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by Wojtek Baginski - Warsaw - Poland and
Norm Wolfe - Washington, DC - USA

Photos by Wojtek Baginski, Ville Lindfors, Mats Vuorenjuuri and Norm Wolfe

Part One - Part Two

A story of jumping ship, by Wojtek Baginski, based on a ship’s log by Norm Wolfe.

Aside from the pleasures of sailing, Raid Finland 2013 was especially exciting to me because some threads from internet discussions which started a long time ago were to meet there. They were represented by 3 small boats, one brought from Estonia, the other from Germany, while I came from Poland by car this year without my own dinghy. Here they are:

Raider, designed to win.
Piff-Paff, the solo cruiser.
Doppio, beaching in the Gdansk Bay shore.
Finland public roads.

Raider (a Raider by Jim Michalak). L 7,3 m, sail area 12 sq m (130 sq ft) carries a crew of  4

The first time I heard of Raider was in 2005.  It was the time of my big enthusiasm for the instant boats idea, the enthusiasm I still have. I’d built one in 2004, a Campjon designed by Jim Michalak, to learn about river navigation, as I live far away from lakes and seaside, and the Wisla river in my city of Warsaw offers what is enough for me (I thought so then). After buying the Campjon plans, and being totally unskilled at wood working, I joined the Michalak discussion group and became a frequent writer there, with lots of posts of the how to hit a nail in the right way sort.  I’d finally built my boat, motored her several times on the river, and one day I got an unexpected email from US. It was Norm Wolfe, who was looking for a boatbuilder in Europe, as he had commissioned the plans for Raider, another design by Jim Michalak, drawn  especially for him to participate in Raid Finland (a week long competition for small sail & oar boats). Could I recommend one in Poland? No, I said. A professional boat builder won’t build an instant boat, as they’re all stuck in tradition. An enthusiast might build Raider, and, well, I’m one of them. Not for money, but for taking me to Finland as a crew. Okay he said, and next summer he landed in Warsaw with a cardboard model made by Jim Michalak and a set of blueprints. In few days we‘ve found a proper place for the construction, and calculated the costs. The project was looking very attractive but the problem we couldn’t get over was delivery of the ready boat to Estonia, where Norm spends his summer holidays, and to jump out from there to attend Finnish sail & oars raids . So we canceled the project. Norm hired a Haven 12 ½  for the 2007 Raid, I decided to go on my own cost, but she was too small to receive me as an additional crew. But fortunately another raider, Peter Lord, has no crew for his newly built "Vips" (an Apple by Tom Dunderdale). I agreed to crew for him.  Such was my "jump ship" # 1.

Boats on beach

"Piff-Paff" (a Bay River Skiff 15 by Graham Byrnes). L 4.57 m, sail area 8.8 sq.m., takes 2.

I had seen a photo of "Piff-Paff" even earlier than I’d heard about Raider, even earlier then I’d heard about instant boats. I believe it was in 2003, when thanks to a fresh invention – the internet – I was able to come back to childish dreams. As the Wisla river is a body of water a I planned to penetrate, the "river" in the name of the class (Bay River Skiff) was the first thing which captured my attention. All seemed perfect for a wide shallow river: minimal draft, pivotable rudder and centerboard plates, and a configuration of sails unfamiliar to me at that time: a cat ketch rig. Good manoeuvrability in tight corners, they say… Looking at the photo I immediately saw myself onboard, sailing on the river! I ordered a set of plans of a Bay River Skiff 15 from the designer, Graham Byrnes. But after opening the envelope, I closed it even quicker: the level of complication I saw there scared me! I was absolutely not ready to understand and follow the plans. I restarted my internet research, found the "instant boat" idea popularized by Phil Bolger and continued by Jim Michalak, found Campjon as a good design to start my river project, and thanks to internet supporters I built and launched this boat, eventually. Then the above mentioned email from Norm came to me.

Doppio (a Bay River Skiff 17) L 5.18 m, sail area 11.2 sq.m., takes 3

After having sailed on Peter’s "Vips" for a week in 2007, I started to realize that it is OK to sail a small open boat on salt waters. It’s really great! We discussed lots of aspects of dinghy cruising. Peter taught me how to work hard while racing (that was the last Finnish raid thought as a race, nowadays is a more leisurely week of sailing). I told him about a set of 15 ft cat ketch plans I have on my bookshelf, and he recommended me to skip them, and to order 17 feet long version instead. Bigger means safer, faster and more comfortable. (I didn’t realize that time that 2 feet longer also means 4 times more work). Anyway, I did it, and having more boatbuilding experience (after Campjon I’ve also built a Michalak Polepunt and Robote, using taped seams construction on that last design) I started the construction of the 17ft long hull.  I built it in 3 months working after hours in a friend’s barn. "Doppio" has been towed 1200 km to Finland and another 1200 km back home, which was an exciting drive to be not late at the ferry terminal in Tallin, and always worth doing for 7 exciting sailing days. "Always" means 3 times so far, 2009, 2011 and 2012 Finnish Raids. In her homeland, "Doppio"  sails on the Gdansk bay and in the nearby Wisla delta rather then on the Wisla in Warsaw, as was planned originally. She needs salt water! Peter Lord proposed to have kind of Raid Poland, a downscaled version of the original Finnish event, and it works, every year gathering 1-3 dinghies and some friends including some of those met in Finland.

