There certainly is something beautiful about a simple boat that is propelled only by the wind or the person rowing her. For Three Sheets contributor Bruce Bateau, that’s how it goes aboard his Iain Oughtred designed Arctic Tern. Row Bird, as she is affectionatly known, is a 2012, 18-foot open row and sailboat that is homeported in Portland, Oregon and regularily cruises the Salish Sea and Columbia River.
How long have you owned the boat?
Since she was built four years ago.
Tell us about your boat’s name.
I called her Row Bird partly because sailboats look like strange, wonderful birds to me, and this one rows. And it’s partly named after my mom, Roberta, who was physically disabled. Since she couldn’t get out and do a lot of things, I like to think that her spirit is with me on my adventures.
Have you owned other boats before this one? If so, what kinds?
A wooden boat and small fiberglass boats. All of them older than me. Mostly human or wind powered small boats that were fun and scary because they could easily tip over.
Tell us a little about your boating background.
When I was a kid we lived in Florida and had a mustard-yellow, fish and ski boat that I loved. Years later that boat came with us to California, but after taking it out in San Francisco Bay, I think we all got scared and the boat lost its magic. When I was in college my dad started sailing keelboats, but I was completely uninterested. Fast forward 25 years and sailboats are way cool…
What’s the history of your boat?
Row Bird is an Iain Oughtred designed Arctic Tern (there’s that bird thing again). I guess people would call her a Shetland Islands boat. I call her a sail and oar boat. She was born in the Methow Valley, as was her sister ship Sigmund. Through a series of coincidences, two years after construction, both boats ended up in my home port of Portland, Oregon.
She has sailed from Astoria up the Columbia River to Portland, around the San Juan Islands, throughout the South Salish Sea (Arcadia, Washington is her home away from home), and all over the Lower Willamette River. Because Row Bird will float in about six inches of water, she’s been places a lot of other boats can’t go. I often go cruising and can anchor out in just a few feet of water.
What do you know now about your boat that you wish you’d known when you bought it? Would that have changed your mind?
That it’s really hard to stay organized in an open boat with limited built-in storage. I’d still have chosen this boat, but I would have built in more storage compartments.
What’s your favorite story involving your boat?
A few years ago a friend and I decided to circumnavigate Harstine Island. The morning started out dead calm and we thought a lot of rowing would be involved. As the day wore on, storm cells moved through with increasing wind speeds. We kept reefing until we were on the verge of the boats’ limits. When we got to Jarrell Cove State Park, several skippers with ballasted boats said that they’d seen us out on the water and that we actually looked like we were in control.
Describe the most challenging situation you’ve experienced on your boat and how it performed.
I once ignored my own advice and sailed in a wind against tide situation on the lower Columbia River near Astoria, Oregon. Things started out OK, but by the time we reached Tongue Point, the waves were somewhere between three and six feet tall (depends on who you ask). That’s a lot for an open boat with less than two feet of freeboard. The boat managed to get me through safely, but I still don’t know how we stayed upright.
Where do you plan to take your boat? Do you have a dream destination?
Anyplace with limited numbers of humans; islands, sand and chilly saltwater. I guess that would be Canada.
If someone gave you $10,000 that you could only spend on your boat, what would you do with it and why?
Another sistership? The nice thing about these boats is that they’re easy to use and inexpensive to operate. Once built, you can’t spend too much on them.
If you could have any other boat, what would it be and why?
Someday, I’d like a salty little wooden boat with a cabin, a tiny wood stove, and a comfy cockpit so my wife might consent to come cruising more often. For now, I own Row Bird, she doesn’t own me. I look forward to maintaining and sailing her — which is a good place to be.
What didn’t we ask you about your boat that you wish we had?
Do you have a website to find out more about Row Bird’s adventures? Yes: terrapintales.wordpress.com
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