Eighty two days after the project started the day I've been looking forward to has arrived. Launch of my first boat I'd ever built. The day could not have been better, highs in the high 50's and a light wind east to west. Loaded up Wawona in the roommate's truck and in company with my lovely first mate I headed west. Arrived a bit late to the launch point, Frenchtown Pond State Park. With nothing else to do we set the boat in the water for the first time. Would it float? This is the question I've been asked time and time again. I'm pleased to say the answer is yes. I was so satisfied as my boat bobbed gently at the dock. Time was wasting away so I carried out the naming ceremony after a short speech.

Donning my PFD I dropped the leeboard and gingerly if not gracefully entered my craft. She was not as tender as I would have thought. Keeping my weight centered was quite easy and she did not show any adverse handling as I settled myself. Of course at this point I had not even left the dock yet! I bravely called for the lines to be cast off fore and aft. Digging my paddle into the briny deep I began stroking NE. It was at this point I noticed I had several leaks. Not enough to put me in any danger but enough to keep my attention! The water was thankfully not cold, just annoying. The Harley 8m was a joy to row. Moving her head back and forth with every stroke but keeping a set course and nimble as a waterfly. It was a quite enjoyable maiden voyage. With the seaworthiness of the vessel for short hops secure I turned about and made for the dock once again. Upon reaching the dock it was time to sail! For my first sail I wanted to run mainsail only and just get a feel for it, as I've never sailed in my life. The mast went up without a problem and I clambered in.
The sail started pulling right away and I moved off on a starboardish tack. The wind was great, just look at those catspaws! I had no idea what I was doing as all my knowledge comes reading about sailing but I was sailing! It was an amazing feeling. After all the hard work and effort it had paid off!
But suddenly my rudder had no effect! Those on the dock were yelling something. Rudder left, right, center, no response! I let go of the main sheet and let her drift to a halt.I turned around and saw my rudder had come off! I had nailed it in instead of using screws. Newbie mistake! The pull on the rudder mounted main sheet had ripped it right off the back of the boat! I

Well this was not good! I was drifting dangerously toward shore! Man the paddle, hard about! With lighting reflexes I made for the dock. So far I had learned several things in my short sailing career. One of them is that it can be difficult to paddle a sail boat with the sail still up and a stiff breeze is blowing. So I reached forward and found that the extra inches of beam afforded by the keelson allowed me to pull the belaying pin for the main halyard. This was an important step, as I had full mobility in the boat should the need arise.

I made dock just find and upon clambering out discovered that sailing was worse then rowing for finding leaks.

My dockside engineers reached the conclusion repairs would have to made if I was to attempt sailing again. At this point, Mike Seitz, who is responsible for many of these fine pictures and had assisted earlier in the build of Wawona decided to live dangerously and take to the pond in my now derudderd Harley 8. He made a fine sight as he struck out for the middle of the pond. Until he snapped my homemade paddle! Not one to let that something as minor as breaking his only form of propulsion get in the way he steadfastly paddled back. The boat handled the slightly increased weight with a ladylike aplomb that characterizes this small boat.

We decided it was time to break for lunch. As we got the grill fired up I returned to the IP&NCo. headquarters for the necessary tools to affect a fix to my craft. Lunch was wonderful.

I was joined by my karate buddy Sean Oman, and experienced sailor Kirk Henderson. Rounding out the group were my steam buddy Andy and his first mate Becky, Mike and son Chester.We enjoyed find conversation and commentary over burgers and chips. With a call to get sailing once again, the rudder was reattached with some solid wood screws and a second attempt was made. This time Wawona carried all her canvas. The wind was dying and we needed to bend every stitch we had. I prepared to leave dock on a reach and reach I did! Jib and main filled and I glided away from the dock.The addition of a jib was a wise move and it was far easier to set up and use then I had initially imagined. After several close encounters with the shore I struck out across the pond. For this first time sailor it was everything I had dreamed. To be pulled silently across the water with only your nerves and wits is very enlightening. Looking ahead I saw a muskrat on a collision course with me! He appeared to be pulling a stick with him and as such had reduced steerage way. I was unsure of the rules of the road regarding pond going rodents so I unleashed a broadside of random salty nautical phrases in his direction and I must have hit him with an avast or an ahoy for he sounded just as I came rushing over the top of him. It was glorious sailing.

Frenchtown Pond is about the size of an American Football pitch on average, laid out east to west, with the dock on the eastern end. tried tacking several times without much success to return to the dock. So I decided after nearly grounding to make a downwind run to the western shore. I let out the main sheet and released the jib to run wing and wing. The Harley 8 seemed to like this arrangement and the run downwind was some of the best sailing I had all day. This left me with a problem though as I had run out of pond. Trying to head up into the wind on a starboard tack was nigh impossible. I could close reach to the SE but she refused to come around to the NE.
I'd get a nice close reach, hit close hauled, shout out the commands so I knew what I was doing and came though irons to sideslip so beautifully you'd think I was doing it on purpose. I sat, enthralled as my sail filled and the boat skittered sideways to the west. After this had failed several times I attempted to "come around the long way" and ended aground on the western shore. I was pushed off to repeat the whole process once again! All this grounding  did have one benefit, I got to bail every time my bottom hit the beach. Amazing what half a pop can do for you!

After about half an hour of floundering around I was reduced to rudder sculling my way east. I had made the tiller a bit to long so I was putting myself in an arm lock as I slowly made my way up the pond. Suddenly I felt a puff of wind and she settled on a starboard tack neat as you please. I called this to the attention of my shore patrol and smiling began to prepare for docking under sail. But it was not to be for as soon as it started it was over. Both my shoulder were killing me and my rear numb so I made for shore, hopped up to my calves in pond muck and walked her in. I was grinning from ear to ear and haven't stopped since. As a proof of concept vessel the Wawona has exceeded my expectations in every way possible. There are some holes to fill and a few details to continue to work out but I have no doubt by July I'll have a vessel I'll be proud to have in the CWB Home Built Boat show.
And so my very first ever sailing day ended. I can't wait for the next one, maybe even next week! And in the process I learned one thing above all else.
There is nothing absolutely nothing half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats