Blog (2-07 to 9-11)


Congratulations go to 72 year old Sven Yrvind for sailing his latest 4.8 meter microcruiser, YRVIND.COM, all the way from Ireland to Madeira.  Steady headwinds at the start made for some slower than expected progress during the first half of the voyage, but eventually landfall was made in Porto Santo after 30 days at sea and an additional 10 hours of hard sculling. Sven comments about his adventure in his blog where he notes that his latest craft proved quite seaworthy and comfortable in the troubled waters of the Bay of Biscay. However, he now believes that he could improve this new design to even make it better. His trip will resume in October with his next port of call being sunny Barbados.

One of our readers sent us this nice entry for our Famoussmallboat page. In 1968 John Smith sailed a stock Leisure 17 from Weymouth England to Cuba where he was jailed for several weeks right at the height of the cold war. After returning home he went on to start a windvane company called Windpilot, which is still in existence today. 

Recently, I made another oar for ENIGMA.  To be honest there was nothing wrong with the old one outside of the fact that it was a little short for me; but I just wanted to see if I could improve it a bit. This new fir yuloh (middle) has alot more curve than the original (right).  My idea was to try to capture some of the self-feathering properties found in LITTLE CRUISER's oar (left). When the latest yuloh was tested on the lake in ENIGMA it turned out that it required less wrist motion to get it to feather as expected; however, my top speed measured on the GPS was somewhat reduced. Of course this may have to do with using a standard oar lock instead of the "ball and socket" type commonly used for this oar, but I suspect the straighter oar has less drag at the end of the stroke. 



 It looks like Sven is headed to the States in his latest boat. He writes on his blog :

"But, Cape Horn have to wait for the next boat. Now I will sail to Florida and
consult Matt about my new project....I hope to leave my home port trailing the
boat behind my car, beginning of next week. The planned route is thrugh Denmark
Germany Belgium France England Wales Ireland. The destination is Kinsale
Ireland. There the boat will be launched."

After all these years I still find it interesting that people still ask me if  "Paradox" can sail upwind without a centerboard or a keel.  Well of  course the answer is "yes", but she is no America's Cup boat. She is an all-weather microcruiser that will carry you and your stuff with a reasonable turn of speed in all manner of conditions. However, if you want to go really fast, then you want a racing boat. If you only need to day sail, then get a daysailer. If you dream of going long distances comfortably, then get a cruising boat. I'm sure some designs might be able to fill two of these goals adequately like a daysailer/racer, but ultimately every boat is some sort of compromise.

When I entered ENIGMA in the Watertribe Challenges I had no delusions that I was going to beat any of the racing boats out there with my pointing ability and my top speed of  only 4.3 knots. However, I did know that I would most likely be able to finish in almost any kind of weather; and that is what has happened in the last 3 events that I have entered. Since I am primarily a cruiser, my goal was to learn skills that would help me travel longer distances more efficiently. Ultimately, these events taught me how to get my fully loaded cruising boat easily off the beach by myself. It forced me to become completely competent sculling my craft, and it compelled me to sail long distances non-stop with little sleep. Now I'm ready to put some of these skills to practice for my next trip to make it more enjoyable and safe.

Congratulations go to Pete for winning "The Most Innovative Home-made Boat" by WATERCRAFT MAGAZINE at the Beale Park Boat Show with his PARADOX.  You can see more pictures of JOHANNA at Pete's blog.  If you are as big a fan as I am about John Welsford's SCAMP, you can get plans and learn more about it at the SCA Forum

I'm happy to report the recent launchings of two new microcruisers this month. After several years of research and hard work, Sven Yrvind has finally completed his incredible sailboat that is intended for rounding Cape Horn against the prevailing winds and currents. This flat bottomed cruiser is quite unique in that it uses chine runners along with several other innovative features to make this epic voyage possible. If you haven't already been visiting his website already, I'd encourage you check it out. Also, don't forget to explore his pages titled "my life/text" and "video/photo" to learn about his prior trips and adventurous experiences in small ocean going boats.  Next, Alexander from New Jersey has just returned from an 8 day trip aboard his newly completed Paradox, Odyssey. He has high praises for his little cruiser which he reports cost him around $2500 to build. You can view some Youtube videos   of his beautifully finished boat along with his tests of  the boats righting abilities.


In the past few months there have been several well publicized incidents of piracy towards yachtsman, especially in the Arabian sea. This has prompted quite alot of discussion in the microcruising forum as to whether it is appropriate to carry firearms aboard our tiny boats. In response I wrote about our experiences while cruising in "Little Cruiser" when we were in a troubled area of Andros. You can read my comments here.

On a brighter note you might want to check out the Robert Manry Project  website which has a bunch of information on the 13' micro-cruiser,  Tinkerbelle, and the intrepid sailor that crossed the Atlantic back in her in 1965. I especially found Manry's journal  interesting and worth reading from start to finish.

I really enjoyed looking at Pete's video of his Paradox micro-cruiser, "Johanna", which is almost complete. You can read more about his build at his blog.  I also found a Youtube video quite by accident of  me sculling "Enigma" to the ramp after the 2010 NC Challenge.  

While reflecting upon my Watertribe Challenge experiences over the last two years I decided to write an article about what I've learned sculling a micro-cruiser. The article can be found here.


