First Single track

Keith and the ECRJanuary 24, 2016 – I asked my friend Todd Shank to take me out for some off pavement riding, my first ride as such on my Surly ECR.

11:15 – We made the trail head out near Larch mountain. As we took the bikes off the rack the sun was trying to beat it’s way through the cloud cover but was beaten back by a light sprinkle. We jumped right in by heading uphill on single track through a clearcut area. Immediately my legs started feeling it as my eyes searched desperately for clean lines in the slippery clay-like soil, dodging various size rocks embedded in the trail. The rocks all appeared to have their sharp sides up to tear angrily at my treads. Thank goodness I have decent balance on the bike – my mind was in overdrive keeping the front tire on the chosen line, thinking also about where the rear tire was going as I veered around obstacles and tight corners. Uphill, breath laboring, all the coolness of getting ready a distant memory. Pedal strikes! Constantly keeping awareness of the crank rotation as the pedals flirted with smashing every other rock. Todd said there wouldn’t be any “rock gardens.” After this I can only imagine coming down one of those scree slopes by a highway cut as being the meaning of rock garden.

The terrain leveled out. All that was only the first 500yds. Then I was dodging rounder rocks and more tree roots interspersed with flat spots where puddles form. We came gradually down to the forest service road and crossed. More of the rolly level-ish land splashing through some longer puddles – keep the speed up – don’t get mired down!

Bells MtnWe came upon another gravel road crossing, this time we take it to the left and quickly come to a giant log blocking the road. Todd hefted his bike over and then politely takes mine as I heft it over. I look ahead to a stream crossing, which we cross easily, then up the berm and over the log blocking vehicles from the other direction. We take a right and start descending. Up and over a small ridge and around to our first bridge. We were then on the Bells mountain trail and charged up ridges and down to cross little bridge after little bridge over the rivulets running down to Cold creek. Cold creek rushed along with us to our right and we appeared to be chase its surging course. The routine was set, Todd charged ahead knowing these trails like the back of his hand. Once he out paced me I slow, not wanting to bash around corners when I didn’t know what was around them.

The light sprinkles we had at the start are gone. Climb, descend, climb, descend. My subconscious was tapping me on the shoulder – “Ahem, logically the farther we follow the creek downhill, the longer the ride uphill later.” I know, I know. I caught up to the reposed, patiently waiting Todd for the umpteenth time. He must have heard my subconscious too because he said, “we’ll go a bit farther to a clear cut and then turn back there.” The first words out of my mouth were “and we can take a break.” He’s had one every couple hundred yards while I spin, slip and bump my way along. We continued over couple of climbs and a short section optioning a bunch of boulders or a deep rut – I take the rut and somehow clear the sides.


We got to the clear cut and I laid down my steed and started taking off layers. There was no more rain but I thought I was going to be soaked from the inside if that kept up. Nutrition bars and water satiated us a bit. Todd let more air out of my tires to give more traction. I had cooled down by then. We mounted our steeds and Todd disappeared around some Doug firs like a deer, leaving only tracks and gently waving sword ferns. First up was the boulder-rut section. I dismounted immediately, there was just no way.

Todd instructed me that sometimes you don’t want to be in the lowest gear because you can’t really stand up. I acknowledged that, yet inside I thought about my searing thighs.

We continued on. I tried to not gear down and stay standing for the challenging climbs. It felt easier to keep the front wheel going where you want it to. Traction feels better too. I still had difficulty determining how low I should gear for any climb, frustratingly losing traction, momentum, or more likely both. Todd was riding on 2.5″ wide tires and he’s got way more rubber meeting the trail than the 1.9″ tires I was rolling.

Bells Mountain Trail Sign

There was one longer ascent that wasn’t too technical yet needed some careful riding to not lose traction. I stuck it all the way to the top. My breathing was labored like a pit bull in the Iditarod sled race. I was still overheating despite taking off my rain jacket. We bombed around corners and hopped roots, crossed bridges and made the Cold creek campground. We ground up its steep entry road. My quads were worn out back on the single track, now it was time for some searing hamstrings. I was keeping up with Todd on this road but my energy was fading fast. Since I didn’t know where we were I had no understanding of how much further we had to go. I was just about to downshift and let Todd walk away from me when I recognized our parking lot at the top of the rise. This spurred me on to keep up that last bit.

