Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Time to Move On

Segundo Vez with her new owners, Houston and Bill Barker of Colorado, Nov. 2006

Segundo Vez on the beach near Appalachicola, Florida, December, 1998

I first heard of James Wharram's Polynesian catamaran designs back in 1997, as I was sailing Seldom Seen, the 19-foot outrigger canoe I designed and built using the woodstrip construction method. I was never completely satisfied with Seldom Seen's performance under sail, especially to windward, and was seeking a similar small multihull boat that I could build and sail in the pursuit of adventures similar to my sea kayaking journeys.

Wharram's Tiki range of catamarans certainly seemed to fit the bill, and at the time my interest was certainly more geared to smaller boats, so from his many sizes offered I picked the Hitia 17, a simple plywood beachcruiser that could be easily disassembled for trailering and could take me places faster than any kayak. I began the project hopeful that I could complete it in the 250 hours projected by the designer, but like most boatbuilders, I found that I needed twice as long to achieve a finished boat.

After a year of part-time boatbuilding, including building several smaller boats for paying customers, I launched Segundo Vez (Second Time) on the Gulf coast and found that at last I had a boat that was both simple and shallow draft, and could sail well to windward and at a good speed.

It's funny how when I was kayaking, I didn't think too much about the boat itself, other than making sure it was in good repair and still seaworthy. Sailing is different though, and it seems sailors are never really satisfied. Even before launching Segundo Vez I was already thinking of building a larger Wharram catamaran - one that I could possibly live aboard and one that would be big enough to cross larger bodies of water than was ever possible in a kayak. The Hitia 17 is no doubt a seaworthy small craft, but being an open boat there is no sheltered sleeping space to crawl into when the weather turns nasty or to get some adequate rest on a multi-day voyage at sea.

I took a road trip to south Florida right after Christmas in 1999, towing Segundo Vez all the way to Ft. Myers, Florida, where I met other Wharram owner/builders and got a chance to see in person a Tiki 26, Pahi 31, Tangaroa 34, and a Hinemoa 23. I decided then that the Tiki 26 would be the boat for me, as it was still relatively simple to build and would not cost a fortune, yet had been offshore proven in several transatlantic voyages and other long passages. I bought the plans for the boat and came back to Mississippi with the intention to build, planning to build all the peripheral parts such as the mast and crossbeams before starting the hulls. I actually built the three crossbeams to about 90% complete, as well as some other small parts, but at the time my other work for paying customers got in the way and as it turned out after one custom building job I had more money on my hands than free time. I became tempted to buy a boat rather than build, especially after having a look at what was available in the classified ads for used monohulls built of fiberglass.

I took another road trip to Florida, this time to Tampa, where my brother lived, and cash in hand began visiting first hand many of the boats I'd found in the ads. Most of them were misrepresented and overpriced, but one, a 1968 Grampian 26 that the owner had begun restoring, appeared to be just right, and at a reasonable price. It was certainly big enough to live aboard, and a test sail proved it to be weatherly and easy to handle. I bought it and sailed it home single-handed, spending over a week enroute as I made my way along the Gulf coast.

Owning and sailing a 26-foot monohull with over 4 feet of draft was a new experience for someone coming from a sea kayaking background. I found myself limited as to where I could go, but the necessity to always know one's position when piloting this type of craft taught me a lot about seamanship and navigation. This boat also taught me a lot about boat restoration and refitting, and over time I rebuilt the interior and gradually outfitted the boat for cruising. I later got married on board and cruised south to the Florida Keys and the east coast of Florida with my then-wife and stepdaughter. Although most of this cruise was great, I once again found myself longing for a shallow-draft boat, especially when a Category 4 hurricane threatened the Keys and we found few options for places to go to secure the boat. We were lucky that storm turned when it did.

A few months later, my short-lived marriage ended, I sailed back to Mississippi with the help of a good friend and once again considered resuming the building of my Tiki 26. But I also had a lot of time and money invested in the Grampian, and I needed a boat I could comfortably live on, at least part time, as I was starting my marine carpentry business on the Gulf coast and needed a base there. I decided to keep the boat, as I could not sell it for what I had invested. I hauled out and completely repainted it, changing the color and then re-christening the boat Intensity to get rid of all the bad karma brought aboard by an ex-wife who really had no intention of staying anyway.

