Here’s an article written by Glen Maxwell, the builder and first owner of Zoë. With Glen’s blessing I first published his account at my old Small Sailboats website. Copyright is still Glen’s; therefore please do not republish it for financial gain. This blog is entirely non-commercial. I make no profit from advertising or by any other means from what is published here.
Zoë’s Sea Trial by Glen Maxwell
It was my view that in order to really get to know Zoë and learn her quirks I would need to spend a few days, at the very least, just sailing and living aboard her. I decided to sail from Cedar Key on the Gulf of Mexico south to my brother Gary’s home in Port Richey, where if need arose, I could effect repairs or modifications at his dock. From there I would continue to Ancolote Key and then to Honeymoon Island just north of Clearwater. Rather then striking straight out across the gulf the 57 nautical miles to Port Richey my track would lead me along the coastline and afford the opportunity to explore grounds new to me.
I arrived in Cedar key on December 3rd, accompanied by my wife Nancy and my mom, just before noon at low tide and with a dieing breeze. By the time Zoë was in the water and I had her sail up there was no wind at all. After good byes all around I shipped the yuloh and headed out to the channel where a light breeze left a wind line, it was 12:40 Dec. 3rd 2001.
Mr. Yuloh and I were still not great friends at this juncture and after about twenty minuets of trying to get it to stay on it’s bronze ball I decided I would either have to come up with a way to keep it there or replace it with a sculling notch upon my return home. Shortly I hit on the idea of securing a line to the base of the pivot in such a way as to leave a long tail on both sides. The yuloh was then mounted and the line tied around its shaft such that it was captive to the ball but allowed to move all around. Finally, off we went sculling down channel.
Off and on for the next hour the breeze would fill in from behind only to die away after a while and I would alternately scull and sail. The good news was that in these zephyrs of about 5 mph Zoë would accelerate rapidly to between 2.5 and 3kts as reported by the GPS.
While I was launching Zoë two men were in the process of loading their sea kayaks with camping gear and it wasn’t long before I could see them paddling past and along the shoreline. I elected to get away from the shore a little in hopes of finding some wind and about 2:30 the breeze filled in from behind and held. The wind, though light was sufficient to get Zoë up to a whopping 4kts, the fastest she had sailed yet. At this speed she was only ¾ knot away from her calculated hull speed. The wind could not have been more then 8kts at this time and the sea was very smooth.
By 3:30 I had picked out a likely anchorage in the mouth of Deep Creek and set my course for it. I caught sight of the sea kayakers, also at this time, far back and along the shore, I had regained the lead. Around 4:30 the wind veered into the northeast and forced me to come up hard on the wind for a forty-five minute beat to an anchorage in the west pass to Deep Creek. While beating, the kayakers caught up to me and headed into the west pass where there appeared to be a small hammock suitable for camping. I elected to give them some privacy and altered course for the east pass.
After getting my anchor down and while setting about the evening chores I noted the kayakers underway behind me paddling to the east. It was now 5:30 and the sun was setting. With only about 30 minutes of day light left and no camping areas in sight their plight was grim indeed and I could only imagine how they would have to search for a suitable campsite in the dark. I, on the other hand, reveled in the fact that my habitat was secured to the bottom and I need only prepare my evening meal and turn down my bed, a warm and dry place to sleep having previously been assured.
For a mattress I had on board one of the inflatable type of twin size and cheaply procured from Wal-Mart prior to departure. I found that it was easily inflated with a 12 volt pump designed for the purpose but that it took all of seven minutes to accomplish the task and once the pump was removed and the mattress dropped into place it was a pain to pull it up and add more air should it be needed. However, the fit was perfect for the interior of Zoë and once in place and properly inflated it was grand indeed to lay under the open hatch, wrapped in my sleeping bag, and watch the stars dance through the window of the hatch frame.
5:45 the morning of 4 Dec. found me up and about and while it took seven minutes to inflate my mattress it deflates in less then one and is easily folded in thirds and rolled up to be stowed in the “forward stateroom” along with my pillow and sleeping bag thus clearing the main cabin in as little as 5 minutes, less if I don’t take the time to bag the sleeping bag. All the while my coffee has been brewing on the little gimbaled stove, which resides in the port aft locker. When brewed, the coffee is transferred into a thermos and the pot cleaned to receive more water, which is brought to a boil and poured into a large mouth thermos containing Ramen or instant rice. Once capped a hot lunch is assured with no cooking hassles. Before I was able to put my lunch water on I noticed that the tide was ebbing at such a rate as to leave me high and dry if I did not get myself into deeper water quickly. I darted forward, weighed anchor and sculled/drifted out the mouth of Deep Creek where I once again anchored until I was ready to leave.
I finished my pre-underway chores while enjoying a first cup of coffee and listening to a pair of loons paddling nearby. I was not aware until this time that loons frequented this area on their migrations.
By 7:10 I was underway, having stowed the ground tackle in the aft starboard locker. You may wonder what it is like walking around on deck of such a small boat. Well, it is initially like walking around on the gunwale of a canoe with the exception that, properly ballasted, the Paradox stops short (about 8”) of putting her rail under. It takes awhile to get your confidence up that she won’t get you wet, but by the end of my trip I was walking down her side deck with a retrieved anchor, chain and rode in a canvas bag with out a worry whereas at the beginning of the trip I was hunched over the cabin gripping the mast for fear of a capsize as I went for and aft.
I left the anchorage in a 10kt breeze from the NE that allowed me to broad reach on a course that would take me out to sea about 5 miles which I allowed as enough of a clearance around the nuclear power plant at Crystal River to be safe from their security zone should one be in place. A 7:30 entry in my log records that we were doing speeds of 4.8 to 5kts and as the winds increased during the morning our speed did likewise. By midmorning in a 12 to 15kt wind the GPS indicated a sustained speed of 5.5kts with bursts to 5.9. Later I was to note that the max speed recorded by the GPS was 6.3 but I never actually saw it that high.
With the sea state up to about three feet and occasionally rolling into our starboard stern quarter, sending spray up to and over the hatch, I decided it would be a good time to try out the below decks helm station. Folding the seat into its stowed position, I arranged my seat cushion, which has a built in back rest, to port and closed the hatch. It was simply delightful; here I was completely protected from the elements, a cup of hot coffee in one hand and the tiller line in the other as we boiled along at a steady 5.5kts. The only thing I want to add is a port in the hatch so that I can see the sail in order to properly trim while steering from below. I have left room between the end of the hatch and the solar panel for this eventuality.
The helm, while very light, had enough weather helm in it that I decided to play with getting Zoë to steer herself. To this end I tied a short section of line to the aft bulkhead thru the tiller line exit hole in such a way as to allow me to put a rolling hitch around the tiller line with the other end. In this way I could add or subtract tension on the tiller line by sliding the rolling hitch back and forth. After some fiddling a degree of success was attained and I was allowed the freedom of a few minutes away from the helm to attend to such matters as reading the chart and fixing my position, pouring another cup of coffee or later in the evening fixing myself a drink. The success was limited in that any gust of wind would send her up to windward and while I was often able to bring her back by just a quick pull in the weather direction, often as not I would be required to start the fiddling all over. I deemed it unsatisfactory on a broad reach to the extent that I will fit an Autohelm 800 from my spares locker at home for the next trip so that I will be allowed to read while in transit. Later in the trip I had the opportunity to use the same setup while beating to windward and found that Zoë self-steered to windward very satisfactory as do most sailboats.
