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Anke and I are building our next boat, and writing about it at Access to the net comes and goes, so I'll be writing in fits and spurts.

Please feel free to browse the archives, leave comments where you will and write, and I'll respond as I can.

Fair winds!

Dave and Anke
triloboats swirl gmail daughter com

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Barge Yacht: A Thousand Words to Paint a Picture
Garvey Houseboat (Kissin' Cousins to Barges)
Owned by Chris Cunningham?

 No need for us, even in the tiniest boat, to wear sackcloth and ashes merely to be tough and seamanlike and brave.
-- Maurice Griffiths from his Arrow Book of Sailing


Barge Yacht: A Thousand Words to Paint a Picture

In my early readings of the watery world – voracious and then as yet vicarious – I ran across a description of small barge yachts that had been converted from bridge tenders (wooden barges used as platforms for bridge maintenance). I've not been able to find that passage, but I'll reconstruct it from memory as best I may:
Their owners were inordinately fond of them. Most were gaff yawl rigged and often sported leeboards. In most cases a small, homey looking cabin had been fitted. One would frequently encounter them lying tucked up the shallow reaches of some remote estuary, a curl of woodsmoke rising from her stack, pretty as a picture. Their presence in such distant, hard to reach corners bespoke long passages and unlooked for capability.
These words spoke loud and clear to my soul. But alas, by my head had filled with second-hand and somewhat knee-jerk opinions. I read voraciously and, for a long while, vicariously of 'facts' drawn from 'history'. But facts are slippery li'l devils, and wriggle in one's hands.

Broadly speaking, small, sailing workboats.led to an aesthetic for yachts, whose owners' interest in racing petrified preferences into the 'facts' we speak of. Shoal draft isn't seaworthy. Flat bottom boats pound and can't be made to sail. Deep keels and sloop or cutter rigs are the best or only way to get to windward. Junk sails won't sail to windward.

Let's take 'em, point by point:

Barge/Scow Hulls - Not often the fastest kids on the block, but shine in every other way. Economical, roomy, capacious, shoal of draft. Sit flat in the mud. With all that, what's the rush? Oh. And PDQ off the wind! Actually, given the way we rig and sail, windward ability of box barges remains largely unexplored by us. Even we can trudge slowly but reliably to windward up to about 45kt in heavy slop. After that, no data.

Alternatives to 'Marconi'/Bermudan Rigs
  - Quadrilateral sails (Gaff, Lug, Junk, Sprit) have many advantages over triangular ones. Stresses are reduced and distributed. More sail can be spread per foot of mast height. Centers of Effort are lower, and shift less when reefing. Generally lower, more robust masts mean a fail safer rig throughout.

Alternatives to Sloop and Cutter Rigs
- Multi-masted rigs (yawls, ketches, schooners) tend to be more expensive, more to handle and are less efficient. BUT. Expenses are offset by lower stresses throughout, requiring lower tech solutions and cheaper gear. While controls are doubled, what they must control is lessened, so handiness is enhanced. Having two Centers of Effort, maneuverability and balance options abound. Because the rig is handier, non-racers are likely to keep her sailing at her best for overall effficiency gain. As a bonus, having an extra mast is great, on-board insurance.

Alternatives to Deep Keels - One still hears that deep keels are a must for blue water sailing, and by implication, any serious sailing. This despite contrary evidence accumulated pretty much across the Age of Sail. Leeboards, centerboards and daggerboards have all proven themselves time and again, arguably riding out storms at sea with more comfort and safety than with a deep, ballast keel. With the advantages of easy retraction (reducing risk of broach in heavy seas), they're a more than viable alternative.

Leeboards - A specific note, here. Even the great Phil Bolger characterized them as 'ugly, loud, needing tending (raising and lowering between tacks) and prone to collect floating sculch (floating debris)'. Ugly? A matter of taste, I suppose, but I sure see a lot of art that disagrees.. Loud? A little fire-hose padding quiets clunk (only an issue in a calm). Need tending? A preventer outboard of the 'lee'board keeps them from winging out to windward, so they can be left down all day. Sculch? What doesn't? Leeboards have the advantage of being exceptionally easy to clear. Unlike center and dagger boards, they require neither a hole in the hull nor a complicated trunk. more of their area provides lateral resistance (if wung out a bit, count from the waterline down), so can be smaller for the same effect.

