The year was 1979. My friend Geof Heath and I needed a special boat for a special project—a climbing expedition along the wild and mountainous coast of Labrador. The boat had to meet conflicting requirements: it had to be large enough to carry us, our food supplies, extra fuel, and climbing and camping gear, all while being reasonably safe in the open ocean. It also had to be light enough to be trailered hundreds of miles, often over gravel roads, and light enough that the two of us could drag ashore on rocky landings. Then there was the biggest factor—we didn’t have a lot of money. Now, nearly 40 years later, I am still amazed that not only did we find the right boat for our expedition, but that the little craft later proved adaptable for any number of demanding projects and today is still ever ready for whatever task we might call for. It proved the maxim, simplicity pays, both on land and sea.

The Canoes of Guna Yala

Justino blew a whistle, and the race was on. The ulu crews hurried to clear the docks, paddling to turn the boats, then easing the sheets to catch the tailwinds down to Ubicandup (Isla Nellie), the first marker of the course. Kate and I joined the ALLIANCE crew on their outboard-powered tender to follow the race. By the time we were all aboard and left the dock, the ulus were surprisingly far ahead of us. The shallow-draft canoes glided over coral heads and sandbanks as their crews picked the most direct course. We had to weave through unfamiliar reefs, reducing speed and lifting the outboard over obstructions. We eventually got back into the action, just in time to see the ulus go around the first marker. Each helmsmen maneuvered using a large paddle, or cammi, and trimmed the mainsail. The single crewman aboard each ulu bailed, tended the jibsheets, and hiked out, standing on the gunwale and pulling a line tied high on the mast. At every tack, each helmsman paddled the ulus through the turns until the bow crossed the wind and settled on the new course.


Peter Knape was once stuck behind an office desk in a soulless building in the business district of Arnhem in Holland. Year after year, his demanding career had sapped both his time and energy. He longed for a quiet life with freedom, and independence. He realized his destiny was in his own hands, and that he only had to muster the courage to make a break.He took a vacation and traveled to northern Finland where he hired a small boat and set off on a long journey, one that took him far beyond the Arctic Circle to an area that’s almost uninhabited. Life aboard the boat was uncomplicated; it was exactly what he had been yearning for.

From Father to Son

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.

From the Channel to the Med

When my husband Mat and I set off from Sidmouth, England, our destination was the Mediterranean, roughly 870 miles (1,400km) south. We planned to reach it through the inland waterways of France. We had two months off work and arranged for friends to meet us with the boat trailer in the port of Sète on August 5, 2017, to bring us home. We estimated we’d need to row at least six hours every day to make it. With just weeks to go before we planned to depart, Mat finished our boat, DUNLIN. The lapstrake dinghy, 13′ 7″ long with a 4′ 6″ beam, was the first boat he’d built and is based on a traditional workboat designed for both rowing and sailing with a gaff sloop rig.

Uncertain Ground

At low tide BONZO came to rest on the sand close to the line of shipwrecks. I didn't get to do as much exploring as I'd hoped—the mud surrounding the sand bars was far too sticky.

I sailed along the edge of Possession Sound toward a breakwater made of six wrecked ships set bow-to-stern in an orderly line one-third of a mile long. With the tide up, only the ragged ends of frames and some of the diagonal planking were visible, blackened with age and bristled with the iron rods that once held the ships together. About 50′ from the line of wrecks I dropped the anchor, dragging it along under sail until the flukes set and brought BONZO to a stop.

A Boat for the Summer

We had to wait for the tide to rise for us to cross a shallow spot in Cramer Passage at Broughton Island, so Koen passed the time doing some solo sailing.

The following week, we crept along the Sunshine Coast and got acquainted with the scale of the British Columbia landscape, a tidal range approaching 16’, and an abundance of drifting logs and deadheads. We made an overnight stop at Wilson Creek and raided the supermarket the next morning, stocking up on flour, oats, nuts, raisins, and powdered milk. Although our supplies were as simple as the boat itself, Koen saw to it that we would have a culinary high point every day. He had brought his sourdough starter; it was so dear to him that it even had a name: Jesaja. In the morning, the sweet smell of fresh bread filled the air; Koen was beaming at what he had created in our two frying pans.

Wolf Rock Light

Will’s madcap plan was to sail around every offshore lighthouse in Britain. The project began in March 2012 when he and his wife Sara sailed around the Eddystone Lighthouse, 13 miles south of Plymouth, in a 14′ open dinghy. The couple did that trip to raise money for WaterAid, a global nonprofit devoted to bringing clean drinking water and hygiene education to disadvantaged communities, and the idea grew from there. Will’s scheme is an ambitious one, not least because of the sheer number of offshore lighthouses—at least 50—but also the remoteness of some, for example, Sule Skerry is 35 miles north of Scotland. But Will isn’t in any hurry, and regards it as a lifetime project.

Back Door to Georgian Bay

The morning was clear and cool; the sky had washed itself clean of the thick gray clouds I’d encountered on yesterday’s 10-mile passage from my launching point in Spanish, Ontario. I’d never come to the North Channel so late in the year before. The sun hung low in the sky, casting long shadows across the beach and promising shorter days. A stand of yellow-leafed birches at the edge of the beach shifted slowly in a slight breeze, and an osprey flew past with a faint flumph of wings. A dozen small islands and granite outcroppings rose from the water just offshore, and beyond them was the chain of pink rocks named the Sow and Pigs. Otherwise, nothing. There were no other boats in sight—and this at South Benjamin Island, one of the most popular cruising destinations in the North Channel.

A Faering for New Zealand

The boatbuilders I’d known back in my home on Cape Cod worked with electric planes, drills, and band saws, but Ulf shaped sheerstrakes by eye with a Sami knife [explain in text or caption what kind of knife?] and scarfed planks with an axe. I’d never seen precision like it in my life, and I occasionally stood in the middle of a floor carpeted by fresh wood shavings contemplating what I ever had to show for myself after a day’s work back in my office: never anything so substantial nor so fragrant. “I’m not exaggerating when I say that nine out of ten visitors who stick their noses into my boatyard take a deep breath, smile and exclaim, ‘It sure smells good in here.’” It was time to toss in the towel, learn to speak Norwegian, and become an apprentice boatbuilder.

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