Cricket: Toys For Good Ol’ Boys

by Paul Austin - Dallas, Texas - USA

My sister Nancy says the older a man gets, the smaller his toys become. I can attest to that, I’ve given up on owning a Boeing 747. It’s hard to fit in a garage, even with the garage windows open. So I’ve downsized to one foot. As it happens, there is a pond on my apartment property, about 75 yards wide, which is a flood-control stream for the Trinity River, here in Dallas. Where I live it’s 17 feet deep, with locks 300 yards apart. The geese think it’s the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. It has a slight current, a snappy turtle I’ve named Mopy Dick (since he’s always moping around) and shade on both banks.

Just right for an 11″ pond sailer from Seamanship Boats, of Frederick, MD. This light pine sailor goes together in a few minutes, without needing glue. I painted mine blue, with acrylic paint because all other paints are flammable. I was trying to paint a boat, not start a bonfire. The two sails have some flex, some roach in them in the wind, so this little Cricket is swift when the wind ripples the water.

I used string at first because I had some. You have to have some string in the water already, so Cricket doesn’t have to drag the string out; that slows it down and veers it off its’ course. As with any gaff sail, its’ best point is with the wind abeam, but the tiny jib enables it to sail around 45 degrees to the wind.

Pond sailing with a string is a lot like fishing in a current. You have to be patient, you have to have the boat and string ready for the wind when it comes and you have to have plenty of string laying in the water for the boat to stay on a course. But the key to any pond sailor is the keel, having plenty of keel and the right amount of ballast. With vertical freeboard models, when they turn they dig in, splashing water on the deck until they have fully turned to right themselves. I’m having fun. I don’t have to store and dry a full-sized boat, I don’t have to look for a dock, have a life-jacket, slop around with epoxy glue or spend $75 on plans. And another thing. With full-sized boats, you’re always wanting a bigger boat, a different boat, or one whose maintenance has to be explained to your friends. Some people just don’t understand how your fingers got glued together like Mr. Spock giving his hand greeting. Instead of that, Cricket just sits on the window ledge like one of my daughter’s childhood paintings.


  1. One clarification.

    Seaworthy Small Ships is in PRINCE Frederick, not Frederick. Two different places.

    Prince Frederick is on a strip of land SE of Washington DC between the Patuxent river and Cheasapeake Bay – boat country.

    Frederick is NW of D.C. up against the north end of the Blue Ridge. I used to live there and watch the POTUS fly over in Marine 1 on the way to Camp David. It does have Culler lake in the main park people use for model boat sailing…

    But not much for full size boats unless you count Carrol Creek for a canoe, and then only during the Spring runoff. And oh, half of it is in an underground tunnel with no trespassing signs.

    Wait…I take it back. There is no full sized boating in Frederick.

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