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.

Monday, April 16, 2012

A very interesting sail

Saturday was our second sail of the year, and it was, shall we say, very interesting.

The forecast was 5-10 mph winds with temperatures in the low 50's (12c).  Since the winds were forecast to be light, I decided to take Nina, our cocker spaniel, along.  Nina loves to sail, although it's been  a few years since her last one. Turns out she's lost her sea legs, but more on that later.

We arrived at the Port of Everett ramp around noon.  The winds were light, just as forecasted, and the sun was warm in the gentle breeze. I parked a short distance away from a family that was rigging a Macgregor 26.  Maybe it's just me, but I still have trouble embracing the concept of having a 60 HP outboard on a sailboat, towing a water skier. To each his own.  The owner gave me a thumbs up and a "Nice boat" on his way to the ramp, and I returned the compliment.

We launched Ellie about 45 minutes later, but struck up a long conversation with a very friendly fellow boatbuilder at the dock. He was genuinely impressed with Ellie and had quite a few questions.  There could be another Navigator plying the waters of Puget Sound someday soon.

By the time we finally departed I noticed that the wind had picked up.  A lot, in fact.  Flags were blowing horizontal so it had to be up to 10-15.

We raised all sail and headed south, inside the jetty, towards the sound with Nina on her leash in one hand and the tiller in the other.  Nina was excited to be at sea again.  She's very curious so she had to explore every square inch of the boat.  A couple times she would put her paws on the side decks and I told her to get down.  The third time she did, the boat hit a wave, Nina lost her balance, and overboard she went!

Steve, over at Arwen's Meanderings, has recently written several very interesting blogs about safety gear.  One of the many items he has written about are life lines. Fortunately for Nina, she essentially had a life line and I was able to use it to reel her back on board. It all happened so fast.  I don't think she was in the water more than 10 seconds, but it was frightening to see her being towed through the water at 6 knots until I could grab her.  It would have been more frightening had she not had a lifeline. Would I have been able to drop sail, fire up the outboard, and been able to find her?  How do lifelines work?  If I had one, would I clip myself up near the bow, so I'd function like a sea anchor, or near the stern where I'd probably get towed along like a giant crankbait?

Nina was fine.  She was cold and wet, but didn't appear to have inhaled any water. She shivered for a little while but dried out pretty quickly.

By the time we finally got out to Possession sound the wind had really picked up. Whitecaps everywhere and the water was like the inside of a washing machine.  This was not in the forecast!  I stopped and put in a double reef in the main.  We sailed around for a little while.  Ellie handled the conditions just fine, but it was too rough to get any videos, I was getting uncomfortable and I was worried about Nina falling in again so we headed back to safety inside jetty island.  Conditions there were great.  Calm water and loads of wind, so we had a blast sailing back and forth for a couple of hours.

A sailboat race had just finished and the boats were all returning to the Everett marina.  Several of them sailed up to us to give us compliments.  "Nice boat!" and "What kind of boat is that?".  One of the crew members was a fellow I work with, and another fellow invited me to join the dinghy races that they have on Fridays that I didn't know about.

The wind seemed to be calming down so we headed back toward Possession sound again, but kept the double reef in to be safe.  Conditions had improved enough so that I could get out the cameras.  I attached one to the mizzen mast and filmed a bit with the other.  Nina was completely warm and dry by now so we headed out towards Gedney island.

The wind dropped a bit more, and the sky cleared up so we shook out the reefs and sailed on.

By the time we got about halfway to Gedney, the wind completely died!  The GPS said we were moving 0.0 knots, occasionally 1.5 knots, with all sails up.

We waited for a while, but still no wind so we dropped all sail, fired up the outboard, and headed back.

It was a very interesting day, indeed.


  1. I love Nina - she's lovely. amazing how wind can vary so quickly; some chop and swell in that second clip!
    I love your boat - it always seems so uncluttered compared to arwen - where do you store anchor etc?

    Life lines - interesting - what's your view on them?
    Good report Joel. them were strong winds. Arwen and I avoid them!


    1. Hi Steve, my two 8lb danforth anchors, rode and chain fits in the anchor well. I don't like climbing over or around stuff for fear of tripping and falling overboard so I only take along what I absolutely need and keep things stored away as much as possible. Foul weather gear and extra lifejackets and any other clothing in the drylocker. Tools, spare parts, first aid, and toilet supplies under the front seat. Fenders under the side decks. Flares and hand bilge pump under port deck at front seat. Multi-purpose bucket under port thwart (serves as bailer, toilet, fire extinguisher, rope storage, etc). Dry bag in cockpit has my air horn, gps, cameras, hat, sunscreen, charts. Life jacket with handheld vhf, whistle and flares worn. Lunch bag with food and water on front seat. That covers daysails. If camping, all additional camping gear goes in the drylocker.

  2. Nice story and pictures Joel. Our dog Angus, a cairn terrier, enjoys sailing too, so much so that he refuses to be left ashore. Somehow, his instinct seems to be to stay aboard despite his obvious interest in the moving water, or anything that moves for that matter!

    Someone once told us that a dog will not stay with the boat in the event of a capsize or other mishap. Their instinct is to make for land. When on the local Lake, Angus is unfettered in the boat, but if we're going further afield or if the weather is rough, we fit him with a fluro-coloured (colored) life jacket. You would think he would hate this, but he doesn't seem to mind at all!

    Yours looks like a lovely part of the world. You have gorgeous sailing grounds there, and a beautiful boat.

    Dave Johnstone

    1. Hi Dave,
      Thanks. I really enjoy your videos. My wife and I have watched them several times. One of my favorite photos in my photo collection is one of you and Angus in your Navigator. You are looking left and Angus is looking right. It looks like you both want to go to your favorite destination but can't decide which one. I often wonder who won. It makes me smile.

  3. Hello Joel

    Great boat, website, and dog story. For the dog's painter may I suggest a life jacket that has a D ring and a lead hitched to the centerboard trunk? This can be dangerous in a capsize, but finding the dog in the water could be more challenging.

    It would be a great idea to learn and practice man-overboard-drills. Toss a cushion overboard, then execute the maneuver that brings you alongside from any point of sail... just like picking up a mooring. I've done this with all my boats, last on a 65 footer. Highly recommended.

    Also crew training on picking up the dog or gaff or whatever. To practice who is counter-ballast and who goes to the rail.

    Having a crew is very helpful because, and here is a tip, you never take your eyes off of the object. You can practice this with flotsam.

    And finally, some GPSs have the MOB function that will mark the spot and guide you back to it. The issue is that with windage and currents, you might be off a quarter mile by the time you get back.

    All that to say that MOB drills are basic seamanship. Perhaps in your gathering you'all could have an event, a contest perhaps, to compete in recovery times.

    Thanks for the great website and fabulous fotos.