I got a chance to row my Mixer 6 miles yesterday. Now, I've rowed a total of about 0.5 miles in my whole life, so this was a bit of a milestone for me. My Mixer is set up for primarily sailing, but I wanted to see what the rowing performance was and to start preparing myself for a major future possible "event."

The first 3 miles were into adverse current and wind. There were also lots of powerboaters doing their thing, specifically, churning the water up into washing-machine style waves. Perfect testing conditions if I may say so.

This rowing thing takes some practice. I started out with poorly adjusted buttons, I gripped the handles too hard (I have 3 blisters on my left hand as a result), and I splashed myself quite a few times. But after properly adjusting the buttons, adjusting my rowing stance a little, rowing over stumps, and relaxing my hands on each stroke, I finally found a nice rowing groove that was most pleasant and I could keep up all day (fortunately for my blisters I didn't have to).

Boat performance: I wasn't rowing as hard as I could have; I was going a pace that I could keep for long term. Against the wind and current I averaged 2 knots. The wind would knock the boat around a bit, both upwind and down. Often the boat would respond before I could feel the puff. This was not unexpected, since the rocker keeps the stem and the transom clear of the water. I've installed a skeg, but not really for tracking purposes. If I had put on the rudder, that might have helped. Banging into the chop slowed me down, too. Once I was clear of wind and in calm water, the speed picked up dramatically. After I turned around and went with the wind and current I averaged 3 knots. Not a blistering pace, but respectible for a 12 ft. boat.

One problem I had was the oarlocks. I have closed bronze locks, and the angle I need to put the oars in the water was enough to bend them at the top of the shaft. I might try open locks next time.

After my blisters heal a bit, that is.

The rowing test completed, I had to wait to the next available weekend to try sailing my Mixer. This time I had my son along with me to add an element of "family outing" to the event. Conditions were similar to the rowing trip-same ramp, same choppy water from all the speeding powerboats, and a bit more wind. But the breeze was puffy, squirrelly, and cantankerous. Once again, perfect conditions for sailing sea trials.

The tide was unusually low, so most people were having trouble launching their boats. I didn't, since I used the Seitech dolly, but I had to wait a bit for a ramp to clear. Once launched, I hoisted the sail and prepared for getting underway while my son held the boat near the dock. During the maiden voyage and the rowing test, I was impressed by the Mixer's stability. But soon I was inadvertently testing an extreme case. In rushing to depart the launching area, I was giving instructions to my son on how he needed push us when he let go of the dock. You see, sailing terminology is not part of my son's vocabulary. "Haul away to starb'rd," "Avast heaving," and "Trice the main brace!" will go right over a 9 yr. old's head. So in the process of explaining
"push the bow off to starboard" in laymen's terms, I found myself in the front part of the cockpit with my 65 lb. son standing on the foredeck and both of us trying to reach the dock ahead of us. In all of the dinghies I've sailed, this maneuver would've meant a very quick trip into the drink. But surprisingly this was not the case. In the end, my son was able to get back into the cockpit, go around me to the stern, and we were able to get underway without the boat upending us. Not bad for a 12 ft. dinghy.

We got a nice puff to help us away from the dock, and soon we were creating a nice wake. And just as soon the boat pitched forward while grinding to a nice halt. Well, it was good confirmation that the tide was unusually low. It was also a great stress test of my daggerboard box, a modification I made to the original design. It didn't fall apart so that's good. With the daggerboard up a bit, we roceeded into deeper water.

After stopping on a quiet beach for lunch, we got underway for an earnest sailing test. The sailing rig on the Mixer is a balanced lug sail. The mainsheet is a 2:1 ratio. I race a Sunfish regularly, and it has a 1:1 mainsheet with a 75 sq. ft. sail. When the breeze picks up over 15 kn it can be a bicep burner to haul it in. Even though the Mixer's sail is slightly smaller at 68 sq. ft., I was happy to have the extra purchase during the puffs. We sailed to weather very well, tacking around 90 degrees. During the stronger breezes the top yard would twist off, bleeding off power from the upper part of the sail. Almost like it was designed to do that. Feathering the luff was also possible and still have forward driving power. Only a little weather helm was necessary, even when healing. And speaking of healing, once we got to around 25 - 30 degrees water started pouring over the rail. Part of our cockpit arsenal was a large plastic cup, the kind you get at 7-11 when you biggie-size it, so the water was soon discharged. But it gave us a good indication of how far over we could safely go. I have not capsized the boat yet; that test will have to wait for another day. We were sailing in water too shallow for that exercise, anyway, as the spars would stick in the mud. I've done that before in a Laser and it's no fun.

After a 3 mile hitch to weather, we turned around to head for home. Actually it was probably more than 3 miles because the wildly shifting wind made our course look like wet noodles, but no matter. My son and I switched positions so he could steer and I handled the sail. The Mixer handled our shift in weight distribution with aplomb and made good time downwind. We were slightly overpowered in the heaviest puffs, but the rig all held together and the forces on the rudder were quite minimal. After a few gybes we were once again back at the launching ramp waiting for a chance to retrieve. And watching the circus caused by the low tide.

In all, I'm very happy with the Mixer design and the mods I made. It's turned out to be a boat with good manners. Now for some longer trips...

Jack Clayton

Visit Jack's Website for more on his Mixer

See our catalog for more on Jim Michalak's Mixer design