How I came to build my first boat - part 10

Life intruded and I was unable to do most of the little stuff I wanted to get finished before we launched for the first time. I wanted to get her name and number painted on the transom before we left. I have some 8.5 x 11" sheets of duct tape in yellow, orange, black, and light blue. We were going to make a stencil and put a Puddle Duck on the sail as well as our hull number, but this did not come to pass. Three days of audit at work, an evening concert by my sons school band, and physical therapy all conspired against time to work on the boat.

Friday I took most of the day off to prepare for the trip and to try to get some last minute stuff done on the boat. I ran out and got our camp food for the weekend. Stopped by the hardware store to pick up a couple of extra pulleys, some screws, washers, eye bolts, bolts, and nuts, just in case. I also picked up a couple of adjustable bungee cords to use on my lee board. The idea is to tension the board so it would be held down but still able to swing up if we got into the shallows. I read somewhere that someone else using a similar leeboard system to ours had done this and it worked for them. Then I came home and attached a short bit of 1x2 on the leeboard so that I could attach said bungees.

Vaughan came home from school, we packed our clothes and made ready. I took all the seats out of the van and we shoved Water Dancer into the back. She's pretty heavy (I'm sure I've overbuilt her) and while I could probably get her on top of the van I don't want to hurt the boat or the van, so in the back she goes. It's a tight fit, but with the transom up against the front seats she barely fits. I had to bungee the hatch down because the foredeck is about two inches too long.

We packed the rest of our gear in the cockpit of the boat. Our tents, our camp box (a big rubber/plastic box with all our camping stuff in it), our cooler, our food box, our fishing poles and gear, our sleeping bags, extra parts and tools, and our new PFD's… except we couldn't find mine. IT turns out my PFD was in MY car… The one my wife took to work so that I could have the van… So instead of hitting the road for Maryland we hit the road for my wife's office. We finally get my PFD and say our goodbyes again, then we hit road just in time for rush hour! The upshot of this being that what should have been an hour and half or so drive turned into a three hour odyssey. We didn't get into the campground until almost 8pm, missing the skippers meeting and the hot dog feast. Ah well, no problem, we can catch up in the morning.

After our fried spam and scrambled eggs we ran out and got Dad a fishing license… just in case then headed over to Rogues Harbor to meet, greet, and launch. We pulled the boat out of the van onto the dolly ripped out of a 2x6 and wheeled her down the ramp and into the water. We moved her down the ramp and round the dock to tie her off as I took the dolly back to the van. I grabbed the mast and sail and took them to the beach and then grabbed the oars so I could row over to join the rest of the boats.

With a little trepidation I put the oarlocks in the sockets, adjusted my seat and pulled. My boat rows really well. It was a thrill to be moving through the water in a hull I built myself. I was digging the experience as I headed round the dock to the beach. We pulled up on the beach next to what looked to me like a Bolger Brick, definitely a cousin of our boat. Once on the beach we introduced ourselves and met the other skippers who were there. We took some time to look at some of the other boats on the beach looking for Water Dancers other cousins and we found one. Kwick Kwack was pulled up on the beach but her skipper wasn't there yet. We like the duck logo on the hull and it makes me wish I had gotten ours on our sail and our name on the transom. However it was way more important to just get here with a serviceable boat. With a little help we stepped the mast and raised the sail for all to see.

At this point we were getting a lot of attention and we were very excited and wanted to get out on the water. So we donned our PFD's and with some help we shoved off from shore. Our launch wasn't as smooth or glorious as I would have hoped. First we couldn't get our rudder down, and I didn't have the bungees attached to the lee board either. So when we launched we struggled first with the rudder. We finally got it down, and then I had to untie the leeboard and get the second bungee attached, all this while the wind was slowly pushing us into the dock.

I was quickly getting annoyed and pulled out the oars to get away from the dock and buy us some time as well as putting our nose directly into the wind so we didn't get pushed so much. It was while doing this that I ripped the port oar socket out, well not completely out, but mostly out. It took a lot of control not curse and throw a fit. I pulled oars back and stowed them as I got the foils sorted out, took a couple of deep breaths, pulled the mainsheet in, and turned the rudder. We caught the wind and started to move… Destination… THE FAR SHORE!

