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by Ronnie Ash - Forth Worth, Texas - USA

If I just had a Core Sound 17, I would never ask for anything else, ever again!

October of 2011 may well be remembered as amateur boatbuilding's finest month. On the 6th through the 10th, Mike and Jackie Monies hosted the 2nd Annual Sail Oklahoma Messabout at Lake Eufaula. It was a bang up, 3 ring, sailing circus! Somehow, they contrived to cook 3 meals a day for over 100 hungry folks. That may qualify as a contemporary miracle. I can testify that Jackie's Cowboy Cookies are like manna from heaven (with chocolate chips!).

Friday's opening event was the picnic sail, from the "home beach" to Belle Starr Park and back. On Friday evening, 3 of the modern world's most well respected small boat designers, Graham Byrnes, John Welsford, and Jim Michalak, conducted a question and answer session for the benefit of all involved.

Saturday saw the World Championship Puddle Duck races. The PDRacer is advertised as a simple sailboat that anyone can build and campaign, but Brad Hickman's winning PDR showed us that simple can be flawlessly finished and amazingly sophisticated.

Sunday had a sporting schedule with slapstick competitions like the make your own sail race, the marshmallow scooping race, and the Pirate Poker race.

First and most importantly, I would send a heartfelt "Thank You!" to Mike and Jackie, Jackie's family, and her faithful "Staff." Your extensive planning, preparation, and tireless effort made Sail Oklahoma
2011 a most magnificent Messabout. Very Well Done!

The picnic sail on Friday was a ripping great adventure for me and my Bolger Zephyr, the "Rampant Goose," a 20'3" long by 3'8" wide, lateen rigged, flat bottomed sharpie. (My family crest allegedly sports a rampant {in the heraldic sense} goose, standing on one webbed foot with the other leg raised and wings outstretched. I'm really not trying to masquerade as a mutant PDGoose!)

Eugene Dixon, the Coffee Man, was courageous enough to sign on for the trip, and he served the Zephyr well as intelligent ballast and externally mounted off-centerboard operator. We set off with a reef in the sail, and as we drew away from the shelter of our beach, the wind became quite frisky. I'd guess it was blowing 15 - 20 mph, gusting to 25+, with waves up to 2'. (Sometimes I'm mistaken, but I hardly ever exaggerate!)

The downwind run to Belle Starr Park was an intense and intoxicating thrill ride. The Zephyr surfed along at a sizzling speed, and it was fascinating to watch the bow overtake waves ahead of us. As the bow stem touched the back face, water would curl over the stem head, then the bow would lift a bit as we pushed into the wave; we'd bull doze on through it, and as our stern felt the front face, we'd surge ahead and speed away, grinning like sailors possessed and cheering her on.

We benefited greatly from the shepherding services of our buddy in the motor boat, Kevin Hahn, who dashed energetically about, striving valiantly to lead his widely spread flock through the disconcerting forests of stumps and stickups. (And he managed all that with one arm in a sling!) Many Thanks for your guidance!

Belle Starr provided us with a perfect sheltered crescent of beach to land upon. The prospect of that long upwind beat back home made our picnic lunch a tasty but hurried treat, and soon we were in the boats and back at it.

For a while the Rampant Goose did a fair job of keeping up with her more sophisticated sisters, but, as the wind eased up, we began to fall behind. My reefed lateen sail doesn't have a very efficient shape for upwind work. Shaking the reef out while underway looked like an opportunity for embarrassment, so we eased over to the nearest beach and unleashed 81 square feet of determined Dacron.

With her party dress on, the Zephyr made a much stronger showing. As any fool might have forecast, the whistling wind, whitecaps, and waves soon returned, but the Rampant Goose flung herself into the fray. Eugene and I never even thought of reefing as we bowled along in a most glorious manner, bashing into waves and snorting spray. Stone the Crows! It was exhilarating. A misstep or a moment's inattention would have had us in the drink and scouting for trout, but the Zephyr never gave us cause for concern. Once again, I'm amazed by the ability of Bolger's simple, slender sharpie.

Race day (I like to think of it as "The Gunfight at the Sail OK corral!) found me in a rescue boat with Gary Chapman and his grand daughter. The Duckers kept us dancing, and Gary handled that aluminum skiff with admirable aplomb.

Eyeing such an amazing array of amateur built designs was a backyard boatbuilder's dream come true. Who would ever have expected to see such Bolger classics as the Long Micro and Chebacco? I had to wear a bib to keep from drooling on my shirt.

The list of exceptional boats was much too long for me to mention them all, but I will admit that I could not look at Frank Baedke's blindingly fast Wa'apa outrigger canoe without grinning. Too cool! (Look it up under Gary Dierking on the Duckworks plans page -but be warned, you'll probably want to buy the book!)

It was a rare privilege to meet Messrs. Byrnes, Welsford, and Michalak. I applaud Jim's practical approach (and we all benefit from the educational essays in his newsletter), admire the elegant lines and graceful detailing of John's designs, and Graham's Core Sound 17 is, truly, the object of my heart's desire.

Also it was quite inspiring to be in the presence of so many Texas 200 veterans. I have long aspired to make that trip, but when I consider some of the reported conditions, the Rampant Goose turns into a Rampant Chicken! If only I had a Core Sound 17. Until that comes to pass, do any of you guys need a crewman?

I was lucky enough to take Paul Helbert's sailing skin-on-frame Chuckanut 15 for a ride, and Eugene invited me to sail his Piccup Pram. Fortunately, the wind was light as I struggled to master the Chuckanut's fore and aft steering stick, but even so I had to remind myself to breathe now and then. It was a hoot! The Piccup was a delightful little boat. After the "majestic" tacking manners of my Zephyr, the Piccup's nimble turning ability was enough to make one dizzy. Thanks for the rides, fellas!

Next year I must be bolder about asking people for rides in their boats.

Again, my thanks to all - those who planned, prepared, cooked, hauled in their boats from near and far, participated, and contributed to the success of Sail OK just by their presence.

What's a poor sailor to say, but, "There is nothing, absolutely nothing, half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats."