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.

Port Townsend Sails

My only regret on little Sookie is that I didn’t get a suit of cruising sails from Carol Hasse before she retired. It’s snowing and blowing out. I’ve reluctantly left Ooku and I’m back in the city. My tiny house has lost most of its precious real estate to sails and boat gear. It may seem pointless to inspect new sails, but it’s fun tracing my fingers down each perfect line of stitching. These things are far too pretty to put on the boat.

I look out the window as our first snow drifts by. I want to be in our little cabin packing away a year’s worth of provisions. I want to be in the warm afternoon sun sanding a lazy day away. I want to be back on the water where I belong. Nevertheless, we have no provisions to store aboard her; that will come later. We have no car to deliver them anyways. My winter will be spent daydreaming with my ukulele. Making endless lists of things to check and check off. I’ll have to get rid of everything that won’t fit aboard, although I have an idea that everything will fit aboard. I’ll have to be patient and let all the pieces fall in line. Only 9 months till summer.

When I’m not practicing on my uke I have Hawaii Music Supply playing in the background. I ordered my custom Ko’olau in time so that I could bring Sookie’s mana over to Ooku. I’m still a little bit superstitious and these simple actions add value to the experience. I don’t know where I’ll stow her aboard, but she will always be within arm’s reach. When I ordered my uke I wanted something plain and simple. Something that wouldn’t be noticed til you play her. My uke was built to be played and heard, not looked at. Even so, she is a work of art.

This beautiful set of sails is the same. They are meant to be worked and experienced. They are plain and simple just like everything in my life. I don’t think many people would opt for a battenless main but I do. It has two deep cruising reefs, no headboard, and a hollow roach just like I like. I know all the arguments against this design but for me it works. All her head sails are simple hank-on. The icing on the cake is the big red drifter. She doesn’t have any specialized heavy weather sails and that’s fine because as of today I have no intentions of leaving this wonderful area. Having said that, north is always my preferred destination.

I have so much more to say about all of this but it’s time for my morning uke session. My audience is the snow blowing by my front window. I still get frustrated when I buzz a string or forget a note but my fingers are getting strong and my muscle memory is growing. If you want to learn something from instinct, it’s been said that you have to go through the motions 10,000 times. I feel like that is what brought Ooku into my life. That and a chance meeting on the high seas many years ago.

„Things are not magical because they’ve been conjured for us by some outside force. They are magical because we create them.“ David Levithan

Bristol Channel Cutter 28

Now that the smoke has cleared it’s starting to settle in. Wow she feels big, I know she will shrink fast but our first impression is that she is a ship. With each new discovery we feel fortunate to have found the perfect boat after passing on so many. Some were shinier, some slightly better equipped. Most we declined immediately. The sad truth is that these boats are getting a little long on the tooth and haven’t been properly maintained. These boats can be extremely labor intensive in the beginning but once you have them smart it’s just a matter of a few weeks each spring and fall.

I have a love-hate relationship with bright work but mostly love, especially after a long hard day. To sit back and enjoy the fruits of our labor. There is no angle at which Lyle Hess’ designs don’t touch my soul. The boat is paid for but when it comes to bright work you could say I owe my soul to the company store. She has everything but heat and yes, it’s on the list. It’s cold today and the wind is blowing a fit but spring is just around the corner. We plan her first haul out in March so I can have April to pretty her up leaving plenty of summer for local exploration.

Kim-Chi who can’t swim and is terrified of water made her way around the decks like a nervous cat at first. Within an hour she started to get the feel for everything as she helped me remove the sails in the gusty winds. We work well together in all aspects of life. We have a new sailing dinghy coming and a pint sized wetsuit and PFD so she can gain confidence in her ability. Being raised on and in the water it’s easy for me to forget that everybody isn’t as comfortable as I am.

Slow, Wet, and Tender

That’s not my boat, it’s my girlfriend. The boat is my mistress. She’s all new to me. New boat, new systems, and a new adventure. I’ve come from the simplest boat on earth to one that is slightly more complex, a wee bit longer, fatter, and deeper. I’ve always known a Bristol Channel Cutter would be in my custodianship. I just never imagined it would take 35 years for her to come home.

What’s in a name? There was a time when I was the most superstitious person on earth. I think it’s waning. At this point I have no intentions of strapping a virgin to the bow but still, I digress.

Two OO’s in a boat name signifies safety at sea. Her new name Ooku, while made up by me many years ago, fits her perfectly. In Japanese OO means big. In Vietnamese Ku is a term of endearment given to little boys by their mother. It actually translates to penis. So while I never intended it, Ooku translates to big dick. In my defense, you could relate the name to her 7’ bowsprit but the name simply came to me one night in my dreams.

I didn’t figure any of this out on my own. My girlfriend who was conceived in Vietnam during the fall of Saigon explained it all to me. She was raised in Oklahoma but lived in Japan for many years before moving to Germany and eventually landing on my front doorstep.

Now that we all know her significant call sign, we can simply refer to her as Ooku. Lei Lei will more than likely end up being her dink’s name.

I’ve got a lot to learn about this new boat and her moods, so pour yourself a cup of coffee. Sit back and enjoy the journey with us. Cheers and welcome to our new home.