Blog


4/6/14

The other day I was going through my old favorites folder in my browser, and I began culling out all the dead links. In the process I came apon some of the more important boat related ones that were certainly worth revisiting. The first of these is the blog on building and sailing the Paradox called "Johanna." I hadn't been back there in quite some time, and I had forgotten how many wonderful pictures there were of that Paradox and here sisterships in England.  Then there is Bill's blog which has all types of commentary on many small boat related topics including Paradox and Enigma.  Another page dedicated to extolling the virtues of Matt Layden's boats can be found at Dave's Wiki.

I also rediscovered the page at Epoxyproducts, where I was able to source the elusive fine copper powder that is used to make our unique version of antifouling paint. I learned about this bottom paint from Matt Layden years ago.  It's been awhile since I've made some but it's not hard. Basically, you mix a minimum of 1 ounce per volume of copper powder for every 8 ounces of paint.  Matt makes his bottom paint pretty thick, which makes the paint harder to apply with a brush but mighty durable. I prefer to make my paint thinner so I can apply it with my spray gun. In the end, though, I think it works fine for boats that dry out frequently and don't sit on a mooring all the time.  I've noticed that when marine growth does appear its pretty easy to just scrub it off with a scotch brite pad. This has the added benefit of exposing more copper to discourage future algae and barnacle growth.

Lastly, I'd like to mention Thayercraft, which is where I get most of my fiberglass cloth now.  Even though this business is located only half an hour away from my home, I still usually just have my order shipped by the owner, Stephen Thayer, or his staff.  I've talked to him in person at the warehouse on several occasions, and he was always knowledgeable and friendly. One thing to remember is that he buys large lots of overstocked fiberglass at closeout prices. This means that his prices are very reasonable, but he can run out of certain popular fabrics for quite some time. Therefore, if you see something you want, then buy it up before someone else does.

3/25/14

When you are solo sailing in a micro-cruiser it's surprising how many "selfie" photos you take like the one above. After listening to the Selfie song by the music group, "The Chainsmokers," I was inspired to compile my own video of my solo shots here

3/22/14

Updated trip list:

2013- 6 week trip in 3.6 meter Enigma to the Bahamas. Smallest sailboat to have ever cruised the islands. Key Largo, Bimini, Chub Key, Nassau, Exumas, Green Cay, Andros, South Cat Cay, Fort Lauderdale, Miami.  Route


3/20/14

Today marks the first day of Spring.  It's predicted to be dry and fairly warm so I'm hurring up to get things done on the website in order that I can go outdoors to work on some boat related projects.

I finally got around to updating the Famoussmallboats page by adding Aron Meder's 2006-2009 circumnaviagion in his 19' sailboat as well as Sven Yrvind's transatlantic voyage in 2011 aboard his 5 meter boat.

By the way, for those looking to get a copy of the late Don Elliott's "Paradox Builders Booklet" you can find the information on how to order it here.

3/19/2014

Well it's been a long cold winter, but Spring will be officially here tomorrow. Of course, for Mindy and I it won't have come soon enough because the last icestorm caused a huge limb to come crashing down nearly taking out all three of our micro-cruisers. Luckily, the pergola under which LITTLE CRUISER is stored, took all the damage and spared the boats. This left us with just a messy cleanup in the end and not some serious repairs.



Now, most of you might not remember that it was about this time last year that I headed down to Florida to begin my solo cruise to the Bahamas in tiny ENIGMA.
And, oddly enough, I was thinking about that when I went into the greenhouse, which I'd been using as a "catch all" for all our boat stuff, and I found some left over gear from that trip.  Obviously it still needed to be packed away, so I grabbed some totes and I put it all in front of ENIGMA before storing it up in the barn loft for good. However, for a few minutes, I was tempted to throw it all back aboard so I could head out for another big trip. But, alas, I have other things I want to do this Spring like paint SWAMP THING and take my kayak out to the Outer Banks for a nice weekend excursion.




7/26/13

I noticed that the videos on Vimeo looked a little washed out on my Nexus 7 tablet so I've gone ahead and uploaded them onto Youtube also. They can be seen here and here.

7/25/13

Well I got finally around to putting together a collection of photographs from my 2013 trip to the Bahamas in ENIGMA, which you can view on Vimeo here . I also edited all my videos into a 11 minute movie that you can watch there too.

7/17/13

As many of you might expect, there was a fair bit of wear-and-tear to ENIGMA during my six week trip. So while I await cooler weather to varnish and to paint, I decided to add some chafe protection to various pieces of gear. First,  I glued some molded copper flashing to the tiller where the blade line rubs against it, and then I attached a longer copper pad on to the yuloh after removing the old one. Of course the price of copper has sky rocketed in recent years; but fortunately for these little projects, I was able to just use some old scrap pieces I had lying around. I also intend to make a new dodger from Sunbrella Surlast in the future; though, I'll add fewer zippers than the original to reduce the chance of leakage in heavy downpours and rough seas.  A new sail will also be made from 5 oz dacron with the addition of chafe fabric where it contacts the mast.




 
7/16/13



I haven't done a whole lot of work on ENIGMA since I last posted here, but I have been doing some nice day hikes with my wife Mindy along with some fitness paddles in my zippy Olympic K-1 on Lake Townsend. By the way, I turned 51 on July 1st, but thank goodness I didn't feel as bad as I did when I turned 50 last year.  OMG, when I hit the half century mark, it seemed that my life was fast approaching it's end; even though, physically I felt just fine. Therefore, to get me out of this slump a year ago, I figured it was a perfect time to tackle that once-in-a-life-time solo trip to the Bahamas in a style that would make my mentors, Matt Layden and Sven Yrvind, proud.  Consequently,  I decided to leave the outboard and the big boat behind, and instead I took tiny ENIGMA to the islands where I sailed and sculled all the way to Georgetown in the Exumas and then up South Bight to the west coast of Andros.  I still plan to write more about my adventurous trip in Small Craft Advisor soon, and I hope to upload some videos once I get motivated enough to edit them.

5/31/13

Tom Pike, who owns an ENIGMA sailboat with hard cabin, suggested to me on the microcruising forum that it might be helpful to others if I described how I repaired the hole in my own little boat. Therefore, I took a bunch of pictures and I made a webpage here about the process.

5/28/13

Now that I've been home for a little over a week, I've had time to work on repairing poor ENIGMA after she got holed in Miami's Marine Stadium by a 40 foot quad scull.  At first it was difficult to do much work at all as my injured right thumb and arm were too sore to use for long; however, as I started feeling better, work on the little boat progressed well enough that I'm now ready to wet sand the hull and repaint.



Last time I painted ENIGMA, which was just a few months ago, I used West Marine's house brand, Seagloss Pro. This is the paint that Matt Layden, the designer and builder,  applied in the original build. It worked pretty well but is expensive at $37/quart.




However, this time I'm going to save some money and try out Rustoleum's Topside paint which runs only $15/quart. I was pretty happy with Rustoleum's "high performance" enamel that I purchased locally at Lowes for $10/quart to do the bottom so I'm hoping the topside version will work equally well. Incidentally, the cheaper flat white paint I used below the waterline was modified using fine copper powder and some black paint to produce a nice grey anifouling coating.






5/20/13

After 6 weeks of cruising in the beautiful Bahamas aboard 11' 10" ENIGMA, I'm now back at home. I didn't reveal the exact details of my proposed trip beforehand because frankly I wasn't sure if I could even do it even though I had visited the islands seven times before with my wife Mindy aboard our 15' sailboat, LITTLE CRUISER. However, this time was different and even more challenging because I traveled alone and without the benefit of an outboard motor.  It was a voyage for the purist with sail and oar only- inspired by my mentors Sven Yrvind and Matt Layden.

I left my home in North Carolina way back on March 17, and I drove directly to Key Largo.  Launching little ENIGMA on her own wheels at the gravel ramp near the Mandalay restaurant, I remained nearby for a few days until a favorable weather window appeared. Then, mustering up all my courage,  I left from the Northeast tip of Rodriguez Key in the late afternoon on March 22, making a night crossing of the Gulf Stream amongst dozens of fast moving ships to arrive in tropical Bimini the following day.  After clearing customs, I anchored overnight in the noisy harbor, and then I sailed in a moderate Southerly breeze 85 statute miles across the Bahama Bank to Chub Cay in the Berry Islands. However, the trip Eastward turned out to be quite stressful because I was caught offshore by a strong frontal passage where I experienced winds in excess of 50 knots. Fortunately, my 20 years of experience in sailing small boats on big waters paid off, and I managed to keep ENIGMA upright and on course to reach a safe harbor before nightfall.

Much of the rest of the trip went the same way where there were easy days and then those times that pushed my seamanship to it's very limits. From the Berry Islands I sailed on to Nassau and then to the idealic islands of the Exumas. When I finally reached Georgetown, I turned around and headed back up to Staniel Cay, where I aimed my bow Westward to sail 80 miles to reach the largest island in the Bahamas, Andros. I spent many days in South Bight, exploring it's unspoiled back waters while I fought off the constant attacks of voracious insects like the island's infamous "doctor flies".  These horse flies earn their name because their bite feels like painful injections. Then I took my time sailing back up North, eventually finding my way across the Bahama Bank and ultimatley to Miami, where I was hit unexpectantly at anchor by a 40 foot quad rowing shell. After surviving all the difficulties cruising the Bahamas in my tiny craft, I almost sunk in home waters.  My crippled cruiser was towed to shore, where I was able to load it on my trailer a few days later and bring it home for repairs.

In the next few days I'll post some pictures and a video from my adventures.

3/17/13

Everything got packed up today, and I'm headed down to the Florida Keys to do some cruising and to enjoy the fine weather.  Hopefully I'll have a few interesting stories to tell and some nice pictures to show everyone when I get back.  Until then...




3/11/13

Now that the weather has improved, we had the opportunity to finish up the work on ENIGMA.  Pumice was added to the deck to give it a non slip surface, and another coat of home-made antifouling paint was applied to the bottom.  Both the boat's name and the new registration numbers were hand cut from self-adhesive outdoor vinyl, and then carefully added to the hull.

 



We also got around to attaching a hand pump to the rear bulkhead to more efficiently remove water in the event of a capsize. Other upgrades included the addition of an  8 pound Mantus take-apart anchor, which will be securely attached below decks during passage making. You may remember that we were using a 7 pound Manson Supreme that we liked quite a lot, but we decided to try the Mantus after seeing it in action in some Youtube videos. We're hoping it will set even quicker and hold better in the difficult bottom conditions that we will most likely encounter in our upcoming Spring cruise in Florida.



Talking about trips, Sven Yrvind is making excellent progress in the construction of his new 10 footer, which he hopes to sail non stop around the world.  If he succeeds in his adventure, this will break the present 12 foot record set by Serge Testa from 1984-1987 in his aluminum sloop, Acrohc Australis. By the way, Serge's fantastic voyage can be relived in the the book, "500 Days."

1/1/13

Happy New Year! 

Well the year came and went and I got to do a lot of paddling, but not as much sailing as I would have liked. Hopefully this year will be different, and I spent the Fall preparing ENIGMA for the new season.  All the deck hardware was removed, and the hull was sanded and faired extra smoooth.  Then plenty of fresh coats of off-white enamel paint were applied to the topsides along with a nice thick protective coat of homemade bottom paint.  All that is needed is to finish the project is to reattach the hardware and go cruising. I think I'll wait for warmer weather though to do that task.




8/31/12      NAVIGATION

A lot has changed since our first trip aboard Little Cruiser in 1991.  Back then we used paper charts, compasses and dead reckoning to figure out where we were and where we hoped to be. GPS was expensive and Loran units were not practical for our trips to the Bahamas. However, since that time there have been huge advances in the world of electronics, and now GPS and digital chart plotting has become readily available on even the most common devices like smart phones and tablet computers.  As for dedicated handheld GPS units, many of them, like those made by Garmin, have been elevated into elegant touch screens devices with satellite overviews and easy integration with online applications like Google Earth as well as dedicated PC/MAC mapping programs. However, despite all these marvelous advances it's important to remember that they are just "aids to navigation," and they are not substitutes for understanding basic navigational principals or replacing real world experience on the water.

