Wanderer Report

design and story by Bob Throne - Willow Grove, Pennsylvania - USA

Many Ducker’s responded to my design, build & launch articles two years ago, often with helpful advice.  At the time  several folks asked for a “full performance report”.  I never got around to it … too busy sailing.  But now it’s New Years 09’ and cold and blustery here in Philadelphia.   Over two seasons I’ve had a couple dozen outings under widely varied conditions.  Maybe now is the time to sum it up.  My Wanderer design, hull #001, the “Terry Jeanne”, is sound and able: points up well, moves smoothly with a wisp of wind and is wonderfully steady in all conditions, moves easily at hull speed under 2/3 power, carries 4 - 5 - even 6 in comfort, and provides comfortable bunks for two..

After sorting out the stuck, swing -down, off-center-board as well as the lee helm (see letter of .Oct 07’- Dec. DW) , I had about eight more sails that first year.  As I wrote then to Chuck: I cut it out and built a daggerboard .. roughly 2' x 3&1/2 ', same area. Doing so moved the center of resistance forward 6". Voila! a bit of weather helm .. light in light air, a bit more with a breeze ... just right.”  Being able to tow up to the lake and sail with ease, keeping pace with a Potter 15, was a great confirmation of the concept.  I haven’t any pictures from that period, but here are a couple in light air this past summer, at Lake Nockamixon, a sailing hot spot an hour north of Philly.  There have been no changes to her rig or looks since, although I did add a 4“ bridge deck behind the cabin bulk head.  There‘s a pulley and clam cleat for the main; she’s so steady that it’s entirely safe under 10 kts.  It’s also cot two cup holders on either side and a 4” lip off the floor below which make a handy stowage for little things.

Lots of beam, comfortable seats, look through the cabin - not over or around it. This is an unusual layout, but really make for relaxed sailing

Wanderer - 15’ x 6’9’ with 125 sf of sail.  Draft 5”; 3&½ ‘ w/ board. Yes, there’s lots of freeboard & lateral area … and it hasted purchasing a motor

Happily, that first season extended well into Winter.  Next are a couple of pictures from Thanksgiving week 07’ when my son was in from Oakland, CA.  It was a beautiful, but calm day and a special pleasure to have my son, his son, and an old friend of his aboard.  (You know you’re “old” yourself when your 44 year old son has an ‘old friend’.)  This was the first time I was able sit in the cabin myself and appreciate the full headroom and panoramic view out all those windows. This is Lake Galena - Peace Valley Park, Bucks County, barely a half hour from home, a major lay-over for thousands of geese and ducks.  There was just a wisp of air moving and we ghosted along for nearly an hour until it became still.  The little electric trolling motor then got us in at maybe 3 knots on glass-like water at full power; 2 knots at ½ power.  In light air the MinnKota and a large rudder provide ample control.  A memorable day both for having the boys aboard, and for Nature’s exquisite beauty.

Sliding off the trailer on a  beautiful late Autumn day at Lake Galena

Full sitting headroom on 12” cabin seats Grandson Jonathan (15” seats in the cockpit) The bell is secured until needed

That first season wasn’t over though.  I was determined to make up for that delayed launch.  A January thaw found me with a friend at Lake Galena again on January 8th 08’, with temperatures in the high 50’s.  We had breezes 3 to 8 and variable; making easy sailing,  We got up and down the mile long lake a couple of times, comfortably enjoying our lunch as we reached to the northeast.  I was finally willing to give in, and within days Winter returned and I covered her up till Spring.

