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Three Years in a 12-Foot Boat
by Stephen G Ladd

For anyone who dreams of sailing away, here's an engrossing, gritty memoir of a 15,000-mile solo expedition in a tiny, hand-made boat.
Bent on discovery, Bremerton native Stephen G. Ladd ranges along the pirate-ridden coast of Panama and Colombia, across the Andes, down a 600-mile river by night to avoid guerrillas, to the Antilles and the Caribbean. Robbed, capsized, arrested and befriended, he sails and rows through a tumult of uncharted adventures.


click to enlarge

The cast of characters: Dieter, mad ex-Nazi on a desert island; Hans, the smuggler who disappears at sea; castaways, prostitutes, and fortune-seekers.

Stow away with a poetic storyteller on a stormy, soulful voyage through nineteen countries, on the razor's edge between freedom and fear, loneliness and love.

From 1990 to 1993, Bremerton native Stephen G. Ladd rowed and sailed a twelve-foot boat 6,500 miles, and traveled with her another 8,500 miles via cars and ships.

Ladd himself designed and built the diminutive vessel, which he christened Squeak after a dearly departed cat. Squeak served as Ladd's transportation and lodging as he voyaged down the Mississippi, to the ports of Panama, along the Colombian coast, over the Andes, and down the dark rivers of South America.

In August 1990, Ladd transported Squeak by van across the Rockies and launched her in a mountain stream. It fed into the Missouri, which fed into the Mississippi. He sucked in the airy freedom of the High Plains, and rediscovered Mark Twain's Middle America, but by December he was rather chilled. From New Orleans, he worked aboard a Norwegian freighter for his passage to Panama.

The Boat:

Length overall: 12 feet
Length on waterline: 11 feet
Beam (width): 11 feet
Freeboard: 17 inches
Weight, empty: 250 lbs.
Loaded & manned: 550 lbs.
Draft: 8 inches
Sail area: 68 square feet

Purpose: long-distance coastal, river, and island cruising

Construction: 2 layers of 1/8-inch fir, epoxy-bonded diagonally, sheathed in fiberglass

Accomodations: cabin with full-length sea berth & four watertight stowage compartments

Sailing rig: sprit-boom cat yawl, modified windsurfer masts, leeboards, kick-up rudder

Materials cost: $2000 in 1990

Time to build: 1200 hours

Designer/builder: Steve Ladd, c/o Seekers Press, 2520 NW 195th Place, Seattle, WA 98177. Write for plans, molds, or advice on construction of a boat of the Squeak class.

Rear Cover

(click images to enlarge)