Now in regards to what we presently use, I'm very fond of the older Garmin 76 CS(X) handheld GPS because it has proven itself over the years to be very weatherproof and reliable by myself and many Watertribe participants. Though the screen is rather small by todays standards, it still adequate to view your basic navigational information and to follow your position on the map day and night.  Before every trip, I  generally plot the main route along with a few alternates on the PC using Garmin's Mapsource program, which incidentally has been replaced by Homeport.  Then when I'm done, these routes and the maps are transfered via a USB cable to the 76 CS(X), and I'm good to go.

As a backup device I also carry an old retired iPhone 3gs in a waterproof case.  I have the Navionics App installed which uses vector charts that I generally prefer over the raster ones.  By the way, raster charts are essentially just copies of the original paper charts like those published by NOAA, whereas vector ones are digital charts drawn up from the regular charts as well as multiple other sources.  In the real world I find that the vector charts scroll more smoothly on my devices, whereas the raster ones tend to jump around when zooming or moving from one area to the next because the actual charts may or may not be available for that particular region in that scale.

Recently, I purchased a Google Nexus 7 tablet, and I was amazed at how nicely it works as a GPS and chart plotter.  Unfortuntely, since it runs the latest Android operating system, Jelly Bean, my familiar Navionics app wasn't yet available for it; therefore, I looked around and decided to test MxMariner and Memory-Map, which are Android compatible.  MxMariner costs $6.99 and uses free BSB (raster) charts, whereas Memory-Map is optimized for many types of licensed charts that you need to lease.  Both programs seem to work equally well, though my trial period for the Memory-Map charts has just ended. Therefore, I'll probably just use MxMariner, which serves my purpose and which also allows me to use custom BSB charts for my specific areas of interest.  Of course if you go to the Google Play or Apple's iTunes store, you can find other navigational programs that might suit your needs better. Just read the reviews before you buy anything so you know what to expect.  (left-Nexus and MxMariner app)

Lastly, I'd like to say that no matter how handy it is to look at digital charts, there is always the chance that your electronic viewing device might fail when you require it most. Therefore, it's probably smart to have a physical copy of the charts you need for your trip as a backup.  Since charts are expensive to buy new, it might make sense just to print them at home on plain paper or even waterproof stock using your favorite navigational program or the free online NOAA BookletChart™ feature. However, printer ink isn't cheap either; so another good choice is to look on Ebay or Craigslist for older charts and chart booklets.  I've noticed as more and more sailors migrate completely to dedicated chart plotters, laptops and iPads for their navigational needs, they are getting rid of their paper charts at very attractive prices. Recently, I spent $10 to $15 each on BBA and Maptech chart books that originally sold for as much as $100 a piece. Since many of these publications have between 76 to 90 pages, it means that you are paying as little as 11 cents for each page. Of course some people might say that these charts aren't current, which is true enough; though, most depth changes probably won't effect a boat like Little Cruiser that draws only 9 inches. However, the prudent mariner would be wise to look at NOAA online to update their charts with the most recent local notices to mariners.

8/24/12

This past Tuesday Tom P. visited Mindy and I after driving all the way down from Ontario to pick up a beautiful Enigma 360 hard cabin prototype in Florida. Unfortunately, the original builder developed health issues towards the end of the project, and this prevented him from having the energy to finish the boat. Therefore, it was listed on the Yahoo microcruising forum, and Tom became the happy new owner.  Looking over the boat in person I noticed a few updates to our older Enigma micro-cruiser. 

One of the most obvious changes was the plywood cabin which was similar to the one found on the Enigma 460 prototype.  I also observed that the cabin location had been moved a few inches back from the original Enigma, which presumably allows the mast to sit further aft and alleviates the extreme mast rake first seen in our boat.  I really like the lightweight but sturdy sliding hatch, and there is no doubt that this addition will make the boat much more seaworthy. In addition, the economic but functional 5 gallon bucket hatches found in our boat were upgraded to attractive rectangular marine hatches.  There is still a bunch of stuff to be done to make the boat seaworthy, but all I can say is this is going to be one sweet little sailboat to go cruising in!

8/18/12

After years of having the same website layout, Mindy and I figured it was about time for a new look. The main problem with the old site was that it was cobbled together over the course of many many years using various editors and a wide variety of templates. Therefore, each page had a  unique look, which wasn't bad when we first started publishing our webpage on AOL. However, after we migrated over to Road Runner and then to our present home at Yoursite.com, everything became more and more disconnected and jumbled looking. Consequently, we decided to spend part of this weekend trying to pull everything together. Hopefully, we've succeeded in making the site a little easier to navigate.


