beer and flowers and a happy rower

Inger Rankins (NW Sails & Canvas) succeeded in pulling off a jaw dropping race for an 11 ft dinghy in a crowd of much longer, sleek surf ski's, kayaks, racing SUPs and all manner of multi and single crewed craft.  I hope to put together a video about her race (See update below) but for the moment, this little interview with her right after she came in, after 20 hours non stop rowing, mind you, gives an idea of the energy and spirit of Inger Rankins.


UPDATE: Video of Inger's Race taken by her husband as he caught up to her at different points in the race.

Also stay tuned to Small Craft Advisor Magazine and Pocket Yachters for 70/48 stories from the racers including Inger's own narrative.
19 hours and 59 minutes non stop rowing 70 miles.
Inger and Seans sailboat, Cito that brought them towing the PT 11 from Port Townsend to Tacoma for the race.

Our friend, Inger Rankins of NW Sails and Canvas, heard about the 70/48 human powered race from Tacoma to Port Townsend, and decided she had to participate. She signed up as back up crew aboard the 4 person, locally designed and built row boat, Salish Star. It looks like the first crew are all as determined to race as Inger is, so she entered the race on her own, drawing on her viking heritage to name her solo "team", Valhalla. To our surprise, she chose the PT 11 to do it in! At 11 feet, she cannot expect to be at the front of the fleet but the point of the 70/48, like the R2AK, is not to win, but to finish. (I did promise her favorite beer at the finish line) 😉
Inger training in the PT 11 for the 70/48

Inger is one of the finest canvas workers in the area and quite an athlete as well. Along with her regular training on the waters between Point Wilson and Port Hadlock (before and after work), we took a day to do a capsize/overboard drill. I think the practice meant a lot not only to Inger but also to her husband, Sean. It is always good to know you can get back into the boat! It was a good opportunity for me to take some video to share.

We are very excited for Inger. We admire her bravery and will be tracking her closely, guessing that the combination of her personality and the PT 11 will be interesting to follow in more ways than one. The 70/48 starts June 11th in Tacoma at 5 PM. Look for Team Valhalla while you are checking out the other boats on the tracker. We hope all of the teams have safe and fun passages amidst the "whirly burlies" and commercial traffic of Puget Sound.

We are cheering for you already Inger!
Inger heading for the water at the NW Maritime Center.

Sometimes things look right until you try to match the parts. For example, we check  puzzle joints on every kit before shipping. However, it is easy to assume that a really simple little part is right. This is what happened recently when a customer in Australia wrote saying, after everything else being so perfect in the kit, the mismatch of this one little part, the inwale doubler, had to be a mistake. Well, he was absolutely right and we really do not know how many kits went out with this little part that does not fit correctly.  I can only imagine that quite a few of these kits went out and quite a few builders just dealt with it quietly.
The curve does not match and it should.

How did this happen? We used to cut this little doubler on the router table with the nesting notch that matches the notch in the transom inwale. Then we started having it CNC cut. I guess we never really checked.
So, we now have a stack of correctly cut inwale doublers. If you are not yet at this point of your build, please contact us to get the new piece. If you had to adjust or re-cut this little piece, please accept our apologies.

If you have a part that looks wrong or does not fit, we count on you letting us know. Thank you for choosing a PT 11 nesting dinghy kit!


I am pleased to be the editor of a special book now available in full color print. Toti Bleu, dream of a gypsy wagon, is the journal of how a horse drawn gypsy wagon 'became'. It includes modern logic behind the design, material choices, gear selection, horse breed and care. It also includes the lack of logic involved in jumping into the unknown to realize a dream, the magic of friendships both human and quadruped, and the emotional ups and downs of a long term project.

What really makes this book so beautiful is the author, Suzanne, who strikes a balance between practical and poetic thought, and, the many photos taken on location in Se France. Yes, France.  I may be biased, since Suzanne happens to be my mother, but this project has allowed me to get to know her in a way few children get to know their parents. I initially thought her idea was a little nutty given the lack of money to do such a thing, but following as it evolved, I am now even more inspired by her.

See Toti Bleu on Amazon available worldwide.

This journal was originally a blog and the story continues. The book is edited from the blog format and the 2 venues compliment each other.

