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.

All-Terrain Roller

Several years ago, I had toyed with the idea of using an inflatable boat fender as a roller. The type of fender with a hole down the middle makes it possible to skewer one with a steel rod for an axle. The roller cart I made worked, but I didn’t really need it because I could just as easily carry a kayak on my shoulder. If I made a cart for the canoe with a larger fender, I thought I might have an easier time launching my canoe. Fenders are quite expensive, but I’ve had the good fortune to live by a mile-long lake almost completely hemmed in by marinas and there are a lot of runaway fenders. Just this fall I found five tucked under wharves and in the brambles.

Surviving Hurricane Harvey

The damage at Farley Boat Works was extensive and restoration efforts are underway.

n August 25, Hurricane Harvey tore through Port Aransas, Texas, bringing 130 mph winds and a 9′ tidal surge. I had been corresponding with Rick Pratt, the director of Port Aransas Museum and a boat builder at Farley Boat Works, an extension of the museum. He emailed me on September 1, a week after the . . .

A Leeboard for a Motorboat

Our canal boat, BONZO, wanders in the wind like on off-leash dog. The design, Phil Thiel’s Escargot, is intended for narrow waters that aren’t likely to be subject to breezes, but my son Nate and I often get into little skirmishes with the wind on Seattle’s Lake Union, Lake Washington, and Puget Sound. The hull draws only 6″ and above the waterline there are flat sides, each measuring 70 sq ft, so when the wind’s on the beam, BONZO’s bow falls off, sometimes quite precipitously. Motoring into a headwind is like balancing a broom upside down—there’s a lot of movement at the bottom to keep the top in line.

Looking Back at What’s Ahead

The wide-angle mirror shows what's ahead as well as enough of a view to the side to hold a course at the right distance from shore.

A few years ago I adapted my W.P. Stevens-designed decked lapstrake canoe for sliding-seat rowing. The canoe has taken well to oars and outriggers and now makes better speed than with a pair of paddles, but it’s no longer so easy to see where I’m going. Out on open water I can look over my shoulder occasionally and not worry about running into something, but I prefer getting my exercise on the flat protected waters of Seattle’s ship canal where I have to keep an eye out for tugs, barges, pleasure craft, and racing shells, as well as often erratic rental kayaks and electric launches.

Drifting Off

My last moments of wakefulness in bed would be colored by the failures I’d experienced during my day in the workshop. At some point I shifted my thinking as I drifted off to sleep and focused on the work ahead rather than behind. Anticipating and solving boatbuilding problems became my nighttime routine and a very reliable way to fall pleasantly asleep no matter what distressing things might have happened during the day.

Whittling Away

My father passed away three years ago at the age of 91, and I certainly won’t need Father’s Day this month as a reminder to think about him. My home is filled with things that he made; the ones I value most he whittled from bits of wood. As a young man he carved…

Dick Wagner

On April 20, 2017, Dick Wagner passed away at home at the age of 84. I first met Dick in 1976 or 1977 at The Old Boathouse, a small-boat livery he and his wife Colleen were running out of their floating home on northwest corner of Seattle’s Lake Union. In their watery “back yard” Dick had a handful of pulling boats; I rented a White Bear skiff a few times… 

Freya Hoffmeister, Circumnavigator

When I began writing this, there was a boat standing bolt-upright on its bow, held in place by a rope wrapped around its stern and pinched in a window sash on one of my upstairs bedrooms. The boat is an 18′ kayak that belongs to my friend Freya Hoffmeister, from Husum, Germany. She’s currently paddling . . .

Harlan and Anna Hubbard: Life after Shantyboat

When I was planning for my rowing trip down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers in the early 1980s, I read as many books as I could find on traveling those waterways in small boats. Four Months in a Sneak Box by Nathaniel Bishop was my main guide, as it was his trip that I was . . .

« Previous PageNext Page »