About Us

Learn more about us from the interview with did for Small Craft Advisor Magazine May/June 2000 Issue No 3

Five times, (now seven) Dave and Mindy Bolduc have crossed nearly 65 miles of open ocean between Florida and the Bahamas aboard "Little Cruiser," their 15-foot, Matt Layden-designed sailboat. Each time they explored the islands for over two months, all the while living aboard their tiny boat, before sailing back to Florida.
This is exceptional performance for any 15-footer, particularly one with a flat bottom and only four and a half feet of beam. At times the Bolducs encountered waves large enough to depower their sails, yet they never felt they were in danger. Obviously we had many questions for them.

SCA: The number of voyages and the miles you've traveled in LITTLE CRUISER seem quite a testament to her design. Just how far have you sailed her, and were your voyages possible only because of the unique design of LITTLE CRUISER, or do you feel other 15 foot sailboats could safely make the same trips with careful preparation?

BOLDUCS: In the five trips we've made to the Bahamas, Mindy and I have sailed an average of eight hundred miles during the two and a half month long cruises. We believe that other small boats could make the Bahama trip provided they were handled by experienced sailors and that these boats were well proven. We feel comfortable about traveling in our boat because we understand its limitations and our own. We respect the ocean and the weather, and we try not to tempt fate by venturing out when conditions are too severe for us or our tiny craft. We've found prudence is the better part of good seamanship.
SCA: Elaborate on some of LITTLE CRUISER'S unique features that make relatively long voyages practicable in a boat of this size (water catchment, stowage, etc).

BOLDUCS: LITTLE CRUISER is uniquely suited to making long coastal passages and short island hops because of her sturdy construction and efficient design. Her one-inch thick bottom can take the abuses of regular groundings and the occasional encounter with a coral reef. Moreover, the boat can be safely handled completely from within the cabin, which is especially important during inclement weather. LITTLE CRUISER also has a tremendous amount of stowage capacity in her bilges because of her flat bottom design.

SCA: Tell us a bit about how your boat was outfitted, electronics, safety gear, lights, solar, etc. What outboard do you use, and how reliable has it been?

BOLDUCS: LITTLE CRUISER has the usual safety equipment required by the Coast Guard such as flares, navigational lights, a horn and life vests. In addition, we carry a hand-held VHF, a GPS and a parachute anchor. We consider the anchors our most important safety equipment and our only insurance. Therefore we carry three, which might seem like a lot for such a small boat. They consist of a 4-pound Fortress, a 9-pound Danforth, and a monster 25-pound take-apart Luke storm anchor. When not in use, the two heavy ones are secured in the bilge where they serve as ballast while the third is on the bow ready for immediate use.
Our electronics are powered by two gel-cell batteries which are charged by three, ten-watt solar panels. When the wind refuses to blow, we rely on our trusty four-horsepower, two-cycle Evinrude outboard. Someday we'll replace it with a less polluting and more efficient Honda four-stroke engine.

SCA: What special equipment, supplies, or features did you find indispensable for living aboard so small a boat for months at a time? Things that might not occur to the first-time voyager, but that you learned from experience.

BOLDUCS: One of the most important is to be as self sufficient as possible and keep things simple. We carry almost everything we need to make repairs ourselves. Our boat is relatively simple, and we have no refrigeration or ice chest. We've found most produce keeps quite a long time in baskets. The rest of our food is in cans or dry form. Whenever we want a treat, like fresh meat or ice cream, we buy it locally and eat it right away.
We don't carry any special or unusual equipment outside of our homemade folding dinghy, but we do carry a lot of smaller-sized equipment to fit our tiny boat. In our search for the most compact gear, we've found backpacking equipment suits our needs best. One of our favorite pieces of gear is our GAZ propane stove. It uses compact one-pound cylinders for fuel, and these fit perfectly in our bilge. Ten cylinders get us through a whole winter trip! 

SCA: How were sleeping conditions given the weather and the bugs? Did you always sleep aboard?

BOLDUCS: Because LITTLE CRUISER is fully insulated, sleeping aboard is quite comfortable. When it's hot we're cool and when it's cold we're warm. If biting insects are about, we fit the hatch with "no-see-um" netting and let the wind scoop pump fresh air below. We've never felt the need to camp ashore, because we're very comfortable aboard, and everything we need is close at hand.

SCA: Were you able to carry adequate stores, water and fuel? Did you have to restock, and did it ever become a problem? Did you often fish for your dinner?

