Please visit our home site at

Anke and I are off to build our next boat (the lead up at Connectivity will be limited to none, so you may not hear from us until we reemerge, some time in 2016. Until then, please feel free to browse the archives and leave comments where you will.

Fair winds!

Dave and Anke

Monday, March 23, 2015

Form Follows Function: Comparing Bottom Profiles

Comparing two possible Triloboat hulls on the same footprint, plan and layout
Both deadflats end on bulkheads

I'm not bad, I'm just drawn that way.
- Jessica Rabbit

Form Follows Function: Comparing Bottom Profiles

Anke and I are building our new boat to the lines of the upper model shown.

It's the shape I typically draw for Triloboats - 1/4 aft + 1/2 deadflat + 1/4 bow - each given as a fraction of Length Over All (LOA).

This distribution maximizes interior volume and overall displacement, as well as rectangular storage areas. The long deadflat produces fully right angle carpentry throughout most or all of the interior, simplifying carpentry. It carries extra initial and reserve buoyancy at the ends, which dampens pitching, and makes the ends less sensitive to weight loading.

Of especial note, in this layout, the weight of the trunk cabin and contents of the large, under-the-cockpit hold (some may even have an engine in there) has more floatation in its vicinity. This allows heavier stuff to be stowed where the stowin' is good.

But it's not the slipperiest shape availbable to a box barge/scow.

The lower model shows a roll-up bow. This won't plow water when plunged into it, so doesn't slow the boat as much as the transom. If driving forward through water, the angle drawn (one among many) will develop kinetic lift. Cost is less reserve buoyancy (which helps lift the bow in short, steep seas, regardless of forward motion), and cuts some useful volume away (from, say, an anchor well).

The lower hull has had some of its underbody pared away, resulting in a hull that is easier to drive through water. Of the two, this should be the faster hull.

Its deadflat has been reduced to about 1/3 LOA (adjusted to land on bulkheads; not shown). This affects both bottom end curves, lengthening and 'easing' them. They are somewhat easier to construct, possibly avoiding the need to kerf. More importantly, they offer less resistance to the water, as it flows along the hull.

Lost volume is likely negligible, but lost displacement may cost you your collection of vintage bowling balls.

These changes drop roughly 2000lbs of displacement. Assuming all else is equal in terms of rig, gear, crew and outfit, that's 2Klbs of payload that comes out of your elective stores.

Depending on how you cruise, this might be a good trade; stuff for speed. After all, the barge/scow hullform - compared to many others - has carrying capacity to burn. It may well be that you can spare it.

Anke and I sail with a lot of food, tools, spares and books that see us through long spells between resupply. But most folks don't ask that of their boats. Instead of years, they're out for months, weeks, days or even hours. That 2Klbs is superfluous to the way their needs.

Of course, one could go to fully rockered bottom (no deadflat), and ease on down their road.

Both of these models are fairly well balanced, meaning that they should float fairly level, all things being equal. But other arrangements may not. For example, we use the upper forward and lower after end. The bow would then be buoyant, relative to the stern.

Not a problem, up to a point. In lading the vessel, we'd want to pay attention to weight distribution for trim. Heavy stuff amidships, and tending further forward than aft. Low and secured, as always, of course.

Point is, our needs lie along a spectrum. What shape we choose for our hull reflects how we see ourselves faring. And to shift the simple options of the box barge/scow isn't rocket science, but simply redrawing curves. Look at it from every angle you can think of... but you were going to do that anyway!

So, if you purchase one of our StudyPLANs - typically drawn with the higher capacity lines - please consider it but a starting point.

Remember the words of the late, great Dynamite Payson...

"If it looks like a boat, it'll pretty much act like a boat."

...and take up your pencil and play!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Roll Yer Own: Roll-Up Bows for Boxy Boats

Traditional Junk and the Latest Thing
(SKROWL 900 by Yann Quenet)

I like the way you roll!

Roll Yer Own: Roll-Up Bows for Boxy Boats

Box barges (scows) very often have a rectangular bow transom. They're easy to build, and help provide a little extra room and buoyancy at the extreme forward end. Mostly, they ride clear of the water.


'Course, when they don't, they're a little like a bulldozer blade. Even if we don't feel the resistance when it hits green water (and can't say I ever have), we know it's there.

