Boat tips and techniques

Persistence's transom drains have rubber flappers, which prevent large waves from entering. This is very handy, the author found, when dealing with following seas and he does not want to get his feet wet.

Two oversized gudgeons near the waterline, as well as one higher up, secure Persistence's outboard rudder.

Persistence's wooden hatch has a breakwater forward of it and a sloped forward edge so that waves overrunning the boat will press down on the hatch, shutting more firmly closed. Note teak hand-holds on either side.

Persistence has a custom-built bowstem designed by the author and is a one-piece design that wraps over the bow and down the stem. A CDI roller furler handles the roller furling jib, controlled from the cockpit. The stainless steel lifelines wraps down from the bow stancheons and end near the bowstem for strength.

Note the two ring bolts (upper left) that lock the hatch, and, the green cloth that protects the instruments. The flap lifts up and is fastened by a twist fasteneer atop the cabin top.

Under sail, Persistence glides along with little wake, thanks to her added-on U shaped scoop transom. Many small boats drag their immersed transom, curtailing speed.

Two cycle
layup tips

Two cycle outboards, such as my Nissan 5 hp., have an enviable reputation of being reliable and long lived. A few steps will help them remain faithful.

Here's what I do:

1/​ When I get Persistence ready to haul out, as I pull into dock and have the boat secured, I simply reach back to the outboard's fuel connection and unsnap it. It comes off readily.

Then I let the engine run out of fuel, which happens in a few minutes, usually, at idle, while I do other things getting ready to trailer the boat.

I feel letting the engine run itself out of gas is an important step in engine maintenance because it allows the two-cycle engine to clean the carb of fuel so there's no gas in the engine to slowly dry up and create gum or deposits during the long months of storage.

2/​ When I get my boat out, I take off the engine and store it in a cool, dry place, and upright. Usually, this is in my workshop where I can later change the lower unit's oil and change the sparkplug. Since plugs are cheap, and, my engine uses only one, I always start the season with a fresh plug.

3/​ The gas supply is critical, and, I get rid of the "old" gas by mixing it in small quantities with other gasoline engines, including my 4 x 4. Next season, when I go out on the water, I'll be heading out with the comfort of knowing that there'll be no old gas gumming up my carb, since I will have fresh, and, freshly mixed with the correct oil to gas ratio.

4/​ Though most boaters usually use "regular" gas, I step up one category to get a higher octane ratio, which I feel makes the little engine run a little better (or at least it sounds better). Besides, since I burn so little gas each season the few cents a gallon difference between grades don't make that much difference.

5/​ I take off the gas containers and store them inside. I also store the boat, comfortably fitted in its full-length topside cover, in an inside storage place for the winter. In Minnesota that's been the Minnesota State Fairgrounds (usually the horse barn) for the past decade or so. I've tried leaving Persistence outside for the winter, but the ice and snow generally have a way of finding themselves under a covered boat and these are destructive to a varnished wooden boat. So at the end of the season, Persistence goes away to safe, and dry, indoor storage.

Getting Persistence
ready for fall layup

Each season, the battle to keep up an aging composite hull continues.

That's the bad news: you do have to work on it.

The good news is that an epoxy/​wood hull is probably the longest-lasting hull available anywhere, or so I've heard.

1/​ This year, I'll be revarnishing the hull. It's all bright finished, and, like a good piece of sporting equipment, it takes its share of bumps and bruises coming alongside a dock. Usually, I wet sand the hull first, then apply the varnish with a WEST System roller, starting in the aft section and working forward. To prevent drips below the waterline, I mask this off with 3M's blue masking tape. For the strokes, I roll the first of the varnish up and down, starting in the center of the area to be varnished. That way, I am really spreading the varnish. I usually only do a few feet of hull at a time before I go over it all with a foam brush to smooth out the varnish (and watch for any drips).

2/​ Clean up waterline. Last year, I repainted the waterline a Bristol Beige, to match the mast, which I had also just repainted (a large job, by the way, that required taking the mast down to bare metal.) I usually get to the clean up shortly after I haul the hull in mid-October, so that the waterline gunk is still moist and can easily be wiped off with a large sponge.

3/​ Clean the bottom by washing it off with a sponge and pail of water. This is not my favorite area of work, and, is messy, but the VC-17 will stay a lot cleaner for next season if you do a light little wash up and wipe up of lake scum. I'll recoat again with VC- 17 in a season or two.

More work ahead as I get to it.


A storm trial
of an engine

Excerpt from Wake of the Green Storm

Persistence did a dangerous dip to leeward, hung down on her rail for a moment -- and finally turned.

We were facing the wind. The sail rattled on the mast, and, the boat afelt terribly unstable underneath me.

On hand on the tiller, I reached back and gave the outboard full throttle and locked it there.

Power. I simply had to have more power in the teeth of the storm. The engine would just have to take it.

The little Nissan bellowed and dug in. The boat bounced up and down careening sideways. Sometimes the prop was in the water; sometimes it was out. The engine revved unmercifuly and screamed.

We were gaining.


