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, . . .
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 . .
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 . . .
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 . . .
I have always liked sailing in light air. Ghosting along close to shore on a quiet evening feels like magic, especially in a small boat. But light-air sailing, though relaxing, is surprisingly challenging. In moderate winds, any boat competently handled can attain hull speed, but light wind requires sharp skills and careful attention to detail to . . .
A first read about the Pythagorean mooring technique in Roger Barnes’s delightful and informative book, The Dinghy Cruising Companion, when it was published in 2014. It is a simple and clever way to anchor a small boat without using a clothesline loop or outhaul setup. As described, a Pythagorean mooring, named after geometry’s theorem of…
Boats have several places where two surfaces come together at an angle, and special pieces—breasthooks and knees—are used join them together and add strength. Breasthooks are V-shaped blocks at the acute angle at the bow and, on double-enders, at the stern as well. Knees are supports closer to a right angle, and on open boats . . .
When comparing rowing and sailing strategies for an oar-and-sail boat, it is easy to assume that rowing a direct leg upwind might prevail over a sailing a zigzag course to weather. Fighting for the short, straight line with oars makes sense. But does it always? When I want to go rowing, wind is not . . .
For small boats with standing rigging, steel was once the only choice, and it had to be ordered from a rigging shop with its fittings installed. In recent years Dynex Dux and STS, made from Dyneema SK-75 high-modulus polyethylene (HMPE), have become available. While high-strength fiber rope has been around for some time now, it . . .
The first time I rowed up the Inside Passage—from Washington’s Puget Sound to Prince Rupert, British Columbia—I used a long loop of line to pull the boat to and from the anchor during my stops on land. But it required an awful lot of line and wasn’t worth the trouble unless I was going to . . .