Shoal Draft - Well, suffice it to say, you don't see many deep draught boats 'tucked away' anywhere... miles of shoals and abundance of new harbors open before the shoal hull. Dangers are much more often below hull depth, and if not, generally much more visible. You can hop off and stand next to the floating hull in the shallows, often without o'er-topping your boots. When dried out, it's easy to get aboard.

Biomass Heaters (A plug in reference to that 'curling smoke' )
- Plants are solar collectors and storage rolled into one. Biomass heaters convert that stored energy into thermal energy for cooking or heat. Cost? Stove + installation and gathering. Woodstoves (in woody areas), Rocket Stoves (for bushy/twiggy areas) or Holey Rocket Stoves (for grassy/peat/dung areas). These can be supplemented with Fossil Fuel Heaters, if you wish, but the ability to burn biomass helps cut the ties that bind.


A fella giving a talk once stated that a boats primary purpose is primary. He fielded a number of butwhuddabouts by simply repeating the question what is its primary purpose?

The primary purpose of our boats has been to provide an economical mobile home, far from the madding crowd. The hull and layout, rig, outfit and stores are all designed to get us on the water quickly and economically, ease us down the road, and once there, to stay out as long as possible.

One by one, alternatives to the standard picture of the boat one must have if one is serious fell into place. Anke and I found ourselves tucked into those distant, cozy corners with a warm fire ablaze. Seriously.

Their owners were inordinately fond of them. Unlooked for capability.

Gotta love it!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Walk Softly

'Typical' Beach Terrain
Photo from
Great source for SE Alaska
from a commerciial fishing and poetic perspective

Eggs have no business dancing with stones.
-- Haitian Saying

Walk Softly

The world is a rough place.

A mis-step, a lurch, a moment's inattention... we can so easily find ourselves treading water or clutching a turned or broken ankle. Our thoughts and plans of a moment before delayed or altered beyond recognition. In the blink of an eye, we might compromise our future, or even end it.

If we wish to walk long, we must learn to walk softly. Carefully. Consciously. Easy does it.

I've often admired elderly persons, making their careful way along some vector, by land or sea. It's not at all obvious which is the responsible factor; the deliberate placing of each step en garde of age and attendant fragility? Or longevity furthered and attained by early acquisition of prudent habits? Likely some of both.

The School of Hard Knocks is one we all attend. Gravity, Mass, Momentum and Leverage are a faculty comprised of strict teachers. From the moment we are born they tutor us in lessons not always gentle. They make no pets, reward no slackers.

Yet, thanks to our evolutionary heritage, we may entertain youthful notions of invincibility. We leap and soar, tumble and bounce, break and mend with – often – a sense of impunity. But in the vague aftermath of our reproductive prime, we begin to find ourselves vincible indeed!

Caution creeps upon us.

Hesitation tempers the thoughtless impulse... to jump down or climb? Climb. To sprint or trot? Trot. To apply brute force or mechanical advantage? To free hand or take hold?

Bit by bit, we learn the habits of caution. That, or add to a growing flotsam of scar-tissue borne on a rising tide of impairment.

It's a choice.


Anke and I spend a lot of time on rough beaches.

Not the fabled swathes of sand where one may dream along, bare of foot and free of care. Rather the kinds where, if rocks are not jagged and toothy, then worn round and shifty. Seaweeds and algal slimes make either variety all the more treacherous. Ditto the tangles of drift logs, with their occasional branch, ready to spindle the unwary.

Primeval forest is little better, underfoot. Pitfalls and sloughing moss, root and rock, tangles and snares. And again, the splintered threat of bush and branch.

Our rule for rough terrain:

Never move without eyes on the ground; STOP to look around.

And yes, Class is still in session; violate the rule and like as not, a Hard Knock ensues. Generally in pretty short order.

Most sailors have heard the rule:

One hand for yourself; one for the ship.

This one was made in an era when life was cheap in general, but in situations where supply and demand demanded a crewman preserve himself for ship's sake. Easy to generalize. Just in case we might think it was for  his own, survivors of infractions might well incur the lash.

In our case, supply is even lower and demand much higher. How many of the two of us could we afford to lose? The rule stands.