Fall layup or storage? Use the downloadable and free fall layup checklist in this updated version of the Boat Log & Record This all - in - one boat record and logbook with engine maintenance record helps a boater to maintain in one place a season -to - season working record of a boat and its needs. It's the largest and most complete boat log and record for amateur boaters ever published. Includes special Emergency section dealing with transmitting a Mayday Message and how to deal with Man overboard. Plus other ways to boat safely and have more fun on the water. Free checklist here for fall layups or storage.
Fiction: A boater gets caught up in a daring around-the-world sailboat race ---and finds murder! "Full of remarkable characters and daring feats."--Cruising World.
Here are masterful tales of seafaring on the world's largest freshwater lake, including the last hours of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Join Marlin Bree in his solo voyages -- including a storm that gives Superior the reputation as being one of the world's most dangerous bodies of water.
A catamaran sails at midnight and is hit by a surprise storm along the Shipwreck coast. At the helm, the author fights for control and he and the crew search for the entryway off the lake. Exciting adventure. In a special chapter, as he sails near the sunken vessel, he takes a new look at the last hours of the Edmund Fitzgerald. If you like rugged adventures and are intrigued by Lake Superior's legends, history and folklore, here's a special book that will fascinate and sometimes surprise you.
Boating, great maritime adventures, storms at sea, maritime tales and survivals
Why did the Edmund Fitzgerald sink? Find yourself in the big freighter's wheelhouse as the Superior storm is at its worst. Or, find yourself aboard a leaky old wooden boat heading out into Lake Superior as an ice storm descends in a race to find a missing friend. Or, dive into murky waters to discover a mysterious old schooner sitting on the bottom still intact. A storm hits! Now come aboard a 10-foot home-built plywood sailboat trying to make it across the stormy South Pacific. Join the author aboard his sailboat trying to survive the storm of the century, with 134 mph. downbursts. Here are seven true tales of maritime adventure and survival from the waters of the world to stir the blood and fire the imagination--all told with a mariner's insight! And more. With illustrations, charts. Now the winner of seven writing awards!
Nonfiction: Excerpts & pix!
Roaring out of nowhere, a huge storm tore onto Lake Superior and catches a lone sailor and his small wooden boat in a wall of wind. Join Marlin Bree in the cockpit of his small sailboat as he fights to save his boat. The author goes on to complete a special voyage along the picturesque north shore of Lake Superior. A classic boating tale. "Equals any oceanic adventure." -- San Diego Log
Fiction: Lots of cartoons & laughs!
Okay, gang: let's face it: our boating world is funny sometimes. It's filled with good hearted people and a lot of other folks ranging from full-of-it skippers and too-party-hardy crew members. Here's a handy book you can keep on the old chart table to let you have a laugh at everything from the marine head to nautical terminology. Not for everyone, but you know who you are. Ho. Ho.
On June 1, 1979, Gerry pointed the bow of his tiny boat east and set sail out of Chesapeake Bay to cross the treacherous North Atlantic. He had hoped he had designed and built the smallest practical-sized sailboat capable of surviving on the open seas -- 10 feet long. Fifty four days later, after battling raging storms, physical pain, loneliness and islolation, sleeplessness and the never-ending racking of the ocean, Gerry pulled into the English port of Falmouth--the smallest craft to make that astonishing ocean crossing.

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Boat Fun: Tips for boat operations

Persistence is equipped with solar panels (forward) as well as a sea hood. All sail control lines lead aft to the cockpit for singlehanded sailing.

At twenty feet length overall, Persistence is not a very large boat, but she has had some very big adventures. The author feels a well-built, well-equipped and well-sailed small boat can do some competent cruising, even on open waters and heavy seas.

On Lake Superior's Barker's Island, the author gets ready for a wooden boat show, Woodies in the Water. Note the cockpit dodger, with side flaps unsapped, for a warm day. The author has shown his boat in wooden boat shows for more than 15 years.

Note mid-cockpit sheeting, which allows the author to tweak the mainsail as needed with Harken windward sheeting. From the portside seating (the author is right handed), he can control both jib sheet lines (the starboard sheet runs around the winch and to a cleat in front of the author). The jib roller furler's line, the mainsail's halyard and downhaul are on the portside cabin top for easy reach. The centerboard's pennant (not shown) also runs to a cleat in front of the author. To reef the main, the boat has a slab reefing controlled by a line (aft), individual reefing ties, and, a hook on the forward of the boom, which the author can reach by moving forward and standing atop the centerboard trunk inside the cabin, reachable through the open companionway hatch.

Aft section shot shows handy layout of author's boat, with 5 hp Nissan two-cycle and tiller easily within reach. What looks like a holder for the boom (beside author) is actually for the mast when trailering, and, is a handy way to brace yourself while under sail. The knotmeter and depthsounder (cabin, to starboard) are protected under a flap of cloth which is closed when the instruments are not in use.

Looking for a handy place to mount that hard-to-read GPS unit? I've located mine beside the traveler. It's handy, readable, out of the way, and demountable. Note the custom-designed tiller (the author fitted it to his grip) and the seat back to portside aft.

A full cover designed by the author fits atop the small sailboat. It includes a handy boom tent, opening front hatch, windows, and lets light in through desk prism and portlights.

Just for Fun: Toy Boat Time!

Take a few minutes to make a paper boat for your kids. The tiny sailboats handle well (provided you sail them downwind) and they race! Put them in a bathtub or a puddle and watch them go. To enlarge the pix, just click on them.

2/ It's easy enough to do. Click on the illustrations to enlarge them. Just keep folding and follow the instructions. See how the sail emerges. More fun.

3/ Now get your racer ready for the water. Be certain to give your boat's bottom a bend to create a slightly sharpened bow (the pointy end.) You can add cockpit coamings. You can draw in a little sailor, too, if you'd like along with a wheel to steer the boat. Don't hold back on the colorings. This boat was designed for kids to make in the back seat of a car during a trip or in the cockpit of an actual boat and sail later.

These step-by-step illustrations on how to make a paper sailboat is from The Kid's Travel Fun Book: Draw. Make Stuff Play games. Have fun for hours. (Revised and Updated Second Edition) The text and illustrations are copyrighted by Marlin and Loris Bree.