I sailed Intensity locally on the Gulf coast for three more years. One of the nicest things about owning a larger boat than a kayak or small open boat is the opportunity to introduce sailing to people who otherwise would never experience it. I always enjoyed taking friends and family members on day trips or short overnight cruises to the nearby barrier islands. But beginning in 2004 hurricane threats began to become more serious and more frequent, and I found myself constantly worrying about where I was going to take my boat to secure it in a storm. Finally in 2005, after riding out Tropical Storm Cindy on board and a near miss with Hurricane Dennis, which turned to north Florida, I found myself with no good place to go when Hurricane Katrina set her course for the Mississippi coast. I lost the boat, like so many of my other fellow sailors in the area, but I was determined to keep sailing.

Even before Hurricane Katrina, I knew about a Wharram Tiki 21 catamaran that was for sale in Ocean Springs, so I called the owner and found that the boat had survived, as it had been moved inland on a trailer. I purchased it shortly thereafter, and took it home for what would prove to be a longer than anticipated refit, see:

I wanted the Tiki 21 because it had more weight-carrying capacity than the Hitia 17, as well as two very minimal bunks, one in each hull. It' s not by any stretch of the imagination a good liveaboard vessel, but it has been proven to be exceptionally seaworthy, and a modified version was sailed around the world by Rory McDougal. I knew when I bought it that it would not be a long-term solution to my sailing needs, but I wanted to try a larger Wharram and thought it would be suitable for some smaller adventures while I made up my mind about another cruising boat.

During the long refit process, I spent more time than ever researching boat design, exploring many possibilities in boats I could build or purchase used and refit. I looked at catamarans, trimarans, and monohulls, and made two trips to Florida to look at examples that were for sale. The brilliant simplicity of the Wharram Tiki design kept me coming back to this range of boats, however, and as I rebuilt Element, I figured that another Wharram was in my future. I just wanted to be sure I was making the right decision this time, as I didn't want to keep going through the process of building/rebuilding but hopefully one more time.

Finally, several things converged at nearly the same time to aid in my decision process. I had a prospective buyer for Segundo Vez, so it could be sold, freeing up my work space for building a boat and adding some cash to the construction fund. Element was complete, and at last I had two options on the coast for docking her, so I would have a boat in the water, ready for quick weekend getaways when I needed a sailing fix or got disillusioned with building. I had long ago sold my Tiki 26 plans, but I knew of a new, unused set owned by another Tiki 26 sailor who had planned to build but then bought a used Tiki 26, so no longer needed the plans, so I got a deal on those. And, I found inspiration on the web from another experienced monohull sailor, Thomas Nielsen, who recently sold his deep-draft boat and opted to build himself a Tiki 26, documenting the process with his excellent blog:

All these things seemed to be leading in the right direction. Now, Element is in the water in Biloxi, Segundo Vez is at home with her new owners in Colorado, and I have my plans for Tiki 26 number 341, which will become Element II over the course of the next year or two. I'll be picking up the Okoume plywood for the build in a few days, and sometime shortly after the construction will begin.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The New Age of Sail

I recently found an interesting article online that is somewhat related to my post yesterday about the launching of Glenn Tieman's traditional polynesian style sailing canoe. All Wharram catamarans, and especially Glenn's Tama Moana double canoe are about as far as you can get from modern high-tech, expensive yachts that keep most average-income people from even thinking about the prospect of buying a boat and setting off on a long cruise. Wharram catamarans prove it doesn't have to be this way. Practically any determined individual can build and sail their own seaworthy boat made of simple materials and using appropriately simple, yet sound technology.

In the article entitled "The New Age of Sail" by Dmitry Orlov, the author makes a case for the sailboat as mankind's greatest invention and explores the possibilities of the simple sailing vessel's role in the future as a vehicle and lifestyle of choice. Here's a quote from his accessment of the modern yacht style of sailboat, in his section The Sorry State of Sail:

"None of the sailboats currently in commercial production will do at all. Since the end of the age of sail, sailing has been relegated to a number of niches, none of them of much practical value. Overall, they have become a luxury item. An important element of this luxury is the freedom from the buzz or throb of the engine, the stench of fuel, and the noxious fumes of the exhaust plume: freedom to enjoy nature without assaulting it. An early application of steam power was in powering sailboats out of doldrums, but steam sailboats were quickly supplanted by steamboats that did not carry sail. A similar fate awaits the many modern sailboats that are designed to rely on their diesel or gasoline auxiliaries, but for the exact opposite reason: they will be trapped in the permanent doldrums of fuel scarcity.

