Mailport April 2017 Issue

Mailport: Multihull Lover, An Anchor Story, and More!

Multihull Lover

Regarding your recent article on the evolution of the cruising multihull (see PS, March 2017): I have owned a 34-foot Chris White-designed trimaran for the last 10 years and thoroughly enjoy great sailing and exploring shallow waters on the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay. Chris White’s book The Cruising Multihull is a good resource for those interested in cats and trimarans. My biggest problem with the boat is finding a place to get her out of the water for maintenance. The 24-foot beam is too wide for the local travel lifts. Thanks for the interesting article.

Randy Grigg

Chris White Explorer 34, Arizona

Dahlgren, VA

red trimaran Arizona
Randy Grigg’s bright red trimaran Arizona is pictured moored on Machodoc Creek, Va. She is a performance-oriented Chris White 34 Explorer model.

We second your recommendation for Chris White’s book The Cruising Catamarans, a good reference for anyone considering exploring the world on more than one hull.


An Anchor Story

Your recent report on how an anchor’s design can effect an anchor’s holding power more than its size or weight reminded me of an experience I had years ago. It was around 1975 and I was a young deckhand on a 100-foot tugboat called the William H. After we dropped off our tow, we were following another one of our company’s tugs that was towing an empty oil barge in the Arthur Kill in New York Harbor when I noticed something skipping on the water surface behind the barge. It turned out to be a small anchor that had apparently been snagged by the barge and perhaps once had been used to secure a pollution boom around it. The booms are floating collars placed around a barge to contain any oil spill that might occur.

I asked the captain steering our tug to go closer and I would try to hook it with a pike pole. When I got the anchor aboard, it turned out to be a 40-pound Danforth that looked almost new. It would have been impossible to know where it came from and get it back to its rightful owner, so I just put it away in a corner of the engine room. The captain said he could use it on his 25-foot fishing skiff. Crew change was out of town that hitch, making it impractical to carry an anchor through the airport and home on a plane (even in those days before security), so it would have to wait until we brought the tug back to New York. Out of sight out of mind they say; he promptly forgot about it, and so did I.

A few months later we were towing a container barge from New York to Boston. The barge was around 200 feet long and carried a hundred or so shipping containers. We made our way east in Long Island Sound and Block Island Sound towing the barge astern on a 3.5-inch diameter, 1,200-foot-long nylon hawser. As we approached Buzzards Light, night fell and a thick fog set in. The Cape Cod Canal we had to transit was closed due to zero visibility. That left us with the unhappy prospect of cruising slowly back and forth in Buzzards Bay until the fog lifted. Stopping and just drifting was not an option because the hawser would sink to the bottom and probably snag a rock or something down there. We had to keep moving even if it was just slowly. Tugs normally have a thousand pound or larger anchor near the stern out of the way, but often there’s no reasonable means of setting or retrieving it. (It’s possibly there only to comply with a Coast Guard requirement or something.) So anchoring was not an option either, unless . . . I remembered the little Danforth anchor. “No, it won’t work, it’s so tiny,” I thought. Compared to the several hundred tons of tug displacement and several thousand tons of barge displacement, it was the proverbial flea on an elephant’s back. I mentioned it to the captain who proceeded to laugh at how ridiculous that idea was. But after an hour of zig-zags and dodging other vessels in zero visibility he wasn’t laughing. I managed to convince him that we had nothing to lose, all the while sure it couldn’t work.

According to NOAA charts there was an area near Cleveland Ledge, the approach to the canal, that had a sandy bottom. After we shortened the hawser to keep it off the bottom I shackled a small 2-inch diameter line to the anchor. The captain stopped the boat and I lowered the anchor in about 25 feet of water and let out about 150 feet of line. Surely, even with a 10- to 15-knot breeze, as soon as the anchor dug in, the weight of tug and barge would rip the flukes off. We waited, the line started to get a strain on it. We waited some more. The strain stayed constant. It was holding! We thought this could never last, any minute it would go slack.

Well, it didn’t.

We stayed anchored all night watching television and eating snacks instead of cruising back and forth in zero visibility. The captain checked the radar at every commercial break to see if we were dragging, and I went out to check the strain on the anchor line still not believing our good luck. We went off watch at 2400 and slept well. When we came back on watch at 0600 it was still foggy and the anchor was still holding. A few more hours and the fog lifted. The captain eased the tug ahead over the anchor and I pulled it up with the capstan. We expected it to come up all mangled and bent, but it was good as new.

