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Thread: North Woods Sail & Oar

  1. #1
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    Default North Woods Sail & Oar

    Back in November I published an article in Small Boats about a trip in northern Wisconsin. Now, with their permission, I'll post a parallel thread here to get in some "sailing" while I wait for ice-out around here. A good way to while away a few hours during the pandemic.

    Turns out I didn't get away for any big trips last summer, and thanks to a rainy autumn, it didn't look promising. But finally the weather somewhat cleared up and I managed a 3-day getaway to the Turtle-Flambeau Flowage, which is a sprawling semi-wilderness lake system created by a dam at the confluence of the Turtle and Flambeau Rivers:

    Turtle Flambeau overview.jpg

    It's about a 3-hour drive for me, hauling my Don Kurylko Alaska design:

    Sailplan.jpg
    Last edited by WI-Tom; 03-20-2020 at 10:09 AM.
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    Default Re: North Woods Sail & Oar

    Can't wait!
    "The enemies of reason have a certain blind look."
    Doctor Jacquin to Lieutenant D'Hubert, in Ridley Scott's first major film _The Duellists_.

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    Default Re: North Woods Sail & Oar

    I'm looking forward to your trip report. We took an 11 day trip around Wisconsin last summer, unfortunately we didn't bring a boat. We're going to Wausau for a wedding this August, we may have a week or so before we need to get home, this area might be a nice distraction on our way back if we bring our canoe, or kayak, or rowboat along.

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    Default Re: North Woods Sail & Oar

    Quote Originally Posted by Ober27 View Post
    I'm looking forward to your trip report. We took an 11 day trip around Wisconsin last summer, unfortunately we didn't bring a boat. We're going to Wausau for a wedding this August, we may have a week or so before we need to get home, this area might be a nice distraction on our way back if we bring our canoe, or kayak, or rowboat along.
    Turtle-Flambeau is an awesome place for paddling or rowing, too. I've done kayak trips here, too. By all means, if you get a chance to stop by, it'd be well worth it.

    I'll try again. Arrived to meet my brother at the ramp at mid-afternoon, and set off in light airs to find an island to camp on:

    DSCN1328 - Copy.jpg

    Lovely setting--the ramp we use (the main one) is Springstead Landing, near the center of the flowage. From there, it was about 2 miles west to one of our favorite campsites.

    Day 1.jpg

    Probably took us 90 minutes to sail two miles (you can see from the first photo how we're sitting to leeward to keep a little wind in the sails), but what's the hurry? Being mid-September, and a Sunday evening to boot, the place was empty. We got a nice campsite on an island bordered on two sides by water (the open lake to the west, and a narrow channel between islands to the north). My brother pulled in first with his Phoenix III.

    DSCN1330 - Copy.jpg
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    Default Re: North Woods Sail & Oar

    Around mid-July, they do a draw-down at the dam to drop the water levels, which leaves a nice wide beach around each island--very convenient for camping with boats:

    DSCN1332 - Copy.jpg

    Had a casual, unambitious evening at camp, setting up tents and eating supper. Then, back to the boat to make sure it was ready for the night.

    DSCN1331 - Copy.jpg

    But of course, I couldn't resist going out for an evening row. The nice thing about the Turtle-Flambeau is that there are so many islands, the place feels huge--even though the largest stretch of open water is only about 3 miles across. I rowed around until way after dark, perfectly flat water, perfect rowing conditions. The route was something like this--the islands were just looming shadows in the dark, no sound, no wind.

