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Raiders and 50-50's: versatile boats ahoy!
September 11, 2006

I've been on the prowl for versatile boats lately, as per previous posts here.

A couple weeks ago I did a nice, sizeable day-paddle on the lovely Grand Traverse Bay. Maybe 10 miles total. It showed me yet another reason for the Versatile boat concept.

But before I get into that, we used sea kayaks that day. The sea kayak is a pretty sweet boat solution, as illustrated by the boat-bum experiences of my Mackinaw Island pals. They've lived for boats their whole lives. Life on the water. The arc of their boat life went kinda like from sailboats to powerboats to bigger boats back down to small sailboats...then finally to sea kayaks. They found kayaks to be best of all. They said they could actually get farther more reliably with them, could gunkhole, reach towns, go visit new waters, etc. I haven't visited with those guys in a few years. I wonder if they've added sails to their kayak rigs. Now, as I kayak I find that WEIGHT matters a lot, but who knows maybe a sail-rig can be light and adds more than it costs. It might be like fenders and lights on a bike: where I live I ride in the rain and dark about once a year, and I know it ahead of time and can slap raingear on then, so hauling the 5-lbs of stuff the whole time ain't worth it. But maybe not...because here's what I realized on this last day-paddle...

But here's what brought up the idea yet again for me: In NW lower Michigan, in the Traverse Bay region in particular, our destinations are about 15-20 miles apart. That's just too far for a day-paddle! BUT! It's perhaps not too far for a combo paddle-sail! Going to a multi-modal rig just might be the ticket to extending easy range. Now, I hate just sitting around doing nothing in a boat---do you paddle as you sail with a kayak sail-rig? I hope it isn't mostly just sitting. No, sailing little boats is a dynamic thing, no worries there.

I recalled the highly developed scene called "50-50" boats. I've always liked the idea but maybe for these biggish day-hops they're really the ticket. In the 1890's they were the biggest hobby in all America. It's a sailing canoe: paddles and sails equally as well. The big proponent of them these days, that I know about, is Hugh Horton and his famous customer Meade Gougeon of West Systems epoxy. These guys have worked up a wood'n'carbon 50-50 that really works fine from what I read. Check em out:

(Of course the Watertribe people have several race-divisions dedicated to multi-modal boats, so their rigs are always good to look at...and try!)

Anyway, I've been looking for boats that can be rowed, sailed, motored, even paddled and found a few options (posted here). Well, I just now discovered a whole new scene that uses them. I don't know why I didn't see this before. It's the Raiders. A raid is a competitive sail-row tour, often done with classic boats. Actually, raids seem to be euro in style and seem to apply to any multi-day tour race. I see they're done with fast cat-boats, for instance. They do them on skis, too. Well, folks are digging them in little wood boats, too. Check it out:

Now, to me, this isn't truly OYB, but whatever. Regional get-togethers of versatile, affordable, sustainable boats is a very good thing. Some of these raids seem pretty darn pricey and fancy. They must have some locals, of course---but there's still the likely stiff entry fee. But the concept is cool. They've been working on the boats for quite awhile. And I do believe their daily legs are about 20 miles. Right on!

[Pics courtesy of Hugh, Meade and Duckworks!]

A line of Raiders stretching out.

Meade and Hugh out for a jaunt in their 50-50's.

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