My log also records that at 9:20 the first fish of the trip was caught and landed. Of it’s type I am uncertain but think it was a scorpion fish, at any rate it looked unsavory enough that I returned it to the sea, four others were eventually caught during the trip and likewise released. I will go on record that I am not a sport fisherman, lacking the patience to sit and soak a worm so to speak, but I do love a fresh fish dinner. To this end my tackle box is very rudimentary, consisting of a very heavy line, that some have referred to as weed whacker line, with a heavy steel leader on one end and a bungee cord on the other which I affix to one of the stern cleats. I’m more often then not attending to more pressing matters such as reading when a fish takes a liking to my bait which is usually just a piece of white or red rag on a suitable hook. I’m generally made aware that “I have one on” when I look aft and see the fish skipping across the surface having long since drowned in the case of a small/slow one or a bow string tight bungee cord in the case of a big/fast one. For this trip I substituted a Johnson Silver Minnow for bait and light line and leader, which later would prove a mistake as I approached my brothers the following day. Another “must have” for the truly indolent fisherman is a squirt bottle filled with denatured alcohol. A fellow cruiser in Venezuela introduced this item to me years ago. Once landed a fish will often as not want to make good his escape and even if you should want this for him as well, as in the case of a barracuda, you will probably want to retain your lure. Enter the alcohol, a quick squirt down the trashing beasts mouth and over his gills will instantly transform him into a hunk of peaceful flesh, allowing you to retrieve your lure and dispose of him in the way of your choice. Lacking denatured alcohol any alcohol will do, although a doctor friend has warned me that isopropyl should not be used as it is not good for our systems, and many are the times I have had to blow a mouthful of good rum down a fish’s mouth for want of denatured alcohol. Such was to be the case the following day as I approached my brother’s canal when I landed a Spanish mackerel of about eight pounds. While fumbling with the rum bottle and dangling the mackerel from the leader he succeeded in breaking the leader and making off with my lure. This was especially painful as
Later in the day there was some excitement while sailing thru the channel leading into the cross Florida barge canal. I was steering to go midway between two spoil islands and traveling at around 5kts when I saw waves breaking directly ahead of me, I might add that it is very hard to see breaking waves from the back side, realizing it was a shallow spoil area I quickly headed up and was able to clear it, barely. Zoë almost had her first high speed grounding, an item not on the sea trial check list.
By 1:00 pm the winds had fallen off and we were off the Bird Keys and the ST. Martin Keys. I had hoped to stop here and do some exploring but found the tide down so far that it was dry out about a mile from the keys so I fell off and continued SE. A 2:00 pm log entry reports: “ for the last few hours we have been sailing over water so shallow that you can occasionally hear the grass scraping on the bottom. The water is very clear and it is amazing that we are still sailing at 2.8 to 3.2kts. This is so much FUN!”
Around 5:00 pm I was able to get an anchor down behind a very small key about a mile and a half offshore amongst the Chassahowitzka Reefs. We had made good a distance of a little more then 33 nautical miles, in first moderate and then light airs, certainly a better showing then the previous days 11.8 nautical miles. I could see Crawl Key to the south about a half-mile away but decided to stay put because I was afraid if I went any farther I might not find any better anchorage and it might be worse. As it turned out the next day the choice was a good one. I had hoped to get out and stretch my legs but the tide was so high that there was nothing but saw grass and scrub to walk around in. Having only about an hour of daylight left I decided to get dinner out of the way and then catch up on my log (I record the day’s events on a micro recorder and then transcribe into my logbook). After preparing a one-pot meal in my pressure cooker I wolfed it down surprising myself at how hungry I was. One of the great things about the Paradox design is that when it comes time to do the dishes, one only needs to lean over and the boat rolls down enough that you can wash up in the sea water without the need to bring water aboard in a bucket. If you do need to use a bucket, because of very shallow water or if you are dried out it is handy to stand at the back of the hatch with the bucket on the after deck while you take care of your chores.
Just as I had finished my meal the wind veered enough so as to take away the protection once offered by the small key to windward and a chop began developing. I went forward and weighed anchor, returned aft and shipped the yuloh and sculled my way into quieter waters and anchored anew. This was accomplished without tying down the shaft so the training device was working. By this time I was also much more comfortable walking up and down the side deck.
That night as I lay upon my poorly inflated mattress and contemplated the stars overhead I began to question the virtues of my bed. The air chambers were long tubes like the ones popular for floating on in pools and as such it was not as comfortable as it had been the previous night when I was so tired I had fallen asleep within minutes of laying my head down. I considered how annoying it was to inflate it while listening to the howling blower motor for an unseeingly long seven minutes, only to find that after I had put the inflator away that I would now need to get back up and add some more air. Would a good quality self-inflating camping pad be the answer? I would have to wait until I got to Gary’s to get one. Other then that I dosed off feeling very fortunate to be micro-cruising in such splendid comfort aboard a little vessel of my own building and one which was so well appointed thanks to the attention Matt Layden had given her when he designed the Paradox.
The morning of the 5th found me lounging in bed as the sunlit up the sky thru a light fog. A pair of loons communed in the distance and the sound of fish breaking the surface drifted over the glass smooth water to where I lay thinking of what the day would bring. The distance to Gary’s channel entrance was approximately 22 miles so there was no need to hurry with breakfast and the morning chores. I reached up and slid back the hatch and peered into what little sky broke thru the low fog. Switching on the VHF weather channel I was informed that the day promised to be a nice one with winds forecast from the northeast at 8 to 12kts veering into the east as the day wore on.
After stowing my sleeping gear I put on a pot of coffee and fixed myself a light breakfast, prepared a lunch of Ramen in my thermos and made ready to get underway by washing and stowing all lose gear. The anchor was aboard by 0735 and after raising sail I settled on a port tack course that would clear all hazards and take us to the entrance channel to Gary’s house. What a wonderful morning sail we were having as Zoë skipped along at 4.6 kts over a smooth sea who’s surface was broken every now and again by startled mullet who happened to stray into our path. As we passed Crawl Key I could see that there was no better anchorage then the one we enjoyed the previous evening and it too was not very interesting at close range. I was disappointed at the lack of interesting keys for a shoal water sailor to explore along this stretch of coast.
The morning wind was steady and our point of sail sufficient that Zoë would sail herself without the need for attention long enough that I was allowed to read and watch the sea roll by. I streamed the fishing tackle from the starboard stern cleat and settled in with a copy of Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men”, occasionally glancing at the compass or scanning the sea in all directions to insure our own survival. This was the type of sailing I loved.
About 10:30 I glanced at the fishing line and noticed we had a fish on. It turned out to be the large Spanish mackerel I mentioned earlier. After resetting the tackle and streaming it once again I went back to my “watch keeping”.
12:40 found us off the entrance to Gary’s house but the tide was so far out that even Zoë with her 9” draft could not get closer then about ½ mile. I dropped and stowed sail and attempted to scull and pole my way in but was soon aground. No problem, I set out the anchor and made up my bunk for a little nap while awaiting the tide. What a rough life!
By 2:00 the tide was up enough that I could start the scull to windward and this I did but I first tied down the yuloh with the “training device” knowing that I would be at it for a while. Along the way I passed some gentlemen fishing from a pontoon boat. We haled each other and many kind words were spoken of Zoë and I beamed with pride as we sculled on. It took a little over an hour to cover the 1.6-mile trek up the channel to Gary’s dock. As I rounded the corner of their channel I found Gary and his wife Sue waiting and waving, having been alerted to my arrival by a cell phone call just before weighing anchor. It wasn’t long before Zoë was tied to their dock and all was made secure. A glance at the GPS showed a distance of 25.1 nautical miles made good for the day.
I spent the 6th of Dec. tied up to Gary’s dock while I took care of some minor problems, which had developed. One problem was the tang on the end of the boom was not stiff enough and would bend inward and occasionally bind while rolling the main up. This would cause the main sheet to be furled around the sail and lock every thing up. Of course this would happen while I was looking forward so by the time I discovered the problem I would have a mess on my hands and have to hoist the main and untangle everything. Also I found that the sail was not as easy to furl as I had hoped because as the main halyard was slacked the sail would fall making it difficult to haul in the furling line. Every thing seemed to work fine if I supported the boom while furling. The only way to do this and free up both hands to control the halyard and furling line was to let the boom rest on the coach roof while furling. I felt a topping lift would solve the problem so I rigged a temporary one to try on the remainder of the trip. At a craft store close to Gary’s house I acquired some leather scraps and used them to make holsters for pens, pencils, flashlight and knife by nailing the leather to appropriate places on the bulkheads and uprights, thus ensuring they would fall easily to hand when needed.
The 7th dawned clear with a light offshore breeze and after a cup of coffee with my host and hugs all around I walked down to Zoë and cast off. A pull on the new topping lift and the furled sail came up ready to be hoisted. The Paradox is lug rigged thereby requiring the topping lift to lie on one side or the other of the sail. I had rigged it to lie on the starboard side and attention was needed for the first few feet to insure the yard did not get on the wrong side during rising. The sail went up with out a problem and we were away at 08:30. The sail down the channel and into the Gulf were uneventful and took only 15 minuets, having the wind and current with me.