SPRING is in the air! The trees are blooming, the days are finally warmer, and the cold gloom is behind us. I have to admit that I did get out and paddle on our local lake regularly this winter, but it wasn't always fun venturing out when there was ice.  The thought of capsizing in those frigid waters worried me plenty; therefore, I always wore a full wetsuit and made sure that I had my recue and safety gear aboard.  Now it's time to enjoy the nicer weather and to attend to some much needed painting projects to get our sailboats ready for another season. Enigma's spars do require some varnishing since they got beat up during the last Watertribe Challenges, and the little sharpie could use some paint since it hasn't been refinished since Matt sailed the boat years ago.

By the way, many of you may ask why I didn't compete in the Everglades Challenge this year, and it was for several reasons. To begin, Mindy had a trip planned to visit her family at the same time so I decided to stay home and take care of our pets. Then, of course I wanted a break after completing 3 challenges in a row. Most importantly, I needed to save some money since it costs about $800 for me to do the EC when you include the entrance fee, gear purchases, spot rental and travel expenses. Luckily, I got to enjoy the event vicariously by watching Krunch and Woodcutter (Andrew Linn and Michael Monies) sail their 11'11" SCAMP. At the moment they are probably a day away from the finish line. This year's weather has been quite tough, and alot of the participants have dropped out; however, this tough crew has kept their little boat moving all along.


I got out for another rowing session in Enigma yesterday.  Fortunately, Mindy has been joining me to enjoy the weather as I scull around the lake for a few hours.

(click to enlarge)


I haven't done much boating for the last few months since I needed a bit of a break after training and participating in two Watertribe Challenges. Instead I have been enjoying a lot of nice day hikes with my wife Mindy.  However,  now it's back to doing some more paddling on the lake in preparation for the NC Challenge, which is just around the corner.  It begins September 24, and the 100 mile course is really worth doing because it's both scenic and challenging. The race starts from the beach next to the ferry terminal on Cedar Island, and from there you paddle/sail out into the Pamlico Sound. When you arrive at the Neuse River, you head up it until you locate the mouth of the Club Foot Creek for a distance of around 32 miles. If you time it right you can ride the tide through the creek and into the Harlowe Canal to reach CP1 in historic Beaufort without too much trouble. However, if you show up on a rising tide you are going to have to fight all the way there. After checking in,  you work your way out of  Taylor Creek and then set course towards Harkers Island, making sure to avoid all the shoals. More shallow water has to be navigated all the way up the Core Sound, and you definitely have to pay special attention to not get caught up in any pound nets along the way. If all goes well, you will land at the start/finish line before the deadline and you will be rewarded on Sunday by a wonderful seafood banquet, which will restore your energy and your spirits for the road trip back home.

I enjoy visiting Sven Yrvind's website regularly because he is working on innovative and interesting things for his latest boat at his "Present Project" page.  It seems that Sven must spend a good deal of time thinking about his new ideas as they are both sturdy and elegant when done. Of course this has inspired me (and I'm sure many others) to work on their own creations as it relates to microcruisers.  Below are a few that I've dabbled with over the past year or two.

Here are my 2 homemade masthead lights used aboard Enigma for the Watertribe
. One uses 14 LEDs- 12 point sideways while 2 aim up. The second
light uses just 9 LEDs which are focused on a mirror for all around lighting.

I made a bunch of tie downs for Enigma using 12k carbon
tow that was formed over a wooden mold.  They are incredibly strong
since the tow was wrapped in a 90 and 45 degree fashion.

Here is a custom anchor tray to protect the interior from abrasion and mud
from my Manson Supreme anchor. After the prototype proved successful,
a better one was made with an 1/8" board core and a fiberglass sheathing.

This project involved using a section of padded PVC pipe with a slot cut into it to
serve as a boom vang for downwind work aboard Enigma. I used it in the 2010 EC
on the first day and it functioned nicely to keep the boom from lifting up excessively
in the gusty conditions. The 2 markings on it show the location for both port and
starboard line positions.

The above is my interpretation for a leecloth used to sleep aboard 
Enigma while underway. Matt came up with this idea for the 2006
UFC, but he ended up sacrificing the original leecloth to his wheel repairs
so I wasn't quite sure what it looked like. The first one I made out of some stretchy
uphosterly material which worked okay for the NC challenge. The second
I made from some 5 ounce dacron that I had on hand. It's much nicer, but I think a
heavier fabric like 9 ounce dacron, sunbrella or trampolene material would be best.

Here are some little neoprene boots for the halyard and reef lines.
These were created to prevent water from squirting in through the
tubes while beating to windward. I also made some for the steering lines
that pierce the rear bulkhead aboard Enigma to provide a little more
water tightness in the event of flooding. You can also see a waterproof cover
I made out of packcloth for the dodger.

This is the cooking system I used for the 2010 EC. The support rod
is just an oak dowel with custom molded ends to hang on to the cockpit
coamings. I made my own tray to hold the pot, but you can purchase
a purpose built setup for your Jet Boil®. I later replaced the nylon lines with
kevlar ones which are stronger and more flameproof.

Here are the various 12 volt power supplies I have use aboard Enigma
in my search for the perfect battery setup. The first is probably my
favorite in that it is the most compact with a 5 ah gel cell battery.
The second setup uses a bigger 7.5 ah battery. The last one employs 2 Nimh
Prius car battery cells for about 6.5 ah of capacity. All of them have
controllers to regulate charging via 10-20 watts of solar power.

