Tuesday, August 17, 2010


To the untrained eye it may seem like I haven't been flying much. Those with a more discerning eye for this kind of thing will realize that the truth is, well, I haven't been flying much. Lately it's been short hops in the local area when the afternoon heat abates and I don't have a competing interest getting in the way. Last night was such a night; beautiful beyond description, although the broad brush stroke picture would be blue skies, light winds, and tolerable heat. The flying was for the most part unremarkable, although I hurry to add that being unremarkable should not be confused with being unenjoyable. Nothing could be further from the truth. Well, nothing but a New York Times editorial, but that's beside the point. It was a fun, relaxing flight, and it culminated in what had to be the closest that I've ever gotten to a perfect three-point landing.

If I could land like that every time, Chuck Yeager would be reading books about me.

The latest distraction has been the selling of stuff on Craig's List to fund the purchase of a small sailboat. I realized that it was mid-July and I had not yet had the kayaks on the water. That prompted me to sell one of them and start looking for a small, simple, affordable sailboat that I could launch, sail, and recover by myself. It had to be small enough to store in the corner of the hanger where I'm not storing or building an airplane. That constraint ruled out roughly 99% of the international fleet. I had the search narrowed down to a Force 5 or a Zuma. Both were somewhat beyond the budget that I has set for myself, although I did find one Force 5 in my price range. It was, unfortunately, a bit of a fixer-upper. Okay, I'll be blunt: it leaked.

 I kept up the search and finally came across a boat that I had never heard of. It's a British import called a Topper. It was in good condition, it was on a trailer (essential for being able to launch and retrieve by myself), and it was in my budget. The only downside was the name, but being as I know very few Brits, it's unlikely that I will have to endure taunts of being a floating tosser.

Feeling secure in the knowledge that few Americans know that expression (well, until now, anyway), I picked it up tonight.

It fits perfectly in the hangar.

The secret to which is that the mast is in two parts.  It's simple to rig, taking no more than ten minutes. The parts are simple, which is important should replacements be necessary - coming from England, they would not be cheap.

It has a clever kick-up rudder design.

Unlike the Force 5, it has a halyard for raising and lowering the sail. It seems like a good idea to be able to drop the sail if it gets super windy or whatever.

It also has a clever way of holding the mast. It just locks in there. That removes the need for stays (cables that hold the mast in place and take awhile to set up every time you want to rig the boat) so it's super easy for one person to step the mast.

Nothing is ever completely easy, of course. There's been quite a bit of preparation and negotiating to slog through, and I still need to get it registered. Hopefully, though, I'll get her on the water soon.

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