Back-Country Baking

These peanut butter-chocolate rolls were baked using a pot-in-pot method. Three rocks in the larger put elevate the smaller pot to keep boiling water under the smaller pot. Not shown is the pot lid. The rolls aren't browned, but they're fully cooked.

I once looked forward to camp sweets just as much as our young daughters do now. Pineapple-cherry dump cake baked in a Dutch oven was a staple of my Boy Scout troop campouts. The recipe was easy: dump a can of pineapples and cherry-pie filling in the Dutch oven, top with a cake mix, put the lid on and cover oven with coals. Dutch ovens can be used to make a wide variety of cakes, pies, and casseroles.

A Simple Tiller Tender

The bungee doesn't need to be removed to use the tiller. Just push it or pull it and it will hold the new rudder angle.

In my years of solo cruising in small boats I’ve found that there are many times when it’s helpful to have both hands free while sailing. I can free one hand by securing mainsheet with a cam cleat or slippery hitch, and then I just need something to hold the tiller in place so I can grab a bite to eat, take a compass bearing, or pull on a jacket.

Mizzen Staysails Add Power

The author's red mizzen staysail was designed and made for WAXWING, his François Vivier-designed, lug-yawl rigged Ilur.

My camp-cruising boat is rigged as a lug yawl, with a powerful and well-behaved pair of sails that is ideal for solo sailing. My cruising grounds tend to have very light morning winds during the summer months, and despite my boat’s ample sail area I have looked for ways to improve light-air performance. Enter the mizzen staysail. I first saw one in use on the Maine coast, where Harris Bucklin and his wife Barbara were flying one in ghosting conditions on their Ian Oughtred-designed Caledonia yawl. The blue sail was not only eye catching, it was also a demonstrably effective bit of sailcloth, providing a notable gain in speed over several other Caledonia yawls sailing in company with them.

Water-based Wood Dye

The Vintage Cherry dye transformed the very light mahogany—a cut-off is shown here— into a rich dark color that enhances the grain.

The outboard runabout, WORK OF ART, often stops people in their tracks when they see the deck with its beautiful, natural-looking wood color with sparkling grain highlights. No one has guessed that the wood under the varnish has been dyed.

Trim and Ballast

Some years back I was rowing in a race with my good friend Bill Gribbel in his tandem wherry, DONOGHUE. She was a copy of a circa-1870 pulling boat found, restored, and documented by the late Westport, Massachusetts, boatbuilder and designer Bob Baker. The wind was up and for 4 miles we pulled into it. . .


Four blades on a single arbor increase accuracy and dramatically shorten working time.

When I was getting ready to build a cedar-strip kayak, just the thought of ripping about 900′ of 1/4″ x 3/4″ cedar strips was daunting. Pushing 18′ planks through the tablesaw 50 times was not how I wanted to spend my time—I’m rather impatient and like getting jobs done quickly. I started playing with the idea . . .

A Norwegian Tiller Keeper

A push-pull tiller requires a different kind of keeper than one for a conventional tiller.

Solo sailors of small open boats have a problem: While we’re sailing we’re stuck minding the helm. Occasionally there’s a need to go forward to adjust the downhaul or centerboard, use both hands to steady the binoculars, change a setting on the GPS, or eat lunch. Some boats can hold a course on their own, . . .

Exploring the Poles

Tom Shepard poles a railbird skiff in the shallow waters of the Delaware River basin. The skiff is in the collection of Independence Seaport Museum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

A while back, I read a blog post that urged those of us with small boats to explore the shallows and marshes by poling our craft where the water’s too shallow for motors, and the grass and reeds are so tall that you can’t see much more than 20′ through them if you’re sitting down . .

Joe’s Roller Cart

Decades ago, my friend Joe Liener introduced me to duckers and melonseeds at his little boathouse in Wittman, Maryland, on the eastern shore of Chesapeake Bay. Joe had retired some years back from his job as the master of the Philadelphia Naval Yard boatshop where he used what he called a spar cart to . . .


The author's pogies were quick and inexpensive to make and have lasted for 14 years.

If I can keep my head, feet and hands warm while I’m rowing in cold weather, the rest of me stays warm; pogies are my winter hand covering of choice. I sewed my pogies 14 years ago from wind-blocking fleece and I’m still using them to row on cold winter days. Pogies are remarkably simple and . . .

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