Plenty of others accumulate. Look before you leap. Look both ways before crossing a street. Three-point progression (three secure landings for feet and hands; one seeking the next). Better safe than sorry. If the slow you down a bit, good. If they stop you, too much caution. We seek a lively balance.

And so we go forward, cultivating new and expanding habits of caution. Cautiously and humbly proud of having made it thus far with all our digits intact. Our joints neither fused nor torn. Our scars but reminders of some small lesson learned. Walking ever more softly.

Even so, as I pondered these very words - blithely walking a sandy stretch of beach - for the first time in years...

I fell flat on my foolish face.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

A Workboat Layout

Photo by Joe Upton from his Journeys through the Inside Passage

Hard to forget first puppy love.
― Toba Beta, Master of Stupidity

A Workboat Layout

When Anke and I first went south, looking for a boat, we wandered the docks of Seattle. Even in '90 o' the previous millenium, wood and DIY were giving way to fiberglass and production lines. But there were still a few old salts dreaming along the edges.

I was recently elated to run across this photo of one the first vessels to win our hearts.

By the time we ran across it, in a small marina below Gasworks Park on Lake Union, it had been stripped of its rig. Grass was growing in the cockpit. No one we could locate had ever seen an owner. The marina claimed it had been abandoned. We could have the boat, but couldn't stay or make repairs at their dock.

We were attracted to its sleek, whale-boat lines and rakish house. The forward cabin was beautifully formed. Whoever had converted her had done so with skill, respect for her workboat origins and a sense of romance.

Her layout was intriguing.

The snug, steering cockpit is well protected by the house, with easy access to the galley and nav station. Sleeping quarters in the fo'c'sle cuddy had good lounging space and plenty of air. The large, mid-ships cockpit make a flexible work/play space that can be used for projects, cargo, a fish-hold, etc..

For working boats, this is a common arrangement (though far from universal). We see it on hulls ranging from about 26ft to the 70ft power scows in our area. I've used it as the basis for the layouts of Trilobyte CARGO designs.CERES (of the Vermont Sail Freight Project) used the layout successfully in their two seasons of operations.

Downside, for cruisers, is that living spaces are separated. This means potentially needing two heating systems, and traversing the decks through weather when switching cabins. Later, we came to savor the joys of one lying a'bed as the other brews coffee, chit-chatting in easy earshot.

It was the light, showing between planks within inches of the waterline, that finally disuaded us. We had few resources and fewer skills.While we sought a boat with a few problems from which we could learn, this one seemed beyond us.

But, oh! We still sometimes dream of her.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Square Pegs, Round Holes
By Anthony Taber

“Want a reliable road to emotional and spiritual suicide? Spend your life trying to fit in.” ― Brandon Mull

Square Pegs, Round Holes

Living voluntarily on the edges of society - on the water, on the road, or anywhere outside the platted grid - we at least have a shot at a joyous non-conformity.

But try to interface with that society on an official level, and joy fades. Time and treasure flush down the drain of trying to fit in, at least enough to further our cause.

Here's a sample story:
Anke and I had made our first move from land to sea, gratefully letting go our apartment and all its attendant bills and expenses. We were now living aboard! Our dream coming true!!

But that first boat needed to be paid off, and considerable work before we could sail over the horizon. To keep in contact with friends and family (pre-internet), we needed a PO Box. So we went to apply.

Oops. Our physical adress? We don't have one... that's why we need a PO Box. Gotta have one?? Um... we're right downhill about 300 yards. We can see the boat through your window. Not enough? What would it take? A bill to that address?? But we don't generate bills, anymore, and you wouldn't deliver there if we did. Can't we sign something? Leave valuables in hock? No??

Turns out, they cheerfully accepted Anke's parent's address in Germany (where she no longer lived).
Hooboy! This was our  first introduction to being square pegs to the round world of bureaucracy and commerce. Passports, PO Boxes, occasional taxes, fishing and driver's licenses, I.D., voter registration. And mis-representing one's self to the fine organizations behind these, albeit in an honest attempt to answer what cannot apply, courts heavy fines or even prison!

Registering or ordering online present form hassles (shipping addresses get complicated). There are many vendors who seem to think that Alaska is some foreign country. That USPS somehow isn't available, but UPS or Fedex have an office in every hamlet (they don't).

