Captain Kidd's Boatyard




Posted by [email protected] on May 18, 2015 at 11:45 PM Comments comments (0)

This report was posted originally on the TSBB forum on Dec. 4, 2012 about an excursion I had earlier that day on Little Bit, my SD11.

Well, like most boaters I have plenty of stories to tell - "The Adventures of Captain Kidd". Only thing is, my wife doesn't like the kind of stories I tell (through experience of course)

The day was perfect for an afternoon sail: winds 8-10 mph out of the south which is perfect for the lake I like, and temps in the upper 60's to lower 70's (how's that for December). So, I headed up to the lake.

When I arrived there was only one other car in the lot and it didn't have a trailer. I figured I'd be pretty lonely out there, not great if you get in trouble. I wasn't too worried.

Rigged the boat and off I went. As I was getting started good, I didn't like the way the lacing was on the sail, the luff was kinda bunched up. I figured I would loosen the lacing a bit and noticed it looked like it was caught a bit on the thumb cleat I use for the snotter. I have had a couple issues with this before and the cleat is a bit of a reach. I knew I was taking a chance, but I figured I have pretty good balance so I reached up to free the lacing. I couldn't quite reach it so I decided to stand up on the seat. Now in a small boat with only crew as ballast, this was a mistake in judgment. The bow went down, mast went over a bit and "in the drink" I went! And over the dinghy went - turtled! Always wondered what it would be like to capsize: well I was quickly finding out.

The water was a chilly 55 degrees (I got that info from my rescuers). Thankfully the air temp was good; otherwise, I could have been in some big trouble. There was no one around, so it was me and my wits. I did have an inflatable life vest on. It took two firm pulls to get it to inflate. I was a little surprised by the effort it took.

I swam to the side of the boat and leveraged it over with my weight and the daggerboard. When I tried to enter the boat from the stern, she went right over again. This time she was lying on her side so I just used my weight and rolled with her to the upright position.

She was obviously sitting low in the water. To my discredit, I had nothing to bail with. The boat was very unsteady. The two air chambers were keeping her rails just a few inches above the water. I must have been 300 yards or more from the dock so I started rowing. The sail was still up so I had some windage. I didn't want to move much or I would have been back in the water, so I just continued rowing, stern to I might add. The going was very slow. Gradually I felt the bow sinking behind me (I was facing the stern and rowing with pushing strokes). I looked back and the forward air chamber was leaking air very steadily. I guess I had failed to seal it up well. This made it impossible to row and even more unsteady. Over I went again, and I was still a long way from the ramp.

What do I do? Do I leave the boat and swim? Stay by the boat and wait for someone to come by? Well, I decided to swim and pull the boat. I held onto the inverted rudder with my left arm and swam with my stronger right arm. Again, the going was really slow. I was trying to be careful and gauge my body's reaction to the water. Everything seemed to be ok (lower case letters meaning so-so ok), but I was tiring. About that time I noticed two boats had arrived at the ramp. I was still maybe 200 yards from the ramp but I started waving and calling for help. The first boat in the water headed out to get me. It was a bass boat and when he arrived, I asked if he had a swim ladder or any way for me to get up. At that very moment a nice Searay showed up with two workers from the nearby marina. They had seen me go over and when I got the boat righted and was rowing, they figured I was alright. Eventually they realized I needed assistance and came. Oh, yea! A kayaker showed up about that time as well. Seems like in the end, there was plenty of help after all.

After an hour in the water, I boarded the Searay via a swim ladder and they towed the boat in. I pulled the trailer down and we got the boat loaded. I pulled her up to the lot and sat in the vehicle for about 30 minutes with the heat on full blast. I had no change of clothes. After I warmed up a bit, I secured the boat and headed home and straight to the shower.

Well, some good lessons learned and some things I need to figure out.

1) I can't stand on the seats, at least when I am alone and probably even with additional crew. 2) This means I need to figure a way to work with that rigging. 3) I need a bailer. 4) I need to seal up that leak.

I did lose the plug for the daggerboard trunk that I use when just rowing. I also lost my "Sail" cap. I also had put my phone, keys and a camera in a zip lock baggie. Guess what? the baggies are not perfectly water tight. I doused the phone and camera in rice when I got home. Will see if they come back to life.

Could wind up being somewhat of a costly mishap. At the very least I will have to buy another CO2 cartridge. Not too bad I guess considering I am here to tell my story.

