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 updates 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.
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 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.
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...
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.
“...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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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...
We have shadowed leg one of this race for it’s first 2 years and we have mused on what it would be like to participate. Well, now we know and are still as excited by it as ever. Russell always understood what was needed to enter such a race. Ignorant me had no idea, only enthusiasm! He has worked for months without time off to get the boat ready and to meet sponsorship expectations. We might never have entered had it not been for the encouragement of WEST SYSTEM Epoxy CEO Alan Gurski and founder Meade Gougeon. They were the first to say 'do it!' and offered to sponsor us with some new North sails.
At the time of this writing, Russell is at the north end of Johnstone Straits hunkered down while the wind screams out of the SE. Had either of us been more tech saavy, we could have been updating all along as some of the other boats do but the SPOT tracker will have to suffice. Gougeon Brothers designed and built our boat, Incognito, and we hope to make them proud.
Russell has had a few challenges along the way already. Starting with a rigging crisis that had gone un-noticed until June7th, the day before the start. It was in Victoria, after almost 10 times lowering the mast and later shimmy-ing up to check, that the issue was resolved satisfactorily. The first day out of Victoria, he lost his preferred pedal drive prop and prop nut. He had a spare and continued with that. He had a close call with the reef off East Point Saturna, battling current, pedaling "for my life!" as he put it. Being conservative with words by nature, I imagine it was pretty darn scary for him. Mixed chop made life uncomfortable up to Nanaimo and at Seymore Narrows, he chose not to go through at night and to do some precautionary repairs on the pedal drive instead. The boat clearly likes to move as portrayed by the tracker as he would catch up in the day to many of the multi crewed boats that passed him in the night.
I want to thank our talented old friends & talented new friends who have contributed custom parts, innovative equipment, rigging, problem solving, and general advice. Not all have websites but I will share as many links as I can here;
Depending on when Russell makes it to Ketchikan or any point between, I will meet him to sail the boat home, at a cruiser's pace, of course. We will be closed until our return sometime mid-ish, July. 😉 AEB
I admire those who take on the challenge of building a boat or an airplane. CNC technology on kits has done for creative people, what the GPS did for adventurous people. (Not that they might not be one and the same) Cruising is far more accessible to those without traditional navigational skills, and CNC routering has opened up a whole new avenue to those who want to create something that would otherwise have been beyond their skill level.
Pause on that thought while mentally revisiting a lot of fun sailing..... OK-back to the present.
Our customers come from many walks of life and a wide range of ages and skill levels. However; they never fail to impress me. While Russell can take credit for creating a beautiful design, kit and manual, our customers need the vision, passion, patience, and attention to detail for good results. To add the complexity of documenting their own efforts takes the same qualities and much more. I cannot, for example, count how many tens of thousands of photos Russell had to carefully set up, snap, choose, and edit to get a few hundred for the manual.
Hence, for this post, I would like to point the spotlight on the Kerr Family; Randy, Kim, son Alex, and good friend Mark. Not only did they complete their beautifully built PT 11, "Lil' Bear" in about 6 weeks, their documentation of the experience resulted in a wonderful
and creative little video. The feedback from Kim and her family has been so meaningful to us and I feel puffed up with pride like a mother hen. With their permission I am sharing some of that feedback and the wonderful present of this video. Randy's videos are all beautifully created and fun to watch so explore and let them know what you think.
From Kim, "It was your PT11 kit that made my dream of having a sailboat come true!!!!! Randy and I can’t quit talking about how grateful we are that you guys put so much heart and thought into such a beautiful and smart kit. She sails and rows like a dream! Highlight of our summer to build and sail that boat! So thankful for you and Russell."
Yes, there are some crazy things happening in our country and in the world. I refuse, however, to let that overshadow all of the wonderful things and people that, through shear existence and positive attitudes, are in some way, making this world a better place, cherishing what is good and beautiful. Thank you to the Kerr family and all of our customers for your inspiration. AEB 😉
In August, we launched our “new” cruising boat, downsizing from Jzerro to a trailerable catamaran, unique in that genre, the Gougeon 32. We have managed to get away twice this year, on a shakedown trip to Deer Harbor and a week long trip into the San Juan’s after our local Boat Festival. On this last trip we took the PT 11, mounted on a custom made platform. I managed to miss getting a photo of it nested on its platform so we have to get that later.
We 'rendezvous'ed with 'Vito Dumas', our frequent sailing buddy, in Shallow Bay, Sucia. It turned into a stormy night but we still got in a good hike and a fun row. I snapped the above shot simply because I was struck by the interesting contrast of vessels. 'Mary H' is owned by a lovely couple, Lou and Al, who even offered to serve as a ‘dock’ when our anchor was not cooperating. Lou and Al are lifelong sailors only recently giving up their sailing home of decades, for more comfort without giving up mobility on the water.