Be inspired to create your own 'land boat', dive into any seemingly impossible project, or simply connect more closely with flora and fauna, and especially horses. All proceeds from the book go to the author and continuing the Toti Bleu Project and message.
front and back cover
colorful happiness - Toti's front door.


What do you think of when you think of Port Townsend, WA? If you have ever been here, the first word in your head might very well be BOATS!
Port Townsend Annual Wooden Boat Festival. Photo: Ashlyn Brown

Port Townsend has a unique maritime culture and when you crest the hill as you enter our town, you are struck by the view of our snow capped mountains, beautiful bay, sailboats, work boats, haul-out yards & marinas, Victorian architecture, pristine shorelines and more boats, boats, boats!

This amazing photo is borrowed from the internet, taken by Steve Mullensky
This amazing photo of Boat Haven and Port Townsend is borrowed from the internet, taken by Steve Mullensky
Launching Cito. Photo: Ashlyn Brown

What we have is a real but also socially and environmentally conscientious working waterfront that specializes in the highest degree of craft in the marine trades. Wooden boat expertise is high on that list but certainly not exclusive to it as metal craft are built or repaired here too. Our local foundry and metal shops here produce top quality products for projects far and wide. Not surprisingly, many of our skilled workforce are graduates of the NW School of Wooden Boatbuilding, considered one of the very best in the country. In every big or little workshop, interesting things are being built, prototyped, repaired and restored.
Sliver Project at the NW School of Wooden Boat Building. Photo: Ashlyn Brown

The energy is high and is unique in its collaborative spirit. These small businesses help each other, working across platforms and skill sets. When a boat project comes in, the owners can be sure that this little town offers a powerful spectrum of skilled labor and expertise, and customized quality that only small, family and individually owned businesses can offer.

Am I advertising the Marine trades of Port Townsend? Yep! Here is why.
Sail maker Sean Rankins and team double check new sails. Our tradespeople are passionate about boats and about their craft. Photo: Ashlyn Brown




Like so many working waterfronts, our port faces some financial challenges for critical infrastructure projects. Government funding has dried up so our Port authority has posted some experimental yard rates in a misguided effort to pick up the slack revenue. However; the effects of these rate hikes are evidenced by an empty yard compared to previous years. Our Marine Trades businesses know that remaining competitive is critical to a town like ours.

I am reaching out to Pacific North West boat owners in particular. Perhaps quotes from the Port of PT for haul out and space rental would interest you. If the price does not work for you, please tell them, or tell us! Simply not responding to a quote will not educate an administrative office.  The Port Townsend marine trades businesses want your business. We know that price matters and our marine trades businesses want a project to fit your needs and your budget.
Enjoying Port Townsend's exciting sailing season. Photo: Ashlyn Brown

Further, see our Marine Trades Association listings and find out how they can help to make a haul out here more attractive. Even if some other yards can offer lower prices, few if any, can offer the craftsmanship concentrated here.

Please help our Marine Trades keep Port Townsend’s Working Waterfront competitive.
You can also take this brief survey! Your information is never sold! This is for our local research only.
Thank you! May 2018 be a wonderful year in some special way.


Additional resources regarding WA's maritime industry and strong towns movements;

WA to become the most sustainable maritime industry in the US by 2050

WA Dept. of Commerce Maritime industry defined

WA State economic impact study; Maritime Sector, update 2017

WA State strategic proposal for Maritime Sector 2017-2019

Strong Towns .org

Tour PT's Shipwright's Co-Op with Off Center Harbor

Yet again, the Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival succeeds in educating, inspiring, and show casing a truly beautiful fleet. We had a good show even though the loss of Meade Gougeon was often the topic of discussion. So many admired him.  I want to thank everyone who visited our booth. Also, big thank you's go out to everyone who showed their PT Watercraft masterpieces! There were 2 PT Skiffs present and Off Center Harbor just might be producing a video about them, featuring designers, Paul Beiker and Eric Jolley. Stay tuned!  Several Spears and PT 11's were present but there was literally no wind for the scheduled regatta so that was a non-event this year. Perhaps next year!

Thank you to WEST SYSTEM, our tent partners, Electric Paddle for test driving the new electric motor on the PT Spear, (stay tuned for more on that) and the NW Maritime Center for making it all happen. I will load up a few photos. 😉 AEB
PT Skiff Takin' Five
early morning on the dock
etched glass on one of the boats.. loved the detail.
early morning
tender to Xanadu
our booth
PT Watercraft and WEST SYSTEM

June 24th, Ketchikan Alaska. Russell’s solo R2AK successfully completed for 2017 and together we began our return voyage on our G32 catamaran. I could have written a small book about the trip which got particularly interesting for us after our brand new motor totally toasted itself. A summary article can be read HERE.
18 days later, we crossed the Straights of Juan De Fuca, and arrived into Port Townsend a little after lunch. I get excited when I see Point Wilson and the waterfront of Port Townsend, but I felt ready for home only as it came into view.  I could just as easily have kept going. This trip was one of being in the moment. I was where I was at that moment, soaking up the sights, sounds, smells, atmospheric pressure, and the wonder of it all. I loved it. We loved it, and we both really needed it.
Another 6 weeks have passed and I finally have a VIDEO put together just to give a sense of what cruising on the G32 looks like. I had wanted to finish the video sooner so that Meade Gougeon (who was declining only a week ago) could watch it but, sadly, he left us sooner than we expected and too soon altogether for all of us who admired and respected him.
So, here is the video..
Here is more detail about our trip...
More about Meade Gougeon’s influence on Russell personally here...
chillin' at the dock

Above header photo shows best friends Jim Brown and Meade Gougeon enjoying a ride on Jzerro..

from Russell Brown;

West System epoxies and the Gougeon brother’s work has had a big effect on my life. I have admired both Meade and Jan since I was 13 years old and I would say that no one but my parents have affected or influenced me more than Meade and Jan. Through them I developed good epoxy skills that gave me a livelihood, a creative outlet, and an identity.

I think that in many ways Meade is best represented by the company that he founded. Doing one’s absolute best seems to be the way of operating at WEST SYSTEM Inc., no matter how much work is involved. In their case, this is true to the point of wondering just where that kind of ethic came from. I think that a good part of it came from Mead.

Developing and sharing a new technology must have been exciting for the Gougeon’s, but a responsibility too. The way that Meade and his family and friends went about this task made learning the technology exciting, but it also showed a better way that went well beyond boat building and epoxy.
Continually improving the products, sharing the technology, being honest about the compromises, and providing good support for people using the products is how the company has been run for almost half a century. I know of no other company that has taken this approach to such an extreme and it has influenced me greatly in both how I approach my work and how I run my business.

Wood/epoxy boats have been Mead’s passion since his beginning with epoxy and it has been a passion that he passed on to so many of us, myself included.
Mead’s own boat, Adagio, is a 35 foot trimaran that he designed and built in 1970. Adagio has been continually raced for 47 years and weighs just 2700 pounds ready to race. If that’s not a testament to the technology that they developed, I don’t know what is.

I’ll miss Mead, even if I never knew him well. Mostly I’ll miss watching what he is going to do next.

Russell Brown
Gougeon 32 catamaran "Incognito" designed and built by the Gougeon Brothers.
Meade Gougeon experiencing proa Jzerro in Port Townsend during a Wooden Boat Festival

MORE on Meade Gougeon:

A great Gougeon Brothers History timeline

An article published in Sail Magazine shortly after Meade's passing.

“...a bit of a blur” is the first thing Russell says about his Race to Alaska experience. It was also, interesting, fun, and educational. Educational because he started the race with one big concern; that he did not know the boat well enough. To him, that was the only really "crazy" thing about his entry. Leading up to the race, he had been changing and rebuilding many things including an entirely new rig, built from a naked carbon spar up. He made changes to some of the basic systems; steering, rigging, of course, plus new pedal drive, electrical, and, well, the list is long. WEST SYSTEM INC sponsored the boat with a new set of sails designed for the new rig. By the time the race started, Russell had only one overnight shakedown and a mere number of hours with the new rig and sails. Before the rebuild, we had sailed the boat a few times but never far.
Team PT Watercraft and Bad Kitty leaving Victoria

