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Anke and I live aboard WAYWARD, and wrote about it's design and construction 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... I'll respond as I can.

Fair winds!

Dave and Anke
triloboats swirly gmail daughter com

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

How We Got Started


Dave’s first ‘berth’ at 6 months

Begin as you mean to go on.

-- British Saying

How We Got Started, OR, Down to the Sea in Slips

My first sail, at fourteen, was with fellow teens in a flotilla of rafts and canoes faring from Hoonah -- in Southeast Alaska -- to Tenakee Springs and back, involving two inlets separated by a high-tide portage. 

This all went about as you might expect… passion and drama, high times and low.

One glorious, fair wind day we rafted our seven slim vessels together, erected a lattice of spruce boughs festooned with tarp and poncho, and sailed a sunny thirty miles!

Sailing!! Oh, it was wondrous, lazing along without a stroke, pushed by the kindly flow of the world! I'd had zero exposure to real-life sailing craft, and had somehow acquired the misimpression that such were nowadays yachts; toys of the very rich. Now this experience planted a seed of another species.

On to college. Strange financial terms meant that whatever I earned in summer came off my aid package. Summer overheads, in other words, translated directly to debt. What to do? Well. I hadn't seen much of the 'Lower 48'. Hitch-hiking was an obvious solution. Which I loved.

On the Road, I discovered the Tao -- that Watercourse Way – and Drift, a pace that suits me. To me the phrase, "sails full and by the wind's whim", are heart and soul of the drifting, dreaming Tao.

I considered hitching on; but the glow of the '60s was fading, and the Road was becoming dark and strange. I considered a 'hippie' bus; but a motor vehicle is no improvement on a motor boat. How to be free and footloose in a world of pistons, cogs and oil?

Musing, I returned to Sitka and signed aboard a salmon troller for a couple of seasons and worked the shoreside fish plants.

And then. And then! Rummaging through a box of Library cast-offs I came across. Sailing the Farm! A Survival Guide to Homesteading on the Ocean!! Independence on Thirty Feet!!! Ken Neumeyer, I exalt your name!

My torch was finally well and truly lit.

But to build or to buy? That was the question! Didn't help that I soon fell head-over-heels with the Pardeys and SERRAFYN/Lyle Hess! Good people; good boats - but well out of present reach.

I more-or-less wasted a few years in research, dither and scheme.


Anke learned to swim before she could walk.

She grew up shoreside along the river Rhein in Duisburg, Germany; the world's largest inland port. Shipping, boats and barges were a constant backdrop. Riverside parks stretch for miles along the banks, and bridges criss-cross the river.

In Schleswig, on the Baltic coast, a family friend would sometimes take her along to join his children in working the nets.

But Europe is crowded. She was drawn to the wide wildernesses of boreal forest. She signed on for a cultural exchange, which took her to Sitka at the dawn of her adult life.

She soon found employment at Patterson Bay, a wilderness research station studying salmon hatchery. Lots of water-work, there, both fresh and salt, ashore and afloat.

And she loved cold water. There were rumors of mermaid sightings.


It was love at first sight.

I was watching a small (live-aboard) sailboat for a friend who'd urged me to take it out. To my concerns that I was a pre-beginner, he tut-tutted. "If anything breaks, you'll fix her, and we'll both be the better for it."

So Anke and I headed off, on the first adventure of our new life together. All book-larnin' and no experience.

We scared ourselves, of course. Despite small, bite-sized steps we occasionally encountered a puff of wind or send of swell. Our first real ‘voyage’ had us up sailing and worrying all night, resisting the motor we had forsworn, the sooner to learn what it takes to go without.

We finally put anchor down, fell into one another's arms, and slept.

Hooked for life.


In those days small, inexpensive wooden sailboats were scarce. In vain, we scoured the Seattle waterfront, looking for a small, sailing liveaboard that we could afford, yet was only moderately challenged (we wanted to learn marine carpentry, but not rebuild!). It also required that certain je n’sais pas quois.