    Evening 1.jpg
    Last edited by WI-Tom; 03-20-2020 at 09:01 PM.
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    Default Re: North Woods Sail & Oar

    Next morning arrived with fairly good weather and southerly winds. We decided we'd opt for a circumnavigation of Big Island, a trip we'd done ten years ago in our "temporary" boats (mine was Jagular, a Phil Bolger design called the Pirate Racer; my brother's was a self-designed flat-bottomed skiff with lapstrake topsides):

    IMG_4998 - Copy.jpg

    Funny, the Turtle-Flambeau was a perfectly sized adventure for simple little boats like that. Our new boats were definitely overkill for such sheltered waters, but no complaints from me about that! Our route took us counter-clockwise around Big Island this time, ducking under a low bridge at the northern tip:

    DSCN1336 - Copy.jpg

    Just enough water under the bridge after the summer draw-down, and an easterly wind so that we were able to coast right through:

    DSCN1347 - Copy.jpg
    Last edited by WI-Tom; 03-20-2020 at 09:29 PM.
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    Default Re: North Woods Sail & Oar

    We stopped at the bridge to beach the boats and walk a few miles on the Big Island trails--a nice sunny afternoon with lots of Monarch butterflies flapping around the milkweeds. A good way to spend a couple of hours. And since "low tide" lasts until ice-out in March, no need to worry about the boats:

    DSCN1348 - Copy.jpg

    We continued down the west side of Big Island, with some interesting clouds promising a bit of weather later on:

    DSCN1353 - Copy.jpg
    Last edited by WI-Tom; 03-20-2020 at 09:31 PM.
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    Default Re: North Woods Sail & Oar

    You can see from the Phoenix III's wake (or lack of it) how easily this design moves through the water:

    DSCN1357 - Copy.jpg

    There are some nice beaches (and some additional campsites) along the western shore of Big Island. Planning to make an all-day trip of our circumnavigation, we stopped for a break ashore whenever we felt like it. The weather hadn't arrived yet, but the wind was picking up.

    DSCN1358 - Copy.jpg
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    Default Re: North Woods Sail & Oar

    By now, I've sailed well over 1,000 miles in my brother's Phoenix III, including the Everglades Challenge with him, the Texas 200 with a friend, and a summer of solo sailing in Ontario in which I spent 38 days straight aboard. I've been REALLY impressed with this boat, and really, I can't imagine a better solo cruiser for a sail and oar-type boat. Very capable, very secure, and relatively simple to recover from a capsize.

    One of the things that impresses me the most is her performance to windward, the result of a lot of careful design work including a centerboard with a large area, and an efficient hull shape. By the time the wind picked up enough so the Alaska needed a reef, the Phoenix III (still unreefed, and thus with slightly more sail area and a better luff/sail area ratio) was easily outdistancing me to windward as we continued south around Big Island:

    DSCN1364 - Copy.jpg

    Before long a frontal system was full on us, with gusts strong enough that I stopped to tie in a double reef in the Alaska. As pretty much a slender pulling boat with low freeboard and no side decks, combined with a large sail area (134 sq ft with the full ketch rig as designed!), "reef early, reef often" is the standard operational plan. Although she has plenty of reserve stability (at 220 lbs, I can't put her over in flat water by standing--or even hopping up and down--on the gunwale), she will easily dip a lee rail if pressed hard. So, I reef.

    By the time I tied in my second reef, my brother put in a reef as well, though he didn't need it--he just didn't want to get too far ahead.

    DSCN1377 - Copy.jpg

    Of course, part of the reason the Phoenix III doesn't need to reef as early is that it is probably a little under-powered with the 76 sq ft balance lug rig (there is also a spritsail sloop option over 100 sq ft), while the Alaska has 85 sq ft in just the mainsail (which is all I use--the other trade-off for such a slender hull is that rowing is far more effective--and, I'd argue, far more pleasant most of the time--than sailing in very light airs). And of course, off the wind, the Alaska's longer waterline and greater sail area really pays off.
    Last edited by WI-Tom; 03-26-2020 at 07:43 AM.
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    Default Re: North Woods Sail & Oar

    I always enjoy reading about your trips, thanks for taking the time to make these threads. I enjoyed your article in Small Boats Monthly too.

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    Default Re: North Woods Sail & Oar

    When we rounded the southern tip of Big Island and turned north (downwind) for the run back to camp, I pulled ahead thanks to the Alaska's longer waterline and bigger sail. That seems to be the major difference between these two fine boats--the Phoenix III excels in upwind situations, while the Alaska is faster off the wind (at one point on Georgian Bay on one of my solo trips, I managed 10 miles in 80 minutes on a broad reach, double-reefed).

