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by Bob Throne - Willow Grove, Pennsylbania - USA

It had been a nasty, hot and humid summer and my back hurts.  I hadn't sailed since the Eastern Messabout and had only been on the water twice; two weeks ago grabbing an hour on the Delaware with Steve Bosquette in his re-purposed  “Jeff” - a 14' pram with outboard and hard-top canopy … and, late in June in it's original configuration as a “Ship-of-the-Line (aka The Pirate Ship) ..  and it did sail with that square rigged main.  (You will want to read that story ... it's morphiong again, this time into a pilot-house cruiser.)  But I digress.

On Thursday the second week of August we finally got a decent weather forecast for Saturday, August 13th … mid-80's, wind out of the South at 5 – 10 as a front approached.  'Let's go up to Nockamixon' (major sailing venue 40 mile north of Philadelphia).  'Hey – we should let Tom Mauer and Paul Moffitt know' (local sailing rogues).  I shot off an email, and (slow thinker here), on Friday I copied it and pasted it as a post on the Eastern Messabout site.  Tom emailed back “maybe”; Paul  - “busy working on the Michalak Piccup Pram”.  A couple others got the word from the Messabout group, I guess, but not in time.


Saturday morning my crumbling lumbar vertebrae & discs made it clear that I couldn't handle my Wanderer no matter how badly I wanted another test of the twin keels and sprit mainsail.  But I managed to get my 4hp Yamaha into the car, grabbed a second cup of coffee and some pain pills, and headed up to the lake, ready to take Steve up on his offer to have me aboard if I couldn't manage by myself.  I didn't know if Tom would make it, but the weather was good and it had been way too long.

Steve came along shortly after 10 and hung my 4hp Yamaha on the transom of his “Jeff”.

It doesn't look like the “Pirate Ship” anymore, does it ?  Wait till you see it “morphed “ yet again ...

As you will see, it goes right along with that 4hp, and it has “Goose”- like room ... The 'matching curves' on the hull, ala Bolger, seem to reduce or eliminate most wake and slap or pound.

We were just about to head out, and wha'd'ya know, Tom Maurer showed up with his PDR, “Water Dancer”!  Yea!  It's his first time build, ably assisted by his 11 year old son Vaughn.  Tom worked off of Shorty's plans, electing side air boxes and making any number of 'build to suit' modifications (above the waterline of course).  They got it done, poly-tarp sail and all, in time to launch at the Eastern Messabout the first week of June where they promptly had a great success.  Father and son sailed more than a mile across the mouth of the Elk River, up Cabin John Creek, explored the Southern shore some, and even tried a bit of fishing!   All of that I heard second hand, as there was so much going that weekend. (Much more appears in the article on on the Eastern Messabout.) It turns out Tom is a neighbor of mine, so I was especially eager to get a first-hand look at a PDR and his take on it.  And no sooner than he pulled in, but Jack Mizrahi pulled in too!  People do look at the Messabout site.  Jack has a Joe Dobler “utility skiff” he built six years ago.  I had seen this at Elk Neck, too, but not close up.  Here was my chance to give it a look.  Some “utility skiff” ... it's a beauty ... I couldn't wait to see it sail.

Tom Mauer's "Water Dancer" - Hull 537 ... Imagine over 500 registered PDR' ! Shorty Routh has given birth to, and nurtured, a super easy, super sailing, super fun design.
Jack Mizrahi had seen the post on the Eastern Messabout site. This is the Tohickon ramp on Lake Nockamixon ... More than 10 mile long, up to a mile wide.

WELL!  All of a sudden we had sort of a little fleet.  It didn't take long for Tom and Jack to rig and launch, and after a bit of discussion it was agreed to head across the lake (South), then East through the passage towards the Eastern basin where the dam is.  We would either beach or raft up for lunch at the point just as one reaches the East basin.  Winds were from the South, light and a bit flukey, but there was a lot of activity towards the West, where the local yacht club was racing off from the marina there.  There were also a good many kayaks on the water, not a few fishing boats, and some pleasure cruisers ranging from  'tin' skiffs to pontoon boats.  But fewer the way we headed.

Jack holds “Water Dancer” while Tom parks his car and trailer.  The weather was lovely in the morning.
Steve watches Jack's boat ... Just about ready to head out.  Nokamixon is an attractive big lake.
Both elected to row out a ways in the light air ... Some breeze could be seen on the water out futher.
Down the lake (West) there were several classes racing throughout the day.

Once Steve caught on to the personality of the Yamaha we were quickly out and beyond Jack and Tom.  We headed down the lake for while, with the Yamaha pushing us easily at 3 – 4 knots at 1/3 throttle, even with Steve at the helm and me sitting on the bench behind the front deck.   It seems like a better match for the boat than the 2hp Steve had had.  (That's probably going on my boat.)  After 20 minutes or so we headed back East towards the rendevous and to see how Jack and Tom were making out.

Jack's loose-footed sprit sail sets really well and was carrying him along nicely in the light air.
Tom rowed in the flukey light air until some breeze came up ... Qiute a few kayacks on the water too.

Steve and I headed up to that point at the entrance to the East basin to scout where we might have lunch.  It looked as good I had remembered, so we turned back and soon found Jack working his way through the 3/4 mile of sheltered passage.  We went back down into the main body and spotted Tom, who had finally caught some breeze and made it across to the South side, but now was rowing again, being in the lee of what wind there was.  It was getting past noon so he tossed us a line and we towed him towards Jack, now easing in towards that knob and it skinny shore.

