• Growing pains

    The first thing Kim-Chi said when she saw Sookie is, “where is her mommy?”. Let me introduce you to Ooku, the mamma bear. Our first time aboard was short and sweet. We poked though lockers, thumbed through books and tried learn her systems. This boat is slightly larger than Sookie but as of today my opinion is that she has less storage and a less user friendly layout. All the small things aside, she is perfect. After just one day, she is already shrinking into cozy proportions. At a whopping 5’1” Kim-Chi struggles to reach into the galley top-loading lockers or the deeper recesses of her ice box/fridge. It’s hard for her to climb into the double bunk. Actually, it’s hard for me as well. The layout is nice but feels backwards to me. All in all we will need time to learn how to fit in our tiny new home.

    Bonus section: We found three huge surprises – actually about a hundred. The first sail bag I pulled had a brand new red drifter from Port Townsend sails. There was also a tri and storm jib, both brand new. I’ll have to add a track for the cars but those sails were a giant win. The lockers were filled with treasures, great books, and all the nav equipment we could ask for. She has a VHF with AIS, an emergency transponder although it looks like it might need some work. There were piles of tools, manuals for everything, and even two self inflating harnesses. I’ve never worn a life jacket on a boat but because of my balance issues, I always wear a harness. We couldn’t find an anchor but that problem will solve itself. All her wood needs to be redone, at some point all new covers as well. Her cushions are serviceable but will be replaced almost immediately. With a little luck she will find a home base in the San Juans and so will we. As of today we have no plans on living aboard but that may change.

    In short, she is perfect in every way. There may be some surprises when we haul her but nothing we can’t easily fix. On deck her layout is nice and simple, there is no pole or track so that’s going on the list. Also, I couldn’t find any sort of preventer but I can make something simple from her boom’s end. Her rudder fittings need to be bored and bushed but that’s a fun project. In my eyes she is a 10…not bad for having bought her sight unseen. Her engine was replaced in 2003 and has about 1000 hours. Her standing rigging is close to the ten-year mark which warrants a full inspection but looks very lightly used. What else is there? Well, everything. I’m writing this from the resort we stayed at last night. We are packing up and heading south in an hour.

    We’ve had her for almost a month now, but today was the first day anything felt real. I’m praying for a warm winter and lots of day sailing. For now it’s city life and packing both of our worlds up for the next adventure. On the ride home we came across a mother and calf killer whale, such a good omen. Funny how long I’ve been talking about the next step. I just couldn’t make the move til Sookie had taught me all of the lessons she had for me.

  • Island time

    The preciously small real estate of my tiny house living room is shrinking. Piles of boat gear, sails, and personal belongings are adding up. Tomorrow we leave for Ooku and our first chance to board her. She will be kept in Sterling Cove, our top-secret location. I have no idea what comes with the boat and what doesn’t so it will be a bit of a treasure hunt. I literally left everything for Sookie’s new owner, including a new set of offshore foul-weather gear. For now, my time aboard will be minimal so this is a play date. The survey will come as soon as I can block a few days in a row to head south.

    Like always, I will make a video diary of the whole process, sharing as I learn. I’m very curious how she will fit. Will I like the aft galley better than what I’m used to? Will a head be a blessing or a pain in the ha? You know where I’m going with this. I haven’t owned a boat of this size or complexity since before the turn of the century. In the beginning, I sailed larger boats. Of the entire fleet of charter boats I managed as a child, the Catalina 42 was the easiest once I got that damn main up. I would day sail solo and often. My second favorites were a J30 and C&C29. Soon after, I did my apprenticeship on a full keel 32 heavy displacement cutter. It was slow to react, heavy, and stunted-feeling compared to what I was used to. In the beginning, docking was frightening but I loved that boat. She was custom-built by captain Leah and appropriately named Wet Dream.

