Friday, December 25, 2009

Back to basics

On December 23 before a big storm broke, we had 10 mph winds on Tims Ford, so I took out my first build: an 11 foot lapstrake Shellback dinghy designed by Joel White.  Five hours of fast sailing with nothing but the sound of water gurgling under the hull.  A peaceful break before the hectic days of Christmas.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Solstice Paddling on Lake Dimmick

It was sunny and cold, but the day was 2 seconds longer than yesterday.  Moki and I went for a paddle on Lake Dimmick to celebrate.  We saw a flock of 20 or more geese, a pair of raccoons, a blue heron, a soaring red tailed hawk, and, of course, deer.  All the wildlife interested Moki to no end.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

December on Tims Ford

Foggy and misty and cold for a typical winter paddle

The next day sailing under blue skies in jeans and T shirt in the upper 60s.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Sailing Kruger Sea Wind with Balogh sail rig

Burying the Ama
Skipping along

Fall Paddling on Tims Ford

Fall color
Moki studying the water (below)

Tims Ford Sailing and Paddling

This last month I have been alternating mountain biking with paddling my Kruger Sea Wind canoe on Tims Ford and Nickajack Lakes. Trusty dog Moki has joined me for many of the paddles.

This week I rigged the Balogh sail rig on the boat and added sailing to the paddling so that I will be prepared for the 2010 WaterTribe Everglades Challenge ( I haven't done it solo since 2003, but I have had several successful goes paddling a tandem Kruger canoe with a Balogh sail rig with Michael Collins (we won and set a record in 2004, then cut 5 hours off that time only to finish third in 2006.).

Pictures to come.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Dodger built for North Carolina Challenge

WaterTribe North Carolina Challenge

Account of Ridgerunner and Greybeard’s participation in the inaugural North Carolina WaterTribe Challenge, September 2009

By Doug Cameron (Ridgerunner)

We were sailing a Core Sound 20 cat ketch monohull sailboat, designed by multiple Everglades Challenge winner Roo (Graham Byrnes) and built by Doug Cameron. We had successfully sailed this boat in the 2008 Everglades Challenge, and I looked forward to sailing it on its namesake sound.
Both of us were busy and we live 14 hours apart, so we had no time to practice, but we had successfully completed four Everglades Challenges together. Because of our hectic lives, we did not race in the 2009 EC, though we both helped to manage it. 

 The difficulties we anticipated were mainly related to the row through the Harlowe Canal. Greybeard had scouted the canal by car and noted a strong (2 ½ kt) current flowing the wrong way. We both knew of the area’s reputation for mosquitoes, and we each brought headnets for the row. We anticipated warm weather and hoped for fair winds. The race, like all WaterTribe Challenges, presented some unanticipated surprises!

We arrived at Cedar Island Thursday afternoon in plenty of time to set up the boat on the beach, go through the safety inspection, and attend the Captains’ Meeting. Discussions with Roo convinced us to alter our routes somewhat the night before the race, but we got to bed at a decent hour.

The start was a little more laid back than the Everglades Challenges because of the need to wait for the ferry to leave its dock adjacent to the start beach, but the West wind had blown the water away from the beach (Pamlico Sound is dependent on the wind rather than tides for its water levels). The starting gun went off at 7:40, and we were sailing by a short while after 8.

For several hours, we beat into a Northwest wind of 10-12 kts with Roo and Tinker (in Southern Skimmer, an EC 22), SOS and Dances with Sandy Bottom (in Dawn Patrol, a Core Sound 20 with a cabin), and HoldYourCourse (a solo Isotope catamaran)in view ahead of us (we were slow to get off the beach). We stayed at about the same relationship with them until around 10, when they made the turn around Point of Marsh. They were now on a reach while we were still beating, and the wind fell off and clocked around to a more northerly direction. We would take another hour to get around the Point, and by then they were barely in sight.

We were now reaching, but slowly. We raised our mizzen staysail, but we could barely do three kts. Slowly the wind filled, and we watched a big thunderstorm move over Oriental and come offshore. Our speeds moved up through the single digits. As the seas built and lightning appeared, we took down the staysail, but kept both sails unreefed. We were now surfing in the rain at more than 10 kts and looking for shelter around the entrance to the ICW and Adams Creek. We could see the CLC tandem kayak (Sundance and Hammerstroke) with two Pacific Action sails going almost as fast along the shore. When we got around the point of Adams Creek, we hove to and reefed, then continued into Clubfoot Creek alongside Hammerstroke and Sundance.

