"The Sailing is Great"
by Bill Prater

I brought a 22-foot sailboat with me to Denver. Everyone said “the sailing is great”. They lied. Sailing in the Rockies is spotty at best, with light and variable winds unless a thunderstorm is chasing you off the lake. Kept the boat a couple of years, got sick of paying storage when sailing was so bad, gave up.

But, I still had the sailing bug and was going out of my mind. I saw a windsurfer at a garage sale, gave that a try for a few years. That was OK when the wind was blowing, but even more of a drag than the big boat when it wasn’t. I had to have a boat! If it was a boat, I could at least sit and read a book when the wind wasn’t blowing – hard to do on a windsurfer.

So, I went shopping. Found a nice Boston Whaler Harpoon – but they wanted a fortune for it. I figured what it would cost me per sailing opportunity, just couldn’t stomach the cost. Then fortune intervened.

I was at the lake, had rented a Sunfish to get a little fix. Came in and saw a guy with an old wooden 505. It was for sale! I sailed it, told him I would take it. Later that week, he decided he needed to keep it. Man, so close!

But I remembered it was wood. I reasoned that I can build anything out of wood – I had just never though of trying a sailboat. I grew up in a town with a fiberglass boat manufacturing plant, knew that stuff was too nasty for home use. So, off to the Internet, a set of plans for a Martens-Goosens Sharpie 14 arrived in the mailbox.

I don’t know if it was more fun to build a boat in the garage or to tell the neighbors that I was building a boat in the garage!

So, here is the finished Sharpie. It floated without leaks, was an absolute lady on the water. Well, we can’t have that! I am in the process of re-rigging with a gaff main and a jib, total gain of about 35% sail area. I mocked the rig up with polytarp, old windsurfer mast and closet rods.

Test day arrived with 10-20 knot winds, gusts to 29. Went out with my Mother in the boat, under reefed main alone, all was well. Back out, added the jib. It just hauls, but is well balanced and stands up well to the sailplan! It’s about all I’d want to singlehand, though, no need for further enlargement of the sails.

Bill Prater

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