We covered seven miles, six of which were single track. Not bad for a first outing. Now I have my baseline.


Years ago now, I was out for a few days sailing with my friend Colin. We were in my Columbia 22 and pulled into St. Helens, OR for the night. At dawn the next morning I went up to the restroom for a hot shower. Ahhh, I can still remember how nice that was after two hot days on the river. On the way back I noticed an aluminum skiff tied up along the dock and there was a guy sleeping in it with a tarp pulled over his head. I live in Portland, OR and am no stranger to homeless persons. Later, after Colin and I cast off and left port I commented that I should have bought that guy a coffee and listened to his story. It most likely would have been a sad tale, but I had this nagging thought that he could have been a very interesting person. I recall that story pretty often and the other morning I decided to not pass on another opportunity.

When I was over at Bakehouse Bagels by my work the other morning there was this older, scruffy guy sitting there drinking coffee. He was wearing many layers of flannel and a not-dirty, yet not-clean jacket. On the table was his cup of coffee and an odd looking little metal box. At first glance I wondered if it was a flask, but when I looked closer it had a slot toward one that made me think it was a tobacco and rolling papers holder. In his hand he had a small, thin book that might have been religious in nature. Outside the shop was this overloaded bicycle with an overloaded trailer dragging out back. Both were just piled with gear. On looking closer I saw a single cylinder motor in the frame space. I thought, Wow, you don’t see that every day. I turned around and asked him if that was his rig and he affirmed. I asked him how far he had traveled in it and he said he started out two years ago in Montana. Montana! That’s a LONG way from Portland, OR. When I inquired on how much it weighed, he figured about 550Lbs with him on board and that it moved along pretty good. He said he pushes it in town rather than running the engine. I was unclear as to the reason, but on the journey he had pushed it from Kellogg, Idaho to Spokane, WA, a route I later looked up as over 70 miles! He said it took two weeks.

We talked a little bit about living in the Portland area. He said he’s been staying under the shelter in Willamette Park for the last four days. He has been around various parts of town and been hassled by homeless people more so than the police. I asked if was staying around or pushing on and he said he was headed to Beaverton, of all places. “Too spendy here” he said, referencing Zupan’s grocery for food (this is a higher end neighborhood). I placed my order for a half dozen bagels and then thanked him for sharing his travels with me. I asked him his name and he said he goes by “Buddy”. I asked if he’d like my $3 change for his travels and he politely declined, informing me that he had money. I wished him well on his travels and went back to work.

So now I know a little about “Buddy”, yet the rest of my day had me pondering what other stories he had to share. How was it coming through the mountains of Idaho? How about from Spokane to Portland? What led him to this journey? What is the goal? If I come across him again, I’ll inquire, but for now I’m thankful for his kindness and willingness to talk about his life. Everyone has a story, whether we realize it or not.

Zephyr explores the Lower Columbia

Despite not doing any packing on Friday night, I got packed in pretty short order. I bade farewell and pulled out of the driveway. The apprehension of the preceding week was overtaken by excitement and optimism. I was on my own time till Sunday evening. The drive up to Cathlamet, WA was uneventful and as I pulled down the marina drive I could see light ruffles on the water. The trees being still around me caused me to think of my St. Helens sail that turned into a galloping romp with a reef in. The harbor master’s office is located upstairs from the restrooms and has a beautiful view of the marina as well as Cathlamet Channel. My bill came to $11, $5 to launch and $6 to leave the vehicle overnight.

There was no one launching or retrieving at the ramp so I was able to take my time and set up nicely. It was quite enjoyable launching into a millpond marina instead of a wake-filled city river. I left the marina into Elochoman Slough and then proceeded out into Cathlamet Channel. Once clear with plenty of sea room, I shipped the oars and set the sail in a gentle breeze. With low tide at about 1700 the ebb was in full flow as I gurgled along tacking downstream.

