JENNIFER JACKSON’S PORT TOWNSEND NEIGHBOR COLUMN: Boaters pick pocket yachts for kicks

Joshua Colvin

Joshua Colvin

TWO YEARS AGO, Laingdon Schmitt and Kirk Gresham came to Joshua Colvin, publisher of Small Craft Advisor magazine, and asked if he wanted to help start a new group.

Both experienced sailors, Schmitt and Gresham wanted to meet with other people who shared their love of sailing small boats.

“It wasn’t specifically a club,” Colvin said. “It was just a get-together of people who wanted to talk about boats.

“We met at Laingdon’s house,” he said, and “pretty soon, we had 25 people coming to meetings.”

Called the Port Townsend Pocket Yachters, the group also holds “mess-abouts,” outings where members gather at a beach or boat ramp and spend the day on the water sailing, rowing or paddling and, sometimes, bailing.

On Saturday, the Pocket Yachters are launching the first Pocket Yacht Palooza to toss a line to people who want to get out on the water but can’t afford a big boat.

“People in Port Townsend tend to think about going ‘out there’ to the San Juan Islands,” Colvin said.

“They forget you can sail down to Mystery Bay or Port Ludlow and be sitting in your boat in the harbor by evening.”

A pocket yacht is a trailerable boat, or car-topper, usually in the 12- to 24-foot range, though they can be bigger or smaller, Colvin said.

Most are sailed, rowed or a combination of the two.

Some have small cabins, and some are open boats that can be used for beach camping by throwing a tarp over the boom.

“If you think your boat qualifies, then you’re free to join the group,” Colvin said.

Marty Loken, a Marrowstone Island boat-builder, came up with the idea for holding the Pocket Yacht Palooza on Saturday, a day before Howard Rice’s Small Craft Skills Academy starts.

Held at the Northwest Maritime Center, with Gresham as site coordinator, the SCSA offers four days of instruction, followed by a sail cruise.

The academy is BYOB — bring your own boat — and the Pocket Yachters are asking participants to display their boats at the Pocket Yacht Palooza, which is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the maritime center beach and pier.

The Pocket Yachters had thought the show, which is free, might draw 15 to 20 small craft. As of Sunday, 50 boats had registered.

“It’s a wonderful array of designs in both wood and fiberglass, ranging from 10-foot rowing boats to globe-trotting offshore cruisers in the 23-foot range,” Loken said.

Hair-raising adventures

Another pre-academy event is an illustrated talk Saturday evening by Rice on his hair-raising experiences rounding Cape Horn in a small sailing canoe.

The talk, at 7 p.m. at the Northwest Maritime Center, is open to the public.

Tickets are $7 at the door.

A focal point of both the academy and the boat show is SCAMP, a sailboat design that Colvin commissioned to incorporate the advantages of a big boat in a small one.

An acronym for the Small Craft Advisor Magazine Project, SCAMP, which is less than 12 feet long, started as a series of magazine articles, Colvin said.

Designed by John Welsford, the micro-mini cruiser has a storage cabin in the bow, the roof of which extends to provide protection from wind and weather.

The centerboard is offset to allow room for one or two people to sleep aboard, their heads sheltered by the cabin overhang.

Water ballast in the hull improves the boat’s seaworthiness, Colvin said.

Built by Kees Prins and Scott Jones at the Northwest Maritime Center, SCAMP immediately drew the attention of sailors throughout the country who like the challenge of small-boat cruising, Colvin said.

“We launched the prototype in November of 2010,” Colvin said.

“Since then, we’ve sold 136 plans and kits.”

Caught the bug

Colvin, who grew up in California, said he caught the sailing bug from relatives, including an uncle in Santa Barbara, Calif.

Frustrated at not finding anything to read about cruising and camping in small sailboats, Colvin and another minimalist outdoorsman, Craig Wagner, started the magazine, which is subtitled “Small Boats, Big Adventure.”

“We were tired of reading articles about someone buying a ‘starter’ boat for $65,000,” he said.

That was in 2000 in Morro Bay, Calif.

At the time, Colvin owned two surf shops but was looking for new horizons — “I’m a serial entrepreneur,” he explained.

Eight years ago, Colvin and spouse Anika Colvin moved to Port Townsend, bringing the magazine with them.

His mother and father, Debra and Daniel Colvin, followed them to Port Townsend to be near the grandchildren, McCoy, now 5, and Winnie, 3.

Debra Colvin is a professional magazine photographer.

“She is the only female photographer on the masthead of Surfer magazine,” Joshua Colvin said.

Debra also is the photographer for Small Craft Advisor, a bimonthly with a circulation of 15,000 that will soon be out in digital form.

Each issue has a review of a type of small boat and stories about the people who use them to explore their home territory.

Shallow-water cruisers

“One of our best markets is shallow-water cruising throughout the Southeast,” Joshua Colvin said.

Welsford, who designed SCAMP, is a Kiwi (i.e., from New Zealand), but otherwise, the boat is a local product.

Sean Rankin at Northwest Sails built the sails, and Brandon Davis, who works on America’s Cup boats, cuts the parts for the kits at his workshop, Turnpoint Design in the Port Townsend Business Park.

Boatwright Prins, who also developed the design, is currently making a “Fetch Across America” tour in a trailerable boat, blogging about his experiences on the Small Craft Advisor website,

Colvin, who does the boat tests for the magazine, said he has crossed the Strait of Juan de Fuca in a 16-foot boat.

When he got to the islands, he was fogged in, so he sailed to Bellingham, and Anika drove from Port Townsend and picked him and the boat up.

Joshua Colvin said he has had some exciting moments in small-boat cruising, but it would be no different in a larger boat, which can get dismasted or run aground.

Having a boat that is beachable, trailerable and easily repairable has definite advantages.

‘Under your control’

“Everything is under your control,” he said. “You can use duct tape and be on your way.”

While it doesn’t hold races or competitive events, Pocket Yachters has worked to promote small-boat participation in local races, Colvin said.

SCAMP, which has 100 square feet of sail, is surprisingly fast for a short boat with a 5-foot 4-inch beam and a pram (truncated) bow.

Rice once compared it to a bumblebee.

“He said it shouldn’t go that fast, but it does,” Colvin said.

To see SCAMP and other pocket yachts, visit the Pocket Yacht Palooza on Saturday at the Northwest Maritime Center beach and pier.

There are no fees for entry or viewing.

For more information, visit or phone Loken at 360-301-6737.

Port Townsend Pocket Yachters also is a free-spirited group; there are no dues, no officers, no bylaws.

In fact, there aren’t even meetings anymore: After outgrowing Schmitt’s house, the group moved to the Northwest Maritime Center. Then, last winter, it decided to substitute outings — boat workshops and sail loft tours — for monthly gatherings.

“It’s classic Port Townsend casual,” Loken said.


Jennifer Jackson writes about Port Townsend and Jefferson County every Wednesday. To contact her with items for this column, phone 360-379-5688 or email

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