Only 1 pic to show:

PS: Turns out neither my phone nor camera "came back to life". Along with the new CO2 cartridge, it was an expensive lesson. Oh, yeah. For Christmas I received two watertight boxes as presents! I use one faithfully on every trip I take on Little Bit.  

A Tent or a Tomb?

Posted by [email protected] on May 2, 2015 at 10:30 PM Comments comments (1)

I wasn’t sure what to title this entry: another overnighter on the dinghy, ride ‘em cowboy, two extremes, 3 seconds of terror or what? You see what I decided and I’ll get to it a little later. Suffice it to say that trouble can come most unexpectedly.

I had been looking for an opportunity to try out my new tent that Santa brought me for cruising on Little Bit. After a week of rain, there was a two-day window that looked like it might work; so I went for it. The forecast was for SW winds at 10-20 mph with about 20% chance of an afternoon shower with some possible lightning. We had been hit with some severe weather and were on the trailing edge of that weather. It was a bit risky; but I figured the worst that could happen was I’d capsize, lose the boat, and have to be rescued. Hey, why not?

I got to the ramp by the Chickamauga Lake dam a little after lunchtime. I figured I’d reef even though the wind would be at my back. I had never reefed Little Bit before but knew that reefing her sprit rig on the water would be extremely difficult in high winds, and I wanted to be as safe as possible: I’ve had too many incidents in my sailing experience and sure didn’t want to add to the list (knock on wood).

I normally launch my dinghy from the ramp versus from the pier. I push her off the trailer, pull the bow up onto the ramp and park my rig. When I return, I climb to the stern seat which lifts the bow and I can row away. The ramp faces due north. As soon as I got into the boat, the southerly wind gusted, grabbed the sail which was loosely furled around the mast, quickly turned the boat around 180 degrees and we were headed out into the lake. It happened so quickly I was taken by surprise. Never left the ramp like that!

Not that I needed to, but I decided to row out a little way just to be sure I had cleared a couple of buoys. When I went forward and untied the sail, the wind was so strong that it immediately wrapped the sail around the mast and the reefing lines all came loose. Oh, well. In that wind there was no way I was going to try to fix anything, so I just made do.

I headed northeast and sailed for a while with the bottom of the sail flapping. It actually wasn’t too bad: it just didn’t look too seamanlike, and the wrapped sail actually acted like a second reef (I’ve got to rationalize it somehow). After about an hour, I decided to duck into a small cove that provided shelter from the wind so that I could straighten out the sail and retie the reef.

With those little tasks completed, and after stretching my legs a bit, I headed back out. On the water it took my constant attention to keep Little Bit sailing. The winds were brisk to say the least. After the trip, I checked the Weather Underground almanac; it reported winds of 10-24 mph with 34 mph gusts. I was not comfortable trying to take pictures except for one. The wind slacked off a little as I was abeam of Harrison Bay State Park.

Here's the picture:

Next time I reef, I will tie off that loose clew to the first reef point. It's just too short to tuck.

I had picked out 3-4 possible anchorage sites, depending on how far I was able to sail, which would offer protection for the night. I made it 12 miles up the lake and settled on a cove on the north side of Bear Trace Golf Course. It was a welcome break after 3 plus hours of getting tossed about by a very lumpy lake which included two foot waves passing under me at times during the downwind sail. At no time did I ever feel that I was in trouble, but there was no turning back into that wind. I could have ducked for cover, but it was a test I wanted to take.

I wrapped up the sail and rowed around the cove looking for a good spot to anchor. I thought about going ashore and walking the golf course for a few minutes, but the shoreline was pretty thick. Eventually, I rowed up a little finger dodging some fallen trees and tied off the stern to one of them that lay across the end of the finger. To be sure, I inspected the tree thoroughly for any serpentine life forms before doing so. I then rowed back out a bit and dropped an anchor off the bow. The anchoring arrangement would keep me from swinging during the night. When all was said and done, I was only about 10’ from the shore in about 5’ of water.

Here are a few pics of the anchorage:

I settled in for the evening. After a supper of air temperature Chef Boyardee Pepperoni Pizza Ravioli and a dessert of Grandma’s oatmeal raisin cookies (they’re truly the best) washed down with some H2O, it was time to pitch the tent. Now, I had done it dry sailing; but I was a little concerned about doing it afloat in a dingy with a narrow beam rocking in the water. It actually went up pretty easily. I started by “building” my sleeping platform. Next – the tent itself. Since the 4 corners are not staked down, I was able to “accordion” the tent until I was ready to open it up and get into it. Once I threw everything into it that I would need for the night, I was able to sit inside the door of the tent and leave my feet outside straddling the center thwart which is where I sat until dark.

