Monday, October 16, 2017

Learning the Ropes in a Sailor's Town

So … this weekend I learned the Rogerson Variation of the the McDonald Brummel splice for high modulus polyethylene fiber cordage! Woo! I attended the 59 North Sailing seminars on rigging and sail repair. Hanging out with a bunch of sailors can never be bad, but the intense learning we did along the way made for an incredibly productive time.

Brion Toss, renown rigger and author, was the speaker Friday afternoon and Saturday. We dove deep into rigging with his talks, a couple dock walks, some hands-on knots and splices, and an incline test and critique of a student’s boat at the marina. There was only two math formulas, but all kinds of juicy, red meat, technical information about keeping your mast up and control of your sails.

Nearly everyone has furling gear on their boat. Some of both the rigging and the sail repair seminars
Rigging Shop, Port of Annapolis Marina
began with the assumption that all of our boats had furlers; at least on the bow. One great moment for me came when I confessed in front of the class that I don’t like furlers. “Am I a fool or a luddite?” I asked Mr. Toss. He didn't flinch and seemed to sympathize with my philosophy.

Most of our ‘class time’ was in the shop at Chesapeake Sailmakers. Chuck O’Malley, founder of the loft, spoke to us on Sunday. He went over materials, methods, and designs early, and in the afternoon talked at length about lifespan, damage, abuse, and repair of sails. Chuck says he doesn’t make “white triangles,” he makes sails. Developing a relationship with a boat and her sailors, Chuck brings his knowledge and experience to bear and offers just the right solution. “Up to the point where the boat will still notice the difference.”

I came away with all kinds of new knowledge and some new friends. Details of rope and wire and Dacron; knots and splices and sail shapes are still oozing out my ears -- my brain is full!! Yet, I know exactly what I’m going to do with my rig and have a great idea to make my main sail track buttery smooth.

And(!) I got to chat with Matt Rutherford, he was the first to sail non-stop around the Americas. He sailed an Albin Vega, like my Bella, non-stop from Annapolis, up and over the top of Canada, down the Pacific Coast to Cape Horn, around and up past South America and back to Annapolis. He now does ocean research for NASA and the Smithsonian aboard his 42’ steel schooner.

The seminars were almost three miles away from the house where I got an AirBnB room; a fabulously funky, little artist-owned, art-filled bungalow. It was really enjoyable to walk more than five miles a day, all weekend. I also had some great seafood and got to hang around a great sailor’s town. It’s been incredible, and soul satisfying, how much of the small talk at the next table, in the store, even just out on the sidewalk was about boats; most often sailboats.

Two and half years ago, Alex and I spent a night at anchor up Weems Creek in Annapolis on our way south with his Westsail, Eleanor. Now I know a couple even better places. I’ll be back. Emma’s gonna love to visit.


  1. I will have questions for you!! :) So fun to hear (read) your report on the experience. You knew it was going to be inspiring, I'm glad it seems to have measured up to whatever expectations you might have had.

  2. Sorry we missed you, Todd. Good luck on your boat project. Hope to see you in Annapolis when you get back this way again, hopefully in your boat.


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