4-26-10  The never ending project

Since returning from the Everglades Challenge I've been working some more on Swamp Thing to finally get the little boat ready to sail. I finished up fairing everything with West System® 407 Low Density filler, and a coat of primer and paint was applied. The oars and the mast got the same treatment while the boom and yard were varnished.  At this point I climbed up on a ladder and took a picture of both Swamp Thing and Enigma side by side for an interesting comparison shot. Of course the older boat looks wider proportionally I think because of its external gunwale/rub rail.

(Click to Enlarge photos)

I'm back from participating in this year's Everglades Challenge,  and I must say that I had a fantastic time. A special thanks goes to my family and to my friends, Noel Davis and Jose Rodriguez, for without their help and support this adventure would have never happened.  I've always wanted to do the EC, but there seemed to be recurring obstacles over the years that prevented me from taking part in this race. However,  I was not going to be denied in 2010, and everything came together perfectly.

(Noel wondering how it's all going to fit. New rollers makes launching easy!)

To get to the EC I first had to drive 640 miles from North Carolina to Jose's house in Florida. Then he drove me and my little boat to Fort Desoto for the Friday morning inspection.  Of course once I reached the starting line it was nearly impossible to stay focused on packing the boat with a beach full of small craft,  interesting skippers and inquisitive spectators.  Therefore, I found myself practically throwing gear into ENIGMA at sun set when Chief called out to clear the beach for the night.  However, somehow I managed to get everything packed, and I was ready to go for the early 7 am start.

(Matt's new 9 footer "Elusion" Note the long standup board type paddles.)

(Test sailing with Karen the day before the start)

Launching the 12 foot boat was easy as I picked the steepest part of the beach and I had 3 new inflatable rollers to help things move along. My intitial plans were to sail near Matt, but he paddled off so fast in the beginning that I really didn't see which way he went. Nonetheless, I eventually found myself  parallel to him as the day wore on.  His new 9 foot boat, ELUSION, was moving at about 4 knots close to the shoreline, while I was keeping pace with him a mile offshore.  By the late afternoon the wind piped up abit, and that's when a few watertribers found themselves in trouble.  I stopped for about half an hour to help Yellowthing when he lost his rudder, during which time Matt ducked into Venice inlet to avoid the bad weather.  I decided to continue sailing on the outside to take advantage of the stronger winds, but then I discovered too late that Gasparillo Pass was impassable for my boat on the Ebb tide. Rather than risk getting knocked down in the 5 foot breakers, I chose to drift out in the Gulf  while I waited for the tide to change and for the wind and the waves to moderate.  After a few hours, the conditions did improve and I headed in to arrive at the first checkpoint by early morning.

(CP 1 Grand Tours)          

Since I was already behind schedule, I quickly signed in at Grand Tours, and then I sculled back out, exiting through the same pass that had given me trouble the night before.  The winds were still favorable and out of the North, which helped me make great progress all day long and into the night.  Eventually I started to feel really tired so of course I began catnapping as I hadn't had any proper sleep since the start of the race. During one of my catnaps I awoke to find a large shoal marker directly in my path. Unfortunately, I hit the metal I beam which was part of it's base with the chine runner.  Enigma stopped immediately, the seabirds sleeping on the top were knocked off, and I was jolted awake.  Fortunately, the rest of the night passed uneventfully, and I made it as far as Cape Romano by morning. The winds then died, and I took the opportunity to row up to a nearby spoil island to beach ENIGMA and to effect some repairs.  After completing the fiberglass work, I called home for my required check in, and I found out that Matt was only 11 miles away. Therefore, I relaunched my boat quickly, and I started towards the second checkpoint.  Within a few hours a fair breeze carried me all the way to Indian Key pass, and I rode a rising tide easily to Chokoloskee.  When I arrived at the second check point I was told that I had missed Matt by a mere hour and a half.   Even in his diminuative 9 foot boat, Matt proved to be too fast for me to catch. Therefore, I just continued at my own pace, heading out Chokoloskee pass in the dark of night.

(CP2 Flamingo)

Since there was no wind again,  I decided to simply drift out with the Ebb tide and to try to get a little sleep while I waited for the wind to fill in.  Two hours later I awoke to a light breeze, but I found myself absolutely chilled to the bone eventhough I was wearing insulated underwear and a heavy polypro jacket. In fact I had been dressed this way the whole time because the weather had been so bitterly cold from the start.  The rest of the evening was spent sailing downwind in light airs all the way to Cape Sable. Then the wind died altogether. In the morning I sculled for a few hours until the wind switched to Southeast, forcing me to spend all day beating into the third checkpoint. I anchored out for the night, and then I had a warm welcome in the morning by Noel Davis who was manning the Flamingo checkpoint. Afterwards I set off  into a stiff headwind for the final leg to Key Largo. However, instead of taking the tricky and shallow water route East that I had originally planned, I chose to sail South in more navigable waters all the way to Long Key. This took another full day of sailing so I decided to stop again for a good night's rest before completing the last 30 odd miles to the finish. All in all, it was a lot of fun, and hopefully, I'll have an opportunity to do it again someday. 

Well, it's official. I'm going to take part in this year's 300 mile long Everglades Challenge.  After watching the race from the sidelines, it's my chance to be a participant; eventhough, I know I have no chance of winning in tiny 12' ENIGMA.  I'm betting that "Bumpy and Lumpy" in their 20' Tornado Catamaran will win or be near the top since they have been the victors the last two years.  I also expect Ardie Olsen will do very well in the class 2 single kayak category since he placed second overall at the 2009 NC Challenge, missing first place by only 6 minutes.  For me I'm hoping for some favorable winds along the way so that I can make the checkpoints  and just finish on time. Our friend Matt Layden will also be participating in his new 9 foot sailboat in the much longer Ultimate Florida Challenge, which is made up of the the EC plus another 900 miles! It is an around Florida race and includes a 40 mile portage. He's one of the favorites to win for sure, but he's certainly going to face stiff competition with all the Kruger Canoes entered this time.
This morning I was trolling around the internet for some interesting boat related things to read, and I bumped back into Bill's wonderful blog which he posts to very regularly.  He has lots of nice commentaries and pictures on a variety of watercraft, so go check it out if you haven't already been there.  At least once a week I also go to Sven's site to see how progress is coming along with his Yrvind 1/2.  I love looking at all the new ideas he's experimenting with on this innovative craft. 

(click photos for links- Stern, Skippy, Big C)

It's been awhile since I looked around the internet for any exciting trips in really small boats, and I was kind of caught by surprise by the recent E-W crossing of the Atlantic by Frenchman Frank Andreotta, in his 172 cm/5'7" mini transat boat, STERN. You can read more about his adventure in a great article titled, Survival of the fittest...and smallest" by Dieter Loibner.  The author also goes on to recount a nice history of other past tiny ocean crossing boats, and he even looks into some of the sailboats that were signed up to participate in the first "Around In Ten" race.  This is definitely a must read! By the way, if you want to see some video of  how STERN sails, check out Youtube and there are some more pictures of this tiny craft here.  It's amazing how much more information is out there on microcruisers now and their captains are embracing the web.  Even Tom McNally has a myspace page and there is a nice history of his record breaking voyages by author William A Butler. 


Happy New Year Everyone! We're sure glad to see 2009 finally over as we lost some loved ones along the way. Mindy's father, Alan Hart, died in October at the age of 70. I was so blessed to have him as my father-in-law for 20 years. He was a great human being, and he loved life and encouraged us to enjoy it to the fullest. I doubt we could ever have made so many successful trips to the Bahamas if he hadn't been taking care of things back home while we were away for months at a time. He will be sorely missed and not a day goes by that we don't think about him.

Ex-owner of SWAMP THING, David Gatan, also didn't make it to 2010, but at least we know he spent many happy decades living in the Florida Keys aboard his various small boats like the 23' Glander Cay. He prefered living on the hook even if it meant dodging the hurricanes and enduring the hordes of  moquitos during the summer months. Never one to use an outboard motor, David enjoyed the simplicity and quiet afforded by sailing and sculling. He also was an accomplished guitarist, and I imagine his last days were spent serenading the nearby Pelicans with some of the finest Flamenco music by Juan Serrano. 


(Above David sculling L.C. after one of our trips to the Bahamas and Alan during a walk with Mindy near our home.)

The North Carolina Challenge turned out to be a lot of  fun this past September, and ENIGMA took first in her class and fifth overall. I decided to go to Cedar Island a few days before the start of the race, which turned out to be a good idea since it gave me time to do some relaxing sailing and to organize all my gear aboard such a small boat.  On the day of the race, light headwinds made for a slow start and I (now known by my Watertribe name of Freebyrd) lost plenty of time to the faster kayaks and the racing sailboats. Therefore, I tried to relax as much as I could during those first few hours to save energy, and I even managed to take a few catnaps along the way. However, once I reached the Neuse river, a line of thunderstorms and their accompaning squalls kept me on my toes as I drove the little boat at maximum speed downwind for the next 18 miles. When I reached the Harlowe Canal at dusk, the tide was favorable, and I had a comfortable scull all the way through, albeit in the pitch dark. I eventually sailed into Beaufort after midnight, and I briefly considered going on; but the weather forecast was not promising, and so I stayed put along with pretty much all the other Watertribers. At first light I left the protection of the anchorage, and then I spent several discouraging hours beating to windward in shallow water to slip pass the south side of  Harkers Island and out into the Core Sound. The wind remained blustery all that day, and the short seas made for a challenging sail. There were frequent down pours, but luckily I remained dry inside the cozy cabin; and with the helm tied off, the little boat charged ahead merrily under reduced canvas. By nightfall the weather started to turn really ugly, and I narrowly avoided colliding with some pound net posts as I approached Cedar Island in reduced visibility.  In an attempt to reach the finish line that evening, I pressed onward in the deteriorating conditions until I was less than a mile from the end, but then a particularly severe storm cell forced me to anchor to let the worst of it pass. After a half an hour of waiting, I ventured out into the horizontally driven rain and guided ENIGMA by hand along the shoreline until I reached the finish where I was warmly welcomed by Dawn Steward, the race organizer. The following morning four more people came in paddling their kayaks, and then all the participants had an incredible seafood banquet at the Driftwood Restaurant. I'll definitely be returning next year. Hopefully, some of you will join me to do this adventure race.

(click to enlarge)

A bunch has happened since our last posting, both good and bad. Phil Bolger, one of the most forward thinking boat designers of our time, sadly passed away. His thoughts greatly influenced the design of our sharpies and his steady contribution of ideas and commentaries in such magazines as "Messing About in Boats" will be sorely missed.