The particular applications still reserved for sail include recreation, sport, and historical preservation, with dollops of luxury thrown in for each one. Recreational vessels range from small sailing canoes and dinghies to daysailers and small coastal cruisers. Sport encompasses a wide variety of racing boats, which are designed for speed, especially speed to windward. Historical preservation includes various old sloops and schooners, as well as newer boats constructed entirely of wood by master craftsmen. The realm of pure luxury gives us an assortment of cabin cruisers, which often have plenty of teak and mahogany paneling and trim, fancy navigational electronics, on demand hot water, and a sound system. Although they are capable of crossing oceans, they are mainly used for ostentation, to motor around the harbor, and to throw dockside parties. "

He goes on to further examine the simple requirements for living and traveling on the sea as in this excerpt from A Reasonable Set of Requirements:

"Nothing focuses the mind of a design engineer like a list of requirements. Let us then list out the requirements for a boat that would work best for our stated purposes. It would certainly be splendid if a credentialed naval architect or two rose to the challenge of carrying out the design work. But even if all self-respecting naval architects turn up their noses at something so unmarketable and unfashionable, this should not spell disaster: sailboat design is a rewarding area for a creative amateur as well as a professional.

The boat must provide accommodation, storage, and transportation for a family. She must be seaworthy enough to cross oceans, with generous fresh water tanks and plentiful storage space. She should have shallow draft, to float over flooded lands and shoals, into estuaries, and up and down rivers and canals, and a flat bottom, to settle upright. The masts should be stepped in tabernacles and rigged for easy lowering to pass under bridges and other obstructions. She must be designed to be beached and dragged or rolled ashore without suffering hull damage. She must be cheap to build, to maintain, and to operate. She must not require the use of advanced metallurgy or synthetics.

She must be designed not just for fair weather sailing, but also to survive the typical set of worst case scenarios. The increased frequency of extreme weather events will not add to the list of worst case scenarios with which sailboats must be designed to cope. However, since they will become more frequent, it will be even more important that all boats be designed to handle them well. If the boat has an open cockpit, causing the crew to swallow salt spray, which causes dehydration, hallucinations, and kidney failure, or has a keel that trips on water and causes a capsize, or has a tall mast and heavy standing rigging that catches enough wind to cause pitchpoling when running under bare poles, or insufficient internal ballast, causing wild motion that breaks crew's ribs as they are tossed about the cabin, then the design must be considered unacceptable, regardless of its other advantages."

The author goes on to describe his idea of the perfect boat to fit these requirements, basically the sharpie type and in particular some of the works of naval architect Phil Bolger. I am also an admirer of the sharpie type, especially some of the Parker designs, and I have built two dinghies designed by Phil Bolger and have sailed quite a bit on one of his open sharpie daysailor designs built by my brother. But to me the one limitation of most sharpie designs is ultimate, ocean crossing seaworthieness, and most sharpie designers state that their boats are designed for coastal and protected waters rather than long bluewater passages.

Needless to say, Wharram catamarans, built of wood with simple tools and basic skills, and a design incorporating maximum seaworthieness based on proven design principles also fit the author's requirements, though he might not be aware of them. Anyone interested in building and sailing their own boat will enjoy reading the entire article here:

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Glenn Tieman's "Child of the Sea" Launched

(photos courtesy of Bill Barker, who attended the launching)

One of James Wharram's newer catamaran designs, the ethnic "double canoe" he calls Tama Moana, or "Child of the Sea" was launched recently near Santa Barbara, California. Here's Wharram's description of the design:

The Child of the Sea has the traditional hullshape of the islands of Tikopia and Anuta. She is built in strip planking over plywood backbone and bulkheads. She is steered with side rudders. Ethnic Designs as Canoe Craft have a basic design principle of maximum boat for minimum cost, and at the same time be a research participant in a major attempt to recover and preserve the practical, design, handling aspects of Man's first offshore sailing vessels.
Length Overall:
37' 9"
11.5 m
Beam Overall:
14' 11 "
4.55 m
3.525 ton

Glenn Tieman, the builder is a long-time Wharram catamaran enthusiast and experienced sailor. His first Wharram catamaran was the Pahi 26 design, which he built himself and sailed all over the south Pacific, living aboard it for 10 years. Glenn is definately a minimalist who appreciates the simplicity and function of Wharram's designs, so the Tama Moana design with its traditional crab claw rig and spartan accomodations is right in line with his needs as an adventurous sailor who will soon set off to return to the Pacific islands on his new boat. He has christened his vessel "Manurere," Maori for "Bird on the Wing."