By rolling the bottom up to meet the foredeck (or top of gunnel), we can eliminate the bow transom, and smooth interactions with the water.

Triloboats can be built with all flat bottom planes, their end rise joining the deadflat at a 'knuckle'. Or they can be curved. Generally, a long deadflat shortens the end-curves, making them more abrupt than a fully rockered bottom. Thicker sheets of plywood (more efficient for building up the bottom quickly) may not be able to follow the bend unaided.

One solution is kerfing; transverse cuts through several laminates of each layer, leaving a few intact. Kerfs in each are offset from others to avoid their lining up. Once the layers are laminated together, a smooth, strong, curved structure results. See more details here and here.

Once you've given up simple bending, and started kerfing, there's no construction reason not to continue with a roll-up bow. The curve is a little more extreme, so your kerfs must be closer together and possibly deeper. But that's it!

In other words, a roll-up bow costs very little extra effort, if any, over a transom bow.

A few possibilities for roll-up bow profiles...
Note that curves drawn outside the original lines
ADD volume, those inside REDUCE volume.

Design-wise, there are any number of ways to arrange a roll-up bow.

Some considerations:
  • Weight distribution within the hull - Does forward weight encourage forward buoyancy?
  • Storage - Do you wish to prioritize forward volume vs other considerations?
  • Typical sailing - Do everyday considerations outweigh rarer ones?
  • Extreme conditions - Do you wish to prioritize for rare occasions vs other considerations?
  • Speed - Do you want to minimize resistance (easier entries) vs other considerations?
  • Lift - Buoyant (more volume) or kinetic (angled entry)?
  • Pounding - My theory is that pounding occurs when bow angle matches wave angle... the higher the angle, the less often it will pound, all else being equal.

Virtually any boxy, flat bottomed boat can be redesigned for a full or partially roll-up bow. Most of these considerations can be juggled to produce a bow that fits your situation.

Wanna roll one up?

PS. Anke and I chose to stay with a bow transom on our new boat... it has a short foredeck, and we wanted to maximize the anchor locker volume for a given curve, and maximize our corner post bury. But we waffled... could'a gone either way.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Square Boats, Asian Style

Painting by Valentin A. Sokoloff
This one bears a strong resemblance to Phil Bolger's Advanced Sharpies!

Square Boats, Asian Style

Here's some eye candy that demonstrates that there's very little new, under the sun. Enjoy!

Cho-sun Sailing Barge (Scow)
Note the catwalk along the outboard sheer... 
This approach can extend side decks along trunk cabins.
Also, the bottom is rolled up to meet the sheer, replacing the Bow Transom.
This can be applied to any Triloboat, as well.


Fishing Barge (Scow)
Another variation... we're seeing approximately the same shape,
but with varying Beam:Length ratios,
and relative transom widths.
Not sure what provides the Lateral Resistance for this one.


Fishing Barge (Scow)?
I'm not positive, but this one may be a (side) dragger...
If so, the foresails will be sheeted flat against a beam wind,
while fishing gear set over the windward side drags the bottom.
Note the Bow Transom, raked well forward.
Note that aft, overhanging platform.


Cormorant Fisher
That is to say, they use the cormorants to catch fish.
Their necks are ringed so they can't swallow...
Once they've returned to the boat, they get a 'crew share' of the fish.


ASYLUM by George Davis
Not Chinese, but Sampan hull with Asian flair.


Sampan Run-About
Now, doesn't this put a Tupperware Tub to shame?
Looks like another bottom, rolled to meet the sheer.
Think that guy lost his paddle?


Chinese Junk by Lydia Marano

Well, not exactly square
But who's gonna quibble?

(Astute reader, Robert Goad, identified Ms. Marano's subject as one of Tom Colvin's flat-bottomed junk designs:

From the board of Tom Colvin

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Seaworthy? It's Complicated...

It is admitted that he did sincerely believe in the soundness of his ship; 
but the sincerity of his conviction can in nowise help him, 
because he had no right to believe on such evidence as was before him. 
He had acquired his belief not by honestly earning it in patient investigation, 
but by stifling his doubts...

-- From The Ethics of Belief
  by William K. Clifford

Seaworthy? It's Complicated...