The end of the channel came quickly and I turned into the main river pointing upstream. My beat now became a broad reach and the variability of the wind strength had me either holding steady or moving upriver slowly. I went along like this for quite a while and I sped up a little when I got next to Puget Island. I’m still not sure if Tenasillahe was blocking the wind or it just came up, but when I got to the top of the island the wind strengthened to 8-10kn. I headed firmly across the river to enter Clifton Channel and made sure to be well past the weir dam at the island’s head. I then went about setting a reef. Even though I was getting blown upriver the river was moving down faster, so I was effectively making headway to weather with no sail up and broadside to the wind!

With the reef in I still had a boisterous ride down the channel. The fetch delivered 1-2ft whitehorses at me in constant procession. As usual on the river, one tack was better than the other. My port tacks would make all the progress and the starboard ones would just hold me from losing ground. This was puzzling since there was a range of hills close on the port (south) side that the wind seemed to be coming out of. When the gusts came they would come straight up the channel though. A few times I got too close to the shore and ended up in a wind shadow that had me wondering if I would be able to complete my tack before the encroaching shore or stray piling. On the port tacks I’d be headed along Tenasillahe and watching its low brushiness flow by quickly. Sailing with the current really puts a smile on your face!

The constriction at the downstream end of Tenasillahe went by in a flash and with one particular gust of wind I could smell the ocean. It was my only scent of it on the trip which didn’t surprise me since we are 30 river miles from the Pacific. I followed the southern shore around Aldrich point and could see Devils Elbow in the distance. My original plan was to continue past the elbow and go into the small channel in between Horseshoe Island and Marsh Island and nose into Horseshoe’s nooks and crannies. With the wind coming out of the west it would have pushed me into one of these dead ends with no room to tack out and a hellish, if even doable, row to extricate myself. To my starboard was Tronson Island and I noted how its high brush blocked the incessant wind. This lured me into looking at it as a potential anchorage. I ghosted into its lee and tacked slowly back and forth near the shore looking for snags and what I could see of the currents and bottom. It was only 16:30, but I made my decision to anchor. Zephyr would swing either way with the tide and if we bumped up along the shore it was all mud. I zigged and zagged to figure out the right placement of the anchor and for me to manage the sails and speed. I succeeded with only a bit of miscalculation ending in me holding the anchor rode directly and not around a cleat. I was thankful for Zephyr’s lightness as I muscled the rode around the cleat and made fast, something I surely wouldn’t have been able to do in my old Columbia 22.

Once I was settled I listened to all the happy birds on Tronson I knew I must be in the right place. Only a few motorboats screamed by to interrupt my solitude. I caught up on some reading while enjoying cheese, crackers and an IPA. I was more tired than I thought and happy to be relaxing. Dinnertime came around and I boiled some water for a backpacker meal of “Spicy Peanut Sauce”. It wasn’t as good as some of the others I’d had so I followed it up with a yogurt and granola.

After the meal I continued reading as the light turned golden. I pulled out my book on the Columbia River Water Trail and found out that Lewis & Clark camped on shore right across from my anchorage in March of 1806. While I had my little concerns of fighting my way back up the mighty Columbia the next day, I couldn’t fathom those hearty explorers forcing their craft against the spring currents and steady rain. Only the draw of home sustained them I’m sure.

As evening gave way to twilight the heavens approved of my little adventure and awarded me with a magical golden sunset over Jim Crow Point. I let out another ten feet of rode just to make sure of the scope and rigged my nylon fly over the cockpit. As I settled down in my sleeping bag I noticed that the birds had done the same and were replaced by frogs, the low, throaty wheeze of bull frogs and the chirp of peepers or tree frogs.

I had anchored from the starboard side which means that Zephyr wouldn’t point exactly into the current. I chose starboard so that we would point away from the shore. The problem is that the wavelets were coming up the little channel and hitting us on the corner. Even though they were little, it was an awkward angle. I tried to sleep with it but between that and an annoying knocking sound from one of the storage lockers I woke up many times. Finally at 0100 I had had enough and tied a dock line to the rode with a rolling hitch and made a bridle out of it. Now we were directly on the current and I slept through till the sun woke me at 0600.