Russell and I do enjoy rowing around and exploring. Having Alex with us in his PT SPEAR, 'Pato', makes him our best model. He is both a great sailor and rower and I am ever grateful he has not fired this photographer for being such a pest. I cobbed together a short video of our week.
As the wind picked up the next day, we decided to move around to Ewing Cove.
We were able to pull the dinghy onto the platform without taking it apart, for the short runs.
After a day in Ewing Cove we sailed to Stuart Island into Prevost Harbor. 'Mary H' had moved there and Madam Pele, with Ian Andrewes showed up too. Ian was aboard the R2AK 2016 winner, Mad Dog Racing. Al Hughes on 'Mary H' was Captain on the 2015 R2AK winner Team Elsie Piddock. It felt like a small world, in a good way.
From Prevost we moved to Reid Harbor. There Alex and I practiced our capsize drills. An effort was made to film all of this but the resulting video is mostly out of focus. A camera glitch...Bummer!
Scotty, on 'Da Capo' joined us in Reid Harbor. Now we had a PT 11 and 2 PT Spears in the fleet; Lil' B, Pato, and Rascal.
The next day we all had a good sail to Skull Island. (Orcas Island) There we enjoyed some sailing, rowing and hiking before heading back to Port Townsend. There was an impressive wooden, converted work boat crossing the straights with us. The view was beautiful. Photos follow. Video HERE.
Click photos for larger view, then back tab to return.
This year was the 39th annual Victoria Classic Boat Festival. Among our friends who participated, Alex Spear was there with his beautiful boat, Vito Dumas and her tender, ‘Pato’, a PT SPEAR. 'Pato' is in fact the very first PT SPEAR.
In Alex’s words, ‘An esteemed panel of judges, including our local Carol Hasse, selected the PT 11/SPEAR as the “best open sailing vessel in the show”.'
This is a great honor. According to Alex, ‘Pato’ was not independently entered in the show but it garnered so much interest and attention from the judges that they deemed it worthy of mention. Our humble gratitude goes out to the judges.
From Victoria, 'Vito Dumas', 'Sir Isaac', 'Sparkle' and other familiar and beautiful wooden boats converged at the Deer Harbor Wooden Boat Rendezvous.
Vito Dumas and ‘Pato’.
Two weeks have already slipped by since the festival! I am late to express my deeply felt gratitude to everyone who makes the festival happen, (http://nwmaritime.org/) , all who participate, and all who come to talk wooden boats and all things boaty. I realize that is a big blanket statement.
For the past 5 years we have been very fortunate to share a tent with WEST SYSTEM EPOXY. This year Alan Gurski (CEO) and Bruce Niederer were on hand with their comprehensive and unbiased knowledge about epoxy; its uses, history, and the very chemistry of it all. If you want to understand epoxy, pros and cons, these are the guys to talk to.
There were more than a few of our customer boats in the festival. PT 11 nesting dinghies and PT Spear dinghies were to be seen on boats, behind boats, at the docks, and out in the bay.
Two customer PT Skiffs graced the festival as well. Both boats are mind blowingly beautifully built and equally unique interpretations of the kit. High compliments are due to these two builders.
Steve Merrill wipes the morning dew from his PT SKIFF, Takin' Five. Steve has been meticulous with his build, taking his time. He says he has been really enjoying it and getting creative especially with his 'expanding' driver seat and his self bailing installation.
This seat hinges up, slides forward and ......
....expands into a romantic, "side-by-each" joy ride seat. My jaw dropped upon seeing this. But, alas, there are NO PLANS for it so you will have to charge up the brain-waves to create your own if you want one!
Our friend, Cooper Parish, took time off from his high-tech job at Scaled Composites in Mojave, to help us at our booth again this year. We love having him! We want him to keep returning every year so we make sure he gets plenty of sailing time in! In spite of being the smallest boat with the least sail area, Cooper sailed 'Rascal', a PT SPEAR, to a 3rd place finish (out of 6) among the Non-T-Bird class in the 26ft and under race.
Of the events in the bay over the weekend, I totally missed getting photos of the Schooner Race. With a piping wind, it was one of the fastest schooner races on record at the festival. It was over before I could get to the beach with the camera. I hear it was eventful! John and Anne Bailey's recently re-launched , Sir Issac, snuffed the fleet.
The PT Wooden Boat Festival is always a colorful affair. It is an overwhelming weekend for us, exciting, exhausting, and encouraging. Customers often visit us at this time and we see our 'family' growing. We are seriously looking forward to holding a casual, PT11 sailing regatta of sorts and I will keep you posted on any development in that direction. Thank you all again. AEB 😉