Thursday, September 19, 2013

Sharlet - a Love Affair

Like all love affairs, there have been cycles ranging from "smokin'", to "taken for granted"; periods where you can't get enough, to periods where you forget the need to maintain and nourish. And so it has been with Sharlet. Sharlet is a sailboat. A 15-foot, sloop rigged daggerboard Windmill Class racing sailboat who has been part of our family for many decades. She is equally adept at providing a pleasant day sail for a couple of adults, or the skipper and two or three children in gentle breezes, as she is at providing a thrilling ride skipping across the wave tops on a reach while you hang on wide-eyed at the ragged edge of control.
Hilda and I preparing for a camping trip to Eagle Lake in 1977. Sharlet is tagging along behind the "Camper", which will also soon be burdened with our 17-foot Coleman canoe - and several of our seven children.

For over a decade it was all about racing, at least one weekend a month during the season. Over those years we gradually learned how to skipper and crew in the relentless, wave-curling blasts of the Nevada desert wind that Mark Twain called the "Washoe Zepher". By the time we had things figured out, in the late 1970's, and managed to snag the Windmill District Championship cup for two years in a row, the popularity  of sailing, especially monohulls, was in decline.

Hilda preparing for a race during a regatta at Eagle Lake, 1979

The gang at Eagle Lake in 1980. All of our combined family of seven kids enjoyed time with Sharlet. She served us faithfully on outings like this for the following three decades, asking little in the way of maintenance.
And then in 2007 sailing activity perked up, thanks to expert Windmill sailors Scott Rovanperra and Dave Nielsen. They coaxed me and Sharlet out of retirement and back to the starting line.

Racing with grandson Jeremy at Scott's Flat. Borrowed newer sails convinced me it was time to provide Sharlet with a new wardrobe.

It took only a few races to reveal that both the sails and the skipper were a bit blown out. Not only that, but those pounding planing reaches across Eagle Lake had opened up cracks in the hull. 

Summer 2007 - beginning serious restoration

2007 -The double hull has been been repaired with nautical foam, re-fiberglassed, and then finished on the inside with skid-proof paint.

2007 -Gouges resulting from many years of pulling Sharlet up on beaches, and more importantly, cracks through the outer hull that resulted from all of those pounding broad reaches across Eagle Lake, have been repaired, filled, and faired.

2007 - Sharlet turns from dirty gold to bright blue.

2007 - First coat nearly done. And not a bad job, either. 

2007 - The skipper celebrated completion of the paint job with a dip in the American River

Summer 2010 - Sharlet is back at Eagle Lake, with a solid hull, new paint, and new North sails, ready for a few more decades of sailing.

2010 - launching at Eagle with grandson Jeremy.

Eagle Lake, 2010. Daggerboard and rudder are still functional, but have yet to be fully refurbished.

Dave and Sarah at Lake Washington, West Sacramento, 2010

Scott and Montana, Lake Washington, West Sacramento, 2010
Now, during the last few days of summer, 2013, I'm inspired with another burst of enthusiastic maintenance energy, this time aimed at the rudder, tiller, and daggerboard. Was it inspired by Darrel, who continues to carry the Windmill flag, building new boats, restoring old warriors, and engaging new sailors? Or realizing that the thought of replacing Sharlet with a slower, more comfortable craft were akin to selling a family member? Or the excitement of watching the non-boats of the America's Cup duke it out? No matter. I'll cling on to the tail of this horse named Enthusiasm and hopefully hang on until these pieces of wood are as solidly gleaming as Sharlet's hull.

Fairing and sanding the rudder cheeks

Rudder and daggerboard, nearly ready to varnish

Last check before beginning to varnish. I think the tiller favors the starboard tack ...


  1. What a fantastic job! I wish I could do such fine carpentry works as you. Sharlet looks great in her new paint, and I'm sure the newly refurbished wooden parts will go great with it!

    1. Thanks Miguel. Varnishing going on today - the real, oil-based, spar varnish kind - smells so good!

  2. Great move to keep it in the family, what a fab looking craft she is. Really nice work there and a little history to boot.