Skipper Jeff

Skipper Jeff Inspecting the sails
Skipper Jeff inspecting the sails

Hey, it’s time for me to write a bit about myself I guess. I’m a 40 something (I forget how many fingers) father of two and husband with a project problem. The first step is admitting you have a problem, right? We can get into the project list later; from the house, addition, motorhome, travel trailer, ski boat, tractors… I’ve got a classic entrepreneur “shiny object syndrome” it seems. We’ve got land-based adventures in our campers that we may blog about in the future (did I mention I have a project problem?)

This is a larger version of Jeff’s 1st Sailboat

I started sailing as a wee lad in a wooden pram with a gaff rig much like the one pictured here. Ours was a lot smaller though. A simple canvas square sail, a plywood daggerboard, and a plywood rudder.

My dad was a navy sailor in the ’60s, an unknowing participant in the Cuban Missile Blockade in October of 1962 aboard the USS Dahlgren. My Mother’s father was a shipbuilder, a professional shipwright at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, ME during WWII. My father’s father was a machinist in the Naval Drives Systems division of General Electric in Fitchburg, MA, where my father would later spend his entire professional career as a sales engineer. In fact, both sides of my family have been boating or near the water for centuries. The first of the Brideau name arrived in Quebec City as an indentured servant in the late 1600’s. One of his sons became a notable river pilot and built “canoes” for the French government while working an arpent on the Isle D’Orleans.

A wooden Sunray Jr. Triangle Class Sailboat

Anyways, my mothers Father William, the shipwright, purchased a lakeside property shortly after WWII in Lunenburg, MA where we have been boating for the past 60+ years as a family. He had several small boats, one of which we still have today and the second boat I learned to sail on. It is a boat he built himself, a fiberglass version of a Sunray Jr. Triangle Class one-design. I hope to refurbish it next year and get it back on the water (I forget, did I mention a project problem yet?). This boat is quick with large sail area and a planing hull design. I’ll post some photos here of the actual boat when I can get some. In the meantime here are some old ones I found on the web.

Pépé Williams half-hull
One of pépé William’s half-hulls used for boat design

In the late 80’s my Father and William set out to build a cabin sailer. They devised a centerboard sloop based on known plans. My Grandfather modified the beam to maximum trailerable width for comfort and space while keeping the length at 19′ so as to fit in the garage. It was primarily of wood construction with steamed planks and all. I remember driving caulk in between the planks with a mallet. The wooden boat was then skinned in hand-laid fiberglass. Such construction lead to a conversation where one of the two men had said something to likes of “whoever runs into her will suffer as much or more damage themselves”. This phrase was the inspiration for her name, The Golden Rule. (Do unto others as you wish done unto you).

The sailboat Golden Rule and Sunray Jr. circa 1990
The sailboat “Golden Rule” (rt) and “Sunray Jr.” (lt) circa 1990

Our family sailed this boat on the lake for many years. We even took her to the ocean a few times. Once to Pemaquid, ME where we traditionally spent a week every summer, and once to Salem, MA. Each proved a trailering nightmare with our Oldsmobile station wagon and a short tongue.

Ain’t she a beauty

That boat fell into disrepair when my father fell ill with cancer and was sold for naught to a young family hoping to spend some quality time on her. We never heard about her again.

Simple and Capable, The Sunfish

At various times, we’ve adopted/inherited boats of all kinds. They seem to gravitate towards us. We got the Sunfish I mentioned earlier when one of my father’s colleagues sold his lake home on Hickory Hills Lake nearby. We sailed the he-double-hockey-sticks out of that little boat for years and years. It was used and abused but by-far the most used boat in our fleet. I could capsize and right that boat without getting wet by scrambling over the side and standing on the daggerboard and then scrambling back over into the cockpit when it righted. I was more likely to get a slug of bottom dropped on me from the top of the spar as the bottom is rarely more than 8-10′ in Lake Shirley.

White Knuckle Sailing

Years later, after marrying my wife Diana, my brother picked up a Hobie 16. We’d lusted after these since our childhood and our parents refused to get one (probably a wise choice). Once Dan had one, I “needed” one too. I found one for $600 I think it was. We sailed this on the ocean from Odiorne Point for a few years. It was a heck of a lot of fun when it was windy, but a white knuckle and wet ride. We’d outrun some lobster boats and get air jumping off tanker wakes. We pitch-poled here a few times and soon life got in the way. I started a new business and with the boat getting little use we sold her for working capital.

Fast forward to today and we’re on to the fairytale story of SV Belle and The Beast.