Sailing adventures in a cheap little skiff – Tom Pamperin writes


Tom Pamperin has got in touch to tell us about his book project about his adventures and misadventures sailing a little plywood skiff that cost $300 to make – he’s hoping to crowd-source some funds to get it published using the Kickstarter website.

A sample of Tom’s style is pasted below. I should explain that the boat is called Jagular and is referred to as ‘him’, that Tom writes for the excellent Duckworks Magazine.

I am perhaps prejudiced in his favour after learning that he’s an reader, has a niece and nephews who are enthusiastic Mouseboat users, and that he enjoys Ben Crawshaw’s website and also Ben’s book Catalan Castaway. I suppose he must be my kind of chap!

By evening a ragged curtain of gray clouds has dropped across the western sky, bringing an eerie greengray twilight that feels like the shadow of something I’d rather not turn around to see. We’re making good time but I’m starting to get nervous. I fumble my way into my drysuit as the first fingers of lightning start to spark across the clouds behind us. The clouds rumble along in a wall of gray thousands of feet high, gaining on us rapidly now. The wind is picking up and we’re sailing fast and I should probably tie in a reef. Instead I sheet in and start to edge us closer to shore.

“You see those rocks, don’t you?” Jagular asks.

I couldn’t miss them if I wanted to. The entire shoreline is fringed with a reef of granite, just as the chart shows. Waves are breaking over the rocks and sending bright splashes of spray into the air. Overhead the clouds have almost reached us and the sky is dark. Lightning. Thunder. Waves. Rocks. Big black badass clouds now, rumbling and muttering overhead, a little rain. The waves are building, too; there’s twenty miles of open water behind us, plenty of room for big waves to get bigger.

‘”The hell with this,” I tell the boat as lightning flashes overhead. “The hell with that,” he says as a wave smashes into a rock a few yards to port.

“That about sums it up,” I agree. But we have to try something and none of the choices seem particularly appealing. I steer toward land, where there’s a strip of sandy beach along the shore. Rocks.

Breaking waves. More rocks. I steer away.

Lightning. Thunder. More lightning.

Overhead the sky unleashes another guffawing peal of thunder.

We’re in among a field of boulders now, and the waves are big enough to hide them deep in the troughs; I’m at the tiller but I’m no longer in control. I check the zipper on my drysuit, tighten the neck seal. Rocks. Thunder. Lightning. Rain. More rain. Growing darkness and a definite increase in wind. We keep sailing along, paralleling the
shore while the waves get bigger and more aggressive and somewhere above us in the clouds our fate is being decided.

There’s got to be another way in, I keep telling myself. Doesn’t there?

Then out of nowhere a log rears up, leaping out of a wave crest and launching itself at us like a battering ram. It thumps the side of Jagular’s hull and drops back into the water.

“The hell with this!” I shout, and swing the boat toward shore again. There’s a bit of a bay just ahead, with rocky arms reaching out to create a tiny U-shaped pocket of pebbly beach. There are a couple of run-down cottages along the shore above the beach but I’m not waiting for a better chance this time. The mass of clouds has caught us, hanging overhead like a dark fist raised for smiting, and the waves are walloping along all too enthusiastically. The hell with the cottages. We can probably camp down close to the shore without being seen.

“If we make it that far,” Jagular mutters.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.