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Lots of boats come to Oriental, some tie up at the Town Dock for a night or two, others drop anchor in the harbor for a while. If you've spent any time on the water you know that every boat has a story. The Shipping News on TownDock.net brings you the stories of the boats that have visited recently.

SV Mudfog Cove Returns
Waiting Out The Pandemic in Oriental
June 3, 2020

T
ownDock.net first met Jeff Gold in early 2003. He sailed into town aboard a steel pilothouse sloop called Mudfog Cove. Then, Jeff said it was the boat’s name – not her port of call. He saw it on roadside sign in Maine, and thought it fit the boat’s character.

Seventeen years later, and Jeff is back in the harbor.

Attaya
Jeff Gold.

“I didn’t see a single airplane until I was off Cape Lookout,” Jeff said. He’d sailed north from St. Maarten at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, looking for a place to shelter and quietly wait out quarantine. Ocracoke was closed when he arrived; the Outer Banks, like many other ports, had blocked transient vessels to avoid “discretionary travel”.

Attaya
Jeff navigates the deck.

Jeff seemed unbothered by the virus, though relatively cautious, and up for conversation. He has sailed through Oriental many times since TownDock first wrote about him. Since then, Mudfog Cove had undergone a few changes. Namely a coat of bright red paint. A painted mermaid once graced the sloops’ stern, half coiled around the word ‘Attaya’, the boat’s original name.

But this time around, there’s no Mudfog Cove, no mermaid. The distinctive red paint from years past is gone under a coat of steel grey. And Jeff isn’t sure what to call his floating home anymore. “The name is still in flux,” he said, “nothing stuck.”

It seems Jeff sometimes calls her Mudfog Cove, sometimes Attaya. Attaya is the name of a Senagalese tea ceremony.

Built in the south of France in 1989, the 40 ft vessel was launched into the Mediterranean by a man named Frederic who sailed her “everywhere French” on his way to St. Maarten. Steel boats are a common sight in France and French-speaking countries, Jeff says. What’s less common on a 40ft vessel, is a tiller.

Attaya
The view aft from the pilot house.

“I had decided I was tired of fixer uppers,” he said. “I was looking for a boat that was shallow draft (4 feet or less), had a pilot house or deck saloon, reliable diesel engine, self steering (I didn’t have time or inclination to look for crew), sugar scoop transom, decent electronics, good windlass and ground tackle, some solar and wind.” In the early online days of 2003, Jeff found what he was looking for. “Attaya fit the bill.”

His preference for steel boats comes from direct experience of sinking in a wooden vessel two decades ago. It’s a story he doesn’t want to repeat these days, but one he told TownDock years ago. Jeff, in a life raft, found his way to shore two days later.

“You can’t beat steel for strength,” he said. “I don’t have to worry about being sunk by anything. Whales or rocks are mostly not a problem.”

Jeff has made modifications to adapt the steel vessel to his lifestyle. “If you want to add or move things around on a steel boat, it’s easy. You weld it, and it won’t move.” he said. “Its only drawback – it rusts.”

Attaya
Sitting in the pilot house. Wood is stacked in the bow, waiting to be used in Jeff’s next project.

Aft is a solar array. Jeff added “almost 1000 watts of solar on a stainless steel tower of power that includes davits and cockpit shelter and a place for a wind generator and radar, and collects about 30 gallons of water an hour in a steady rain.”

Storing that power are 200 AH of lithium batteries, “which are game changers for reliability and longevity in supplying electrical power for 1/3 the weight and space.” With his added electricity, he can operate a refrigerator and a freezer. There’s also a salt water foot pump for washing dishes.

Attaya
A coaster and a compass lie on the salon table.

Jeff is especially fond of a rigid cockpit dodger he built. Though framed in teak, it’s almost entirely made of clear acrylic.

With all the mods and upgrades, Jeff says the “single best and by far most expensive” change he’s made is the installation of a new 54 HP Yanmar diesel motor.

For all that he didn’t want a fixer-upper, Jeff keeps busy customizing the boat. Well-worn brushes, cleaned countless times, lay on the cabin sole. Teak salvaged from the east coast of the Americas was piled nearby.

Attaya
Bits of wood are everywhere. This vessel (as with many boats) is as much a workshop as a home.

