PxPixel
The Zen of Trailer-Sailing - Sail Magazine

The Zen of Trailer-Sailing

Trailer-sailors enjoy small sailboats. Some are open cockpit daysailers. Some are small live-aboard cabin cruisers. All are easy to rig, launch and retrieve—and fun to sail.Every trailer-sailing family with a sailboat loves the idea that they can cruise their dreamboat to windward at 55mph in any direction they wish. Most of these boats can be stored in the family garage. Snowbound
Author:
Publish date:
zen1

Trailer-sailors enjoy small sailboats. Some are open cockpit daysailers. Some are small live-aboard cabin cruisers. All are easy to rig, launch and retrieve—and fun to sail.

Every trailer-sailing family with a sailboat loves the idea that they can cruise their dreamboat to windward at 55mph in any direction they wish. Most of these boats can be stored in the family garage. Snowbound northern trailer-sailors can trail their boats to Florida to cruise in subtropical waters. Sailors on the West Coast can head south to the rugged shores of Baja California.

All that trailer-sailors need is an open road and water deep enough to float their boat. Their numbers are large. They enjoy sailing close to the water so they can hear the swishing sound as it flows by, be it on a river, a lake, a pond or an ocean. They like being able to reach over the side and feel the water on which they are floating.

zen2

These gypsies cruise swiftly to the water by highway or dirt road. On long overland trips their boat doubles as a comfortable camper when they make overnight stops. They climb aboard and sleep comfortably. It doesn’t get much easier than that.

In 1944, when I was 17, money earned on a paper route enabled me to purchase my first “big” sailboat, a used and very dirty 15ft 6in wooden Snipe, for the grand sum of $100. That boat was my first introduction to the Zen of sailing. None of us had heard of the word back then, but Zen it was, and exposure to it stimulated all my senses.

In the beginning, all of our families had vacation cottages around Spring Lake, Michigan. Everyone had boats of some kind. The two Failing boys, Bob and Fletch, had a heavy lapstrake lifeboat that we rigged to sail. Jerry Bricker had a Crescent. Another kid lucked into a Lightning. I had my Snipe. Our fleet was anchored just offshore, ready to sail at a moment’s notice all summer long. In the winter all the boats were stored upside down on sawhorses beside the lake. We could hardly wait for the spring thaw to melt the three feet of snow on top of them and unfreeze the lake.

We repaired, sanded, painted or varnished our wood hulls each spring. I’ll never forget the fresh smell of sanded mahogany or the aroma of the many coats of Spar Varnish I painstakingly applied to my boat’s amber-grained hull. Inside, I painted everything dark green. The deck, with its V-shaped splash rail, was bright yellow canvas over wood. She was a delight to the eye and a heart-thumper of a racer.

One-star-studded summer night, a sailing buddy and I sailed her far out into the lake, dropped anchor and reveled in the adventure of it. We hoisted a red railroad brakemen’s lantern to the top of the mast for an anchor light, then slept on the cockpit floor with the centerboard well between us, lying on our cloth-covered cork life preservers. The warm night, the aroma of the wooden boat, the view of that starry sky and the distant calls of the whippoorwills left a lasting impression that lives to this day.

zen3

When wooden boats gave way to fiberglass, I thought I would never enjoy sailing again. The new boats looked as sterile to me as a refrigerator. I saw not an ounce of character in any of them.

Nonetheless, I mellowed with the passage of time. Years later, married and living in northern Florida, I bought a used trailerable 10ft 13in Sunfish. To make sure I knew how to handle it, I practiced sailing it around in the face of approaching storms when the winds were strong and gusty.

After that came a 16ft Hobie Cat. I regularly sailed on northwest Florida’s Lake Seminole. Since the cat was all sails with little wetted surface it was a rocket. On a gusty day, flying a hull singlehanded, I flipped three times in succession. Each time the mast made a 360 degree revolution underwater before I discovered how to right it in the strong wind.

This boat taught me much about the wind and the water, and I began to appreciate its sizzling high-speed runs—especially when we sailed so hard through waves in the Gulf of Mexico that the water vaporized around us as we yelled with delight.

It was addicting. So was being able to slide our 16ft raft onto the beach, where we dropped its sail, threw a bright yellow nylon boom-tent over the spar, and slept comfortably on its trampoline deck. I lived off the sea this way for a week with a friend. We called it “roughing it easy.”

Related

01-061018ROAC-8149

Coming of Age at the Atlantic Cup

Midway through the final race of the inshore portion of the 2018 Atlantic Cup, the three boats in the lead—Mike Dreese’s Toothface 2, Mike Hennessy’s Dragon and Oakcliff Racing, representing the Long Island Sound-based sailing school of the same name—suddenly broke free from the ...read more

01_silken_2018-03-08-0052

North U’s Regatta Experience Program

“Want to check the keel?” North U Coach Geoff Becker calls to me from back by the transom. We’ve just suffered our worst finish in the regatta and are absolutely flying on our way back to shore, spinnaker up and heeling at an angle that feels like maybe we’re tempting fate. ...read more

Navy-Sand-Dune_1080

Tucket Footwear’s Giller Shoes

Just for KicksMove over Crocs, there’s a new plastic shoe in town. Unlike the aforementioned fashion crimes, Tucket Footwear’s Giller shoes are made for boating. Water will get in, yes, but it will also run straight out again via rows of “scuppers” in the uppers and a dozen drain ...read more

01-m3113_git170829-294

France’s Maxi-tri Ultime class

It’s hard to believe how far foiling has come since the Moth class figured out how to reliably take to the air in the early 2000s.Was it really only in 2013 that the America’s Cup was dragged kicking and screaming into the foiling world by Emirates Team New Zealand back in San ...read more

GGTobagoCays

Cruising: Guadeloupe to Grenada

Our Dream Yacht Charter delivery started as a “wouldn’t it be fun if” idea. Those are usually misguided, if not downright stupid. But a Bali 4.3 named Jumelles (French for “twins,” appropriately) needed to leave Guadeloupe to do heavier charter work in Grenada, and as soon as I ...read more

TOTW_PromoSite

SAIL's Tip of the Week

Presented by Vetus-Maxwell.Got a tip? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.comWhen I bought my boat it had 18 through-hull fittings. To reduce the number of holes in the hull (I ultimately cut them by half), I first re-plumbed the drain hoses from my sinks, scuppers, bilge pumps and ...read more

rokk

Scanstrut: ROKK Charge+

It RokksWith the increasing use of smartphones and tablets for in-cockpit navigation comes the issue of keeping these devices charged, since running nav software will drain those batteries in no time. Scanstrut has come to the rescue with the ROKK Charge+, the first-ever ...read more

GreenCove2-2048

Liveaboard Voting Rights Threatened in Florida

Bucking decades of precedent, a Florida elections officer is refusing to allow customers of a popular mail forwarding service to register to vote in his county. Since 1988, St. Brendan’s Isle of Green Cove Springs in Clay County has provided transient Americans with mail ...read more