Clara Katherine is a 1974 Morgan Out Island sloop. Brian walked away from this boat three times before purchasing her in 1991, because she was in need of so much work. The helm and cockpit floor had been ripped out. No changes had been made to the interior and she was still sporting original sails and rigging.
Much has changed during his 25 years of ownership. A bow pulpit to extend the forestay an additional two feet, a swim step, and a hard dodger make her look about as sleek as an Out Island can look. The galley and salon were entirely rebuilt to create a more open seating arrangement, with a center table that contains a much-needed sewing machine for the sailmaker who lives aboard. A drop-in board and cushion between the port settee and table converts it to a double berth (and a sweet place to sleep when we’re underway.)
The forward locker was transformed into a workbench with a vice and tool storage, making the v-berth essentially a garage where we keep sails, surfboards, and accordions.
The aft cabin bed is now athwartship, with a modification under the starboard-side hanging locker to allow a person underway to sleep fore and aft by sliding their legs under the clothes hanging in the locker. Heavy-duty ports that open replaced the original ones in the stern and allow anyone in the aft berth to stab intruders in the foot, should they attempt an unauthorized, late night boarding.
This 1974 model features two heads (no waiting!) and two companionways, fore and aft, with a walkthrough beside the engine room. A chart table sits where the fridge once did, with enough dry food storage underneath to feed the occupants of a small island. Water tanks have been installed forward (under the v-berth), port (beside the bed) and starboard (beside the engine), amounting to 165 gallons. Fuel tanks were lowered and installed behind the cockpit stairs and beside the engine, with 100 gallons capacity.
The engine is a 4 cylinder, 65 hp Chrysler Nissan diesel that rarely dares to give us trouble because it has a spacious room, complete with skylight. (A half-inch piece of bulletproof Lexan cast off from a San Francisco Opera set plugs the cockpit floor and can be removed if the engine needs to come out.)
The battery bank (6 gel cells providing about 800 amp hours) is on port side, adjacent to the engine room and beneath a storage area. Charging is supplied by 2 x 100 watt solar panels and an Air Breeze wind generator that makes too much noise.
The mast is original, but Brian installed a more robust boom with a traveler and boom vang arrangement. The mainsail is larger than the original, extending 10 inches past the backstay to provide more drive for a boat that’s known for being a little chubby. This is coupled with a 150% genoa. The original headstay and tack fitting were kept and act as a solent stay on which smaller, flatter headsails can be raised during stormy or upwind conditions.
Clara Katherine is now a fully outfitted cruising boat that hasn’t seen her homeport for over a decade. She is named for Brian’s Mom, who “always has my back.”
Originally from Michigan, Brian joined the US Marine Corps when he graduated from high school and was stationed in Hawaii, where he learned how to surf and fell in love with the ocean. He trained as an electrician and moved to San Diego, where he found the boat he was able to turn into the boat of his dreams. He’s been living aboard Clara Katherine ever since. He’s a member of IBEW Local 569 and the New Zealand Electrical Workers Registration Board, which means he’s qualified to wire in BOTH hemispheres. He firmly believes the secret to cruising success is having a hobbies that occupy the mind and body and that aren’t sailing. His are surfing and playing the accordion, the mandolin, and the bones.
Amanda is a sailmaker and writer. She studied human ecology at College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine, and learned all her seamanship working as a deckhand driving the college’s boat around Frenchman Bay. She learned traditional sailmaking at Center Harbor Sails in Brooklin, Maine, and built all the canvas and designed and constructed the mainsail on Clara Katherine. She studied writing at the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies in Portland, Maine, and worked as a journalist in San Francisco, California, and Wellington, New Zealand. More of her published writing can be read here.