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Camping with Rebecca Ann - by Dale Davenport


Dale Davenport goes camping with his Caledonia Yawl Rebecca Ann, often in the company of Jay Eberley and his Ness Yawl Sara. His account of a week cruising the Georgia Coast Passage can be found here.

In this article he talks about what he takes and how he stows it all.

What to take? Where to put it? I've tried several methods of stowing all the equipment and supplies needed for our week-long trips in my Caledonia Yawl. My present system - a third generation approach based on our experience so far - is more than adequate. But I have been thinking about making a major change that might be even better. In the following I'll describe the challenge and my efforts to deal with it.

First, I'll cover what I've found useful to take along on these trips. Second, I will go over the three major approaches I have used thus far, including the latest one, which works well. Third, I will sketch out a general idea I have for a fourth-generation plan and plead for your comments.

What I take
My list of supplies and gear has been developed over many years of camping and not so many years of sailing small boats. My camping began with backpacking and evolved to fly-and-camp trips with my wife and children when they were young. Consequently, I always needed the smallest, lightest gear. That's a good starting place with a boat, but the carrying capacity of a CY allows me to carefully use heavier, bigger stuff, and more of it. It also lets me be more casual about packing it tightly.

The categories are:

Spares and repairs: I take small hand tools, bits of various repair materials, adhesives and fasteners to fix broken wood, fabric, and hardware for the various parts of the boat. The photo shows the different items.

Rockets and flares. I have some SOLAS grade ones that are out of date, but probably are just fine. I have a current set of cheap ones to satisfy inspection.

Fuels: I take about three gallons of fuel mix for the motor and several one pound propane containers for the stove.

Spares and repairs

First aid: I bought a West Marine kit that is pretty good and have added a few items to it. You can see the basic approach in the photograph. The kit has modules organized by different types of injury or illness.

Food: We've used mostly dry stuff from the grocery store, with some perishables in an ice chest. We have migrated from more beer/less spirits to the opposite, due to ice availability and can disposal issues.

1st Aid Kit

 

Galley gear: When my wife goes with me, I take the china plates and mugs and the pretty flatware. When the guys go with me, it's all Lexan and Alladin mugs. The stove is a Force 10 Seacook burning propane. It is so much better than a Svea or MSR stove, it spoils me.

 

Galley Gear (1) Galley Gear (2)
Miscellaneous stuff: (right and below) flashlights, navigation tools, small stuff, folded radar reflector, sunscreen, sail ties, navigation lights. Miscellaneous stuff
Navigation gear Other important stuff

 

My experience on longer trips is with four men in two boats, my CY and Jay Eberly's Ness Yawl, Sara. Sara is so much smaller than a CY that there is no expectation she will carry all of her own gear - she benefits from the barge-like capacity of the CY. Sara's job is to carry her two occupants, their clothes and sleeping gear, and an ice chest. All the common items go in Rebecca Ann. Sara does take her own pared down assortment of repair items, of course, navigation gear, and some food supplies.

 

Jay's Ness Yawl Sara Ness Yawl Sara

 

First Generation Stowage System - The Traditional: When I wrote up the piece about finishing out the building of Rebecca Ann that is now growing barnacles on this site, I said I expected to stow gear in plastic containers like Frank and Margaret Dye, the inveterate small craft adventurers. (See Dinghy Cruising by Margaret Dye, ISBN: 0713657146) Implementing that plan, I started with four containers about 10x14x6 inches, and placed two in each of two canvas bags and secured the bags under the center benches. (Right)

First Generation Stowage System

I didn't take any long cruises before I abandoned this system. It didn’t provide nearly enough space, so I had to take a lot of additional small dry bags and containers. Consequently, it often was hard to find what I wanted. Also, it was too much trouble to open a drawstring closure on a bag, pull out the Tupperware container, open it, get what I wanted and then reverse the process. Especially, the reversing part; the bags were screwed to the underside of the benches and it’s hard to put a firm object into a bag that is fixed on one side.

On these first trips I was storing fuel mix for the outboard in a couple of one-gallon plastic tanks. The low quality of the plastic casting bothered me and it was hard get all the fuel into the motor’s tank in a pitching, rolling boat. It took both hands to turn up the container, leaving no hand for holding on to the boat.