Once into the Gulf I decided to sail around and explore a few of the many stilt homes that have been built about a quarter mile offshore. After picking out an interesting looking one I hardened up on the port tack and Zoë and I sailed over for a closer look. As we approached I had fantasies of living out here in the gulf on just such a home built up above the water about 12 ft. As I got closer the attractiveness began to tarnish, the home, while in good repair seemed lonely and sad, the stench of seabird guano grew more appalling with every foot we approached until when we were actually down wind the stench made my stomach churn. I quickly jibed over onto the starboard tack and made haste to depart the offensive area, so much for fantasies of stilt homes.
Once I had cleared the area enough to jibe back over onto the port tack I did so and set a course for the northern end of Ancolote Key. The idea being to approach from up wind and then fall off and sail down the coast as close as I could get to do some exploring. In this fashion, should some thing interesting ashore catch my eye, it would be a simple matter to round up and beach Zoë.
With well over an hour to arrival I figured I might as well get out the fishing gear and try my luck. In short order I had a line over and had settled down for a delightful morning sail. This was the first time that I had been running free on the trip and shortly it dawned on me that we were not rolling. I had been concerned during the building of Zoë that because there was no boom vang she would have a tendency to roll her guts out when off the wind. I was sailing along at 4.3 kts downwind with only a very slight and by no means uncomfortable oscillation about the roll axis. After thinking about it for a little while I can only surmise that the chine runners were acting as roll dampers or perhaps the balanced lug rig is not prone to inducing roll off the wind. Whatever the case, it was a very pleasant surprise and endeared the little Paradox design to me even more.
By the time we reached the north end of Ancolote Key the wind had died to almost nothing and we ghosted along the Eastern Shore at about a knot and a half. I did manage to catch another small scorpion fish and release him. At this speed the fishing line is more trouble then it is worth so I stowed it away.
Ahead of me, a steel cutter of about 30 feet lay to her anchor and my track would take me down her port side for a closer look. As I approached a weather-beaten old man appeared from the hatch and spoke of his overnight passage from Pensacola. He was very proud of the fact that his old rusty girl had averaged 5 kts for the passage and having just arrived was getting ready to retire to his berth for a well-earned sleep. I bid him pleasant dreams and continued on my way.
My destination was an attractive beach near the south end and upon arrival I sailed Zoë right up onto the beach. Taking my anchor bag in hand I stepped overboard and waded ashore where I set the anchor and then walked back and made the line fast to the bow cleat. An abandoned lighthouse stands guard over this end of the key and I gathered my camera to go and have a look. I walked along the beach marveling at the absence of people. It being a Saturday I had anticipated a fleet of boats and their crews enjoying the beautiful beaches here.
Once at the lighthouse I climbed to the top and surveyed the island. Zoë lay peacefully at anchor to the west with her bow touching the beach just as I had left her. Around the south end of the island a creek opened up and led into a beautiful and protected anchorage. Across the sand spit guarding the anchorage a clean white sandy beach stretch for miles to the northwest end of the island. A fishing boat of about 30 or forty feet appeared shipwrecked up the coast a half a mile or so. On the northeastern side another anchorage surrounded by mangrove was accessible from the south and a character type cabin cruiser lay to anchor there. I took a number of pictures and then descended the long circular stairway as a young couple made their way to the top.
Back at Zoë I elected to shove off and sail around to the anchorage on the Westside. Within minutes we were underway and after a pleasant sail around the southern tip I was able to test Zoë’s short tacking ability as we entered the mouth of the tidal creek. The starboard tack was favored and we were able to sail almost to the shoreline, after about six tacks in which Zoë never failed to come about we found ourselves in a bay of sorts and sailed to within a few feet of the western shore and anchored for the evening.
I awoke the morning of the 8th to find Zoë high and dry, the tide having gone out some hours before. A fresh pot of coffee was put on and by the time it was ready all aboard was ship shape and ready to go sailing when the tide returned. I took the opportunity to do some beach combing and walked about halfway up the beach past the wreck, which turned out to be a fiberglass inboard probably washed up during a storm. The beach here is a delight to walk on, clean white sand and fairly firm under foot. I marveled at the lack of trash so often found on Florida beaches. It seemed I had the whole of Ancolote Key to myself, the only visible signs of humanity were the fishing boats out on the Gulf and they were far enough out that their engines could not be heard.