NOTE: Evil, socialist gummint USPS is cheap and reliable; those fine, private free-marketeers gouge us deeply for extra hassles they call 'service'. Oddly, it's the free market forces who pressure vendors into exclusive service contracts from which we suffer!

National security has made it all much worse.

In the last bout with officialdom, the national headquarters were to assign an appointment date with our conveniently located local office (800 miles away by air, contact numbers a secret!), by snail mail (must be forwarded to another town and flown to our current, remote location) with two days notice (gotta fly out in winter, jet north and show up, or else... hefty fees forfeit and start over). Fortunately, human error gave us a human 'local' contact, and we were able to work it out.

Despite the fact that we don't live as expected, we've got nothing to hide as 'upstanding citizens'. The sole problem is figuring out how to translate a fringe lifestyle into their one-size-fits-most forms and procedures.

So, if you are considering a life beyond house-numbers, consider ways to maintain the appearance of conformity. A foothold with friends or relatives, a mail service, a business or property in your name? Develop a paper trail to support your claims.

I don't recommend fraudulent claims... each must be legitimate in some sense if you don't want official trouble to one day come stomping after you. Make sure that all involved on your end are familiar with the details, and present a unified front. Officials perk up at inconsistencies!

One thing to keep in mind is that, if legitimate, one has every right to expect success. It takes a while, but there are few bureaucracies that leave no way forward. Take the time to learn their lingo and ways. Be polite but persistent. Seek and find someone helpful and humane, take their contact information and deal with them directly for the duration.

For those of you already living off the edge, have you any strategies to share?

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Bent Oars for BIRDWATCHER-Inspired Hulls

If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
But if it is...?

Bent Oars for BIRDWATCHER-Style Hulls

In BIRDWATCHER, Phil Bolger introduced a true revolution in boat design. They're distinguished by an upper hull completely or mostly consisting of window.

Core concepts:
  • Waterproof to above the knocked-down waterline (should float on its side without shipping water).
  • Long gangway running the length of the interior (mid-line security for standing crew).
  • Self-rescuing from inside the hull (!).
  • All operations possible from within shelter (no outside cockpit necessary).
  • Easily stricken rig (to reduce windage for rowing).
  • Reasonable performance under oars (eliminates expense, and weight of motor, and allows extended cruising away from fuel sources).

Not all vessels styled after BIRDWATCHER hit all these points, but together they set an impressive bar. Each point interacts with others for high synergy.

Anke and I spent close to three months dinking around in our BIRDWATCHER inspired prototype T16x4 TRILOBYTE. It was a total hoot! But one problem was persistently irritating and borderline dangerous...

To keep the hull watertight (a must when sailing in heavy winds that risk an otherwise acceptable knock-down), the oars must be shipped and the oar ports securely dogged. Turns out, this is easier said than done!

Even in normal rowing, if we brought the oars inboard to rest, grab a bite or what-have-you, the inboard portion of the loom created an awkward obstacle course within the cabin. If the blade caught while the hull was moving, the inboard end would sweep and shove us. We called it 'the sword dance'. If we had to ship in a hurry, as in a sudden squall, things got positively dicey.

For BIRDWATCHER, Phil selected a double-ended hull type that rows well. Placing the (single pair of) oars aft of the maximum beam allows oars to temporarily trail aft, clear of the the hull inside and out. But a small, double ended hull gives a lot away in terms of interior volume.

In most other types – notably barge/scow/pram shapes – that approach doesn't work. The port openings fetch up against the loom and don't allow them to swing fully parallel; if let go unshipped, they angle out and aft, dragging through the water.

To address this, I proffer a bent oar proposal:
Bend a 45deg, angled section at the oar's fulcrum, offsetting the inboard loom from the outboard by enough to clear the hull and your chosen lock hardware. Boot the oar outboard (raingear sleeves?) to waterproof and retain the oar from sliding out. Stowage can be arranged using single-horn cleats for blade and grip, with bungee tie-downs.
Know anyone with a pipe bender?


These oars would never (seldom) be dismounted. They'd trail when released and stow mostly clear of cabin spaces.

Oar Boots  can be affixed around a lipped oar port opening, similar to a kayak skirt lip.

A stiffish rubber sheet, close fit around the oar would make a pretty fair lock in this situation.

BTW, TriloBoats has a new, BIRDWATCHER inpired offering, the T20x4 SCUTTLEFISH.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Cargo Booms for Cruisers
CERES unloading, using her sprit as a Cargo Boom.
Note the 'universal joint' is a simple snotter.

