Monday, September 10, 2012

To Port Townsend


Boat on a boat.  Solitude III on the ferry.  Taking a
boat on a ferry is expensive and will hopefully
be avoided in the future.

Two years in the making and after several weeks of hard work trying to get the boat ready to go to the Wooden Boat Festival, the big day(s) finally arrived.  Thursday rolled around and I hitched up the boat.  I had considered sailing across from Keystone on Whidbey Island.  The sail over would have been perfect, but the marine forecast was calling for some pretty heavy airs for my return trip on Sunday, and since I'd be single-handing in a boat that is still largely unfamiliar to me, I decided to trailer the boat all the way.   So, leaving from work a little early, I headed down to the Edmonds-Kingston ferry and thence to Port Townsend. 

The boat launch is at Boat Haven, a marina about a mile from Port Hudson Marina, where the show is held.  Launching the boat singlehanded was surprisingly, and thankfully, uneventful.  I fired up the motor and headed out of the harbor.  The information I received was a little ambiguous about arrival time, and I was a little nervous about getting there "on time."  So, because of that, and since the distance was so short, I decided to steam up instead of sail. 

Upon arriving outside the harbor, festival participants were required to call in to the Harbormaster to get directions to the assigned berth.  We were then promised that we'd be met by one of the fleet of dinghies with "expert mariners" aboard, who would lend a skilled hand guiding the boat through the hazardous slalom of festival boats into her slip, where trained dockhands would get her secured.   I was a little nervous about handling my still-unfamiliar boat in such tight quarters, so the promise of expert assistance  helped take away some of the stress.

As it turned out, the promise of a relaxed, highly greased operation was really geared towards the big boats.  I when I called in to the Harbormaster, I was told, "boat of that size, go ahead and motor in."  "OK, where am I going?"  "Halfway into the harbor, turn right." escort.  

I poked into the harbor.  An inflatable was on its way outbound, and shouted, "do you know where you are going?" 
Uh, no...  "I was told to turn right halfway in." 
I had to squeak through these monsters.
"OK, yeah, turn right," he said, pointing at a narrow space, between two giant yachts, "there." 
You gotta be kidding me.  "Here?"
His boat was just out the mouth of the harbor.  He turned his head and yelled back, "yeah, there," as he gunned his motor to go out and help the next "big guy" in.

Map of the Festival Boats assigned slips.
Solitude is sitting under Shamrock's nose

Navigating through "The Cut," I had about a foot clearance on either side.  I don't know how, but I made it through unscathed.  On the downside, the narrow passage terminated at a T, with rocky shore dead ahead and 20' wide waterways running to port and starboard.  And, of course, I hadn't been instructed which way to go. 

This is where things took a short turn for the worse.  There were dockhands standing by, but when they asked me where I was going, I could only say that this is where my directions expired.  "OK, let me look it up."  You want to look it up?  In case you haven't noticed, I'm headed straight for the rocks and I need to know which way to turn.  I really needed to be able to slow down, but my engine already running at idle, and my fumbling hand was not finding the forward/neutral lever.  Need directions NOW!!!  The dockhand was still studiously flipping through pages on a clipboard.  OK...decision time.  Helm hard to port! 

Wrong guess.  "Just time up back there," the dockhand chirped, pointing cheerfully in the direction that was now decidedly astern of me.  At this point my memory seems to have gone blank.  I must have had enough sense to take advantage of the darn 360 deg steering on the outboard, and I vaguely remember passing a line to someone on the dock, but I can't give you any details.  I just found a photo on Chesapeake Light Craft's Facebook page showing me just as I was backing up to the dock.  I look bizarrely calm in it, and there is very clearly a dockhand looking interested by decidedly hands-off.  At any rate, I soon found myself neatly tied up to the dock, getting things tidied up for the show. 

Solitude III arrives at the Wooden Boat Festival

Official display sign.

A daintily lit cabin.
After getting settled in, it was time to get to work.  I hadn't had any time to get any wiring done, and since I' be staying aboard during the Festival, I really wanted to get the cabin lights working.  So, I spent the better part of the evening hanging out in the cabin, fiddling with wires.  Just after dark, I powered up the boat for the first time and flicked on the light switch, creating a bright and cozy night environment inside the cabin.  I then laid out my bedding and cozied in for my first night aboard!