 

Second Generation Storage System - The Baskets: I kept the plastic containers for the key stuff, but started using baskets for more space. I tried baskets because Jay suggested it, pointing out that the look was right for our boats. I found several good ones on sale. On the first week-long trip we took, in 2003, I had my anchor rode in one, the spares and repairs, medical, and miscellaneous sailing gear in another, and the food in a real big one.(Right) [Photo SD20] We put the shore tents in my huge green dry bag. I have some 55 liter dry bags, which are big themselves, and sleeping gear and clothing went in those. The baskets were tied down to the floorboards. The biggest dry bag was tied in the bow, all the way up. The 55 liter dry bags, together with some similarly sized duffels lined with garbage bags, were tied on top of the forward seat and benches. 2nd Generation Stowage

However, the baskets worked pretty well. They really did look good and are very consistent with the appearance of a work-boat finish on a CY. I got a lot of compliments on them later that year at the Mid-Atlantic Small Craft Festival in St. Michaels, Maryland.

Disadvantages of the Baskets...
They leak like sieves, since they are made like sieves and could be used as sieves, so you need a waterproof container inside. Due to the irregular sizes there was a lot of wasted space. Space was wasted around the containers on the outside, but also around the rectangular plastic boxes stored inside. One of the baskets had a slightly curved bottom so it wasn't very stable. Another was tall, so when loaded to the top with food - which was heavy - it tended to tip over. Also, it got in the way of the mainsail when it was lowered, because it was higher than the benches. Further, you didn't want to put your full weight on any of the baskets when you were clambering around. The baskets weren't reassuringly capable of taking your full weight while protecting their contents. Another problem was that the handles on the baskets were not designed to carry the weight we were putting in them. The photos show three baskets. I also used a big rectangular one, but it migrated into the house for blanket storage or something like that. I still use the anchor basket.

 

 

Things Not to Take: On that first trip, I learned a few things about what not to put in a boat. One of the crew is an avid hiker, so he took his gear in a pack with an external frame. Another one wanted to bring two folding chairs. Those things will fit in a CY but they don't nestle well. Fortunately, we just sailed to Cumberland Island and set up a shore camp for a week and sailed around the island. Still, getting down there and getting back involved two days of falling over far too much junk sticking every which way in the CY. (Right)

The Cumberland Island Crew

 

Third Generation - The Ammo boxes; The third and present system has proved entirely acceptable. It came out of an epiphany I had one day, one of those things that probably most other people would have realized a lot sooner. Basically, I saw that what I needed to do was protect items that either (1) could be damaged by being walked or fallen on, or (2) could injure someone who fell on them, by putting them in a hard container. Soft, unbreakable items could go in soft, conformable containers. The hard containers would make nice places to sit on; the soft containers would make cushions to lounge against.

Does it sound like we routinely walk or fall all over the boat when we are sailing? Well, we do. When a line lets go, or we need to raise the rudder, or put in a reef, or drop an anchor, or down the main, or get a fender out, or fend off something, or drop the mainmast, all those occasions require fast movement around the boat. If you only day sail and can keep your floorboards clear of gear, you won’t have this problem arise. But if you have to use most of the floorboard space for stowage, you will find that in many semi-emergency situations, you will intentionally tromp across a container so you can quickly get yourself out of trouble, gladly dealing later with the consequences of what happened to the contents of the container or, even, the skin on your shins. At least that’s been my experience in my boat.

 

I made four wooden boxes, 1x2x1 feet. I did this before the trip along the southern half of the Georgia Coast in 2004, written up in the travelogue. That winter, before the trip in April, I also was making my boat tent, and had to hustle making the boxes due to the press of doing so much to get ready. Fortunately, it was one of those projects where you hit it all right the first time - not too common for my projects. Generation 3 Stowage Box

 

I had a metal fabricator make eight H-frames of aluminum. For each box, I glued up six panels of clear yellow pine and rough sanded the glue joints down. I made a pine tar mix from the recipe in the back of the Hamilton Marine catalog and slopped it on the wood a couple of times. I drilled holes in the metal frames, shot pan-head sheet metal screws through the holes and into the wood, screwed the bottoms in with healthy stainless screws, rabbeted and weatherstripped the lids, made rope handles, and put on big webbing and side-latch buckles to hold the lids on. I beaded the joints inside with caulk and that was it. The tops tend to warp but every so often I flip them in the sun and warp them back straight.

For that trip, one box got spares and repairs, first aid and miscellaneous stuff. One became the galley, only gear but no food.

 

One took the fuel, both motor and stove. I credit Wayne for the lab bottle idea for outboard motor two-stroke mix storage. With the funnel I can one-hand enough to run for about an hour and I know that if I have run the tank empty, I won't overfill it with a quart bottle. This is a huge improvement over the one- or two gallon red plastic gas cans that I had been using. I can get twelve bottles and a few propane bottles, plus a funnel, and a mesh bag into the fuel box. The mesh bag takes all the fuel containers when we sleep on the boat. I tie the end of the bag to the mast and hang the containers over the side. I am nervous about the fumes lying in the boat while sleeping or cooking. The Fuel  Box

 

The last box is for food. We used it on a trip this year. In 2004 on our great Walter Mitty alligator adventure, we started to put the food in it, but it wouldn’t take all the food, so we used a big cooler instead without ice. I don’t use the fourth box on my short trips with my wife, because I take food in a cooler with ice in it.