Boom boom boom boom
A-haw haw haw haw
Hmmm hmmm hmmm hmmm...

-- From Boom Boom by Johnny Lee Hooker

Cargo Booms for Cruisers

A Cargo Boom is a durn handy thing.

Boarding or off-loading cargo (including groceries, luggage, tools, flotsam, what-have-you), a dinghy, an MOB, a pet. Raising a mast, a large hatch, an anchor. Heeling the hull to lift clear of that rock ledge you clipped...

A Cargo Boom is a durn handy thing!

The jargon of cargo handling is extensive and not always perfectly standardized. Here, I'm going to use terms as I've heard them used in my area. For those who care, there are many fine hairs to split.

A fully rigged Cargo Boom

Boom Derrick

The derrick (referring to the whole setup) pictured above is very common, though on small boats, seldom so thoroughly rigged. Essentially, it has a universal joint more or less fixing its derrick/boom heel to a mast, a topping lift to control lift aka hoist (vertical lift/lower) and guys to control swing (horizontal rotation).

A sailboat already has a mast, halyard (generally with multiple purchase) and likely a boom (and/or spinnaker pole). Thoughtfully rigged, the halyard can be transferred to the lift point of the boom (if not already so rigged) and guys added, and shazzam... you've got your cargo boom! Best yet, this kind needs no additional stowage when not in use.

Once set up, the boom can be more or less short and horizontal (preferred for amateurs) or more or less long and vertical (preferred by professionals). In both cases, the topping lift should be at near right angles to the boom.

In the short, horizontal case, the topping lift should be at an acute (sharp) angle to the mast (which then supports the load mostly in compression. The boom is only holding the load away from the mast, in this case, and is under much less stress than if it were near vertical.

Consider a halyard attachment which is easy to shift, with enough extra length to drop the boom end to deck level. Consider a universal joint that can handle the full range of potential boom movement. Consider bungee lines to gather rigging (such as lazy jacks) that go slack during boom operations. Consider supplemental backstays to support the masthead (low stretch line or wire in all stays... nylon is stretchy and can be dangerous!).

Stowing a dedicated cargo boom can be inconvenient. Rigs with spars set on one side of the mast have a section along the mast side opposite the spars that will never be swept, called the chimney. A boom may be stored vertically in this location. Consider using the boom as a side rail (like a lifeline) when not in use.

The pole isn't labelled... it's lower center and angled... the load is hanging from it.

Gin Pole

A gin pole is simply a near vertical boom with no mast.

Essentially, the heel is securely fixed to the deck, and the head inclined over some useful hoist point.

It can be rigged to hoist and swing around that point, but operation is complicated. More commonly, it is guyed (stayed) in one position, and lifting tackle used to hoist the load.

This type is less useful for cargo, and is generally improvised for raising a mast.


An A-frame derrick is a spread pair of poles lashed at the apex, and working in compression. Tackle hoists from the apex, and the fore and rear (aft) guy swing a load up and along a line perpendicular to that of the legs.

On board, this can be set up on the sheer, and cargo hoisted, then swung inboard.

Be aware that the guys can develop immense tension loads if their lead becomes too acute, and the threshold is reached and surpassed in surprisingly short order. If overloaded, something is likely to give - a guy or your sheer structures, most likely - and the A-frame can whop flat like a mouse-trap. Ya feel me, Mouse?

Be sure to limit the swing to short hops, keeping the A-frame near vertical at all times. Consider raising the guy anchors to improve their lead to the apex (closer to right angles).

Downside of A-frames is that they're a lot to stow. On the other hand, they work well at barge ends. Many rigs can be improved by A-frame masts, so it can pay its way between jobs.

I sometimes dream of an aft A-frame, flying a double stays'l rig on roller furlers. Whatta toy!


Keep in mind that, even with relatively light loads, some wicked forces can develop.

As cruisers, our setup is likely to be DIY and... well... funky. Do familiarize yourself with forces involved and safety procedures, and follow them scrupulously! Do not pass under a load or allow anyone else to do so. Move slowly, with good communication among all present. Keep lift/lower and swing in/out operations separate.

