Buffeting and balmy days aboard the smallest craft ever to cross the Atlantic, the Yankee Girl--a sloop about twice as long as a bathtub: ten feet. Sea-crazy Minnesota schoolteacher Gerry Spiess was shooting at his third major voyage. The first, down the Mississippi and through the Canal to Ecuador, ended with Spiess selling his boat when a pod of whales scared him. The second, a few years later, found him on a 15-foot trimaran headed around the world; but within five days he was back in Miami, too physically and psychologically beat to go on. Years passed, and then in January 1977 he began drafting a new boat--whose needs turned out to demand a ten-foot length and a five-and-a-half-foot width. His wife Sally warily acquiesced to his latest obsessive dream: a solo Atlantic voyage. We follow him through the sketches, the craft's construction, the infinite preparations for stocking; and at last we are en route from Chesapeake Bay, bound for Falmouth, England. And a ghastly beginning it is, with the Gulf Stream seeming to recede before him as he covers a disheartening 32 miles per day. At that rate, the voyage would take 100 days; he had counted on 60, taken food and water for 90. At last he's into the Stream, but soon the Atlantic knocks him groggy with an unexpected storm; his skin begins falling off; he has rashes and fungus; he capsizes and recovers; he's thrown overboard by a rogue wave. His happiest moments, in the voyage's depressing first half, are listening over and over to a linda Ronstadt tape of ""Blue Bayou."" But the weather clears, and the Yankee Girl's eventual arrival at Falmouth, with Sally and his parents and a news mob waiting, will get a gulp even from hardened landlubbers. On June 1, 1981, Spiess and Yankee Girl left Long Beach, Calif., on a five-month journey across the Pacific to Sydney, Australia--and as of this writing, he's still at sea. The new voyage can only boost the dramatic tale of the last.