Ten Foot Dinghy from Kindness

~~~Between a sailing canoe and a twelve foot dinghy

Originally published in SCA, November 2012

Sailing dinghy Valencia Dinghies and sailing canoes---I love them. But I didn't have a functioning dinghy for Cedar Key. I have a derelict eight footer and a gorgeous twelve foot bare hull. The house, though---its "certificate of occupancy"---comes first.

Consider three categories of cartoppable dinghies: A) six foot, seven, and narrow eights; B) ten footers; and, C) twelves. The smallest are for singlehanding, but sailing canoe Bufflehead is my solo ride. The ten foot dinghies can solo, can fit two well, and can take three. So, tens are great for teaching sailing, or just giving a ride.

In Michigan last summer (2012), ex-neighbor Allan Zielke introduced me to John Williams. Decades ago John and his brother Dean had sailed in their dad's Norwegian 'Peanut class' pram, "nine and a half or ten feet long." The round-bilged pram was in Miami with Dean and might need work and gear. They offered it, and in October, Colorado friend J-J and I trailered it to Cedar Key.

Sailing dinghy Valencia When I unpacked her everything was there, including blue lugsail #2711. The builder's plate is stamped, "K B 801." Now her name is a variety of New Mexico peanuts, Valencia. She and I have fourteen hours on five daysails from the Shell Mound. The first was November 12th.

It was sunny, mid 70s, southeast five to six knots before eleven a.m. I waded her out knee deep, got the rudder's pintles into her gudgeons, stepped in, stood and sailed away. (Why was the tiller glued so it couldn't swing up?) In seconds I was jolted, or maybe re-smitten, by dinghy feelings and behaviors---I jumped to yank the daggerboard up. Not sure what a 'born again boat messer' would be, but I might be a dinghy one.

We turned north at the tip of Spanish Bayonet Island. A white sail was on an inner beach. Valencia effectively introduced me to Will and Patty Weile, their Joel White thirteen footer, and---tiny world---its Robb White drawn gunter by Dabbler Sails. The breeze fell later. I rowed and watched them row in behind me.

Sailing dinghy Valencia Here's a rub. Sitting comfort in a sailing canoe can be fit for a plutocrat. Standing in a dinghy can be fine for almost anyone. The best I can say about fixed seating in small dinghies is you can move elsewhere, squirm to other positions, stand and repeat.

After Thanksgiving, on four days in a row, Valencia and I caught the tide sequence of the morning lower low becoming a moderate high. The next ride was hot and calm by early afternoon, so I pulled the board and sprawled on boat cushions gun'l to gun'l. Dolphins breathed around us while I half dozed. Came a light westerly and we ghosted in...

The third ride had gray sky and low 60s, northeasterlies eight to fourteen plus gusts. Cool enough for foul weather bibs and two shirts.

Sailing dinghy Valencia I'd wondered about the bow shape and spray. Most spray was knocked down; some of it shot ahead low and blew back as thick mist. A pleasing surprise was the music of rushing water under the bow, reminding me of fugues under the bows of car ferries.

Fourth ride we glided starboard gybe out between bars---oops!---a lurching crunch and spinning on her rudder. Then free but backwards and the rudder detached. I steered and stabbed the bottom with the long paddle and crabbed a half dozen boat lengths to the next bar. Its steep edge was deep enough for the rudder, but the wind held us to the oyster shells. I shoved with the paddle and we scraped and ground along the bar another half dozen lengths, and, FINALLY, were sailing.

Zebra heliconian On the west side of Spanish Bayonet we stopped on a beach. Fluttering by, black and yellow striped Zebra Longwings enchanted me. Leaving, we tangled with currents, and again with oysters pushing the rudder out, wind blowing us into the marsh grass, paddle jabbing the bottom, her boom smacking the raised daggerboard.

Back at the Shell Mound, Valencia and I met Karen and Bart Lee from Nashville, van-traveling with their Sea Pearl 21.

Valencia and Zebra heliconian The last day's breeze fell and veered to southwest as the bars off the mouth of Dennis Creek corraled us. I tried working south to catch Kathy and Bart, but current, oysters, daggerboard and an untuned rig said no. Bufflehead would have have pointed out in a flash.

Broad reaching back with the soft onshore air, the daggerboard crunched occasionally. I thought I heard dophins giggling. I'll learn the shape of the shoals and channels better, and rig a leeboard and kickup rudder.

Thank you to Kindness, to Allan and the Williams brothers. ~HH

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