Please visit our home site at www.TRILOBOATS.com.

Anke and I are building our next boat, and writing about it at ABargeInTheMaking.blogspot.com. Access to the net comes and goes, so I'll be writing in fits and spurts.

Please feel free to browse the archives, leave comments where you will and write, and I'll respond as I can.

Fair winds!

Dave and Anke
triloboats swirl gmail daughter com

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Is there a DOCTOR on board???



'Tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune???
Take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing, end them!
Apologies to William Shakespeare

Okay. So I yanked this out of context, elide words and repunctuate; barbarously twist once melancholy words into a battle cry? Sue me.

"Slings and arrows of outrageous fortune." Medicinal jargon calls them insults... injury and damage to the body. "Take arms against a sea of troubles..."? You bet.

Emergency Medical Services define wilderness context as "two hours or more from definitive care", a.k.a. an Emergency Room. Two hours... time, not distance. How much of our life on the water is spent, by this definition, in the wilderness? Most of it.

Fortunately, you can go a long way to prepare yourself for trouble.

Wilderness First Responder (WFR, pronounced 'Woofer') is First Aid Merit Badge on steroids. They're spendy and eat up a week of long days, but you can't ask for better, on-board insurance. Consider training for every long-term crew-member; you never know who's going to need assistance, and trained teams are better than individuals.

Within the ambulance context (the two hour radius from definitive care), different rules apply. Goals are stabilize, package, transport. You might count jump kits, ambulances and oxygen among your resources, and an emergency room or trauma center only minutes ahead of you.

In wilderness context, a WFR must stabilize, diagnose, treat, provide long-term care, package, evacuate, transport. In short, you are trained and empowered to be the doctor on-site. Intensive training includes everything from blisters to high-risk wound management, from hyper- to hypothermia, from broken nails to broken bones. Improvisation is emphasized, adapting materials at hand to the needs of the moment.

Sound scary? It is, but let me tell you. There is very little in this world worse than standing by, wringing hands in helpless ignorance, while someone you care about slips away. Yes, it's scary. Take a deep breath. Take several. Remember your training protocols; like a mantra, they will calm and focus your mind. Take effective action.

On our own, we've only had to use full-on WFR skills once. A friend had a fall, and was able to hail us by radio. He'd snapped his ulna (bone in forearm), and was in great pain. No possibility of transport till the next day. We were able to apply traction and splint. Pain diminished from storm to near-gale (remember, the Beaufort scale is logarithmic!). Without the training, he - and we - would have been in a lot worse shape.

One way to gain experience is to volunteer for your local EMS, Fire Hall and/or SAR (Search and Rescue). WFR certification includes and surpasses ambulance context certificates. Your help is needed and appreciated, and you benefit from others' years in the field. Many times, the organization will pay for your training. Make sure you get the wilderness context covered, though. If you're even sub-urban, they may never have heard of it.

It's not just for others' sake that you train, either. Not a few WFRs have talked untrained friends through life-saving procedures on their own behalf. The life you save might be your own! Recall, too, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure in ambulance context; in the wilderness its priceless!

One last word. Even with training, there is only so much you can do. The wilderness context is... wild. Inherently dangerous. As sailors, we face the chance that we won't pull through...

But let's hedge our bets, shall we?


PS. I'd recommend the books Where There Is No Doctor and Where There Is No Dentist, published by Hesperian Health Guides. These are village oriented guides for preventative, general and emergency health care. WFR courses will include excellent reference books for your medical library.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Bibliography for a Short Shelf

Readin' the Pages!
 
I'm often asked what books I'd recommend to get a person started. It's a very short list.

These aren't the only books I enjoy or recommend in general... FAR from it. But from this core one obtains a solid foundation from which to explore in any direction. What's more, I find them extremely readable. If you, like me, tend to bog down in Chapman's, these are for you. [Probably doesn't help that, for two bits, I buy musty old Chapmen from the glorious 50s... not the latest editions.]

The links are all to Amazon, but they are available from many other vendors. Consider buying locally, or from small companies specializing in feeding our maritime appetites. Use 'em or loose 'em.

So here's my recommended Big Three. Between them, is everything you need to bootstrap yourself onto and across the water. The rest is gravy!
  1. Hand Tools: Their Ways and Workings by Aldron Watson

    Tool-by-tool elucidation for use and maintenance of your hand tools, right down to sharpening your pencil. Most of these lessons are upwardly compatible to power tools, too. Friendly format, easy to read and reference. Despite being 'old-school', it doesn't have that soporific, text-book feel.

    If you already have these skills, this one's optional. But even if you do, you'll learn something from it.
     
  2. Beuhler's Backyard Boatbuilding by George Beuhler

    Attitude, exhortation, anecdotes, know-how and plans, all in one book. This is solid, robust boatbuilding that girds the reader against the "there's only one way to do things" gang. DIY from stem to stern, from building a workshed to turning the hull to pouring a keel.

    There are plenty of techniques not covered in this book, but that's why they invented Post-It Notes!
     
  3. The Complete Sailor by David Seidman, Illustrated by Kelly Mulford

    Once you've got the boat built, you'll want to know how to get along on the water... here's your book! While emphasis is on sailing, the seamanship sections (most of the book) is entirely applicable. Organized in a modular format for easy reference, most topics get a one or two page treatment. It will take you through the novice stage and well into competency before you ever need to read beyond its pages.

    This one's a keeper. Even once you've memorized it, you and your guests will appreciate the clarity of information and quality of presentation. An onboard copy provides a centerpiece for discussion, even among long-term sailing companions, greatly enhancing civil communication.

That's it! With these three, you can build, launch, rig and sail away.

*****

To go with them taters, here's some gravy:



    Thursday, December 29, 2011

    Archipelagos: Cruising the Infinite

    Posted by DimensionT at HomeBrewHeaven
    Inchworm, Inchworm, 
    Measuring the marigolds;
    Seems to me you'd stop and see 
    How beautiful they are.
    Children's Song


    That figure being overrun by vines is called a Menger/Sierpinski Sponge, a construct with literally infinite surface area. Or none. I won't go deeper into it (No thanks necessary. Really.), other than to say that it's fractal, which brings me to the Coastline Paradox.

    The question is, "How long is a given stretch of coastline? The paradox is that there is no single answer... like the sponge, it has literally infinite length. But as a practical matter, it depends on how you measure it. 

    If we measure along it using a ruler that is one nautical mile long, we'll arrive at a figure, but miss hundreds of little coves. All the best ones, I might add.

    Well, okay. How about a hundred meter ruler? Now we're talking! The coast is suddenly a LOT longer. We're starting to sneak into some of those cozy harbors we missed on the first round. Each new nook and cranny adds length to our total. But still... there are several interesting little spots that a football field is just too large to squeeze into.

    A boat length? Now we can shore tie and enjoy the merest notch. The coast stretches on and on. Or better yet, a double butt-width (mine and my Sweetie's, side by side)! We can sail up, row ashore and hike to a zillion beautiful places to set ourselves down and enjoy along a now endless coast. Our brief lives will never be enough to absorb that abundance, rolling on toward infinity.

    Archipelagos are wonderously intricate places. Complex, even as coastlines go, they convolute in concealing crenulations! Channels twist and turn among them. Any stretch of water may find itself, round the next corner, ending in a cul de sac, branching into a labyrinth, opening onto wide horizons. And the smaller your own scale, the more is available to you.

    Archipelagos clump themselves in... archipelettes? Small clusters of islands every bit as complex, on smaller scale, as the whole. Mountain ranges and reefs are all a matter of scale; the sea - itself a pan-fractal being - floods between them both the same. The smaller the unit of measure, the more intricate and inimate it becomes. The tide running in to cover the flats races and eddies; look closely and one sees every feature of the world about, writ small and smaller.

    One beautiful summer day, we anchored LUNA and rowed ahead to scout some tricky narrows in Rocky Pass. They're big tidal races, shallow, rocky and have some 90deg turns. "Devil's Elbow" is such an evocative name, don't you think? 

    We wouldn't pass through till next day, so on our return just let the dory drift on the fair current amongst the islands. We meandered far from the straight line home, doubling back in lazy eddies, skirting reefs and bars and all manner of granitic rubble. No matter. When ready, we'd row from wherever we ended up. Though our path was mazed, distant mountain peaks would guide us home.

    We breathed in fragrance from duff of spruce and hemlock and towering wildflowers. Warmed and lulled, we dozed; merely cocked an eye at whatever soft bump against island or outcrop. But each time, the water carried us gently on. Finally, a cool shadow intruded on my dreams. I woke to find ourselves at arms length from LUNA.

    Inching along in our little home, worming amongst the twists and turns, exchanging one scale for another with a turn of the head, we can't help but notice how beautiful are the marigolds.



    Some of Rocky Pass - Among hundreds of islands it runs between two, contains hundreds of islets, thousands of rock outcroppings, millions of stones, billions of pebbles, trillions of...

    Wednesday, December 28, 2011

    BOATYard vs B.O.A.T.Yard


    If anything's going to happen, it's going to happen out there!
    Cap'n Ron

    Bring On Another Thousand. I hear it all the time. This is after the initial purchase, mind you. "Boating is like standing in the shower, burning thousand dollar bills."

    Expensive systems break down, requiring expensive repair or replacement. Expensive finishes (including bottom paint) need seasonal attention. Structural entropy requires expensive materials and know-how.

    Well... there are alternatives. Themes for another time.

    Haul-out and yard costs alone can break a budget. Even a successful, quick turn-around can easily rack up a grand ($1K). How many boats of your acquaintance haul out for some small project, only to be found months or years later, still on the hard. Nearly afloat on a rising tide of fees and bills and unforeseen expenses.

    A short list of B.O.A.T.Yard expenses: RT haul-out and sling-fees; wash-down fee; storage fee; transport/block/unblock fees; commuting and housing costs (sometimes can't stay aboard on the hard); shelter construction/demolition/disposal; electricity, water and garbage; taxes. When these costs are 'included' in some other fee, it doesn't make them disappear. Then there's materials, gear, professional help and so on. And the expensive little treats you 'run out for' to keep yourself going (coffee, pizza, etc.). And the social costs of being in a yard... time lost to garrulous neighbors and passers-by with the meter ticking.

    Worse yet, where's the yard when you really need one? If you need one when they're unavailable at any price, it could cost you the boat. Or your life. Even if a tow were available, they too cost a heap, and still require a floating hull on your part.

    A lot of the sailing we do is remote. Should need arise, we have to draw on our onboard resources. I think of this as the BOATYard. Never leave home without it!

    We carry a full array of hand tools necessary to build the boat from scratch. Timber tools to leverage our options with materials gleaned from beach and woods. An array of fasteners, wire, line, rod, plywood, 1x and 2x stock, aluminum plate and  flat-bar... enough to fix or fudge most anything. Goops, glues, paints and puckies. Enough sailcloth for a whole new suit. Heavy movers to lift, shift and haul the boat. Tarps to work under. Everything necessary for stop-gap measures or measured, permanent repair.

    Our copper plate bottom was an expensive, initial investment. But it's paid for itself in bottom painting costs, alone. Currently, it's illegal to scrape and paint with toxic anti-fouling anywhere in tidelands or drainages to them. If you care about your environment, that's not just greedy bureaucracy; it's good sense. But it means haul-out and paint in expensive, shoreside catchment systems. B.O.A.T.Yards.

    Elemental copper sheathing (non-toxic) may be brushed down anywhere (all it ever needs), and probably will last our lifetimes. No seasonal haulouts required. I conservatively figure it will have paid for itself in dollars alone within five years.

    Boats which can take the ground have a big, BOATYard advantage, when bottom work is necessary.

    Twin keelers are great, as they have their own, built-on grid system, allowing easy access to their underbodies with no extra thought. Flattish bottomed boats are no huge deal to elevate, as you can see from the photo above. Deep keel boats are trickier, but with sheer legs, they do fine. It surprises me how few are used in this country. In England, France and elsewhere, they are widely employed... not at all exotic. Might consider bronze shoes on whatever keel you have, whether single, twin or triple, to take a rough bottom and reduce the need for access to them.

    So when you ease up to some beautiful, protected beach, you're right at home. Your pace is unhurried. Relaxed. Plenty of time to give each matter thought before action. All that is done is well done. May even have a few bears wander by to offer a helping paw.

    And once you're ready for anything, anywhere... why go back? Why haul out at all? Ever?


    LUNA's BOATYard... Foredeck and tabernacle rebuild.

    PS. As usual, I'm hamming this up for effect. There are many boatyards, run by wonderful folks, who provide great service at extremely reasonable rates. If you're lucky enough to have one in your vicinity, they are a valuable resource.

    Tuesday, December 27, 2011

    Listen Up!

    Oim Popeye, the Sailor Man!

    This Able Bodied Seaman is what's known as a 'sensory homunculus'. He's modeled in proportion to the amount of brain given over to process sensory data from the various regions and organs of the body.  He has a brother - the motor homunculus - who is proportioned a bit differently, but still bears the family stamp. Bear with me... I'll eventually find some relevance.

    What's coming is a trick I got from 'Nam. Not directly, being a couple of years too young and flat-footed at that, but through one of the many moving accounts of that war. In it lot of people spent a lot of time and energy moving around quietly. Lives depended on hearing the other guy before he heard you.

    When fog, white-out snow and squall, or, to a lesser extent, darkness come down on a boat, we find ourselves in a sensorily analogous situation. Our best, distance delivery sense organs - the eyes - are shut down.

    Next up are ears. They're our best shot, when running blind, at detecting another vessel, the breakers along shore, or rocks, or the hoot of a buoy. Radar doesn't tell you everything, doesn't always work, isn't always available. But I hope you're never separated from your ears.

    So here's the trick, with commentary based on dim recollection:
    • Face the direction you wish to hear - Due to skull interference, we hear best from straight forward. Turn to scan the whole range of interest.
    • Cup your ears with relaxed hands - This multiplies the sound collection surface before feeding it into your ears. Don't bend your ears out of shape, as they're highly evolved to work as they are. Look at the mitts on our homunculus... hands take up a huge amount of brain power... relax them.
    • Close your eyes - They may not be able to make anything out, but, when open, the visual cortex , is working overtime, straining for detail. Closing them releases brain power to the ears (check out eye size on the homunculus).

    • Clear your eustachian tubes (pop your ears) - This equalizes pressure on your ear-drum, freeing it to vibrate freely and therefore increasing sensitivity. Also it provides an open, resonant cavity between ear and mouth, helping amplify vibrations (like a large guitar body, vs. a small ukelele). Learn to hold them open (a slight and particular tension in the jaws will do it, but you have to identify the muscle - like the onset of a yawn).

    • Open your mouth wide with tongue flat on the floor - The mouth, aided by teeth, makes a large acoustic chamber - almost a third ear - connected to the ear by the open eustachian tubes.

    • Be still - Still your mind and body. Don't strain to hear. Collect sensory data without spinning your wheels (but do wake up if urgent action is required!). Again, free up brain resources.

    There ya go. Try experimenting, leaving one or more steps out, to get a feel for how much they add to your perceptivity. Some (especially holding eustachian tubes open and being still) take practice. So practice.

    You'll be amazed at what you can hear this way, by sea or land. Try it when listening to music, or when out-of-doors. It adds a lot to bird-watching.