    Captain Leah was hard on me. Everything she taught me was the most important lesson. Maintenance was always carried out to perfection down to waxing the mast twice a year. The Wet Dream was over a decade old when I met her, but she appeared cleaner than a new boat down to her smallest detail. When she set sail for the South Pacific, I was invited but the time had come to find my own dream ship and my own adventures.

    Back to Ooku. I’m hoping that her tiny cabin is small and cozy. Each piece of gear will find its place. My favorite bunk will be discovered in time. I’ve been told that there are 37 storage compartments. Lots of people make boat maps but I always know my inventory down to the screw and where it is. Maybe that’s my superpower. Each visit will bring a little more of this and that until she is full.

    My intention was to purchase on the east coast so I have no navigation books, charts, pilots, guides… this adventure is starting from the very basics. I’m slowly gathering sandpaper, paints, oils, varnishes, or maybe Cetol (?), fasteners, filters, and sealants. I have no idea where this will take me. I’ll just show up and start in a logical place. These old boats aren’t for everyone. Cosmetics are extremely labor-intensive. Parts have to be fabricated or cast. I can’t buy anything off the shelf for her. I’m putting together my first Bronze order from the Port Townsend Foundry and it will be a large one. Ooku will get all new fittings. As always they will be thrown into a locker and forgotten about until the time is right. Each process takes careful consideration, you can’t rush these things. As she sits, Ooku isn’t even remotely a project boat. She is perfect in every way. She just needs a quick spit shine and some jewelry.

    I’ve reached the point in my life where slow, easy, deliberate movement is the name of the game. There is no more struggle. I’ve experienced every dream I made up in my mind as a wide-eyed child with the whole world in front of me. I had made up my mind that I would track down Seraffyn for the umpteenth time and take over custodianship. As usual, plans changed. I had chased Ooku for years but then one day, with the suddenness of a broken shoelace, the stars aligned and she came home. The very place I had thought I was leaving will now be my very familiar new home. For now, I need to install a new heater and I know exactly where it will go.

  • Set Sail

    Ask any two sailors the same question and you will get three answers. I used to be pretty opinionated about sails and setups. Not anymore. I’ll happily sail just about any boat with any type or combo of sails. Kim-Chi doesn’t know it yet but I have a brand new sailing dinghy waiting for her. It comes with a life vest and wetsuit because she can’t swim. One of my still unfulfilled dreams is to sail the Inside Passage on a 12’ open boat with no navigational equipment – making charts as I go, living off the beaches, being 100% inside of it. In the meantime, I get the joy of watching her learn on the sweetest dinghy ever.

    Ooku has a wonderful set of sails. Hank-on, all beautiful, and all ready for anything. If she came with a furler I’d probably be as pleased as I am that she didn’t. A jib net is almost as handy and much more fun. There is something about flaking and stowing sails after the glorious sound of chain running out the pipe. It’s all so satisfying. I have to say, I love having all my lines led to the cockpit as much as I love standing flat-footed on the deck working the mast. In-mast furlers are great as are headsail furlers. I’m young enough and strong enough that for as long as I can, I’ll continue to use hank-on sails. I like the way they feel in my hands, the sound they make as they drop to the deck, and the way they smell after a wonderful day of sailing. There is just something I love so much about the simple mechanics of working the sails.

    Ooku is my 12th and last boat spanning over 35 years. When I can no longer sail her with ease I’ll buy a dock and spend my final glide path telling sailing stories to anyone who will listen. I don’t really drink but I have every intention of becoming an alcoholic later on in life. A wide-brim hat, a bottle of Green Label, and my cane fishing pole is where you’ll find me in the end. For now I have the joy of being custodian of my dream boat. She is small and manageable. All her sails are the right size and relatively easy to manhandle. The head sails stow reasonably easily. There are enough squares to keep her moving and enough options for when the wind fills in properly.

