Monday, January 16, 2023

How Far We've Come


  The footage above is what started my thoughts on building and eventually buying this model of boat. As a matter of fact that's the very boat you've seen in these pages. This was during her debut at the 2011 Rend Lake Messabout. The very same where she was fresh from the builder yard, was sailed with her designer aboard and made history as the sailing prototype. Seeing it new means we can look back at the changes that were done to the vessel over the years. It won't be an exhaustive list but as the current owner I'll hit the highlights. I think a numbered list should do it. 

  1. Colors-The tabernacle and main hatch are white. Both are bare wood now. The side decks are bare wood and are painted today. The paint scheme remains the same but the color is now a navy blue with buff accents. 
  2. Sail Attachment-The sail here is attached as per plan, simple rope loops. Currently the boat sports a spiral luff attachment that is adjustable. 
  3. Mast Tabernacle-I can't be certain but I believe the pivoting tabernacle was a later upgrade. Jim actually has a whole post on this. But it does make it far easier to set the mast. 
  4. Motor-Here you see the original 1954 Evinrude Lightwin that originally equipped the boat. We're electric powered currently. 
  5. Sail Size-Original polytarp sail of 136sqft. Kat Boat sports a wonderful tanbark 145sqft today.

Those are just the things you can see. I can tell you the lamp cord electrical system has been updated. Benches and hatches improved. But she still cuts through the water just as well. Notice how the foot of the bow is out of the water. That makes for a wonderful smooth ride. The bow will cut waves the boat can't go over. 

 It's nice to look back on his boats life. It's documentation throughout it's career means better work moving forward. Mike did a find build and I hope it continues to get better as the years progress. 

Mike S. and I in Beaver, Utah where I took over as caretaker for the FatCat 2 prototype.

Thursday, January 12, 2023

Built for Messing About


Second Reef in Smoke
Note: This particular entry acts as a companion piece to  video I did which you can find HERE.

  The sail of a catboat is one of it's most iconic features. It is true that a gaff rig is not a requirement of being a catboat per se, it is a feature most identified with the breed. And the FatCat 2 is no exception. This is a tale of two sails and how the FatCat 2 #1 came to wear a bit more laundry then what she was designed with. 

 If we look at the sail plan of the FatCat 2 which according to the plan sheet #3 originally drawn in December of 1996 the vessel sports a sail of 138sqft. (Foot of 13'9", Leech 17'5", Head 10' 6", Luff of 8' 6") This was the sail that the then Julia L. was launched with. The first sail of the boat was polytarp and by all accounts did a very fine job. In fact during the boats maiden outing at the 2009 Rend Lake Messabout the designer Jim Michalak got to sail aboard with it's creator Mike Sandell. You can read the account of this excursion on the plans page for the design on Duckworks. The one thing I would like to draw attention to is Jim's closing sentence NOW, I gotta tell you that I sailed a bit with Mike and the boat struck me as being light with a really big sail, so don't skimp on the reef points! While i don't disagree with the need for reef points I'd like to discuss a bit more how this boat has handled in my experience. 

 Traditionally the shallow draft of a catboat is combined with weight down low and a good centerboard. I've had the opportunity to sail a few different catboats and while my experience isn't vast I'd like to think I've got a decent handle on what they feel like as a sailor in the interior of the Rocky Mountain west. One thing they all have in common from a Beetle to a big Crosby is they pull like a draft horse. But by the same token they'll settle down nice if you reduce that sail area. And the FatCat 2 is no different. I think this unfortunate wording in the boat description may have put potential builders off the design. And that is a shame. 

 According to the plans page the maximum degree of list before you go over is 50 degrees. Kat Boat is equipped with an inclinometer and I don't think in the almost five years of sailing the boat I've seen over 15 degrees. Sure it could happen but that's the same on any boat. The fact is there is so little submerged displacement in the hull the boat will loose leeway before it heels. The sure sign your over canvased is you just stop sailing well. Trying to sail the boat flat will give you the best results and pushing for heel to go faster is a fool errand. The vessel will lie hove to quite nicely, a common quality in catboats, and as I've often said on these pages has no ill manners I've yet found. 

