When I set out from Mukilteo, Washington, late in July of 1980, the wind was light, barely ruffling the silvery expanse of Possession Sound. I set all sail—the sprit-rigged main, the jib and flying jib, topsail and jib-topsail—but wouldn’t think of GAMINE as a topsail cutter. She was just a 14’ dory skiff, the first wooden boat I had ever built. Aside from her broad plywood garboards, she was traditionally built with western red cedar planks on both sawn and steam-bent white oak frames. While I’d been day-sailing her for about a year and adding sails one by one until there was no room for more, I’d never done an overnight cruise with her or any small boat. Now I was headed north to sail the Inside Passage with no particular destination in mind. There was no telling how far I’d get.
CURLEW began as I was making the transition from teaching school to becoming a musician and caretaker for the family land here just north of Vicksburg, Mississippi. The large tract of land has been in the family since my great-great-grandfather, Benson Blake, settled here in the 1830s. Once a grand sweep of woods and farmland, it is much reduced, but six generations later, we Blakes are still here.