The Blind Side

I row and paddle year-round along the city’s ship canal. There’s a 7-knot, no-wake zone all along its 7-1/2-mile length, and during the summer, especially on weekends, the canal sees a lot of pleasure-boat traffic, the majority of it power boats. Most abide by the limit and trail a rolling corrugated fan of waves. If I’m paddling my kayak and taking an oncoming boat’s wake head on, I’m through in a few strokes without breaking cadence.


n 1978, when I was setting up to build my first boat, I needed to start accumulating tools. My shop was a temporary shed in the back yard of the house I grew up in, so my dad’s tools were available, but the only power tool he had was an electric drill. As a kid, . . .

Getting Out of Line

When I decided to follow the route Nathaniel Bishop took from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Cedar Key, Florida, in the winter of 1874–75, I chose not to build a replica of his CENTENNIAL REPUBLIC, the sneakbox at the heart of his book, Four Months in a Sneak-Box. I was drawn to build instead the Barnegat Bay sneakbox detailed in Chapelle’s American Small Sailing Craft because it had an intriguing feature: a daggerboard set 10″ to starboard, on the outside edge of the cockpit coaming. Bishop’s boat had its daggerboard just aft of the mast, on the centerline, where you’d expect it to be. Chapelle offered good reasons for moving the board to one side.

Fatherhood, Childhood, and Boats

My son was late in arriving. Nine months came and went without any stirrings from him. Another week went by. Still nothing. Cindy and I had both taken leave from work and we had time on our hands, so we loaded up the lapstrake decked canoe I’d built and headed for the lake. We had paddled a mile or so and it was then that Nathan, as he would be named, made his move. Contractions had begun, and not long after putting the canoe back in the garage we were on our way to the hospital.


Buildings like the one that looms behind the store will eventually eradicate neighborhood businesses that have been a part of Seattle's University District for many decades.

n 1975, I moved to Newmarket, New Hampshire, and got my first full-time job working in a cabinet shop that was housed in an extension of a 100-year-old barn. The weight of the shop’s roof was spreading the walls and we needed to get a tie-rod to pull them back together. Steel rod was easy . . .

Stretcher Steering

The Gokstad faering I built for a 1,000-mile row up the Inside Passage of British Columbia and Alaska was a very well-mannered boat, but with two of us rowing I often found myself pulling harder on one side to maintain a straight course. It’s all too easy to assume it’s the other rower that’s making the corrections necessary, but leveling accusations against a partner isn’t good for crew morale. I made a small rudder especially for rowing and connected its tiller with two lines to a footboard tiller. That kept the peace aboard the boat and allowed both of us to row each in our own way without quarreling about someone putting uneven pressure on the oars.


  y earliest memories of sailing date back to the 1950s when I was growing up in Edmonds, Washington, a small town on the shores of Puget Sound. I was in first or second grade then, too young to appreciate the boat that my father brought home. He had seen it languishing alongside a barn . . .

I’ve got a not-so-peaceful, uneasy feelin’

The feeling that led to me to turn tail was not new to me; I had just learned to give it the attention it deserved. Many years ago, I had set out to go kayaking on Puget Sound while there was a strong southwesterly blowing. The conditions were perfect for some exciting paddling and downwind surfing. I’d gone out many times in the same conditions, always thoroughly enjoyed them, and came back elated. This one time I was feeling a bit off as I paddled the mile and a half in the lee of West Point, just north of downtown Seattle. As I drew near the end of the point I could see the waves tumbling by just beyond the lighthouse. The conditions were perfect.

A Man of Means by No Means

To the west, 50 yards away across a flat plain of tawny salt-marsh grass, we spotted a man in a plaid shirt and a green baseball cap walking toward us. His conversation with us had apparently started well before we could hear his voice, and by the time we shook hands with him and introduced ourselves he was well into the story of his life and how he came to be here in the middle of a coastal marsh. This was Arthur Dennan. He was 61, but his weather-creased face and silvery beard made him look a decade older.

Coming in from the Cold

This year I revived the idea a sheltered helm. I put three large forward-facing windows in the front of the cabin, reinstalled the rudder and kill-switch lines, and added a pair of lines to control the throttle. A stick clamped to the outboard’s bracket holds the tiller upright, and a yoke pressed on the throttle provides some leverage and finer control. Taking out two of the sleeping platform panels and replacing them with short seats provides a footwell for comfortable upright seating.

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