I peeked out to the sun already up a ways and the river like a mirror. I really wanted to sleep longer but the tide waits for no one. I took down the fly and was thankful, for it saved me from all that soaking dew. I put away my bedding kit and boiled some water for mat’e. Once I had assembled the oars and got all my day supplies sorted out I retrieved the anchor and released myself to the river’s flow. I took a few strokes to get to the middle and then drank my tea while the river did the work to get me to the main channel. I had to go to port to miss a couple of mud banks and that explained why the motorboats looked like they were going to go down another channel before turning up my way.

As I neared the main channel, coming out between Grassy Island and Woody Island, I passed a really tall range marker with cormorant nests on it. What a raucous bunch those guys are. The young ones make ordinary squeaky sounds, but the adults make what can only be described as a squawk, a nasty guttural thing. It was pleasant rowing over some sparse weedbeds knowing that even if I did somehow ground out the tide would set me free in short order.

The ship channel takes a series of left turns at this point to bring it close to the northern (Washington) shore. If it wasn’t so steep-to there one would have front row seats to the giant ocean ships that come up the river to the ports of Vancouver, WA and Portland, OR. Luckily for me I had the best view of all, out of harms way, but giving me stunning views with the steep hills right behind the ships. One, two, three passed by in short order, all of different types. The first was the New Century 2 which was a big, ugly car carrier. They are all big and ugly. Next up was the Densa Falcon a majestic bulk freighter with cranes and gigantic bright orange buckets for removing the cargo. It sat really low in the water, fully laden and hailing from Yantai, China. The third was the Algol and I have no idea of what it would carry. Ah, but Marine Traffic does, she’s a Navy logistics ship. Not much to look at and belching bunker oil smoke.

With no wind I helped the flood tide carry me with some rowing. Not knowing whether I’d have to really row later, I pulled very lightly and kept my speed around 1kn. I was soaking in the peaceful scene and every range marker I passed had its own colony of cormorants getting on with family life. I was admiring the fact that at my furthest view downriver an optical illusion made the river look like it was boundless, reaching up and becoming one with the hazy sky. At another angle I could see all the way down to Tongue point, in Astoria.

A catspaw appeared in the distance and I kept rowing while it got closer and closer. It wasn’t much as it breathed over me, but it did stir me into action snapping out yesterday’s reef and hoisting the main. With the lazyjack holding the boom up high, I can row unimpeded. Now I was ready for the next whisper. It was many minutes in waiting but then it came. I pushed the boom out and watched it fill. There was no surge of acceleration but we kept moving at the same speed I was rowing so I stowed the oars and had a snack, willing to let currents of wind and water move me.

I played rowing games. Pick a point directly astern and don’t look forward until the next nav bouy is abeam. This was the longest stint of rowing I’d done in years and then it was in my shapely Acorn. The key to rowing a SCAMP is to just not care about speed. Pick your cadence and effort and be patient. Last summer Derek Gries and I were off Port Townsend about 1nm and the wind totally died out. It was getting on toward dusk and I really wanted to make it to the Maritime Center before the light faded completely. I pulled hard on those sweet, hand carved oars the NW Boat School loaned me. Crossing the ferry path also quickened my stroke. I got there but I wore myself out too.

Once I made it past Fitzpatrick Island a gentle breeze filled in. I was cutting the corner and had been watching a sloop towing a tender motoring up the nav channel in the distance. I thought I might catch her because of the extra distance she had to make following the channel all the way around by Skamakowa, but nothing doing. She was steaming on. The Corp of Engineers dredger Essayons was along the far bank. I passed her dredging in Longview a few years back when I had my Columbia 22. As I got closer she started upriver. To my surprise she turned around a quarter mile later. I haven’t seen many ships just turn around in the river, but they must to head back out to sea.

When I cleared the point of Welch Island the wind started increasing. I was making over 3kn and just cruising right along. I decided to cross the channel to the Washington side and this put me on a beam reach. The speed jumped to 3.5 and we leapt across. According to the charts that shore has some good depth right off it so I scooted along right next to shore, one of my favorite things to do. I continued my line across the opening to Cathlamet Channel figuring on one last jibe and a nice downwind romp back to the marina. I was not disappointed! I was starting to see whitecaps and guessed the wind hitting about 10kn or so. Everything was well in control so I didn’t stop to reef.