Here's a pic of my eats for the trip. Kept it simple:

And one of the tent set up but not fully opened up:

Here's one I took the next morning showing the platform set up:

Being a one person tent with a width of only 28”, it is tight inside; but it fits the inside dimensions of my dinghy. I took along a couple issues of a sailing magazine and read through one using a new headlamp I had received for Christmas while being serenaded by a chorus of chirps, chatter, and croaks by the local choir. Finally, it was time to retire for the evening. It was a bit tricky getting into my sleeping bag but I managed.

To get an idea of how narrow the tent is just notice that the sleeping bag is still doubled up to half its width.

The most notable part of the whole setup is the high center of gravity sleeping on an elevated platform. Any movements have to be done with that in mind. Along about 4:30 in the morning I needed to move around some and straighten out my sleeping bag. Somehow in the process (I was not fully conscious mind you at that time of morning) I got too far to one side of the platform and the boat heeled dramatically. It was like I had crossed an imaginary line (and by the laws of physics I had). Of course, the tent is nylon and slippery and when the boat heeled I slid sideways increasing the angle of heel. And now comes the 3 SECONDS OF TERROR! At that moment I became fully conscious. For just a split-second it was like I was in a car balanced and tottering on the edge of a cliff: one wrong move and over she goes. After a hard day’s sail in the most trying conditions I have ever sailed in and here I was about to drown in 5 feet of water only 10 feet from shore inside a tent that I thought for sure was going to become my watery tomb. I do not know how she stayed on her feet or how I managed to get back to the centerline without capsizing the dinghy, but I did and Little Bit came back to level. Talk about relief! It’s not spelled r-o-l-a-i-d-s. It’s spelled D-R-Y!!

The words of our good friend Howard Rice (I consider him a good friend to all small boat sailors) immediately came to my mind. To paraphrase, he said when sleeping on a small boat you need to be able to get out in a matter of seconds. You cannot afford to get trapped!

I do not know what would have happened had the boat capsized. Would I have been able to get out of the bag and out of the tent in time? Even in relatively shallow water would I have been able somehow to stand? Honestly, I do not know. I’m thankful I didn’t have to find out!

Needless to say, I didn’t sleep much after that and I was very careful to keep my weight on the centerline. When I got out of the tent at daylight, there was a little bit of water in the floor: not a lot but it seemed to be too much for just dew. I don’t think it rained. Every time I looked out the tent window I could see the stars. Did I come so close as to actually take in some water? Wow!

Enough drama. As I sat with my hind-end in the tent and feet outside on the floor of the boat contemplating the events of the night and planning for the day, in the faint dawn light I noticed something swimming in the water about 20 yards away. It was swimming away from me and at first thought I figured it must be an otter. About that time it made a 90 degree turn toward shore, reared its head and smacked the water with its tail. It was a beaver letting me know whose turf I was on! How neat and what a treat.

After eating my breakfast of a Little Debbie cinnamon roll, the sun popped up. It provided an absolutely beautiful, idyllic scene; one I was fortunate enough to capture with my Nikon Coolpix which had been safely stored in a waterproof box.


By 8:00 o’clock I had my gear put away (if you can call it put away), the reef shaken out, the anchor weighed and the shore-line untied. The forecast was for near calm conditions and some late morning light NW wind which would have me pinching, followed by a westerly breeze on the nose in the early afternoon. None of that sounded good for the trip back to the ramp – at least in sailing terms; but return I must, so I settled in for some rowing.

Here's the anchorage in the early morning light as I was leaving:

And in this one you can see one of the fairways of the golf course:

As the beautiful sunbathed morning unfolded, the forecast was just about right on, all except the NW wind which never really developed. I wound up rowing 11 of the 12 miles back, and the one mile that I sailed can hardly be called sailing: most of us call it ghosting. I’ve done little rowing in my time but at about 10’ per stroke I figure I got in somewhere around 6000 strokes (man, am I going to be sore tomorrow). One thing I did learn was the semi-dory tracks better with the rudder in the water.

Here are a couple pics taken on the return trip. A pretty neat tree with what I guess is its root system; Chester Frost Park on the western side of the lake and then a pic toward Harrison Bay showing a lot of pollen on water. You'll notice how flat the water is which of course means? no wind...

