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By Paul Moffitt - Phillidelphia, Pennsylvania - USA

Three Boats, Four Trips, One Summer

This summer I got the chance to sail 3 different boats and explore some of the waters closer to me in the Mid-Atlantic.  I had been building a Piccup all summer but still had two other boats to play around with.  My wife is not so sure why I needed a third boat.  I am sure plenty of you are thinking, “boy, my wife would love me if I only had three boats.”  All three now serve a different function for me.


The first boat I took out this summer was the Slam Dink.  There is rumor that there was another one built somewhere, but all I know about is this one.  It has a traditional double sprit rig.  Both a sprit boom and sprit yard which are tied off close together making it easy to adjust the tension.  My brother, Sean, (along with Lauren, his cousin) built this boat when he was a kid.  It was his first boat build.  I took charge of it since I have more room and both my father and he have moved on to other boats.  I find this the perfect boat to take young kids out in.  It doesn’t have flotation but it is made of wood and will float.  In shallow water you can have a kid get out there and really learn how his weight works with the boat.  I went to a Memorial Day party and there where about 12 little boys there.  For some reason all my friends had boys, and it seems that my daughter is one of the few girls.  She will be very popular at future Memorial Day parties.

Here I am taking out Simon who doesn’t like rules.  However you can make out Josh’s head as he tries to sneak about the hawse hole for yet another ride.

All the boys wanted a sail.  We were at the top of the Chesapeake Bay.  Several of the boys took an instant shine to the whole thing and had multiple rides.  Some of the boys did NOT like the rules.  “No Standing?!?!”  “I have to do whatever you say?!?!”  Once we were out on the water I tried to get them to steer and understand what is happening but it is hard when you are 4 years old.  Only one of the boys that young really got it.  A couple did not like feeling unstable and seeing their parents on the distant shore.  But I had fun.  And this boat was the perfect thing for an event like this.  Now that the PD racers have taken over the world I doubt that there will be another one of these built, but may I point out that if you are going to build a PD Racer you may want to look into the traditional sprit rig of the Slam Dink.

The second outing of the summer was to the Eastern Messabout at Elk Neck State park.  It is a little farther south in the Chesapeake than the first trip.  For this I brought my love, the one and only, Serendipity, a Catamaran designed by Jeff Gilbert with the name of Roonio.   Check out the write up.  My Father, Bill Moffitt, came up to Philly from Atlanta and we got the boats ready to head to the messabout.

Here you can see the Slam Dink and Serendipity hardly stick out the back of the truck.

We launched around 8am and sailed over to the back end of our camping spot . As we pulled up the rock embankment at the bottom of the camping sites I came upon a this snake eating a fish.  I mean wow, that is a first.  And these guys were big.

Snake fish anyone?  I always like to include a nature picture in my articles but I don’t know if I will ever be able to top this one.
The Messabout was fun and there where a lot of boats and PDR’s there.  Here you can see slam dink fully loaded with a friend, his daughter, and their dog.

The night before this last picture was taken I left the sail of Slam Dink on the shore and someone came along and decided to walk all over it!  It was strange and they left several holes in it.  Some purple duct tape helped me patch it up.  It is a shame.  I have enough Polytarp left over from building the Piccup’s sails to make a new sail, but it is a pain.  This double sprit sail was falling apart after 12 years.  It has worn thin in several places but for the money, polytarp is hard to beat.

Here Bill and I are sailing Serendipity.  Notice how on a bi-plane rig sailing on a reach we are spilling the windward sail’s wind into the lee ward sail making the effective sail area greater than if we were to just sheet the windward sail in tight.
And here is my fearless water dog, Petunia, in her life vest she got for Christmas.  Sailing this boat is a little like sitting on a front porch.

Sailing this Catamaran is very fun and comfortable.  I need this boat and like to sail it anytime there is wind to be had and a partner.  It isn’t possible to set this boat up without a second hand.  I like taking this boat to the OBX for its comfort and its ability to sail in less then a foot of water to windward.  That is a big advantage in the OBX.

D’Arcy Bryn, my one year old daughter, came and checked out our campsite.  She didn’t think much of it.  Bill is currently building the boat he had named after her.

Bill and I had fun camping and sailing.  The winds were high and we even had to reef once.  I have learned that as soon as the forward hulls start to submarine it is time to take sail in.  The sails on Serendipity are larger than the ones shown on the drawings.  This makes for good time in light airs but also means she can be over powered in 15 mph of wind. 

A few months later I took another trip. It was farther down the Chesapeake than the previous two.  I rented a nice little house with its own little beach and sailed for 3 days.  This vacation started the day after Hurricane Irene hit.  The power was out but I would be damned if I was going to let that keep me home.   There was driftwood and trees down everywhere but I was looking forward to getting into some nice wind left behind from the hurricane. 