Is it seaworthy?

This question rolls about the bilges of every discussion of every design. Armchair sailors, and not a few who should know better - weigh in with passionate conviction, armed to the ivories with 'facts'.

This boat is seaworthy. That boat is not. Pfah, says I.

Whether a boat is seaworthy or not is a question that can only be answered in context. No answer is possible, beyond that context. Yup... I'm out on a limb here, making an absolute statement, for once.

No answer is possible, beyond context.

What is its intended use (row or houseboat, cruiser or racer, cargo or lighter)? Where is its intended use (rivers, lakes, tropical islands, rocky, deepwater coasts, open ocean, the arctic, etc.)? Who are its crew (their capabilities, character, experience, number, condition)? How is it constructed, outfitted, maintained?

The cumulative answer to these and a thousand other questions may get you close to an answer.

As a rough, callous rule-of-thumb, I'd say that, if you have to ask, your vessel isn't seaworthy.

That sounds harsh, but I mean it in a manner dripping with the empathy of my own path. What I mean is, until you can answer that question by yourself, for yourself, you don't yet have what it takes to command the vessel in question.

We - each of us - have to find a course along which we find the answer to our question.

No one can answer it for us. Some will say YEA, and others NAY... how shall we choose among them, save by our own judgement? Judgement earned and refined to our own satisfaction. It is the only judgement - in the end - that matters.

That being said, the final arbiter is the sea.

Not all vessels that survive are seaworthy, by any reasonable standard. Nor are all vessels that founder unseaworthy. Luck can see the one through and exceed the limits of the other.

Too much obsession with perfection, and we stay anchored to shore. Too little, and we risk becoming a bottom feature. We seek a balance; the reasonable mean.

In my view, this can't be done by polling opinions, no matter how informed. To stifle doubt under press of favorable reviews; to fret and chafe under collective 'wisdom'. Neither avail.

We must earn our own opinion.

Read the books and digest their content. Learn from those willing to teach. Start small - take our baby steps with searoom to fall and fail. Pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and take another step. Practice our maneuvers, review them and learn. Practice some more. Learn to reach. Learn to run.

The bad news is that this process - for sailing - never ends. The good news is that it never ends!

So. Is our vessel seaworthy?

I dunno... are we??


Here's a bit I wrote to accompany a design for the proposed AiT (Around in Ten: round the world race in ten foot boats). All vessels were considered, by many, to be unseaworthy, by definition. May be. Maybe not.

Do I recommend an attempted circumnavigation in this or any other ten foot boat? No. These are boats that are small for reasons which I find, frankly, frivolous. They lack the redundant resources that a larger boat can bring to bear, along with safety margins of which larger vessels are capable. But neither would I forbid the whole shebang (in Coastguard terms) as a ‘manifestly unsafe voyage’.

Whatever fanfare and festivity sees the racers off, this is no light-hearted adventure. The undertaking is a solemn one. There’s a very good chance that lives will be lost in the course of this race. Any attempt to gloss this fact over will only increase that likelihood. Each of those who enter – and those they leave behind them – must look that hard chance squarely in the eye.

As engineless sailors in SE Alaska (which can get brutal), we’ve often been accused of terminal stupidity. We occasionally meet those who feel “there oughta be a law”. Well... there are laws; too many, in my opinion. Ironically, for a land of ‘freedom lovers’, the passage of laws prohibiting persons from engaging in consensual activities seems to be a national pass-time.

We each have our one, precious life to spend as we please. Sailors face the Sea – a gestalt of forces which dwarf the human scale – with every ounce of resource, skill and courage we can muster. Whether our boat be ten feet or a thousand, the ratio of boat to sea is vanishingly small.

We are all in the ‘same boat’. Sooner or later, one of those situations we face is going to overwhelm us, whether lying abed, crossing a street or at sea.

Give me the sea.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Cultivating Partnership

Susan and Eric Hiscock
Partners under sail

“....though modern Marriage is a tremendous laboratory, its members are often utterly without preparation for the partnership function. How much agony and remorse and failure could have been avoided if there had been at least some rudimentary learning before they entered the partnership....And that statement is equally valid for all relationships.”
― Leo Buscaglia from
Loving Each Other

Cultivating Partnership

For those of us who sail with a partner, partnership is serious business.

