If you enjoy watching movies on Netflix as much as I do, then there are
two wonderful sailing flixs I'd recommend viewing. The first is
MAIDENTRIP, which is about 14 year old Laura Dekker's voyage
around the world. What I liked most about this film was that the
amateur footage matched the relaxed tone of the trip. You never get the
feeling that the voyage was about breaking an arbitrary world record;
but instead, it was about the desires of a young person to leave home
to see the world in a way that was most natural to her. Laura, who was
born on a cruising boat in New Zealand, has spent her whole life
sailing. At the tender age 6 she was already at the helm of an Optimist
dinghy and then by age 10 she was taking weeks long solo trips in the
North Sea in her own 23 foot Hurley 700. It's obvious from the start
that Laura is a uniquely mature teenager, and she truly was ready at
the time to undertake a circumnavigation.
The next film, CHASING SHACKLETON, is a modern reenactment of Ernest
Shackleton's epic 800 mile voyage in a 20 foot lifeboat from Elephant
Island to South Georgia Island. What makes this adventure interesting
is that the participants dressed in period clothing while they sailed a
reproduction of the original boat, the James Caird, in the same stormy
seas. Two of the crew also completed the same treacherous 32 mile
traverse of South Georgia Island with the minimal gear of the
times. However I feel the risks weren't nearly as great since
they had a chase boat always nearby and a safety team on land.
Nonetheless, you get a good feel for what Shackleton and his loyal crew
must have endured 100 odd years ago.
Greg Kutsen over at Mantus anchors
is getting ready to release a new dinghy sized 2 1/2 pound version of
his famous anchor which should work nicely on ENIGMA. During my trip to
the Bahamas last year I
decided to take along only 1 anchor, and that anchor
was an 8 lb Mantus which was the smallest one they made at the time. Of
course it probably was a bit of overkill for the boat. However, I can't
complain because it set so easily in every type of bottom I encountered
and it never dragged once. What more can I say? I'm getting a little
galvanized one to try out when they are released on September 11.
People do amazing trips in their PARADOX microcruisers! Dave down in
Hawaii just cruised the whole islands chain, and I loved the
account of his 415 nm journey at his blog.
Lately, I've really been enjoying reading Chris Morejohn's blog about
his experience building boats in the Florida Keys. If you don't know
who Chris is well he is the creator of several large liveaboard sized
sharpies as well as some revolutionary flats boats. Years ago when we
sailed to the Bahamas in tandem with Matt Layden, we got to meet up with
Chris and his family when they were living in the Exumas aboard their 32 footer called
HOGFISH LIPS. Now they have an even larger flat bottomed sailboat called
This month we had the privaledge of writing an article for SAIL
magazine about our experiences cruising in small boats. You can now read it online here.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
I haven't done a whole lot of work on ENIGMA since I last posted
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.
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.
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
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
$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.
After 6 weeks of cruising in the beautiful Bahamas aboard 11' 10"
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
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.
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...
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."
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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,
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)
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,
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.
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!
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
However, I do still dream of taking longer trips in our little
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.
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
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
of sculling and daydreaming. Hopefully, this will get the ball
rolling for us to plan some sort of trip for the future.