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Anke and I are building our next boat, and writing about it at 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

Monday, January 21, 2019

Guest Post: SpringShip Fundraiser

Guest Post by David Reece
(Shown with family)

Greetings Triloboats Readers! You may have read my blog, Our Square Trailer Sailor, featured on the right hand side of this page. In it, I chronicle the construction of a 24 foot trailerable boat, CORNCAKE.

While it was not one of Dave's “official” designs, I feel it is every bit a Triloboat. As these build blogs often do, it slowed way down after the maiden voyage and pretty much stopped with me mothballing her and taking the whole family away to South America.

Now that we have been back for awhile, there are several new pursuits afoot. CORNCAKE is getting a rig, the kids are helping me build a rowing skiff for their own use, and I have a new and exciting job. This last is the reason I asked Dave and Anke to let me write a post on their blog.

In the disoriented mental fog that is readjustment to stateside life, I somehow I blundered into a job teaching at Springhouse Community School. Springhouse is a small private school, here in the mountains of Southwest Virginia, where we live.

I was hired on to run a semester-long boatbuilding program that I have dubbed “SpringShip.” In SpringShip, I serve two roles. Two days a week, I lead a group of students in building a yet unnamed boat, hopefully the first in a series. The rest of the week, I co-teach a class that teaches Math and Science through the lens of boat building and sailing, with a touch of nautical culture thrown in by literature and the singing of sea shanties.

Click HERE to donate
(to project described below)

The Class

Together with Chris Wolf, my faithful sidekick (just kidding, I'm the sidekick), we are taking the kids through an educational Odyssey. The voyage begins with scaling, where the class divides into four groups. Each group is charged with building a cardboard model of Phil Bolger's CANARD, a bare bones flatiron skiff. The catch is that each group is assigned a different finished length for their model, from which they must determine a scale factor which they will use to determine all the other dimensions of their craft. This gives them a real-world application for solving equations and an experiential understanding of scale.

In phase II, we move into building sails. Each group makes a Leg O' Mutton sail to fit their variously sized masts. The catch, once again, is that they are all given the same surface area for their sails and must solve for the height of the triangle to get their particular boom length. The sails are lashed on to the masts, complete with shaping dart, sewn by a sewing machine-handy student. In this phase, they get real cozy with the Pythagorean theorem, manipulating variables in a surface area equation, and solving equations with exponents.

Once all the sails were bent on, complete with mini, functioning sheets and snotters (no reefing, we like to live dangerously), we lashed the boats onto the arms of a free-spinning carousel, eight feet across. We were blessed with a windy day and the model boats fairly flew around their circular course, tacking and gybing through all the points of sail in a most seamanlike fashion. This makes a segue for us to explore Bernoulli's principle and aerodynamic lift.

Once they were warmed up on miniature sails, we went right into full sized sail making. As of this writing, they have finished the jib and mizzen of the full sized boat that is being built in the shop. Stay tuned for further exploration of buoyancy, hull speed and more!

The Boat Shop

Springhouse being about the size of a modest dwelling, there was no place to build a boat on campus. Therefore, our first task was converting one bay of a massive dairy barn into a heated boat shop.

The students threw themselves into the task of cutting and nailing boards across the posts of this old barn, then battening plastic across it to keep out the whistling wind. Most of these kids have scarcely driven a nail in their lives and yet they work like any crew of roughnecks.


The Boat

My first impulse was to build a square boat. No other shape lets you achieve more with less skill, time, and money. However, the public nature of this project, I feel, dictates that the design conform a little more closely to the popular idea of what a boat should look like. Therefore I took the next best thing, a flatiron skiff just one step fancier than CANARD, with a touch of spring lofted into the sheerline, leaving the bottom of the side panels straight: namely, Bolger's PIRATE RACER. Of course, this is a 14' boat intended for a crew of two light people, so compulsive scaler that I am, scaled it up to 22'.

I designed the rig for this monster that I am calling the “Springhouse Skiff” with four considerations in mind.

  1. Manageable spar length
  2. Minimal possibility of boom/head interactions
  3. No time wasted in engineering a reefing system
  4. Lots of ropes to keep teens from ever getting bored underway. 
The result is a rather idiosyncratic looking three-masted sharpie sprit rig with identical fore and main, a transom stepped mizzen and a handkerchief jib (could someone please comment to help me categorize this? Yawl-Ketch?) As silly as it may look to some, I expect it to achieve the four goals above. The masts are 18' long, you'd have to be standing up to get whacked, you can strike individual sails without inducing helm imbalance, and there are five (count 'em) sheets to hold, plus a tiller. Thats six busy kids.

Other features include ample, four-chambered side air boxes for a flotation scheme beyond reproach and an open footpath almost from stem to stern.

The Voyage

In the first week of May, the plan is to take the Springhouse Skiff as well as any additional boats we have time and funds to make, to the Chesapeake bay for a voyage that includes camping, sailing, and some sort of service learning element, TBD.

Cutting Tape at the New Location

The Ask

Springhouse is a tiny, rural private school, firmly rooted in the middle class. We have neither funding from the state, nor the power to levy taxes on the local community. Springhouse strives to keep tuition costs within reach of families of average means.

As nice as it is to be doing this project, it is funded with donations above and beyond the normal operating costs of the school. We are grateful to those who have supported this effort thus far, but we are still not fully funded. We will need, at the very minimum, another $2500 to see this project through. We have started a Kickstarter campaign to try to make up this gap.

Click HERE to donate

If you are able to donate, you will be helping imbue a new generation with a love for sailing and the independent spirit of the garage boat builder. A worthy cause if you ask me!

Thanks to Dave and Anke for inspiring us all in things nautical, philosophical, spiritual, and relational. Never have I been more influenced by folks I have never met. I'm sure the other readers of this blog will echo my sentiments.

-David Reece

Monday, January 7, 2019

Farewell to LUNA

Farewell to LUNA


We designed and built her for our own needs, following Phil Bolger’s Advanced Sharpie concept. Launched in ‘97 of the previous millennium. Lived aboard for thirteen years and sailed a very good chunk of that. Anke, Scups (our canine partner) and me. Great years.

We sold her to another couple who lived aboard for five more years. They sold her to an officer in the Coast Guard who wanted to use her as a (motorized) hunting platform. After that things get fuzzy.

Well… under a further series of owners, she slid downhill. Fresh water leaks developed and went unattended. Ventilation went by the wayside. Rot set in.

In the end, we bought her from the Harbor for a dollar, salvaged her copper and remaining gear and burned her on an island beach.

It’s hard to do.

A boat is still something more than a mere object. We dreamed her into being. We put her together with our four hands. Lived and loved aboard her for almost half our lives together.

Experiences sere and lang were had aboard her. Friends and family sometimes sailed along with us.

‘She’ (in LUNA’s case) partnered us, sheltered us, carried us, looked after us and depended on us. Taking her mortal remains apart by craft and force, saving what could be saved, then setting a match to her… it’s a solemn task.

We could see in her abandoned interior that the last(?) owner had struggled with life. Bills unpaid. An acquisitive obsession packed the hull with a super-abundance of stuff… worn clothing, broken tools and rotting food.

Yet she had tried to make a home for her child. There were sparkly, upbeat sayings tacked to the walls, small treasures assembled here and there, and drawings in a juvenile’s hand that showed that there was joy to be found in life.

LUNA’s decks were still watertight. Her woodstove was still operable and showed signs of use. Her walls, while softening, still held the wind at bay, and her ever strong bottom, the sea.

LUNA was our home.

Our friends’ home.

And maybe at the end - for a while - she was home to a mother and daughter in their time of need.

Fare thee well

PS. We cut the hull down to a 'barge' to deliver the copper plate for transport. LUNA's last voyage was under tow but she carried her own with dignity.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Solstice Greetings

Sitka in Winter
by Mark Kelly
Prints available here

Everyday Prayer

By the break of day
And the eyelids of morning
By the wayfaring moon
And the night as it ends

I swear

I will not tarnish my soul with hatred
But will offer myself humbly
As a protecter of nature
As a healer of misery
As a messenger of wonder
As an architect of peace

In the name of the sun and its minors
And the embracing day
And the veiling clouds
And uttermost night

I will honor all life
Wherever and in whatever form I find it

On Earth my home
And in the mansions of the stars

-- School Prayer by Dianne Ackerman
(As remembered... follow link for original)

Solstice Greetings

Today is winter Solstice, the low tide and slack of the year.

It's blowing and snowing: bare trees are limned with it while it lies heavy on the conifered slopes. The day has been an opalescent progression of ominous purples, golden eruptions, cerulean blues, scarlet flames and the pure white of gulls dancing with the fulgent black of corvidae. Surrounding peaks shimmer in and out of existence; sometimes rooted to the earth, and at others, floating impossibly high above it all. Toward the low light of day, the wind-tumbled Sound reaches for the sea.