    Mostly, I think, the Phoenix III's advantage comes from maintaining a higher speed to windward (both boats point about the same from my crude by-eye assessments), and because she tacks more quickly, and loses far less momentum on each tack. The Alaska has to be sailed slowly around, as she has a long flat keel with no rocker at all. And I have to say I haven't mastered that yet--sometimes I find the groove, and other times I manage to lose a significant portion of the boat's momentum at a tack. Also, because the Alaska usually has to reef earlier, the shorter luff inhibits her windward performance when things breeze up.

    That said, the Alaska DID manage to get back to camp first, as proven by this photo of the Phoenix III sneaking through the narrow channel between islands to approach camp from the east this time:

    DSCN1384 - Copy.jpg
    Last edited by WI-Tom; 03-21-2020 at 06:20 AM.
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    Default Re: North Woods Sail & Oar

    Quote Originally Posted by The Jeff View Post
    I always enjoy reading about your trips, thanks for taking the time to make these threads. I enjoyed your article in Small Boats Monthly too.
    Happy to oblige--it's the closest I'll get to sailing for a while yet this spring. Meanwhile, any plans for your boat coming up?

    The route from Day 2's circumnavigation of Big Island, a ten-mile trip:

    Day 2.jpg

    The next day--Day 3 if you're keeping track--we decided to head south down into the farthest reaches of the flowage. Of course, we had southerly winds, quite gusty at times, so I alternated between reefed, double reefed, and full sail. The Phoenix III kept on under full sail, and was soon far ahead. The southern end of the flowage feels like pure wilderness, with no houses or cabins or road access--very nice!

    We stopped along the way at a few islands:

    DSCN1390 - Copy.jpg

    And dodged the stumps and rocks that were treacherous even for sail and oar boats with a 6" draft thanks to the drawdown at the dam. A few thumps on the hull, but nothing major at 2-3 knots.

    DSCN1393 - Copy.jpg
    Last edited by WI-Tom; 03-21-2020 at 06:21 AM.
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    Default Re: North Woods Sail & Oar

    The winds got lighter as the day went on, which seemed to decrease (or even eliminate) the Phoenix III's advantage. Also more of a reach to continue southward rather than beating. Stopped at a last island (the campsite was closed for erosion control) at the far southern end of the flowage:

    DSCN1396 - Copy.jpg

    And then headed farther into the southern reaches, where the lake system turns more or less into a collection of small rivers and creeks. Another pleasant campsite under tall pines along the river made for a nice lunch stop:

    DSCN1402 - Copy.jpg
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    Default Re: North Woods Sail & Oar

    One thing I like about a two-boat sailing trip is the opportunity to compare various aspects of performance. Overall, I'd say that the Phoenix III and the Alaska are remarkably similar in capacity, with roughly the same amount of usable interior space--comfortable for cruising two adults (even sleeping aboard), luxurious for one, and crowded for any more than two people aboard. Either boat would be a fine choice for a long unsupported cruise, though the Alaska has a far greater displacement (1100 lbs vs. the Phoenix III's 595 lbs), rendering her capable of carrying much more in the way of supplies (not that the extra capacity matters much in fresh water, where you can carry a filter instead of gallons and gallons of drinking water).

    I've said before that the Phoenix III is--in the hands of a competent sailor--easy to recover from a capsize. It's also incredibly forgiving, and unlikely to capsize in my opinion. That said, the Alaska has a distinct advantage here in one important (and surprising) way, despite her low freeboard and more tender hull.

    You can see some of the Alaska's interior structure in this photo:

    DSCN3107.jpg

    Basically, the interior is divided into 4 separate compartments between the bow and stern buoyancy chambers: two sealed thwarts combine with the centerboard case. The result of this compartmentalization is a greatly reduced free surface area when the boat is swamped, which means that an Alaska is incredibly stable post-capsize even though a significant amount of water comes aboard during the righting process. To my great surprise, after two series of capsize tests (one static and empty, one sailing and loaded for cruising with lashed-in dry bags), I found the Alaska even MORE stable when swamped than she is dry.

