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Preview: Virtues of a Small Boat, Gunkholing in a Sea Pearl 21

November 12, 2014

Whether it’s 5,000 miles on the Great Eastern Loop or tucking into a quiet cove for the night – small boats like the Sea Pearl 21 have a lot to offer.

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– You know, a small sail on a boat allows you to get into small hidden-away nooks and crannies where you’re not necessarily going to see a lot of people. And they’re places that you would not necessarily see, if you had a bigger boat. A couple of months ago, I was down near Harpswell, Sebascodegan Island and I tucked into the basin, which is a beautiful area and I was able to go into a little cove and I dropped the anchor and I spent the night sleeping on my boat in the basin. And I was alone in this wonderful protected cove in Maine. And I had bald eagles on a pine tree just a few hundred yards away and there was ospreys and they were perched right behind me. And I was just in this beautiful spot, that anybody with a bigger boat may not have had the time or the ability to get into there depending on the draft. I became acquainted with the Sea Pearls at the Small Reach Regatta and they were high performing, you could sleep in them, they were always ahead of the pack, and along with the Iain Oughtred yawl designs, and the Sea Pearls, maybe a Coquina or two, there weren’t a lot of other boats that met those performance criteria that you could also sleep in. And this is my second season in Scout and she is everything I wanted her to be. So this is Sea Pearl Scout, it’s a Sea Pearl 21, designed by Ron Johnson who was inspired by the Herreshoff Carpenter design, which was a lifeboat. He made a lot of adjustments to it. They’re produced by Marine Concepts, they’re still in production today. This particular hull is a 1986 hull and this actual, individual hull right here was sailed by Shane St. Clare around the Great Eastern circle loop. So he left the Gulf Coast around Florida and the inner coast of New Jersey, went up the Hudson River, Eerie Canal, Great Lakes, down the Mississippi, back to Gulf Coast, Florida. It was called Voyage Through America, took him 5 or 6 months, 5000 miles, in this actual boat, right here. It’s cat-ketch rig, the rig right now is a Bermuda rig. It’s a loose-footed Bermuda sail with a boom. One of the great attributes to the rig here is that the sails furl around the mast. The sails stay stored on the masts for the most part. Here I am deploying the sail and it’s as easy as spinning it out, attaching the clew, and tightening the downhall, and attaching the boom. And then if the wind starts to pipe up, and you need to reef, it’s as easy as coming up, heaving two, setting the mizzen, sheeting it in, helmly, and then coming forward and spinning the mast, to rotate in the sail as much as you deem necessary. I have a reefing schedule, I take two wraps in the main, and then I’ll take two more wraps on the main, and two wraps in the mizzen, and then I’ll reef the main down from there. If there’s not a second spar to deal with, just one spar. Right now we don’t have any wind, we’re right here and it’s dead calm and if I wanted to go anywhere, I’d have to do it under oar power, on my own. The Sea Pearl with its rig, it doesn’t have any shrouds, or stays so it’s very easy to remove the rig. I just have to come forward and the mast comes out. Just like that and I’d lay it down, alongside the side of the boat. Sometimes I leave the mizzen up for a little bit of sail area depending on if there’s a little breeze or not. Right now, today, glassy calm, both masts will come down. And I’d lay them down along the side of the deck. And with that accomplished, I’d come down to center cockpit, this is the rowing fort, it’s removable, it’s solid, I usually leave it in place, unless when I’m actually camping and then it usually comes out. I built in a little bit of a foot spreader, my floorboards kick back and then I can just put my feet here; it’s very comfortable. I’ve got some beautiful Shaw and Tenney spruce oars. These are 9-foot oars, 9-foot oars come standard with the boat. I like to do more distance rowing if I can. Yesterday, coming down the Egg Reach, it was pretty calm. I had a little bit of wind and I was able to set the sails, full sail, we were a little bit on a broad reach, more of a close reach actually, and I somewhat trimmed the sails so the tiller stayed centered where I want it, I do have a tiller camera, but I never use it. And then I ended up sitting here with the sails set on both sides, producing a little bit of lift and then I would row to augment that. It’ll add just a little bit of extra speed, to my boat and we made our way down the reach, really nice and simple. If I found the boat heading off in one direction or the other, just an extra stroke on one side and keep her on track, I could usually kick the rudder, a little bit, that too. I keep my boat hook handy here too, sometimes I need to reach forward and knock the tiller over with a boat hook, keep her where I want her. The Sea Pearl rows, once she gets the momentum going, she rows very nicely, I’ve put five, six miles on her, about five miles maybe at the stretch. I do drop a little bit of leeboards for tracking. She has a flat bottom which makes it very nice to sit on a mudflat when the tide goes out. She doesn’t roll over, she sits flat, and then you can sleep and be very nice and comfortable on the mudflat. But because her draft is so shallow, and she has that flat bottom, I like to drop a couple inches of leeboards on either side. And that helps her track much, much, much better. Her narrow entry is very nice for keeping the smooth ride, but it can hook a little bit when you’re rowing and send you off in some direction you don’t really want to go. So, little bit of leeboards, add the oars, and away you go, you could sit here all day, and get blisters to your heart’s content. Leeboards deploy on the lee side of the boat when you’re sailing on a reach or upwind. They drop, the pressure keeps them pinned up against the boat. I have really enjoyed them, they’ve been hassle-free, they’ve opened up a center cockpit for sleeping. I haven’t had really any issues whatsoever. The boat tracks relatively well. And there’s no hidden parts or mechanics, everything is right available where I can see it. It’s a little exposed so I don’t want to head up against the dock with it, but at the same time there’s not going to be any internal mechanisms that are going to be difficult to access and repair if I need to do that. Other than that they just drop down, they will kick up if I get into shallow water, on their own. I’m a little bit more proactive, I try to keep that from happening, and I just pull up and they cleat off, just like that. Leeboard is up, nice and easy. And I barely need any leeboard at all for broad-reaching or even downwind, I keep them up pretty much all the time. Coming back, I have the mizzen, a sheet comes in the tiller along with the tiller extension. Which plugs right in place, it comes out quite long actually. I do a lot of sailing standing up. Here on the deck, I like to stand, I can’t sit forever so I’ll just hold the tiller right here and the sails are set, I’ll hold the main sheet, of course in my right hand, I try not to cleat it too much when I’m sailing alone. Very responsive boat, very easy, she’ll spin right on a dime. The aft cockpit here is self-baling. So the other day, coming across Penobscot Bay, I was a little over-canvassed, and I took a couple of good waves over the side. So all that water that was coming aboard was all draining out through the stern. I am not a 100% purist. I do have an outboard. I have a love hate relationship with it. I’m staring at it right now and we love each other, but we hate each other. I’ve never put myself in a position that I can’t get out of without my sails or my oars. I treat the outboard, not as a safety device, but solely as a convenience device. I’m faced with a channel with no wind and a two knot current here in Maine and I can go ahead and I’ll drop the outboard, and I can put on some miles and maybe make it to the wind, or make it around the corner to where I need to go. She is tender initially, she’ll go over, she has a lot of secondary stability and then she’ll stop. So here I am, hanging on the gunnel, and she’s really not going anywhere much further than this. Under full sail, I can get the water just underneath the gunnel, that’s about where I like to keep it, I don’t need to splash water inside if I can help it. This is the tent gear that comes with the boat. I believe this is original, 1986. It’s got a frame, it swings up nice and easy. It has a zip-in door, both screened and canvas in the stern here. Up forward it also has the same thing for airflow, makes a nice cooling tunnel with screens on both sides or with solid fabric to block out the rain if it’s doing that. And you can leave it mostly in position for sailing. Clickety-click, right on down the line. I usually don’t go