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.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Upcoming Event - The North Idaho/Eastern Washington Movable Messabout

This is going to be an awesome messabout.  Join us if you can! 

North Idaho/Eastern Washington movable messabout
  10-17 September 2014

The 2014 Eastern Washington Moveable Messabout will be held Sept. 10 - 17 starting in Idaho and moving to eastern Washington. This is an 8-day event which includes several locations in Idaho and Washington which we visit in sequence to camp and sail/motor/paddle/row. The general plan is to offer a spread of places and types of “accommodations”. Each launch ramp will have a regular state or private campground handy for people who either don’t want to spend every night on the ground or who may be traveling with somebody who would rather stay behind. There are overnight beach camping spots at each location, with either “destination/turn around” spots or stops-of-opportunity for folks who choose to go less far by boat that particular day. More specific information is available at

"Think of it as a raid, with the option of sleeping in your camper. A messabout, with a changing set of scenery. A race, where everybody finishes a winner. A cruise, with no trailer shuttling. A wilderness adventure, with close access to the freeway. Like that.
Somehow, the interior Pacific Northwest has been kinda' passed on by when it comes to organized small boat events. The TSCA folks and Pocket Yachters, over on what they call the Wet Side do an extraordinary job of bringing messers, builders, and armchair types together for some spectacular events. But between places the likes of Lake Pepin, Eufaula, Havasu, and Matagorda, and Puget Sound, there seems to be only Andy Linn's tour d'force on the lower Columbia and what his fellow COOTS offer up in and about northern Oregon. That leaves just about a bazillion cool places to put paddle to puddle, or just about any other boat-propulsion method you might care to bring.
A chance to meet new people.  Experience new scenery, and new places to take your boat.  The plan is to start in some of the most rugged and pristine country the Idaho panhandle has to offer...
... move on to the canyonlands and semi-arid country of the upper Columbia watershed...
... and wind up in the prairie-lakes amid some of the most productive grain fields any where on earth.  Our last stop will also be at the edge of the dramatic scab lands formed by the multiple pre-historic Lake Missoula floods that also scooped out topsoil from as far upstream as Montana, and left it piled up where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean.
Think of it as just a sampler of what this part of the country has to offer small boat folks.
What I mean to tell you about is an idea for fun-on-the-water, with admittedly toned down heroics. Maybe, even balmy temps in the 70's or 80's. No crowds. Maybe, no people at all.
 I hope to see you in September, 2014."
-Dan Rogers

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Sucia Small Boat Rendezvous 2014 Day 2

Saturday morning, after sleeping in a bit late, I fired up the Kelly Kettle while Tim did some writing.  Our Kelly Kettle, by the way, was a big hit.  Just about everyone who saw it was impressed with the speed it could boil water.  Several said they were going to get one for themselves.
There was no reason to hurry because we weren't going anywhere.  This is what the perigee-syzygy  does to shallow Fossil Bay.
A -2.8 tide does provide an excellent opportunity to see parts of the island normally hidden from view.  Like Sucia's treacherous reefs for example.
"Boaters should use caution when in the waters around this park. The word "sucia" is Spanish, meaning foul or dirty in a nautical sense. It refers to the numerous rocks and reefs which surround the island. These rocks and reefs have grounded and sunk numerous boats since European explorers first named the island in the 1790s. Boaters should check their charts frequently and pay particular attention to Clements Reef on the north shore of Sucia, as well as the entrances to Ewing Cove, Fox Cove, and Shallow Bay. There is a long reef which extends to the west of Little Sucia Island. Reefs also extend outward from Ev Henry Point, North and South Finger islands, and the Cluster Islands".
A couple years earlier I discovered what remained of one unfortunate boater's yacht, claimed by the reef at the entrance to Fox Cove.  This morning's low tide would be a great opportunity to see if the shipwreck was still there.
As I was about to set out for some shipwreck and fossil exploration, James McMullen appeared, looking for someone interested in going for a hike.  I told him about my plans and he agreed to join me.

We found the rusted, barnacle encrusted remains of the engine block and the boat's windlass right where I remember seeing them years before.  They were straddled one on either side of the reef that obviously sank the boat.  We looked for evidence of exactly where the boat hit the reef but saw no obvious scratches or anything in the reef, but James found some other bits of metal nearby.

From there, we went on to explore the fossils on the southern cliffs of the point.  Every year they look a bit different as the cliffside slowly erodes away, replacing last year's fossils with newly exposed ones.  Fossilized clams are by far the most common.  We didn't see anything else this year, but James discovered an unusually large one.

