Before we got Chaika we owned a variety of smaller craft that gave us lots of experience on the water and with different designs, and helped us decide that a Westsail might be a good choice for us. The 11 foot Penguin Cutty provided plenty of exciting exploration at the mouth of the Columbia River and in the South Puget Sound. It had an aging plywood hull with dry rot, and not knowing what would break next kept things interesting.
I chartered a 19 foot West Wight Potter for a month one fall in the San Juans and Gulf Islands with the expectation of falling in love with the design and getting one, but despite it's versatility of being able to do things like land on the beach, I was never quite won over. Bit too much fiberglas, perhaps.
Our first "real" cruising boat was the 21 foot plywood sloop Nixe, shown here after extensive refinishing: we got a good deal on a neglected boat. It sported full crouching headroom below with two bunks and a spacious cockpit.
Cooking on Nixe at anchor in the Gulf Islands. It came with a self draining cockpit with a small foot well which we cut out in favor of a comfortable, roomy cockpit.
We built a stitch-and-glue dinghy from Bolger's Nymph design, altering the layout of the thwarts and using an old hawser for a sturdy rubrail. Great little shore boat for local cruising.
With a baby on the way we started looking for a larger replacement for Nixe, and found a good deal on a 26 foot Pearson Ariel. It was halfway through a major refit, with the hull ground down to bare fiberglass and all the hardware in boxes.
It went back together just fine and for two years we cruised with the Katydid, a great rugged little pocket cruiser that got us thinking of a larger boat for an offshore trip.
Later on, after we got the Westsail, we replaced the dinghy with an 8 foot Gig Harbor Nisqually dinghy that we outfitted with a sail rig. The dinghy stowed upside down on Chaika's foredeck, the mast alongside the shrouds, and we had some fun times sailing around anchorages.