    The Phoenix III was definitely a bit tippy until bailed out because of the water's ability to slosh around freely in the undivided interior; the Alaska, not at all. This strikes me as a distinct safety advantage, allowing the boat to be sailed out of a capsize without bailing if need be, and making a re-capsize far more unlikely. The flip side (there's always a flip side) is that I'm convinced the Phoenix III would be significantly less likely to capsize in the first place (though the Alaska isn't all that easy to capsize either--much more reserve stability than I expected).
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    Default Re: North Woods Sail & Oar

    I rowed as far up into the southern creeks as I could, but eventually grounded in mud with no way forward. No problem--by then it was time to head back to camp anyway. So we headed back north--pretty much following this route for the southbound leg of the 15-mile day:

    Day 3.jpg

    With the wind behind us now, and getting lighter and lighter, the Alaska pulled ahead and stayed there. Nice to not ALWAYS be bringing up the rear! I even had to stop and let the sail luff so the Phoenix III could catch up--not that either boat was moving quickly by this point.

    DSCN1413 (2).jpg
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    Default Re: North Woods Sail & Oar

    I let the Phoenix III get ahead a ways as the wind kept dropping, then set out in pursuit:

    DSCN1414 (2).jpg

    Those beautiful autumn evenings north of latitude 45! (Probably the thing I missed the most while living in the Marhshall Islands from 2018-19).

    DSCN1420 - Copy.jpg
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    Default Re: North Woods Sail & Oar

    We snuck along the western shore of the flowage, behind a chain of islands that restricted our access to what little breeze remained. But somehow, we kept moving, even though the wind was too faint to even feel:

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    Default Re: North Woods Sail & Oar

    With so little wind, even the slightest motion was enough to slow a boat down. We sat quietly and let the evening unfold as we kept ghosting along northward, watching the sky get darker and darker, the silence settling over the water interrupted only by an occasional loon call.



    DSCN1440 - Copy.jpg
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    Default Re: North Woods Sail & Oar

    The northbound route back on Day 3:

    Day 3 return.jpg

    A beautiful night:

    DSCN1448.jpg
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    Default Re: North Woods Sail & Oar

    Day 4 started out with enough wind to sucker us into attempting to sail for a while, and then ended with a soggily ignominious slog back to the ramp under oars. Still, rowing either of these boats is a pleasure--they're about equally matched for rowing as far as I can tell, though the Alaska does much better with a passenger (the Phoenix III will drag the transom a bit with two aboard).

    DSCN1451.jpg

    And that was that--a good way to spend a few days, in a wilderness sized just right for a long weekend. Pretty much an every-summer destination for me at some point these days.

    So, who else has a trip they can post about for some armchair sailing during the ongoing pandemic?

    Tom
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    Default Re: North Woods Sail & Oar

    Quote Originally Posted by amish rob View Post
    I just started reading a bit before I scrolled down, and saw “us”, and I was about to scold you for sloppy language, but then I remembered you brought the cool Pamperin.
    He would probably agree with your assessment, though he wouldn't usually be brazen enough to say so out loud. He is certainly the brains (i.e. skill) of the Pamperin boat building operations! "My" boat is about 50% my brother's work, including all the tricky bits.

    Alas, this trip was before I started drawing for reals. This summer I intend to draw more than take photos, and see what happens.

    Tom
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    Default Re: North Woods Sail & Oar

    Thanks for posting these! You have some very interesting cruising grounds at hand! I like small waters!

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    Default Re: North Woods Sail & Oar

    Thanks, Tom, for taking the time for this thread. I probably already said how much I enjoyed your article from last Fall... and I'm very much enjoying the reprise. You have an engaging writing style that really takes us 'there'.
    David G
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    Default Re: North Woods Sail & Oar

    Since you are sailing in a flowage, is there any current to speak of? Here on Puget Sound, when sailing especially in the evening, there often is very little wind. Yet there is still just enough to make some headway through the water. The problem is, often the water is moving in the opposite direction from where I want to go. (The mooring, beach, home, beer...) Being able to turn off the water flow would be a nice super power to have.

