Kuewa is a Hawaiian word that describes someone who wanders around aimlessly and never really quite knows where she is. She's probably a little bit pupule (loco). Hopefully we won't get too lost, but the name seems fitting for the kind of sailing we want to do. Especially the pupule part.

Kuewa on San Francisco Bay (before changing the window/port configuration)

GENESIS - Islander 44

I'm unsure how much of this is true, but this is what I've heard: In the early 1960s, Bill Lapworth, the famous sailboat designer (Cal 40, among many, many others), was approached by a doctor who was ready to retire and wanted a fast boat to cruise around the world. He liked the CCA racing designs of the time and wanted a narrow beam and long overhangs. Lapworth drew a 44 footer with 11 feet of beam, a modified long keel (they called this a "fin" in those days) with 6 foot draft, a spade rudder well aft (a radical new thing), about 22,500 pounds finished and empty. The waterline length is only 32.5 feet so you get an idea of how long the overhangs are. The sail plan is low-aspect, with the masthead only 50 feet above the deck and a boom 21 feet long!

Lapworth sold the plans to the doctor who approached Southern California boat builder Joseph McGlasson to build the boat in fiberglass. Things evidently went well and I know nothing more about the good doctor, his voyage, or that first Islander 44. McGlasson had been building Islander 24s, 29s, and 32s and eventually founded Islander Yachts of Costa Mesa, CA., which had several different corporate owners over the next 13 years.

Islander produced more 44 hulls and decks. There were two different deck/cabin top designs. Kuewa's is the alternate one shown in the drawings below, which Lapworth said he never drew and disliked immensely. Many of the Islander 44s were sold as unfinished hull/deck kits under the name Yachtcraft. As is the case with kit boats, many are finished poorly. At some point, someone decided that there was a flaw in the hull design, that the stern had too much overhang, and several of these boats had 3 feet of their sterns unceremoniously lopped off, creating an "Islander 41". It amazes me that people would do this, especially considering that the 44 is incredibly well balanced, with a very light helm even when way over-canvassed and loaded up with the rail in the water. Moving the backstay 3 feet closer to the mast and shortening the boom must have really ruined that balance. And speed potential. If you heightened the mast to get more sail area, the center of effort would be higher and the boat would be even more tender than she already is.

Kuewa's hull and deck were laid up in 1973 and sold as a kit to be completed by the amateur buyer. I'm guessing she was first launched in the early 1980s. I don't know the history of the first two or three owner/builders, but there is some evidence that the first owner knew his stuff. The hull and deck joint has a heavy layer of fiberglass over the inside of the joint and thru-bolts every 3 inches. There are other very good executions. The story is that this fellow developed emphysema and died before he got very far. Then a non-sailor took over and finished the interior woodwork with good landlubber cabinet skills, but no knowledge of things like adequate bulkhead-to-hull tabbing widths, limber holes between interior partitions, or non-corroding fasteners. I've been slowly correcting these deficiencies for 18 years while sailing the boat almost continually.

The boat was designed with tiller steering. Kuewa has both a wheel and a backwards-facing tiller for the Monitor self-steering vane, and as a backup in case the wheel, quadrant, or cables fail. The helm placement is perfect and the wheel lock really helps singlehanded steering.


I found her in Half Moon Bay, California, in November 1996, tied up next to the seller's powerboat. She was called "The Saint". The seller's college-age daughter was living aboard. There was silicone sealer everywhere in an attempt to stop the drips. The seller was a nice guy, had been trying to sell for a while, knew not much about sailing, had done no maintenance in several years (except for the silicone), and was asking too much money. The first attempt to take the boat 60 miles (including tacks) from Half Moon Bay to KKMI drydock in Richmond for a survey ended 10 minutes into the trip when it became evident that the two broken engine mounts might make the trip unsafe.

A week later, with replacement mounts, we tried again. Fifteen minutes into that  trip, after going over some small waves at the channel entrance, the pop rivets holding the huge radar antenna to the mast broke off and the antenna and its bracket swung by its electric cable and banged around in the rigging. I climbed up to the first spreaders, lashed the antenna in place, and we continued on. A few hours later, we were close hauled with the large genny and main pulling well. I was very happy with the balance and smooth ride. The genny had been rolled the wrong way on the furler for a long time. The Sunbrella strips along the leech and foot were in great shape, having been shaded by the dacon sail material, which was shredded along the leech in a long strip from the foot almost to the masthead. Luckily, the stitching for the cover was done well and it held together in the light breeze, with the 45 foot long streamer flying off to leeward.

[Warning: this paragraph may not be suitable for young children.] [Or maybe them more than us.] Both of the crew members the seller brought were seasick, one puking pretty constantly into the head, and umm, running from the other end as well. The head pumped well at first, but then failed. The way it failed was diabolical. There is a small screw that holds the rubber check valve in place at the bottom of the bowl. Unbeknownst to the puker, corrosion had gotten to the screw and it had fallen out, leaving a quarter inch hole. Significant water pressure develops on one side of that hole during operation. On the next pump stoke, a jet of water shot up through the, umm, stuff, blasting the pumper in the face and generally messing up the entire head compartment. A new landlubber convert was born.

