Please visit our home site at

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

Friday, May 17, 2019

The 'Wiz': I Can't Come Back, I Don't Know How It Works!

The Humbug spreads his wings

You call this the future?? HA!! Where are the rocket packs? Where are the disintegration rays? Where are the floating cities? I mean LOOK at this! We still have WEATHER?! Give me a break!!

-- From Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson

The 'Wiz': I Can't Come Back, I Don't Know How It Works!

SCENE: The Great and Powerful Wizard of Oz drifts heavenward in his hot air balloon, prematurely released by his assistants. Dorothy, arriving late for her ride home, implores him to come back!

“I can’t come back,” he replies, “I don’t know how it works!”

Sailing engine free is kinda like that. 

In our case, we have a fair handle on how our vessel / balloon works. Its operation and more importantly its limitations. Yet we set forth into the unknown, with never more than our best guess at time spent underway to our destination.

We don’t understand Weather. And among ‘we’ I include the Great and Powerful Wizards.

One year, we sailed a whole September to go a measly hunnit and fiddy miles. That’s two long but easy days' sailing with a decent, fair wind.

Every day of that month, the weather reports were virtually perfect in their mirror image error. Predicted blow low; it would blow high, and the reverse. Fair winds promised, head winds delivered, or none. Rain; shine. Clear; fog. You name it. If they’d predicted ‘no Oobleck today’, we’d have been up to our Cubbins in it! [Dr. Seuss -- Bartholemew and the Oobleck]

The next summer, we met one of NOAA’s house wizards (NOAA attempts to predict weather in our parts). Trying to be sympathetic, Anke allowed as how ‘it must be hard to predict weather in Southeast (Alaska).

His reply? “No. Why? We’ve got models!”

In a day when satellites view weather systems from on high… when super computers crunch data in their super conductive teeth… when fluid dynamics enable undreamt of flights of fact vs. fancy… it’s still hard to beat a handful of weather wisdom sayings and a look to wind’ard.

This is not to disparage the wizards. Hubris is (when present) their humbuggery… certainty in their predictions and models not unhumbled by the surprise of rain in their face.

Weather is chaotic, a science and awareness born in meteorology. That famous butterfly, fluttering its wings in Beijing can indeed cause a whoofin’ headwind on our nose.

Chaos is only ever partially tamed by rules-of-thumb. And then, be sure of surprises.

Meanwhile, vast forces push and pull at one another. They fractalize into turbulent sworls along their intersections. Wind, water, land and cloud, tango in passionate beauty. Trading partners and cutting in. Sometimes fierce and violent. Sometimes soft as a Lover’s caress.

We look up in awe, sail on as best we can, and reef sooner than later.

PS. As I write, we hang in a lee that turns out not to be, in winds that are blowing opposite the forecast with triple the speed (about eight times the force). Nothing serious (yet), but it sets ya thinkin’.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Acquiring Tastes

Image Source Here

There are only two mantras: 
Yum and Yuck.
Mine is Yum.

-- From Still Life with Woodpecker 
byTom Robbins

Acquiring Tastes

When we sail out and away from towns, we generally like to stay out and away for a good long while. Our stores lean heavily toward dried goods; rice and lentils, wheat and beans, onions and garlic, fruits.

Fresh produce and meats are unavailable after the first week or so. In any event, we balk at their prices. Shipping costs and middle-men jack up the price of produce in Alaska. Locally grown foods often cost even more, due to economies of small scale, short growing seasons and cost of feed. We like to support local producers and businesses, but have to keep a close eye on our budget.

Our answer is wild foods. Wild plant forage, wild animal meats and fats.

Local plants have provided most of our greens for many years, now, with only a few dumpster-diven exceptions when in a town. We fish and beach-comb (some wierd stuff, here), and sometimes receive gifts of red meats (venison, bear and seal... often organ meats) or poultry (ducks or geese). Down the road, who knows? Grubs and insects aren't so far from wrigglers we eat from the beach.