About a mile from the ramp that west wind kicked up. I took down the mast to cut resistance and made it back in without incident. It was good to stand up and move around after being in an 11’ boat for 20 hours.

What a trip! Another overnighter? Yes. Ride ‘em cowboy? Yes. Two extremes? Sailing hard and rowing in a calm, yes. Three seconds of terror? Yes and double yes! A tent or a tomb? Thank the Lord, NO!

In the meantime, I will say I need to rethink the sleeping setup. If I’m on Little Bit, I will never sleep inside a zipped-up sleeping bag again and will certainly never sleep without my PFD securely fastened on my person! Furthermore, I have already been thinking about building another boat which would serve my purposes better. Right now John Welsford’s Walkabout is the leading contender. She is designed specifically with an open floor plan to allow for sleeping and keeping the center of gravity low. She would also be a better rower than the dory.

This excursion has given me a much greater appreciation for those who do those long distance trips like the FL120, TX200, and Watertribe events. 24 miles in about as many hours only begins to describe what those sailors do. And the way my bottom felt after the trip, I can only begin to imagine how theirs must feel after several days of what I just experienced.

Sail on, mate!

First Overnighter on "Little Bit"

Posted by [email protected] on September 18, 2014 at 10:55 PM Comments comments (0)

(I'm posting this a little late. This trip was taken on July 28-29, 2014 and the report was posted on the TSBB forum.)

Well, I had two full days to sail and the forecast seemed about as perfect as it could be, so I decided to give her a shot. We had a busy Sat/Sun so I couldn't finish prep until Monday morning. I finally launched about 1 p.m. It turned out I was missing part of the snotter. I jury rigged it using a locking hitch pin for a block and an extra piece of line. Here is Little Bit (oh, yea - I did officially name her with some thanks to Noemi) about ready to go.

You can see I have just about everything I need - gatorade, water, plenty of padding, brand new blue tarp, waterproof box (you do remember my capasize - right?) compartments stuffed with stuff and most everything is tied in. I did say "just about". I need to add something to my checklist - add a checklist. I forgot my sleeping bag. I also left my night reading (a couple Sail Mags, one issue of Woodenboat) and glasses in the truck - dumb me.


I thought if the winds were just right I might could get in 20 miles though I had picked alternate goals. Leaving late almost ruled out the 20 right away. As it turned out the winds were a bit fluky and more northerly than anticipated. It took me about 3 hours to go 7 miles. At that time I figured making the 10 mile destination was about all I was going to make.


Well, at the 7 mile mark the river turns north and narrows. I battled a half mile stretch for an hour and a half. Couldn't get through. I'd get almost through, get to the other side, tack and lose ground. Repeat. I'd get a good wind and would be bashing through and before you know it, I'm in irons - wind shift. Last effort I almost made it but the winds and waves were the strongest of the day. I was almost through and to the other side but I could tell the last bit that I was making too much leeway to make it and bailed. I sailed back to a small island and took a break including a little dip (in the water that is).

There was a cove behind the island. There I spotted the Chickamauga Hilton. That's where I'd settle in for the evening. I figured it would take a while to set the boat up for the night since I had never done it. I was done by 9:00 and had a bit of light left. It is quite a chore keeping all that stuff orderly on a little boat. And one mistake I made was putting the mosquito net up before the bed-boards. They are still unfinished and the net grabbed those boards like it wasn't going to let go! I wound up taking the net down and redoing it. With no bag and a forecast of low 60's I put on the only long sleeve shirt I had, a pair of socks and grabbed the sail for a blanket. Did anyone ever tell you that dacron has a very low R rating?


I did get chilly - not cold - just chilly. At one point I started to shiver but that didn't last long. The boat was fairly stable and the Thermarest camping mattress worked pretty well. I was only bothered by one mosquito in the early morning, saw one mayfly, and a few other flying critters on the outside of the net. It's a good thing I had the tarp because the dew was heavy. Here's the view to the stern:

I tried to cover one open end with a orange poncho I had and the other with a large leaf bag I brought. I slept with my PFD on. You can also see the "blanket" laying off to the side there. Of course, removing the sail meant I would have to rig the boat while in the water the next morning. I managed but it wasn't perfect.


Here's the shot of the morning taken from the anchorage out to the river/lake. That's the island I stopped at. The boat was right under that single tree on the right.

The winds were light to start the morning, in fact, I rowed for a bit three or four times; but then it filled in pretty nicely. I sailed the 7 miles back in two and a half hours.  

