Tawn Midkiff grew up sailing and racing with her family in Michigan and had always wanted to live on a sailboat. Her husband, CB, grew up in Illinois and had little boating experience when they met. But he soon came to love sailing. The couple bought their 1983 Hans Christian seven years ago, moved onboard and are planning to sail to distant horizons.
Tell us about your boat’s name.
Initially Tawn was not a big fan of the name Palarran, but since she came up with the name of our first boat, Strange Crew, it was my turn to name this one. I went way back for the name, back to a book I read in high school. One of my favorite writers is J.R.R. Tolkien. One of his books, “The Silmarillion,” is an insanely detailed (and somewhat boring) history of his fictional world Middle Earth. From that I pulled the name Palarran, which is High Elvish (a lot Tawn’s hatred stemmed from that fact) for “Far Wanderer” and the name of a great sailing ship referenced in the book.
Have you owned other boats before this one?
Our first “real” boat was a 27-foot Catalina named Strange Crew.
Tell us the story of how you found your boat and what makes it special to you.
Nothing special, really. Just your typical “couple finds boat, couple loves boat but can’t afford two boats and a house, so couple sells other boat and house and moves aboard to live awesomely ever after” story.
What’s the history of your boat?
It has made two trips south to Mexico and back with the previous owners, and sailed all over the Pacific Northwest and Canada with us and the previous owners too, I’m sure.
We are the most famous owners so far.
What do you like best about your boat?
The way she looks, the way she sails, the fact that it is completely paid off.
The boat is very comfortable; it’s like living inside a very nice piece of furniture. She is slow and does not point very well, but she looks good doing it. We always get where we are going though, and are very dry and well-rested when we do get there. And, as an added bonus, we usually arrive about the time everyone else on faster boats have dinner ready. That may or may not be part of our game plan. ;P
What do you know now about your boat that you wish you’d known when you bought it? Would that have changed your mind?
Funny question that. If I had known about the rotted bowsprit and sampson posts, I highly doubt we would have bought her. We found out about the rot a couple years after the purchase. To tell you the truth, I’m glad we did not know about the rot going into it, otherwise I would not be writing this about Palarran, and I would not know how to fix a rotted bowsprit or make and install new sampson posts.
What’s your favorite story involving your boat?
After seven years of sailing her, there are quite a few. One that really sticks out happened on our first trip ever to the San Juan Islands. Tawn’s parents came out from Chicago for the first week of the our two-week San Juans trip.
The second day of the trip, crossing the Straits of Juan de Fuca, we had 10 knots of wind on a beam reach. The wind slowly increased to 15, then 20, and was gusting to maybe 25. We were loving it. Great wind, sunny, warm day. Very little waves. Just an awesome sail! The kind of sail you think about when you’re sitting at work, thinking about sailing.
As we were approaching Lime Kiln Point, out of nowhere a little rain squall hit. The wind and waves continued to build a little more and we decided to tuck in a reef. In the short amount of time between deciding to reef and someone actually getting to the mast to do it, the rain stopped, the wind died to nothing, the clouds cleared and the sun came out as bright as could be.
Less than 20 minutes later and about 100 yards ahead, we spotted a huge pod of Orcas swimming towards the boat. We quickly dropped all sail and just stood on deck watching 10 to 15 Orcas swimming all around us. A few came within 20 feet of the boat as they passed.
A quick hour and a half later we were at anchor in Garrison Bay on San Juan Island, eating fresh oysters from the oyster farm in Westcott Bay. We had the crab pots set out to get some Dungies for dinner later. It just does not get any more Pacific NorthBest than that.
Describe the most challenging situation you’ve experienced on your boat and how it performed.
I wouldn’t say this was a particularly challenging situation, but rather one that let us know just how sturdy our boat is.
We had left Shilshole Marina a little after midnight to ride the tide to the Strait of Juan de Fuca on our way north to Canada. There was not a puff of wind, so we motored north all night on a big ebb tide. Since we were motoring, I was following my rhumb line, which I had plotted right through the middle of the Point Wilson rip. I had made the mistake of not really checking the conditions out on the Straight. Puget Sound and Admiralty Inlet were both dead calm all night, so I figured the Strait would be too. Rookie mistake.
Tawn was coming up on deck for her watch just as we were hitting a little bit of swell as we passed Marrowstone Point. By the time I had filled her in on the conditions, where we were, and our heading … we were starting to get tossed around some. The huge ebb tide we had been riding north was hitting the Straight, where it had been blowing 25-plus knots out of the west all night, and still was. So the combination of the wind waves from the west, slamming into the outgoing tide headed north, made the sea state at the Point Wilson rip complete and total chaos!
I almost cannot describe the erratic behavior of the waves. They were hitting us from all directions at once. We would take a wave on the port side, rise up and drop off the wave, and before hitting the trough, would be hit by another or two from the bow, or stern, or starboard side, or all three at the same time. It was absolutely crazy.
But Palarran just plugged along, dropping off waves. But instead of slamming into the next wave, she would just shoulder into it sorta gently and push on through. No slamming or jarring, just a nice, not-so-gentle shove. We took water over the bow and got the decks cleaner than they have ever been.
Luckily, the wind was still blowing. So I helped Tawn get some sail up so we could make better way and mellow out the boat’s motion. I got seasick from the lack of sleep and the odd motion and went back down to crash out. Tawn and Palarran cruised on through the chaos like it was a trip to the fuel dock, which in all honesty is usually trickier than anything the Strait can throw at us.
Tell us a little about your boating background.
I grew up in the middle of Illinois. Boating meant a bass boat or a canoe full of beer and a flat, calm river. I had no clue you could live on a sailboat. I got my first taste of sailing on Tawn’s parents’ boat, a C&C 40 named Rhumbliner, on Lake Michigan in 1995. In 2002 we bought our first boat.
Tawn spent her summers growing up sailing and racing on her parents’ boats out of Saugatuck, Mich., and has wanted to live aboard since she was a little nugget. So as you can plainly see, all of this is completely her fault.
Where do you plan to take your boat? Do you have a dream destination?
We plan on heading south to Mexico (of course) and beyond one of these days. No definite plans or route, just south and then west, or more south and then more west … or … east?? That is the best part of it. No plan, just do.
As for dream destinations … all of them, yes.
If you could have any other boat, what would it be and why?
I’m sure there are other boats out there better than ours. But quite honestly, we love and trust Palarran completely. I’ll gladly look at other boats, but it would have to be a very impressive, very free boat to make me wanna trade.
What didn’t we ask you about your boat that you wish we had?
The question would be: “What was the previous owner/builder thinking when they installed <troublesome bit> in the impossible-to-access place they did? Answer: I have no fuck**g clue!!
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