7/15/12
When I was a kid, I always dreamed of owning a sailboat and of taking a cruise, but like so many other children I didn't have access to a boat nor any relatives nearby who were into water sports.  So it wasn't until I was an adult that I finally got my first sailboat, an old beaten up 12' Wildflower Snark. It cost me a whopping $100, and I sailed it on the Hudson River near my home as often as I could while I was attending graduate school in New York City.  Eventually, I sailed it so much that the thin plastic shell that covered the cheap white foam core cracked on the bottom, so I ended up replacing it with another $100 fixer-upper. This time it was a boat with a bit more performance and a lot better pedigree, a Sparksman and Stephens racer/trainer called a BLUEJAY.  Despite my lack of woodworking skills, it didn't take me long to reattach the wooden transom on this 13'6" boat, and I was back to sailing. I christened my craft, WET FEET, and it sure lived up to its name. Because the centerboard was delaminating and I didn't really know how to fix the problem, the boat pretty much leaked continually.  I noticed that on the water the faster I went the faster it leaked, but I could always keep ahead of the flow by bailing with one hand while I steered with the other. Of course the bailing didn't end when I stopped sailing because the boat was kept on a mooring; therefore, I needed to row out to it at least once a day to pump it dry. Nonetheless, I had a great time in my new "cruiser", and one summer I took off for 10 days to experience my first real cruise traveling from Irvington, New York all the way to Port Jefferson in Long Island.  Of course I made quite a few beginners mistakes along the way, and I managed to capsize and deposit much of my belongings on the bottom of the ocean.  But eventually I made it back home, 10 pounds lighter and a lot wiser.

While I was in school I dated a few ladies here and there, and I took most of them out for a daysail aboard my pride and joy, WET FEET, but few were impressed by my tiny boat or by getting their feet soaked.  However,  I eventually met a pretty young women named Mindy who enjoyed sailing and who didn't mind bailing.  In fact, when we took our first overnight cruise together, she thought it was perfectly fine to wake up every few hours during the night to keep the water from rising above the floor boards.  Eventually, I married this adventurous and hardy soul, and we started dreaming together of taking longer trips. We went to boat shows and looked at all the fancy expensive cruisers in the yachting magazines that we could never afford. Fortunately, one day we found LITTLE CRUISER, and that's when our dreams became reality. 

 

7/11/12

It's been almost 10 months since I made my last post here, but that's because I haven't done any microcruising whatsoever. Of course that doesn't mean that I haven't been out on the water or that I've lost interest in sailing. It just means that I've only had time to get out on my local lake to do some paddling or to take a weekend long camping trip to Cumberland Island, Georgia with the Carolina Kayaking Club  this past Spring.









However, I do still dream of taking longer trips in our little sailboats, and I've been watching others undertaking exciting adventures in their tiny microcruisers.  For example, in this years Watertribe Everglades Challenge Matt Layden entered his 8' cruising pram, SAND FLEA, in the 67 mile long UM portion of the race, while Scott Widmier participated in the full 300 mile EC with his 8' Puddle Duck Racer, PLUMB CRAZY. Unfortunately, due to the severe weather this Spring, Matt was the only one of the two to finish.



(Matt at the start at Fort Desoto beach)



(Plumb Crazy- Read more about this boat in SMALL CRAFT ADVISORY No. 76)

 
Then, there is  Sven Yrvind who has been working hard to complete a new 10' sailboat to sail around the world at the level of the Southern most capes, where the weather is known to be quite nasty. I'm not sure it would be a trip that I would like to undertake in any size boat, but Sven has figured out a way to succeed in his diminuative craft. At this point he is busy installing his innovative bow-board on the beamy cruiser, and you can even see a video of the hull getting laminated with the help of a bunch of friends at the present project webpage.

Well, after writing about everyone having fun in their microcruisers, Mindy and I just had to load ENIGMA up on the trailer the other day for an afternoon of sculling and daydreaming.  Hopefully, this will get the ball rolling for us to plan some sort of trip for the future.