    Thanks Tom.

    Jeff

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    Default Re: North Woods Sail & Oar

    Quote Originally Posted by amish rob View Post
    Tom,

    You know I am a genius, right? You can draw from your photos! I wasn’t sure where this fell in your actual timeline, so thought to ask.

    I restate what a cool gig you have with that fam. Did you say that Phoenix is made from birch ply somewhere before?

    Peace,
    Robert (No Cool Brother)
    Yep, 1/4" Baltic birch ply from a local big box store. The stuff is heavy, but 5 equal (thick) plies, glue that is apparently pretty water resistant if not boil-proof, and no voids that we've ever found. Good stuff, and half the price of marine ply. The interior and decks of my Alaska is also Baltic birch, as was my old Bolger boat Jagular, mostly.

    Tom
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    Default Re: North Woods Sail & Oar

    Quote Originally Posted by jpatrick View Post
    Since you are sailing in a flowage, is there any current to speak of? Here on Puget Sound, when sailing especially in the evening, there often is very little wind. Yet there is still just enough to make some headway through the water. The problem is, often the water is moving in the opposite direction from where I want to go. (The mooring, beach, home, beer...) Being able to turn off the water flow would be a nice super power to have.

    Thanks Tom.

    Jeff
    Jeff,

    "flowage" around here would be "resevoir" anywhere outside Wisconsin, I think. No currents. Pretty much no currents anywhere I sail, except in the town of Little Current in the North Channel, where they can run up to 5 knots, wind-driven. No currents and no tides sure simplifies things. I've gotten myself pretty spoiled with years of that now.

    Tom
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    Default Re: North Woods Sail & Oar

    Quote Originally Posted by David G View Post
    Thanks, Tom, for taking the time for this thread. I probably already said how much I enjoyed your article from last Fall... and I'm very much enjoying the reprise. You have an engaging writing style that really takes us 'there'.
    Thanks for the kind words, David. (No, not Dave Gentry--my mistake!)

    Tom
    Last edited by WI-Tom; 03-21-2020 at 02:42 PM.
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    Default Re: North Woods Sail & Oar

    Quote Originally Posted by jpatrick View Post
    The problem is, often the water is moving in the opposite direction from where I want to go. (The mooring, beach, home, beer...)
    I've heard some sailors carry beer with them to deal with that problem...

    Tom
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    Default Re: North Woods Sail & Oar

    Quote Originally Posted by amish rob View Post
    Wild. Sorry for the drift. I’ve only ever seen 5x5 sheets, but I’ve used a bit for frames for SOF, and a sailing canoe that somebody wanted more than me, so I never even got to use.

    I have admired the Phoenix for a hot minute. Wonder can I find some 4x8s of some birch?

    If I ever get a job, again. Virus humor.

    Peace,
    Robert
    Do you have Lowe's or Menard's around where you are? That's where we've bought ours, in standard 4' x 8' sheets.

    Jobs will be interesting from here on out. Wondering how much of a garden I'll be able to plant this summer.

    Tom
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    Default Re: North Woods Sail & Oar

    Quote Originally Posted by WI-Tom View Post
    Thanks for the kind words, David. I'm still happy to be back in Wisconsin, but sorry I didn't stick around the Marshall Islands long enough to build your SOF sailing canoe--that would have been a blast out there, and I think I could have found some students to take the boat over when I left. Oh, well. Wisconsin's not bad, either.

    Tom
    De nada. And plenty deserved.

    But please... let's not tar Dave Gentry's sterling reputation, and laudable character by associating it with David G @ WBF. We're two entirely different characters... though we've talked a tiny bit about working together on a small project. I just need to decide which of his designs will be the subject.
    David G
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  31. #31
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    Default Re: North Woods Sail & Oar

    Quote Originally Posted by David G View Post
    But please... let's not tar Dave Gentry's sterling reputation, and laudable character by associating it with David G @ WBF. We're two entirely different characters... though we've talked a tiny bit about working together on a small project. I just need to decide which of his designs will be the subject.
    Oops! I knew that--brain malfunction!