    As a last thought, protect your ears! They are expensive, valuable equipment and irreplaceable... think of their value in terms of supply and demand.

    The old fishermen joke, "Well... the motor's loud, but it gets a little quieter every year!"


    Monday, December 26, 2011

    Throw a Curve, or Knuckle Under?

    It's an odd thing about barge / scow jargon... if it's out there, it keeps itself well hidden. So I'm going to arbitrarily grab some terms to use. If you use them in public, some scholar is likely to take a swing at you, so be warned. For the purposes of this post...
    • Barge or Scow - Square sectioned vessels with a bow and stern transom. Since these examples are all called scows, I'll follow suit, today. But it's six-of-one, half dozen of t'other.
    • Dead-flat - A planar stretch of mid-bottom (no rocker, V or arc... flat like a table top).
    • Curved End - Bottom which connects dead-flat and transom with a curved 'plane'.
    • Raked End - Bottom which connects dead-flat and transom with a plane.
    • Knuckle - The angle between dead-flat and a curved OR raked end that does NOT fair smoothly into the dead-flat.
    Let's take a little stroll down Memory Lane. The following models represent four treatments of the flat bottomed scow:

    Great Lakes Scow MILTON  
    MILTON is a real 'knucklehead'. Raked ends, steep forward and easy aft. This was very common around the great lakes, and showed up elsewhere around this country and others (e.g., the German Rhine).

    Knuckles clearly disturb the clean flow of water. But in the heavy timber construction common to the day, the chines are quick and inexpensive to shape. MILTON's ends do have some curve, but slight enough to be easily fashioned from a grown tree. This will help reduce the angle, and therefore the resistance of the knuckle.

    A bigger mystery is the blunt bow angle and easy aft end, once common (we'll see it in ALMA, below), but which is contrary to most modern practice. I haven't found a good explanation. It's possible that it's a holdover from the out-of-favor cod's head and mackerel tail that was a leading paradigm for many centuries.

    Speed-wise, that's got to hurt... the steep bow throws water forward, wasting energy and slowing the boat. There may be other properties that paid for the loss of speed. The extra buoyancy to lift over short, steep or confused seas (endemic to the Great Lakes, and the North Sea)? Many Dutch coasters have extremely blunt bows, it's claimed, for this reason.

    Easy aft ends, though, release water smoothly, with little turbulence and drag. A good thing.



    St. Michael's Sailing Scow
    This one has raked ends, but now both are at a low angle. It should move much more easily through the water. But you can see that, it's traded off some volume by doing so.

    Power variations can be found around the country, with aft rake eliminated and the dead-flat extended to the transom. This allows it to get up on step.

    BTW, the line between scows of this type and garveys starts to get fuzzy. More thesis material, if you care about such things.





    San Francisco Scow Schooner ALMA



















    Another cargo schooner, ALMA, has lines similar to those of MILTON, but her ends are both curved AND faired into the dead-flat. Compared to MILTON, she should move quite well. But her steep bow angle limit her gains.

    ALMA may have had to occasionally face steep head seas at the mouth of SF Bay, where current meets the westerly, Pacific swell. As with MILTON, buoyant lift may have made up for speed lost to her abrupt bow. In both cases, distances to cover under sail were circumscribed... speed may not have been their top priority.

    ALMA's end curves are chine-logged with scarfed sections of heavy timber. Compared to Milton, this would have been slower and more labor intensive to build. SF had a lot of Chinese, working in virtual slavery.



    Confederate Attack Scow


    Despite the killer name, these were pretty common along the Gulf of Mexico coast, and were used more for smuggling than battle, though that did occur.



    These are TriloBoats' closest scow ancestor. Both ends curved AND faired AND relatively easy.

    The leeboards were quite common in these boats, too, especially in smaller boats where uninterrupted hold (or cabin) space is at a premium.



    TriloBoats T32x8
    So here's one of mine. Note the raked aft end. This is optional. Either end may be curved or raked.

    My preference is curved at both ends. In plank-framed plywood construction, I consider them easier to build curved than raked.

    Using tape'n'glue construction, raked ends may be a bit easier to build than curves, but not by much.

    Either way, performance gained from curved ends will quickly pay off the low extra, initial cost of curves, and keep paying for the life of the boat.

    If you do choose a raked end, better aft than forward. Turbulence created at the bow has the whole hull to work on, dragging and slowing the boat.

    My end angles are somewhere between those of cargo schooners and the smaller scows, favoring the latter (both somewhat easy, and a bit easier forward than aft). I'd like to relax them even more, but other trade-offs muscle in (e.g. arranging longitudinal, full-length bunks in the bow... too easy a bow clips a bunk's foot in smaller hulls).

    If you design your own, you'll find your own set of compromises. It boils down to trading off sleekness and speed vs. displacement / interior volume. The more you carve away, the faster you are, but the less you can carry, and with less elbow room.

    *****

    Two last thoughts:

    • The more heel - or the higher the expected seas - the higher the ends have to rise, especially at the bow. Low ends plow their transoms sooner. Pinching in the sides toward bow and stern transoms helps by shortening their radius from the center-line. On flat water, garveys - light scows with low ends and freeboard - are among the fastest monohulls under sail. But in a chop, forget it.
    • The easier the bow angle, the sooner it will pound, a consideration when motoring, or anchoring exposed. The boat is upright, then, and when bow and wave angle match up, it's like hands clapping.

    This post also appears on SHANTYBOATLIVING.com

      Saturday, December 24, 2011

      A Tale of Two Scows

      William Garden's Scow Schooner TILLICUM

      Once upon a time, we had two Mentors who, in many ways, were as different as different can be. Or they could have been brothers. Sometimes it's hard to tell.

      Dale was handy, but by no means a 'proper' builder, being more likely to reinvent his own wheel. Fiercely intelligent, one could mistake sharp wit for rough edge.  Dale walked the low-road, with a wary eye out for Big Brother. But get past the gruff, and you'd immediately strike gold. He was the first to take us under his wing, when we showed up on the waterfront, green as a pair of peas.

      Van Hope was getting on in years, but active; a master boatwright, known and respected in wide circles. He gave sage counsel in a quiet voice to any who could spare a little time. We met while stuck on the hard... he'd cycle by most days to 'see how things are going', and always leave us with a handful of practical options. Never a word of advice, bluntly peppered with 'yagottas' and 'yacants'. Just information presented in the most gentle and unassuming manner.

      Both men built a Garden Scow Schooner.

      Dale bartered work for an old barge and a barrel of spikes. Unbuilding the barge from the top down, he'd transfer the 4x4 timbers to the scow, upside down in the shrinking barge hull. When their respective drafts neared an inch above their water-lines, he flipped and launched the scow, and continued to build skyward. When we met, the hull and house were done and the decks framed. By winter, all was enclosed and he was living aboard OBLIO, cooking beans on the huge, farm-style woodstove.

      One day, I rowed by as he was sawing the sheer into the massive gunnels. No pencil line in sight, but his 'plans' - a photocopied page from a book of Garden designs - lay on the deck before him.

      "I cut to where it looks right," he said. And by golly, if it didn't look right!

      Dale finished up and rigged, the boat all black tar, with tired, motley sails recut for gaff. She was ever so salty and piratical. We spent many a fine evening aboard, basking in the warm cabin, lamp-lit with corners fading to dark, unpainted shadow.

      Van built his scow, PATRICIA, by the book. The Old School book, to be sure.. not exactly fancy, but everything just so. I'd be willing to bet no line was a 32nd out of place. The paint was ordinary, hardware store oil base, but cut to a fine line and the colors in subdued harmony. He'd hand forged fittings from black iron. "A coat of Penetrol once a year," he explained, "and they'll never rust." Ship shape and Bristol Fashion.

      Sadly, we weren't around while Van was building. Young bloods from the local boat scene pitched in for the experience... I hear they called it 'Scow School'. And Ivy League it was, I'll bet. Professor Hope leading by example and with understated humor.

      A chicken coop went on the foredeck, and chickens in the coop. Anke loves that part the best. Always a stalwart crew, chickens, and PATRICIA had deck a'plenty.

      *****

      Time rolls on. It wasn't long before both boats passed into other hands. Van died, a few years ago, in ripe and revered old age. Dale lives happily in an Undisclosed Location.

      When I went to sniff out the scows' web-presence, the only hits were ominous entries in an ominous document:

      VESSELS REMOVED BY AUTHORIZED PUBLIC ENTITIES

      2A JF08-002  PATRICIA. 40'. Port Townsend, Glenn Cove near Port Townsend Paper.
      2B KP04-009  OBLIO.      50'. Silverdale, (formerly at Eagle Harbor).

      Sometimes, when 'authorized public entities' remooooove a vessel, it goes up for auction. Like a puppy at the pound, there's some chance that a good owner will fall in love and take them home to a good life.

      But I fear the worst.

      *****

      There was a time, in a quiet harbor, the two scows met and rafted up together... we had a picture. Two salty sisters from different fathers - different as different can be - sitting quietly, side by side in the setting sun.

      All part of a Tale.




      PS. In one of my random wanderings through the image troves of the internet, I stumbled upon this picture of PATRICIA. If you look past the sea wrack, you can see the quality of work. The sheer love and skill that went into her.

      Resquiescat In Pace, PATRICIA.

      Friday, December 23, 2011

      A Solstice Reflection

      My stab at the impression of late dusk with snow on the water, and a night passage ahead.

      Sailor's Carol
      Words by Charles Causley
      Music & Arrangement by Gordon Bok

      Lord, the snowful sky / In this pale December
      Fingers my clear eye / Lest seeing I remember

      Not the naked baby / Weeping in the stable
      Nor the singing boys / All round my table.

      Not the dizzy star / Bursting on the pane
      Nor the leopard sun / Pawing the rain

      Only the deep garden / Where green lillies grow
      And the sailors rolling / In the sea's blue snow.

      Sailor's Carol

      Gordon Bok's Version of Sailor's Carol
      (Sorry, it's a pop-up with ads, and it'll roll into other songs if you don't close/stop it...
      I'm still learning how to drive this thing!)



      There are few things on this wide planet, fulsome with awe as winter dusk coming down hard under the weight of snow.

      It's a time to draw oneself together. Batten your hatches and stoke your fires against the coming night. The loon's cry never sounded so beautiful, as winging across darkling water. Never the light so gorgeous as when it fades away.

      I'm not worried. The mere fact of a night passage no longer taunts me with fears of the dark. Night sailing in inshore waters has its own tricks and techniques (I'll write about these, another time). Play it safe, work your vessel from point to point, keep your focus and you'll do fine.

      And yet. And yet. Winter nights are long. The eye strains after what it cannot see. The mind, working hard to cast meager perception as coherent picture, may lapse into a moment's misorientation, brief but shaking. When snow wraps you close about... when wind and water, compass and lead are the only clues, save only the sometime alarm of breakers. When Darkness and Death - those ancient companions - lean on your shoulder, whispering mutiny. It helps to have something to take the mind in hand; to lead it in docile circles when it wants to fret and shy.

      Sailor's Carol is one of my favorites. Couldn't quite say what it means. All my favorite poems seem a little inscrutable to me; brimfull of vivid imagery, bright as dream. But Gordon Bok's rendition is perfect for singing, over and over in that awe-full dark of snow and cold, on a night crowded with mortal reflection. I pass it on to you in hopes it pleases and comforts.

      Happy Solstice, and a fair Yuletide to you, and all who sail upon her!

       









      Thursday, December 22, 2011

      'Oo Are Your INFLUENCES?

      These are my People. My Roots. Square Boaters!                                (Sitka Sentinel 24 May - 2011, photo by James Paulson)

      'Oo are your INFLUENCES?
      From the movie The Commitments


      In the movie, The Commitments, a soul band is to be formed. Prospective applicants are met at the door with the single question, quoted above. One by one, they are asked the QUESTION, and we are treated to their answers; or lack thereof. What is it gets you through the door? The right influences, of course.

      DIY boatbuilding is kinda like that.

      There're a LOT of influences out there. I'll assume you have the good sense to avoid the bad ones (those who say you can't, shouldn't, won't). The good ones are left, and giants they are. But we're looking for those among the giants who can get us through the door.

      When I first became interested in sailing, I devoured everything Lynn and Larry Pardey had written about their adventures on SERAFFYN. She's a 24'7" Lyle Hess designed marvel, based on British Pilot Cutters, and which they built themselves.

      Philosophically, Lynn and Larry are still two of my major influences. But it took me years to shake the Lyle Hess/Pilot Cutter influence. Not that his designs don't jam Mustang Sally on my heartstrings. They do (oh, they do!). But Larry, in particular, brought advanced boatwright skills to the door... skills I did not and do not possess. I dreamed of that perfect boat, but it lay at the far end of arm's reach.

      Deep draft; complex, tight and reverse curves; well shaped sails... with these influences, given time, I might have eventually pushed my way in. But it would have taken years learning the skills, acquiring the means. If I had started younger, maybe. But, at 30, I was late to the gate... time to be sailing.

      Influenced by Anke (a woman of great good sense), we 'settled' for a meantime, sailing lifeboat conversion. We could afford it and afford to risk a few learner's bumps and scrapes. Best of all, we could sail it from day one. Her generous owner took us on trust while we paid her off (flippin' pizza, pullin' weeds).

      During these first years of baby-steps onto the water, encounters with the GLOUCESTER GULL introduced us to other designs of Phil Bolger. Hmm. Square Boats. Hmph. Compared to the Hess cutters of my dreams, they're homely suckers. But their relative simplicity is apparent at a glance. Shoal draft, most of 'em. Sail pretty well, too. Hmm.

      And once I started looking, I began to find them in all the right places... out there.

      Many Alaskan workboats are pretty square, too, influences at the back of my mind. Power scows, bow-pickers, landing craft, barges. They have their own kind of good looks, craggy and competent. Square boats fit right in, up here.

      A thoroughbred horse in parade dress is a beautiful creature; a workhorse in working harness is handsome in another way - and practical to boot. I began to shake the need for the gracious line, and acquire a taste for handsome is as handsome does.

      In fits and starts, my influences swung round to advocates of simple hulls with simple interiors, rigs and gear. I acquired a taste for boats within my reach. Boats whose paint we'd dare to scratch. Soon we were sailing on a boat built entirely by Anke and myself. After I let go my dream of perfection, that door finally stood fully open to us.

      After twenty and change years' sailing, I've got more choices. I've acquired skills along the way. Jack of all trades, master of none, to be sure, but mastery enough. Means is still an open question. I find myself deaming curves and building square.

      In The Commitments as in boat-building - there is another, essential ingredient that gets you through that door. Passion. Without it, the right influences are so much empty erudition. Armchair Sailors will never emerge from our Barcaloungers without the passion to put down the books, blogs and 'zines, pick up tools and take our best shot, whether the boat be Curvy or Square.

      Passion alone won't produce the perfect boat, but perfection has yet to launch a single one.

      What? You still here??

      Wednesday, December 21, 2011

      Fixed Space or Flexi Space?

      Lost in Flexi Space... our bed made up s'brd; guest bed made up port. Cozy.

      This shell which we built, or which grew around us, 
      has become as efficient as that of the river mussel, 
      and has almost as little waste space.
       
      From Shantyboat: A River Way of Life by Harlan Hubbard

      Broadly speaking, there are two ways to arrange a boat's interior.