Just as we cleared the no wake buoys a powerboat let loose and hit us with a pretty good wake, just as the tiny Tardis boat was passing us in the opposite direction. We both agreed that the skipper of the fishing boat was a huge deleted expletive.

The wind was a bit gusty but enough to keep us moving along for the far shore at a steady rate. Vaughan moved from the aft to the fore and took control of the mainsheet. When we got moving really well the leeboard vibrated some but not annoyingly so. It let us know we were really moving. Every boat that came near to us was greeted with a wave and a hearty AHOY by my first mate. He loved yelling AHOY to other boats, it made him feel like a 'real sailor'. We made it all the way across the river and into a tributary creek where the wind got really sporadic. We dropped the sail and Vaughan grabbed his fishing rig and dropped his line. I grabbed the screw driver and started to make repairs at sea to our oar socket. One of the screws sheared off, one was bent funny, and the other two had almost pulled out. I was careful not to drop them overboard and I moved the socket about three quarters of an inch aft and carefully screwed the socket back down. Then I adjusted the clamps on my oars. A fellow boater offered us a tow to shore but we declined. By God we could get there on our own if we chose! I put the oars back in and we made our way along the shore. The repairs held! However I am going to use through bolts on those sockets when we get back to PA.

Vaughan trailed his line and kept an eye out on shore for interesting bits of flotsam and jetsam. He then declared he wanted to fish from the shore so I let him pick the spot and we went in to explore the crap that had washed up on the beach and to let him cast from shore.

About a half hour later we decided to move on, maybe head back to home port and see about some grub. However the wind wasn't co-operating so we kept rowing along the shore looking at interesting stuff, including a Hawks nest which we rowed right up to despite her repeated warnings to keep our distance. She kept circling us and we got an excellent view of that magnificent bird. Vaughan pointed out that without at boat we never could have seen that bird that close.

Our stomachs began to remind us that we had missed lunch so we raised the sail again, came about and made our way back to our home beach. One thing we noticed on our return trip is that we weren't able to tack very well. I think this is just a matter of getting the sail tensioned properly and perhaps moving my leeboard back a couple of inches. I put in another bit of wood to enable me to move the leeboard but I was unable to get the second flange on before we left. I will do that when I get home.

When we finally reached our home beach we got to see both Lightning McQuack and Kwick Kwack in all their glory. We spoke with some of the new faces on the beach we hadn't seen earlier in the morning. It was while showing off our boat that we met with another skipper who expressed an interest in the class and was thinking of building one. I apologize for not remembering his name but I volunteered my boat to him to see what they were about. It was really cool watching my boat sail off under another skipper's hand.

We were scheduled to have a race shortly after I loaned out my boat but the wind all but died, and then the sky started turning dark. We all agreed we'd rather talk about our boats and admire them rather than be caught out on the river if the weather turned bad quickly, so the race was called off. I'll admit I was little disappointed but I really wouldn't want to be caught out in a storm.

With no wind we decided to pack up for the evening and head back for camp for dinner. Well almost. Vaughan reminded me I told him he could row. So we unstopped the mast and I sat in the aft as he took to the oars for the first time. He rowed us for about 20 minutes making her dance up the river and then I rowed us back to the ramp.

He held the boat while I ran up and got our dolly. We were an object of curiosity to all the power boaters as I rolled my dolly down the ramp and came back up hauling the Dancer. We wheeled her up the van and started to load her up. Two of those power boaters were brave enough to come watch me shove her in and ask about her construction. Who knows, maybe we'll get a few more converts.

We went back to camp and the weather did indeed turn that evening. We had a big storm through the night. The next morning we hiked up to the lighthouse and back then went back to the beach. We helped some of the other skippers who were packing it in then fished for an hour or so before we too broke camp and went home.

We now have a boat. It floats. It rows. It sails. It dances on the water. Even if we never put her in the water again which isn't very likely, I would count this as time well spent. It was worth every dollar spent, and every hour of sweat equity invested, to spend a couple of days of truly quality time on the water with my son. Our Duck isn't just a little boat, its vehicle for big dreams.

Tom and Vaughan Mauer - #537 Water Dancer.