We who live aboard together must get along in a tiny space with few alternatives to one another's company.

We who face the sea together must trust our partner. Trust the skill of their hands. The courage of their heart.

We who set our course together must come to agreement, whatever the 'chain of command'. Find our common dream and set it in motion. Tend its unfolding.

Sometimes all this is easy. Sometimes not. 

Often, the partnership founders. Usually gone awry between two, wonderful people (they were so perfect together!). Their shared dreams and adventures lost in their wake.

A few partnerships thrive. Long-term partners asked their 'secret' seem at a loss, often repeating some ossified sentiment that side-steps the mechanics (e.g., Never go to bed angry is good advice, but doesn't give a clue as to how to navigate that anger).

Virtually all couples come together in mutual attraction and love. For a while, at least, the bloom is on the rose. For some it lingers; for others not.

So why, then?

I recently read an article on some of the science behind the make or break of partnerships. Though many details arouse a number of quibbles, much of it rang true to me, and got me thinking about how it might help inform us as sailing partners.

The theory/findings that rang my bell are a theory of the Gottmans (researchers specializing in relationship dynamics).

They found that a partner makes a number of bids for the other's attention / participation. Invitations to look at something noteworthy. The sharing of thoughts or news. A question. A joke or tease.

The other can respond by turning toward (an I-hear-and-engage response that is interested and supportive, even when not in agreement), or turning away (an I'm-ignoring-you or contemptuous response).

As turns of bid and response cycle over time, those who habitually turn toward one another spiral together. Stars are born! Those who habitually turn away spiral apart... darkness ensues.

It's as simple as that!

Partnerships are formed under a honey moon. We are drawn to one another for reasons.

Let us seek to be mindful of our partner in our moments of distraction. Re-mindful of what brought us together. Seek out their beauty and skill and wit and courage, to admire and bask in their company. Seek to be generous with praise and appreciation. Seek to be gentle and patient with their struggles; grateful for theirs with ours. 

Cultivate the habit of turning toward one another, rather than away...

Cultivate partnership.

PS.  Happy Valentine's Day!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Assess, Address, Debrief

by Robert Weber

I failed my way to success.
-- Thomas Edison

Assess, Address, Debrief

We often use little phrases as mnemonics... simple reminders to do certain things in a certain order. Especially when spray is flying and panic threatens to creep in from the edges, numbing the mind.

One of the most useful and often used is assess, address, debrief.

Whether approaching the morning stove for breakfast with coffee... whether leaving anchor... whether skirting a suddenly lee shore... This phrase reminds us to size up the situation and make a decision. Execute that decision. Then review the results.

It's not necessary to do things in just this order. We might cycle through each several times in the course of even a simple project. But it reminds us to take those steps, rather than just wing it.

These three sit well with us, though any alternative would work as well. Dig it, do it, review it?? Anything you can and do remember works.


Look the situation over.

What is the challenge? Brainstorm solutions and winnow them out. Does everything work together? What are our resources? What's on hand, and what's to be gathered? What's the order of approach? And so on and on.

This phase can drag out, in complex situations, for months or years. Or it can be accomplished with a glance, especially as experience grows. In an emergency, sometimes a glance is all you get. But take what you can.

One point we constantly remind ourselves... assessment IS moving us toward the goal. It may look like taking a nap, or sitting around doing nothing. But this is where one determines what needs to be done, and how we intend to go about it.

Speaking for myself, I prefer not to rush it.


Here's where we roll up our sleeves and leap into action! Put the plan to work. Git 'er done!

When the assessment is thorough, address rolls along with dispatch. If not, it can be a stop-and-start affair, interleaved with reassessments. That can be okay... suits some tasks better than others.


Anke and I spent several years in and around a town, where we served on Emergency Medical Services teams.

The whole team would get together weekly and we'd debrief the responses for that week. What went well? What went not well? What can be improved? Do we need more training in Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)? Do they need revision?

Debriefing helps to identify mistakes or deficits, and to learn from them.

Mistakes are part of our landscape. If we let them, they can teach us. Without them, our procedures remain narrow and inflexible. They show us where we need to focus, and often, what to do to remedy them.