The fire's warm, coffee strong and rich, and the wine is mulled; company good.

We've pulled into Sitka for the winter... our new masts are up but we have been gently reminded by the playful wind that winter is no time for the first steps of sea-trials (had to slip an anchor and run for shelter on our way in). So time to renew long languishing friendships and enjoy such urban delights as libraries, hardware stores, cafes and second hand.

We hope the holidays find you safe, warm and well!


Dave and Anke

Thursday, April 12, 2018

A Look at Box Barge/Scow Sailing

SLACKTIDE sailing to windward in about 20 knots of wind.
For some reason, the fairly extensive white caps didn't show up,
and I apologize for the wind-in-mike effect.

If a pitcha's worth a thousand words, how much fer a movin' pitcha?

A Look at Box Barge/Scow Sailing

If one were to go looking for some video of cruising-sized, box-barge/scows under sail... well... it's thin pickin's.

Despite the fact that sailing barges and scows once carried a good deal of freight in Europe and North America, very little information as to how they sail is readily accessible (okay... google, right?).  One can only infer that their numbers prove they must have been able to compete against curvy dog rivals.

We had extensively sailed LUNA, a fine sailing hull modeled on Phil Bolger's AS29. It's a square sharpie... much like a barge, but with ends pinched in. It's full rocker sets it off from the large, mid-ships deadflat that help keep Triloboats relatively quick and easy to build, and was a common feature of the sailing barge/scows of yore.

We reasoned that the barge/scow form couldn't lag too far behind. But as a precaution, we built SLACKTIDE as a proof-of-concept before committing to WAYWARD, a full-sized liveaboard cruiser. After all, sailing engineless in SE Alaska, ya need to be able to get out of yer own way!

To make a long story short, box barge/scows sail reasonably well. We've had no problems going anywhere we wish, and that involves many places and situations most wouldn't care to take their sailing home, no matter its capabilities.

Things I note about box barge/scow hulls:
  • Heeled, they present a V to the water.
  • Upright, their entry is rather fine (directing water downward for lift, rather than parting to either side... this is true even with relatively abrupt bow curve).
  • Easier aft curves release water well and make for an easier driven hull.
  • More abrupt forward curves don't seem to hurt, and do seem to reduce pounding.

The videos embedded here allow a look at how three models sail. Cast of Characters as follows:

SLACKTIDE (26x7x1) is a Triloboat Junk cat-Ketch with rather abrupt end-curves, intended to prioritize carrying capacity over speed.

SPIRIT (36x12x?ft) is a Civil War Cargo Scow gone Blockade Enforcer, with easy lines prioritizing speed.

ALMA (60x22x4 is a San Francisco Hay Scow Schooner. Her lines are quite abrupt with a long deadflat, prioritizing heavy lading.

So here ya go... a movin' pitcha look at box barges under sail:

SLACTKIDE running under reefed sails in confused seas

SLACKTIDE close-reaching in light air.

SV SPIRIT sailing on several points.
Note the view of the bow waterline... not much fuss.

This hull, compared to the others, is a relative pig to handle, 
yet comes about slow but sure.

Monday, April 2, 2018

(Almost) DIY 'Spun' Honey

DIY Spun Honey
Photo with recipe by hardlikearmour

"Well," said Pooh, "what I like best," and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honeywas a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn't know what it was called.
― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh.

(Almost) DIY 'Spun' Honey

I've always had a yen for 'spun' honey (aka whipped, creamed, churned, set and fondant honey).

Spun honey tastes just like regular, but behaves much better. It is generally much more viscous than liquid honey, so is much less prone to drip and run all over the place. This DIY version is even better behaved!

I was lauding spun honey's virtues to a cruising couple of friends, while lamenting its higher cost. They had a solution!

Turns out the 'spin' in spun honey serves to mechanically break down large crystals as they form. It may even be a structurally alternative crystal to that pesky kind that turns it into a gloopy glop of sugary chunks. This alternative crystal is smaller, and therefore uniform and much finer.

My friends take a wide mouth container and fill it with liquid honey, then seed it with a spoonful of spun honey (commercial, or from your last batch). Holding at about  57degF (14degC), stir every few days for about a week, until it has thickened to a lugubrious, uniform paste. Cap and use!

