Lady Marmalde

August 06, 2007

I am not sure if I just became an official geezer, or if I am simply going through a midlife crisis.

Perhaps it is a marmalade moment. I get seized by powerful cravings, and revel in them for a period of months, before sliding away. I had one involving marmalade, where I made multiple batches, ate the stuff compulsively, and become something of a marmalade expert. As part of my marmalade madness I did learn to make jam, which I continue to do. But I no longer have this powerful craving for jellied orange peels.

This marmalade moment involves boats.

The Perfect Storm

I like boats. I always have. Most boys do, as I recall.

My folks retired down to the Jersey shore. There is a sandbar near their house. We like to paddle kayaks out to the sandbar at low tide. When the dog was younger and had a more robust stomach, we would load her on the kayak and paddle her out to the sandbar to chase birds and eat dead shellfish. We stopped doing that after the dead shellfish began to bounce.

Now we take the boys to the sandbar from time to time. But at 3 and 5, they are getting a mite big to balance on your lap while kayaking.

Perhaps a rowboat would do it. For a while the folks had a little inflatable runabout that they used to explore the back bays. This was great for taking the dog to the sandbar. When she jumped out to chase ducks, we could even haul her back into the boat. But the engine was not reliable, the oarlocks snapped off the first time I tried to row the boat into a headwind (and there is always a wind at the shore), and eventually the boat sprung one too many leaks. No more inflatable.

I have been maundering about a fixed boat off and on for a few years. That is part of the legacy of the doomed inflatable.

Recently, I started running yet again, only to have my knees bug me once again. Very very frustrating.

We live two hundred yards from a lake made out of a dammed tidal creek. There is a launch ramp a mile away from us. On summer weekends there are always a passel of jonboats out chasing fish. We are thinking about moving, and the new house would likely be a few hundred yards from the Cooper River — a internationaly recognized rowing location complete with launch ramp, boat house, and sailing club.

The result was a perfect storm. I was between obsessions. I needed a source of exercise. We wanted some sort of boat that was in between a kayak and a 19-foot boston whaler. Perhaps a boat to take them sailing in? A Sunfish would be nice. I learned to sail in a Sunfish when I was a kid. But just plain sailing boats are boring.

We do have a minivan. Minvans are great for hauling stuff. They are also tall.

After a bit of thought, lady wife and I figured out that there were really two boats I wanted.

Boat A

Can be dollied down the muddy hill to the local lake, lakeside launched and recovered, and dollied back up the muddy hill.
Can be cartopped and taken to the shore or to a launch ramp.
If we move near the Cooper, could be bicycle dollied (or kept in boat house and bicycled to).

This all works out to a light boat - preferably 80# or so, certainly under 100#.

Primary use is exercise rowing on sheltered waters.

It will also go down the shore and be used for water well within its seakeeping abilities, whatever they happen to be. (No wind in morning/evening, strong breeze mixed with wakes from 30 foot canyon cruisers at prime time.)

Primary person is me - this is my boat.

The boys will want to go too. It might be rides to the sandbar. It might be something to do with two awake boys at 5:30 on a beach Sunday morning. It might just be me trying to get some exercise while babysitting. But boat A has to safely carry two young children.

This means good secondary stability, positive flotation, and self-recovery if swamped. (Right boat, boys into boat, dad into boat, bail boat.)

Boat A will also probably take a second adult out from time to time. It will take the dog out, because she loves to ride in boats. It is unlikely to be loaded with more than 400#.

12 feet to 14 feet long, 80 pounds, fixed seat rowing with flotation and safety gear.

It needs to be price-competitive with a bicycle or a gym membership.

Leading contenders for this are: Michalak's Oracle, Michalak's Roar2, Welsfords Seagull, Marten's Scilly Gig, Redmond's Whisp.

Seagull is prettiest, but too heavy. Whisp is lovely but requires more time and woodworking skills than I have. I found myself dreaming about an Oracle painted buff with burgundy trim. Sounds like a contender.

I ordered plans. I will decide if I can be trusted to complete the project, or if I need to find a boatbuilder. First step will be to build it in cardboard at 1/12 scale.

Boat B

If boat A was aimed at the local lakes, boat B is aimed at the Jersey shore.

Lets start with the water. It is a tidal salt marsh. There are mudflats and shallows - at anything other than pure high tide the Sunfish ran with its daggerboard partway up. There are also deep channels - the Intercoastal Waterway goes right through there. Did I mention the bridges? Any boat has to readily pass by bridges or be trapped on one little stretch of bay. The wind is tricky and eddies because of the houses and islands. The water is shallow. There are cruisers and cigarette boats and center console canyon boats zooming past at all times. There is almost always a current. There is often catspaws.

We live near a tricky inlet to the ocean. The Atlantic off the Jersey shore is usually pretty gentle. There are a couple of dozen 16' Hobie-cats that sail from the beach right next to the inlet. Sometimes they capsize.

For a couple of years in the 1980s I had a 17' O'Day daysailer down at the shore. It was a terrible boat for the water. Slow, unwieldy, trapped between the bridges, and bouncing its daggerboard over the sandbars for all but half an hour a day. I never got it out to the ocean. I sold it for a lot less than I paid.

Now lets look at the purposes for boat B.

1, exercise rowing for me
2, teach the boys how to sail
3, carry 2 adults, 2 kids and perhaps a dog.
4, get out on the water and mess about, especially in the back bays and (on gentle days) the ocean.
5, derived from 3 - must carry its own mast; must be able to step and drop mast and sails while out.

There is no way that a cartopper will do all this. So it has to be a trailer boat. If possible, it should be something that can be launched and recovered off a floating dock. There are a lot of 200 to 300 lb classic and neo-classic boats in the 14 to 17 foot range that could be boat B.

My eye loves Whitehall hulls. My worries about wakes and water push me toward a dory hull. There are also a lot of sharpie-derived boats like the Goat Island Skiff. John Welsford lives in boats like this.

Boat B will be trailered. So I need the cost of the trailer. In addition add about $900 to the cost of the boat because our minivan does not yet have a towing package.

Boat B is probably more boat than I am comfortable trying to build, more boat than I can afford to hire someone else to build. Time to scan the used boat ads.

When the entertainment budget recovers, I will subscribe to Messing About in Boats. Until then, I have all the Craigslists within driving distance bookmarked.

If you look at the boats on the water, many of them have names like "Midlife Cruises."

If you look at the pictures of boatbuilders, many of them have grey hair.

I qualify on both counts.

The first boat to the water will probably be called "Lady Marmalade"

Posted by Red Ted at August 6, 2007 11:20 PM | TrackBack