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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. 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

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.

by Reuel Parker

Hurricane Georges
Hurricane Georges, September 25, 1998, over the Florida Keys

I recently read Jim Carrier’s excellent book: THE SHIP AND THE STORM—Hurricane Mitch and the loss of the FANTOME. This is a very sobering non-fiction book, published in 2001 by International Marine (my original publisher), and re-published by Harcourt/Harvest in 2002.

Hurricane Mitch, of October 1998, was one of the most powerful and destructive storms in recorded history. It was, at its worst, a Category 5 hurricane with sustained winds of 180 mph.

by Reuel Parker


I just read Dudley Dix’s excellent analytical account of his capsize in BLACK CAT during the 2014 Cape to Rio Race in the current issue (#149) of Professional Boatbuilder. Dudley Dix is a South African Yacht designer now living in the US (Virginia). BLACK CAT is a 1995 cold-molded plywood/epoxy racer/cruiser, about 38 feet long, sloop-rigged with a fin keel and spade rudder. Her construction uses a laminating method I thought I had “invented” until I learned that Dudley “invented” it first!

by Reuel Parker

Hurricane Gloria
Hurricane Gloria, Sept 25, 1985

I don’t know how many hurricanes I have been through—certainly several dozen if I include my childhood years on the south shore of Long Island. But I have also been through quite a few while living on board one or another of my six cruising sailboat homes over the past 35 years.

Most memorable of these was Hurricane Gloria, which struck Connecticut on September 27, 1985, as a category four storm, the most severe hurricane to strike that far north at that time. I had just launched my new 44′ cold-molded-wood cat schooner TERESA in Rhode Island, and Tere Rodriguez (for whom I named the boat) and I were sailing her to Manhattan for the Mayor’s Cup Schooner Race.

by Reuel Parker

Steam boxes seem to have drifted into the realm of anachronisms. About once every ten years someone asks me how the devil you make one in a hurry… so here’s how.

Heavy-duty steam box
A heavy-duty steam box made from spruce 2x12s powered by a discarded hot water heater

by Reuel Parker

Weighing anchor

Boats that leave the dock and go somewhere (other than to another dock) need ground tackle. I briefly discussed ground tackle for cruising boats in Choosing Anchors And Rodes. Boats much over 10,000 lbs in displacement generally need a windlass to weigh anchor, and the subject of windlasses can bring otherwise mellow cruisers nearly to blows… particularly if any quantity of rum is involved!

The joys and considerations of taking a family to sea

by Bruce Halabisky

Halabisky FamilyWhen my wife, Tiffany, and I had our first child in New Zealand after two years of voyaging in our Atkin gaff cutter from the west coast of Canada, we were warned by other parents that our footloose voyaging lifestyle was about to come to an end. They cited safety concerns and the logistical difficulty of a child living in the small space of a 34′ sailboat. In retrospect, while I appreciated the concern and valued the advice of those who warned us of the difficulties, I wish more parents would have told me about the amount of fun that can be had sailing with children.

by Reuel Parker

Mast Section
Mast Section from step to spreaders, 9 1/2″ x 7 1/2″ outside dimensions

I have developed a “new” mast construction method for use on light- to moderate-displacement sailboats having a Marconi rig, and for motorsailers. I put “new” in quotes because I am sure it has been thought of before now.

The four corners of the new construction sequence are all made identical in section, from Douglas fir or Sitka spruce 3x3 lumber. The corner pieces are rounded to a 2 1/2″ diameter radius, the inner corner is cut to a 45-degree bevel (to lighten the mast), and 1/2″ x 3/4″ rabbets are cut onto two corners to receive 1/2″ marine plywood front, back and sides. The corners are epoxy scarfed (8::1) full-height. They are identical in every location, greatly simplifying construction, as all corners are cut using a table saw set to the same settings. All mast taper is made on the plywood sides, back and front.


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