Mistakes and their debrief have nothing to do with fault or blame, and everything to do with nudging ourselves toward improved performance. Extended ability. Heightened efficiency...

Procedural, not personal.


These three work together in synergy.

Any one of them, alone, is fairly worthless. All plan, no do is a pipedream.  All do with no plan results in a lot of thrashing around. All debrief is annoying.

Any two is an improvement, but still limited. Without assessment, there's no point in debriefing what you do. Without addressing, there's no point at all. Without debriefing, we don't learn.

Three's the charm.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The LAW: Is we IN or Is we OUT?

The now Outlawed liveaboard community of Eagle Harbor
where we got our start

Sitting still,
Doing nothing,
The Law grows by itself.
-- Apologies to Taoist Poetry

They civilize left,
They civilize right.
'Til nothing is left,
'Til nothing is right!
They civilize freedom 'til nothing is free...
-- From Paint Your Wagon, The First Thing Ya Know

The LAW: Is we IN or Is we OUT?
(Caution: Rant Alert)

One of the disturbing trends visibly unfolding over the span of my lifetime is loss the Commons.

It's a general loss, but at the moment, I'm thinking of lost freedom of the seas. That, and the conversion of Citizens into Outlaws; not by any sudden turn to crime, but overtaken by the rising tide of Law.

To go swimming - skinny or clad - at one's own risk. To imbibe while safely at rest. To mix it up in one's own bedroom with whichever adult consents to play. To let go of one's own life at a time of one's own choosing.

All of these and others - to some extent or another, from place to place - lie outside the Law. Prohibitions have long been in place, and yet stand, despite some encouraging softening of the Law or its enforcement.

Freedom to come and go - or abide - as one pleases. To sit on a side-walk or linger in conversations among friends or drop one's hook outside a marked channel.

These are freedoms drowning in that steadily rising tide.


I first got into sailing toward the end of the early revival in blue-water cruising.

Quasi-Hippie cruisers set forth in funky, home-built boats to rediscover the world. Moitessier, Jones, Pardeys, Hills and many others blazed a trail. But on their heels came the droves of 'turn-key' boats with their crews of well-heeled, extra-curricular tourists.

We on the low road get caught in a squeeze play.

Rising regulation of anchorages - anchoring, moorage and entry fees, permits, registrations, and outright prohibitions -  has been squeezing us from shoreside. From the water, our factory outfitted, proper-yachtie neighbors pay these fees without flinching, then add their voices in condemnation.

Consider the word, derelict. Here's a list of meanings in order acquired:
  • Abandoned
  • In poor condition due to neglect or abuse
  • Shamefully negligent in not having done what one should have done
  • A person without a home, job, or property
Is it me, or is there 'mission creep' in play?

This word once usefully distinguished abandoned, hazard-to-navigation watercraft from those in hand. Haul 'em away, auction or crush 'em, and good riddance.

The next level drops the notion of use... 'poor condition' is now a matter of judgement. Um... well, authorized and trained inspectors condemn structures on the basis of fair, sound, objective evaluations, right? If you happen to be living in hazard, we're saving you from yourself.

Shameful? Should? Now we're getting personal! The Puritans are on the warpath. And they have no qualms about codifying such BS into law that applies to us all, regardless of Constitutional principle.

A person without...??? Wait a minute... weren't we disposing of derelicts a few rounds back???

So what (or who) is a derelict? Anyone who offends the 'community norms'. And these have such a fine track record of  liberty and justice for all.

Might as well say undesirable and get it over with (What? They did??).


Arguments Against Derelicts

 "If everyone were doing it, then..." aka "If we let you, then we'd have to let everyone!"

Probably the most common 'argument' put forward. It's a flat assertion of opinion masked as 'logic'.

First, it's ridiculous to think that many, much less everyone, might be tempted into doing 'it'.

The liveaboard life isn't exactly most folks cup o' tea. There's a lot of work involved. Space is small, both physically and socially. Boats rock and take on water from time to time. Anchors drag.

Second, the 'whatever' at the end of those ellipses is usually just as fantastic.

The harbor/harbors/world would be wall-to-wall boats. The water would turn to sludge. The fish will be caught and eaten by - Lawd forbid - derelicts!

So, let's remove that 'd'... the Law forbids.