Launch delayed till early August, 07’.. but 1st season wasn’t over till Jan. 8, 08’! Those cabin roof covers have been removed as they’re not particularily useful

Season finally over … time to bundle up (double tarps) … a little forlorn? I wish I had a garage for protection & to allow me to do little jobs over the winter

I contented myself with Duckworks reports, following the EC Challenge and chewing the fat with Steve through last Winter.  The boat was covered with snow and ice several times with no apparent harm. The caps are off the compartments for circulation.  The upgrade priority was to get a motor since in a breeze it was sometimes tricky getting in.  And it would open up calm days and other waters; maybe some fishing outings too. The whole project was on a tight budget; using plastic was ruled out.   I had saved up, and in May I bought a 07’ 3&½  Merc 4-stroke via Craig‘s List; nearly new, for $550.  My total expenditure came to just under $2,000 over a year and a half -  $900 or so on wood, epoxy, etc  .. 500 on the trailer  .. and the motor.  My first outing this past Spring (08’) was a motor only trip to the north end of Nockamixon, varying the power often to begin to break it in.  It’s at least eight miles long, plus a north inlet that’s more creek than lake that runs another couple miles too narrow to sail.   I hadn’t had a motor since a pre-WWII 1&½  on a little pram in the mis-50’s.  I wanted something that would protect the environment and allow me to get on to lakes with strict restrictions.  The motor starts easily and put-puts along nicely at maybe 3 knots, just sipping gas at 1/3 throttle, opening lots more opportunities.

A  3.5 hp Merc 4cycle moves her at 4 kts on ½ throttle; almost 5 at full power. Steve Bosquette teases me about having “twin screws”  Bet she’d plane w/ 20 hp.

Sails laid inside - new dagger-board on the port cabin seat - anchor well forward. There are compartment under cabin seats and cockpit seats .. all kinds of room.

In early May I met my son-in-law Kareem, grandson Kareem, Jr. (8)and granddaughter Mattie (6) at Lake Galena after school one day.  Those longer days leave lots of time and a nice breeze made for a good sail, with every one taking a turn at the tiller.  The design is wonderfully steady: with less than 7 or 8 knots of wind I often stand as I sail, a welcome stretch when you’ve got a couple of artificial hips.  And that cabin is as safe a place for young children as I could hope for.  They’ve taken to standing on the seats and looking out the cabin top.  It was Kareem’s fist time sailing, although he loves to kayak.  The motor now makes it easier to get on the trailer .. I just drop the sails, pull the board, and run her on to the bunks  .without worrying about being blown around.

Grandson Kareem Jr. & Grandaughter Mattie love Grandpa’s boat
Being able to stand and stretch, even with a breeze, makes sailing more comfy.

At the end of June I got to go to the 2nd Eastern Messabout, my first,  hosted by Steve Bosquette at Rancocas Creek, a tributary of the Delaware River.   Arriving Friday afternoon I had a hour and a half sail with Paul Truszkowski aboard, my first experience with currents and tides.  We motored the ½ mile down to the Delaware, hoisted sail, and beat up wind - down river towards Philadelphia into a steady 8 - 10 mph wind, rounded a buoy and reached back to the mouth of the Rancocas.  I have no sailing pictures;  Steve circled us in George Mindos’ lovely Simmons Seaskiff, having too much fun.  The Messabout report tells the tale of a couple of great days.  And I got to prove out a couple of other matters: I slept aboard for the first time, with an improvised tarp-tent over the cabin and cockpit.  It was entirely comfortable though pretty hot; by midnight it dropped to 80 or so and I slept restfully till dawn.  Lots of room for a second person on the opposite seat/bunk … 6&½’ x 7’ altogether.  Sunday morning five grown men stepped aboard and we motored two miles down to the restaurant at Dredge Harbor for breakfast, establishing both her load carrying capacity and the power of that little Merc. 

A comfortable night aboard … plenty of room for another person another time
Paul, myself & Steve - two more in the cabin - headed for breakfast … 1,500#?