The rain continued, but the trees blocked the wind as we headed into the pretty creek and turned south toward the Harlowe Canal. Two more kayaks (Stripbuilder and ?) passed us in the rain as we slowed and the creek narrowed. It was about 5:45 PM.

Finally, about a half mile from the canal, the lack of wind and adverse current caused us to drop the masts and sails and get out the oars and yuloh. We would take turns sculling and rowing for the next six miles. There was a gentle rain and three low bridges, but progress was steady at around 3 kts. Floatsome paddled past us toward the end of the canal, and the tidal current began to pull us toward the bay. The marshes finally widened as darkness overtook us, and we nosed into shore to raise masts and sails.
The wind seemed light as we passed HoldYourCourse, also rigging in the marsh, but the lull was only due to protected waters. As we emerged into the shallow Newport River bay, we met the strong evening wind. Even though it was only about 70 degrees, the strong wind and our wet clothes from rowing in the rain conspired to make us cold. We would be shivering before we reached the other side and would change into dry suits at the checkpoint.

In terms of navigation, the Newport River presented one of the biggest challenges of the trip. We were near dead low tide, it was shallow everywhere, and the wind was building. We ran aground several times as we sought the navigation markers of the ICW and a clear path into Beaufort. A fishing boat near the Beaufort bridge had three large lights that shone like the sun, and the airport lights were confusing, making navigation difficult. We learned later that HoldYourCourse, blinded by these lights, sailed headlong into an unlit barge beside the fishing boat. There was no light as the clouds obscured the fingernail moon, and day marks seemed to appear just as we reached them. We finally reached the bridge at 8:10, only to be informed that we had to wait for 20 minutes for an opening. At 8:30 we gained Taylor Creek and pulled into Checkpoint 1 at 8:48.

Race Manager Sandy Bottom warned us about the ferocious winds and seas in the forecast for tonight and tomorrow and told us that most of the sailboats had anchored near the East end of Turner Creek. Checkpoint Manager Fat Frank and his wife brought us hot chocolate as we changed into warm clothes for the night and discussed our plans. Before Sandy’s warnings, we had assumed that we would sail through the night as we had always done through the first night of Everglades Challenges. Now we were talking about anchoring.

By 10 o’clock, we were anchored beside Southern Skimmer and Dawn Patrol. Jarhead’s Sea Pearl and Sundance and Hammerhead’s CLC double soon joined us. After a quick meal of fruit and granola bars, we went to sleep for the night. Freebyrd’s Matt Layden-designed Enigma passed us during the night.
When we got up at 6, Southern Skimmer and Dawn Patrol were gone (they left around 3 AM we were to discover later). We left at about the same time as Hammerstroke and Sundance, with Jarhead not far ahead. We were beating out of Taylor Creek against wind and current with two reefs in the main and one in the mizzen, so the double kayak left us in its wake. Jarhead maintained his lead as we demonstrated an amazing ability to find sand bars with the centerboard and rudder.

Finally we got into Back Sound and continued beating into the wind for our course around Harkers Island. We passed Jarhead after a while and could see Freebyrd beating close to the beaches. A wind surfer was reaching across the bay at 30-40 kts. It was some pretty exciting and frightening sailing for someone who sails mostly on inland lakes. I had sailed in this kind of wind (20-25 kts and gusty), but the waves were only 1-2 feet. I had seen bigger waves, but we were sailing in 20 kts in a following sea. Now waves were breaking over the bow as we beat into it.

HoldYourCourse’s father approached us in a powerboat to inquire whether we had seen his son since yesterday evening (we had not). I began to worry about what might have happened to him in his light Isotope catamaran. I began to think of what we would encounter when we turned the corner just ahead and were in Core Sound with a 20+-mile fetch.

Coming about one time, a wave and a gust conspired to knock us down (We both stood on the starboard seat and dove toward the port side overhead to free the mainsheet. A great benefit of a cat ketch is that most problems can be solved by letting loose the mainsheet so that the boat will come up into the wind.) I kept thinking of the Irish fisherman’s prayer that states that the sea is so large and my boat is so small. Finally, fears got the best of me, and I made the decision to bail out. There was not enough time to sit out another day until, according to the forecast, the winds would become fair, and there was no protection on this side of Harkers Island.

