Back at the dock you remove it, buy a replacement line from a chandler, and then, ready to run the new line, realize you don’t remember whether to run the new line inside or outside the lazy jacks, or how to thread it through the multi-sheave blocks to gain the necessary purchase… contributor Gregg Bruff has the answer:

In a plastic notebook binder, I keep a sketch I made of how the mainsheet runs through the blocks correctly. In the same notebook I keep also a cheat-sheet on the Mayday procedure, a layout of my switch control panel (upside down, as I access it from the cockpit), and any notes I make while sailing.


Restoring the Old Shore Power Cord

By Bert Vermeer

British Columbia winter months are cool and damp with short days, rain, and minimal sunshine. Having a heat source on board is essential to keep the mildew at bay and so we keep Natasha, our 1978 Islander Bahama 30, plugged in all winter. For the past 15 years, our yellow Marinco shore power cord has been subjected to everything the weather and dock can throw at it. Bright yellow and shiny when purchased, it had gotten dirty and sticky to the touch, not something I particularly wanted to handle.

I tried every marine-focused vinyl cleaner available, along with chemical and abrasive cleaners from the local hardware store. None were effective. And with 50 feet of cord to clean, I needed something effective.

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Six Lessons from a Simple Job

By Keith Davie

Before we sailed Sionna, our 1963 Triangle 32 ketch, south from Maine in August 2016, my wife, Nicki, and I spent many, many hours on repairs, preventive maintenance, and upgrades to ensure we had a reliable, comfortable home for our planned 8-month sojourn to the sunny south. But one of the tasks on our to-do list we didn’t complete was to re-bed her stanchion bases. Predictably, we discovered leaks shortly after we left. When I finally tackled the project, we were in Florida, at Marathon’s Boot Key Harbor. The job was straightforward, but it did require I draw on the following tips and tricks.

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Polishing Hack

By David Salter

Editor’s note: We have a hard time relating to David’s story. We’ve a 40-year-old boat and it’s difficult to imagine ever polishing her hull and losing track of where we finished off. Perhaps our incredulity is simply jealousy.

As our boat is 40 years old, she’s not free of blemishes but so far there is no indication of chalking on the gelcoat. Accordingly, every year when my wife, Eileen, and I polish the hull of our good old Mariner 28, Day by Day, we have the same problem: locating the area we just covered so that we don’t laboriously re-do parts of the hull twice over. We have made sporadic attempts to indicate the polished sections but nothing systematic. This year was going to be different!

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Shoreside Cooking Hack

A prepped can, ready to go.
A prepped can, ready to go.

By Jim Shell

We occasionally go to potluck events in our marina where four or five couples are trying to cook their food on a single gas/charcoal grill. There is usually too much food to cook on the grill at one time and we struggle to jockey the food so we all can eat at the same time. Side dishes in pots are usually cooked aboard and brought up the dock to shore to sit and get cold.

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A Taste of Sail, One Sailor at a Time

photo by Bruce Lombardo

By Allen Penticoff

Editor’s note: A Taste of Sail! I love this concept and I know it’s practiced at clubs all over. But if it doesn’t happen in your community, hopefully you’ll be inspired by A Taste of Sail to start something similar. It’s having fun doing good.

To spark sailing interest among our community (and to attract folks to join our little dry-land yacht club), we of the Rockford Yacht Club of Rockford, Illinois, have for many years now hosted an annual public event we call, A Taste of Sail.

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The Cost of Sailing

By Don Davies

2017 was a disastrous sailing season for the boaters of the lower Great Lakes. At launch time in late April, the water was several feet higher than normal. Owners donned rubber boots to wade through several inches of water covering the docks just to get to their boats. Because they were under water, the docks were soon slick with algae, making the stroll to a boat perilous. Shore power was cut off because the electrics were under water. After a few of us experienced tingling while wading on the submerged service dock to step our masts, the crane was shut down and we worked to re-route the wiring to higher ground. Soon, every club on the lake was closed to visitors for safety considerations. Even for those who were determined to sail, there was no place to go. What is normally a six-month sailing season turned into two and a half months.

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Woodenizing Monty

By Brad Kurlancheek

Upon upgrading from a cozy, wooden Swifty 13 to a Montgomery 15, I was struck by the stark fiberglass interior of the Monty. I missed the warm, soothing ambiance of a wood cabin. There’s just something about wood — it’s alive, it’s organic, and so somehow helps to ease the sense of loneliness and anxiety lurking in the background of the human condition.

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Closing the Bug Gaps

By Kevin Alles

Closing the Bug Gaps

After replacing the screens that fit the opening portlights on our Bayfield 32, I noticed a narrow gap around the perimeter of the aluminum frame, between the screen and the portlight frame. The tiny gap was large enough to let the ravenous mosquitos through to feed on us while we slept.

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Is There a Saildrive in Your Future?

By Carl Hunt

The mechanic asked, “Did you check the prop?”

“No,” I said into the satellite phone, “why would I do that?”

“We’ve had some instances where the prop fell off those saildrive units.”

A quick dive revealed that the mechanic knew what he was talking about. I had no prop and I was stuck in a small, remote cove on the west coast of Vancouver Island. It took seven days to rectify the situation.

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There Ought to be a Law

By David Lochner

This project, like so many others, just didn’t go as planned.