Breakfast at Dredge Harbor .. That cockpit is 5’ x 6&½’ - Got some comments; it’s unique, distinctive, functional  … I like it

Returning from breakfast - the other Steve, Gutemuth, of Watervan fame

In early July Steve B. and I launched on the Rancocas and went down the river to the same place for lunch.  It was piping up at 10 - 12 and a couple of tacks had us at the buoy out from Dredge Harbor so we dropped the main and loosed the jib and mizzen to motor up the narrow winding channel for lunch at the Marina.  By the time we ate and puttered out to the Delaware again it was blowing .. 13 - 17, with gusts to 20 or more.  With the two of us aboard she just grabbed all that power and bit into the 1 - 1&½ sea.  What a ball !  She will heel a bit, and we gave in and both sat to windward; but then she just steadies and goes.  I gave Steve the tiller, and for the first time we took a bit of spray on the windows and even in to the cockpit.  After a couple of tacks up-wind, down-river we headed north on a long rolling run, steering to keep her wing-on-wing and using that broad transom to push her past hull speed now and again. Wish we had had a gps.  Steve tells me “she a had a bone in her teeth” and indeed, she handles well on all points of sail, never thinking about going over but finally giving us a bit of a thrill.  That mast is un-stayed, by the way, resting in a box on the bottom and up through a slot in the roof - the forward bulk head is heavily reinforced.  This is no problem … but that two-piece aluminum mast does bend over a good foot at the tip, spoiling the sail shape up there and de-powering her a bit.  I’m going to add the side shrouds this Spring.

There were a couple of other Summer sails on Nockamixon, alone and with friends, and I would have sailed more in August, but I was busy building a Michalack Toto for and with my son-in-law.  This was a snap compared to the year before, and we pushed so we could take both boats up to Lake George. This is the  destination which spawned the whole concept of designing a pocket cruiser and using that old Snark Wildflower rig.  Come early Sept. 08’ we finally took them both to Trout House, Hague, NY.  The lake there is 3 mi. across and the wind comes up 15 - 18 miles or open water from the South at mid-morning most days.  We dedicated the Toto the “CamHill”  (my daughter) and watched with pleasure as Kareem proved her seaworthiness.

Then, over four days, I got to fulfill a dream  … several dreams, in fact.  I had a  modest solo sail in moderate wind, took the two grandchildren out with just the motor, and took them again - with my daughter and son-in-law - up the lake to the islands and back. Then my daughter, prone to motion sickness, asked to go out AGAIN the next day, when it was a bit sunnier.    We motored with the kids and my wife out around the shallows of a small peninsula to the Hague town beach and back.  Kareem took out his Toto. What a joy to share the boats and the beauty of the Adirondacks with my family !  Does it get any better ?

The day before we left I had a another long solo sail, taking a broad reach/run all the way across the lake, almost  three miles, then a couple of tacks South back across in to 15 - 20 winds. I had added a small bridge deck with a pulley and clam cleat for the main sheet. Handy in light and moderate wind, but to be used wisely. By myself, she heels and goes !  And just once I was a tad late in easing the main sheet and scared myself a bit.    But she simply slowed and settled, and on I went.  There  are no reef points on that old Wildflower main, but I might have - maybe should have - just dropped it and sailed on jib & mizzen.  I had tried that once heading out on a sail just to see how it handled: the balance is just right and she makes good headway even in moderate winds.  Next time I’ll do that;  ‘the biggest safety factor on a boat is a smart skipper’ ..

un huh.

The morning we were to head home I motored the ½ mi. over to the Hague town beach in a light but steady rain and pulled her out there.  Next year I plan to launch at Lake George village at the south end and cruise and camp the 32 mi. length of the lake for two or three days, using either state island campsites or simply anchoring for the night.

Leaving before dawn for the Adirondacks .. Anticipation is part of the fun!
Launching son-in-law Kareem’s Michalak Toto at Trout House 
Kareem on the maiden voyage - room for one of the kids, too
Terry Jeanne aboard the ‘Terry Jeanne’ .. been going to Trout  House since 74’
See that flag?  It was blowing even more out on the lake. She was about to  “have a bone in her teeth” again;    but no one was there to get a picture of that

And after all the excitement, docked in the moonlight - (Look close: you can see the 4” bridge deck w/ cup holders & stowage below)

