by Scott Sadil
Paul Gartside design #166: 6m Centreboard Lugger
Length on Deck 6.04m (19ft. 10in.)
Beam 2.28m (7ft. 6in.)
Draft 0.30 & 1.20m (1ft. & 3ft. 11in.)
Displacement 728kg (1,600lb.)
Sail Area 20sq m (215sq. ft.)
The boat launch at Rowena doesn’t get any quieter. This time of year it’s usually a scene, a busy press of salmon and bass boats, plus anglers, eager to get out on the Columbia. But for the past month now run-off has kept the river clinging to the trees – and even if you thought you might be able to coax a strike out of water the color and consistency of melted Rocky Road ice cream, you would still have a tough time hauling a smallmouth or, God help us, a walleye out of the lower branches.
But this morning the water in the little bay, beyond the ramp, lies restful as a farm pond, its surface a pea-soup green reflecting the Doug firs and Ponderosa pines climbing the steep hillsides at this end of the Gorge. Not a breath of wind. Better today, it seems to me, to christen and launch the boat I’ve been building the past three years.
Fourth one in the past decade. I don’t know what got into me. This one, by far, has been the biggest and most elaborate, pushing the limits of my shop, my yard, my finances. My sister in Australia says it reminds her of a Couta boata. My English neighbor next door, who has to listen to my tools, says it looks like a Cornish Crabber – a reflection, no doubt, of Paul Gartside’s British heritage.
I contemplated the project for nearly an entire year, while I was sailing Finnan Haddie, a traditional plank-and-frame dinghy I considered the culmination of an evolving, self-devised apprenticeship. I bought plans for Gartside’s design #166, his 6m Centreboard Lugger, imagining a more seaworthy boat, one with far greater creature comforts, than my Iain Oughtred Sooty Tern, Madrina, the open boat I built for Baja’s Magdalena Bay, where I had been using it weeks and even months on end for the past several years.
I recall rejecting and then reconsidering the new boat several different times. A big job: too much time, too much money. Did I even have the room?
Then at some point I figured it was now or never. My motto, frank and sweet: “Xxxx fear.”
A half-dozen friends show up to help with the launch. We stand around in the morning sun drinking coffee, enjoying muffins baked by my sweetheart. All of us have a history of some sort with boats of our own, whether we own one now or not. It’s a fraternity, of sorts: we know a pretty boat when we see one.
Finally, I announce I’m ready.
Lines tied, fenders hung. I climb into my truck and back down the ramp to water’s edge. My sweetheart passes out plastic shot glasses. I follow with a bottle of Calvados.
“Her name is Tamalita,” I say, finally able to state such a thing, this many boats along, without choking up. “May she outlive all of us.”
I pour my drink over her stem – then pour a shot for myself.
The Calvadosmakes everyone smile.
Once she’s in the water, Tamalita brightens our smiles another notch or two. I climb aboard, position her oars. It’s not quite like flying – but about as close as any of us, at our ages, will get.
Gray’s Angling Editor Scott Sadil regrets not starting to build boats earlier in his life. Even then he suspects he wouldn’t have been able to get to all of them on his list.