To some degree, most of these are stronger in taste than domesticated foods. Wild plants have tastes which stray from the supermarket palette, and where similar, tend to be stronger and often with a bitter tinge. Wild meats can be 'gamey', depending on what the creature has been eating, and organ meats each have their own flavors.

So, to eat widely and in season from our locale, the acquisition of tastes is a real benefit.

Mostly, it seems, our tastes are matters of habit. One culture's delicacy can turn another's stomach, or at least their head. When we eat from off our beaten path, most of us approach with caution, and eat with 'long teeth'.

A famous Chinese subject of painting is The Vinegar Tasters... three men are tasting newly brewed vinegar. One represents Confucianism... his expression is sour... affronted by the taste. The Buddhist looks resigned... another shot of dukkha (trans. suffering, pain, unsatisfactoriness, stress) from which to detach. The Taoist smiles... this taste would go well with any number of others! Yum.

I can't say we're advanced souls, finding the yum in all that which does not kill us. But we aspire to it, relating to the Taoist's engagement with the world. In food, as in so many aspects of simple living, we seek Yum.

We try to approach each new taste with an open mind and the expectation of dawning deliciousness. Frequent exposure helps with acquisition, especially if blended with other tastes we already like. Or we might relate it to some positive value. For example, when a trophy hunter gives us bear meat that would otherwise be left for the birds and the beasts, reduction of human wastefulness and relating to the spirit of the bear appeals to us.

Over the years our tastes have broadened, and with them, our options.

The Vinegar Tasters
by ???

PS. Not all plants or even animal (parts) are safe to eat... be sure to do your homework before venturing out into the wild!


Bonus Story:

As a kid, one of our Tlingit friends went along as fishing crew for his Grandfather. These trips lasted about a week before returning to sell the catch, ice up and head back out.

Fishing, of course, is hungry work.

"Grampa, I'm hungry! What've we got to eat?", he asked.

"There's a grub box on deck, s'brd side. Help yourself to as much as you want," came the answer.

When our friend opened the lid, he was hit by a wall of... well... in the spirit of this post, let's say 'interest'.

The box was brim full with an old-time Tlingit delicacy. Stinkhead... fermented - some would say rotten - fish heads! And no reprieve from the catch... fresh salmon is as good as cash money, and ya don't eat that!

Our friend only lasted that one trip, and he said he lost 25 pounds, fasting except for the occasional unmarketable fish that took their lines.

Stinkhead is a powerful gustatory experience whose appreciation has dwindled with changing times. It vividly demonstrates the power of mind over manna.

Friday, April 12, 2019

A PhD in Sailing

Gettin' Started

Go small, go simple, go now!
-- Lynn and Larry Pardey

A PhD in Sailing

I once read that to get around in SE Alaska by power of wind requires a PhD in Sailing.

We learned most of what we know of sailing up here in SEAK, engine free... let's say from grade school to wherever it is we're at. So I'd have to disagree with the letter of that observation - after all, we prove that any fool can get around! - but not the spirit.

The disagree part is that, a PhD generally implies a formal education. Years of plodding in preparation to depart. In fact, I believe that the water and your boat is by far the best school. The sooner you get going - within reason - the sooner you will grasp the arts of the sailor.

Each day will present new problems and challenges, and the solutions you meet them with - the tools and skills - brands their knowledge into your being. That growing knowledge is uniquely yours, entangled in yarns of one's own.

But the spirit of it? Yes.

The water may be the best school, but it is a school of hard knocks. It can deal a lethal blow to those who approach it lightly. Even the professors emeriti can and sometimes do founder in a hard chance.

Take it upon yourself to get all you can from books in that armchair sailing phase. Books are laden with millennia of hard won experience, distilled and filtered. Sure... read of adventure, far horizons and narrow escape, but also of weather, tides, knots, charts and the theory of sails.

Collect a set of hand tools and build some stuff (a dinghy?). Cultivate mentors whose opinion you respect, then apply a pinch of salt from your own wisdom.

Go sailing, when you can, on other's boats or in very small craft. Many sailing programs teach the basics. Puddle Duck Racers can be built and sailed by most anyone, alone or with others. A DIY, live-aboard cruiser is really just more of the same.