I rounded the buoy into Elochoman Slough and as soon as the trees shielded us, the wind dropped off and got fickle, sometimes coming in from the channel, sometimes coming out of the slough. I was determined to sail up to the marina entrance and then dowse the sail. I gauged my short tacks well dodging felled trees and weedbeds while the wind appeared to be coming right out of a stand of Douglas firs!

Always one to make a sailorly appearance at the dock I put a sail tie on and put fenders out on both sides. The fickle breezes would be pushing me right onto the ramp so I intended to go halfway down the dock and then do a 180 and coast alongside to tie up. To my credit, and the lack of the usual strong gust right at the wrong moment, I executed it flawlessly, gracefully even. As you sailors would understand, at the outset I was happy there weren’t flocks of spectators, but once it is done well one wishes there had been some onlookers. Nonetheless, one of the enjoyable things about sailing is honing your observation skills, analysis, and preparation to pull off maneuvers.

As is usual at ramps with Zephyr, more than one person came by to compliment her and one gent asked quite a few questions and even wrote down Small Craft Advisor as the place to get plans. What a perfect trip. Excitement, relaxation, a bit of work and a whole lot of reward!

Zephyr visits St. Helens, OR on the mighty Columbia River

I head out in the early afternoon with not a leaf moving, figuring at least I’d get out on the water and do some rowing. The Columbia was having none of that! Even as I took the road off the highway down to “Historic St. Helens” on the river, I could see no breeze in the tree tops. I parked the rig in the parking lot and walked over to sketchy, private launch ramp to see if launching was possible and when I looked out to the river I was pleased to see some nice wind waves coming up the river.

Only one side of the ramp was workable, the other side had a sand bar right in the lane as it was almost low tide. What was left dropped off substantially. This was my kind of launch. Only one trailer in the parking lot and no one around to make me rush. I set up the rig, hung the rudder, set out a fender and the dock line and backed Zephyr down. Everything went well, the last foot surprising me because in 12 inches Zephyr was floating. The ramp just disappeared into the marina dredging. I was thankful that I hadn’t gone off the end of a cement ramp. That is the stuff of nightmares.

I parked the truck and walking back down the ramp I thought, “No one’s around, why don’t I be bold and SAIL off the dock!”. Let me orient you a little in the attached picture. The river current is going from the dock side to the open water side of the picture. The wind is doing the exact opposite. I walked out on that little sand bar to the left and it just drops right off into the water so I can come right up to it and tack. Between that and the dock is about 30ft. Short tacking for sure!

I hauled up the sail and moved her out to the end of the dock holding my line like a bridle on a race horse. Centerboard down….check. Rudder down….check. Now power up the sail and flick the dock line off. Crap! Here comes that dock! TACK! Now here comes that sand bar. TACK! Frightening amount of leeway before we accelerate. A couple more of those and I’m on a port tack and because of that initial leeway I’m just not going to clear that power cruiser at the end of the dock and I can’t come about. No room left to jibe especially against the current. I move forward and lean out and am able to catch his anchor in my hand and stop the little forward progress. I push Zephyr backwards and am able to get the nose through the eye of the wind and off on a starboard tack straight for a cement overflow. One, two, three seconds, TACK! Zephyr comes through just like she’s supposed to and I grin widely as we now harden on a port tack and straight out into the river!

Directly across the river from this marina is Sand Island. Enjoying the fresh breeze I head across and pause in the middle to open the plug to start filling the water ballast. I absolutely love the way you can just let go of the mainsheet whenever you want and she’ll just sit there waiting for you. That might have had a bit to do with the leeway at the ramp. Now we are bouncing around in the chop and I’m noticing that there are actually 1-2 ft swells coming up the river. That darn water ballast just doesn’t fill fast enough! I decide to go over to Sand Island and nose up on the beach to finish filling it instead of getting thrashed around. This done I push Zephyr’s nose out and wearily eye the piling just down wind. “If I don’t get that centerboard and rudder down quick enough I might tangle with that bad boy”. I shove off and the bottom drops away and I drop the rudder. Instant steerage! I can worry about the CB in a few moments. Solo launch from beach….check. Didn’t even get water over the top of my wellies.