As the sun set, we joined other boats outside the Golden Gate Bridge headed into the Bay. They were probably wondering what the extremely long masthead streamer was for. We tried to sail as far as we could to KKMI because the seller was worried about the two old engine mounts (for good reason as it later became evident). Well after dark, we finally started the engine and engaged the transmission, and the shaft coupling came apart. We were able to lash the two coupling halves together with parachute cord and limp at idle speed up the channel and into the dock. It had been a 16 hour trip.

The boat was a mess and smelled incredibly awful. As we drifted to the dock, I was standing on the bow with a dock line in hand and my backpack on. As soon as I could step across, I scrambled up, cleated the line, told the seller that the boat wasn't for me and to have a nice life, turned and walked away.

The seller was now stuck a long way from home with a broken and crappy boat, and no fortitude left to deal with it. The next day, he called me at the office with a new offer. I kept thinking about how well she sailed, and that was that.


I have owned a 1949 Kettenberg 32 (Southern California day racer, 6-foot beam, cockpit open to bilge), a 1970 Clipper Marine 26 (surprisingly good sailing boat, too lightly built for Hawaii), a 1964 Islander 32 (great Hawaii boat), a 1959 Angelman ketch 39 feet on deck, 45 feet including bow sprit (fiberglass over cold-molded cedar, beautiful and very comfy, but she made so much leeway when close hauled that the only option was motorsailing), and Kuewa.

Kuewa is by far the most satisfying and fun boat I've had. By today's standards, she is a bit heavy and is not considered fast. She is a little tender and likes to sail well heeled over, but she points very well for her age and sail plan, and is a joy to singlehand. I have tacked her alone up the narrowest of channels, successful because she is so slippery she will take off easily in the right direction after a very short tack. You're probably sensing the love here. The overhangs are not the safest in a big sea, but they allow surprising light air performance (lower drag) combined with a significantly lengthened waterline when it's blowing. Despite the rather low freeboard, she seems surprisingly dry, although I haven't yet beat up the Kaiwi Channel. Everyone who takes the helm remarks about the balance and ease of control, which also allows the Monitor steering vane to operated well. There are many modern designs that sail more efficiently, but for the low investment, Kuewa is the one for me. This is why she and I have been together for 18 years and I find myself skimming classifieds with little attention.


Through the end of 2013, according to the GPS log, Kuewa and I have sailed 6,487 miles.

For the first 3 years, Kuewa was at Marina Bay, Richmond (San Francisco Bay) and I lived 100 miles away in Sacramento and work was demanding. The next 12 years I lived 50 miles away in rural northeast Solano County and work was more demanding. Plus, we had 20 acres of demanding ranch property and horses. Boat projects were slowly checked off the list and the sailing became more frequent as things broke and were replaced.

Eventually, we began racing from San Francisco out around Southeast Farallon Island, 28 miles WSW of the Golden Gate Bridge, both double-handed and single-handed. I really enjoyed these sometimes-challenging races and rounded the island seven times in eleven attempts. Two of the failed attempts were due to lack of wind all day, and one failed attempt was due to lack of wind at the start when the current pushed us eventually into the dock at Fort Point and I had to start the engine. The fourth failed attempt was from conditions so rough that all the forward bulkheads and partitions tore away from the hull while close-hauled, the boat launching at seven knots off the back of big, steep waves that came directly bow-on on one tack. The wind was only 29 gusting 31 but there must have been a good fetch. I was within 45 minutes of rounding the island and heading off downwind, but I withered at the continual sound of splintering wood and turned around. The good news was that, a few days later, the loose bulkheads made removing the old tabbing a snap - no tools required, just gloves. The best Kuewa placed in these races was on a windy single-handed one, 3rd in division, 5th overall out of 76 starters. I still have the 3rd place sweatshirt and I'm considering mounting it behind glass.

We also did a wonderful 16 hour cruise around Southeast Farallon with seven people aboard on a day that turned out to be perfect for the trip. Good breeze, not rough. The big blue and white symmetrical spinnaker pulled us for seven hours all the way home.

The mellow 2008 Singlehanded Farallones Race:

Southeast Farallon Island

It is said that some of the early Spanish explorers call the Farallon Islands "Dientes del Diablo", or Devil's Teeth, for good reason. The Devil needs to go to the dentist more often.

Besides all the daysailing and occasional overnighters around the Bay, we made one mini voyage of 250 miles outside the Bay. In September 2011, Richard Posthuma and I had a beautiful spinnaker run down to Santa Cruz, then to Stillwater Cove, Carmel the next day, where we stayed for two days. Then two more days retracing our steps back to San Rafael. It was a great trip with either very favorable wind angles both ways or efficient close-hauled sailing on the return.

Light wind in the morning off Pt. Montara. No, the spinnaker is not on the wrong side of the headstay - I don't know why the picture looks like that.

Anchored in the kelp at Stillwater Cove. Beautiful sunny California.

Otter toying with gull. They've probably been associating for years.

Richard, ever vigilant.
In the Fall of 2010, Susan and I sold the ranch and moved to Novato. I moved Kuewa to Lowrie's Yacht Harbor near downtown San Rafael (San Francisco Bay). For the first time we were living just eight short miles from the boat. A major refit continues apace.

Kuewa wing & wing on San Francisco Bay 

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