Who would have believed it, a little 40-pound Danforth holding several thousand tons of tug and tow in 10-15 knots of breeze all night long. Needless to say, the captain didn’t forget to take the anchor home next crew change day. After all, it would probably be more than enough for his 25-foot skiff in any kind of weather.

Capt. Simon Zorovich

Harbor Pilot, NY/NJ


John and Marilyn Ferguson
John and Marilyn Ferguson (right) are fans of the folding Porta Bote, which stows easily aboard their Catalina 350.
Porta Bote

Your recent Rhumb Lines (see PS March 2017) asked for input on dinghies. On our last two boats, an O’Day 35 and Catalina 350, we have been very happy with a 8-foot Porta Bote as our dingy. We like having a dingy but did not want to tow it or have davits blocking our access to the stern. We do not use it too often, but it’s ready to launch when we need it. In its folded state it looks like a surfboard and stows neatly along the lifelines near the forward end of the boat. It does not take up any deck space. I unfold the boat on the forward deck and usually launch/retrieve it using the spinnaker halyard or it can be simply be tossed overboard. The Porta Bote can be rowed, sailed, or powered with an outboard. We have a Honda 2-horsepower outboard which is a perfect match as it is light, and with one person will get up on a plane. A Torqeedo would also work very well. In the water it is stable and dry. It very durable and unsinkable. A small point is that we transport our Porta-Bote inside our 2007 Prius. I think the Porta Bote would be worth a mention in the Great Dingy Debate.

John and Marilyn Ferguson

Interlude, Catalina 350

New London, CT

The enduring Porta Bote has many fans for the same reasons you mention. One small point: lifelines and stanchions will not withstand the pressure of a wave on surfboard or Porta Bote. On long offshore passages, moving these items to the centerline (or belowdecks) eliminates the risk of bending or breaking stanchions.


Dinghy Dilemma

Over the years, I’ve had more than my fair share of dinghy experiences tending for my cruising Catalina 34. Past boats include an 8'5" roll-up inflatable with a 2.5 horsepower outboard, a Walker Bay 8, a 9-foot RIB, and now a 10-foot inflatable with an inflatable floor.

Here’s my take away:

I still use the Walker Bay to row to my mooring. Its light hull and indestructibility make it perfect for one, or even two people, but certainly not more, which makes it less useless as a proper tender. I can also say from experience, this boat is poorly suited for even a 2.5-horsepower motor. An electric outboard with a battery centrally located might be okay.

Most recently I’ve opted for a bigger, 10'2" inflatable. This Zodiac, with an inflatable floor, weighs only about 80 pounds. If necessary, it can be deflated and stowed on deck, but I typically tow it, even on open water when conditions permit. The Zodiac carries four people and will plane with two or three people when powered with a 7.5-horsepower two-stroke motor (weighing 67 pounds). The key I’ve found for the whole set up has nothing to do with the dinghy itself, but stowing it. I have a motor davit that moves the motor on or off the boat single handed. Once the heavy motor is on the stern rail, the dinghy can be towed or stored on deck. I’ve found this to be much better than having the dinghy on davits. The stability and larger tube size of the bigger dinghy along with it’s light weight make this almost the best option.

This brings me to the aluminum floor RIB. It has all the benefits of a RIB, without the weight. They’re efficiently towed, and light enough to haul on deck. The only drawback is the price, and its appeal to would-be thieves, I suppose.

Last thought; I use planning boards on the Zodiac. When properly tuned, they make getting on a plane much easier, especially since I don’t have a rigid hull. The other benefit is they supposedly reduce the boat’s drag when being towed. This might be something that PS could examine.

Paul Athens

Warm Gun, Catalina 34

City Island, NY

We are interested in hearing reader’s experience with dinghy “trim tabs,” either fixed, or adjustable for an upcoming test. Share your experience by email to


Safety can openers?

Regarding your recent article on stainless steel galley tools (see PS March 2017), I was surprised to see a conventional can-opener recommended on-board instead of a boat-friendly “safety-can” design. I find that an opened can with a clean and safe edge has many uses, even if only for a few days. In addition, a safety-can design is inherently lower-risk when the boat is in motion or children are aboard. Do you know of any “safety-can” openers constructed of stainless steel?

Capt. Woody Fairley

Glenna, Chris Craft Commander

Annapolis, MD

An excellent point; we’re still looking. If any readers have readers have found the ideal onboard can-opener, please share in an email to



Our February report on anchors mistakenly omitted Spade Anchors’ contact info:, 321/409-5714.

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