The 08’ season wasn’t over in September, though.  On a lovely October Sunday I met Mr. Bosquette at the Hawk Island Marina ramp and being as there was little or no breeze we left the sail rig on the trailer, fired up the Merc with it’s usual two easy pulls, and headed up Rancocas Creek.  Motoring, she handles better when I lock the Merc straight and use the big rudder. Without the rig we could pass under two or three bridges and navigate up two or three miles of lovely, sparsely developed natural marsh, field and woods.  It goes even further, so that will be on the to-do list next year. We were just at the peak of the tide, and as it turned slack we tossed out the anchor in the eddy of a wide turn (another first)  and enjoyed our sandwiches.  It always strikes me how a couple of hours on the water feels like being away for a couple of days.

Smack dab in the middle of the Philly/Jersey “burbs” - Rancocas Creek
A lazy lunch on a sunny Autumn afternoon was another ‘design requirement”

But our motoring adventures weren’t over.  Steve had never seen the northeast end of Nockamixon, or the dam that turned it into such a lovely lake.

On a cool early November  we launched again without the rig and motored  that way.  A breeze and chop did come up and we saw a few sails the other way, but the motor would allow us to pass under the road and up the inlet.  Alas, we never got there.  A half hour out and the Merc began to sag, and then smoke heavily  … shut it off !  Now !!  I dropped the little 40# MinnKota and clicked it on to maintain steerage, voicing real worry about my prized little engine.  Steve, however, was non-plussed …  “we’re just beginning to have fun”, says he. 

We pushed across the lake to the lee shore and tried to tie or anchor.  There was just time to tilt the Merc up and get a look at the prop  ..  nothing there but some green sea grass - maybe it had clogged the intake ?  By now it was cool, and without spark, I pulled it through and found the usual compression - good.  I knew the electric would get us back, but not easily.  We were nearly bumping a craggy, steep rock cliff.  Steve says “we can kedge”.  “Duh” say I.  He grabs the anchor tosses it ahead 15 feet or so and pulls us up 10 or 12 feet, then does it again and again.  Another new trick !  But slow.  We used the electric, clinging to the lee shore until we rounded a point and couldn’t avoid the wind.  Then we sort of did a “reverse tack“. Since all that freeboard will quickly blow the bow over, we headed straight into the wind and slowly pushed a half mile or more down the lake, then swung her over and crabbed with a following wind back to the dock and ramp.  We’d been out an hour and a half and Steve was having a great time.  I was still worried about my motor, especially the close tolerances on the valves .. and $550.   We ate our lunch at the dock, helped a family get their fishing boat onto their trailer, and headed home, with Steve repeating to me that it was unlikely that there was much damage.

He took the Merc with him and called me a week later to say that after opening up the bottom he found the impeller had slipped on the shaft and he’d ordered a new one, and a new plastic oil fill cap which had begun to melt.  A week after that I missed the call when he had it running quietly in a tank in his garage !  Among the best parts of these past few years is the friends and help I found.  I headed to Steve’s today, New Year s 09‘, on the excuse that “I have to get an engine part out of Steve’s garage”.  But of course we got a bite of lunch and I had a good look at his mini-tug, Phoenix, getting closer to completion and a March launch.

All of these sites are easily seen via Google Earth. I’ve been surprised and pleased by the good sailing on the Delaware;  Nockamixon is a good sailing lake,  and I’ve got lots more exploring to do on each.  But the northern basin of Lake George is sublime …  as I’ve often said, ‘if Heaven isn’t pretty much like Lake George and the Adirondacks’, I’m not interested“.  That funny drawing that was on Duckworks two years ago has blossomed in to a delightful, well proven pocket cruiser that has exceed my expectations on every criteria.  My thanks to Chuck, Sandra and all the help and friends I’ve found here.

PS -  Steve and Chuck keep telling me I should ditch the rig and make a balanced lug sail But geezzg, it’s only 35 years old.  Maybe next year.

Art work: Steve Bosquette. Gentle, but persistent nudging: Chuck Leinweber


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