      A)  Fixed Space -- Furniture and cabinetry are built in, each assigned a fixed role.
      B)  Flexi Space -- Interior is left open, and may be used in many different modes.

      Fixed Space, these days, is the most familiar to sea-going Occidentals. Dinettes, settees, bunks, galley and nav cabinetry, heads, lockers, etc.. They define the interior, and may provide important structural re-enforcement to the hull. At sea, a function of fixed furnishings is to provide hold-fasts, and reduce the distance one might be tossed about. Sea-going monohulls tend this-a-way, and for very good reasons. Sea-going multihulls (each hull being more narrow) might break either way.

      At their best, they harmonize with the humans they serve, both functionally and ergonomically (Ergonomics - The art and science of fitting artifacts to human beings).

      Not at their best, any failings are a constant annoyance and/or a major rebuild project. Especially in non-DIY boats, a fixed interior, designed for some hypothetically average client, often fails to fit the actual one.

      Flexi Space is nothing exotic. It's essentially a space devoid of fixed furniture. Any room in which you can rearrange the furniture is a flexi space (though in practice, most furniture may as well be fixed).

      A single flexi space might serve many purposes. A sitting room by day; a sleeping room by night. A galley, a workspace, a rumpus room. A pilot house? A cargo hold? Imagination and ingenuity are the only limits.

      Among most indigenous peoples and in the Orient, flexi space has been the choice. It's arrangements are graceful, ingenious and economical. It allows living large within a small space. It encourages communal living in the best sense of the word.

      Our boat, SLACKTIDE, lies somewhere in between.

      We have sitting headroom in the cabin, with the exception of near the companionway, where we have enough full standing headroom for two people.

      A fixed, strip galley runs thwartships at the forward end of the cabin (a galley box is more flexi). A drawer to port has a sliding cover (cutting board) that adds worksurface when drawn. Counter is at kneeling counter height, or we can sit on it, though we seldom do. Woodstove/heater to starboard.

      The middle area is a 10ft x 7ft platform, cushioned by carpet with foam under. A sleeping mattress is folded up to port, like a sofa without legs. We sit or lounge on it by day; pull it out and sleep on it by night. To starboard is a fold up work table, hinged against the wall. When not made up, we cushion and lean against it. Several plush pillows are covers, stuffed with spare bedding.

      The aft bulkhead presents a 'chest of drawers' in three tiers. Each has a lid. The lower tier is at seat height, when drawn; mid-drawers at sitting bench height; upper drawers at standing bench or shelf height.

      This arrangement has been very comfortable, for us, and in most of our boats, we have tended toward the flexi side of things. Our barge hull has high form stability (doesn't toss around), and the hull is small and narrow enough to provide hand-holds a'plenty. While it can get rough where we cruise, there're always harbors close at hand... we never have to ride out a storm at sea.

      We notice that some of our... *AHEM*... older friends have trouble being on the floor. They tend to gravitate to one of the pull out seats. I wonder if flexi-space will keep us flexible? A while back, I saw a picture of a nice, older Japanese couple, kneeling comfortably in traditional fashion and talking to a nice young man (also kneeling). Turned out to be Mr. and Mrs. Emperor of Japan, talking with one of the Fukushima workers!

      Harlan and Anna Hubbard also chose flexi space in their SHANTYBOAT.

      They had standing head-room throughout. A bit of fixed cabinetry, mostly high or in the corners, was custom made to house particular gear. Chests and chests-of-drawers doubled as seats, working counters and supports for a table. At night, a bed was rolled from under the foredeck. Generous storage for canned goods from their summer gardens was provided under the cabin sole.

      The Hubbards spent many years drifting the Ohio, Mississippi and into the Bayou country. Gifted in music and the arts, they entertained many from the 'upper crust', whom they delighted with their simple but ingenious home. In later years, their house at Payne Hollow was outfitted in similar fashion. Before and after their deaths, it became a beloved examplar of simple living on a small footprint.

      One last observation; tent structures aside, most of the small flexi spaces I've ever seen have large windows. Uninhibited by furniture, these open the interior into the wide world, giving light and an expansive feel to the most diminutive of homes.


      So fixed or flexi? Like so much in boating, it's a very personal decision. Both have their attractions. I guess I'd say that if you're torn, start with flexi... you can always fix it later.


       This post appears as a guest column at www.SHANTYBOATLIVING.com.

      Tuesday, December 20, 2011

      DreamBoating

      I wake up all sweaty! - Phil Bolger's ROMP
       
      Reading back over what I've written, lo these many years, one might come to the conclusion that I'm an iconoclast; one who would take an axe to any vixenish vessel who dared sport varnish, brass and trim.

      Oh, no... don't get me wrong! I love those curvaceous beauties, gleaming golden in every lissome line! The glint of brass and stalwart patina of bronze. Makes my heart go pit-a-pat!

      If I had a magic wand, I'd conjure myself a Bolger ROMP. Well, perhaps a skosh longer and perhaps a sampan bow. But sweet and curvy would suit me just fine. She'd be cold-molded and dynel sheathed. Copper plated, from the boot-stripe down in strips hand-spiled and hammer fit by masters. She'd be tricked out with bronze hardware and copper running lights. Teak decks and resin plus gel-coat in lieu of paint. For easy maintenance, you know. A custom, welded stove would warm her, reminiscent of the old Shipmates, right down to the embossed anchors on the face. Well fit cushions, aloft and alow, each suited to its station. Soft, full spectrum LEDs would lighten our darkness.

      Sigh.

      Of course, there'd still be junk rig and no engine. But that's just me.

      Fact is, I don't have a magic wand. To build a boat like that is quite possible. But given our situation, the amount of sailing time we would have to give over to the project has been more than we choose to pay.

      I think of our box barges as the Least Common Denominator in boats. They are, quite literally, the least possible effort you can expend and still have a capable cruiser. KISS, even by barge standards. By almost any performance criterion, it's uphill from there. They are the lowest of the low. The bottom of the barrel.

      But that's kind of empowering, don't you think? Look at how well they do... look at all the fun you can have on one! Their virtue is that their bang-for-the-buck ratio is through the roof. If any dreamboat is in reach, it's this kind, and it just gets better. And they do have sort of work-a-day good looks to them... don't they? Anyone?

      Folks interested in these mostly don't already have a boat of their own, much less a yacht. They may not have boatwright skills or their financial ducks in a row or a decent place to build. They may never have built, may never have found what they're looking for at a price they could reasonably pay, may never have imagined that they could one day launch a vessel built with their very own hands.

      I consider it a matter of CAN, not SHOULD (never been real big on 'should'). If we can do it, pretty near anyone can. We've managed by choosing simple designs and inexpensive methods and materials. We've invested time that might have gone into earning the DO RE MI into happier hours of scrounging and improvisation. We've chosen the shortest path to the water (with general success). And that's where we prefer to be.

      My advice - my example, at this stage of my life -  is that you don't have to wait for your dream boat to start living your dream. If you haven't got the means, see if lowering your standards can get you going. If you do have the means, go in whatever style you please.

      If you've got the wherewithal, other priorities, other ways of getting on the water, follow your heart! You've got my whole-hearted blessing, interest and full admiration. As if you needed it.

      Heck, I'm even on speaking terms with a few friends who have nothing whatsoever to do with boats!

      Monday, December 19, 2011

      Be Here Now


      Drifting itself is an art, one to which an apprenticeship must be served.
      From Shantyboat by Harlan Hubbard

      A clock hangs on a friend's wall, a smiling Buddha at center face. The hours of the day ring him round; Now. Now. Now. Now....

