Looking back at my winter aboard Growler in
Florida, I recall the list we compiled throughout the
trip—changes we wanted to make to the boat, and those
“would be nice to have” things we would consider for
next time. Once we settled back into Annapolis, I knew
it would be easy to forget this mental exercise if we did
not have that list.
I laugh when I look at the list now. To put things in
perspective, I used to be a singlehanded sailor, and for
years my favorite piece of gear was my boat’s wind vane.
It would steer my cutter with such grace and simplicity
in almost all wind conditions. Well, times have changed,
and so have I. Today I would rather have an ice
machine. And that is a hoot because I never, ever
thought I would say that. We have a small freezer on
Growler, but an ice machine would add greatly to our
enjoyment. So that is on our list for next time. Sorry,
I won’t go over the complete list here. Suffice it to say
that before we spend four or five months in the tropics
this winter, each item on that list will be carefully
reviewed until we reach our tipping point, the point
where Growler just can’t do it or carry it. I am
comfortable with the mission statement of Growler, a
Zimmerman 36 based on a Spencer Lincoln-designed
lobsterboat hull. Our boat was never meant for full-time
living aboard; that is an unfair expectation.
However, there are many aspects of cruising that stand
apart from one’s boat. Dive gear, fishing rods, sewing
machines, computer games, bicycles, and all sorts of
exercise and sports equipment are some of the things we
plan to enjoy when we reach our destination. The days
of trading paperbacks as the sole means of entertainment
are long gone, although most cruisers do read quite a bit.
It is important to bring along some hobbies when one
goes cruising. It is part of the lifestyle, after all.
In my case, the list contains one hobby I surely want
to jump on, especially after visiting with Bill Larson,
owner of Little River Marine, at the Palm Beach Boat
Show in March. Over the winter, we carried a Hobie
kayak and a superlight Lake Placid pack canoe on foam
blocks atop Growler. But I must admit the endorphins
don’t flow nearly as well after a paddle as when I’m
using my sliding-seat rowing boat. I really missed
rowing, especially in the pristine waters of Biscayne
Bay, and I found myself wondering how I could get a
sliding-seat rowing boat into the overall program.
My 18-foot rowing boat sits in a lift at my house,
and its “pickup weight” (with rowing arms and seat
assembly) is around 120 lb. While I love my Little River
Heritage skiff, it is too heavy to consider carrying aboard
Growler, even if length were not an issue. I don’t have a
crane or any other way to maneuver it, aside from body
strength. And that’s a tough order.
For years I have seen Bill Larson with his boats in a
booth among the show exhibitors. In the last several
years, Bill has also brought along an evolving boat that
he hopes will bring Heritage-style rowing skiffs into the
lightweight category. Each previous boat seemed to get
closer to where he wanted to be, but he was never quite
satisfied, and he personally builds each boat so has
some idea of the possibilities. Learning the nuances of
boatbuilding with high-tech materials is as much an art
as anything else, especially in low-volume production.
And Bill is an artist.
In its 31-year history, Little River Marine has built
12,000 boats, all of them sliding-seat rowing boats,
including various models of shells and the line of
Heritage skiffs. Bill says the skiffs are inspired by the
“glass slipper” hull shape, which is a cross between
a Whitehall skiff and a St. Lawrence skiff. The wood
St. Lawrence boats were 14 feet long.
Little River’s successful Heritage rowing skiffs began at
15-1/2 feet. An 18-foot boat followed, and today there is
also a 12-foot model.
“Everybody loves the Heritage,” Bill told me, “but
some would like a lighter boat.” Those folks fall into
two categories, he went on: those who don’t live on
the water and don’t want the hassles of trailering, and
folks like me who want a boat to put on their bigger
boat but don’t have a crane. So it seems I am not alone.
When I spoke to Bill at the Palm Beach show, he
LIST BECOMES A REALITY