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The Whiskey Plank

We have asked some of our WoodenBoat magazine contributors to write custom posts here, in a series of blogposts. You may comment (if you’re a member of — It’s free and easy). We are pleased to share these with you. If you want to contribute your own original posts, we ask that you do so at “Your Turn,” not here. The views expressed are those of the authors and may not necessarily reflect those of WoodenBoat.

The whiskey plank, traditionally, is the last plank fastened into the hull. The occasion is typically marked by a party to celebrate.

by Reuel Parker

T’IEN HOU in her junk-rigged Lorcha persona

In very shallow parts of the Bahamas, places protected behind large islands and in “bights” (tidal estuaries and the lee-side west coasts of some islands), there are strange underwater formations I call “haystacks.” These are formed in soft “marl”—the white mud made from sand, calcareous debris and water—that often has a consistency such that sailors think of it as mayonnaise. In places where the marl is thick, large areas protected from sea and swell, the marl lies just below sea level and is covered with seaweed and sea grass.

By Reuel Parker

Mayor of Joe's Sound

On March 26, 2012, I set sail from George Town, Great Exuma, Bahamas, for Cape Santa Maria, the north end of Long Island, about 25 miles away as the seagull flies. I was sailing in my sharpie schooner IBIS, with Canadian Joee Sym as first mate. Because this was a windward passage, and because IBIS is flat-bottomed with a centerboard, it was a somewhat rough beat to windward, and we motorsailed to get there early enough to seek out a good anchorage.

By Reuel Parker

Entrance to Sivananda Ashram Yoga Retreat
IBIS’s first mate Joee Sym at the entrance to Sivananda Ashram Yoga Retreat on Paradise Island, Bahamas

by Reuel Parker

Columbian copra schooner
A seamanlike Columbian copra schooner in the San Blas Islands

In Blog #25 I described visiting ruins in Portobelo, Panama, on the Caribbean side of the Panama Canal. We continued sailing east, beating into the powerful northeast trade winds in my cutter FISHERS HORNPIPE, toward our destination: the San Blas Islands, home of the Kuna Indians, half in Panama and half in Columbia.

by Reuel Parker

TIEN HOU's head

I have pondered the question of optimum head location for many years, always being less than happy with most traditional arrangements. Having lived on sail and power boats intermittently since the 1950’s, I think I have experienced most of the possible choices for location and type of marine toilet… and they have all been dreadful!

Whether the head is tucked way up in the fo’c’s’le, tacked onto a stateroom, or placed in the saloon close to the cockpit, it tends to stink up the entire boat. Sea water combined with human waste exacerbates the smell with tiny organisms which go ballistic in the marine toilet, plumbing, holding tank, and (worst case scenario) bilge. Hatches, portlights and vents just never seem to solve the problem.

by Reuel Parker


I sailed FISHERS HORNPIPE, my first cruising sailboat, from California to Florida in 1979/1980, through the Panama Canal. On the Caribbean side of the Canal, I was told that one of the prime places to visit was Portobelo, site of a historic Spanish fort, from which Central and South America were plundered for gold, silver and slaves.

Portobelo was also on the way to the San Blas Islands (home of the Kuna Indians), half in Panama and half in Columbia—also a prime place to visit. And by working our way east along the coast, we would have a better point of sail when departing to sail north.

by Reuel Parker

Bahamian fishing sloop beached for painting
A Bahamian Fishing Sloop beached for painting in Rolleville, Great Exuma, in 1987. In the foreground is a
class of school children on a field trip.

by Reuel Parker

Class A sloops racing

I first sailed to the Bahamas in March/April of 1981. I had sailed my cutter FISHERS HORNPIPE from California, via the Panama Canal. I immediately fell in love with the Bahamas, and have been visiting them every opportunity since. That first trip, we were in George Town, Great Exuma for the Family Island Regatta—native sloop races.

By Reuel Parker

Incorporation of the fore shroud turnbuckle as a fairlead

Around thirty-five years ago, I was at sea on a sailboat with conventional stainless steel stanchions and plastic-coated stainless steel wire-rope lifelines. This was off the California coast, and one of those big northwest rollers heeled the vessel suddenly and sharply, throwing me bodily against a stanchion. The top of it caught me in the ribs, cracking two of them and causing a huge purple bruise the size of a grapefruit. Needless to say, I was disabled for several weeks.

by Reuel Parker

Brogans on the water

The missing link in the well-known evolution of Chesapeake Bay oyster fishermen is the Brogan. First came sailing log canoes, which are still extant on the Bay, and are raced very competitively to this day. Last came the bugeye and the skipjack—bugeyes are getting scarce, but skipjacks (AKA bateaux) still work the oyster beds under sail, and are among the last sailing workboats in the world.


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