I went with Pete who is more interested in fishing then sailing.  When we first got on the boat I said, “Ok, so I need you learn a couple of things so you know what I am talking about when I need a hand,” and he said, “What?  I don’t think so.  Just point and tell me to pull on a rope.”  This invariably led to him reaching for the halyard when I wanted him to sheet it a little more.  I was really sailing by myself except I had an extra 180 lbs of ballast.  I sailed back and forth across the bay and we caught a lot of Striped Sea Bass.  It was fun to use Serendipity in this way.  One day Pete went off to go golfing near by and I was left without a sailing buddy.

In the morning I had some birds inspecting Serendipity.  This is a beautiful part of the Chesapeake in Perryville, MD.

I have been thinking about sailing Serendipity by myself for a long time.  By now I have a lot of experience on her.  I had always shied away from sailing this boat by myself.  When sailing with two people it is always necessary to keep a hand on the tiller and there are two sheets to worry about.  But this was the time.  I launched and instantly realized that with one person the whole boat is a different beast.  You can perfectly balance your weight so that you don’t have to touch the tiller.  It sails itself, leaving plenty of time to adjust sheets and get comfortable.  It self steered as close to the wind as it ever has but didn’t go to far upwind so that it slowed down, nor too far down wind.  Perfect balance.  Wow.  It was a total revelation.   I came down from on high with new stone tablets.  At one time I sailed for 5 minutes with out touching the tiller.  I simply steered by moving my weight or changing the sheets on the bi-plane rig.

Sailing Solo for the first time. You might be able to tell that I am not steering in this picture.   Serendipity on cruise control as I lounge.

For next years OBX 130 I will be solo sailing this boat.   I like company and anyone who knows me will tell you I am a social butterfly, but Serendipity was too much fun sailing solo not to try it.  She easily holds supplies for two people for a week, so me going solo means she should really fly.   It will be “interesting” to be in really high winds with her solo but if I stay vigilant and reef early all should be good. 

During the two times I took Serendipity out this summer I remembered that she flies in the light winds without the extra 100 lbs of gear and two people. At Elk Neck she got up to 7 MPH in 15mph winds.  In 5mph wind she easily did 2.5 or 3 mph.  In no wind two of us paddled at a steady 2mph with little effort.  I came away with only two things I wanted to do this winter for next summer’s travels.  One is make new sails out of Dacron with a little belly in them in the hopes of being able to make 5 degrees more to windward.  The Second is build a better motor mount for my 1958 3HP OMC Montgomery-Ward Sea King.  (thanks Max for the wonderful book.)  I need to make a mount that holds the engine in the right alignment so it doesn’t stall out.  At low speed it cruises Serendipity at 4 mph.

My next summer outing was in my new boat that I just finished building.  It is a Jim Michalak designed Piccup Pram.  You can check out detailed build pictures with captions here.  So this is the boat my wife was questioning.   Why do I need a third boat?  Isn’t it obvious?  We just had our first kid.  The Piccup, christened Serenity NOW, is more stable and larger than the Slam Dink and will allow for camping equipment.  Serenity NOW also is smaller and easier to move around for one person than Serendipity is.  In short it is the best boat to take a kid out in for a camping trip.  I have made a lot of modifications to the original design to also allow me to take it on the OBX or events like it.  With my short bed truck it is nice to have a boat that I can drive across country with no trailer.

Here is Serenity NOW after being rigged and put together for the first time. 

Here are the things I did to make the boat ready for an expedition:

  1. Grip Wales
  2. Water Proof hatches with a double lip
  3. Rain/splash guards on the decks fore and aft
  4. Mizzen sail for reefing, anchoring, and a little speed on a downwind run.
  5. Larger sail with an extra set of reef points
  6. Larger Leeboard for the added sail area
  7. Bottom totally glassed
  8. Topping lift, which acts as a spare halyard.  It will also help me set up a Boom Tent and help me row without striking the sail.
  9. Fishing rod holder.

So all around I am really happy with the way she performed on her first time out.  I had already sailed my brother Sean’s Piccup Squared so I knew it would be fast.  But it is really fast.  What a joy to sail.  There is more boat in that 11’ then in most 20’ boats.  I cannot wait to sail my multi-chine piccup against his piccup squared.  We have the same yawl rig so it will come down to weather and water conditions. 

I have learned the longer you sail a boat the more you learn about it.  I want to try out Serenity NOW as much as possible before winter hits and be ready to throw her in the back of the truck the second it gets warm enough in the spring.

Here is my first sail at Lake Nockamixon.

This summer I learned a lot about sailing and my boats.  It has also cemented in me the need for picking the right boat for the right trip.  I look forward to next summer’s adventures.  I plan on taking both Serenity and Serendipity to the OBX next year.  I have a few people who have expressed interest in going and I am willing to let someone borrow Serenity NOW for the trip.  This will also let me race my brother while down in the OBX.  Bill should have the prototype D’Arcy Bryn making a splash at the OBX 2012.  I also am looking forward to taking Serenity NOW out with my daughter and wife on a sailing trip or two.  I have a list of things I want to do to all three boats for next summer.  Life is good.

See you on the water…