We hove to, double-reefed both sails, phoned SandyBottom and Fat Frank, radioed Jarhead, and began the run back to Turner Creek. What had taken us 5 ½ hours to gain, we covered on a fast run in 30 minutes. We maintained over 9 kts, and we could keep the board up in order to dance over the shallows at the mouth of the creek.

Fat Frank graciously gave me a ride back to my truck and trailer. I would be left to wonder about all the “what ifs” as we waited for the braver and more skillful paddlers and sailors. My hat is off to them.
Chief always asks us to end these accounts with reflections of what we would do if we had it to do over. I would have allowed more time for the whole adventure, including car travel 14 hours each way, so that I did not have to be on the road right after the “banquet” (which was the best we have ever had at a WaterTribe event). That would allow more time to go ashore and wait out the worst of the weather. I think that four or five hours later the conditions were such that we could have continued on. (There is really no place to go ashore on Harkers except the exposed beach, and that is not a strong suit for the Core Sound.) I should have studied “hidey holes” and marked them on the chart for layovers (I do this for the EC). It’s tough quitting after finishing five Everglades Challenges, and I wrestled with the ego vs fear factor (ego has gotten me into more trouble than fear, but, in the end, I think that I will regret what I didn’t do more than what I did do.).

Thanks to SandyBottom and Fat Frank (Can’t we think of a nicer name?) for running a great race.
Now to get ready for the 2010 Everglades Challenge.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Sailing on Lake Guntersville

Saturday, August 21, was like a fall day. Winds at 10-15 and cool. I went sailing on Lake Guntersville in my Core Sound 20. Jack Agricola came alongside in his Matthews 22, and David Morrow took these pictures. They invited me to Jack's dock near Signal Point for lunch, then a rollicking sail back. They clocked me at over 7 knots with one burst over 10 (planing?)

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Birds on Thousand Island and Cisco Lakes in Michigan

A great day for birds, especially eagles, on the Cisco chain of lakes.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Summer at camp

Not much posted in the past two months. I have been teaching whitewater canoeing and kayaking at Camp Merrie Woode in the NC mountains. Here are some pictures from the summer. These are from a camp trip to the US Whitewater Center in Charlotte:

Monday, June 1, 2009

Sunday on the Chattooga

On Sunday we paddled Section III of the Chattooga River at 2.2 feet (on the 76 bridge) with members of the Merrie Woode river staff for rescue practice. Here are some pictures from the trip. I'm excited about the quality of this summer's boating staff!

JP showing his stuff

Lauren surfin'

Lauren surfin'

Ingrid surfin'

Ingrid surfin'

Ingrid at Bull Sluce

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Surfing a Kruger on the Haw

I did a "attainment" (upstream) workout on the Haw River near Chapel Hill, NC this morning (473 cfs). I started at the dam at highway 15/501 and paddled upstream to the first "big" rapid (a class II). Before returning downstream, I was able to surf a wave in the Kruger Sea Wind. I'm ready for the summer of whitewater!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Paddling on Lake Summit and Jordan Lake

Last week I was teaching Wilderness Advanced First Aid at Falling Creek Camp and paddled on Lake Summit. This week I am hanging out with my brother and sister in Chapel Hill, NC, I am paddling on Lake Jordan this week. (The photo is by Jim Fite from the Cedar Key gathering.)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Out of the boat -- visiting grandchildren in Illinois

Jenna with Kaila and Jevan
Grandma Ann with grandchildren
Son-in-law Ben with Kaila in the dandelions in the back yardWe have been in Illinois for the past week, visiting grandchildren (and daughter Jenna). Here are some pictures from the visit. Now we have a busy month, visiting relatives in North Carolina and teaching a Wilderness Advanced First Aid class at Falling Creek Camp. Oh the busy-ness of May!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Robb White and snow in Sewanee

Robb White (right) showing off his Feluccia at Cedar Key Messabout

In the late winter before his untimely death, author and boatbuilder Robb White came to Sewanee, Tennessee at the behest of the Friends of the Library. Robb, standing on the left in the bottom picture, brought along his Feluccia (the boat on the left) and invited area boatbuilders to bring their craft. I brought the Joel White-designed Shellback dinghy, the boat to the right in the picture.