Later that afternoon, when the tide came in, Tim and I finally had an opportunity to explore Little Sucia Island.  This is a completely undeveloped little island just outside of Fox Cove.  It is surrounded by reefs and swift currents.  There is only one small patch of beach suitable to land a boat. The little bay on the North side looks inviting, but it's a boulder field just below the surface. We anchored at the patch of beach and walked around the island.  The entire shoreline is covered with rocks and there are no trails, no campsites, and no indication that anyone has ever visited the island.  Quite nice, actually!
We returned to our campsite at Fossil Bay.  Tim went for another hike out to Ev Henry point.  As he came around a corner, he startled two bald eagles which took flight only a few feet from him. He said he could hear the wind whistling through their feathers and it scared the crap out of him!  Tim also came across a pile of white feathers, apparently the remains of a seagull eaten by something.  The park ranger we talked to later said it was probably a hawk.

Later that afternoon was Wine and Cheese night, a visit from my fishing buddy Ray, followed by an evening around the campfire with drinks and music.

Good times.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Sucia Small Boat Rendezvous 2014 Day 1

My son Tim and I just got back from one of our favorite annual events - the Sucia Small Boat Rendezvous at Sucia Island State Park.

Like the last two years, we launched at Sandy Point Shores marina

The entrance to Sandy Point always makes me a bit apprehensive. The narrow and shallow entrance goes through a blind S-curve, which then opens to a shallow area with a 270 degree exposure to the vast Straight of Georgia.  During an ebb, the tidal current rushes through this S-curve like a river.  At low tide, there is barely enough room for one boat at a time to fit through the entrance.  You have to approach slowly and peek around the corner to see if there are any oncoming boats, then zip through if the coast is clear.

High tide was 8.9ft at 3:18 am
Low tide was -2.4ft at 11:02 am

We launched at 10:00am.  The worst possible time.  Right near the end of a minus tide with a swift outgoing current due to an 11.3' tidal change.

We should be Ok, I figured.  After all, Navigator only draws 6" of water.  In the back of my mind, I wondered if that was still true when fully loaded with two people and a week's worth of camping gear.

As we approached the entrance, I idled the motor, double checked that the centerboard and rudder were fully up, and cautiously peered around the corner as I slowly crept toward the entrance.

The swift current immediately grabbed Ellie and swept us into the narrow channel. I instantly realized that the current was so strong that there would be no turning back. I'd be using the motor to try to stay in the middle of the narrow channel and not much else. I shot a quick glance for oncoming boats, fortunately there were none, thank goodness. The channel looked too narrow for two boats to pass and there was no room to maneuver.  We were going through, no two ways about it.  Along both shorelines we could see about a dozen spectators, waiting to watch the next fool to try and shoot the rapids.  Up ahead the water looked "funny".  Ripply.  What'd that mean?  Shallow?  Must be shallow.  How shallow?  I glanced over the side.  Gravel!  Crunch!

We were aground in the middle of the narrow channel with a swift current all around us.

Ok, now what?  Think.  Tide's going out. We gotta get out of here or we'll be stuck here for hours, or until the next boat comes along and hits us.  Should I get out and push her off?  Probably a real bad idea.  The strong current would most likely rip the boat from my hands.

I looked over the stern.  The prop was still above ground.  "Ok, Tim, we're gonna try and back our way out of this.  Hope it works".

I turned the motor around and gave it half throttle.  Nothing.  Gave it full throttle.  Our mighty 2hp outboard was giving it everything it had, but still nothing.  Still stuck.

"Tim, let's try shifting our weight around".  Ellie slowly started to move, then broke free!  We backed a safe distance away from the gravel bar and took a couple minutes to regain our composure and assess the situation.

Looking more closely at the water, we could see that it was shallow and ripply on the right, but on the left, closer to the opposite shore, it was clearly deeper.  But then it shot directly into a rocky breakwater.  "I think we can make it, Tim.  We'll have to hug the left shore, then quickly zip over to the right at the last second to clear the rocks, then we're home free".  Tim agreed, it looked doable.

So we checked again for oncoming boats, then cranked up the Honda to half throttle (full speed for Ellie) and rocketed through the channel.

Whew.  Made it!  Next time, we vowed, we'll pay closer attention to the tides.

After that ordeal, we were rewarded with many hours of  absolutely perfect sailing conditions.  We saw lots of dolphins.  One surfaced less than 20' from the boat.

We arrived at Sucia and set up camp.  This was our first opportunity to try out my new Anchor Buddy - a Father's Day gift from my daughter Heather.  Thanks, Heather!  It works great.
That's Cameron I'm talking to.  Cameron and his son take a month off every summer and stop by Sucia for the rendezvous.  They sail a beautiful Wayfarer.