“What I like doing is finding interesting or exotic wood for her interior. She has a cabin table of leopard wood, settees of lacewood, lots of purpleheart and three varieties of oak, not including a piece of birds eye/figured oak I just couldn’t resist buying from Newport Nautical Timbers at the Wooden Boat Show in Mystic one year. Theres a bunch of birdseye and spalted maple, some teak, mahogany, iroko, angelique and a few more.”

At the centerboard trunk is something rarely seen in most monohull cruisers: an underwater viewing port. “I just took off the metal plate and put down acrylic.” Jeff says fish or lobster often visit the underside. At the town dock, it’s weird “creepy” little fish “with a cork-screw-like tail.”

Jeff isn’t new to boats, he’s been sailing since the 1970s. At ten, his older brother taught him to sail on the Charles River in Massachusetts while their father taught at MIT. “I became obsessed with dinghy sailing, winning my share of races.” He taught sailing as a teen, received a degree in philosophy at Yale and raced in college.

Attaya
A viewing port, for humans and marine life.

“It hadn’t dawned on me that I could make a living sailing until I got a job with the Outward Bound Sea School in Maine and got a CG captains license. That was in 1974.”

His first boat purchase was two years later while working in central valley, CA. “I saw an ad in a SF newspaper for a sailboat for sale in Oakland for $300. A cute wooden 20’ engineless gaff rigged sloop with a little buddy cabin about as big as a backpacking tent.”

In 1980, he bought his first real cruising boat, a 1936 Alden designed Malabar Cutter. “That led to starting my own day-charter business in Key West (and a cruise from Chicago to Key West via the Mississippi River).”

Soon after he bought a wooden Robb 35 built in Holland in the 60s. “Far and away the best sailing boat I’ve owned. Deep and narrow, a witch to windward. Not much space below decks. I traded her for a home built 38’ aluminum boat with a guy in Key West I know only as ‘Brew’.”

Attaya

Eventually Jeff ended up back in Maine and started a “newish” life on Mount Desert Island, Maine. He got “a real job” working with the Hinckley charter fleet as a rigger.

By 1989, he was married, a father, and living in a house in Bass Harbor. By 1995, he was divorced.

“I had the good fortune to get a job with one of the last and probably best wooden boat builders in Maine – Ralph Stanley,” he said. “this started me on the path to becoming a shipwright, and an opportunity to work at the Mystic Seaport Museum restoring the 1841 wooden whale ship the Charles Morgan, the holy grail of wooden boats.”

Then came a blur of single parenting, home ownership and a job as a captain for a summer family. There were winters in boat yards, or working on boats on his own.

Attaya
Jeff talks about where he’s been, and his next destination: Martha’s Vineyard.

Jeff came to Oriental for the first time 2002, visiting when not working seasonally on Charles Morgan at Mystic. “Those were the best years of my life.”

In 2013, he left Mystic and headed for Colombia. He was now a full-time solo sailor and had started collecting social security.

“Sailing 14 days non-stop from Bermuda to Colombia was epic for me. I had decided to sail to Colombia after looking at a NatGeo map that showed a 19,000 ft mountain right on the coast. Its the tallest coastal mountain in the world and I’m still amazed its pretty much unknown.” While there, Jeff took to the land to hike a few thousand feet to Minca, Columbia.

Attaya
Jeff has sailed Attaya along the coast, and in the Carribbean for the last two decades.

In the last few years, Jeff has been commuting between New England and the Caribbean. Summers, he works on the Mayflower restoration at Mystic, and winters he works in St. Maarten.

He’s headed to Martha’s Vineyard next, to work as a shipwright building boats there for the first time.

“Looking forward to getting back to work,” he said. “They say they are on track to open…but we will see.”


Story & photos by Andrea Bruce.
Related Links:
Shipping news: Mudfog Cove in 2003

TownDock.net file photos:
Attaya
Mudfog Cove visiting in November, 2018.
Attaya
A name, or a port of call?
Attaya
Attaya, once called Mudfog Cove, at the Town Docks in April, 2020.
Attaya
View from above. Note the extensive solar array.

Posted Wednesday June 3, 2020 by Allison DeWeese


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