Glenn is to be commended for building such a fine example of the Tama Moana, and for having the courage to sail in a simple, yet seaworthy craft that is so far outside the mainstream of modern yachting. I wish him fair winds, following seas, and beautiful anchorages among the lonely atolls of Oceania.

Here's some more background info about the Tama Moana project from James Wharram's site:

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Coho Kayak back for Repair and Refinishing

I built this Coho sea kayak from a kit by Pygmy Boats back in 1999 for my personal use. At about the same time, I also built the Pygmy Arctic Tern model, which is a hard-chined design, for my nephew Brian Nobles. I ended up selling the Coho in 2001 while I was off cruising in the Florida Keys aboard Intensity, the lucky buyer getting a great deal on a custom built wooden sea kayak because I needed cash at the time.

Brian eventually decided kayaking wasn't for him, so I bought the Arctic Tern back from him in 2003 and used it on trips such as the headwaters to the sea trip down the Pascagoula River that I did with Ernest Herndon. (For the book we wrote about this trip, go here:, the Arctic Tern is even on the cover.)

I never expected to see the Coho again, but last week the guy that bought it from me brought it over for repairs to a busted cockpit rim and general refinishing. I was glad to see that this boat has been used hard, as I built it extra strong for expedition paddling.

The cockpit damage was caused by driving into a too-low garage door opening with the boat on a roof rack. The owner ordered replacement parts in 4mm Okoume plywood from Pygmy Boats, so the repair would not involve fabricating any parts. I used a laminate trimming router with a panel-pilot bit to rip off the old coaming, and the new one has already been laminated on with epoxy. Next, I'll shape and glass it, then revarnish the decks and paint the hull from the sheer down. This boat has been scratched and gouged way too much for a decent varnish job on the hull, hence the paint. I think it will still look good, and will be ready for many more years of hard service.

The Coho and the Arctic Tern are both great boats, each weighing only 39 lbs., which is way lighter than any fiberglass or plastic kayak in the size range. They paddle exceptionally well, and track well without rudders, though having owned both I prefer the Arctic Tern for overall handling and tracking ability, especially in big waves or surf.

You can see my Arctic Tern here:

Or go to the Pygmy website and look at all the models they offer here:

You can buy the kit and build your own or hire a boatbuilder to do it for you. Pygmy boats are by far the best of the wooden kayak kits on the market, and all these kayaks are designed by John Lockwood, a serious kayaker with decades of experience who uses these boats on real expeditions.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

The Road of Life

My older brother, Jeff, the natural-born musician, singer and songwriter in the family has just released his CD entitled The Road of Life. Jeff has been playing guitar since I was old enough to crawl, and a lifetime of experience playing professionally in rock, country, blues and funk bands shows throughout this great new album. The songs on The Road of Life range from country to blues to an island style reminescent of Jimmy Buffett. Sailors and other travelers will especially appreciate the tracks Islamorada and Big Dark Cloud, and anyone affected by the devastation of Hurricane Katrina last year will be able to relate to track no. 2: Slabbed.

Living several blocks inland from the beach in Gulfport, Jeff got literally "slabbed" by Katrina when the storm surge swept his house off it's concrete foundation and took away all of his family's worldly possessions. Jeff always has been a survivor though, and he has recovered from this loss remarkably fast, moving back to the coast and buying another house farther inland and completing this CD project he had started in early 2005.

You can read more about the Jeffery Williams story on his website, and even listen to clips from each of the 10 tracks on The Road of Life. Check it out here at:

Scott's Boat Pages Site Update

It's been a long time since I've posted to this blog or updated my website, Scott's Boat Pages.
Most of my spare time this summer has been devoted to the extensive refit I've been doing on my Wharram-designed Tiki 21 catamaran, which will hopefully be ready to relaunch and sail about the time the worst of the hot weather here is over. Photos of the new paint job are posted on my other blog, which is devoted to this boat, at: The work I've done on this boat has included the full spectrum of boatbuilding crafts from woodworking and fiberglassing, to rigging and canvas work. It's been time consuming, but in the end I will have a practically brand new boat that will be ideal for exploring the shallow Gulf coast waters that are still filled with underwater hazards in the wake of Katrina that would make sailing a deep draft vessel chancy at best.