      Sailboats often set a course, and within certain constraints, her crew will do what they can to maintain it. These sailors are going somewhere, usually, working their way from point to point and port to port, as often as not, against conditions. Uphill. Goal-oriented. We don't call it 'working' for nothing. Tight and focused.

      But for those of us without a destination, there's another mode: sails full and by the wind's whim.

      Don't you just love it? Sails full. Wind's whim. Full and by. Just rolling the words over the tongue eases one's sheets. We fall off the wind, into harmony with the moment. Headin' downstream toward points and  ports of opportunity. Dreamy and driftin'.

      Both modes have their place. Sometimes ya just gotta get somewhere, wind and tide notwithstanding. Others, it hardly matters which of the treasures you pluck from the world's store.

      Funny thing is that both invite a sense of Be Here Now, of being in the moment. Wind and water, vessel and sailor are creatures of the moment. Wind breathes and water leaps. Our sails swell and rigging sings, our hull drumming to the sea's own beat. Mind and muscle follow the music, dance in step with every lift and lilt. Joined as one in the dynamic Now.

      But how different the flavor!

      Be Here Now, working a course is poised, aggressive, challenging and invested with oh yes and oh no! The course is set, not by the wind's whim, but our own will, and is prone  to disappointment. The wind is fair? O joy! The wind is foul? Sigh. The wind fails? Grind your way by might and main over whatever tide is our lot.

      Be Here Now, full and by is relaxed and easy. Oh yes! There is no wind that is not fair, and even no-wind is a drift on the tide. And at the end of the day, a harbor of unlooked-for beauty.

      So we sail full and by so often as we may, by inclination and choice. The bells of our ship's clock chime the hours; Now. Now. Now. Now...

      Sunday, December 18, 2011

      TEOTWAWKI: The End Of The World As We Know It

       
      James gave the huffle of a snail in danger,
      And nobody heard him, at all.

      From The Four Friends by A.A. Milne
      Wine 101:

      Fruit, sugar, water and yeast go into a large bottle. The yeast multiplies, consuming the sugars and converting them to CO2 and ethyl alcohol (waste products, from yeast's point of view). CO2 is vented via a one-way vapor lock to warm the planet. Alcohol is retained, and accumulates until the yeast languishes. We decant and imbibe, hopefully short of  languishing ourselves.

      Making wine is kind of like having a lava lamp; it's hypnotic!

      The bottle is warming by the fire. Tiny bubbles stream steadily up along the insides. Fruit rises and falls in limpid arcs. The vapor lock - essentially a puddle of water through which CO2 bubbles - emits the occasional, agreeable bloop.

      Under the influence of this batch's predecessor, my thoughts drift...


      I am a yeast bud, floating in a sea of love. 

      I open myself to recieve the Manna with which bountiful heaven has blessed me in abundance. I feast, I grow, I am fruitful. I multiply. Ah, Manifest Destiny... I and my fellow buds prosper. Our numbers grow exponentially; doubling, and doubling again. And again. And again. Surely we are the spitting image of our Maker!

       But there are a few Malcontents, among us. "Can't you see where this is going?", they shrill, "TEOTWAWKI is coming at a run!" 

      PISH! Yeast have been crying Gloom and Doom since the first batch of wine. Oh sure, batches have risen and fallen in the past, but we've LEARNED from their mistakes! This is the MODERN WORLD! That was then, this is NOW! Growth is not just common sense, it's the LAW!

      I look around at all we've accomplished. In the ferment of THOUSANDS OF GENERATIONS, we've colonized our world from wall to wall. True, our frontiers have vanished, and serious challenges face us. But, even after all this time, there's still TWICE as much fruit and sugar as we require. Our wastes are at only HALF the critical levels, and our scientists are working on the problem.

      World enough, and time.

      And then, our population doubles once more...

      "2X2L calling CQ... 2X2L calling CQ... 2X2L calling CQ... New York. Isn't there anyone on the air? Isn't there anyone on the air? Isn't there anyone..."  (Apologies to Howard Koch, War of the Worlds) 

      The more alcohol tolerant survived... For a while... Subsisting on nutrients released by fallen millions. Sugar is scarce. The air... *COUGH*  ...is terrible!  Our exponential growth has become exponential decline. It's TEOTWAWKI... the long slide into the dark night of vinegar. I may be the last bud left...


      I jolt from my reverie.

      HEY! It's quit bubbling! Time to rack this one and start a new batch!"



      *****************

      The 1972 book, Limits to Growth, laid out the problems of exponential growth within a globally closed system. Four decades later, we are very much on track for the boom / bust cycle common to all life forms undergoing exponential population growth. That's the trouble, with Tribbles.

      Dmitry Orlov is an eloquent Kollapsnik turned sailor, whose essay, The New Age of Sail, is as entertaining as it is sobering. He is, in his way, a fellow optimist. Doom, yes. But not Gloom. He has a number of constructive suggestions for how we might prepare ourselves. Not least among them is to acquire a simple sailboat and move aboard.

      Derrick Jensen is a little darker and not yet a sailor (nobody's perfect). His Endgame books contain a provocative analysis and call-to-action. His is a rough ride that shakes loose whatever you haven't got bolted down.

      TEOTWAWKI recieves a deal of ridicule. But think about it. At some point in our lives, we will each of us undergo at least one round. Things change. In the very best of times, we age and eventually perish. History is stuffed with Worlds As We Knew It (WAWKIs), almost all of which ended. We Moderns underwent two World Wars, ending the WAWKI of millions, altering it for the rest. In the third world, TEOTWAWKI is a way of life.

      Some of you are onboard and aware. For the rest, I won't try to convince you. But I recommend you suspend your disbelief and check around. It's hard to argue with yeast.

      Huffle! HUFFLE, HUFFLE, HUFFLE!

      Saturday, December 17, 2011

      The Upside of Engines

      Leftover slop, no wind
       
      Oh I don't mind coming and I don't mind going,
      But I'm some damn tired of rowing!

      From Gordon Bok's Old Fat Boat


      In my previous post, Why Sail Without an Engine?, while hamming up our answer, I came down a little heavy against. But I'm not. Today's post follows up in a tone a bit less flip.

      We choose against having an engine, presently, on the basis of economics (poor payoff for us, in terms of time and energy, measured only partially in terms of money). And okay... we're tree huggin' types.

      But we sailed our first years with an outboard, and would do it again.

      Our access to sailing instruction was poor. We sort of felt our way onto the water, learning to translate what we'd learned from books. It went reasonably well, but having another, redundant system to move the boat was a back-up to our nascent seamanship.

      We told ourselves, if we could sail for a year without the use of our motor, we'd be ready to sell it. We'd fire it up and run it under load once a month, to keep it from going stale. We had our scrapes and scares, but even on a lifeboat-to-gaff conversion, tired and cranky, nothing exceeded our growing abilities. We worked our way up to gales; rowed through the calms. Learned all the faster for never motoring. Threw a party when we sold the engine. We may throw one again, later in life, if we ever feel we want to pick up another.

      So, in the larger picture, you could say that we do sail with an engine.

      Motors make all the difference to some beginners, commuters, workboats, those on tight schedules, and to all who feel that an engine pays, with its necessities and chores. Engines are a resource, to be evaluated as one would electronic charts; in terms of cost-benefit, redundancy, and their inherent qualities and limitations.

      Motors have a learning curve of their own, which must be observed. They are NOT a substitute for seamanship. They DO put an amazing amount of energy into your hands.

      Sailors on a given vessel have a number of resources at their disposal. It is seamanship that deploys those resources in concert to keep the vessel and her crew safe. It's true that winter's grim PAN PANs and MADAYs mostly stem, in our area, from engine failure. It's true that engines inspire sometimes unwarranted confidence. It's not true that seamanship guarantees safety...

      ..with or without internal combustion.

      Why Sail Without an Engine?