I had met Robb several times at the Cedar Key small boat gathering in early May each year, and I admired his twice-monthly writings in Messing About in Boats (some of which were published as How to Build a Tin Canoe). I had also published in Messing About in Boats, so the gathering in my home town was a special event for me.

We all gathered in front of the library, raised sails, and commenced to talking about boats and admiring one anothers' boats as if we were on the Atsina Otie beach during the Cedar Key Messabout. After a while, the wind picked up and began to blow cold and hard. Robb asked if I thought we should shorten sail. I answered that I had been taught that when you think of reefing, it's probably already a little late.

We both dropped our sails and fled to the lee of the library porch as a crowd began to gather for the "lecture." Snow was falling a few minutes later as we went inside for the discussion of plants (for Robb's formal training was as a botanist, and several prominent local botanists had come to see what he had to say.).

The talk and its aftermath of questions lasted about an hour and a half. When we emerged into the twilight, the students had made snowmen and put them at the helms of each of the boats. I dug the snow out of the Shellback and headed home to a warm fire and supper.

A couple of months later at the Cedar Key Messabout, I spoke with Robb about the snowmen. He said that he had pushed over the snowman into his boat and added a bit more snow from the lawn. The next morning he made a point to depart early and to drive as fast as he could back home to Thomasville, Georgia near the Florida line. There his grandchildren, who had never seen snow, were able to make snowballs and have snow ice cream.

About a month later Robb died in an operating room of a brain aneurism. I will miss him, and I reread his tales often.

(Matt Layden suggested that I share this tale.)

Friday, April 24, 2009

Herons on their nests

On my paddle at Tims Ford today, I paddled around Goose Island. No goslings or baby herons yet, but they should be here soon. It's the second day in the 80s, and the pollen is exploding everywhere. Crappie fishing has begun in earnest, and fishermen were all about. I also saw the first paddle boat I have seen on the lake: a fishing kayak.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Matt Layden

My profile of Matt Layden accompanies an interview with him in the May/June Small Craft Advisor. Matt is an innovative pioneer in small craft design. He has won the WaterTribe Everglades Challenge with one design, the Paradox, and led most of the WaterTribe Ultimate Florida Challenge in another design, the Enigma. The photo shows Matt on the beach at Atsina Otie (an island off of Cedar Key) standing beside Enigma and looking at Paradox.

Here is the Article (copyright 2009):

Every year on the first weekend in May, small boat enthusiasts from all over the Eastern US gather at tiny Cedar Key, Florida to admire one another’s boats, see old friends, exchange ideas, and mess about in boats.  The focus of activity is the white sand beach of uninhabited Atsena Otie, an island across the channel from the shops and restaurants of Cedar Key.

Matt Layden is on the beach with his battleship grey 13½ foot “Rob Royoid” canoe.  Matt’s canoe is decked like a sea kayak and has a one square meter bed sheet lug sail (sized to meet WaterTribe regulations – Matt says it could use a little more sail).  The rudder is the lower part of the canoe stern instead of a hanging appendage.  The boat gets its speed from diminished wetted area, but it is roomy and stable enough for Matt to sleep aboard.

Nearby stands Jim Brown, the designer of the Wind Rider trimarans and other innovative designs. Jim has brought along a wood strip sailing sea kayak of his own design and construction, complete with a butter knife bow, a daggerboard that runs through the deck and hull, a rudder underneath the beaver tail stern and a his kayak paddle for the boom.

Matt strikes up a conversation with Jim about boat design.  Each explains the thinking behind his design and each tries the other’s craft.  Jim is excited about the potential of Matt’s short canoe paddle as an alternative to the longer, heavier kayak paddle, both as propulsion and as boom.

The conversation rekindles at the evening cookout.  Matt shows Jim a Kruger Sea Wind canoe, and the conversation wanders from Verlen Kruger to rudders to Jim’s experience designing work boats for third world countries for the World Bank.  Topics like Pacific island designs and the Southeast Asian yuloh mix with discussion of the clipper ship rudders with their multiple steering stations.   The depth of familiarity with traditional thinking and the history of boat design is obvious with both men, but they are informed by that knowledge rather than limited by it. 

The discussion finally comes to rest on ways to use leg power to propel small boats.  The design must be simple and have a kick-up system for shallow water . . . maybe a more efficient yuloh, one that tacks rather than stalls at the end of each stroke, propelled by a shaft drive out the stern.  Cards and phone numbers are exchanged with promises to continue the discussion and to bring in other designers.  Matt is neck-deep in his element and he is happy.