Original boom and Dacron sail

 So what does this have to do with the sail? Sometime before June 2011 the Julia L. acquired a Dacron sail from the Duckworks loft. That was the sail I purchased the boat with. After two years of sailing the decade old sail needed some work and was ready to be retired. I asked David Grey of Polysail to craft for me a new sail about ten squares bigger using the same spars. He obliged and from his shop emerged the new sail for the boat. Two seasons later I ordered a Dacron sail from Duckworks to those specifications with the work being completed in tanbark by Really Simple Sails. The result was just what I wanted and it makes not only for a very aesthetically pleasing boat but a very functional one too. 

 I think this sail is now a far more correct size for the boat. We move along in light airs with authority at full sail, have no issues under a single reef in about ninety percent of the conditions I've sailed and double reefed I've yet to encounter an issue where I'm unable to sail if the rig is set up right and that is the goal for the moment. My finest sailing yet was under second reef heading across the lake. It was fascinating screaming along at hull speed with such a small amount of sail up the bow of the boat shouldering the waves aside and the whole craft a living thing. 

 It should be noted I've also altered the rudder with less depth and more length, straightened the  position of the lee board a touch as suggested in the design page, added a much stouter boom then stock, and tried to optimize the rig for the type of sailing I do. But I can't think of a better boat in it's class for the work. And I wish more people would get to know this fine boat. The lack of ballast has not hurt my safety if taken as an encompassing theme. That is to say we may not be serious sailors but we sail seriously. We understand and do our best to mitigate what risks we can and ensure skill when risk finds us. If there is a boat I think could do the Texas 200 well it's this one and am surprised no one has built one and attempted. As a solo or couples overnight gunkholing boat it's great. It would shine as a family day sailor or a kids first "big" boat. It'll teach you what you need from the construction to it's sailing.

 I'm pleased to be the current caretaker of such a boat. We stand as an oddity from our sail rig to our design. We're not quite somethings but we definitely are other things. We turn heads wherever we go and the amount of appreciation we garner is always satisfying. Not to mention cameras always seem to find us along the Yacht Harbor dock. And I'm okay with that. 

The FatCat 2 is perfectly designed for simply messing about in boats. 


Monday, January 09, 2023

Life on the Hard

Seeing another vessel should be a cause for happiness and celebration

 What is it about sailing off to somewhere were not in waters known or unknown that holds us in such a grip? As I look out my window now a light snow falls and I can only imagine what my familiar waters look like right now. Well the posts by MT Icebuds tell me plenty. I'd need a catboat on skies in order to go sailing. Something to consider I guess. But here we are nine days in to 2023 and I'm already gearing up for the next season. Not only for the work and sailing I'm going to do in my own boat but the sailing I have planned on other boats in far away places. I've dug the boat plans out and stare at them mentally running through the work I have to do this spring. I read Sail Magazine and browse the lovely emails that Small Craft Advisor thoughtfully places in my inbox. I have sailing on the brain and while it's lovely I would dearly love to know why.

 I've heard it said that humans are bred to face adversity. That we're never fully happy unless our hair is on fire and live and limb are really on the line. That's its the genetic trait that has kept us ahead of all the other animals or some other such exceptionalism drivel. While I suppose that explains wanting to chase a hard westerly or sail around the world single handed it doesn't explain why I just want a calm day sail more then just about anything right now. I can see and feel it. That wonderful lake breeze we get in Dayton just a shade under concerning. It's steady and predictable and you have all day to enjoy it. The tiller is alive in your hands and the main soars above you and you haven't a care in the world save for what's in front of you right there and then. That's the opposite of adversity I think.

Play some Jimmy Buffet already!

 Anyone will tell you I'm a planer by nature. Trying to put in order the future so I know what's coming up. I often say having something to look forward too is one of the driving forces in my life. And that is the version of me that is normally here. But that other version, you see him in the picture up there, that's who I want to be more often. He's on a timeline but right now in the moment the only thing he's worried about are the fickle late season winds and how it's going to alter his course right now. He's looking at the sail, the partner is enjoying herself in her cabin and if he can stretch this moment out a bit he do everything to do so. He doesn't need the horizon, just enough wind to allow him to direct his own course on this familiar patch of water for what may well be the last time the season (It wasn't). I want to be him on this beautiful but still winter evening. 