The next morning I was up early to prowl the other Festival boats.  About 50 yards down the dock, I found PocketShip #1 hanging out, awaiting a long day of demonstrations.

The weather on Friday was beautiful and the conditions were just calling for being out on the water, so at about noon on Friday, I had the temerity to sally forth.  Once again, I had to navigate that insanely small passage, without hitting the venerable schooner to port or the multi-million dollar luxo-cruiser to starboard.  How I accomplished that I can't recall, I was too terror stricken.  But it must have looked like an impressive display of boathandling skill to the casual observers watching me, rather than the simple miracle it was. 

There was a fresh breeze blowing, maybe 7-10 kts.  I found out quickly that the wind tends to follow the gently arcing shoreline, so I found myself on several points of sail trying to hold the same course.  The sailing was exhilarating.  I was making a clean 5 kts while reaching.  Not bad for a boat with a 13'8" waterline. 

Chesapeake Light Craft's booth was at the very tip of Point Hudson, and I made a point of buzzing them repeatedly.  I also spent some time getting to know my boat better, taking her through several tacks and gybes, playing with sail trim, ballasting, etc.  One thing I found, this boat loves to sail. 

After the joy of sailing, I again underwent the terror of "The Cut." This time there were no dockhands.  Once again, I have no idea how I managed to get in without bouncing off boats, rocks, docks, or harbor seals.

Friday afternoon, they dropped a section of dock into "The Cut", so that folks could walk the length of the docks without going ashore.  It also had the effect of trapping me until late Sunday, enforce my solemn vow not to never again take my boat through that narrow chasm.

PocketShip designer John Harris stops by Solitude III.
This photo was actually taken Sunday, as I didn't even think of
getting a photo on Friday.
I hung out on Solitude more or less the rest of the day, chatting with people about her.  One wit pointed out that the name Solitude III was a bit of a contradiction.  Among the visitors were the fellas I'd talked to back in Everett when launching Solitude the first time!  Ralph, the guy from the kayak even gave me a boat warming present, a tie down for my mains'l, something I'd already identified as lacking in my outfitting of the boat.  A while later, I was on my way back to the boat from a trip to the head, I saw a dubious looking character poking curiously, but critically at my boat.  John Harris, PocketShip's designer, had seen the boat coming into the harbor (hence, the picture on CLC's Facebook page) and had managed to break away from manning the CLC booth to come see the boat.  He said that he was "startled to see a bright red PocketShip ease into Port Townsend.."  We chatted for a bit, and then he had to get back to work.


Festival boats in the harbor. 
After another very restful night, it was time for another exciting day.  I spent most of the day aboard, talking to folks.  The weather was great and lots of people were at the Festival.  My folks even came up for the day.  The only downside was being locked in and unable to go sailing! 
I was amazed at how many people came through, and how many recognized the PocketShip design.  The bulk of people's comments into three categories:
  •  "Is that a PocketShip?" - These folks knew alot about the boat, maybe had even ordered the instruction manual, and had been dreaming about building one.  I was surprised at how many people fell into that category.  The design seems to be something of a minor celebrity.
  • "The guy at the other PocketShip sent me down here." - There was something of a PocketShip pilgrim route.  People would start at the CLC booth, become interested in PocketShip, get sent down to PocketShip #1 to really see the boat, and then get sent down to my boat for the straight dope on building the boat.
  • "Cute boat." - Usually, these ones kept walking.
  • "WHOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAA!" - These comments were generally directed at the giant Trumpys moored across the dock from me.

What a beautiful setting!

I walked down the dock to PocketShip #1 and met Dieter, who had volunteered to demo PocketShip for CLC.  We chatted a bit about the design, my experience builder it, and his thoughts about potential rigging improvements.  He said he was taking Ol' #1 out sailing that evening and invited me along.  How could I refuse?

The wind was definitely up when we got out on the water.  We scooted back and  5 kts?  No, we definitely were at 5 kts any more.  7 kts?  Probably closer.  Dieter expertly handled the sheets while I sat at the helm.   The boat heeled, rollicked, and zoomed gleefully. We made several close passes of Pt. Hudson to give the CLC guys a chance to get some photos.  It became pretty clear, pretty fast, however, that we really wanted a reef in the main.  PocketShip doesn't have jiffy reefing, so to reef you have to drop the sail, loose and re-reeve the outhaul, and unpin and repin the tack.  So, we filed off to a an open-ish, protected-ish part of the bay, turned into the wind and dropped the mains'l.