"You're parasites are living for free on the backs of the rest of us!" aka "You're part of Entitlement Culture!"

Umm. Not exactly.

In most of the communities where fees are charged, boats at anchor are the only ones paying for zero services... doesn't cost the community a dime. Our use of shoreside infrastructure is charged separately. Our pockets are robbed with 'liveaboard fees' to cover dockside services bought and paid for.

Our expenditures ashore enrich your local economy, and incur local sales taxes... this of course makes us taxpayers within your community. Meanwhile, we often contract for jobs ashore, to earn the money we're spending. Volunteer in community organizations or projects.

Meanwhile, a liveaboard presence provides services without charge. We hop to, to pump or secure a vessel in trouble (most often one of yours). We rescue you and your frightened children when you dump your canoes.

No, we pay our way as we go, trading an honest hour for an honest wage.

It is you, I would say, who are not entitled to profit from those for whom you've done nothing, for use of an  anchorage which predates your community.

"Well, you're squatters, then, squatting on Public Land!"

These 'lands' (sea floor) were considered open to Public Access, and guaranteed under maritime Law, until they were appropriated by state and local governments for 'regulation and revenue'. Heavy on the revenue. Stands until challenged in court, however.

Without changing the Law of precedence - which remains US Maritime Law - to assert that anchoring in Public Waters constitutes squatting and that liveaboards are therefore squatters... well... that's called libel (I have nothing against squatters, or even being one, but its intent is libel when so used).

'Course, it takes a legal team to defend oneself against that, and them in the big houses got 'em.

"Liveaboards pollute our pristine waters!"

This is a good one.

Liveaboards are subject to the same discharge Laws that regulate all vessels. They are generally obeyed, and where not, are subject to enforcement.

Meanwhile, those 'pristine waters'? One harbor was only beginning to recover from pollution from the Creosote factory that had enriched the town for a near century... other towns have similar polluters who are currently not only permitted, but wooed, encouraged and embraced.

How is it that the Environmental Impact Statement for mines, clearcuts, factories, quarries, roads, docks and so on consistently state 'no significant environmental impact', while liveaboards constitute an environmental crisis?

Road and sewer run-off, sewage discharge from 'treatment plants' (ever visit one?); the pump-out of oily bilges from recreational craft (whose numbers dwarf us); that mega-yacht soaping off its topsides (more 'grey-water discharge' per yacht than the whole liveaboard fleet could potentially emit in a year); ditto any fishing fleet present. And airborne emissions? Don't get me started.

All these slide by without comment. "But last week I saw that bum scrape his plate overboard!"

I agree that liveaboards participate in pollution to a degree. But given our generally low-consumption lifestyle, I find it hard to buy that our homes are worse polluters - even per capita - than those with much larger, highly complex and over furnished homes plus their bevy of high-polluting tools and toys.

Comparing tiny liveaboard communities head to head with sprawling shoreside communities, what are we to conclude?

"Bunch'a eyesores!" or "The derelicts in our viewshed detract from property values."

I respect my neighbor's right to their own aesthetics.

When they wish to replace a beautiful stretch of shoreline with an ugly box, chosen from a catalog and built by the lowest bidder, litter their lawns with plastic furniture... I don't complain. If it's bad enough, I'll move on.

So I really don't think we should be passing Law to outlaw - or at least harass - a high-priced dive.


Okay. You get the picture.

These folks aren't particularly monstrous. They tend to be oppose government regulation, Big Brother, infringement of personal and communal freedoms. They just don't connect the dots across the water.

Point is, the Law is on the move. Sitting quietly at anchor, we are perfectly legal one day, owing cash money to grubbers the next, and quite possibly hustled along by threat of force the day after.

It's kind of pathetic.

We toe the line. We comply with the Law, both its letter and - more than many - its spirit. We're respectful of person and property. We consume little and contribute much. Like any other community, all this in-the-main.

Yet, one day, we find ourselves 'derelict'... Outlaw...

...and it's time to move along, over that shrinking horizon.

PS. I've used 'us' and 'them' language throughout. However, some of our liveaboard friends -as in any other community - have been poor neighbors. At the same time many among the shoreside communities have stood up for liveaboards at some cost to themselves. To you, I offer my heartfelt thanks!