I've made some changes to the layout of the main website, and will soon publish several pages of photo galleries including images of the Mississippi coast both before and after Katrina, various other Mississippi nature photos, and travel and boating photos.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Life After Katrina

I have a feature article in the current issue of Sea Kayaker magazine:
Life After Katrina: The Mississippi Gulf Coast in the Wake of a Major Hurricane.

This issue in bookstores now, for those who are interested. There are several photos in the article from the coast, some taken immediately after the storm and some taken a few months later when Travis Easley and I did some exploring in our sea kayaks.

Here's a link to the Sea Kayaker website:

An Easy Gulf Passage

Artie Vaughan and Halcyon at Ft. Myers Beach Marina, FL

Note the new bowsprit and anchor platform that I built for the boat earlier this year, as well as the new bow pulpit Artie installed.

Artie Vaughan and I had an easy four-day passage across the Gulf from Biloxi to Ft. Myers Beach last week. We left Point Cadet Marina just before dark on Sunday night and made our landfall Thursday afternoon, and had the boat secured at a dock there before dark that evening.

The timing for the crossing worked out just right, as we stayed ahead of a cold front and a line of thunderstorms that was moving into the northern Gulf by Monday. For most of the passage, we enjoyed light winds out of the south, allowing us to sail on a close reach on our direct rhumbline to the southeast. Winds during the trip never exceeded 15 knots, and most of the time were less than 10, making it necessary to run the inboard Yanmar for assistance in maintaining our 5-knot average. Seas were about as gentle as could ever be expected for a period of four days on the open Gulf, averaging about 2-3 feet.

Dolphins in the blue water midway through the passage. There were about 25-30 of them in this group, cruising alongside and playing in the bow wave. This far out, the Gulf is Caribbean clear. At night our wake appeared as a trail of sparks due to heavy concentrations of bioluminescent plankton.

Halcyon is as great a boat as I suspected she was the first time I saw her when Artie arrived at Point Cadet two years ago. All Pacific Seacraft boats are well-built to the point of being over-built, and Artie has especially well-equipped this example of the Orion 27 model. The boat is ready to go practically anywhere on all oceans, with all systems in excellent order and good repair. A retired electrical engineer, Artie is meticulous in maintaining his boat, and in my opinion, wise in choosing a vessel of this size. Give me a well-found 27-footer designed for bluewater cruising any day over the 35-40+ footers that are so popular these days. A boat the size of Halcyon is easier to maintain, easier to handle, and a lot easier to buy and equip, while still being large enough to be comfortable and seaworthy.

Artie is going on from Ft. Myers to the east coast of Florida and then the Bahamas for a few weeks. I'm sure he's going to have a great cruise, and I'm envious of all that time he's going to get to spend sailing a great boat in warm, clear waters.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Gulf of Mexico Sailing Passage

I'm looking forward to tomorrow. Finally, I'll get to do some serious sailing for the first time since Hurricane Katrina, even though not on my own boat. I'm going to help my friend Artie Vaughn take his boat, Halcyon, across the Gulf on a direct passage from Biloxi to Ft. Myers Florida. This is the Pacific Seacraft Orion 27 that I built a new bowsprit and anchor platform for, as I described in a previous post here:

That job took a lot longer than expected, and among other projects delayed Artie considerably in his plans to sail south and spend as much time in the Bahamas as possible before hurricane season rolls around again. He's still determined to get there, if only for a few weeks, so we're going to make this passage as direct as possible. I'll return to my many projects here when we get to Ft. Myers, and he will go on across the waterway to the east coast of Florida, and then over to the islands, if only briefly.

I'm looking forward to a few days out over the horizon. The ability to do a crossing like that is the main reason I started sailing after so many years of sea kayaking. Offshore voyages are the best reason to own a good, seaworthy sailboat, and Halcyon is certainly one of the best built and best equipped 27-footers I've ever been aboard.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Leaf River Cottonmouth

I was lucky enough to catch this guy out in the open, sunning on a sandbar just the the other day when Travis Easley and I canoed the Leaf River in Jones County. Most of the cottonmouths you see along the rivers are well-concealed in bushes or lying on branches or snags, making them difficult to photograph. This one let me walk up to within a few feet and take all the photos I wanted before leisurely turning around and slithering back into the river to disappear in the muddy water.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Land Between the Lakes

One area not far from Mississippi that I have long wanted to explore but never seemed to get around to is the Land Between the Lakes area in Tennessee and Kentucky. With several hundred miles of shoreline on two huge man-made lakes - Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley -and thousands of acres of public lands between them, this is an ideal outdoor destination for sea kayaking, hiking and camping.