Arriving back at Zoë I found the tide not quite high enough to float her so I set about fixing myself a big southern breakfast of bacon, eggs and grits. By the time the dishes were done we were free of the bottom.
Sail was set and we ghosted out of the bay at 10:10 am. It took a little over an hour in the light breeze to sail back around the southern tip and up into the mangrove bay where Heart of Gold II lay anchored. As I approached, Mark, who had been up on the north end of the island exploring, returned and bid me welcome. Shortly Zoë was hanging off the stern along side Heart of Gold II’s tender, which I might add was almost as long as she.
The first thing one notices when stepping into the saloon of Heart of Gold II is how light and airy she is. While only having a beam of 8 feet she has a little over 6 and a half ft of headroom and large windows that light up a very comfortable interior. After a week aboard Zoë I felt as though I was in a palace. There is no bilge so you stand on the inside of the hull, which is varnished tongue and groove fir. There is a long desk down the port side and a couch that converts to a double over seven feet long on the starboard side. Going forward there is a head and a pantry port and starboard and then the pilothouse. Mark plans on marketing building drawings for her so keep an eye out if your interested in a very comfortable shoal draft motorboat with a lot of Character.
The remainder of the morning and early afternoon was spent visiting with Mark and listening to tails of his adventures after the launch and subsequent trip down the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers and across the Gulf of Mexico to Ancolote Key. It would have been easy to while away a few days exploring and chatting with Mark but my time was running short so I bid farewell and following seas, slipped Zoë’s tether and set sail in a dying breeze for the eastern end of Honeymoon Island.
It was all I could do to make it to a small spoil Island about two miles north of my destination before dark but once there I was able to find shelter from the wake of motorboat traffic behind it. After getting the anchor down and dinner out of the way I settled down for a little reading before retiring. It wasn’t long before the gentle motion and night sounds lulled me to sleep.
The 9th dawned clear with the barest of breezes stirring the pine needles on the casuarinas trees ashore. I had arranged to meet Nancy just after noon so I had the whole morning to make it to the haulout area. A leisurely cup of coffee was followed by the completion of my morning chores and Zoë was ready to go.
What wind there was came from the southeast and a slight current ran against us making the final leg of this trip a claw to weather against a foul tide. I took one long tack toward the northwestern end of Honeymoon Island causeway in hopes of finding shallow water and less current as well as to explore the area. It turned out to be a good choice, there was little current and the area was beautiful and full of wildlife. Tacking over onto starboard I made my way east along the causeway toward the bridge, which I would have to transit. I positioned myself as far to weather of the center span as possible and tacked over. The current was at its strongest here and two more tacks were required to get under the bridge where all wind was lost. The yuloh practice really paid off here, as I was able to quickly put it in motion and sculling as hard as I could, managed to stem the current and get thru the bridge where I was able to fall off enough to gather way under sail again.
I picked out a place on the beach that looked to be good for a haulout and nosed Zoë ashore ending my first real cruise with her. As I prepared her for hauling out I reflected on my trip and the enjoyment it had given me. There is real wonder in building a boat from scratch and seeing her floating before you after months of hard labor and it can only be eclipsed by the delight it serves you during use. Oh yes there are still things to do, a skylight must be installed in the hatch, a chart table would sure be nice to keep the chart off the deck, a permanent topping lift controlled from below and let’s not forget that all important mattress. Another real pain in the butt, literally, is the seat board. No matter which cushion arrangement I tried, it was not long before my rear end was complaining about the hardness of the seat. Problems I put my thoughts to solving while I awaited my ride home.
Note: This listing has expired!!!!
‘Minnow’, my UK Paradox is for Sale at Ebay.co.uk
The Ebay item number is: 161437876632.
I can be contacted by phone at 07588288060 or by email at barnacleid at yahoo dot co dot uk.
Here are a few related Links:
Open to Offers for ‘Minnow’, My Paradox Sailboat
Open to Offers for ‘Minnow’, My Paradox Sailboat – Part 2
Open to Offers for ‘Minnow’, My Paradox Sailboat – Part 3
‘Minnow’ Advertised for Sale on Ebay
‘Minnow’ Advertised for Sale on Ebay - Inventory