We romp to windward as I’ve now decided the day’s exploration will be a circumnavigation of Sand Island. A large container ship stately cruises upriver at 15kn throwing a huge wake onto the downstream end of the island. Seeing that happen I tack and then tack again so that I’m headed into the wake. Clearing the end of the island I start heading across noting that the river current is moving me sideways, upwind at probably 2kn! I now feel the full effects of the wind and fetch. Was that a few whitecaps I just saw to windward. We’re flying now. I need to jibe and head downwind. I chicken out and tack and wear away. Everything quiets down as we start to rocket down wind. Here comes a roller. Holy cow! Two hands on the tiller to maintain course as Zephyr starts surfing for the first time. My eyes go wide as the fricken bow wave is peeling off in foamy curls AMIDSHIPS right next to me. Jeesuss we’re moving!

OK, now’s the time for my first solo reef underway. Thinking it through….. loosen the downhaul, get the reef lines loose and ready. Come up into the wind but not too close so we tack. Lower the main enough for the new tack and clew to meet the boom. My last thought, deal with the luff first. Here goes… I put the tiller over and we spun around. I lowered the main and tied it off. I pulled the luff reef in and tied it off while getting bounced around in the waves. Now we had fallen off and the boom was out over the water so I had to put the tiller over to get us more into the wind. I struggled with the leach reef as I didn’t have the cabin to lean on while tying it off. The last step of hauling up the main and tightening the downhaul was easy. Turning back downwind, Zephyr accelerated and the helm was easier. I still had to pay close attention to the tiller though.

The wind lightened up by the time I rounded the upriver end of the island, however now that I was headed into the wind, it was breezier. I tacked up past the marinas and to the ramp but I was reluctant to end such an incredible sail. So, I decided to play. If any of the houses up on the hill were watching they got quite the show. I rocketed across snapping a jibe right next to the transient dock. Then I did a bunch of linked jibes making a circle of calm wake water. I took joy in standing with the tiller between my legs and tacking across the river adjusting the main through the puffs. I darted in to that beach I had nosed up to next to the dock and tacked or jibed my way out. As the sun lowered I enjoyed sailing into and out of the shadows watching the main turn golden in the setting sun.

Not wanting to break the spell, I settled in to my downwind approach to the ramp. I had to broad reach, slowly, between some really tall pilings and the covered docks and then turn directly downwind. Luckily, the shore upwind had blocked most of the wind so right when I turned, the wind fell off to nothing. I chuckled as Zephyr gently nosed up onto the beach next to the ramp.

One of my favorite times, oddly, is the drive home. It’s a nice to take your time and reminisce about the trip.

Zephyr Capsize Testing

Yesterday’s weather more than obliged for Zephyr’s capsize testing. A passing low front brought rain squalls and plenty of wind. The average wind speed was 14kn with gusts over 20kn. In Zephyr’s short time on the water I don’t think she’s experienced more than 7kn or so.

We thought we were going to have the river to ourselves but as we were launching the sailing club nearby started putting out buoys. A flock of Lasers came out to play with us. We pushed off the dock and hauled the main. Pretty much immediately we realized we were over powered. Way too much cloth up and the sail was set about as baggy as I’ve seen it. Any creases from storage snapped out of it in a few moments. I was on the mainsheet and Derek had the tiller. The gusts were crazy and I was spilling wind right and left. Each time I’d spill Zephyr would pop right up from her heel, then the next gust would catch the sail and press her over just as fast.It was quite the rodeo.

On raising the sail off the dock it was pretty white knuckle with the sail and yard end dipping into the water. Not wanting to repeat this I suggested that we go over to the dock which happened to be pretty much in line with the wind. We missed our first approach and couldn’t tack because of the windage of the hull so we had to execute a quick jibe mere feet before a mudbank. Zephyr pulled right through. I’m still amazed at how easy jibes are. We aimed for the center of the dock and kept up a little more boatspeed to make the landing. The wind was pushing us so much that even with the way we had she wouldn’t round up into the wind. Nose to dock I just powered the sail up and we tucked her along side. Derek stepped onto the dock and wrangled the lines while I lowered the sail a little and tied the jiffies. I don’t have any nettles installed yet so I used the tail of the reefing line as one right in the middle. For the rest of the day the sail gave no indication of needing more nettles.