I didn't go there with any intention of taking a major kayaking or backpacking trip. I simply wanted to go somewhere that I could camp, see woods and water without hurricane damage, and do some hiking and backroads driving for a few days. For this purpose, Land Between the Lakes was ideal. You pay a mere $5.00 fee for a backcountry permit, then you can camp almost anywhere within the boundaries between the two lakes. The weather was perfect while I was there. Warm, sunny days and nights down to about 30 degrees F. The first night I drove down a deserted gravel road to an isolated cove on Kentucky Lake. There wasn't a soul around. After I set up camp and began cooking dinner, a bald eagle flew low right over my campsite. Over the next couple of days I saw a few other campers and fishermen, but for the most part the area was not crowded at all this early in the season.

I ended the trip with a leisurely drive down some Tennessee backroads to the upper part of the Natchez Trace, which I followed south to Jackson.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Over the Edge of the World

I just finished reading one of the best non-fiction books I've come across in a long time: Over the Edge of the World, Magellan's Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe by Laurence Bergreen, William Morrow, 2003, ISBN 0-06-621173-5

This is a gripping, well-written account of of the first voyage around the world, narrating not only the incredible hardships of the voyage itself, but the almost insurmountable obstacles Magellan faced getting backing for the expedition before setting sail. This is a true story of shipwreck, mutiny, undiscovered lands, exotic cultures, cannibalism, death and eventual triumph by the 18 survivors of the 260 man crew that set out in five ships. I highly recommend it to anybody interested in the sea and sailing, history and adventure and discovery. Here's a link to more information on

Thursday, February 02, 2006

The Sun Herald's Review of Paddling the Pascagoula

Posted in the Biloxi Sun Herald on Sun, Jan. 15, 2006

Unfettered, a river flows... Canoe, kayak and characters


Paddling The Pascagoula; By Ernest Herndon and Scott B. Williams; University Press of Mississippi; ISBN 1-57806-714-6; $20

When I mentioned I was reviewing this book to a representative of the publisher, she commented that release of the book was untimely considering all that has happened on the Coast. I told her I disagreed completely.

As we all work to reclaim and protect what we had pre-Katrina, it is easy to overlook our natural resources. They, too, were altered, as was the Pascagoula River basin. Our man-made structures, roads, buildings, bridges and casinos, as important as they are, have almost exclusive claim to the spotlight.

In "Paddling The Pascagoula," Herndon and Williams traveled the entire length of the Pascagoula River in canoe and kayak. Herndon began on the Leaf tributary, Williams on the Chickasawhay, and they met where the tributaries join the Pascagoula River and floated together to the Gulf of Mexico. Each authored separate sections of the book.

Many characters were encountered along the way, occasionally the two-legged variety. Williams ran across a Cottonmouth snake 5- to 6-feet long and "as big around as a man's leg." Soon afterward, a huge alligator snapping turtle was spotted, a "loggerhead" to the locals, and then a wild turkey, "a bearded gobbler."

Herndon comes across an ancient fishweir on the Leaf River. A fishweir, illegal in Mississippi as of 1922, is "a V-shaped dam with an opening for a trap at the downstream apex of the V." The Fishtrap Bluff Fishweir is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Though both writers floated days without seeing another human, Herndon did face questioning over why he chose a particular sandbar for overnight camp from a man with "a gentleman-farmer look: straw derby hat, white hair, spectacles, pale blue shirt buttoned to the throat and tucked into pleated khaki pants, brown loafers... He launched into a string of polite but unrelenting questions."

This was Federal Judge Charles Pickering, owner of the sandbar and the land surrounding. Satisfied the overnight stay was legitimate, Pickering warmed into an explanation of "grabbing, hand grabbing, and noodling." He was not referring to the antics of plaintiff attorneys in his courtroom, but rather the trapping and retrieving of fish from hollow logs or holes in the bank. Pickering recounted how as a child he "retrieved a 48-pound catfish out of that hollow log." He is a principled federal judge, and we must believe him about the weight of the fish.