On the brighter side of things, we've been working steadily on our various projects to insure that ENIGMA is ready for the Watertribes' Carolina Challenge in September and other future trips. The ballast bags are all done and we're now in the process of adding in more tie points for them. Also a new smaller solar/battery electrical system has been tested along with a more energy efficient mast head light. A set of custom storage bags have been made to better fit the limited interior space, and the sleeping cushion is ready for it's packcloth cover. A 7 lb Manson Supreme anchor has also been added to deal with more varied bottoms.

 (Lead in bags, sleeping cushion fitted and new anchor. )

Unfortunately, we didn't get to go to Cedar Key Florida this year for the Small boat gathering as Mindy injured her foot and we decided to take the time to recover at home instead. However, I am hoping to enter ENIGMA in the 100 mile Watertribe N.C. Challenge September 25-27, 2009. The race will begin and end from our old stomping grounds on Cedar Island, NC.  The same rules basically apply for this event as for other watertribe challenges, and you can get more information if you are intersted here .


Today we spent several hours reorganizing the whole website to make it more friendly to Mobile devices and netbooks since these have become so popular. This basically boiled down to simplifying the main page, increasing the text size and adding some additional pages.  I also removed some broken links and added some entries to the LINKS page.

By the way, congratulations to all those who participated in this year's Everglades Challenge! Matt Layden, the designer of LITTLE CRUISER , finished first in his class in a brand new home-build 12' kayak.


And they're off!  The 2009 Everglades Challenge began early this morning, and you can see the competitors launching on Youtube.  The designer and builder of our boats, Matt Layden is using a 12 foot kayak this year, and we're sure he will do well since he has paddled this event in the past.

As for interesting cruising news, we've been keeping an eye on Sven Yrvind's progress on his new 5 meter micro-cruiser.  This design has many innovative ideas which will  help the boat fight it's way around Cape Horn against the prevailing winds and currents in the future.  Some of these ideas include chine runners, a canting mast, moveable lead ballast and a completely watertight ventilator.  His website has many pictures and descriptions of this present project as well as other pages on his past trips.

In addition, we've reading about the adventures of MISS CINDY, a 16 foot microcat that was towed from Vancouver to Mexico in October 2008, and has been sailing South ever since. At the moment Tony is in Nicaragua; and from there he intends to sail on to Panama, where he will transit over to the Carribean. You can read about his incredible trip here

Here are some pictures of the ballast bag in place, the portable power pack stowed and the foldable solar panel charging.



Here is a picture of the 12 lb ballast bag described in our earlier post.  Each naugahyde fabric bag will be tied securely down to eyelets and blocks to keep them from shifting when the boat is heeled over or even knocked down.  We're still thinking that a maximum of 16 bags should be sufficient, which amounts to 192 lbs.  However, we will add more ballast if needed once we get the little boat back on our city lake for more testing.

These two photographs show our current power system for Enigma and Swamp Thing. The idea here was to have an inexpensive and portable power pack that we could transfer from one boat to the next.  Since our electrical needs are modest, all that was required was a 7.5 amp/hr 12 volt AGM/SLA acid battery charged by one or two 5 watt foldable solar panels putting out 300 ma/hr each. We believe we should have sufficient electricity to power our LED masthead light; charge our cell phone; power our GPS; and energize our Ipods.  Incidentally, the battery was purchased locally from Batteries Plus for $33 and the ICP solar panel cost $35 each on Ebay.  We found the charge controller in our junk box along with two unused marine 12 volt recepticals. The controller was an old Bobier M-2 that we originally had aboard Little Cruiser in the 1990's, but we replaced it awhile ago with a SSC3 kit one. You can find something similar to the Bobier one at Defender for $27 or even do without the controller, using a blocking diode instead and making sure to disconnect the panel when the battery voltage reaches a fully charged state of 14.1-14.3 volts.  Finally, the enclosure we employed was an old 1.7 liter Rubbermaid container, but a nice Pelican box would be superior if you happen to have one laying around.


Happy New Year!  Well it's been very cold here as of late so no boat related activities have been going on.  However, we do hope to begin getting some of our gear together for our next trip down to Cedar Key in May.  Last time things were very tight aboard Enigma for 2 people so we intend to make some minor changes to the boat to give us a little more space. One of these adjustments is to use lead as our primary ballast.  Last time we used sand bags, and the bags took up a lot of precious interior space. This time we intend to use the 1 pound ingots that we bought off of Ebay. These are going to be placed in much smaller bags for a total weight of 12 pounds each. We will most likely need between 14 -16 bags in all, and each one will  be secured to the bottom of the boat.

We also intend to make one large custom foam pad to sleep on instead of using two individual thermarest pads. We discovered last time that there wasn't enough beam to fit both of them at once without overlapping them in the middle, which created an uncomfortable ridge. The final change will be the addition of cloth side pockets to store lightweight gear and navigational items like our gps and our vhf radio.  In 2008 we packed our gear primarily in dry bags, and we had trouble accessing our stuff quickly since we located our equipment in the bow and the stern compartments to free up the cabin.  Well, that's about it for now. Stay warm!


OMG, more fairing.

Over the last few days we've done plenty of sanding along with more fairing with microballons.  Swamp Thing is beginning to look a lot better.