This is were things got interesting.  I stayed at the helm, fighting to keep her into the wind, while Dieter worked like a electrocuted squirrel trying to keep the main under control while getting the outhaul re-rove through the upper grommet on the luff.  The main was quickly devolving into a flapping mess, and I was fighting hard at the helm as the boat kept falling off, filling the jib, picking up speed and then coming back into the wind.  Amazingly, Dieter managed to get that nearly squared away, and set to work on the tack. This is when things really got bad.  The gaff was swinging in a mildly wild manor and refused to come down when the halyards were eased.  Dieter became increasingly agitated as he pulled, yanked, and heaved. 

We finally decided to abandon the pursuit of reefing, get the main back up and the boat back under control.  While Dieter flung himself at this task with analogy-free gusto, I noticed that we had a new challenge...we'd been out this for a while, drifting off to leeward, and were know coming down on an sloop anchored out in the bay.  This was clearly bad.  I began yanking at the rudder, trying to simultaneously keep us pointed and get enough way to cross the bows of the ever-nearing sloop.  It was an understatement to say that Dieter was occupied at the moment, and I don't think he ever saw the impending doom.  I considered throwing the helm over and running down the side of the sloop, but that would have also had the undesirable side effect of throwing Dieter over.  Not good.  At that point, it probably would have been a good time to warn my shipmate of what was going on, but I just didn't have the neurons to spare.  I was making progress in my fight but it was no sure thing.  The tip of PocketShip #1's bowsprit was just crossing the sloop's bow when I felt a puff of wind hit us.  Like it had so many times in the past few minutes, I knew this puff of wind would swing her bows off, and I wouldn't be able to keep her up until the jib filled and I got some way again.  We were still drifting past the sloop.  Just as I felt control slipping away, the boat's midpoint passed the sloop bow.  I eased the tiller and permitted PocketShip to slowly swing around.  I was able to keep her under enough control to just follow the curve of the sloop's hull as the boat fell off.  Dieter noticed the hull of the sloop passing by in his peripheral vision.  Coincidentally, he had just finished getting the main up, so he hopped down, sheeted in and we again took off towards new adventures. 

As a note, Solitude III is going to be rigged with jiffy reefing very, very soon.

Armed kayak
We eventually managed to get back into the dock, where John Harris was waiting.  Fortunately for us, he chose non-violence, and soon we, along with the rest of the CLC crew were out on Pt. Hudson enjoying a mild libation.  Entertainment was provided by Joey, who put out into the bay with cannon strapped to a Wood Duck kayak.  Fortunately, there was surprisingly little death, destruction, or dismemberment when the cannon was discharged.   Enjoying the company, I stuck with that crowd for dinner too.


Sunday was a much quieter day, crowdwise.  I hung out on the boat most of the day, greeting the festival goers.  Weatherwise, however, things were more interesting.  The wind had really kicked up and it was choppy on the bay.  PocketShip #1 went out for the Festival Sailby, complete with a put-in-at-the-dock reef in the mains'l and a crew of about 20.  The section of dock that had been denying me access to the harbor had been removed, and I had put a preparatory reef in the main.  But on seeing how Old #1 handled out there, I decided that trying to do the same singlehanded would be a bad idea at best.  So, at about 4:30, I sauntered up to the CLC booth, said goodbye to John and the guys, fired up the outboard, and steamed out into the wind and chop headed back to Boat Haven.  The journey went well, and the boat handled the conditions like a champ.  Loading her onto the trailer singlehanded was surprisingly easy too!  Soon it was back to the ferry and then home again!

Tucked back in at home


  1. Thanks for the Port Townsend update. Had planned to take the Keystone ferry over but..... things came up. Since I recognized where you must be storing the boat and trailer I came by this evening to inspect the paint. Didn't want to bother you. Looks good. I'm almost ready to paint but I'm afraid that my epoxy my not be as fair as yours. Planned to paint the hull a glossy dark navy. May need to consider flat white instead to better hide the sins.

  2. Wow, Dave, it sounds like you are really moving fast on your boat! Love to see it sometime.