SEA STORIES – So, everybody thinks I quit racing boats in 1999. Wrong! I’ve been racing boats all along, just not hydroplanes that go 200 mph. No, the boats I’ve been racing are 12 feet long and go 6 knots… on a good day. They’re called Pelicans and I have been having a great time for a number of years now, both racing and cruising in my Pelican. The Pelican was designed by a tug boat captain on San Francisco Bay. I believe his name was Captain Short. The rule of thumb was you couldn’t safely sail a small boat without a weighted keel on S.F. Bay, due to the very strong winds. Captain Short said ‘bunk’ to that and came up with the Pelican. Some people say it’s kind of ugly, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder, right? It’s a great little boat for the Pacific Northwest! It has a center board, as opposed to a fixed keel, and because it’s short with wide dimensions, it’s super stable and very utilitarian. It may not be the most graceful of boats, but super fun, nice and dry, and very stable for such a small boat.
We have the most active fleet of Pelicans in the world, right here in the Pacific Northwest. Actually, two fleets, as there is one based here on the mainland and one based on Whidbey Island. The clubs run races, as well as organize day cruises and even long expeditions, sailing and camping out of Pelicans for a week or longer at a time.
My long time friend and Pelican crew member, Don Mock, has been with me for years. I’m proud to say that we went from not knowing how to sail the boat at all, to actually winning the Pelican Winter Series a few years ago. I’ve also done a bit of cruising in my Pelican too. Some other, “Pelicaneers” and I went sailing to Canada and put our boats in at the northernmost point on Ross Lake. We then spent the week sailing south, camping every night along the way, all the way to the Ross Lake dam and then back to Canada. It was a great week. I was by myself, but the Pelican allows enough room and stability to haul a week’s load of food and camping supplies for two. It was a great week and the sail back north from Ross Dam was amazing! Fifteen knots of wind, right at our back, all the way back to Canada. Yahoo!
You can find Pelicans on Craigslist for about $2,000, for a good one. But, really, the best thing about the Pelican is the people. There’s a really active group, who are willing to do anything to help you get started. Don’t know much about sailing? Don’t worry. Someone will come out and help you. Can’t figure out how to rig the boat? No worries. Someone will come out to your place and give you a hand. They want you to join the fun and be part of the group. Hey, I knew nothing when I started, but Don and I have had a great time. We’ve won races and championships. Plus, I love just dropping the boat in for a three-hour cruise around the Puget Sound or a lake. Three-hour cruise? Yikes! I think that’s how Gilligan got in trouble!
I don’t think the Pelican club has a website, but I know they have a Yahoo group. If you need help getting in touch with someone from the club, to help you find a boat and get started, contact us here at The Boat Guy. We’ll point you in the right direction. And remember ladies and gentlemen, “It ain’t about the boat, it’s about the float” and by all means, “hold on to your dinghy!”
Chip Hanauer, The Boat Guy