Still at ½  throttle, it was an easy 10 minute tow.  You can see here how the lake narrows.
“Toot --- tooooot – toot, toot”  … Yep, a steam powered launch comes by, one of 7 or 8!

Steve and I first dropped anchor lying just 15 or 18 feet off shore, thinking we would raft up rather than land on the skinnny, landing.  But wait! 50' of line and it didn't seem like we were holding anything. Jack sailed in close and his fish finder showed 70'  ... We were not going to raft up. But as we closed, in the little landing didn't seem so rugged after all, so we beached all three boats for lunch.  There was a lovely clearing where one could lounge and stretch ones legs, and the tree roots along the shore made a good place to sit a while.  Lunches were broken out and conversation flowed readily.

An easy spot to beach after all, well shaded ... But why is Tom pulling his rig?
Talk about a well equiped PDR !  He and son Vaughn have had several picnics on that fore deck.
(L – R) Tom – Steve – Jack … Relaxed, well fed and talking boats.  It doesn't get much better!
Well, I guess a little 'entertainment' does add to the moment. Steve wants one (though not necessarily steam-powered).

We spent more than an hour swapping boat build and sailing stories and soaking in the fresh air and dappled sunlight, getting to know one another better. After “meeting” on Duckworks, this is the fifth year Steve and I have gone boating ... And I hope there will be five or ten more with Tom, Jack and some of the others we met at the Eastern Messabouts, TSCA Messabout, and elsewhere (including friends from the 'net).

Back in June Steve and I had gone up to the Wooden Boat Show at Mystic, Ct. where I finally met Chuck Leinweber, “Mr Duckworks”.  He was with Michael Storer and John Owens, building one of John's kits of Mik's Quick Canoe.  Steve had met Chuck previously at Kingston, Ontario messabouts.  When I started drawing I expected I would find the design and build experiences satisfying, if somewhat challenging.  And I knew I would enjoy the sailing.  But the friendships and community of small boat buiders and sailors has been a terrific deepening of the whole endeavor.  The “Duckworks community” and kindred spirits are good for my soul  ... And I gather I'm not alone in this thought.

Un-hurried, but still too soon, it came time to get along.  Steve and I shoved off and motored East, then North, up the mile long ¼ mile wide inlet to another ramp, set next to a lovely cedar picnic grove, with tables and fire grills.  There were more steam-boats, kayaks and pleasure craft as we went along.   And more still as we retraced our route down the inlet and acrross the East Basin, through the connecting passage, and on down the lake past the marina and race bouys - competition now completed.  As forecast, a bit of cloud cover was building in, and the breeze had steadied up a bit. There were a good many sailboats reaching SW and NE  ...  Compacs, Precisions, etc. ... some keel boats. But just one tan bark sail  - Jack, of course,  2/3 the way down the lake.

Lake Nockamixon is a PA State Park; this from Google Earth – you can see the Marina mid-way on the nw shore.

We sailed out of the Tohickon ramp; next marker north of there.  The dam is visable at the right of the East basin.

We cruised more or less in the center of the lake, but Nockamixon has it's share of bays and inlets to explore.  Officially a “no swiming” lake, one sometimes sees a boat at anchor with a ladder and folks cooling off in a bay, out of site from the marina.  There is a lot of fishing, but the 20 hp limit keeps things pretty relaxed.  The water appears pretty clear, although there can be heavy sea grass 10 –  25' off shore along some parts of the main body shore.  To the East, it's too steep and deep for that.

We came across a double sided, steam powered, paddle wheeler.  Home built boat and steam engine.
This was coming back down the inlet ..  more steamboats and various pleasure craft,
and a young girl (10 or 12?) sailing a little dingy very ably back and forth the ¼ mile.
Tom had rowed back to the main body, then sailed for another hour and a half. The breeze died as he returned to the ramp.  Notice that classy  emblem on his sail!

 Before heading back, we had circled Jack down the lake and said our “till next time”.  In his words:

          “Bob and Steve caught up with me in the “chase boat” to say goodby and shortly after I anchored for a cup of coffee and a break. Then it was time to head back to the ramp but by then there was no wind.  Time to use the "electric wind" for the return trip then; out of the water onto the trailer and pack the car right before the rain came. Lake Nockamixon is delightful.”

We saw Tom sailing in and got back to the ramp just as he landed at the ramp. Good timing on a great day.

With the sky getting more grey, we pulled the boats  ... Note the matching tow vehicles.
Steve notes that Tom has added a net from a pick-up bed to keep things from flying away under tow.

Jack was still out on the lake and would be driving in the opposite direction, but we “initiated” Tom to our Nockamixon tradition of an ice cream at the aptly named “Friends” hang-out a couple miles down the road. There, we recapped each others days and made a firm commitment to do it again at least once this Autumn.  It had been as much fun as I could imagine ... As good as a day can get without my own boat.  It was spontaneous, surprizing, serendipitous satisfaction for the soul.  A mini-messabout of sorts. We'll have to do it again.

P.S Skippers in or near the Delaware Valley can look at more pictures from 2011 and posts for the 2012 Eastern Messabout or other impromtu get-togethers: