This blog is devoted to my John Welsford designed 15' Navigator yawl Ellie. I built her in my garage over a period of 18 months and launched her in 2011. She sports a sliding gunter main, roller furled jib and sprit-boomed mizzen. Her construction is glued-lapstrake over permanent bulkheads and stringers. This blog is a record of her construction and her voyages here in the Puget Sound area and (hopefully) a useful resource for fellow Navigator builders.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


My Son and I just got back from a 4-day adventure to Sucia Island.  We were a part of the annual Sucia Small Boat Rendezvous.

Sucia Island State Park is a 564-acre marine park with 77,700 feet of shoreline. Sucia Island is considered the crown jewel of Washington State's marine park system. It is consistently ranked as one of the top boating destinations in the world. Sucia Island and several smaller island comprise the "Sucia group."

We departed Bellingham marina around 8:00 am on Friday 7/8/2011.  Soon after launching it began to rain and the wind picked up so we donned our foul weather gear.
About an hour later the weather cleared and we were able to sail all the way to Sucia except for a couple brief periods of motor-sailing. The sailing was wonderful!  Here we are approaching Matia Island.
We arrived at Fossil Bay at around 2:30 in the afternoon, set anchor and waded ashore to greet those that had already arrived and await those who hadn't yet.  There is Ellie, of course, in the foreground. That's John Bigelow in the William Garden "Eel" behind her.  John and I talked a lot and got to be good friends. The gentleman in the inflatable kayak snapping photos of John is the Doryman Michael Bogoger.
Next to arrive was Rick and his wife Judy aboard the Welsford Houdini "Gertrude". Judy hand carved the carving on the bow.  The meaning of the carving (I hope I get this right) goes like this, from front to back:  First is Gertrude, always looking forward. In her flowing hair are three sections. The first, just behind her head has twists that represent the wind. In the next twist are waves that represent the sea. The last twist has an eye that represents how Gertrude is ever watchful to keep her crew safe.
About that time I noticed there were many rocks on the beach, while nearby Fox cove had a much sandier beach. I decided to motor Ellie around to Fox cove which I figured would be easier on Ellie when the tide went out.  I got half way out of Fossil Bay when my outboard managed to suck up a bunch of seaweed, overheated, and died.  I could not get the motor restarted so I sailed back to where I started from and re-anchored.  Here's Ellie at low tide. No damage was done to the hull by the rocks.

I spent a restless night worrying about my outboard.  Was it fried from overheating? Would I be able to get it running tomorrow or would I need to sail all the way back to Bellingham and dock under sail in a crowded marina?
Next morning finally arrived and I carefully picked all the seaweed out of the outboard motor's cooling intake with a bent piece of wire and after a bit more tinkering, it started!  What a relief!

Tim and I set about exploring the island. I won't even try to explain how beautiful Sucia is. I'll let these photos do the talking.

Every year the Sucia Small Boat Rendezvous attempts an around Sucia race. It's never been sucessful because the wind always dies. This year was no exception. We were able to sail about 1/4 way around but had to motor the rest of the way.  But we took advantage of the opportunity to poke into the various bays and do some exploring.

After the "race" there was time for more exploring before the evening's Wine and Cheese night. Tim and I took a hike out to Ev Henry point which is the South East point of Sucia.

That night, at Wine and Cheese Night, Jamie Orr played the bagpipes and everyone had a terrific time sharing finger foods and spirits. I drank too much and consequently didn't take any pictures. Sorry!

This is the view from our camp site. I woke up early Sunday morning and took an early morning hike out to the Southwest point of Fox Cove. I forgot to take the camera of course so naturally I didn't get photos of the six sea otters playing in the bay not 50 feet from me, occasionally stopping to grunt at me to go away. Nor did I get photos of the bald eagles or the blue herons feeding on fish for breakfast, or the rusted remains of an engine block and windlass lying on the dangerous rocky reef that extends halfway across the entrance to Fox cove at low tide.

Later Sunday the three of us (Tim, Myself and our pineapple named "Wilson") hiked out to Snoring Bay. Sadly, Wilson did not survive.  We buried his remains at sea.
Monday morning we said our farewells and headed for home, but stopped at Matia Island for a visit.  There were two empty spaces at the dock in Rolfe cove so we tied up and took a one mile hike through the wildlife preserve which makes up most of Matia.

 We ran into this fellow on the trail.  One of the biggest slugs we've ever seen!

 After leaving Matia we had a terrific sail back to Bellingham marina.
After arriving at Bellingham we went straight for ice cream and burgers!
Ellie performed magnificently.  We can't wait till next year to do it again!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Ellie's Second Voyage

Ellie, my Son and I had a spectacular sail today!  We sailed 17 miles, consistently sailed at over 6 mph upwind, and hit 8.5 mph on a reach!  We circumnavigated Hat Island.  A remarkable sail on a remarkable boat. This video is a bit long, but we hope you enjoy it!

Note:  The speeds noted in the video say Knots but they are really Miles Per Hour. I discovered afterwards that my GPS was set wrong. Oops!

(double-click twice for fullscreen)