      Nobody ever believes us when we answer, "Because we're lazy." But it's the Truth.

      On a calm day, you might see us sculling (or lately, pedaling) seemingly in place, lingering on the horizon for subjective hours. When we finally reach hailing distance, often as not we're stripped down to our skivvies, breathing deep and beaded with sweat.
      How can that be lazy, compared to flicking the starter button and gliding along effortlessly?

      What lies hidden behind this vision of convenience is Hustle and Bustle. Every engine must be specified, shopped for, transported, mounted, maintained, fed, overhauled, worked around and just plain endured!

      "Mounted," did I say? That makes it sound so easy! Mountings must be installed, linkages, batteries, feul tanks, lines and bulbs, filters, spark arresters, bilge blowers and sniffers, fire extinguishers. A set of mechanical tools and spare parts must be shipped. Band-aids for skinned knuckles. Special soap for grease and grime.

      At the end of its life, frustration, missed opportunities, stress, dismount, transport and dump fees are all added to the bill. Start over. Chances are, the old engine had some failure that the manufacturer has fixed in a new generation (requiring new mountings and spares). Or you would prefer a less frustrating make, but choose the devil-you-know, since mountings are all such a pain and expense to tear out and convert.

      And all this has to be payed for in cold, hard cash. 

      Ernest friends urge us to go mechanized... modern engines are so reliable! They're quiet and sip fuel, making them cost effective! Diesels run forever! If you prefer, outboards are the soul of convenience!! They'll get you out of jams!!!

      Mm-hmm. We've been around a long time. We come sailing in to a town at any random old time, and there will be a minimum of four or five of those same friends, hunkered miserably over the engines of their dead-in-the-water vessels, red in the face and short of temper. Bills mounting and summer fleeting.

      A minimal, hand-crank, hand-steer, 5hp, four-stroke, marine (salt-water) outboard costs $1K to $1.5K. Located out there, somewhere; still have shipping and handling. Let's say the higher figure and call it even. Add in all the little bits and pieces... skritch, skritch... oops... gotta register the boat if we want a motor... um... carry the three... I throw in my considerable shopping / organizational time at no charge. Okay. Comes in very conservatively at $2K. Well... that's only 20% the cost of our boat, all-found. Only.

      So we  fudge some kind of mount, get all the pieces stowed away, elbow deck gear aside for a jerry can or two of fuel. Crank her up and off we go.

      Hmm... not as quiet as advertised. Cough, cough (debit future medical budget). But we're moving! We head out into the Backwaters for as long as we wish.

      But wait... it's a calm week. After several hours of motoring, the engine splutters and dies. WHAT? Our new motor?? Oh. Out of gas. That's ok. We've got one more jerry can. But now we're worried... this is our first day out. Will we be out a month? Six months? We never knew; but we do now!

      Friends, with the amount of fuel we can carry, that motor shortly becomes useless ballast; an anchor. We're like the harpooned plane in WaterWorld, tethered on a short leash as we orbit some gas pump. Our vaunted 'unlimited range' as a sailboat has devolved into an MPG equation whose solution is a small, irrational number. It's made week-enders of us!

      Hope we kept the receipts!

       And it gets worse, of course. We meet cruisers whose trip is on hold until some part arrives from a factory in north Sweden, many afraid to leave harbor for even a daysail with a dead engine. We listen through winters to PAN PANs for, and MAYDAYs from motorized mariners, most experiencing some consequence of motor failure. Without engines, most of them would sensibly ride out storms in harbor. Or turn and run under sail to shelter. Or scull in when the engine's down and storm merely threatens. And not steam blithely into the jaws of Scylla and Charybdis, counting on horsepower to see them safely through.

      No, we listen to the exertions and lamentations of our mechanical friends. We commiserate and lend a hand where we're able.

      And thank our lazy stars.

      Friday, December 16, 2011

      Yes, but is it ART??? Toward a Square Boat Aesthetic

      An Objet d'Art by Shigeo Fukuda

      It's hard to see in this photo, but that there's a chaotic jumble of forks, welded together.

      "My Lord," I can hear the conservative among you cry, "THIS is what the National Endowment for the Arts is wastin' our hard-earned, tax-payer dollars on... an UGLY mess of flatware???"

      De gustibus non disputandam, it is often said... There is no disputing matters of taste. Often said, but seldom does the observation rule the debate.

      An Illustrative History:

       A friend and his daughter (then eight years old) built themselves a BRICK (designed by Phil Bolger, it is essentially a rectangular box with a rockered bottom, and a mast stepped on one gunnel). They brought it to a messabout which I attended, and sailed gleeful circles around a fleet of quite ordinarily respectable boats.

      Not long after, they moved out to Mystic Seaport, where HMS ROSE (the tall ship, starring in the movie, Master and Commander) was lying.

      They sailed up to her, one fine day, and struck up a conversation with a young man at the rail, who turned out to be ROSE's Engineer. He looked down from his rail, down his nose and upon the BRICK, and allowed as how that Bolger Guy was about the worst thing to happen to boats.

      Taken aback, my friend rallied and leapt to Bolger's defense.

      Function sparred with Form. Bladed wit flashed between the two men. They grappled, exchanged broadsides. Thrust! Parry! Riposte! Each was pinked and bloodied, but neither gave an inch.

      Finally, near exhaustion, my friend landed the fatal thrust!

      "You do know...," he gasped, "You do know that ROSE was designed by Phil Bolger?" (True fact)

      "What? WHAT??? NOOOOOOOOoooooooo!!!!!!"

      The moral of this story is... um... Don't judge a boat by it's cover? Don't square off with a Square Boater?? To each their own? The ROSE is a Rose is a rose is a...

      Square Boats are fast, cheap and easy to build. They perform reasonably to quite well. They can keep the sea. Most importantly, they get some of us - who wouldn't otherwise get ourselves onto the water - down to the sea in a ship.

      Viewed from just the right angle, a Square Boat is a Thing of Beauty.


      The shadow cast by SF's sculpture, Ship, is a SQUARE rigger! NOOOOOOoooooooo!!!!!!

      Wednesday, December 14, 2011

      Slogging to Windward


      Hell, yer all slow!
      - Cap'n Combustion

      When I think back over the years, our average speed under sail has got to be well under one knot. This is the result of a number of choices. I'm going to explain them, not defend or push them on you. After all, in this day and age, why choose slow?

      Here are factors which contribute to slow boatin':
      • Our cruising grounds are prone to calms --

        The entire Inside Passage, broadly speaking from Olympia, WA to Skagway, AK is a place of highly variable weather. Dead calms can be found at any time of year, frequently enlivened by breeze and wind, punctuated by gale and storm (occasional in summer, frequent elsewhen). Sailors in our grounds are going to drop their averages right down.

        Pay-off is increasing wildness, the further north one sails, and fewer people.
      • Our hulls are small --

        A displacement hull's top speed is a function of its length of sailing waterline. All things being equal, the bigger the boat, the faster it goes. But we choose small.

        Payoff is a hull cheaper and easier to build, maintain and keep house. The scale of physics to human muscle favors the human. Likewise, gear requirements are less, especially if you can handle the anchor and rode without a winch. Small is simple. Temptation to fill it with gizmos and gew-gaws is self-limiting.

      • Our holds are full --

        We don't have any storage, shoreside; it's all aboard. Plus, we carry a lot on-board insurance in the form of anchor gear, heavy movers (jacks, come-alongs, BB winch), tools, spares and a lot of food and clothing ahead. All this adds up, and, on a small boat (even a barge), it slows ya down.

        Payoff is same as any insurance. When you need it you really need it! We don't pay rent ashore, nor have to make a voyage to get our hands on our stuff.