Wojtek Baginski, Greg (Grzegorz Derecki) both from Warsaw, Joe Laukaitis from Bethesda, MD

Jump ship

In 2012 I'd been invited by Norm to sail with him on Raider next year. Well, the old good formula "fly and sail" instead of "tow and worry"! Worry about the boat, the trailer, the crew, the navigation, the strong wind, the sails, the lack of wind, the oars, the anchor. I told my 2009 crew, Grzes (Greg) Derecki from Poland, about my plan (my plan to jump ship, in fact). I'm in, he said immediately, but I started to hate airports! We decided to drive his car then - a good opportunity to have a long discussion, as we used to see each other only twice a year - maybe. Norm was happy with another willing seaman for Raider, and we arranged to tow Raider from Tallin to Finland with the car we were driving from Poland. Approaching the ferry terminal we picked up our other crew mate, Joe Laukaitis from the US, a friend of Norm's. So we all gathered in Mossala, at the west edge of Finland, that windy day in July. There were more people and dinghies there, some of them already known to us and described in past raid reports (classic modern Hanko-jolle "Eleanor" brought by Yves Paternot of Switzerland, Haven 12½ "Penni" brought by Seppo Narinen from Finland, Apple "Vips" brought by Peter Lord from Sweden), but two were completely new to the event and to their owners. First of them, brought by frequent raiders Nina and Jan-Dirk Seiler-Hausmann from Germany, named "Ida II", was build in 1992 by the boat builder Stig Peterson on Gotland Island east of mainland Sweden. She is 5.80 meters long and has two masts with two top sails and a foresail - altogether five sails. Two people can row her. The boat is a traditional Gotland snipa. The second one, a Herreshoff-designed Coquina not named yet by the new owner Mats Vuorenjuuri from Finland, but the sailplan had been modified to use only single mast and sail, while original design from 1889 had two masts. Length 5.08 m, beam 1.54 m, gunter (or is it standing lug?) rig, sail area 12 m2, weight 200 kg (with rigging), built 2001 (pine, mahogany). Last but not least, there was "Piff-Paff" brought from Bavarian Alps by Ralf Grünig, at last beached at Mossalo after a long solo passage in fog from the main island of the Finland archipelago, which he reached by a ferry boat Rostock-Mariehamn.

Jan-Dirk and Nina Seiler-Hausmann's (from Germany) "Ida II" just refurbished, this is her first sail

So I started my 6th raid. Being a happy ordinary crew I didn’t care at all about keeping the log. Now I have to use our captain’s log to continue the story (thanks, Norm, for sharing it!). Norm is really great making it, after a long day of being concerned about the boat, the crew, the navigation, the wind, the sails, the dead silence, the oars, the anchor!

Let’s go then:

6 July, Saturday. Andres arrived with RAIDER in tow to pick me up at our apartment in Tallinn. We drove about 1km and met Wojtek, Greg, and Joe waiting at the ferry landing. Transferred boat to Greg's trailer hook and were happy to find the lights operated correctly. No problems boarding ferry. We ate some lunch on the ferry, then again at an ABC gas station along the way. We arrived at Helsinki’s West Harbor at about 12:30, then drove to Mossala, arriving at about 4pm, after taking 5 local (no cost) ferries. The weather was very windy with white caps, so we did not launch the boat. Instead, we spent some time preparing the boat, such as tying the sail onto the boom and yard. We four had a nice cabin with its own toilet and shower which we shared with Mats and his 12 year-old son Verneri, who have a separate entrance to their room.

7 July, Sunday. Clear and calm. Temp 16C,61F forecast to go to 20C, 72F with wind building from the NW, then turning W. We day sailed east to Avensor/Makram to look at a quarry and limestone caves. Had a chance for everyone to try steering and rowing and sail trimming, and other stuff. Great crew. The boat is handling well except the starboard leeboard jams in its slot when all the way down. The flutter in the leach of the sail has been  corrected by the Polish sailmaker over the winter, but the sail is still too flat for upwind work.

We hiked to a quarry (water temp about 15C, 59F) and Joe swam in it. We ate our box lunches on a cliff overlooking the quarry. We tried to hike to the caves but were turned back on the advice that the path was not passable. Instead, we rowed RAIDER to the other side of the inlet to explore the caves. On the return, we ferried Mats and son Verneri (who found the path passable but difficult) back to their boat, rowed through a narrow and shallow  pass in the rocks and sailed back to Mossala. Arrived back about 18:00. Tied up along side dock, rather than bow or stern into the dock which is the usual way in European waters. Used the 4 lb grapnel stern anchor off the port side to hold boat off of the concrete  dock if the wind changes. Right now, the wind  is directly over the bow.


That was nice sailing and my attention was completely focused on the shape of the balanced lug rig sail I had sent back to the Polish sailmaker the previous winter to be recut as it was too flat at the top (to be honest, by doing this I could avoid steering, being afraid of capsizing or causing any other sort of catastrophe. I can easily make one, (believe me). This is the whole story: after few seasons on Raider Norm thought that the originally designed sail might be enlarged. As Doppio’s sails had got a good opinion among raiders, Norm asked me to place his new sail order with my sailmaker. After another few seasons (Raider is afloat only a week every year, for Raid Finland) it turned out that there were problems with a fluttering leach and windward sailing. Norm sent the sail back to the sailmaker, and I was supervising the correction. Half a success I would say. Now I know more about it and I’m going to visit the sailmaker‘s shop again with the sail.

To be continued...

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