Home school, and work toward knowledge. But don't let the lack of  PhD stop you!

Go forth, start small and live large!


And now, a touch of Cutsie:

P is for Patience -- 'Tis truly said the most dangerous thing on a boat is a calendar. Doubly so for an engine-free sailboat. We await the Opportune Moment which arrives in its own due time. To push into conditions beyond your abilities is to court disaster. Rather, enjoy yourself in the moment at hand, until the moment to go arrives.

h is for Humblitude -- Be humble. Be very humble. Lest ye be humbled! Start small and work up. Look to your safety margins and fail-safes. Actively build your skills and knowledge. Humbly does it.

D is for Determination -- Kick yourself in the butt and go! Whatever your dream, pursue it. We've each got our One Precious Life, and the clock is ticking. Kids... you're not immortal. Fellow Old Farts... we're soon going to be out of road.

Go small, go simple, (go safe), go NOW!

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Hot Toddy, Hot Schnotty: A Cure for What Ails Ya

Vinegar over Honey
plus spices,
before topping off with hot Water

I will use those dietary regimens which will benefit my patients according to my greatest ability and judgement...
-- From the Hippocratic Oath

Hot Toddy, Hot Schnotty: A Cure for What Ails Ya

By sheer coincidence, these two recipes came to us within a week of the other. The former is recreational, while the latter is medicinal. And without further ado...

Hot Toddy (from S/V VALIANT)
Whiskey (start with a finger or two?)
Apple Cider Vinegar (a splash, to begin with)
Squeeze some lime or lemon (or leave a twist)
Water (to top off)
Honey (to taste)
Salt around the rim (if that's how you roll)

All ingredients adjusted to taste/tolerance.

This one does for the recreational end of the spectrum. The whiskey is 'rotgut' (aka cheap)... no point mixing 80 year old Scotch with vinegar. The citrus can sometimes be found in your local, neighborhood dumpster, but we buy concentrate by the quart.

Hot Schnotty aka Fire Cider (amalgamated from the internet)
1 part Honey
1 part Apple Cider Vinegar
1 part Water (hot)
Heavy squirt of Hot Sauce
Pinch of CinnamonPinch of
Pinch of
(if ya have it)
Twist of Lemon (if ya have it)

This one's medicinal. Blasts snotty nose, sore throat and eases a cough. Useful stuff when sailing into the social proximities of civilization. Serve warm or hot for best effect, taking a sip every so often. I don't recommend drinking it down! Listen to your stomach. I find it works best when gargled for a bit. It settles, so stir or shake it before use.

Interesting overlap between the two recipes. Their taste definitely has a family resemblance.
Both harken to our (great?)grandparents' use of vinegar and honey as home remedies.

Vinegar is acidic (generally 7% acetic acid), so should be taken in moderation. It has been used to treat or ease many external conditions, and is anti-fungicidal. Taken internally, it has been considered a blood tonic (my G'parents said it 'thinned' the blood) and, especially in the throat, an anti-bacterial and anti-fungal agent. But be aware that acid has internal effects on the teeth and stomach. A cup or so is a very potent emetic (makes us puke).

Honey is high in sugars with all their pros and cons. Local honies, especially, help prepare the body for pollens, reducing allergic reactions. In the throat, it can (like any sugar concentrate) discourage bacterial growth via osmotic action. On the other hand, once it's diluted (by saliva), it's food for growth. I personally let it sit thick for a bit, and then clear it out.

Cinnamon, Ginger, Tumeric and Peppers are all traditionally medicinal along with many others you can experiment with, and considered to be anti-bacterial and anti-fungal. Cayenne has even been mixed in with cheap bottom paint to up its anti-fouling properties!

Whatever the case, it sure seems to help!


Bonus Yarn:

My Mom used to make us honey lemon teas for a cough suppressant.

One night, I had it bad, but didn't want to wake anyone up. I was six, after all... nearly a man.

I filled a pot with honey and brought it to a boil, then added a squirt of lemon. I carefully decanted the mix into a mug.

Then burned the bejeezus out of my lips, waking all in the house with my wails. I suppose it could have gone so much worse.