      • Our (barge) hull is boxy --

        Curvy hulls are slipperier, no doubt about it. Water slides easier past the hull, with less friction on given overall dimensions. While box barges are surprisingly fast and able, when laden and rigged for cruising, they are unlikely to be front runners.

        Payoff is maximum carrying capacity, interior volume and form stabilty (heels less) on a given footprint. Curvy hulls have to be larger to achieve the same qualities. Also, boxy hulls are astonishingly fast and cheap to build, without requiring much in the way of tools and shelter. Use of foam-board insulation is simplified. If you're already living on the fringe, box barges are in easier reach.

      • Our rig is Junk --

        That's a joke, Son. Sort of. Junk Rig has a bad reputation to windward. While that's not entirely deserved, there's a grain of truth. And we dumb ours down to maximize simplicity and lower costs.

        Payoffs are listed in my previous post, Why I Love Junk Rig.

      • We tow a 16ft dory (it's on the banner photo) --

        Dragging a tender is an effective way to slow a boat down, on any point of sail. Maybe a full knot, which is a big chunk of a small boat's allotment. Just hold the painter in hand while charging along, and you'll see why.

        Payoff is that we (who anchor up most nights) don't have to endlessly launch and retrieve a necessarily smaller tender. The long length is a better match to our LWL. It can cover some serious ground, hauling a load while it's at it. This lets us explore an area or make longer runs, on occasion. If guests show up, it can handle the extra. Should we somehow lose the boat, we've got a serious backup.

      • We're a pair of dreamers --

        Serious sailors stay focused at the helm. Noone steers a perfect course, but most probably do better than we. We often wake from a reverie to find ourselves a smidge high or low on the wind. Maybe a whole smoose. Tsk, tsk.

        Payoff is that it's awesomely beautiful all round about; beauty that's easy to miss if the focus is speed made good.

      Every vessel is the result of a whole string of trade-offs and compromises, made to suit the life and style of her owners. Speed under sail is a strong pull toward one set of trade-offs. Shoe-string sea-steading is another. Some (maybe most) find a middle path somewhere between extremes. What we find to be a pile of payoff may not impress the next sailor.

      To windward, we have to substitute craft and patience for mere velocity, given our choices. We maintain our sea-room, a harbor near at hand and a sharp eye to weather.

      But all winds are fair, depending on where you choose to go. Our other choices help give us the economic leisure to sail by the wind's whim. Anchor up and away! Spread sails wide to run wing and wong, or broad reach 'n jibe.

      Catch us if you can!

        Tuesday, December 13, 2011

        Why I Love Junk Rig

        What, Me Worry?

        Look at this guy! Hull looks fairly tender, weather looks woofy. The sail (absent a yard parrel) has fouled a stay. And there he stands, at ease and in control.

        What better advertisement for Junk Rig (JR) could you ask?

        JR looks complicated due to a lot of lines running every which way. But stress is dissipated wonderfully across the entire rig; JR sails were once made of woven grass mats! Masts are commonly free-standing and made of mere wood! In a day of high modulus ploycarbon sail cloth and rod stayed, aluminum alloy masts, this is barely conceivable. Yet the rig has been keeping the sea for thousands of years!

        Quick Run-Through:

        JR is a fully battened, standing lug (the sail is set on one side of the mast only) rig. A haulyard raises and lowers the lug*** and attached sail. Sheets haul and ease sail, but attach along the leech at the battens (rather than just the boom). This allows control of the shape of the leech, and avoids clew downhauls. Lazy jacks (a.k.a. topping lifts) control the fall of the sail, bundling battens and bunts as the sail is lowered. Downhauls get the sails down in all conditions.

        ***The JR lug is often called a yard, but suit yourself. Haullug just doesn't have the same ring, though.

        So far, nothing too strange. But then parrels (lines which pass around the mast) keep the sail from blowing away from the mast on the lee side, and control the balance (center of effort) and set of the sail. Parrels are often running lines, giving great control over the sail.

        Sails are usually flat cut. In the East, they're most often made of rope-edged cotton, which stretches (cambering the sails) and curls the leech back (so called gurney flaps).

        Now, despite anecdotal evidence from the East where working Junks with tired sails have been observed to smoke Western racer cruisers, JR has a bad rep. Here are a few reasons why...

        Col. Blondie Hassler did much to popularize JR in the West. His book Practical Junk Rig is masterful, and is still considered by many to be the 'bible' of JR. He proposed a standard sailform based on parallel battens, topped by a triangular fan. This handles reliably, without requiring hands-on intervention; perfect for short-handed cruising. But in China, parallel types are primarily used on riverine Junks, running upriver against current, and supplementing current on the way down. Ocean going Junks tend to sport fanned sailforms; better performance but more work. Most JRs you will see in the West are based on the less efficient riverine sailform.

        We, in Western adaptations, are just recently starting to learn to shape the panels between battens and simulate gurney flaps in our low-stretch materials. Not surprisingly, we're picking up speed and windward ability.

        Where else might aerodynamic lift come from? Vincent Reddish pointed out that horizontal airflow over canted battens (especially fanned, ocean-going sailforms), allowed to twist in the manner of JRs, describes an airfoil. Westerners, accustomed to shaped sails, try to minimize twist. With full leech control, it can be almost eliminated, all the time - so we do (see Hassler's geometries). Flat-cut sails, sheeted flat are planks. Oooh. JRs can't get to windward! But let 'em twist and you've got variable draft control; deep camber for light winds, flatter for high winds. As we learn to sail them, we're again picking up speed and windward ability.

        So what do we do? Anke and I dumb ours down, of course.

        Parallel battens for easy handling. Sheet and haulyard are the only running lines, all others are standing. Multiple sails allow us to adjust sail balance without extra control lines. Continuous running sheets (5 and 6 part) are simple haul / ease, and mechanically advantageous to handle (no expensive winches), but lose fine control of leech shape. Substantial battens drop the sails without downhauls (do have to round up, a bit, to drop sail in high gale conditions, with sail between wind and mast). We thus keep line handling to a bare minimum. Parallelogram sails behave very well (sheets clear with no fouling), but are not efficient by Reddish hypothesis. Sails are low-stretch and flat cut (what did I just say about that???), but only 'cuz we were in a hurry to go sailing.

        A word on our unusual upper panel shape... it's essentially a Polynesian Crab Claw. When deep reefed, it retains great shape and drive. The deep hollow leech brings the CE inboard for reduced weather helm (I think it could be considerably deeper... I'll talk about that another time). It was an experiment that worked out.

        Summary of JR advantages:

        • Inexpensive to build and maintain (simple components, DIY sails).
        • Robust (distributed stresses reduce likelihood of gear failure).
        • Light booms reduce danger of concussion. 
        • Sails entirely handled from the cockpit via sheet and haulyard.
        • Quick reefing (Let go haulyard! BAM, BAM, BAM! Make fast! Trim Sheets! Done in 5 to 10 seconds!)
        • No tack or clew downhauls; no reef nettles (no lurching about, wrestling bunts, tying nettles overhead).
        • Jibes all standing with no problem.
        • Sail flogs very little (tamed by battens in all weather... easier on sail and nerves).
        • Can reef upward (raising booms for deck loads, tarps, etc.).
        • Lightly stayed, if at all (cheap, low windage, little to no 'shrieking rigging').
        • May spread more area (easy to handle, so 10+% more; quad sails spread wide and low).
        • Few to no sail changes (all area in working set).
        • Can climb battens like ratlines.
        • Can set masts free-standing, in tabernacles (for easy dropping / maintenance).

        Y'know... I'm not a fanatic. Other rigs have advantages and allure. But as a cruising rig for wild waters and a shoestring boat - the only kind I'll likely ever own - junk rig keeps wooing me back.


        Whuddaya know? It DOES get to windward!  -- Photo Courtesy Tom Krantz