Rend Lake - 2001
by Max Wawrzyniak 

Saturday, June 8th, dawned much as any other late spring day, distinguished only by the fantastic weather forecast and the fact that this was the day that the Midwest Messabout began on Rend Lake in Southern Illinois. Having done most of my packing the night before, I was on the road, towing my AF4 power skiff, headed to a 10:00am meeting with small craft designer Jim Michalak. From his place we would “convoy” on down to Rend Lake.
The AF4's "Birdwatcher - slot - cabin" makes it an excellent camera boat for visiting Texan journalists.
Arriving at the Launch ramp, late morning, we parked the vehicles and went searching through the campground on foot, stalking that elusive deviant of modern society, the home boat builder.  Although we could not find any, we discovered evidence of their recent presence; i.e. a Caprice and an AF2, temporarily abandoned. But as we returned to the ramp to launch our vessels, we knew the builders would return. Yes, the “wood boat police” had the scent.
....maybe a bit more tension on that peak halyard...(Richard Spelling on his AF2 - Entropy.  Richard is the new editor of the Chebacco News: )
Once water-borne, we motored on over to the campground and met-up with Chuck Leinweber and wife Sandra, builders and owners of the Caprice; and Richard Spelling, of AF2 fame, who was accompanied by a whole entourage. They had just returned from a trip into town. Having arrived at Rend the day before, they had “staked out” a sandy cove which turned out to be a very nice spot for a messabout, with the exception that quite a large number of quite large carp, all dead, had chosen this particular stretch of beach to decompose on. Despite this solitary deficiency, “Dead Fish Bay” proved to be an excellent spot for a messabout. 
The presence of many of these was more of a detriment to their weekend than ours.
The remainder of Friday afternoon was spent testing the (too) gentle breezes with the Caprice and the AF2, and with Jim Michalak’s Birdwatcher. One has to admire the self confidence of a boat designer who plans and hosts a Messabout, and then brings a boat designed by another. However, Jim’s designs were well represented, with the afore-mention Caprice and Af2, my AF4, and the Scobbie family's Piragua. 
Ben Scobbie, veteran of several messabouts, demonstrated prodigious prowess at Piragua paddling
As the evening wore on, other home-boat-builders began to voyage into Dead Fish Bay, including Kilburn Adams and his Skiff America 20, of which he is designer and builder. A bit later on, Kilburn’s friend Bill Dulin and friend Betty Tilley arrived, also in a Skiff America 20. Bill likes to mention that he did not even own a power saw until he began building his Skiff, yet it is difficult to distinguish between it and Kilburn’s , who has built several boats. Both are “Bristol.”  
Kilburn Adam's Skiff America 20

Click here for his website

Others were arriving as darkness approached, but I and AF4 retired to a cove on the other side of the lake, where I dropped an anchor, dined on something out of a can, and watched the stars come out as idiot bass-boat-drivers sped through the darkness at an excessive rate of speed.

Pop Quiz #1 Is this guy about to:

A) Start an outboard motor

B) Scratch an itch

C) All of the above

06:00 am Saturday morning found me raising anchor and “motor’n” out onto the lake as the sun rose above the tree line. Knowing that the “action” would not get started until later, I took the opportunity to cruise about the lake for an hour or so at about 5 knots, and easy pace for the 1956 10 hp Johnson powering the AF4. Another can yielded a breakfast that would have generated disgust on any other day and in any other place, but here it was different. Coffee was perking on the stove in the little cabin and I explored the lake a bit.
In addition to being a well-built, nicely designed boat, the Caprice featured a 110 volt  inverter for powering a household blender used in the preparation of frozen drinks for the crew.   One must keep one's priorities in order

My arrival back at Dead Fish Bay coincided with the arrival of the first of many home built boats. Larry Applebaum was there with his Devlin-designed Nancy’s China, named “60 Grit.” The Scobbie family put in an appearance with their Piragua along with a factory-built aluminum semi-vee; John Sellers was there with his Teal. He would later go on to demonstrate that he was as accomplished at cooking and discussing nuclear fission as he was at boat building.

