Marsh Maze Madness

Kasehelia, the Drascombe Lugger Yawl In Florida's summer, twelve feet up on the porch, a fellow claiming he was, "not B Frank Franklin," looked down and saw Kaselehlia was gone, the nineteen foot Drascombe Lugger yawl, a foot deep with centerboard up and rudder withdrawn. She'd been with me since 1976 and was sold last spring. I drew the five inch deep, ten foot "Cedar Key Dinghy," Clam Girl, trying for the comfort and versatility of Kaselehlia.

B Frank, in his glacial drawl, was extolling zip ties and poking my iconoclastic leanings. So, I showed him Clam Girl's new easy-drop mast hoop. The top hoop's mold is a piece of three inch PVC pipe with a dozen holes in one end for small zip ties. They temporarily hold a "convoluted" PTFE (Teflon) tube, enclosing epoxy soaked, carbon braid. The hoop, with halyard terminus and 316 stainless steel snap hook, weighs an ounce and a quarter.

Mold for the mast hoops September eleventh, 2019, had a high afternoon tide and water temperature still in the eighties. I wanted to go through the Raleigh Islands as Karen and I had twice in late August, riding the flood up to Preacher Hole, and on south and west through the islands (SCA issue #120).

With only me, a ten knot northeasterly was enough to single reef. So, up to Preacher Hole and into the marsh, gybe after gybe, cutting meander turns like a road racer. After lunch in the shade at the fallen cedar, I mostly paddled and shoved for an hour in the Raleighs' lee with Andy Zimmerman's standup paddle.

Hugh's upper mast hoops Although Karen and I had whistled through the maze connecting east and west drainages, I couldn't find my way. But, I could see likely channels over the marsh grass. After backtracking to and fro, and poling and paddling, I finally found the creek leading out.

Back at the ramp, the trailer's demonically spinning winch handle got me - dumbass hadn't clicked on the ratchet brake. Blood enough to embarrass me and pale a tourist, curious about Clam Girl.

Clam Girl navigating through Raleigh's channels Gina and Willie Brown - the kind machinist who turned nylon mast heel - came the next day, the twelfth. We rode the flood to Preacher Hole and pulled in at the cedar, then headed westward. But, again, I couldn't find the way. Gina paddled with the twelve ounce, Shaw & Tenney beavertail. Willie prodded in the marsh grass with the oyster-tough paddle. I worked Andy's standup bent-shaft. As the day before, I could see over the marsh to channels, and, subsequently, too, we found the right one.

Gina and Willie Brown But, I'd missed an ideal moment to brail the boom and sail to the mast. The boom, of course, was in their way. An endearment of Kaselehlia had been her open cockpit abaft the centerboard - partly because her mainsail was boomless. Had Clam Girl's boom been brailed up, as I'd intended, her cockpit would've been as clear.

The third day, I headed for the maze double reefed in a gusty twelve to seventeen knot northeasterly. Following the current was fine until I ran a hundred yards. I realized I couldn't avoid short tacking up current, either the long way to Preacher Hole, or the shorter way I'd come.

In channels five or ten yards wide, I've lost windward yards in a flash before cursing the soft hiss into the grass. Shove back on the standup paddle and gybe ASAP? Or, jam the bow sideways to pivot and tack?

Clam Girl on Long Cabbage Island, horse shoe crab in the foreground Still summer, so I took the easier way, beating the hundred yards against the flood, then falling off southwest against it at hull speed, while making a snail's best over the ground.

September sixteenth the wind was more northerly, so no Raleighs. But, a lower dew point of seventy, and a five to seven knot north northeasterly shouted, "Sail!" So, full sail for Long Cabbage Island. The breeze backed eventually and fizzled to two knots before returning abruptly at nine northwest, in my ride's last minutes.

I ran in port tack. When I was about fifty feet off, a fellow walked his jonboat from the middle of the ramp to the side I had in mind.

Crazy gybe and roll-flail into the grass. I shoved out, gybed, and ran hard up the other side of the ramp. The young sport fisherman apologized.

On the last leg towards the ramp September thirtieth and October first, a degree or two cooler, with afternoon high tides and blustery wind to twenty plus knots. Single, double and triple reefs for wickedly fun sailing.

If B Frank had been along in the Raleighs, he'd have chided me for no GPS. He would've appreciated the easy-drop mast hoop's slickness up and down. But, on the porch, I caught his wistful stare... bamboo! It was on the tip of his tongue as Lola hailed from the driveway.


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