The Lovers

The following is a fictional account written by Phil Bolger himself for WoodenBoat Magazine of how the Micro might be used, and what the boats' capabilities might be. This piece has been reproduced in several places including in a plans catalog and a plan sales brochure.

An April sun is rising over Italy, far out of sight over the lee quarter of the tiny cat-yawl making her way toward France. The little boat has been bobbing along at 4 knots, close-hauled in a gentle westerly breeze, all night and since dawn the day before. The mountains of Corsica went under the horizon about noon. The young woman at the tiller is sitting on the weather side, her weight reducing the angle of heel. If the wind were much lighter she would move to the lee side, since the flat bottom is noisy if the boat is sailed bolt-upright.

A very small inflatable boat is in tow. The tiller is held in a rack, and the boat is keeping a good course unsteered, with the mizzen sheet slightly freer than the main- sheet. The woman occasionally turns a flashlight on the box compass that is chocked off against the break of the deck. Near her feet, in the open hatch of the hold under the afterdeck, are drycell navigation lights ready to show approaching ships. She used them once during her watch when a large power yacht crossed their course -- bound for Genoa, she guessed.

Her husband is sleeping below, his feet under her left buttock, his head on the sloping forward end of the cuddy sole. A length of canvas laid under his mattress and stretched up 30cm above the inboard edge of the berth would hold him in place if the boat heeled much. He sleeps on the weather side, to be live ballast -- not necessary in this weather, but a great help to the boat when there's more wind. His weight is centered well back from the bow, and his wife's weight, in the cockpit, is far from the stern, keeping the ends of the boat light as well as balanced. This is especially necessary because, while the boat is nominally all of 4% meters long, each end is a free-flooding well, more of cutwater and stern platform than boat proper; the actual watertight envelope is barely 3 meters long. The arrangement makes certain that outboard motor fuel, stowed aft, and muddy anchors and warps, stowed forward, won't contaminate the cuddy. Some of their other supplies are also stowed in the end wells, including a 4-liter jug of red wine wrapped in life vests.

The cuddy is reasonably clean, but it's hardly dry. The berths have the same problem that quarter berths do in more reasonably sized cruisers: they're in the way of drips and splashes from the companionway. The forward ventilator has been known to spit when there's a strong headwind. The cockpit hatch is supposed to be kept shut under- way, but the couple find it so comfortable to sit with their feet in it that they usually haveit open. Through ventilation is good between the openings in the forward bulkhead and the one in front of the sternpost; the draft will work with either bow or stern to the wind, so the cuddy dries quickly whenever the air is dry. They scrub it out with fresh water when they can. On one glorious occasion they found themselves within reach of a large yacht's deck hose, with a group of amiable deckhands looking down at them. They stripped the cuddy and half-filled the boat with fresh water without making an appreciable inroad on the yacht's seawater conversion capacity. They had a memorable soaking bath in the flooded cuddy, and took no offense when a voice from above was heard
to say, "I knew there had to be some reason for a boat that shape!"

They normally keep their few clothes, including some large bath towels, in waterproof bags. A portable toilet lives under the forward end of the cockpit, between the feetof the berths. It is slid forward under the companionway hatch for use. They dump it furtively over the side as far offshore as possible.

They have found that a boat with a keel drawing 53cm with the boat trimmed level (and less when she's down by the head) does not always have to lie in the crowded and quarrelsome ranks of Mediterranean yacht harbors. Nearly every port they've visited has a shallow place somewhere, that has allowed them to lie out of the way and have some privacy. They motor around in search of it, frequently pursued by a harbormaster trying to warn them away from the shoals. They have arranged supports for the cuddy floorboards at the slightly higher level of the berths, to convert the cuddy into a bed almost 185cm wide. A square awning shades the companionway and most of the cockpit; it hangs slightly cockeyed between the mainmast and the off-center mizzen. The long sprit boom forms a ridgepole; mizzen boom and boomkin serve as transverse spreaders.

A propane stove is used in the cockpit, when they're in port. Underway the couple lives on bread, cheese, fruit, and the red wine. They have two Walkman cassette players and a paperback copy of El Conde de Monte Cristo, the latter now almost perished. There's a dry-cell riding light which is more often used for cabin lighting. For reading after dark they use candles, four at a time in a socketed block of wood mounted between the heads of the berths. There have been some nights when the heat of the candles was welcome.

They were lucky in their weather, and they hopped from port to port around the Gulf of Genoa with increasing confidence, fulfilling a dream by reaching Montecristo. They considered pushing on to the Strait of Bonifacio but decided they did not have time. If they had passed the strait they would almost certainly have lost the boat. The Libeccio, a southwest dry gale, blew up out of a clear sky as they neared Cap Corse, and even under the lee of Corsica they got the scare of their lives and just made it into Bastia with deep-reefed mainsail and motor wide open. They came close to being blown over
to the Italian coast. If they'd been on the west coast of Corsica, they would have piled
up on the lee shore.

After the fright, they ventured the long jump to France with their hearts in their mouths, but they will boast later that none of their gear shifted or got wet. In truth, the shifts weren't disastrous and the wetting was limited. While waiting for the gale to blow itself out, they added some more hooks and eyes and bought some net material to improve restraint against beam-ends knockdowns.

The woman looks ahead and sees the mountains of Provence catch the first sunlight behind a gap that ought to be the Gulf of Saint-Tropez. Her cry, "Tierra!" brings her husband's tousled head out of the hatch. It's a good sign that he looks good to her aftera month in that boat.