Yep, you guessed it! Today we did more fairing. Now it's fill/sand/fill/sand until everything looks good. By the way, we'd like to point out Thomas' great blog site about Macro/microcruising.


All of the glass work.

We've completed all of the glass work on Swamp Thing. The other day we added 6 oz glass to the top of the chine runners,  and then today we covered the skeg in a layer of 10 oz glass which was  finished with a layer of 6 oz glass to smooth things out. Now it's back to fairing and then priming the whole boat.


Time to sand  

Today we began sanding the hull and fairing all the low spots with microballons and epoxy.  One thing worth noting are the "improved" chine runners. Per the designers suggestions that are now larger than before. In fact they are about 1/4" wider and 1/8" thicker which makes them about 25% wider than the original ones.  Hopefully, this will improve the boats windward performance. 



Well, we finally finished all the major glass work on Swamp Thing while the weather was warm enough to get a couple of coats of epoxy and filler on in one day. Now we have the fun task on sanding everything fair and adding a little more fairing compound to prepare her for priming and painting.



On Track

Progress on Swamp Thing is once more moving along well, and we are getting closer to finishing the glass work.  All that remains is the bottom now, which we hope to tackle tomorrow. Earlier, we put 4 oz fiberglass set in West System Epoxy on the deck and then 6 oz fiberglass on the sides. The bottom with receive 2 layers of 10 oz fiberglass.



Moving forward.

As could be expected, several other projects came up in the last two months so not a great deal was done on Swamp Thing. However, we are now finally approaching the home stretch and glassing the hull will soon begin.  When I look back on this restoration, it's hard to understand why it has taken so long; but after lookin at some of our old photos on the project, I guess it's understandable. It's seems that much of the boat was badly damaged and many components both large and small had to be repaired or replaced. The biggest thing was the bottom along with all the supporting floor timbers. Then there was the rotted deck which was clearly seperating from the sides. All my clamps were required to hold it back together while the glued set up. Most of the wooden fittings were damaged, and they needed to be duplicated. One of the blades on the custom oars was missing and was repaired, while the mast required minor work along with complete fiberglassing to make it weather tight.  All of this turned out to be more time consuming then expected. I think half of our time was spent just stripping off years of paint, removing stubborn fasteners and tearing out rotted wood. I'm not sure we would ever do it again, but now that we are so close to getting the little boat ship shape, it's nice to know that this unique craft will be sailing again.

Getting things just right!


Happy Birthday Mindy!  


We've been ordering 50-60 lbs of lead at a time on Ebay to use as ballast. Oddly enough, the shipping is very reasonable despite the heavy weight because the metal is sent in a flat rate box. I wonder how long it will take for the Post Office to set a weight limit or for our poor mailman to just refuse delivery.



Back to Work!

It's time to get back to work on Swamp Thing! This project has been dragging on way too long, so we rolled the little boat into the boat shed so that we could finish her up.  Next on the "to do list" is to install the chine runners and the skeg. Then, it will be just a matter of covering the whole exterior of the sharpie in fiberglass cloth set in West System epoxy. When the weather cools down  (it's now 92 F), we'll paint the boat in Interlux Brightside polyurethane and go for a sail!


For those of you who are interested in more information about Enigma, below are some of her particulars.

LOA        11'-10"
Beam      3'-4"
Draft       6"/1'-10" (rudder down)
Sail area 58 sq ft
Payload   500 lbs
Hull weight  160 lbs including dodger, hatches and rudder (weighted blade adds 7.75 lbs)


Here is our updated page to our most current food inventory list.  By the way, the page is a work in progress, so we'll be adding things to it as time goes on.  Since we got back from Cedar Key with the new boat, we've had a few requests for inside photos of ENIGMA. Therefore, we added two below. Also, here is the newly completed portable electrical system using the original solar panel from the boat.

(Click for larger picture)

We've rewritten the page on Matt's boats here to reflect his newer designs and to further elaborate on their place in his line of micro-cruisers.


Mindy and I had a great time at this years WCTSS Cedar Key gathering!  We arrived three days before the event to meet the other early arrivals, and then we stayed a few more days afterwards to do a little cruising aboard our new boat ENIGMA, another Matt Layden design that made it's debut in the 2006 Ultimate Florida Challege.  Along with a few others, we were a little worried that the high fuel costs might deter many people from trailering their boats to the event, but our fears were unwarranted as there was a record number of watercraft at this years get together.  The weather turned out perfectly, and everyone had a super time.  Even our talk about micro-cruising seemed to be well received at the Saturday night cookout. The only problem I had was that my legs got sunburned while I was busy looking at all the wonderful boats and talking to all the fine folks. Next year I'm definitely going to wear long pants. More of our pictures from the event can be seen here.  You can also view many more photos from the 2008 gathering at the WCTSS photo page.

(Click to enlarge)


Good news!

We had such a great time last year at the WCTSS  boat gathering in Cedar Key last year that we will definitely be returning on May 3-4. For those of you who have never been before, this is an opportunity to meet other like-minded people and to enjoy the beautiful gulf.  Motel accomadations are probably pretty scarce at this late of date, but why not just sleep aboard your boat like we are doing.  In addition, we will be giving a little talk after the Saturday night cookout about our cruises to the Bahamas.  We think that this will be a great opportunity to answer questions for those of you who are contemplating a trip to the islands or just want to know more about cruising aboard small trailerable boats. See you there!


