Dave's Excellent Adventure

By Dave Farmer - Tum Tum, Washington - USA

Dave's Gleeful Post Season Review

Ah, what a season it was! It began in February with a call to crew aboard a 38' monohull in the Keys, which then morphed into a 4 day romp on a Lagoon 44 cat from Fort Meyers to Key West, and back north to Marathon. Steady 20+ knot winds the whole trip kept the "Bus" rollin' at full speed! A splendid break from the grey winter skies of the Pacific northwest.

Key Sailing

March found me flying to Las Vegas and renting a car to drive an hour south to Primm, NV to attend the America's Cup of landsailing, held on the 30 mile long Ivanpah Dry Lake Bed.

Left and below: Ivanpah

A back country ski buddy had invited me down, and offered to lend me one of his boats to experience this new way of sailing. I arrived to a long line of RVs with trailers parked along the edge of the massive playa, and a bewildering array of cunning craft, from the tiny minis, built of aluminum tubing and dacron sails, to the most sophisticated racers sporting sleek carbon fiber bodies and solid wings. Also in attendance was Richard Jenkin's Greenbird, a purpose built craft designed to break the landsailing speed record. I was graciously lent a Manta single, a simple entry level boat, which gave me a great taste of the acceleration and adrenaline rush this sport offers. Imagine flying a hull (or wheel) on the edge of control, at twice the speed of our cats, with the same potential for disaster that a moment of inattention on a cat can provide! Instantly addicting!

The days alternated between big winds and nearly no wind, with the light air days providing ample opportunity to stroll up and down the line, kicking tires and bullshitting with the owners (and often builders) of these intriguing machines. A fabulous group of guys and gals, ever willing to share sailing and technical tips, and encourage the newbie. A puff would come through, and the desperate among us would push our craft onto the playa as fast as we could run, jump aboard, and milk the zephyr for all it was worth, and then ignominiously drag the boat back to the edge when it fizzled, break open another beer, and resume the discussions.

On the days it blew, the lake bed filled with multicolored sails, zipping about at amazing speeds. I hit 36 knots on my lowly Manta at one point, flipped it twice, and spun out numerous times, all the time giggling with glee. All the fun of cat sailing, with greater speed and acceleration, with warm weather and stunning desert surroundings! The racing was well organized, with 5 classes, some that might find 25 boats on the line. The bigger yachts were seeing speeds in the 70 to 80 mph range, so effortlessly, so quiet. When viewed at a distance across the playa, they often sailed in a mirage, looking so much like boats at sea, ghosting silently across the horizon.

The day I left it blew 30 to 45 kts, and Greenbird set the new land sailing speed record at 126.2 mph, after 10 years of attempts, breaking the old record by more than 10 mph.

All winter I'd been scanning the classifieds to help a Montana buddy find a catamaran to add to his fleet. He cruises a Beneteau 32 on Flathead Lake, and has been crewing aboard Flight Risk for enough years to get the cat bug. He'd seen a Nacra F18 sitting on a marina lot at the north end of the lake, and thought something like that that might be fun. In April I spotted Hobiegary's beachcat ad for his Stealth F16. It seemed a great deal on a great boat, but I couldn't get a hold of Les. I decided to just buy it for him, so as to not let the deal pass. But as the thoughts bounced around inside my skull, it became difficult to think about parting with a boat that fit my sailing profile so well! By the time I got in touch with him, I was looking for arguments why this might not be the right boat for him. In the end, he bought the Nacra, and I added a fourth boat to my stable.

Which has worked out most agreeably. The last few years I've been taking the A cat to Flathead for the early season, before the water comes up enough to launch Flight Risk (which parks on a marine railway). So now I have enough boats to keep the A near home for those quick afternoon sails, and have a spring boat for Montana. The real joy has been that I now have another beachcat to sail with/against. I found another cat sailor, an H18 guy, on a neighboring bay, who was happy to have another cat grace his beach, so the Stealth moved to new digs on Dayton Bay, where Les keeps the F18, an where the wind is often the best on the lake.

Mid April the F18HT found her customary spot on the college beach of Lake Couer d' Alene in northern Idaho, a half hour east of Spokane. She's my go to boat for spring and fall windy days. With a 33' carbon mast and monster mainsail, it powers up easily and can be a real handful in over 15 kts, which is what I'm always lookin' for. CdA is a big, deep mountain lake with lots of room to run. This is my fourth season with this boat and I'm starting to feel comfortable when it's howling. A fabulous boat that's just a bit neglected with all the competition for my attention it gets.