to far forward because there’s no need. And then it just all folds up nice right here. If it starts getting really blowing or taking spray over the sides, all I have to do is pop it out and she’ll fit inside the cockpit area, right in there, and I can put the tonneau cover up and we can keep the water out of the center cockpit. I usually go ahead and put the rowing fort in, with a cushion here and that’ll support the tonneau cover which I have and then I’ll also have a step, if I need to run forward to furl the sail. In the summertime, I also like to set up a line in between the two masts and I just have a poly-tarp that I’ll put up. Just as a little bit of a rain break, and I don’t even deal with this and I’ll have a little bit more space as well. And if it’s really nice after a cold front, I don’t put anything up and I just sleep on my floorboards here, under the open sky, I watch the Milky Way spin overhead. And it’s a beautiful feeling. I’ve got about a 12 pound Bruce that I use, it came with the boat it’s a Brazilian Bruce, it’s really hefty, it works really well. I’ve had a lot of success with it in terms of its holding power. That’s my primary anchor, is the Bruce. I keep the Bruce up here on the pad. I keep an 150, maybe 200 feet anchor line up forward. It’s all looped in a crate down there and it just winds right out over the top, as much as I need. Anything I want to keep really dry, my dry suit, my wetsuit, my sleeping pad for instance, I tuck way out forwards, protect it from spray. So a little bit of storage up front, I also put a little bit of extra weight up there, to offset my weight back in the stern. A lot of storage, the Bean tote bags are good for toting water, so I thought, if they’re good at keeping water in, they’re probably good at keeping water out. I live near an L.L. Bean outlet store, so I picked these up on the cheap. You know Betty Jean’s loss is my gain, Sorry Betty Jean. I’ve got my tent in here for camping ashore, my sleeping bag’s here, back here this is my dry bag. This is my hypothermia kit. So I’ve got some underfloor storing here, these pop out. I just built these this spring, so I haven’t treated the wood; don’t judge me too harshly. This is my wife’s lawn chair, it’s very important that my wife is comfortable when we go sailing, and I set her lawn chair up right here, in the center cockpit and she can sit, read a book, drink a glass of wine, and enjoy the sailing while I play pirate back there and we go out exploring. The lawn chair fits perfectly under the floorboards. I usually keep my spare water under here too. It provides a little bit of ballast and a water pump as well. Another storage underneath here, I keep some food in here, in a waterproof box. Very easy, all drops right back into place. The previous owner built this nifty little plywood box. Foul weather gear, I have hardware back here, miscellaneous items up here, matches in my waterproof box, bait bags which are great for cooling bottles of beverages cooling overboard, spare line, so on and so forth, some basic everyday items, I need to get that are. Icelandic sagas, very important to get your viking on. That ties in with the pirate. And it’s a little bit of a mess because I am not, in ship-shape and Bristol fashion. I’d like to be, but that doesn’t mean that I am. On the starboard side here, I’ve got two other small tote bags. This is my tool kit. I have a bunch of tools, and I keep them wrapped in old oiled t-shirts, spare parts, zip ties, duct tape, so on and so forth. Back here, that’s some every day supplies. This is my galley box, here I carry most of my food. It’s got the watertight lid, I can keep everything in here. Fruit, apples and peaches. It’s my little galley for the time being. You know, it’s about getting outside and leaving your worries on shore and getting on a boat and having a good time. And going sailing, and that’s what’s so great about camp cruising is that you can take your friends, you can take your family, you’ve got a good boat, you put them in, and you just go have fun. Focus on having fun; it doesn’t have to be perfect. The boat can be stranded on the rocks at a 45 degree angle. It’s happened to me once, it’ll happen to me again, and what can you do but laugh and make a cup of coffee and wait for the tide to come back? When I’m done with my trip, Scout and I are going home, and she’s going to go in my back yard, and I’ll be able to tinker on her all winter long, at my heart’s content. Small boats.



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