An early lesson in the importance of proportion and expert advice!

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Getting Concrete... Sorta

Why concrete and box barges go together?

You say to a brick, 'What do you want, brick?' And brick says to you, 'I like an arch.' And you say to brick, 'Look, I want one, too, but arches are expensive and I can use a concrete lintel.' And then you say: 'What do you think of that, brick?' Brick says: 'I like an arch.'

--Louis Kahn

Getting Concrete... Sorta

In the never-ending search for cheap yet robust materials, concrete keeps popping up.

A boom in ferro-cement boats (concrete hulls built around a steel frame and mesh) left a mixed impression. Poorly made boats crumbled from their first days... water infiltrated the concrete and the steel bits rusted expansively, breaking up more concrete... and repeat. Well made vessels from that time can be told at a glance; they look great, structurally (cosmetics can challenge any vessel!).

But I'm more interested in wood-cement composites... the hull substantially wood, with cement or concrete playing supplementary roles.

Once again, I'm short on personal experience, but here are some evocative stories:
  • One fella wrote that, in the plank-on-frame boats he'd seen with internal concrete for ballast, he noted that the hull never had any rot issues below the concrete level (alkaline environment). Frames would rot right at the surface where bilge water collected and sat. He suggested fairing the concrete up the sides and, over a number of years, had had no more rot problems in that area.
  • Another remarked that in his years working with concrete, wood or tools that had been splashed with cement slurry and not cleaned up were extremely difficult to break free, later. If he did make the effort, the wood was invariably bright and tools invariably shiny under the cement (I can personally attest to this).
  • Samson (a leading ferro-cement design and construction firm) developed a method for planking up a hull as a permanent male mold, to the outside of which ferro mesh was stapled and cement sheathed for a fully composite hull.
  • George Beuhler was an advocate of ferro-concrete keels for us cheapskate builders. He'd up the density with boiler plate punchings, tire leads and spent sand-blasting shot.
  • Greame Kenyon of New Zealand has built and lived aboard small NZ Scows (near-box barges, but with the bottom Veed forward and brought out to a point). He has decades of happy experience sheathing his scows to above the waterline with ferro-cement. His method is a couple of layers of wire mesh affixed to the hull and finished with concrete to from 1/4in to 5/16in (6mm to 9mm-ish). It protects the wood chemically and mechanically, while concentrating its weight low in the hull.
  • Some exciting developments involve fiber reinforced concrete in which a whole array of fibers (in random strands or fabrics) are employed.
  • Phil Bolger suggested an internal ferro-cement slab (faired up the sides as per the first fella) to stiffen the bottom, provide ballast and a well sealed bilge.

Taking all these snippets together, I wonder if one could:

  • Sheath the hull to well above the waterline with ferro- or fiber-cement.
  • Thicken the bottom sheathing at will to provide ballast and grounding protection.
  • 'Paint' as much of the hull as desired with a fibered cement slurry for rot protection, inside and/or out.

Finishing the concrete above the waterline is straightforward sealant plus paint. Below that, I'm guessing a few thick coats of (coal tar?) epoxy (resin) with a compatible antifouling paint over would work as well as any more standard approach.

Me? I'm scratching my head over how to attach copper plate over a fiber- or cupro-cement layer!

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Building for Blue Water

Doesn't show furnishings, but this is a good, strong start

Once more we sail with a Northerly gale
Through the ice, and wind, and rain
Them coconut fronds, them tropical lands
We soon shall see again

-- From Rolling Down to Old Maui -- Traditional Whaling Song

Building for Blue Water

I want to be clear... I have zero blue water experience, don't particularly want any and am NOT a naval architect. What follows is a bunch of amateur musings. Please take following assurances with a grain of salt and practice due diligence!

I'm often asked about taking TriloBoats offshore. In a nutshell, I don't see why not if they are built for it and competently handled.

That being said, I doubt they'd be the best choice if purpose built for the briny deeps. Wide barge bows and transoms (unless SKROWLed or brought to a point a la NZ SCOWS) could be uncomfortable in big water confused seas. Still, a number of blue water sailors I respect have said they think they'd do fine with only a few days of slow going in certain conditions. And once you're back 'longshore, I think they're hard to beat.