 The cynical part of me things how I'm going to be frantic and frustrated once I get into the work I need to do this spring. How I'm going to invent a timeline and try to keep to it even thought it really doesn't exist. I'll fret over this and that, drag my friends into pointless arguments and annoy those I live alongside with dire warnings of what I have to do and what will happen if I don't at a time of my choosing. The other side of me me knows it'll all come together and I'll have a good summer of it no matter what. I say it to my customers constantly "Sure beats a day at the office, right?" But the boat list is long and weights heavily in my pocket and on my mind. It just needs to warm up.

 It's tough being an inland sailor. And one in a region where we don't really get to take care of the impulses and desires as we ought. The things outside our control conspire against us in a never ending cycle and it's annoying. But deep down in corners of my soul I don't talk about much I wouldn't have it any other way. This break is what I need. Because once it does warm up that lance drops and those boat project windmills become dragons once again. And woe to the boat project that keeps me off the water. It'll just be a few months.

Sunday, January 08, 2023

Winter Work 2023


S/V Kat Boat with The Typsetter and Tall Ship at the helm.

 It was a good year on the water. I'll save some of the stories for later. But I have a few video updates on what's coming up. Have a great new year everyone!

Sunday, August 28, 2022

Almost Over Already


Sailing into the Sunset

 I can't believe it's almost fall. Well the downtime will give me time to update this blog on all my summer adventures. Like Smugglers Run, a 16hr epic sail that has us pulling into dock at 0300. Or the yacht club stuff I got up to. I promise it's coming once it settles down around here. But here is a video I did of my boat. I've wanted to get some hull images for a bit and explain why she works and the like. Enjoy. 

Thursday, June 30, 2022

Down to the Wire

We're pushing to get on the water this weekend. Here are some highlights. New tanbark sail and a forestay. 

Friday, June 17, 2022

June 1st, 2022

Dayton Bay from S/V Kat Boat

  As we prepare to head up to the 11th Annual Finley Point Messabout there is a lot work in the rear view mirror all ready this year. We sailed for the first time on Wednesday, June 1st. Dayton and back. The Kat Boat did all things things we expect of her and nothing more. Always a good thing on the first sail of the year. The weather was good, the lake just high enough. There will be another post about the work done and being done but for now let's just enjoy that first idyllic sail. 

The Typesetter preparing the vessel

Meeting another small vessel

Always nice to see another small craft

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Little Bites


Checking the Plans

 With the weather being decent some little bites have been taken out of the boats. On the Bobcat side of things we rolled her out into the first sun she's seen this year and sanded down some lumps. The transom was cleaned up and the centerboard slot cut out. The next major step will be the making and the installation of the skeg. Then it will be fairing the hull and adding a layer of graphite to the bottom. Flathead is nothing but rocks on the beach you see. The mast is being created by the same people who did my boom for Kat Boat and it should be completed this week we hope.

 Kat Boat has been lightly washed and a few odds and ends taken care of. A little bit each day means less to do once it's full stem ahead. Plans now stand for a launch and Dayton Run over Memorial Day weekend with as stay at Skeeko. Weather dependent of course.

Navigation lights moved to facilitate a forestay

Bobcat in the sun

The Typsetter looking over his Joel White Shearwater.

Friday, March 18, 2022

Approaching Spring


The Bobcat in Repose
 Winter can be a long time in the Big Sky Country. But we have a slow thaw happening that will hopefully continue. And boat work is about to commence as long as the weather allows. The Typesetter has been a great help in getting the Bobcat this far. The bottom has been glassed and awaits finishing. To that end graphite and fairing material are on the way. After paint the hope is to only flip it once. The plan is fleet colors, white with a "In the Navy" blue band at the top sides, buff topsides and a yet to be determined interior. We're working on the sail now. Turns out 110sqft is a bit bigger then what we can do on our sewing table but my mothers basement works just fine.