    Tom
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    Default Re: North Woods Sail & Oar

    Quote Originally Posted by WI-Tom View Post
    Happy to oblige--it's the closest I'll get to sailing for a while yet this spring. Meanwhile, any plans for your boat coming up?
    I've been working away at fixing some of the minor annoyances from last year. I've rigged a brail line, epoxied a hook to the mast to keep the snotter from slipping down, and reworked the centerboard trunk cap piece a bit. Plus the usual spring varnish and painting. I'm currently thinking about the best way to run the downhaul and snotter back to the cockpit so they're adjustable.

    I think this summer's plan is probably a bunch of day sails and maybe a few overnight/long weekend trips on the Chesapeake Bay. I've got a 70 mile trip down the Potomac river in mind, and a sail out to Tangier Island would be interesting with the right weather. But mainly I want to build up more experience and get the boat and camping bugs worked out.


    It's fascinating hearing your experiences with the two designs and how similarly they perform, but also the differences in construction.

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    Default Re: North Woods Sail & Oar

    Quote Originally Posted by amish rob View Post
    Jobs. Yeah, mine left already. Wife’s is dependent on receipts, and there is no telling how long temporary, reduced wages will keep coming.
    It's scary to think about, that's for sure. Good luck making do and getting through it all. At the moment my wife and I are both still getting paid, and even managing to do some work. But man, I'm glad that we chose to delay a major home renovation that we considered doing this winter. The last thing we need right now is a regular debt payment with the possibility of being WITHOUT a regular paycheck.

    So:

    Quote Originally Posted by amish rob View Post
    But, boats!
    I agree. A few photos from earlier trips with our cheap "temporary" boats (built in 2008, both still floatble).

    This is the original 85 sq ft lateen rig my Pirate Racer started with, in the Chippewa Flowage (a similar, but less wildernessy, lake system closer to home) back in 2008:

    chippewa flowage 019 crop.JPG

    Probably the most stupidly impractical rig I could have chosen for small-boat cruising--an 18' yard in a 14.5' boat. And I made the yard solid fir (!!!) instead of the hollow thin-skinned ply box called for in the plans, which led to things like this:

    chippewa flowage 032.jpg

    But re-rigged, that boat went on to finish the Texas 200 in 2009, and to our first trips to the Turtle-Flambeau with my brother in his little skiff:

    016.jpg
    You don't have to be prepared as long as you're willing to suffer the consequences.

    www.tompamperin.com

  34. #34
    Join Date
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    Default Re: North Woods Sail & Oar

    Quote Originally Posted by amish rob View Post
    Tom,

    Like many other members here, I feel the universe kept you and me separated for a reason.

    Thanks, Brother.

    Peace,
    Robert
    Same here. But you know, I have been to California many times in the past...

    More from 2009/2010 at the Turtle-Flambeua:

    012.jpg

    A really nice little skiff--very light (under 75 lbs, maybe?), good excitement quotient thanks to the low freeboard and lack of floation...

    IMG_4805.jpg
    Attached Images Attached Images
    You don't have to be prepared as long as you're willing to suffer the consequences.

    www.tompamperin.com

  35. #35
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    northwestern Wisconsin
    Posts
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    Default Re: North Woods Sail & Oar

    Quote Originally Posted by amish rob View Post
    Attachment 55266

    See? Related.

    If you ever get near the center of this crazy banana, let me know. I have plenty of boats completely unsuitable for the goofy adventures we can find around here.

    Peace,
    Robert
    Good news from that photo is, you're almost all set if the virus sinks its claws into you. Just need someone to light the torch and shove the boat offshore for the Viking funeral!

    Tom
    You don't have to be prepared as long as you're willing to suffer the consequences.

    www.tompamperin.com

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