A surveyor had pointed out the need to replace a failing exhaust hose on Second Star, the 1993 Sabre 362 I’d just bought. Complying with that recommendation had consumed my day. At first the work progressed as I’d hoped, both ends of the hose were easily accessible and within a few minutes I’d disconnected the hose and clipped the wire ties securing it. But then the battle began, with me losing at several attempts to remove the hose.

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The Mysterious Fish Magnet

By Bob Baker

The best fishing is behind my boat, a 1967 Morgan. I know this because every time I settle into a new anchorage, one, two, or more fishing boats inevitably appear, only a fish’s throw from my cockpit. Clearly all the fish have schooled around my boat and the fishermen somehow know this. When they arrive they drop their lines, sometimes at an uncomfortable closeness. Not being much of a fisherman myself, I have never myself reaped this bounty off my transom.

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Subscribers You Meet on the Way

By Michael Robertson

We’re not like the other sailing magazines, but I know you know this already. The point I want to make is that we’re not really of a place. At the Annapolis boat show last fall, introducing our almost-20-year-old magazine to show-goers, many would immediately ask, “Where are you guys based?”

Oh boy.

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Barient Winch Hack

By Joe Rosenfeld

Many of us have Barient winches on our good old boats. If you’ve got them, you may have noticed that they aren’t what they once were. My late 80’s cruiser/racer has 8 of them.

Years ago, servicing the winches, I noticed that all of the cage bearings (two per winch) needed to be replaced. The plastic containment cages were intact, but many of the nylon/plastic rollers were either flattened or split. At the time, replacement bearings were available at a fair price, so I installed new bearings and went on my merry way.

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Lessons From the Boatyard

By Jeff Shutic

In late September, our marina manager asked if I would be interested in salvaging a few sailboats in the winter storage yard. All had been neglected and eventually abandoned by their owners. In each of these once beautiful and functional sailboats, water had accumulated inside, in some cases 1 to 2 feet above the cabin sole.

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Catboat Redux on the Chesapeake

By Stuart Hopkins

The Muskrat’s little sister and forerunner Dabbler, ex Marshall 18 Sanderling

When we retired from full-time cruising and built a house on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay, my wife Dee and I bought a thoroughly dilapidated 1966 Marshall 18 Sanderling catboat for exploring the Bay’s shallow waters. We used brutal methods to give her a complete makeover. The result was a cat yawl with a permanent doghouse, easy chairs, a small galley, and a woodstove (“Good Old Catboat,” September 2001). We called her the Dabbler, and explored much of the lower Chesapeake in her.

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Chat With a Catboat


By Craig Moodie

I stood in the cockpit of our boat, my trunks dripping wet from the swim out. Usually being aboard releases a spurt of euphoria within me. If I’m on the boat, most likely I’ll soon be sailing.

Instead a shiver coursed through me. My shoulders and back ached from hauling myself aboard. My knees throbbed from bouncing around during our earlier sail that day. The wind puffed in my face, taunting me. But I balked.

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An open letter to beginning sailors

By Gregg Bruff

Novice, beginner, nimrod, greenhorn; we have all been this kind of sailor at one time or another. Many of us still are, and so this is written for you. You are the ones who have not (yet?) sailed on an ocean, let alone across an ocean, but have cut your teeth on a pond or larger lake in a summer camp Sunfish or a friend’s old Chris-Craft sloop.

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The Epic Bee Saga

By Glenn Hipp

I am somewhere between the middle and end of refurbishing for fun and charter my 1982 Islander 48, Crescendo, hull number 1. She’s just about ready to move from Port Charlotte, FL where she’s been on the hard for just under three years at Safe Cove, Inc., undergoing some major repairs and a lot of minor repairs. She is finally in the water and we’ve just completed installing new halyards. All that remains is planning the best time to move this deep keel boat during the right tide and weather window.

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I Love Sailing , Mainly for its Harsh Side

By Martina Sestakova

I rush to the Chesapeake Bay to fill up on sailing adventures. I explore the Bay with my boyfriend, Jordan, on Base Camp, our simple and reliable Pearson 31. You too may know the magical moments: smooth winds, gentle waves, fiery sunsets, jumping into the water to cool off on a hot day, laughter at dinner on a boat, the calming of the body and mind at the end of the day. I am grateful for all of this, but what I truly love about sailing is its harsh and unpredictable side. It is the unexpected, uncontrollable sides of sailing that are changing my life, for the better.

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Ready to Drudge?

As the boat backs into the slip and the crosswind becomes apparent, the helmsman is unable to keep the bow from being pushed off track.

By Rudy and Jill Sechez

A friend and experienced boater related an interesting story over lunch. He’d recently had trouble backing his boat into a slip. The wind was on the beam and his bow would blow off, keeping him from being able to line up with the slip. He had to abort his approach several times. Once he was finally successful and the dock lines were secure, an old-timer approached him and offered a suggestion for next time: drudge.

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Water Rat Speaks

By Karen Larson

This summer the confluence of two things made a strong impression on me. The first was the opportunity to appreciate once again in its entirety The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. The second was a lengthy delay in getting to our boat due to health issues.

Every boater, particularly each do-it-yourselfer, knows the Water Rat’s famous quote about messing about in boats. But Grahame, who grew up near the water, has much more to say about the joys of the boating lifestyle through his character, the Rat.

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