Here's the takeaway. Cruising in a dinghy has its challenges. After just 14 miles I'm going to be sore in several places. I had a blow-up seat cushion that took just about all the discomfort out of sitting for hours on end. However, my back has a very sore spot on it from leaning against the rear seat and I even has a foam cushion I rested against the whole time. Sitting still wasn't all that comfortable. Any real long cruise would have to have something more relaxing. The push/pull tiller is indispensable. I had the regular tiller along just in case but I never thought about using it. The tarp, mosquito net arrangement was difficult. I wish I had some kind of tent to set up over the boat. Rain would make it even more difficult. Of course, there's sometimes the option of tent camping on shore.


Will I do it again? Maybe. But then I have the Hunter 18.5 that has a bed in it!!! What fools we are.

On the Rocks

Posted by [email protected] on November 19, 2013 at 10:00 AM Comments comments (0)

First blog post here. Welcome. Plans are to keep a running log of my sailing/boating/water escapades. 

Yesterday I took the dinghy out. Here's the writeup I posted on the Trailer Sailor Bulletin Board (

After two aborted attempts to sail the dinghy last week due to no wind, I gave it another try today. The wind forecast was better today, especially after the front that went through; however, it was almost too much wind. I do not have a lot of experience in the dinghy and the water is cold this time of year (don't ask me how I know:,dale,hunter,18,5,capsize).


The forecast was for 10-11 mph winds and just before I left they upped the forecast for 14-16 for a couple hours with temps in the mid 60's and sunny. Tomorrow's forecast is 10 degrees cooler and wind 6-7 mph. I decided to try today. If the winds were in the mid-teens I would make a decision when I got there. I thought with two reefs in I might just give it a try.


Well, I arrived at the ramp at about 2:30. Winds seemed to be around 6-8 mph, perfect. While I was rigging it kicked up a bit so I went ahead and put one reef in. About that time an older fellow meandered over and asked me about my boat. Turns out he is refurbishing a Catalina 22 and also owns a 1989 Macgregor 26. We talked for a few minutes and he left with his compatriots.


Wind was settling down so I shook out the reef and decided to go for it. Now remember, the episode in the above referenced post is still very fresh in my mind. I have only been out on the dinghy once since that ordeal and that was really a very brief outing; so my confidence level was running low. I sure didn't want to dump her again in the middle of the lake. My senses were on high alert.


The winds were out of the NW which made for a nice broad reach up the lake and a close reach back. I did two "laps" of about a mile out and back each time. The wind was a bit erratic varying from a few mph and jumping up to 8-10 from time to time. I sat in the middle of the boat with my muscles set to shift my weight and my hand quick on the sheet. The boat did fine; however, setting on the middle thwart puts a little too much weight forward and the bow was digging in some, especially on the broad reach.


On the last inbound leg, I felt I would be able to sail the dinghy up to the dock. As I was approaching the dock, say a quarter mile out, the winds began to get a little fluky and shifted a bit to the west. I was really having to pinch to hit that dock but I felt like I could make it happen.


Remember the forecast? 14-16 mph? Well, guess when the wind decided to pick up to 14-16 mph? You got it; and I'm not kidding (no pun intended) Final approach! I was about 50 yards from the dock when the wind slammed me. Now mind you - it's blowing onshore! I wasn't going to make the dock! It all happened so fast. It was too late to row. I didn't feel like I could make a tack without crashing into the dock; so I decided to gybe. I didn't make that either. The wind blew me right onto the rocks. Daggerboard and rudder hit bottom. Boat couldn't make leeway and over she went. It didn't really dump me. I just kind of stepped into knee-deep water.


Now what? Gotta get the boat to the dock and she's half full of water. I did bring a gallon pitcher with me (just in case - not that I really expected to need it) so I started bailing; but the wind (you remember that 14-16 mph wind) was still catching the sail and pushing the boat over. I went ahead and just took the whole mast down, bailed for a few minutes and rowed the boat over to the dock.


Once I got the boat onto the trailer, I changed clothes (yes, I also brought a change just in case), packed the boat up and came home.


All in all the outing was good. Just a bit of a hard landing.


Oh, and did I tell you that I had a water-proof box that I kept my phone and camera in - just in case? It worked. Sorry though, no pics taken. Too tense out there today.


Gotta go, there's the drier buzzer. Wet clothes are washed and dried for the next outing.