Consider familiarizing yourself with vector diagrams to help assess loading. Consider which forces are acting in compression, and which in tension. Consider keeping your boom either short and close in (when used horizontally), or long and close in (when used vertically). Consider hoisting only modest loads.

Cultivate a state of healthy paranoia!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

A Day in the Life

"Maybe you're getting into the rhythm of sailing life," says James. "You know, the tides going in and then out, the wind blowing east and then west, the high of a perfect day out on the water, the low of a thunderstorm or a wind that won't go your way."
― From Unbreak My Heart 
by Melissa Walker

A Day in the Life

Okay. Several of you have requested a 'typical' day in our life. Not so sure there is such a thing. But if a day like this were to happen, I wouldn't be in the least surprised. Here you go, in all its gritty detail.



The alarm wakens us and I kill it with a swipe. It's still dark in the wee hours, with a light lip,lip of water against the hull. As time and space return to our groggy minds, we recall that we're anchored along one of the 'walls' of Chatham Strait, waiting to catch a fair tide. We've got about an hour to get underway.

Morning. Mmm... kiss, kiss... mmmm.

We've got a few minutes to spoon and cuddle, and make the most of it. A little later, we sing:

It's up in the morning drinking gin...
Hey! Ho! Chicken on a raft!
To have another would be a sin...
Hey! Ho! Chicken on a raft!

Dunno why... it's our 'gotta get up and go' song... it's driving rhythm helps get the blood flowing, I guess.

With an effort, I roll out of the bunk to look around. Wind is light and, of course, contrary... if it had been fair, I'd get us underway, over-running the last of the tide, and Anke would make breakfast when she's ready. As is, we'll wait for the tide to turn before beating into it.

I load and light the woodstove, using kindling split fine and drying in a can beside the stove. In minutes, it's crackling, cabin temp is rising and my breath ceases to steam.

Grind coffee. Set water boil and rice to cook. Saute some greens and spices in a cast iron pan. Slice cheese. When the rice is done, stir it in, part a hole in the middle and add three eggs, then deal cheese over the top. Cover with a lid, and the lid with a towel. Voila! A 'standard' breakfast. More water on for the 2qt thermos and hot drinks through the day.

Anke dozes until she hears The Sound.


That's me, imitating Anke's preferred Italian Expresso Pot as I plunge the French Press. When we moved into SLACKTIDE from LUNA, the smaller galley meant keeping one or the other. The FP handles company, so the other had to go. Turns out, the sound was the critical component of expresso, so far as Anke is concerned; so long as I make The Sound, her coffee tastes right.

We sip our coffees, interspersing thoughts about the upcoming day with quiet appreciation of pre-dawn.

We're vaguely heading for a favorite estuary about 20 nm north. Weather is s'posed to be mild, so we don't have to push ahead of high winds. On the fair, rising tide, we will sail further out to take advantage of stronger current, undiminished by friction with the 'walls'. We note on the charts any rocks, coves, shallows and points of interest along the route, and recall the last shelter behind us (ya never know). We listen to the marine weather forecast (if in range).

Spit bath? Too late... get one tomorrow. Dishes in a bucket for cleanup underway. Start the day's log. Bail the dory. Drop the boards. And time to go.

One of us hauls anchor while the other takes the helm. Today it's Anke's sailing us off. She frees the sheet and raises the mizzen, letting the sheets run (the junk rig hauls sheets vertically on raising) and spilling the halyard in a puddle at one corner of the cockpit. She watches her ranges as I haul, ready to act if we begin to slide before she hears from me.

Anchor's a'trip (Anchor's a'trip)... the flukes just broke free; I can feel it through the line.

Anchor's away (Anchor's away)... anchor is free and I'm hauling hand over hand.

At this point, we begin to slide aft in the light headwind, bow held up by the slack sheet mizzen. Anke backs the helm – shunting the stern opposite our intended course - and begins to raise main.

Anchor's aboard (Anchor's aboard)... cleated taught-set in its roller, ready to drop.

I step to the main halyard and help raise the last of the mains'l. We've angled off on our tack, by now, and the lax main fills. Anke trims and makes fast; the vessel comes alive – heeling a bit – as we begin to slip forward, about 45deg to the apparent wind. I close and dog the anchor hatch before coming aft to help tidy halyard ends into their stowage buckets.