Over the years we've gotten quite a few inquiries regarding the micro folding dinghy. One of the frequently repeated questions was where to find #4 Duck cloth for the hinges.  Originally, we sourced our fabric locally from a tent/awning manufacturer, but they no longer carry this heavy weight material.  Luckily, a sailmaking friend of ours pointed us to an online supplier at FabricsandVinyl. The only problem is that you will need to get 3 yards of the material to make a continuous hinge, which is much more than is necessary for one dinghy. In fact, for $30 (including shipping) you will have enough cloth to make 9 boats!  Therefore, it may be more economical for a few people to buy the material together, and then to divide it so that they can make a few boats apiece.

Happy New Year! Well it was a busy Fall for us, and we did a bunch of work on Swamp Thing .  We finally got around to adding the bottom to the little boat and we completed most of the interior work. However, it became too cold to do any more glassing on the exterior so we'll have to wait until Spring to finally finish her up.  

As for Little Cruiser, we refinished the floor boards, made some new cushions and started work on our latest sail. Of course this time we built a proper loft floor in the greenhouse to facilitate the sail's construction.

Mindy and I just got back from a trip to New York where we attended her cousin's wedding. The affair was beautiful and everyone looked fantastic in their elegant clothes.  A few candid photos of us and her family can be seen here.  Afterwards,  we got to take a short "cruise" on the Staten Island Ferry into Manhattan. We visited South Street Seaport, which I hadn't been to in years, and we hopped aboard the subway to go shopping uptown. We ended our excursion of the "Big Apple" with a wonderful authentic chinese dinner on Canal Street.


Today we updated the Famous Small Boat page to include more information about Wayne Dickinson's God's Tear and Webb Chiles' Chidiock Tichborne I & II. More importantly, there are two new websites about these adventurers.  Webb Chiles even posted some of his books and other publications in pdf file form for free at his site.  To learn more about Wayne Dickinson and to see lots of nice pictures of his sailboat go here.

Lastly, we thought it might be a nice idea to actually trace the path of each of our voyages aboard Little Cruiser on maps produced using Google Earth. These are presented in our Trips Page.  Just click on "Route" to see them.

We hope everyone is having a nice Labor Day Weekend Holiday (in the U.S that is).  We got started on some more boat related projects the other day. To begin, pillow cases were made because the old ones were well.... passed it.  Obviously we couldn't just go out and buy some nice fresh ones from Walmart since the pillows along with all the cushions aboard Little Cruiser are custom sized to fit our tiny boat.  However, the new ones ended up costing nothing but our time because we had the fabric on hand. Mindy seemed especially pleased with the color, a dark deep purple.  I think when our fabric samples arrive in the next few days from Outdoor Wilderness Fabrics , she'll probably match the pillow cases to some purple fleece material from which we'll make a new mini blanket.


At the same time, I began work on making a backup solar controller.  Presently we use a Cirkits SCC3 20 Amp controller. This has worked well for the last few years; nonetheless, we thought that should it ever fail in the field, it would be simpler to replace it with an identical unit rather than experiment with something new.  The SCC3 was ordered online, and we received it after only a few days wait.  As might be expected from a quality kit, everything was there and I was able to begin soldering right away. One thing I noticed was that the design had changed slightly with the addition of two resistors and the removal of one diode; however, the printed circuit board was the same size, which meant that it would fit in the small wooden housing under the floorboards.  Assembly took a few hours, and the controller worked flawlessly when tested the next day with a 10 watt solar panel and an old SLA battery.  I have to say that the thing I like best about this unit is that you can control the float voltage by adjusting a small potentiometer.  This is especially important with SLA (GEL) batteries since they don't like to be constantly overcharged.  Ours is set to 13.8 volts by the way.  In addition, there is a single bi-colored LED that tells you everything that is going on. RED means that the solar panel is producting electricty and the battery is charging. When it starts flashing RED-GREEN, you are getting close to the float voltage. Solid GREEN means fully charged.  No light means no juice is coming from the solar panel.  Finally, there is a switch to equalize the cells, which basically means that it will over-ride your float voltage by +1.5 volts until it is turned off. This is done periodically to insure that all the cells are charged equally. 

Testing, new controller, and old one aboard Little Cruiser.


Not much has happened since our enjoyable cruise in May to Cedar Key.  Swamp Thing has remained untouched sadly and Mindy and I have been busy with work and various other projects.  However, now that summer is almost over, we are beginning to think about what to do for a nice winter cruise.  Therefore, the other day we pulled the protective tarp off Little Cruiser to check out her condition and to give her a nice wash down.  Afterwards, we slid the hatch open and climbed aboard to remove some forgotten items from our previous trip.  Of course we weren't terribly surprised to discover a half dozen cans of food still remaining deep in the bilge. This boat seems to just swallow stuff up!  Then there were the charts for the west coast of Florida, which we probably wouldn't be needing this winter.  In the overhead nets we noticed a few articles of clothing and some other odd and ends. Unfortunately a quick look at our LED battery meter showed us that our gel cell would not last another trip since it was no longer holding a charge despite being fed a steady supply of current from a remote solar panel. Thus, we made a mental note to buy a new one soon, and we removed the old battery.  By the the next day, the hull had fully dried,  and we examined the bottom of the boat along with the the rudder blade and the centerboard for damage.  We noted a few scrapes caused by hitting those darn oyster bars in Cedar Key, and we went ahead and filled the scars up with a thick putty made from epoxy mixed with milled glass and microballons.  Overall, though, the little boat didn't look too bad. We'll probably give the floorboards a fresh coat of varnish in the Fall, and we'll definitely need to make a new sail and a nice Sunbrella sail cover to protect our handy work from the strong tropical sun.  

