Once I Built A Boat

My novel, “Cape Decision: Revenge And Remorse In The Alaskan Wilderness,” a suspense tale set amidst the fjords of Southeast Alaska, is now available through your favorite bookstore, or from amazon, etc. Although entirely fictional, the sailing scenes in the novel were inspired by the years I spent cruising the Inside Passage, and especially the trip I made from Haines, AK to Bellingham, WA in 2002 in the boat I built. https://www.amazon.com/dp/0578426226/

You can also order signed copies from this site, using PayPal, below.

From the back jacket:

The deep labyrinth Alaskan fjords do not readily divulge their secrets. In a land where bears outnumber people, the constraints of civilization can disappear and the lines between justice and vengeance blur. When a promising college student, Marshall Stuckrath, is killed in prison while serving time on a drug charge, his family explodes in grief and anger. Two fathers—the one who raised him and the other who sired him—have their own ideas of retribution. But the most majestic rain forest left on earth has seen far worse and does not take sides in the affairs of men—or does it?

Mockups Design





Cape Decision, Paperback Novel, signed by author.

Cape Decision, Paperback Novel. ISBN 978-0-578-42622-8 Dimensions: 5.5"X8.5" Signed by author. Shipping included USPS media mail to all USA domestic. For alternate shipping methods or international shipping please use contact form.


My novel, “The Kabul Conscript” was published in the midst of the pandemic, February, 2020. It too is available from your favorite bookstore, or signed copies here.

The Kabul Conscript, paperback novel, signed by author

The Kabul Conscript paperback novel will be mailed postpaid, media mail to U.S.A. only. Inquire for international orders. ISBN 978-1-7335229-1-5 5.5"X8.5" 400 pages Weight 1 lb



Building The Buehler Emily

Back in the 1990s, while living off the grid near Skagway, Alaska I got the crazy idea of building an ocean capable sailboat. I had a little sailing experience, and had built a simple dory-like sailboat a few years earlier. My large shop was well stocked with hand and power tools. I had spent several years constructing a log house on our rugged property, so I figured I was up to building just about anything. It turned out to be a lot harder than building our home, but two moves and a few years later I launched “Avalon” from the small boat harbor in Haines, Alaska.

I started the project by ordering plans for the “Emily” design from the well-known boat designer, George Buehler. These plans came in several sheets, showing various construction details, but the critical sheet consisted of a “table of offsets,” a list of dimensions from which the boat could be built without any of the other diagrams.


Above; my well-used table of offsets for Avalon.

The other sheets included a diagram of the finished boat, sail plans, and construction details.


The next step was to loft or draw the lines full size. For this I used taped together sheets of builders paper, and the gymnasium floor of an old abandoned school building. Then the building process itself could start. The keel was cast from concrete embedded with iron, the frames built and aligned on the keel, and everything braced well before planking could commence.

Before I finally finished the boat I had moved it three times.

The first time was from my shop in Long Bay, near Skagway, along a twisting and steep gravel road, to Skagway town, as we had sold our property.

Here is the partially constructed hull of Avalon in the shop just before moving it, March, 1994.


A local gas station owner towed the boat out and onto a low trailer.



All set up, and ready to go!


Heading down Dyea Road to Skagway. A cold March day.


The next three years I spent adding on to and remodeling our house in Skagway. The boat sat forlornly untouched next to an old WW II Quonset hut (I did eventually erect a rough shed over it.), until once again it was moved—this time to Haines, where I completed and launched Avalon in 1998. (Note the two telephone booths across the street—a common sight in the 1990s!)


In the photo below Avalon sits at her next location in Haines, Alaska. In this photo I have nearly finished framing a temporary shelter from various scraps of lumber left over from other building projects.


While building the boat I had the foresight to cut a nice spruce tree for my mast. The spar dried all winter and much of the next summer, so it was perfectly cured in time for the launching. I also had a local welder fashion the metal rigging parts. Below is a photo of Avalon nearly ready to launch, with her mast on sawhorses.


A view of the port side, shortly before the launch.


Finally, after the boat was nearly finished inside and out (a boat is never truly finished…), painted, and the motor installed, it was launching day. For this we used the services of an old time logger who had a trailer and front end loader, and said he could move anything. He did a great job. His trailer was so large that the ten thousand pound boat looked like a toy on it.



We made it to the launching ramp without mishap.



She floated right side up.


Then, of course, the all-important christening ceremony. A dram for the boat, a dram for old Poseidon, and the rest for the launching crew!

launch ceremony.jpg

We motored across the harbor to set the mast.


Before days end Avalon was happily berthed, and ready to start her ocean adventures.


I sailed the waters of Southeast Alaska from 1998 through 2002. In the photo below Avalon is anchored just outside of Haines



A few years later, in 2002, I sailed and motored her the length of Southeast Alaska to Bellingham, WA. Here she is at the dock in Bellingham.


Avalon motoring in a calm, Bellingham Bay, 2003.


In 2007 I sold her to a young Canadian, and bought my current boat, an Alberg 37, GalenaAvalon, under the name her new owner gave her, Narwali, is listed in the Wooden Boat directory of boats.


She was featured in an article I wrote, “A Long Day On The Inside Passage,” which was published in the October 2012 edition of 48° North, the Northwest sailing magazine.



My sailing adventures inspired a song, “Bluegreen Sea,” which I recorded with my band. Here is the youtube link with a photo montage of boats, including Avalon, sailing in Bellingham Bay and the San Juan Islands.





4 thoughts on “Once I Built A Boat

  1. What a fantastic story and great looking boat. This took a lot of work. I like the picture of the shop and the pounds of sawdust on the floor.
    Cousin Jon


  2. One of my serious regrets in life is that I was not able to accept Mike’s invitation to fly to Haines and join in the adventure of sailing to Avalon Bellingham. I was building our home in Oregon Territory and on a schedule to get my family moved from suburbia to the woods. It would have been destructive to family life had I dropped out and took that trip. I still frequently think about the missed opportunity though. And now, 16 years later, I’m still finishing some of the details at Mintlake Lodge. However, after reading this account of Avalon’s construction, the boat build seems like the more complicated and intimidating task. Fantastic work Mike. The decision to sell the boat must have been traumatic.
    Dee C Designs


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s