In many cases, we'll start by heating liquid honey in a double boiler to quite hot to remove all crystals of any kind, then cool it until it's warm (not hot) to the touch before adding seed. Too hot and you'll break down your seed crystal. Once converted, store in a cool place to keep it firm.

The result is a docile spreading honey that stays put.

Guilty Pleasure

Since I was a kid, I loved spooning honey and peanut butter. Powerful energy kicker for a cold day at the helm.

DIY spun honey is perfect for this... take a quarter dip of honey on a spoon, then a full dip of peanut butter.

Pop it in your mouth and bliss out!

Tuesday, March 20, 2018


WAYWARD under sail...Photo by Peter Frost

Spring is sprung,
The grass is riz.
I wonder where
My paintbrush is?


Finally a picture of WAYWARD sailing!

The Lion of March has turned sheepish away up here in Warmsprings Bay (Alaska). Unseasonable warmth and light winds make for pleasant turns around the bay.

In this pic, we're approaching the dock.

The mains'l (forward) is close-hauled and the mizzen (aft) is eased in anticipation of a 270deg turn in probably fluky breezes. When the wind is forward, the main is trimmed to drive us, and we can haul the mizzen in with a hand on the boom. When the wind is aft, it's the eased mizzen which drives us with the fores'l blanketed. Either way, we have good control and a range of options without the distraction of over-hauling or -easing line.

Since it's a tight corner, we'll send one of us ashore in the dory to catch a line. Sail in, round up, tack and dock (in steady, onshore wind). Or, if it flukes us, we'll settle for sail in, round up, nose the dock and warp alongside (cranking the stern in with the sculling oar against the bow line if practical). If it had been woofy, we might drop an anchor, row a line to the dock and warp in.

The rig (split junk mizzen) is in prototype, right now. The draft is set via 'Thai Style' lacings between individual panels at 8%. This worked out perfectly, so we should have just built the full sail from the git-go without all those inefficient gaps. Oh well. Eventually, we'll change the sheeting geometry to flatten the mains'l leech... all required curvature is cut into the sail, so (unlike a flat cut sail) twist is detrimental.

Adding the curvy shape to the sail is considerably more work than flat cut, and it doesn't look its best in very light to no wind (sags). But it points considerably higher, or alternatively, draws more powerfully at any given windward point. Since the mizzen is flat, it doesn't point as high, and the main is accordingly drawing powerfully at a wider angle. The net effect, however, moves us along noticeably better.

Real sea-trials are quite a ways off, however. We'll have something substantial to report a year from now-ish, from a longer boat with a bigger, split junk mizzen.

Stay tuned!


PS. The photographer, an experienced blue water sailor and delivery skipper came out with us the next day, and we turned command over to him.

His comment... this is the Cat's Ass!

This means a lot, to me... for all my years on the water, I've only once or twice sailed aboard another's vessel. Our boats are limited to a lifeboat conversion and a series of square boats, under-rigged by choice. So I don't have a lot to compare with.

Pete says the boat feels and handles well in the five or so knots of wind we had. I can vouch for the rest.

Not winning races, but hearts?

Friday, March 2, 2018

Hope Ain't a Tactic

Catfishin' Clip from the movie, Deepwater Horizon

Wish in one hand; s**t in the other; see which fills up first.
-- Folk Wisdom

Fishin' for Trouble; Hope Ain't a Tactic

The movie Deepwater Horizon depicts the events and poor decisions preceding and exacerbating one of the outsized, normal accidents of our age.

In this clip Mark Wahlberg, playing Chief Electronics Engineer Mike Williams, presents the seemingly obvious:

If you go fishing for trouble, you'd better gear up.

To embark upon dangerous pursuits, it helps to arm ourselves with knowledge, tools, skills and practice, practice, practice. Err on the side of caution. Get our heads in the game.

All too often, hope is mistaken for a tactic.

We plunge ahead, counting on fair weather. On our reflexes. On our instincts. Our guts. Our ability to wing it. On rescue. We imagine that these will pull us through. Often enough they do. But now and then things go south in a hurry.

And we're caught out.

Recently, I heard blind risk described as putting a paper bag over one's head with a bucolic scene painted on the inside. Running through that imagined or wished-for landscape is bound to end poorly.

We can't rule out risk, and really, we don't even look to minimize it. After all, most of the worthwhile pursuits in life are inherently risky. Risk is something we accept as the price of living large.

But stupid risk. Blind risk. The kind of risk that predictably cuts short the pursuit of happiness...

I mean, c'mon!