“750” miles (as the crow flies) is one way to get to know a boat. On the first day he learned that even though the pedal drive worked well and pushed this 32ft catamaran around 3 knots, fighting current and tide rips was a rather painful misery and could be dangerous to one’s well being, especially when trying to avoid a reef. On the second day, light winds and confused seas shook the crap out of the rig and crew, exhausting to the point of realizing that pushing too hard was not worth destroying the boat or its captain. He had almost caught up to the lead boats at the end of the second day but it was then he decided to back off. The goal was to survive and make it to Ketchikan in tact. “Regrets’? Mostly that he left False Bay too late and missed 2 ‘gates’ through Seymour Narrows, the second of which was simply too dark with cruise ship traffic, heavy rain, and hazards not worth risking. Had he not missed the tide, he could have kept a smaller margin between himself and the leading boats.
During the rest of the trip, Russell was focused on keeping the boat upright, avoiding logs, making miles, maintaining things on board, and getting rest at night so that he was actually having fun.
Fun, is a keyword here.  "It is the most fun race course ever". Tactically, visually, Canada’s nature, other racers, all make it awesome. What us 'armchair racers' could not deduce, and may never fully grasp from the tracker, were the conditions that the racers were dealing with, but the leap frog happening that first week,  made me smile.  I, for one, grumbled watching other boats pass Russell as he rested at night, only to cheer as he passed most of them the next day. When he saw those boats, he steered close to them to say hi.
North to Alaska in Johnstone Straights

He passed Team North to Alaska twice and was really impressed by their crew. Teams West Coast Wild Ones and Triceratops impressed him too. Seeing young people doing such a cool thing as the R2AK really struck him as positively significant in our digitally monopolized world.
Team PT Watercraft visits Team Discovery near Cape Caution

His ‘nemesis’ of sorts was Roger Mann; the man and record to beat. Roger was in motion a lot more hours than Russell was and he let Russell know that he felt the need to push harder knowing he had competition. Roger finished only 7 hours after Russell and his personal experience was quite literally, mind boggling. Russell finished almost 4 days ahead of the standing solo record, previously set by Roger Mann in 2015.
Team PT Watercraft and Triceratops at the dock in Bella Bella.

Unlike a lot of the boats, Russell did not have connectivity to Facebook or the tracker. Being inclined to 'hermit-hood', “it was a good thing” he was not aware of how many people were actually following him on the tracker. Beyond visuals, he had no idea where other boats were or who was ahead of or behind him. VHF weather was his primary source and with updates just twice a day, gales predicted early, sometimes petered out. He sought protected anchorages, at least once, miles out of his way, only to discover the predictions had changed. Then he had miles to make up in the morning with barely any wind and contrary current.
Tying to a tree.

Places to anchor with shallow enough water exist on the course but it required planning ahead and sometimes stopping early to use them. Mostly a paper chart kind of guy, Russell also made good use of the Navionics charts I downloaded onto an old iPad. It turned out to be a good tool though we question its tide information. Even when the Navionics claimed positive current, the GPS showed 1.5 - 2.5 knots contrary. This fact highlights the very real nuances of water flow along this course.
Team PT Watercraft approaching the finish line amidst cruise ship and fishing boat traffic. click to enlarge.

Russell is not a confident videographer but he did manage to take some good clips. He even tried once to narrate but the audio is overrun by wind noise. After a particularly fast and wet day, he set the camera up facing himself to chug his satisfied last sip of beer. He launched into Dixon Entrance the following day, sailing into Thomas Basin, Ketchikan, at the polite time of cocktail hour after an intense crossing of well over 100 miles. His reward: beer, cheer, and big hug from me. He had asked me to wait until he passed Bella Bella before buying my ticket to Ketchikan, which I stressed about but did, and barely arrived less than 2 hours before he did. Whew!
Teams PT Watercraft, Discovery and North to Alaska at the dock in Ketchikan

I put together a Video HERE and one of our return voyage will follow in a few weeks.
Many thanks again to WEST SYSTEM and other sponsors/contributors listed below. Also many thanks to Ole in Ketchikan, and all of the great people at the Ketchikan Yacht Club (more about their greatness later). Race Boss and all the racer greeters- thank you so much for being there.
Ketchikan-most of the cruise ships had left for the day.

As a final (or not) note: in Ketchikan, Russell declared that doing the R2AK once was enough. Three weeks later, as we crossed the Straights of Juan De Fuca toward home, he was musing about what he would do different next time... Parents out there, does that sound familiar? as in childbirth syndrome? I now think I know how partners must feel sometimes... both dread and excitement at the thought of a repeat performance. We will keep you posted.

Video and blog post about our trip home coming soon...