Comforting Contrasts

Jim Brown, Designer of the WindRider "Six inch draft?"

"Yeah," Iconic multihuller Jim Brown said, "for Al in tidewater Virginia."

"Jim," I said. "I think you're talking monohull."

Came a laughing howl and his white-haired head jerked back. Our friends, with increasing joviality around a restaurant table, barely glanced at us. Al Murphy, needing the six inch draft, smiled and nodded.

Rob Hazard's Coquina replica Slipper. Rob, Kent Bleakley, Glenn, Simon Lewandowski, Pat Ball. Each of the two weekends before Thanksgiving about a dozen small boats had come to Cedar Key. The first weekend was wretched, dark with spitting ten to twelve knot northerlies twisting off the land. Temperature was lower fifties and forty eight dew point. Tides were awkward.

Saturday, Glenn Osoling and Kent Bleakely reported gusts of twenty plus knots in Glenn's Crotch Island Pinky. They anchored, struck the main mast and put the mizzen in the forward mast step. Simon Lewandowski and I didn't launch.

The following weekend, the one before Thanksgiving when "monohull" had shocked Jim, weather was ideal and high tide was midday. My pleasure was enjoying a slow boat, Clam Girl, and two fast ones, a Goat Island Skiff and a WindRider 17. The contrasts appalled and delighted me.

Hugh and Bill Ling in Clam Girl Saturday, Simon, Bill Ling, and I dropped Goat and Clam Girl straight from their trailers over Dennis Moran's wooden seawall into the canal. Ling and I paddled Clam Girl a few strokes upwind, then pointed out to sparkling Daughtry Bayou's southerly, eight to nine knots. We beat to Seahorse Landing's floating dock. Ida stepped in and asked about sailing through Atsena Otie Key.

The breeze slid us into Atsena's southwest entry with only a mild crunch of leeboard and rudder clank. A few minutes on the wind, then Bill and Ida paddled up current in the hundred yard lee. Behind us, Simon paddled hotly instead of lowering the yard to row. As Clam Girl scraped and clinked along, Simon had to cope, too, with Goat's "curse," her daggerboard.

Hugh in Clam Girl, Simon in his Goat Island Skiff An hour later, rocketing along on a WindRider 17 with Jim, and Ida lounging at the helm's pedals, he said seven knots. After a couple cold, light splashes spritzed me from under the trampoline, I thought eight knot bursts, at least. He should know, though, having designed the WR17 in 2000. Yes, initially the speed was disconcerting.

We'd thought we might look at Snake Key's birds and its puzzlingly straight channel-thru. But, in spite of her speed, we decided it would take too long to beat most of a mile out there, and the WR17's foot and a half draft was too deep to get through the channel anyway.

Clam Girl, Goat Island Skiff and WindRider 17 Sunday was cooler and breezier. I rode with Simon on Goat, mostly sitting her rail at seven knots. We beached on Atsena. Simon asked, "How pissed would you be if we dumped?" "Pissed," I said, thinking November-chill water. In five minutes Simon tied in Goat's "take-the-edge-off" reef.

Clam Girl is slow, comfortable, stable for a ten foot four inch dinghy, and handy in skinny water with her leeboards. Her high sides and modest speed usually keep her dry.

Clam Girl, WindRider 17 The fifteen foot six inch Goat Island Skiff is fast, shallow and so-so stable, but with the curse, for Cedar Key, of a daggerboard. Comfort is compromised by her trunk and thwart, and low boom.

The WR17 is faster, uncannily stable, heavy and clumsy to pull ashore. Its comfortable, although its ` speed means it can be a bit wet.

Having watched a WR17 being driven at ten plus knots, with the windward hull flying high, I wonder if there's more joy sailing at double or triple Clam Girl's rate? The idea, I think, is to move smartly with sensitivity to the boat's fins and wings. It depends, of course, on where one sails.

Linda an Mike McGarry's Wind Rider, a Jim Brown design. Frank, a service dog On a WindRider 17, Jim's "most gnarly time" was in 2010 with Jo Hudson at California's Golden Gate. "Occasionally fifteen knots reaching and maybe twenty surfing in under the Bridge... lots of water... closed the main cockpit hatch.”

However, Jim began as a monohuller in 1955 on a Caribbean schooner. He has ridden a Formula 40 catamaran at nearly thirty knots, "... the sensation was ho-hum." He was making ten knots in his WindRider, once, and was passed by a thirteen foot Laser. He wrote, "I think it's more fun in a Laser at twelve knots and a 151 foot schooner at eighteen. Whatever boat you’re in, I guess the real thrill is knowing you are getting her very best, and she, too, loves it."


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