Reef in we set off. She was a whole new boat! She’d pick up her skirt in a gust but wouldn’t go on beam ends. We tacked around some to get the feel of it and then to not worry the Laser people we cracked off downwind to really put her rail down and put her over. The only way we could get close was for Derek to sit on the low side and really sheet in. Time and time again we put her rail under and had water gushing by right under the coaming. At just this critical juncture the rudder is damn near out of the water so you lose steering and she she turns herself into the wind and just pops up. Brilliantly designed! When you get your SCAMP in the water you have to do this. It is so confidence inspiring.

Over She Goes

It was clear that the only way to put her over was to shift more weight to leeward so while the rail was down I stepped down to the seat and water started coming over the coaming and over we went. Derek was still sitting in the seat floating on his back and I jumped into the water. On thinking of it now, I haven’t swam around and righted a sailboat since I had a Sunfish at age twelve. I didn’t even think about it and swam around the stern (we had the port side in the water). I grabbed the lower skeg and then reached up for the centerboard. All I had to do was hold onto it and Zephyr came right up. To my surprise Derek had climbed back in and was lying in the seat when I did so so he was already in the boat. He tossed me the stirrup and that’s when I got my camera out. We got a good sequence of me coming into the boat with the stirrup. Totally easy by the way.

More details

After the righting we had 30+ gallons of water in the cockpit, mostly aft. Derek sailed us away capably while I opened the seat hatch and got out the pump (one of those tubes with the plunger in the end and a hose that goes over the side). When a gust would hit, we’d get the free surface effect from all that water and when we heeled there was inches of water on top of the leeward seat. I’m happy to report that my Russell Brown seat hatches with the sikaflex bedded gaskets worked flawlessly as did the round Bomar hatches in the sole.

Going back to before we reefed, there was one time when we were on a reach and a big gust came and we buried the bow a bit. Nowhere near putting the deck in but that was definitely an “awareness moment”.

After the capsize I started bailing and then Derek finished it off. About 10 minutes total. I’m all for putting in some sort of venturi bailer. If I was solo, I would have been dead in the water and bailing instead of sailing. Failing those working well to remove the water I’d be installing one of those mounted bilge pumps with the handle (e.g. Whale Gusher). Once we were bailed out I took the helm and Derek went forward to dry off and put a dry top on. With his weight forward under the veranda I had to scoot aft to keep our trim right. I was not quite to the back but maybe a foot from the transom. He said it was nice under there while I focused on watching for gusts and keeping Zephyr relatively flat. Then it was my turn………holy cow. It was so incredibly nice under there. I took off my jacket, PFD, and top and toweled off. Even though the wind and rain were inches away, it was so calm under there. I can really picture some bad condition sailing and having the off watch under there warming up/staying warm. Derek mentioned that the sailing instructors kept watching us as we sailed by. I bet they were saying “Weren’t there TWO guys onboard when she went downstream?”. Anyway, an obvious yet not appreciated until you do it aspect of the veranda is that the dry clothes go in the B3 hatches. That means those items STAY dry when you open the hatch and rummage through the dry bag.

Lessons Learned

– You have to push the boat to the limit to get really comfortable with handling it
– Move the lazyjack line all the way forward to the cabintop to make sure that yard doesn’t get away from you
– Work hard at staying warm and dry. It’s easier to stay warm than to get warm.
– Practice! reefing, putting the rail under, preparing the boat, stowing everything securely, keep yourself fed and watered
– Practice more! Develope a “what if” and “plan b” habit while you are out there.

This sail made the third out of four where someone actually came over and said “Is that a SCAMP?”

Honey Bee


This beautiful bee landed on my hand the other day while I was sitting by the Willamette river. It sat there for a good 2-3 minutes before taking flight. Tragically, just after take off it veered toward left and then crashed into the river. I watched as it struggled to free itself out of my reach.

