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From Al Johnson – Seattle, WA

Published on February 20th, 2013

Far and away the most fun per dollar I’ve had in 40+ years of sailing was on a 1941 Johnson E-Scow that a friend and I bought in 1973.

It was spring of my sophomore year at the University of Washington, and there were already two old wooden E-Scows moored on the UW docks pretending that they belonged to the UW sailing club, so we figured why not three? It cost us $800 for the boat, complete with a clear finished hollow “box” cedar mast, and set of 1948 Murphy & Nye cotton sails.

The first time we sailed the boat in a good breeze, the jib blew out into three or four large pieces, plus some small ones we never recover, but it gave us a chance to learn how the club’s sewing machine worked. Fortunately, the class had just legalized aluminum spars, which meant all the boats that raced in the Midwest needed to upgrade to a new mast, which required new sails.

There soon became lots of used sails available, and after buying a used set of Dacron sails from a boat on White Bear Lake (sail W-111) for $110, we were in back in business. We put two sets of trapeze hookups on the boat, bought a used Soling chute from Bill Buchan, and we were on top of the world.

There were markers for a measured nautical mile painted on the 520 floating bridge across Lake Washington at that time, and you knew exactly when you were even with them because there was a flash of daylight when the pilings lined up. We’d go out in 15-20 knots of breeze with a stopwatch and sail screaming beam reaches in the smooth water to leeward of the bridge. Our best one-nautical mile time was 5:03, for an 11.9 knot average. — Forum, read on.

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