My Quest for Sail

The Ebay Potter I considered buying (PHOTO: Ebay / unknown)Friday 09-02-2005
After several weeks of looking at sailboats on the internet, Iíve finally rejected my initial attraction to a boat along the lines of a Sunfish or Laser, or a day sailor, in favor of a small cruiser of some sort. The recent appearance of an offering on Ebay of a 1976 West Wight Potter 15 (P-15)  ($1,250 starting) has piqued my interest toward this model or possibly its bigger sister the P-19. I had stumbled across references to these boats in my internet browsing, but havenít given them a momentís thought. But the more I read on them, the more I like: Active owners groups and factory support from International Marine are at the top of my list.

Iíve found a P-19 posted on Craigís List and have made arrangements to inspect it tomorrow morning in Pacifica, but I keep going back and looking at P-15s though . . . thereís something about this boat that I find fascinatingly attractive.

P-19 in Pacifica, CA (PHOTO: Jerry Kergan)Saturday 09-03-2005
Itís Saturday of Labor Day weekend and Iím on the road in my little Miata bright and early for my 9:00 AM appointment to view the Potter P-19 in Pacifica. Itís a delightful boat in very good condition . . . but I plan to store the boat in my garage and it looks like a VERY tight squeeze, if not impossable. The P-15 looks like a better choice for my needs.

My drive back to Concord takes me on down the coast to Half Moon Bay to look at boats in the marina there, then over the hills and across the bay to Hayward where I worked my way back up the east bay and onto Alameda Island stopping at every marina along the way. By 2:00 PM Iím at Jack London Square where Iím working my way back south marina by marina . . .
The second of two Potter-15's spotted belonged to Rich McDevitt (Photo: Jerry Kergan) from the fishing pier at the Jack London Aquatic Center I see my first real Potter 15 abut 100 yards out in the estuary! Itís bright yellow, and looks great to my untrained eye. Then I spot second P-15 a little further up the estuary as well. My next couple of hours is spent trying to figure where the boats have put out of with the hope of a closer look and some potter-talk with the owners. I finally figure out that the yellow number is out of the Alameda side; I drive the couple of miles south to the bridge crossing and start back north on the Alameda side only to arrive just in time to see the ďSarah AnneĒ on her trailer headed for home. Iím really impressed with how quickly the boat was removed from the water and rigged for transport.

At home I spend several hours into the evening browsing the internet, digesting everything I can on the P-15 Potters . . . the more I study this little boat, the more I like what I see.
I find the following listing on the Potter Yachters website:

1999 Potter 15 Custom Cutter Rigged - Brookings, Oregon
Galvanized trailer
5 sails, 2 reef points in main
2 roller ferlings
Lights: running, anchor, and cabin
Red and white sails, red pin stripe on boat
Battery and fuse bank
Electric bilge pump
P-15 (#2357) in Brookings, OR (PHOTE: Gene Herriford)Fire extinguisher
Anchor, chain, 100 foot rope
Foam cockpit cushions

Name: Gene Heriford
Phone: 541-469-XXXX
[Fri, 19 Aug 2005 23:03:28 -0700]

I make the call and talk with Gene. It doesnít take me long to make the final decision . . . Iím gonna buy one of these boats! I'm comparing Gene's boat against the Ebay offering; it seems that I'd want to add so many upgrades that the cheap little boat would likely be more expensive in the end. The plan: take a sailing course this next weekend (Sept. 10 & 11,) then go up to Oregon to take a look at Geneís boat (and likely bring it back) on Monday the 19th.

Tuesday 09-06-2005
Iím committed!
I signed up with Oakland Rec. Dept. to take their ASA Basic Keelboat Sailing course this coming weekend. After a brief phone conversation with Dana Reily (sister of Dawn ďAmerica TrueĒ ReilyĒ,) I jumped in my car for a quick trip to Oakland to leave a check and pick up my books. Much of the remaining day is spent with nose buried in the text.

Friday 09-09-2005
Itís Greek to me . . .
As I work my way through the course text book, the toughest issue for me is the nautical terminology . . . it reminds me of the last time I studied a foreign language. But itís starting to make some sense.