Herndon, a journalist, writes in a style close to his profession. He declaims early on, "If you see an adjective, kill it!" His description of flora and fauna are undoubtedly accurate, but at times I wanted to ask, "but how did all of this untouched beauty make you feel?"

Williams, on the other hand, is more conversational and anecdotal.
Neither writing style is more appropriate than the other. It is simply a matter of personal preference.

In their separate reports, a good-natured ribbing brings a few smiles to the tale of this journey, unusual for a travelogue in nature, but a pleasant addition to this narrative. Herndon on Williams' choice of a kayak: "why would anyone would bring an Eskimo hunting vessel to float a Deep South river, unless Southern customs aren't good enough for them maybe?" Williams on Herndon's use of a canoe: "Ernest, on the other hand, like some less-adaptable and long-extinct offshoot branch of early man, has shown no reason to change or evolve in his boating pursuits."

The Pascagoula River is the last major river in the continental United States essentially unaltered by humans. It belongs to us here in Mississippi. In December 2005, Governor Barbour recognized the need to protect our marine resources on the Coast, including the Pascagoula River, with the introduction of a $7.5 billion Mississippi Coast Environmental Restoration Initiative. "Paddling The Pascagoula" is a strong argument for the legislation and an enjoyable and enlightening read.

Scott Naugle is a free-lance writer living in Pass Christian. He is also owner of Pass Christian Books.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The Art of Knots

Although I'm a sailor and am consequently obsessed with boats and all things nautical, I've pretty much limited my knot tying efforts to those everyday useful easy ones like the bowline, the rolling hitch, the square knot, the stopper knot, etc. My girlfriend Michelle, however has taken to the art and craft of fancy knot tying and rope work with a passion. She's left me far behind in my meager knowledge of knots, and lately has enough 600-foot spools of manila on hand to rig a small schooner. Michelle got her inspiration from the late Captain Charles Strickland, who she met this past summer at Point Cadet Marina as he was in his last days battling cancer. Capt. Charley's dream was to pass on as much of his knowledge as possible before he was gone, and Michelle was an eager student during the brief visits they had while he could still teach.

Now she's making plaited rope door mats, bowls, trivets and monkey's fists keychains just to name a few. Here's some examples in the photos below:

This is a round Turk's Head mat that can be used in the galley or at home to put hot pots or dishes on.

This large door mat is called an "Ocean Plait" Made from 1/2-inch manila, it's durable and just gets better with the effects of age and weather. These are a great nautical touch for a sailor's front door, or for the dock or in the cockpit.

This cool knot is a Monkey's Fist. These small ones make great key chains that tell everyone you're a sailor. They are also usefull all over a boat where you need a handy pull, such as attached to zippers as my friend Artie has done on his sail covers. These small one's are made from 1/8-inch Dacron cord. They can be made most any size.

Email me for prices and shipping information at: if you are interested in any of these pieces of traditional nautical art, or if you have questions.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Replacing a Bowsprit

In my last post I described a simple kind of sailing I intend to pursue on a Wharram Tiki 21, a catamaran designed with low-tech, but appropriate technology based on the traditional "double canoes" of the Pacific Islands. All Wharram catamarans are designed to be simple to build and simple to repair, even on a remote beach where tools and materials are limited.

By contrast, most modern yachts are vastly more complex and utilize hundreds of specialized and expensive fittings. Working on them requires lots of tools, and almost all repairs on such vessels are costly and time-consuming.

The photo above shows the bowsprit and anchor platform on a Pacific Seacraft Orion 27 Cutter, one of the finest heavy-dispacement sailing craft of it's size in the world. I spent several hours yesterday with the owner, my good friend, Artie Vaughn, working together on the difficult task of removing this bowsprit, which was cracked when it came in contact with some pilings during Hurricane Katrina. Since I'm going to use the old one as a pattern to make the replacement, I needed to get it off in one piece. After removing the bow pulpit, teak anchor platform, forestay, bobstay, whisker stays and anchor rollers, we then found that the sprit was bedded to the deck with 5200 adhesive and bolted through massive mahogany samson posts with 1/2 inch threaded rod. There was no way those samson posts were coming out without tearing half the bow off the boat, so we had to cut the threaded rod and then alternately jump up and down on the end of the sprit and winch it upward with the staysail halyard to break it free. At last it came loose with only a small fracture on the bottom side.

Today I picked up the Douglass Fir 2 x 6s I ordered to build the new sprit, which will have to be laminated to the proper thickness, then tapered down and shaped to match the old one. Making it won't be near as hard as removing it and replacing it. While I'm at it I will make a new teak anchor platform to match the old one as well.

Artie and I are both addicted sailors who can never get enough of boats, but after days like yesterday we question why we bother. The amount of work is certainly disproportionate to the fun sometimes, especially for him with his massive and complicated vessel. But, in a week or two I'll deliver that new bowsprit to him and we will somehow get it reinstalled. Then there will soon come a Spring day when he'll be on a beam reach heading out into the Gulf and all the hard work will be forgotten. And hopefully, between working on everyone else's boat I'll find time as well to put my little catamaran back together and head out myself.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Tiki 21 Catamaran Project

I'm going back to a simpler kind of sailing for 2006 after loosing Intensity to hurricane Katrina. I've long been fascinated with James Wharram catamarans and built one of his smallest designs the Hitia 17 beachcruiser, back in 1997-98. (See a photo and description here) I had originally planned to build one of his Tiki 26 or Tiki 30 cruising catamarans, but instead bought my Grampian 26 (Intensity)and put most of my time and energy into refitting and cruising on it. The disadvantages of a deep-draft keel boat have long been apparent to me, and the lack of truly safe harbors on the Mississippi coast when a hurricane threatens is definitely one of those disadvantages.

Most multihulls are shallow draft, and Wharram catamarans are designed to really take advantage of this feature, with hull forms that require no underwater appendages such as centerboards or daggerboards to enable them to sail to weather. They can dry out on a falling tide and even the bigger ones can be sailed right up to the beach.

Although I have the building plans for the Tiki 26 and have long thought this was one of the most practical sizes for my needs, shortly after Katrina wrecked the Gulf coast I purchased a used Tiki 21 from a couple in Ocean Springs. The price was right and the catamaran came with a galvanized trailer. Trailerability was especially important to me with most of the marinas on the coast wiped out. I could bring the boat inland for a complete refit and take it back to the coast after some of the clean-up and rebuilding was done.

The Tiki 21 is an excellent beachcruiser style of boat. While too small to live aboard in the conventional manner, it does have a dry sea berth in each hull to make longer passages possible, and the expansive bridgedeck between the hulls makes a great platform to pitch a tent once the boat is anchored for the night. Although small, the Tiki 21 is a proven offshore passagemaker. It was designed as a coastal cruiser by James Wharram in the early 1980s and was never intended for long ocean passages. Despite this, a young man named Rory McDougall built one in Devon, England and left in 1991 bound for New Zealand. He eventually sailed on around the world, making the Tiki 21 the smallest catamaran in history to circumnavigate. He returned from the voyage enthusiastic about the boat, and continued to use it for shorter trips, with no desire to acquire a larger one. It takes a different sort of mentality to voyage that far on such a small, mostly open boat, but Rory's completion of the trip shows what is possible. As he said, his boat would be considered luxurious by the standards of the ancient Polynesian voyagers whose craft were Wharram's design inspiration.

Having traveled far in much smaller boats (namely canoes and sea kayaks), I'm familiar with the concept of simplicity and the advantages of carrying less and using less in the way of complex systems. The Hitia 17 that I built years ago was at the time my idea of a perfect small cruiser, but it's primary limitation was that there was no secure place anywhere on board to sleep while underway or to get out of the weather if caught out in bad conditions. It's also a bit limited in load carrying capacity for longer trips, where as the Tiki 21, with a capacity of 1,000 pounds, should have a good range for singlehanding, with room for everything one needs for this elemental form of cruising.

It seems to me that this boat, with its shallow draft of just 14 inches, stability and seaworthieness of it's deeply flared V-hulls with an overall beam of 12' and it's cruising speed of up to 10-12 knots in the right conditions, will be ideal for exploring the islands and estuaries of the Gulf coast. I can also envision cruising it among the far-flung mangrove cays of the Florida Keys and the Everglades, having a comfortable camping platform for overnight stops away from the mosquitoes and no-see-ums of the beach. A voyage across the Gulf Stream to cruise the Bahamas is certainly within its capacity for one willing to put up with a little discomfort, and such a trip is one of my goals for this boat.

Wharram catamarans are being built and sailed throughout the world, and many resources are avaiblable on the Internet for those interested in these boats. The best place to start is at the source itself: for information on all the designs available. As I complete the refit and modifications of my Tiki 21, I plan to post photos and commentary here for all who are interested.