Mindy working on the next "Trip List"


Well, we're back from the annual West Coast Trailer Sailing Squadron (WCTSS) meet at  Cedar Key, and all I can say is WOW! I've never seen so many amazing small boats in one place, EVER! There were beautiful sailing canoes, both high-tech and traditional; small production and home-built trimarans; sleek and swift proas; nine sharpies including our own; beamy wood cat boats; a fleet of Sea Pearls; several plywood cruising catamarans; an EC 22 and a Core Sound 17; a Montegomery 17 towing a Bolger Cartopper; two Drascombe Coasters and a Drascombe Scaffie; a large traditional fishing dory; a ton of production and owner built-kayaks; a Kruger solo canoe; lots of dinghies and row boats; a Skiff America 20 and an incredible assortment of day sailers like the beautiful Melonseed. I'm sure I've left out many boats, but we simply were overwhelmed by the mob of sea craft that covered the beach entirely at Atsena Otie Key. We just couldn't take it all in! Moreover, we got to meet lots of the sailors we've been corresponding with over the years, and we had the privilege to speak with quite a few well-known people like Sven Yrvind, Meade Gougeon, Graham Byrnes and Hugh Horton. To top things off there was the incredible barbecue cookout Saturday night and the entertaining guest speakers (Sven, Graham and Noel Davis/ afterwards.  If you want to see some really great pictures posted by the founder of the WCTSS, Ron Hoddinott, you can check them out here.  There are also some really nice shots of the event at Sealpearlboats . Lastly, I  asked Matt Layden in person for an official answer on whether he intends on making the 12' Enigma and Enigma 460 plans available, and the answer is "yes." However, it may be a while since he is quite busy with several other projects at the moment.


Well, it's official!  Mindy and I will be taking LITTLE CRUISER to Cedar Key for the West Coast Trailer Sailing Squadron annual get together on  May 5th and 6th.  This year's event is one not to be missed as both Matt Layden and Sven Yrvind/Lundin plan to attend.  We will be arriving a few days early to do some relaxing cruising, and then we'll get to meet all the other sailors on the weekend .  Since LITTLE CRUISER will not be carring her usual 3 months worth of stores, we'll have plenty of room to bring along our new micro-folding bike.   See you all there!

Mindy riding, and the bike stored in the stern.

Now that the weather has gotten warmer in North Carolina, I've been heading out to our local lake at least once a week to get some fresh air and to be on the water.  During the hour it takes me to paddle the 4 miles in my kayak, I usually listen to the weekly podcast on my Ipod Shuffle.  I've found this little mp3 player to be perfect for my needs since it is very small and relatively inexpensive.  Interestingly, both the ear phone and the player fit into 35mm film canisters which are quite waterproof.  I usually pack the two in my life vest pocket, where they stay dry until I'm ready to begin listening.    


 Matt Layden does it again-! He is first in his group (class 4 solo) at the 2007 Everglades Challenge. This year he used an 8' pram which really put the competition to shame! So how does he do it year after year? Well, he simply sails his boat to it's maximum potential hour by long hour and day after long day.  Eventhough he doesn't get much sleep during this 300 mile race, he still is always relaxed and comfortable in his easily driven micro-cruiser. Little energy is wasted keeping his diminuative craft moving, and he knows how to cheat the current and how to work every windshift to it's utmost advantage. Bravo Matt!


The SWAMP THING refit page has been updated finally! There is still a lot to do, but the project is slowly moving closer to completion.  As soon as the weather gets warmer, the bottom will be glued and nailed on.  Then the hull will be sheathed in fiberglass, and we can start thinking about painting.

One of our friends who is a full time liveaboard recently told us: " You know there are two types of sailing people- sailors and nailers."  Recently, I think we've become the later.  It seems that during the past few years we've done a lot more nailing than sailing.  Refinishing Little Cruiser took quite a lot of our spare time to complete, and more recently, we've devoted a good deal of effort to getting Swamp Thing rebuilt.  However, eventually, we plan to get back on the water to do some real cruising again.  In the meantime, though, we've at least managed to get out on our local lake to do a little kayaking this winter.   Incidentally, during our 4-5 mile paddles I usually bring along my Ipod so that I can listen to the latest FurledSails podcast. Last week I enjoyed an interview with "Chief," Steve Isaac, creator of the Everglades Challenge; and more recently, the yacht designer, Ted Brewer, gave an excellent account of his life's passions.  If you haven't checked out the website, you really should.  They've interviewed all kinds of interesting sailing folks like the writers, Lin and Larry Pardey, of SeraffynTaleisin fame.  As for our own website, we've removed some dead links from our Links page, and w'eve added Aroundinten, which is a Yahoo forum dedicated to dicussing the design of 10 foot boats for a possible around the world sail boat race.  Within the next few days, we'll also be updating our Swamp Thing rebuild page with some new pictures, and we hope to include a review or two shortly thereafter.