Once FR got wet in June, I found myself with two awesome boats on one terrific lake. And three day weekends to boot, thanks to our weakened economy. So I'd blast over to MT Thursday evenings, awake with the sun, climb the ridge by the cabin to see where it might be blowing, and either walk down to the beach and fire up Flight Risk, or hop in the del Sol for the 7 minute drive to the Stealth, rig and go! Usually, the main lake sees 10 to 15 kts of wind every morning from sunup to 9 or 10 am, so that's FR's terrain. And typically, the summer high pressure we see kills most wind for the day, but there's a reliable thermal wind that develops in the afternoons on Dayton Bay. So that often give me a few hours to spar with Les. And at sunset, cooling air falls downslope off the mountains and onto the bay adjacent to the cabin in Rollins, providing Flight Risk with a final run on flat water in 8 to 12 kts of wind til dark. Off to bed to start all over in the morn. And of course, there are the big wind days too. Good for covering ground on Flight Risk or running the F16 (or Les' F18) near the edge! Nice life!

FR chainplates
FR in Dayton

Off to Minnesota in July to visit family, and sail with the boys of Hobie Fleet 444. Being the land of 10,000 lakes, it's always been torture to vacation there without a cat, so I once again (the LAST TIME, sez Kathy) we hitched the A cat up to the del Sol and ventured eastward. Hooked up with the MN cat sailors the next day after arriving, for their annual capsize practice on Lake Pepin, a broad and beautiful section of the Mississippi River south of Minneapolis. Plenty of wind to power up, some time spent getting wet, and time to trade boats a bit. Got to try Karl's FX One (glorious!), and my first ride on a H14. Fine food, great companionship, and all to the distant strains of polka music provided by Lake City, MN. Scammed a place to park the cat on Lake Minnetonka, and proceeded to get 3 more screamin' days on the water. Enough to keep the withdrawal symptoms at bay. Hung the boat from the rafters in my sister's garage for future fun, and journeyed back home.

Back to the routine of weekends in Rollins, with the occasional afternoon aboard the HT.


Had an epic day with the Stealt - big wind and chop, solo all day on the wire. Late afternoon I picked a buddy off the dock (I could see him salivating from a distance!), and ran 2 up for about 20 minutes before hearing a gut wrenching CRACK! Depowered to look about, only to hear another equally distressing squeal of protest from the boat. Finally discovered that the daggerboard had dropped below deck level, and was now wallowing well to leeward of the lee hull. As I was pondering how to retrieve the apparent remains of the daggerboard, it became all to clear that we were sinking fairly rapidly! Fortunately, we weren't far from shore, so with one tentative tack we limped to the nearest beach, drug her up and walked home. We were quite lucky with the timing, as I had been 4 and 5 miles offshore much of the day. Packed her up the next day, and I towed her back to Tum Tum, another opportunity to improve my composite repair skills!

September offered up some lovely Indian summer weekends, and as October approached I established a schedule for putting the boats to bed. First was pulling the Javelin off of Couer d' Alene, followed the next weekend by the Stealth, which did get repaired with the generous support of my internet cat sailing friends.

I then spent the second week of October sailing my new (to me!) Fed 5 dirt boat on the Alvord Desert in SE Oregon. Another spectacular dry lake bed, just east of the dramatic Steens Mountains (10,000 feet)! Empty country! With the playa at 4000', the nighttime temps were well below freezing, but as soon as the sun crested the eastern rim, it started to warm, eventually getting into the 60s and 70s. Not quite enough wind to fully satisfy us wind junkies, but again the camaraderie was magnificent, as was the hiking, scenery, and hot springs. The few times I did get hooked up, the giggles returned full force! What a rush! Had one session right at dusk, screaming across the desert floor, watching the sunset colors fade, and eventually straining to pick out the other boats who also were reluctant to quit! What fun! Twice a year is not enough! Some pictures of Alvord follow:

Returned to Flathead the following weekend to pull Flight Risk and close up the cabin. A couple of my regular crew showed, and we had her out, torn down and wrapped up snug in 3 hrs, a new record. Always a little sad to come to the end of the season, but I can easily move to a place of deep appreciation for all the time I get to pursue this passion, and all the joy it brings me. We cat sailors are lucky folk!

Ron Reed on the left, who chartered the boat in pursuit of furthering his sailing education, me in the middle, who gleefully went along for the ride, and on the right is Tom Musselwhite, a backcountry ski and saling buddy of mine.


A few weekends at home til the backcountry turn white, then I'm off for more adventure!



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