Monthly Archives: March 2018

Boat Enhancements

When Hurricane Irma was coming up the Gulf Coast aiming straight for Bradenton Beach I took down the mast on my boat. There are several reasons for doing this. One is to reduce windage aloft. I the days of the square riggers it was quite common to lower the top masts to the deck to reduce “top hamper.”

Another reason for lowering the mast was so I could get under a 10-foot high bridge to get into a small canal and hide in the mangroves.

When I returned to the anchorage after the storm passed I decided not to put the mast back up. There are several reasons for this. One, my hands are gnarled with arthritis and it’s painful hauling on the halyard to raise the sails. Two, with my COPD, raising the sails leave me panting for breath. Three, in the roughly 800 miles I traveled from Fort Lauderdale to Carrabelle in the eastern panhandle of the state and back down to Bradenton Beach I didn’t sail even a half dozen times. Either the wind was too strong for this 22-foot boat with no reefing system, or there wasn’t any wind, or the wind was “on the nose” and I didn’t have the patience to tack for hours to get to my next anchorage. So, essentially I was using the boat as a “terminal trawler.” That’s a term for sailboats without masts that travel under power alone.

Not only that, there’s the hassle presented by bridges that need to be opened because of the height of the mast. I had to open 57 bridges on my journey last year. Twenty nine between the Las Olas bridge in Fort Lauderdale to the last bridge in Stuart. There were 11 bridges on the Okeechobee Waterway cutting across the state, and another 17 bridges going up the Gulf Coast Intracoastal.

I had to do something with the mast. Lying down on the deck it was a hassle getting around it to go forward and tend to the anchor. And, as my friend Stephen said, it make the boat look like a derelict.  I looked at dozens of mast and boom gallows on line. Some were pretty nifty. Some were pretty expensive. Some were temporary things made out of 2X4s and ugly looking. I needed something better.

What I came up with was to build a gallows out of PVC pipe. Easy to work with and inexpensive. At first I used 3/4-inch pipe because it’s the same size as the stainless steel railing of the push pit (damn, I LOVE salty talk!).  It was okay. It DID get the mast raised and will, one day, serve as the center pole for a cockpit shade cover.


The problem with my first effort was it wasn’t very strong. I had to reinforce the corners with wood. After months of pondering what to do about the situation I discovered that Home Depot sells what is called “furniture grade” PVC pipe. It’s inch and a quarter diameter, a bit thicker walled, and comes in a variety of colors. For some reason red was the cheapest so that’s what I went with. I built the new gallows in one afternoon. No additional bracing needed.


It’s easy to take the mast off of the gallows and I didn’t cement the top segment so that if I want to reduce the air draft I can simply lift that segment off. This one is also a bit higher and I can, just, stand up underneath the mast at the after end of the cockpit. I’m quite happy with the results.



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Mother Nature Wins Again…

I grew up in the small town of Orleans where Cape Cod makes its eastern-most thrust into the ice cold Atlantic. For thirty five years my dad and my brother, Jeff , ran Philbrick’s Snack Shack out on Nauset Beach. I worked at “The Shack” for eight summers when I was in high school and the first couple of years in college. After getting out of the Navy I ran Nauset Beach Rides.

This weekend there was an ultra-nasty nor’easter that tore away at the beach and is bringing an end to an era. My dad built the Snack Shack with his own two hands in 1954. It has withstood nor’east storms and hurricanes for 64 years but this week it’s finished.

One thing I didn’t make clear is that while my dad built the Snack Shack and he and my brother ran it for 35 years, my brother stopped running it 29 years ago. John Ohman has been running it since then under another name. It’s sad, though, to see this bit of Orleans history bite the dust.

1960 nauset

This last weekend.

snack shack 2


When my brother, Jeff, was running the place he was selling a ton to a TON AND A HALF of onion rings A WEEK! The volume of food that passed through those windows was literally unbelievable! On the Fourth of July Weekend Sunbeam bakery used to bring a trailer full of hot dog and hamburger buns to handle all that would be cooked and consumed over those three days.

Back in the ’50s Howard Johnson’s was noted and famous for their hot dogs. They were made by the Boldeaux  meat company. (Not sure of the spelling after 60 years) They only had TWO CUSTOMERS. Howard Johnson and Philbrick’s Snack Shack. I remember on time the Boldeaux salesman telling my father that the Snack Shack, from Memorial Day to Labor Day, sold MORE hot dogs than the top three year round Ho Jos in New England, COMBINED!!!

But it’s all over now. Mother Nature is a cruel mistress…

New Pics…

Shack Erosion 3

Shack erosionShack Erosion 2

Last three photos from Cape Cod Times newspaper

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COPD Can’t Beat Me!

I have started a Go Fund Me campaign. All contributions gratefully accepted…

Hi! I’m Richard, a 75 year old sailor with COPD and I need your help to write my SECOND book.


In my early working life I was a newspaper reporter, a magazine editor and published many freelance magazine articles. But I’d always dreamed of being on a boat. I never wanted to sail around the world, though. I wanted more attainable goals…like doing The Great Loop, a circumnavigation of the eastern half of the United States. Sailing across the Atlantic Ocean had been a childhood dream.

A quote that changed my life came from Richard MacCullough’s book Viking’s Wake. He wrote: “And the bright horizon calls! Many a thing will keep till the world’s work is done, and youth is only a memory. When the old enchanter came to my door laden with dreams, I reached out with both hands. For I knew that he would not be lured with the gold that I might later offer, when age had come upon me.” So, at age thirty, I left a good-paying job as assistant PR Director at a large hospital in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and became a minimum-wage deckhand on a dinner cruise boat I knew I could take up writing again at any age. I became a U.S. Coast Guard licensed captain of yachts and small commercial craft and spent the rest of my working life on boats. I did The Loop. I sailed across the Atlantic. I transited the Panama Canal. I lived out the dreams of my childhood.

In 2009 I retired and moved to the mountains of western Panama where I wrote my first book: “Adversity’s Wake: The Calamitous Fourth Voyage of Christopher Columbus.” The book was translated into Spanish by two girls at the Universidad Latina in David (dahVEED). I combined both versions into a dual-language book  available at

In April, 2017, with my lung capacity down to only 34% of normal, I repatriated to the U.S. In spite of struggling for breath after even simple chores like making my bed, I knew I couldn’t let the COPD dominate my life. (Yes! I gave up smoking about six years ago.)


Back in the states I bought a small, 22-foot sailboat
on the “One Easy Payment Plan,” and cruised from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, across the state and up the shallow waters of the state’s Gulf Coast. I made it to Carrabelle in the eastern panhandle when total renal shut down caused by severe dehydration put me in Tallahassee hospitals for nearly three weeks. When I recovered enough to return to my boat I made my way back down the coast to the anchorage at Bradenton Beach, FL, a little ways south of Tampa Bay. In all the trip was around 800 miles.

I blogged about the trip and posted updates on Facebook as I cruised, but, wintering here at anchor in Bradenton Beach, an idea for a non-fiction, book has been germinating. It has a working title of: Four Feet or Less: A cruising guide for gunkholers.” Gunkholing is a boater’s term for wandering from place to place in shallow water and spending nights at anchor rather than in a marina. The name comes from the gunk, or mud, in creeks, coves, marshes, and rivers. “Boondocking” is the term used by RVers for a similar “off the grid” experience on land.


In order to finish researching the book I need to revisit many of the places I anchored before to gather more detailed information. To do this successfully I need some extra equipment. Subsisting entirely on Social Security alone it’s nearly impossible to put much aside after paying for dumb stuff like, oh, FOOD, meds, phone. What I need, in order of necessity, are: 1) a reliable, second outboard motor 2) a Go Pro-style action camera 3) a small drone so I can take aerial photos of many of the anchorages.

I need the outboard because I can’t sail anymore. My hands are too painfully gnarled from arthritis to haul on halyards and wrestling with flapping sails leaves me on my hands and knees gasping for air. In the roughly 800 miles I traveled in the past year I only actually sailed the boat about 4 times. Either there was NO wind, there was TOO MUCH wind for a 22 foot boat, or the wind was on the nose and it would have taken too long to tack my way to the next anchorage.

Since many of the places I need to return to are often out of cell phone range and far from the rescue services of Boat US or Sea Tow, a reliable second engine is a safety factor, not a luxury. I’m NOT looking to buy a NEW outboard. A second hand 6 to 9.9 hp two-stroke engine will do just fine. Good USED outboards run about $800 to $1,000. I already have a second outboard bracket on the transom.

I need an action camera because they’re waterproof. I took a lot of photos on my last trip but used it sparingly so it wouldn’t get it wet and be ruined. Again, I’m NOT looking for a top of the line model, just one that will take reasonably sharp photos under all conditions. These cost around $250.

A drone that can carry that action camera aloft for photos of the anchorages would be fantastic! I have photo editing programs I can use to mark routes to the anchorages. A decent drone would cost about $250.


Altogether I should be able to purchase the equipment I need for around $2,000.

Donations of $25 or more will receive a free electronic edition of Adversity’s Wake: The Calamitous Fourth Voyage of Christopher Columbus.

Donations received above and beyond what is needed for buying the equipment will be donated to the American Lung Association.

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