Jamie Orr, organizer of the event, always brings along a set of bagpipes, which he uses to greet arrivals, wish them farewell, or summon the group to various get-togethers like wine and cheese night, campfire gatherings, and the around the island race.  Boaters all around the island applaud using their horns.  In this video clip is Bob Ennenberg (Scram Pram "Duck"), Jamie Orr (Chebacco "Wayward Lass"), Paul Miller (Benford Friendship sloop "Friendship") and Dan Rogers (Balboa 16' "Ladybug").  Dan is organizing an 8-day Movable Messabout in Eastern Washington and Idaho that I am looking forward to attending.
Here, Jamie is summoning the group to celebrate the 11th anniversary of this Rendezvous, with a fine bottle of single malt scotch.

There is so much more to write about, but it is getting late.  I will write some more soon.  In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this most beautiful sunset.

Monday, July 7, 2014

A Sleeping Platform for Navigator

Here is another project I've been working on lately.  It's a sleeping platform for my Navigator.  It's still a work in progress, so check back here later on for updates.  I hope to try it out for the first time this weekend at Sucia.

There is plenty of room in Navigator's cockpit to sleep one or two full sized adults, especially if you fill in the footwell area.  Without this filler, the seats are too narrow for comfortable sleeping, at least not for an adult my size.  But add this filler and one or two sleeping pads plus a boom tent, and you're all set for a blissful night at anchor.

This sleeping platform is strong enough to sit, lay or carefully walk on.  It fits flush with the seat tops.  There are no edges poking you in the back to interrupt your beauty rest.  Mine is built in two halves to accommodate one sleepy sailor or two, but you can build it as one piece if you prefer. When not in use, it stores away on the cockpit floor under your feet where it requires essentially no additional storage space.  All you need to build this platform is one sheet of plywood.  I used 1/4" ply but you can use 3/8" if you want yours to be extra tough.

Sailing solo?  Then just set up one side.  You'll have plenty of room not only for sleeping, but also to sit, get dressed and undressed, or anything else.

This platform is sturdy. The secret to its sturdiness are its supports, which use ingenious sliding-slot interlocking technology.  There are three supports per side.  When not in use, the supports slide apart for easy storage.  No glue, fasteners, hardware or tools are required.

When finished using the platform, disassemble the supports, lay them on the cockpit floor, and then lay the platform halves over them.  Or, if you'd rather not have them underfoot, store them elsewhere, like on your front thwart.

Building the platform is easy.  Start by cutting a piece of plywood oversized, lay it over your footwell and trace the outline of the footwell onto the plywood from below.  Cut out the pieces.
To build the supports, rip several strips of plywood 12" wide.  Because the footwell is deeper at the front than the back, the three supports need to be different lengths.  Stand the plywood strip in the footwell and trace the seat top onto it. Offset that line down by one plywood thickness and cut out the part.  Make three more copies of it.  The bottom of the supports will have square corners but the top edges will be at a slight angle, with the taller side facing forward. Cut slots in the center of the support, halfway down from the top on one piece and halfway up from the bottom on the other. Make the slots the same width as your plywood thickness.

Repeat the process for the middle and aft supports.  Sand and finish the platform as desired.  For quicker assembly, label where all the parts go with a sharpie.

Pleasant dreams!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Boarding Straps

I finally got around to adding Boarding Straps to Ellie.  This was long overdue, and I fully admit that sailing around without them for the past 3 years was a serious act of negligence on my part.

Especially considering how easy they were to make, and how well they appear to work.

I made my boarding straps from 1" nylon webbing.  The same stuff that cargo tie-down straps use.  I have a big bag full of tie-down straps, way more than I ever need, so I recycled two of them.

After doing some research, I found that 20" below the waterline is where they work best.  I formed the webbing into a big loop, ran the ends through two holes that I have in bulkheads 5 and 6, and tied the ends together.  That's all there was to it.

I like the bright yellow color of the webbing.  I think it will be easy to see under water and in an emergency.  I will simply bunch the webbing under the side deck.  In the event of a capsize, the webbing will spill out onto the seat tops and should be easy to find.

I added one on each side of the boat.  I tested them in my driveway and was very pleased with how they worked.  It was much easier to get on board the boat than I thought, after only one attempt.  Here's a video.  Try not to laugh.  This is serious business.

I will do an on-the-water test, but I already feel relieved.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Navigator Capsize and Recovery

I'd like to extend a big Thank You to Paul Rickett, for posting the following YouTube video of the capsize and recovery test of Peter Kovesi's cat-catch rigged Navigator Whimbrel.  The video clearly shows how high Navigator floats on her side, doesn't turn turtle (with floating masts), how easily she is to right, and how she can still be sailed, even when swamped.

And another big Congratulations to Paul for making the cover of Small Craft Advisor magazine  with this magnificent photo of his Navigator Matthew Flinders!  This issue features a great review of  Navigator.  I was honored to provide Ellie as the review boat.  Thanks to everyone who participated in the review.

Issue #87 May/Jun 2014 Features Welsford Navigator Review (Instant Download PDF)