Sailrite Kit for a Bolger Bobcat

 Work on the Kat Boat should commence later this week or next. It's really just getting the boat ready from her winter slumber. Pull everything out, inspect, repaint, varnish, repeat. The list is long. A major project will be adding a forestay. Although the tabernacle does a fine job the loads could be spread out a bit more. This will mean replacing the current bow light with side lights and adding a mast hound and bow fitting. Nothing to awful hard but work nonetheless. A new sail is on order from Duckworks and should arrive late June. Due to the size, 145sqft, their usual loft was unable to fill the order. Originally cream the plan is now tanbark and according to my fellow catboater's, although rare it's perfectly acceptable for our craft. Just make sure all is Bristol Fashion with such a distinctive sail! Cushions have been patterned and will be added before we sail for the year.

 The official kick off this year will be the traditional Juneteenth weekend with the Finley Point Messabout. I'll be in town for most of my own event running steam engines and observing the Buffalo Soldier event being put on by our local historical museum. It used to be a safe bet for a messabout but with the federal holiday I feel I may be needed in other areas. Part of being a visible member of the Black, Indigenous, and People of Color community. 

 Not making it to Port Townsend this year, or possible the western PNW at all. Attending the Center for Wooden Boat's Wooden Boat Festival was the idea in September but that event will not be happening this year. But that does not stop other plans afoot further in the future.  The goal is to make it back to the Pocket Yacht Palooza in 2023. The original idea was to bring the Bobcat out with a boom tent but that has grown to bringing Kat Boat back and sailing the Pocket Yacht Crooza in full. 2022 will be about training for three nights on salt water. Hopefully the boys will make it and maybe even The Typestter's vessel will make an appearance. Time will tell. 

 All of this moving ahead is weather dependent. Goal is to put the Kat Boat in such a state to day sail on Memorial Day, and full mission readiness on June 17th. I have my first scheduled "charter" (The vessel is NOT for hire) with my oldest friend in July. This is the earliest I've even thought about doing outside boat work so hopefully those dates are not to pie in the sky. Not to mention all the yacht club stuff I'll possibly be involved in this year. It's going to be a busy one!

Sunday, August 22, 2021


Preparing the Kitten Class catboat Lucile at the Center for Wooden Boats. The only sailing Kitten in the world.
   We didn't make it to Seattle in 2020 for obvious reasons. But we did make it this year and I wanted to post some of the sailing highlights for this trip. I ended up getting on the water three times, two sailboats and a fast ferry. And with the trailer being down it was great to get on the water in a small boat. But let's talk about big boats first.

S/V Obsession at Pier 56

  I've known for years about the big sailing boats at the Seattle waterfront. I even have pictures in my last Seattle post about them. And I've been determined to sail on them. Well this was the year. After a minor scramble to get a date and time that would work with our packed schedule we were set up for a 4:30 afternoon sail. We departed on time and soon the motor was shut off and we were under sail in very light airs. 

  I've never been aboard a sailing vessel this big. S/V Obsession was designed by Sparkman & Stephens, the famous east coast yacht builders and launched in 1986 as an IOR Mini-Maxi Ocean racer. She's 70' on the waterline and an overall weight of 34 tons. It should be noted the keel alone on Obsession outweighs her stablemate Neptune's Car by a considerable margin. The mast is 100' tall and we were the biggest, fastest sailboat on Elliot Bay. The cruise is very low key. You can sit in the cockpit with BYOB beverages and watch the wonderful scenery all around. you. It seemed most were doing just that. We had some salespeople enjoying the day and a member of cabin crew taking a break. Winds were light and we ghosted along at two knots.

Seattle from the sea


Obligatory sail shot

 Soon as I was able I got up and headed aft the cockpit and asked sailing questions of the crew. As you do. Watching them use both a big hydraulic winch and a grinder set to get the sails up was fascinating. I'm only used to the smaller winches you find on most recreational sailboats and here I was on a boat more then twice as big as some of the largest boats I find at Dayton. The captain was young but he'd been sailing a long time. He too started in a Lido 14 and did some of his sail training at Center for Wooden boats. Seemed he's sailed all over the world and I'm sure there are more stories I'd like to hear. The mate was younger still but absolutely competent in his duties.