John Sellers

Larry Pullon arrived with his jet-propelled wood skiff, the design of which was a collaboration between the owner-builder and Gavin Atkin. Although I thought the boat ran just fine, powered with the drive train from a vintage “jet-ski,” I have learned that the boat is currently undergoing modifications in an attempt to further improve performance. Such is the the burden of perfectionist boat builders and designers. 
Larry's Jetfish at speed. Be sure to visit his website by clicking here.
While out sailing in Jim’s birdwatcher, we spotted a tiny red boat “buzzing” around, which turned out to be Paul Brunkow’s electric - trolling - motor - powered bolger Nymph. Phil Lea was out sailing in his much-modified Bolger June Bug, and during a trip back to the launch ramp and the truck for supplies, we ran across the Scott Widmier family launching their Stevenson Projects Pocket Yacht. Like Phil Lea, Scott likes to “tinker” with boat design; the Pocket yacht had a much-modified cabin design, and Scott had even tried leeboards on the boat in the past.
Scott Widmier and the family in the modified Pocket yacht. Nice Spanish cedar trim and ingenious portlights

See Scott's website here.

 There were also several boat-builder “wannabes” who trekked to Rend Lake to take advantage of the unique opportunity to see, first hand, these boat designs that they had previously known only through books and websites. Last year I was a “wannabe.” Hey, guys, we expect you back next year with a home-built boat; power or sail; 25 footer or “one-sheet-skiff;” it really doesn’t matter. If we did it so can you.
There are times when a finger over the camera lens can improve a photo.
Saturday was spent trying out each other’s boats, and examining the finer points of boat construction evident in craft where the builder is also the owner. Whether one's goal is 'spit-and-polish' or 'quick-and-dirty' we all enjoyed the lively discussions. The world’s problems both resolved and distended, I boarded the AF4 and motored at an easy pace back to the launch ramp for a few supplies, and then voyaged out into the darkness of the lake. The bass boats and jet skis had abandoned the lake, and as I slowly crossed the expanse of water and darkness in search of the anchorage of the previous night, alone in the AF4, I decided that this was probably as close to heaven on earth that I could imagine. I dropped the anchor in about 4 feet of water, switched on the anchor light, unfolded my cot in the cabin, and spent my second night aboard my hand-built craft.
Sunset over Rend Lake
President Martin Van Buren (1782-1862), who was reportedly in the habit of sleeping late, claimed to have no personal knowledge of whether or not the sun rises in the East. I happen to think that sunrise is the best time to be out on the water, and so was underway at 06:00 am Sunday morning. I skipped the tour of the lake and headed straight for Dead Fish Bay, where John Sellers was cooking a breakfast that, unlike my canned fare, would be considered delicious anywhere. Sunday morning was a time of further discussion and debate, but slowly the group disbanded as people packed and departed for their homes and their jobs and their “normal’ lives. Jim and I hit the road late morning.
Our host, small craft designer Jim Michalak

Jim's website: 

The three - hour drive home gave me plenty of time to review the weekend’s activities and experiences and observations. There was sadness that it was over, but joy in anticipation of the next messabout and other endeavors upon the waters in my home - built boat. No doubt that the other drivers on the highways took little notice of the beat-up red pickup, towing a home-made-looking blue boat, being driven by a man with a smile on his face. Their loss, as at that moment I could have explained “happiness” with greater insight than Webster.
Bill Dulin & Betty Tilley in Skiff America 20
Bill says he did not even own a power saw before beginning construction of his Skiff America 20.
The fine finish of Larry Applebaum's "60 Grit" suggests that plenty of 220 grit was used.
Quiz #2: Is Larry Applebaum

A) Enjoying a frozen drink

B) Demonstrating how to mix epoxy

C) All of the above

The combination of a very nice design and a builder's craftsmanship yielded Larry's "60 Grit.
Whether under oars...
...or sail, Phil Lea's June bug performed well and displayed nice workmanship
Nymphs are nice, and Paul Brunkow's was especially so


Pop Quiz #3: Is Paul

A) Closely examining a home-built boat

B) Turning his head away from some guy scratching himself.

C) All of the above.

Discussing tabernacle details. The homemade bimini top and mounts were especially interesting.

read more here

Jim's Birdwatcher, fitted with Bolgers orignal (small) rig.
Richard Spelling's AF2. Richard's prowess at trimming the gaff-rigged sail was readily apparent.
Old jet-skis don't die; Larry Pullon uses them to power home-built skiffs
Larry explains the fine points of his jetboat to Betty
John Seller's Teal, less sail rig
Kilburn right after being asked by a potential builder if a 150 hp outboard can be mounted on a Skiff America 20.
The Scobbie family, all veterans of many messabouts and several home-built boats.
How one determines the sex of a boat.  Discussing rock ingestion concerns on Larry Pullon's jet skiff


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