At worse, Matt Layden is an eccentric; at best he is a genius.  He is unconstrained by conventional wisdom.  When everyone else is thinking that the way to make a boat faster is to make it longer, he focuses on shorter boats with less wetted area.  He uses chine wings instead of leeboards or centerboards, making an ideal shallow water boat.  When all the sailing magazines are touting bigger and bigger cruisers, he designs microcruisers; when everyone else is refining the Marconi sloop, he is using a balanced lug that goes faster to windward as well as off the wind. 

Matt, like the name of his most recent design, is an enigma.  Matt seldom wears shoes and does not drive.  He designs mega-yachts for a living while he sails in his own microcruisers and hopes to move more into small boat design.  He is a total minimalist without being anti-technology.  Reason with a touch of minimalism seems to govern his designs. 

We talked at supper on Key Largo (during a break in the WaterTribe race around Florida – the WaterTribe Ultimate Challenge) about doing the WaterTribe Everglades Challenge as a cruise, fishing and camping along the way.  Matt began to calculate the drag of the line and bait and to figure out the alterations in ballast and sail area required. In the recent WaterTribe Ultimate Challenge (, he used sandbags and food for ballast, replacing the food he ate with water to keep his boat sailing ideally. (His plan was to empty the sand and finish off the food in time for the portage.  Though he dumped the sand, he had 40-50 lbs of food left, which may account for his tire failure.)  Just to sit around a picnic table with him and discuss the trade-offs in boat design choices is an education itself.

Matt grew up steeped in traditional New England craft.  His dad was a sailor and his grandfather was a waterman and oysterman on the Connecticut coast.  Family legend has it that “boat” was Matt’s first word.  With his brothers and his father, Matt raced traditional keelboats around the buoys in New England summers.  Later he got a 16 foot Zip (He calls it “a kid’s first keelboat.”).

At school Matt was bored, often cutting class to read in the library.  His junior year, a guidance counselor sent him to apprentice at a custom cabinet shop.  There he learned drafting and woodworking skills that stand him in good stead today. 

Along the way, Matt learned to think about each problem as a new challenge rather than just accepting the way things were always done. Still, he believes that you must have a firm grasp of the way things have always been done in order to innovate.  Traditional New England work boats, he points out, are designed the way they are because of the limitations of wood; the attractive overhangs on many classic racing boats of the first half of the century were driven by racing rules rather than reason.  With modern materials and free from racing rules, one should be able to come up with a better cruising design.

In the 1980s Matt began to build a boat each year and to take his new creation cruising along the East coast and offshore to the Bahamas.  Each boat was an attempt to improve on the design of the previous year.  Then Matt met Karen.  After a few short sails, they decided to go cruising.  There was not time to build another boat big enough for two, and the boat had to be cheap.  Matt found a Balboa 20 (which his father-in-law still sails around Cedar Key in Florida.).  Matt refitted the inside, replaced the heavy drop keel with a centerboard and inside ballast, and sailed off with Karen for nine months along the East Coast and in the Bahamas.

Matt’s next design was the Paradox, a boxy 14 foot cruiser with chine wings and a balanced lug sail.  The Paradox has generated a strong following and has a Yahoo chat group dedicated to it.  Despite its short length, it is a comfortable and very shallow draft solo cruiser that protects its skipper from the elements and goes to the wind with ease.  This is the boat that Matt used to win the 2003 WaterTribe Everglades Challenge, setting a record for solo racers that only Matt has broken (in Enigma in 2006).

The WaterTribe has become an important testing ground for Matt’s ideas.  After the 2003 win, Matt has shown up with an off-the-shelf West Marine inflatable kayak adapted to sail (it can be carried on a bus), the Rob Royoid canoe, and the Enigma (the next iteration of the Paradox line, but shorter and lighter and capable of being transported on a car top).  Typical of his minimalist approach, he simply took the tribe name of “Matt,” but amazed 

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Spring Paddling

4-20-09 After months of rain and cold and busy-ness, Moki and I are back on the lakes and rivers. Yesterday I saw a five pound fish above me in a tree . . . with an osprey nibbling on it. The mountainsides around Nickajack were full of yellow-green new leaves, and the dogwoods were in full bloom.