"I'm an amateur sailor" "Oh, so am I"

 Eventually I just asked if I could steer. And they let me. The wind picked at once and we were sailing! Looking out over the deck I took in a deep breath of salt air and all was right with the world. We picked up to five knots, touching six. The wheel on the boat was incredibly light and responsive, very much like the wheel in a car with power steering. It was a trip to move the wheel three inches and see the bow start to move. Something new too was working wind instruments. Knowing where the winds was coming and at what strength in real time without the need to crane my neck was wonderful. I was on the helm for most of the trip, the crew certainly didn't mind once they figured out I sorta new what I was doing. I tacked, I gybed, we did a close pass with Neptune's Car that was pretty cool. There was a sailing schooner that fired upon us with cannons. We showed them our stern with proper aplomb. 

"Set my course for 'that way', aye"

Bring me that horizon. I could get used to this.
 Eventually I had to turn the helm back. And we did a slick little docking maneuver that they do several times a day. Got to see why you set your spring first when docking in reverse. Pulls your stern in and gives excellent control. I'd like to thank Sailing Seattle for a great time. I plan on joining again next time I'm in town. I'd suggest you do to. 

 The next day I had a sailing lesson at The Center for Wooden Boats. And I was going to sail a catboat that very few people have gotten to sail. A true Seattle boat by way of Vancouver, the Kitten Class catboat Lucile. Let me copy and paste her story from the CWB website: 

"The Kitten was designed in 1920 by John Winslow of the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club. A 15-foot wooden sailboat, the Kitten was designed to teach young women how to sail, and a detailed article on how to build the small craft was published in Pacific Motor Boat Magazine that year. Two years later, Winslow relocated to Seattle, bringing along a small fleet of Kittens to the Seattle Yacht Club. He made fast friends with local sailors, and with the help of famed Seattle boat designers and builders Ted Geary and Norm Blanchard, he modified the design of the Kitten. A fleet of these boats were built and used to teach Seattle’s young sailors. The new design made the Kitten the first self-rescuing dinghy on Puget Sound. This small vessel has marked heritage significance to King County’s maritime history, and today, there are no known seaworthy wooden Kittens."

There is one that survives and it sits outside of the main building. But it's far from seaworthy.

The Kitten
  This spring I set up a lesson with CWB's online scheduler with the notation "Would like to use the Kitten". I called about two months out and got to talk to Josh Anderson, the lead on the Kitten Project and the Executive Director of CWB. He told me confidence was high it could happen but to call a week before my lesson to check in. I did that and it seemed like it was going to happen. My backup was the Beetle if the Kitten was not available. Oh no.
Showing up early has it's own rewards.

Obligatory seaplane picture.


I changed into my sailing crocs and put my sailing gloves in my pocket and checked in at precisely eleven. I was directed to the docks where I meet my instructor. Turns out it was his first time sailing the Kitten too. We got it figured out, rigged, and set out. 

Two topping lifts and running backstays

My job at this point is to keep the mainsheet from catching

Should have let the other topping lift off. Oh well.

 I don't have much to report on her sailing habits. She sailed like a catboat should. We didn't have any really good wind but we did have a few moments of good sailing. The tiller was very neutral and comfortable. She tacked and gybed readily. The biggest issue was something very rare on catboats, running backstays. I'm not sure why these were included in the design but it was simply an added step when coming through the wind. I had asked on Obsession the day before how they set their running backstays. "By eye" was the answer and it seemed to suffice on Lucile as well. Couple of figure eights and finish with some round turns and the stay was secure enough and yet easily cast off. An hour is not a lot of time to get to know a boat but I think I got a good look at the boat and would be happy to sail it again. I may attempt a checkout in Lucile the next time I'm in the city. I'm fairly confident I could get it.

Kitten underway

 I think my proudest moment was when Kat reported the front desk person was wondering if I was the catboat fanatic. I'm pleased to say yes, yes I am. If you get a chance for a sail in Kitten I also highly recommend it. It's worth it and it's rare when you get to sail fifty percent of a sailboat class. 

Lucile post sail
  So that concludes my sailing in Seattle for 2021. Certainly making up for lost time. I'll end the post with boat pictures we took along the way.

Schooner Bay Lady. She fired upon us.

M/V Dusseldorf Express. She's almost 1000' long!

El Toros


Water Taxi

Ferries seen from The Great Wheel

M/V Tacoma. She hailed us on VHF while sailing

M/V Ornella Also almost 1000 feet long.