Saturday 09-10-2005
Basic Keelboat Sailing
Class starts at 9:00 AM at the Jack London Aquatic Center in Oakland; Iím there plenty early, raring to go! We are a class of two, plus instructor Sarah. Sarah suggests spending 16 hours allotted to the class sailing the boat and leaving the text for our independent study and to test by appointment the following week (or so) . . . sailing sounds good to classmate Cameron and I, so itís sailing we will go.

Our boat is the Catalina 22, "Sally Marie." With less that an hour of familiarization, we set out on the estuary for the day with a lunch stop at the dock at Chevy's Restaurant, Alameda. I call daughter Jen to tell how great this sailing thing is . . . you sail around for a few hours; pull up behind one of the many restaurants that have docks out back, have a good lunch, then sail around some more . . . Chevy's is one of her favorite places to eat.

I come away from day-one totally exhausted, both mentally and physically. I'm feeling much more confident about sailing, as well; itís all starting to make real sense. I no longer see the boat as a vessel with heaps and heaps of wires and ropes piled in top . . . they have a purpose . . . and I know what it is. That is a good feeling. But Iím still having trouble with the points of sail . . . when Sarah says ďClose ReachĒ, ďBroad ReachĒ or the like, itís just not translating into a visual reference. Back to the books before tomorrow.

Sunday 09-11-2005
I head for Oakland early this morning, stopping by Jack London Square to get a cup of hot coffee, then drive the couple of miles to the Aquatic Center to drink it. Pulling into the parking lot I see one . . . my first Potter in the flesh! The old gent setting it up for a day on the estuary tells me that it's a loaner from Jerry
Barrilleaux, a name I've seen on several Potter internet sites. I get quick walk around on this vintage potter; the differences further confirm my leanings toward Gene's boat in Brookings, OR.

Day-two begins with some Q & A with Sarah . . . she does a great job of clearing up the points of sail. Now all I have to do is learn the rest of the language. We work on the ASA obligatories, focusing on the crew overboard recovery drill and maneuver, and skippering techniques. By the end of the day we students each get to take a 20-minute turn at the helm making all the command decisions . . . like where we're going and how to get there. The day goes by as fast as the first, and I get to watch the little potter sailing around us most of the day as well. It is a very good looking little boat.

Some of my Potter Preparation (September 20 to October 31)


Saturday 10-22-2005
Daughter Jen is babysitting, so I get in a little boat-work time. My first project: I make a wooden top for a small storage box that will sit in the aft end of the cockpit; the box will hold little odds and ends that need to be handy, and the top will also secure the inexpensive (and expendable) boom-box for sailing music. See the "Mod's and Enhancements" section, elsewhere in this site, for details.

Sunday 10-23-2005
Iíve been looking for an outboard motor since I brought my boat home a little over a month ago. And being basically cheap, I couldnít justify, for occasional use, the $600 (used) to over $1000 (new) for the Honda 4-stroke/2 hp motor of choice of most Potter owners with whom Iíve talked. The Honda has several attributes that make it very desirable for use with the P-15óat 29 lbs, the Honda maintains P-15 balance (weight forward) better than other options, a centrifugal clutch and is air cooled (two convince factors) also make it attractive for Potter use.

Some research and investigation brought my attention to the Tanaka 300, 2-stroke/3 hp (also marketed as the Sears Gamefisher 3.0 and Aquabug 300.) The motor sold in large numbers throughout the 1980ís and Ď90ís , but was discontinued by Tanaka when 2-stroke motors fell into environmental disfavor; used copies continue to be very popular with Sears and Tanakaís ongoing parts support. The motors continue sell frequently on E-bay in the $300 to $425 range. Two benefits of the air-cooled Tanaka/Sears motor over the Honda are that it weighs in at under 25 lbs and offers an added 50% more power. I bought mine off E-bay tonight.

Friday 10-29-2005
My motor arrives! Well packed in foam peanuts but I find what I believe to be old damage; the air cleaner is broken, and mounting screws are bent . . . I write the seller who apologizes and agrees to pick up reasonable cost. The motor will require a little modification to allow the tiller to clear the boat transom.

Monday 10-31-2005
I build a fire in my motor for the first time. It starts hard at firstóprobably not run in several yearsóbut runs for several minutes without problem. Then itís off to the hardware store to find parts for motor tiller mod so that it clears the transom.

Page updated:  Wednesday November 15, 2006