I built this boat wanting something with a bit more shape to the bottom than the Pocket Cruiser. It also helped me refine my skills with stitch and glue that I started with Pack Rat. Again, I didn’t really stick with the plans going with a daggerboard instead of centerboard, different seating arrangement, and a gaff sail. I also tried graphite in the epoxy as my final coat with a tan interior making the boat color similar to that of little gem donuts hence the name. This boat did turn out to be a little gem taking me safely through lots of sailing experiences.
I sailed it for a long while as an open boat but then got infected by the look of Catboats. So, I ended up modifying this boat to catboat form by moving the mast forward, adding a deck, and putting in a lot of brightwork. These modifications weren’t all done at once but over time. I brought Little Gem with me on the move from Ohio to Georgia and, once there, experienced the shoal waters in Florida which encouraged me to switch to a centerboard rather than daggerboard.
What I had after all the modifications was a small cruising boat with a sleeping platform forward with storage under, a dodger creating a dry cabin, and a roomy cockpit. I used this boat in the first ever Florida 120, which I founded. This is a cruise in company in the Pensacola area of Florida. I also attended the Cedar Keys messabout where Matt Layden encouraged me to use this boat in the Everglades Challenge. During the 2011 Everglades Challenge I found the boat was more able than the skipper and I ended up beaching in high wind and waves and calling it quits. Now, with more coastal experience under my belt, I know I should have taken a break then continued and I would have done fine.