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by Kellan Hatch - Salt Lake City, Utah - USA

The 2005 Lake Powell Messabout

The sailing at this year’s Lake Powell Messabout was nothing short of incredible, at least for this part of the world. I can’t remember ever having more consistently pleasant sailing conditions for three days in a row. This was the second installment of the event, held annually on the last weekend in September, and I’m hoping there will be many more to come.

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Wil Gale under the skull and crossbones

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The Kokopelli group, under the comodorship of Jim Thayer, assembles for a cruise on Lake Powell or Lake Mojave every year during the September or October full moon. The Lake Powell Messabout - originally a separate entity but now quickly becoming an appendage of the Kokonauts’ cruise - is an informal gathering for those who don’t have the time, stamina or inclination for a week-long cruise, but still want to spend a long weekend doing boat stuff with kindred spirits amid the splendor of the Land of the Sleeping Rainbow. The lucky ones get to take in both the cruise and the messabout.

Jim Thayer

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Jack Hicks and DeWitt Smith were the first to arrive; Jack with his rowing cruiser - a work of art in its own right - and DeWitt with his Bolger Folding Schooner. Jack also brought the rowboat he’d lovingly crafted for grandson Wil. I arrived with Chris Ostlind and my two boys Evan and Elliot around 4am Friday morning, pulling Chris’ very-nearly complete A18 trimaran. My Cartopper was on the roof rack with the boys’ Mighty Mice poked into nooks and crannies. We had made a late start; the rigging of Chris’ boat and trailer had slipped behind schedule and required a last minute all-hands-on-deck-hell-or-high-water blitz, which kept us from getting on the road until well after dark.

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Wil Gale in the boat his grandpa, Jack Hicks, made

My first job Friday morning was to raise our colors: the Skull and Crossbones. I hoisted the flag on an aluminum windsurfer mast as a marker to guide lost souls to the right spot. The rest of the Kokonauts began to trickle in from their Lake Mojave cruise: Jim Thayer with his Nina double-ender, the Gales (Tom, Heather, Will and Ruby), with Heather’s beautiful Whitehall and Tom’s new Van Gough boat, and Ron Roberts with his Rube Golbergian forward-rowing sailing canoe. And there were returning messers-about from last year: Bruce Anderson, rumored originator of the messabout, with his new PD Racer, Randy Swedlund with his self-designed sail/row/motor skiff and Chuck and Sandra Leinweber with their canvas-on-frame kayaks, all the way from the Gulf Coast. Conspicuously absent were Dave and Anita Hahn. If we’d only known that they were stranded somewhere outside of Hanksville with trailer problems we might have been able to mount a rescue mission. Later, newcomers Alan and Jeanie Donaldson drifted ashore in their Seapearl trimaran.

Heather Gale’s beautiful Whitehall

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We all settled in around a beautiful little slickrock bay in the Stanton Creek camping area. It would have been perfect except for the treacherous sandstone outcroppings lurking just beneath the surface.

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Our home for the weekend

It’s hard to capture the highlights of an event like this. Number one for me was setting my boys free for their first solo sailing in their modified Mouseboats. The wind was just right –we’re used to feast or famine in these parts- and access to interesting coves and islands made for an ideal setting for them to log some fun sheet-and-tiller time.

Evan and Elliot and their mouseboats

The first time out in Chris’ A18 his daggerboard seemed to find every rock in the bay. We finally wove our way into clear water just in time for the wind to die completely for the only time during the messabout. DeWitt also made his acquaintance with an underwater rock, while barreling toward shore with a loaded Folding Schooner. Wham! He added a clean 8” extension to his centerboard slot.

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DeWitt Smith's Folding Schooner before the accident

Saturday Chris had another go in a nice clean breeze. This time things were very different. Chuck was the crew and he clocked 13+ mph on the GPS. It looked like a 3-hulled rocketship blasting across the lake. Quite a thing to behold. Chris, a renaissance man of sorts, is planning to market plans and maybe kits for this boat along with quite a few of his other designs of all shapes and sizes.

Chris Ostlind works on his A-18 while Ruby Gale offers a few pointers

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I picked up some rowing pointers from Jack Hicks and went for a row in his sliding-seat rowing cruiser. I liked it and I can see how you could really get hooked. Jack’s always up before the crack of dawn, greeting the sun as it breaks over the horizon.

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Randy Swedlund sailing with Chooey (his puppy) in a boat he designed and built.

Bruce Anderson christened his PD Racer and probably spent more time sailing than anyone else. And his boat did considerably more sailing than its owner. Saturday morning Bruce woke to find that the Puddle Duck had wandered off on its own. An extensive search proved fruitless until he got a lead that his boat had made its way all the way back to the Bullfrog Marina. He eventually retrieved it and brought it back to camp, safe and sound. In a typical Bruceism he proclaimed, “This boat sails better without me that with me!”

Bruce Anderson sails across the lake in his PDRacer

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Tom Gale’s Van Gogh boat is an interesting creature. It was built without plans. He lifted the design directly from one of Vincent’s paintings, color scheme and all. As of the messabout it lacked a rudder of any kind. Tom steers with his oars. Saturday evening he got a wild hair to demonstrate the capacity of his creation and started inviting more and more people aboard until we finally had something like 12 men and boys crammed into the 16 (I’m guessing here)foot boat. We didn’t get far, but the boat bore the load well and it was a good time in a college-students-in-a-phone-booth sort of way.

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a big crowd on Tom's Van Gogh boat


Chuck and Sandra Leinweber’s canvas kayaks were a real treat. I took a couple of short paddle excursions with my boys and was very impressed with these featherweight boats. So impressed, in fact, that I’m building my own skin boat right now.

Sandra takes Ruby for a ride in her canvas kayak

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DeWitt’s barbeque dinner was definitely a highlight, as was the surprise impromptu hillbilly concert that Ron produced out of thin air at fireside when 5-year old Ruby brought out her little turquoise guitar. Ruby, as always, was the belle of the ball.

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Ron Roberts (left) plays guitar while Jim Thayer, Chuck and Sandra try to ignore him.

I was looking forward to next year’s messabout before I had even finished unpacking from this one. A great time with great people in beautiful surroundings. That’s hard to beat. It’s an open event and all you Duckworks types are welcome. If it’s anything like this year’s gathering I can promise you it will be well worth the drive. See you in September.

Other Articles by Kellan Hatch:

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