BOLDUCS: LITTLE CRUISER can carry up to two months' stores for two people, but we often supplement our supplies with local produce, which is a welcome change. We occasionally fish, but we have mixed feelings about this since we're killing the very fish we've traveled so far to admire.

SCA: What advice do you have for other small-boat cruisers contemplating similar voyages?

BOLDUCS: Be cautious and use common sense. The ocean can be a very beautiful place, but it also can be quite treacherous when conditions are wrong. Always be conscious of the weather. If it looks as if bad weather is on the way, stay in port until it's over. There's a big difference between venturing out in ten-foot breaking seas and sailing along comfortably in 4 foot swells a day or so later. It's better to postpone one's trip than become a statistic.

SCA: What do you consider LITTLE CRUISER'S most significant safety features?

BOLDUCS: Her robust construction and positive flotation. LITTLE CRUISER is heavily built; some might say overbuilt. This construction has allowed us to survive impacts with natural and man-made hazards including unmarked jetties and runaway powerboats. Should we ever be unfortunate enough to be holed, we feel confident her two inches of foam insulation will provide sufficient buouancy to keep us afloat until repairs can be made or we're rescued.

SCA: Does your boat incorporate the optional lead ballast mentioned in the plans?

BOLDUCS: LITTLE CRUISER is ballasted with several hundred pounds of lead along with an equal amount of weight in gear stored securely in the bilges. To keep the boat sailing her best, we store our gear according to weight with the heaviest items down low and the lighter ones higher.

SCA: It sounds as if you've experienced some violent sea conditions aboard LITTLE CRUISER. We're you ever concerned you might be in serious trouble?

BOLDUCS: Though we have been in some moderately heavy seas, we've never been in any real danger. Most of our passages are short, and we watch the weather carefully to avoid going out in anything really horrible. However, if we were ever caught out in severe weather, we could sit on our sea anchor and wait for conditions to moderate.

SCA: Have you ever been knocked down, rolled or pooped in LITTLE CRUISER?

BOLDUCS: LITTLE CRUISER has never been knocked down or pooped, but this is not to say it couldn't happen. Given the right conditions, anything is possible. The designer and builder of LITTLE CRUISER, Matt Layden, was once knocked down in a much smaller boat SWAMP THING, in heavy breaking seas while crossing the Gulf Stream. He was standing on the deck when a large wave hit. The partially decked boat went over, and Matt went into the warm ocean. When he grabbed the rail, SWAMP THING came right up, even though she was flooded. After bailing her out, Matt went on happily to cruise the Bahamas for several months despite the loss of a few items in the capsize.

SCA: Are you confident stores and water will remain in place in the event of a rollover and act as necessary ballast to help LITTLE CRUISER back to her feet?

BOLDUCS: All the heavy stores and the lead ballast in LITTLE CRUISER are securely locked down under the floor boards. According to the designer, this weight should provide sufficient ballast to right our type of sharpie to an angle of heel of 165 degrees, which is better than many modern offshore keel boats.

SCA: If LITTLE CRUISER rolled, couldn't the weight of the skipper and crew on the cabin roof tend to offset the effect of the ballast and prevent her from coming back up?

BOLDUCS: It's unlikely she would stay upside down even if the crew were on the cabin roof since the deck is heavily crowned, and the design is very unstable in that position. However, if it were necessary we could right the boat by swimming out and pulling her over like a capsized dinghy.

SCA: How effective is the water ballast when the tank is only partially full?

BOLDUCS: The effects of water ballast will be diminished as the tanks are depleted. We store our water in individual square water cubes that fit our bilge space. This allows us to fill the vacant space with ballast, and it ensures we don't pollute our whole water supply should we take on some tainted water.

SCA: Tell us of your scariest moments aboard LITTLE CRUISER.

BOLDUCS: Getting caught between two big freighters one dark night in the middle of the Gulf Stream! We found that even with their lights shining brightly, it was difficult to tell exactly where they were and how fast they were going. We prefer to make this passage during daylight hours whenever possible.

SCA: What features would you incorporate in a new, improved LITTLE CRUISER?

BOLDUCS: The only improvement we would make would be to lengthen the design a few feet to give the boat a separate sleeping area. Presently the floor also serves as our bed, and it is difficult to keep it clean and dry.

SCA: What's next for the Bolducs and LITTLE CRUISER?

BOLDUCS: Future adventures might include a trip up the Inside Passage or a sail down Baja California. On the other hand, it might just be a weekend trip on our local lake. In the end it probably doesn't really matter where we go, but that we have a safe and fun time doing it.