We note the time in the log, along with actual windspeed and direction and barometric pressure. We'll enter these every hour until anchored. Underway, five minutes into the young flood.

And a glorious morning it is!

First light dilutes blue black to blue greys, dark greys to silvered. Mother-of-pearl, opalescent highlights in rose and gold begin to define the clouds before giving way to full day. Today it's squally, stone sky with shafts of golden rays in the breaks. Our sister calls them God's Eyes.

We start slow and pleasantly in light wind and little current before picking up to the day's breeze and mounting tide. Long tacks out (the good one) and short tacks in. Short tacking along the edge of the rain, parallel to and inshore. Where there's something of interest 'longshore, we pull in further than is strictly efficient. Sometimes, we're becalmed, checking out a beach behind a headland and scull our way back to the breeze.

A squall or two bluster by. We drop the sails a panel or two to reef, then sheet to trim. Once past, we ease sheets, raise 'em back and trim again.

By late morning, the tide has maxed and waned. Slackened and fouled. We shift inshore, 'wall-crawling' where the opposing current is slower. Riding back-eddies behind the points and shooting a goodly ways out around them to avoid the counter rush at their tip.

Cold lunch – a rice and pickle salad – and later, coffee and a spoot (peanut butter, brown sugar, chocolate with cinnamon and/or vanilla and thickened with milk powder) to fuel us through the afternoon.

We've made good progress. Rounding a bluff, we see the berm – a twelve foot wall of sand and gravel running perpendicular to the river and parallel to Chatham – embracing our estuary under the watchful eyes of Lynn Mama (one of our favorite mountains). We plan to round that berm and anchor behind it, neaping out for a week or so.

We reach and pass our river entrance, slightly, to a point just upwind and current. We round, and, unopposed, approach with full control and good power to fight the river current (extra strong as the ebb is with it).

We watch our ranges as we enter, pointing counter-intuitively high upstream to track straight for our goal. We slip in behind the berm. As usual, the current is very strong, here. as the flats empty, funneled by the berm. Anke shoots as deep in as she can, then bunks the bow against the steep backside. As she drops sail, I jump ashore with the anchor (pre-cleated) and run it in.

Using the pole at the bow, we position ourselves mid-creek (the flats are narrowing down to drainage creeks), checking with the the pike pole on all sides for equal depth (we want to settle down flat, and can't see through the glacial water). One of us rows out a second bow anchor, then one off the stern. We'll explore our options while the tide is out, then shift the boat on the next incoming tide.

Now it's time for a glass of wine on deck as we take this new place in and wait to ground out. We hold our wine loose as we settle in little lurches, the not-quite-down chine digging in as we sweep back and forth over the bottom. Then a feeling of resignation as she takes her feet; afloat no more.

We're a little low on firewood and it's not raining. When the water's down to ankle depth, we wade across with wood bags (nylon navy surplus sea duffels), saws and axe and walk the berm. We spot and note a muddy flat, perfect for a week's stay in all weather.

Once in the woods, we find a standing dead tree – not so thin as to waste effort; not so thick as to require too much – and drop, buck and split it. A little less than two bags worth, so we split the load. We only carry them near water's edge... we'll pick them up with the dory near high tide.

The sky's clearing to a beautiful sunset, reflecting in from the Pacific on the ocean side of the islands. We decide on a beach fire, and whip up some Dutch Oven delight. Not a lot of small, dry wood on most berms, but always seems to be enough for a week or so, if we don't go crazy.

Well fed, we watch the clouds lose their scarlet ribbed radiance. Shy stars show one by one, regarding themselves in Chatham's now glassy water. The world hushes down in that moment before the night hunters announce themselves to their prey.

We'll have to shift the boat to the flat we spotted sometime after mid-night, riding the incoming tide. Pick up our wood before it rains again. So we dowse the fire and head home.

If we've any juice left, Anke may draw while I doodle a barge. We might read a little, separately or aloud, one to the other. Or play a little music. Or a game of Scrabble?

Like as not, I'll look over and she'll have nodded off. Watching her face - relaxed and flushed in sleep - I'll feel that familiar, warm rush of love and gratitude...

That she lets it be me.


PS. There are other days, of course. Not all go this bucolically. It's even been a while since any day under sail is typical (building for a while, now).

And there are lots of days when I'm the one slug-a-bed and nodding off at the end. It ain't so purty, themdays!