With all the news in the last few years about bee die offs, I couldn’t help but think this was one of those warning bells. Then today I hear that 25,000 bumblebees died in Wilsonville, OR

Conventional wisdom and science tells us to eat out fruits and veggies. Well, all the flower based edibles require pollination to exist and bees do the vast majority of it.

This is serious folks. We can’t keep poisoning our environment. Of the 88,000 chemicals being used in the US today, the FDA hasn’t only done testing on less than 300! We leave the testing up to the companies that create them. Crazy!


While down at the river today a couple of crows came by and walked along the shore. The water level was down and they walked right along the edge. As I watched, one of them picked up an object the size of a quarter and placed it on a flat rock. Then it walked a bit further and did it again. After walking further on they flew off to the North.

I walked over to take a look and sure enough, each was a small freshwater clam. Obviously there is some motive behind this. I don’t think crows can break open the clams with their beak so what is the plan? Many times in fall I’ve seen them take walnuts up to a good height and drop them on a hard surface such as the pavement. I’ve also heard them hitting the roof but that isn’t as solid as pavement or cement so I would think less successful.

If they were going to try the dropping tactic why wouldn’t he have taken the first one away and done that? Could it be that it was putting the clam on the rock to warm in the sun and kill the clam? Once the clam is dead it will open easily. I need to go back to work so I guess that mystery will remain unsolved.

Reminiscing on a New England Christmas

I came across our pictures from one of our trips to Vermont when the kids were young. This particular trip was for Christmas and it was 2001, just months after the infamous September 11th. It was eerie walking through Portland airport with a three year old and a six year old passing guardsmen in fatigues and carrying automatic weapons.

After a stop in Chicago, we descended into Burlington airport at dusk with a light snow falling. A warm welcome from my dad was followed by a crisp, cold drive through the Wynooski valley. In my minds eye I could see through the dark and snow to snow covered fields with picturesque red barns and silver silos standing guard over the dormant fields. Once we got to Stowe, we turned off Route 100 and wound our way into Stowe Hollow and were met with the pungent yet delicate smell of woodstove smoke. Mom had the house all lit up and was standing in the doorway as we came up the driveway, our tires making that squeaking sound in the fresh snow.

The snow continued to fall all the next day as we procured a sled for Kyle and Kate, and prepped the shovels and snow gear. Kate was all bundled up like a little Michelin man. Kyle, mister industrious, spent some quality time with the snow shovel making all sorts of paths and a snow fort.

Summer 2012, Kyle and I flew to Stowe to say goodbye to the old house as my parents were selling it. I was comforted by no hesitation or doubt in Mom and Dad’s voices about their decision. Living all the way across the country and only back sporadically, I had already said many goodbyes to the place and was at ease. On our last day, Kyle and I made one last hike up the Pinnacle on a perfectly sunny day to look out over the valley and mountains. This special place will always be in my heart.

SCAMP Mast Camp

The SCAMP birdsmouth mast building class was held last weekend at the Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding. Instructor Bruce Blatchley led students Dale, Derek, Eric, Keith, Lloyd, and Roger through the process. The first five students started their SCAMPs at SCAMP Camp #1 last August and Roger is signed up to build at the March camp.


While we were all very excited to get going on I was not feeling too well and by lunch time had foundered on the shore of “Flu” and had Lloyd take me back to his place so I could curl up and be miserable. For 16 hours I did nothing but sleep and try to stay hydrated. Saturday morning I felt OK enough to go back to the camp with the provision that we take two vehicles in case I couldn’t finish the day. All went surprisingly well. The rest of the team had done the glue up of my mast so I wasn’t behind. You guys are just awesome! Thank you so much!!!

Eight Sided

Saturday was the exact opposite of SCAMP Camp. We didn’t even touch the epoxy pumps and just worked a plane all day going from eight sided to 16, then on to 32, and if you were really kicking it, finishing out 64. 64 was really more by feel than actually seeing 64 faces on this small diameter.

Planing to 32 sided

Sunday saw us finishing up the “face count” and then working cabinet scrapers on the tiny edges that were left. I suspect those cabinet makers are full of it but having never touched a scraper before, maybe I just didn’t know what the heck I was doing.


Another epic SCAMP Camp and further proof that us scampers are an outstanding brotherhood with outstanding boats.