Coquina Beach


(to start of project)

Seems like ages since I’ve done any more on the boats. Life kind of took over for a while. Last week at least I got to take time off to do a little boat research and recognizance – er, reconnaissance – which is sort of like working on the boats, plus some sailing (Bonus!).

I had a business conference coming up in Orlando, and looking at a map realized that Cortez was just due west of there on the Gulf Coast. Cortez is the home of Dave Lucas and his band of merry boat builders. It’s also where Roger Allen has started his latest museum and boat building workshop. Since the conference didn’t start until late Sunday, there was a possibility that I could fly down a day early and shoot over to Cortez for a visit. I got in touch with Dave to see if anything was going on that weekend. His response was something along the lines of “If you come down you can stay with me and we’ll MAKE something happen.”

I had heard rumors and seen pictures hinting that Roger Allen had designed a large traditional gaff rig for one of Roger Crawford’s 13.5 foot Melonseed hulls. This was very interesting news. Even on a small boat, there are a surprising number of sail configurations you can use for different wind conditions. I have talked to enough Melonseed owners to know that I will probably want to have more than one, but which ones? Seemed like a  good time to check out a couple of options, and see what the Lucas crew was up to.


Dave’s Dock


First of all, let me say this: the Gulf Coast is truly beautiful:


Pelican Breakwater


Laughing Gulls


White Sail, turquoise water


Blue & White


Cortez Ferry


Locals know where to find the best seafood


Dave, as new president of the local TSCA, organized a big messabout for Saturday. He put me in one of their signature 15 foot Melonseeds, made from plans drawn by Roger Allen. Big comfortable boats, they are, with very big sail rigs. Was a blast to sail.



Roger and Helen in 15 footer (by Kayak Kathy)


Breezing Up in 15 footer (by Kayak Kathy)


Unfortunately, I don’t have any good pictures of my own from that part of the day. Every time I tried to take a out the camera I’d have to drop it again to tend the sheet. Just before landing for lunch I decided to cleat the sheet long enough to take a couple of pictures, and that’s all it took – in the time it took to snap three photos, the loose end of the sheet snaked over the side out of reach, a puff came up and over the boat went. At least the water was only waist deep, and they build the 15’s with small cockpits that don’t fill up with water when they turn over. A little tug on the rail and she popped right up, everything intact but my dignity.



Three 15’s


After lunch, the smaller Melonseed showed up with it’s new gaff rig. I got to try that one out, too, and in the gentle 5 to 15 mph breeze it was like a rocket sled. The slightest breath of wind sent it skipping along the water. And it looks beautiful on the boat. In the wind shadow of the barrier island it danced back and forth doing pirouettes in the slightest breeze. Out in the middle of Sarasota Bay the wind picked up, and with that much canvas in the air gusts to 15 mph really got your attention. Great fun though.



Me in Sugar Baby


Then Roger Allen took over and really showed her off.














It was great seeing everyone finally, and Dave and Helen were really gracious to have me stay with them for a few days.

Thanks guys.

Now I’m more confused than ever about which type of rig to put on my boats.
melonseed skiff, mellonseed skiff, melon seed, mellon seed   

Update February 2013:
Here’s a link to the Sail Plans post, with specifics and details on Roger’s Gaff rig. There’s also a link to download his plan and dimensions. 


4 Replies to “Cortez”

  1. Just catching up on your blog. Did you ever find out from either Dave or Roger the sq. footage?
    I noticed Roger designed a lot of mechanical advantage into his main sheet using multiple blocks. I find that Roger Crawford’s one block main sheet design can be tiring to hold especially in higher winds. Even one additional block would make a big difference.

    Tuesday, June 9, 2009 – 12:40 PM

    1. Sorry for the delay, John, been kind of away from things a bit.

      Roger Allen actually sent me the CAD drawings, which say it’s 90.5 sq/ft. I thought Roger had more mechanical advantage built in than it really needed, at least for light to moderate wind. One block rigged to advantage would probably be plenty. As it was, the lower bronze block on the bridle banged around on the deck quite a bit until the wind got strong enough to tension the lines. A small lighter weight block at the end of the sheet to slide along the bridle, or even just a snap hook clipped to the bridle, might be all you’d need. That would also cut the length of sheet down by a third. Dave Lucas seemed to think this would be plenty, also.

      Doing a similar setup on the Crawford boats would do the trick, I think, too. I also found the standard arrangement unpleasant and tiring. I would/will move the one block to the boom and clip the other end of the sheet to the rudder head. That will cut the pull on your hand in half. You could add a turning block & becket at the rudder if you still want the sheet to run parallel with the tiller, but that may not be necessary. I’ll have to try it and see.

      I can send you a PDF of Roger’s sail plans if you like.

      Tuesday, June 16, 2009 – 10:38 PM

      1. I’m interested in Roger Allen’s plans for a gaff rig on my 13 1/2′ Barto Melonseed. Can you email me information you have on this. If not, I’ll try Roger.



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