Small is Beautiful

Wayfarer lunch
Time for a picnic lunch! Tied to the dock at a deserted town landing in Orleans

I love small boats and believe that, for the most part, one shouldn’t choose the biggest boat that one can handle or afford, but rather the smallest that one is comfortable with for the intended purpose, whether it be for daysailing or cruising all the oceans of the world.

Wayfarer Arey's Pond
Sailing the creek to Arey’s Pond
Wayfarer Chatham Harbor
Foggy Chatham Harbor

I was reminded of my affection for small boats when I visited New England this past December. There was a stretch of beautiful, unseasonably warm weather, so naturally I wanted to get out on the water. The 15′-long Wayfarer sailing dinghy I keep at my parent’s house was put away for the winter, but that was no problem. It took all of a couple of hours to take the tarps off the boat, dust things off inside, fetch the mast and rudder from the garage, and gather the rest of the sailing gear. My floating home, Idle Queen, at 32′ long, would have taken days to ready if she had been similarly put away.

Fishing boats in Chatham harbor
Fishing boats in Chatham harbor

The Wayfarer is a small boat, but one that has long been noted for its good sailing and seakeeping abilities. Designed by Ian Proctor in 1957, she is stable enough to be a training boat, fast enough to keep experienced sailors interested, and seaworthy enough to take on the open ocean. Indeed, Wayfarer dinghies have even made long voyages, like all the way up the east coast of the USA from Florida to Canada, from England to the Faroe Islands, and even from Scotland to Norway and Iceland! The stout little Wayfarer is one of the boats that helped spread the idea of “dinghy cruising”–sailing and camping in small open boats. Sailors like Frank Dye and others have written entire books about cruising in their Wayfarers. Far from sailing across the North Sea, I just wanted to enjoy some quiet daysails on Pleasant and Buzzards Bays, but it was nice knowing that the boat was up for anything the weather might throw at us.

Seals in our wake near the Chatham cut
Seals in our wake near the Chatham cut

As long as the warm weather held out, I went sailing every day. The waters were deserted except for the seals and birds. I didn’t even see any fishermen while I was out. The navigational markers had mostly been removed for the winter, leaving me to pilot by eye and memory. This was a fun exercise, as the Wayfarer only draws about 6 inches of water with the centerboard and rudder up. I enjoyed seeing the waterways with fewer signs of civilization.

Monument Beach Sunset
Monument Beach Sunset. Time to head back to the boat ramp!

I didn’t bother to take the engine, as the Wayfarer could be easily moved with paddles if the wind died, further simplifying setup and reducing the number of things that would have to be put away later.

Sailing near Pocasset Harbor
Sailing near Pocasset Harbor just before sunset.

Each day at the beaches and boat ramps where I launched I was greeted with envious comments by people who had already put their boats away for the winter. With air temperatures nearing 70 degrees Fahrenheit on a couple of the days, they missing out on some truly beautiful sailing. The wonderful memories I made that week that were only possible because of the ease of setting up the little Wayfarer. When the freezing weather returned, I washed everything down (admittedly no fun task in those temperatures!) covered the boat, and contentedly put all the gear away, ready for next time. That surprise winter sailing fix was just what I needed to carry me through ’till spring.

Wayfarer on the trailer
Wayfarer on her trailer–ready to head home after another beautiful winter sail.

Video of Last Fall’s Trip South

From mid-November to mid-December of 2013, Idle Queen was underway traveling between Cape Cod and North Carolina.  Below is a video compilation from that trip.  I now have a waterproof housing for my camera after missing lots of good action due to bad weather on that trip.  I look forward to being able to film in all conditions this season.

Click here to watch the video on YouTube in a new window.

Cape Cod!

Dreadnought 32 Idle Queen
Idle Queen in a sweet, well-protected spot

Well, we made it up to the Cape safely.  When I last left off, we were just getting ready to head out from Hampton, VA.  We were assured of a couple of days of good weather, but after that, there was a strong front forecast to push through the northern waters of our journey, bringing up to two days of contrary winds and unsettled weather.

IMG_0999_2So, here’s the short version of our travels from the time we left Hampton, VA– After leaving the anchorage across from the public pier, we motorsailed in light, but favorable conditions up to New York harbor, where we waited out two days of nasty weather before heading through Long Island Sound.   After motoring through the East River, we grabbed a free town mooring for the night in Port Washington; filled up on overpriced diesel fuel; met some friendly and interesting people; and raised a few eyebrows sailing through the mooring area.  We headed out with a fair tide early the next morning and sailed overnight to Newport, RI, where we dropped the hook and soaked up a little of the “sailing town” atmosphere (or was that just fog?).

Dyer midget parts
Picking up some new pieces for the Dyer dinghy

The next morning, we pushed up to an anchorage near Bristol; and the following day made our appointment to pick up some parts for our Dyer Midget from the factory in Warren, RI.  It was a memorable experience to be able to sail right up to the factory; pick up their guest mooring; and dinghy to their dock to get our parts.  We got a tour of the manufacturing floor and many tips for how to put our dinghy back together properly–I would highly recommend a Dyer for the great support alone.  They freely gave us several hours of their time and answered all of my many questions even though the Dyer that I own is probably 40 years old and was bought at a yard sale.

Dreadnought 32 Idle Queen sailing
Sailing in light air on Narragansett Bay

After loading our parts onto the already overloaded Idle Queen, we dropped the mooring and pushed against the tide for a few miles to overnight in the roomy anchorage in Bristol, RI.  The weather was dreary, so we didn’t really feel like going any farther.  The following day was lovely, though, so we sailed all day and pushed right past Newport to go directly to Monument Beach, MA; taking advantage of the typical Buzzard’s Bay southwest wind to hurry the last half of the passage along.

Dreadnought 32 Idle Queen unload gear
Unloading some excess gear from Idle Queen

Now, Idle Queen is swinging patiently at a mooring while we take care of unloading some of the extra cargo we had carried north; take some time to visit the dentist (Unplanned.  Ouch.); repair the “deflatable” Zodiac; rebuild the Dyer dinghy; and visit the area a bit.