I, of course, had my hopes set on a boat far above our means. Deep draft, ocean capable, classic! Anke pragmatically suggested that I wake from fruitess dreamboating and follow the Pardey's advice that we 'go small, go simple, go now.' Accordingly, our horizons expanded.

We found just what we were looking for in BRAMBLE (formerly TERRAPIN), a salty, gaff-rigged, lifeboat conversion from 1942. Bronze-fastened, larch-on-oak. 26ft on deck by 8ft beam by about 2½ft draft (this was our first taste of shoal draft - both serendipitous and portentous!).

The owner accepted rent-sized installments after an initial down-payment. I took a job flipping pizza, while Anke worked at a small winery. After eight months, we owned our own home, free and clear.

Our first port - while working off our debt - was in the late, great live-aboard community at Eagle Harbor, Bainbridge Island, across from Seattle. It has since succumbed to predatory Bureaucracy, but at that time was truly Magic Harbor. There, many gracious friends patiently mentored us onto the water.

Despite our (or at least my) slow and stuttering start, Anke and I now live aboard among the islands of SE Alaska's Alexander Archipelago. Since BRAMBLE, we've designed, built and sailed a series of vessels.

We sail on a shoe-string, engine-free, and are learning to subsist ever more on local forage.

Goin' on a while, now.


  1. Warm up for a sailing memoir? Makes me want to hear more of the 19 footer days and how they led to the 31 footer days. And I'd love to hear tales of the decade or so with the 31 sharpie. Of course then on to the others. I suspect many folks would reading this as well.. Same as I suspect the publication to the prequel to R-O-T-Sands would be a great effort. And on and on. Thanks for sharing this history. A fun read.

    1. Hi Roberto,

      Not a memoir, exactly, but we're starting the process of collection posts by theme, and filling in some gaps. It's likely to be a collection of more than a handful as there are so many ways to come at this. I'm still mindful, for example, that the DIY book is still in the works.

      Once we get some trickle income going from these, the ROT story will be easier to sit down and finish.

      Thanks for the encouragement!

      Dave Z

  2. Awesome story Dave, or should I call it a Yarn, given the ocean source :-).

    It's been quite a while since you posted on guerrilla gardening and as you mention in this post "Subsist on local forage".

    Could I encourage you to update the ideas?

    Shoal draft and small, lets GO is the way. I've owned (and been owned) by many sailboats over the decades and my current home-built sharpie has been my most used and enjoyed boat. It's currently in my back yard on a utility trailer under a tarp awaits in the snow for spring.

    1. Hi Michael,

      Alas, though we've now successfully guerrilla-grown some spuds, our efforts have been pushed aside by a string of other projects. We ARE still learning new wild plants, and each one we add makes the work of gardening less attractive. But spuds will remain high priority, even if nothing else makes the cut.

      Love to hear that you've been out there! And spring's comin' at a run!

      Dave Z

    2. In my area I call my garden the meat market as I can easily get a freezer full of deer there. I've gotten some success with fencing. Oddly laid flat around the plants works best as deer hate to walk on it.

      In defense I found for potatoes, cabbage, beets, parsnips and carrots to interplant lots of garlic. Confuses the other plants pests and deer around here HATE Garlic.

      I also let some of the scapes go to seed to seed areas around my fruit trees and berry bushes.

      My favorite restaurant loves my excess garlic and scapes.

    3. That's a lot of useful info... Thanks!

      I heard a story of a Peace Corp volunteer who saw Amazonian forest animals plundering a tribal garden. He told them he could help them by teaching them to fence it. They though he was crazy! Turns out they plant the garden -- all species growing wild in the forest -- concentrated to attract animals for easy meat.

      But we love garlic, too, so may have to have a little of each. 8)

      Dave Z

  3. Great! Loved Sail the Farm too! We are living still on land, on a small cabin. Lots of things to dispose to be really low footsteps and minimal to be living on a boat! Good to know more about this early years of you and Anke. Waiting to read more about your ideas too, one of this: the good knife and bad knife theory! Please explain more, a suggestion for another text