    When I can actually spend some time on Ooku I’ll go deeper into why I sold Sookie, why I bought a boat sight unseen, and why none of this matters. With only 117 BCC’s built, many are falling from grace. I can’t change the ways of the world but I can preserve what is, in my humble opinion, one of the most beautiful designs on earth. In my digging and rooting of boat history and maintenance, I stumbled across the Sampson boat company on YouTube. To whatever degree each and all of these old boats need love, there is the right person out there who is up to the task. I will spare no expense in keeping Ooku in Bristol condition.

  • Sailing on a Shoestring

    For each and every one of us, with each passing day, time becomes more valuable. Yesterday’s adventures are just that; they are over. To create something new is a desire most of us experience eventually. To act on these desires is a natural force for some, only a distant dream and a 20-year plan for others. They say that timing is everything and I agree, sort of. The problem is that it’s almost never the right time. So I jumped in blindfolded and head first. My freefall took me many places, eventually landing in the cockpit of Ooku. With a little luck I will have a home right across from her within the next few weeks. This also comes with a part-time job that will keep me up to my elbows in paint, varnish, and my most sacred commodity: free time.

    Yes, the wind is free but harnessing it will take a few freedom chips. We were building bikes for a circumnavigation of Iceland in the spring followed by a month in Mallorca. Bikes and travel are cheap comparatively. Kim-Chi put the kibosh on every single boat we looked at. Then this old girl sailed into our lives and we were done. Change is a good thing and easy if you have an open mind. I am now one step closer to my dream of moving back to Hawaii for the winters and slowly exploring the Salish during the warmer summer months. I’ve been out of work for 18 wonderful months. If you are curious, resort management is my trade. I also almost have my toe in the door of doing this part-time in Hawaii. I love everything about resort living.

    We still haven’t figured out where we will put the Bromptons but we have space. The boat will slowly be filled one bottle, one can, one bag of beans at a time until she is full. One of my favorite parts of having a boat is that I can travel as often as I like while always having the comforts of home patiently waiting for me. I guess I could go on about this forever but my uke is calling my name.

    There’s no ego when you’re a ukulele player. – Jake Shimabukuro

  • Spade Anchor

    This is ground control to Major Tom…” Thats all an anchor is, right? Ground control, real estate management, a nanny and a bedtime story with a warm glass of milk and a cookie all rolled into one. I seem to be one of the few left in the world that believe a small anchor and proper technique is far superior to ruining the sailing characteristics of your boat by adding an oversized anchor and just praying it holds.

    I tried just about every anchor imaginable on Sookie. I ended up with a Rocna because that’s what fit best. That anchor never once failed me. It’s been my experience that any anchor will work 98% of the time. It’s that small remaining fraction that keeps me up at night. I have no idea what anchor(s) came with Ooku but I’m putting my money on a Spade with high hopes it will fit snugly on the Roller. The Spade 80 at 33lbs is where my brain is sitting. One of the reasons I’ve chosen such a small boat is that in a pinch I can pull the anchor by hand. I also don’t need an electric windlass. I’ll get into power management once I have something to generate electricity but this boat is simple and staying that way.

    I haven’t had a chance to inspect or measure her chain but from the first 10’ I did see a replacement is in order. I remember getting the funniest text one night. It read “why isn’t my chain attached?”. It was a dark and stormy night. While I was a bit concerned, I didn’t put too much thought into it. Many hours later I learned my friend tried to set the anchor on his new boat. The chain was attached to nothing and was a total loss. The best lessons are always the hardest learned.

    For me, at least, great ground tackle is my best insurance policy. At some point, I assume I’ll have to rebuild her little bronze windlass. I’ve done this before and it’s a really fun and easy project. I may even move it to the bowsprit where it belongs. Having said that I don’t make any changes on a new boat for at least a year. It’s far too easy to get carried away. Often, the things that bother me the most in the beginning bother me the least in the end. Boats are simple creatures. If you don’t like what you see, slowly step backwards until they shine.