All of that stuff falls into the "you can hurt it, or it can hurt you" category. The hard boxes protect what's on each side from what's on the other side.

 

In use, a great unexpected benefit of the boxes became clear immediately. With two boxes on each side of the centerboard trunk, one fore and one aft of the center bench, they made a raised platform we could walk on (or even just three boxes, with two on one side making a raised walkway, work great)

 

The tops of the boxes provide a sturdy and safe way forward The boxes at sea

 

They were just about the same height as the benches and side seats. Thus, to raise the mast it was no longer necessary to walk up the side seats, hopping over to the center thwart to line up the mast into the gate at the right angle of elevation. That procedure was just a mishap waiting to occur. Instead, you simply walk down the middle of the boat, stepping on the box tops. We can do the same thing to get to the bow from the stern. Being up higher doesn't seem to cause a balance problem, and it keeps us from wacking our shins on the thwarts when we lose our balance. I can't emphasize too much the benefit of the boxes for making it easy to move around the boat quickly.

 

Sailing with the boxes (1) Sailing with the boxes (2)

 

I did find that the sleeping platforms – shown in the boat tent piece - wouldn't go down all the way over the boxes because one foot of height is a bit more than the space between the bottoms of the platforms and the tops of the floorboards. So I went back and cut down the box height on three of the four. I removed the bottoms, cut an inch or so off the sides and ends, and screwed the bottoms back on. The fourth one I left unchanged, and found that with the lid off, and the box pulled out just behind the cb trunk, it gives support to the last bit of the platform at the right height. Plus, this box has the galley, so you can get to that gear with the sleeping platform set up. I can make the coffee in the morning while my wife is still sleeping, or trying to still sleep.

I secure, more or less, the boxes with a light line running from the floorboards to each rope handle. Whether that would keep a box from shifting and causing a real problem in a capsize has not been tested.

In serious sailing conditions I latch down the lids, but for regular conditions I usually leave one of the buckles unlatched on the box with the miscellaneous stuff, so I can reach the items more quickly. The tops of the boxes will slide down by the side of the box to allow unfettered access and that works well. The side-snapping buckles are just a little hard to unclip for the strength of my hands. They are hard for crew who isn't used to them.

On the Georgia Coast passage in 2004, the boxes worked very well. We also used them on a similar trip in the Spring of 2005 when we sailed from Hilton Head to Charleston, South Carolina (three days inside and three days outside). The boxes keep the heavy gear in the center around the centerboard trunk. It's near at hand when you need it. It looks tidy. At a marina we can take the boxes out and put them on the pier next to the boat. The boxes make for easy  loding and unloading

 

They make good places to sit when we camp onshore. Two men can easily haul a box from the boat in the shallows up to a campsite on the beach. One man can handle one witch effort. They are raccoon-proof (so far).

 

The boxes are easily carried ashore

 

They make good seats too
I still keep the boat tent and my shore tent in my huge green dry bag in the bow. You can stand on it to enter and exit off the bow. It gives flotation. Each person on my boat is issued two 55 liter dry bags, one for a pad and sleeping bag and one for clothing. When we need more space, we use a plastic bag as a liner within a duffel bag. Those are tied on top of the side seats and the forward benches and thwarts. We can walk or fall on those if we must, and we can lie up against them or kneel on them to reach for this or that. Soft bags are still carried for the tent and people's clothing., sleeping bags etc.

 

The outboard motor stays where it has always been, in a padded canvas case under the rear bench.

Latest Bright Idea (maybe) – For some time now, I have been thinking about how good traditional grating would look as a replacement for the floorboards, and I have a big locust log drying in the back acre that I need to do something with, anyway. I thought about making the grating in sections, starting with the area aft of the centerboard. I thought the grating would look good across that very visible area, and would contrast nicely with the floorboards. Also, it would be harder to drop small items through the grating; the spaces between the floorboards seem to attract pencils. Then, I was thinking of making a grating section for the north side of the centerboard.

Sitting in the boat pondering this, it occurred to me that if I did that, I could just remove the floorboards on both sides of the cb trunk. After all, with the four boxes there, you can hardly see any of the floorboards right now, and you certainly never walk on them anymore. But, in that case the slant of the garboard would mean I would need to make wedged cross-feet for each box, to level them up so we could still walk on the tops of them. And that would mean they would be tilted when they were on a pier or a beach.

Then I noticed that I have a lot of duplication in hard sides in the center areas of the boat. I have the garboards, the floorboards and the bottoms of the boxes – all in the same plane. I have the cb trunk sides and the inside sides of the four boxes – all in the same plane. I have the side planks of the boat and the outside sides of the boxes, although those planes are pretty far apart. Having those extra hard sides doesn't hurt anything, but it started me thinking about what I really had created with my boxes. I started thinking about using the same materials, or materials in the same planes, and creating more space. More space for stowage and an even better walking surface.

I saw a way to accomplish those two goals and deal with a little nuisance of which I already was tired. It involved those sleeping platforms. That was another quasi-harebrained idea that worked out great. Sandwiching blue foam between thin luan, slicing it up and webbing it back together accordion-style, and using Velcro to affix it to the side seats and trunk all came off as planned. I had made waterproof bags for the four platform segments and have been using Velcro straps to tie them under the side seats. Again, more flotation, which can’t be a bad idea.

But, what a hassle to get them out, set them up, and then put them away in the morning! Why does that sort of thing gall me? It's not that I'm busy out there at anchor. I think that's the answer. I want to do nothing, and certainly not chores. Setting up the boat tent is ten minutes of work for two, and then having to set up the sleeping platform is just a little too much setting up work at the wrong time.

Then it occurred to me, what if I boxed off the whole center of the boat? I could install a bulkhead just aft of the trunk and right up against the end of it. Another one would go straight down from the leading edge of the front bench. I could remove the side seats and deck over the whole area, with four big hatches giving full access. The height would be the same as the benches and seats are now. That would give me a built in sleeping platform, many pounds of flotation, and enough room to store every item in the boat. I might even get the motor in there.

Then, I thought of further possible improvements. I could partition off separately a triangular area right in front of the cb trunk, as well as areas a few inches along the trunk all the way aft. These compartments would reach the hull and be open in the front and back. This would let water drain through the limber holes, a necessary element if I want to pump out the boat with one pump. In fact, I could grate the top and ends of this area, and that would look good with grating for flooring. My Delta plow anchor could go in the triangular area, with its rode along the trunk on one side and my Danforth and its rode could lie against the other side of the trunk in these “wet” compartments. Water could pass by those items over the garboard planks and the rodes could dry out in dry conditions. Those heavy items would lie near to the trunk, in the middle and center of the boat, where I want them.

I could do the same open-to-air-and-drainage trick along the outsides of the whole area, along the third plank on both sides. These strips of space could be several inches wide but run the length of the stowage area and would take wet tent components, allowing them to air during the day. They would only be eight inches or so in depth due to the curve of the strake, but water could drain out the front and back. That way, I could leave the fabric tent components there all the time, rather than having to remove them from the big green dry bag and hang them up in garage to dry after a trip. Perhaps in these areas I should use solid hatch covers to keep out the rain, and just use grating in the ends.

I could move the big Edson pump to the back of the stowage area, so I could pump without going forward. The back side of the aft bulkhead would give a sturdy place to put it. I could make a little area above the slanting down of the cb cap, where my tent poles could be stored.

I could even remove the trunk bench and the forward bench and utilize the deck to cover those areas. After all, what good would any of the benches and seats do that a ply deck wouldn't do better? Big cutouts made into hatches would give plenty of access. Interior compartments could be fabricated out of thinner ply, and canvas buckets and boxes could allow categories of gear to be removed. I could even build in a proper icebox. I could install locks on some of the hatches, giving a little security that we don't have now.

So, that's my idea. Getting it right would be some work, and I would only want to do it once. I can't think of any serious disadvantages, but there probably are some – and my fear is that there are a lot. One issue would be trying to row with my legs stretched out level and my feet sticking out in the air. This could be dealt with by moving the oarlocks/rowlocks aft by a foot.

Maybe there are enough disadvantages to disqualify the idea. I sure would like to know all about them before I buy the marine ply for the project, much less before I cut out benches (why did I epoxy them in?) and glue in bulkheads and deck. I would greatly appreciate readers' consideration and comments on this.

Do you think a center stowage area would ruin the look of the boat?

If the idea makes sense, why are stowage lockers generally in the bow, stern, and under side benches? Why are they in the areas where you don’t want weight?

Please tell me what you think, and thanks very much.

Dale Davenport


Thanks Dale. Anyone who has a Caledonia Yawl sailing story they'd be happy to share on this site, please contact me via the Forum - Thanks, Nick Grainger, Site Creator.

Rebecca Ann's hull was built by Geoff Kerr. Dale Davenport fitted her out and did all the finishing work. You can learn all about her here.
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