At the less expensive, DIY end of the spectrum, I'd likely choose a MacNaughton SILVER GULL, Benford DORY or Bolger ADVANCED SHARPIE. Of course, I'd fiddle with the designs - mostly regarding keel and rudder arrangements - but these are good, proven starting points.

Building for blue water, I think entails extra robust construction. But really, not a whole LOT more. Or rather, inshore cruisers shouldn't generally be a whole lot less, to my mind.

Where glue can fail and a nail can pull, double-ended fasteners are as secure as it gets (bolts, clench nails, rove and rivet and double wedged trunnels). Plank and frame joined by these should be thick and hard enough to resist pulling the ends through. Tape n Glue joints are strong and waterproof.

Pete Culler's dictum was "Nail where you can, screw where you should and bolt where you must." For taking a boat offshore, consider promoting everything up a notch. Note that bolts are expensive while the other double ended fasteners are not. Time, however, can be money.

NOTE: A non-cargo box barge can be a very light displacement boat for its footprint as it makes the most of its dimensions. This means it rises over, rather than plows through a wave. Skitters rather than absorbs a blow from a sea. Most of the sea stress is in the lower couple of feet of side, and fore and aft. The hull is a girder, as are interior furnishings which can be bonded structurally with an eye to longitudinal and side reinforcement. Rubrails, guards, eaves and the like can also be structural in support of the side panels. Modern glues create a virtual wood sculpture of the hull. All considered, a very strong yet lightweight hull can be built without the heavy frames and scantlings of traditional construction. 

I like strong, doggable, centerline hatches (furthest from water in a knock-down), stout windows (they can be large, but with sea-going shutters to reduce their exposed surface) and 360deg, waterproof ventilation (a round turn in a vent hose is an easy solution).

Myself, I like retractable lateral resistance and rudder on an ultra-shoal draft hull. This leaves little to 'trip' on in a broach. This is controversial, and harder to arrange on the dories as designed.

I'd build a stout junk rig, able to take (running and removable) stays (these generate strong downward forces when sails are full of wind, and cantilevered masts are not generally designed to take that). UltraHighMolecularWeight Polyethelene rope (Dyneema, Spectra, et al) is about as strong as steel by diameter... even going oversized leaves a light, low windage rig.

I'd  incorporate stormsails into the upper working sails, with lighter lowers. Since they'd be stayed, I'd go for maximum junk spread of sail. Maybe have some light-wind drifters for the metaphoric doldrums.

I'd like good anchor gear to include sea anchor and drogue set-and-retrieval (I'm a Jordan Series Drogue fan wearing both hats).

I've waffled about offshore cooking/heating fuels for years, with no real results. I like solid fuel stoves (wood and coal) but those can be scarce. A diesel drip can be added to the firebox as can a gas cooker (propane or LNG). A single burner gimballed stove can be chosen that burns a range of liquid fuels or exchange with a gas burner. A Retained Heat Cooker would be a real plus. Basically, one or two multi-fuel gizmos cover a lot of possibilities.

That's about it. Pretty much the same list for adventurous in- and 'longshore sailing. We can count on wood heat and duck out of the really bad stuff. Inshore, seas seldom reach the 'walking mountain' stage, anyway, and then only with fair notice.

Make good decisions!


Here's a selection of posts touching on this subject:

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Heavy Weather

Count no one lucky until you know how they died.
-- Chinese Proverb

Heavy Weather

Chinese wisdom notwithstanding, I’ve always counted myself lucky in love. Very lucky.

Lately, my luck has been called into question.

Anke fell in love with a friend of ours and, for a while, we considered sailing forward as a crew of three. Extending WAYWARD to accommodate would have been the least of the changes to our lives, however, and our differing styles were hard to resolve. In the end, Anke and I are sailing forward as two, and our friend will remain a friend.

As you might imagine, a turn like this shakes the very foundations. While nothing changed in Anke’s feelings for me, everything changed. Came into question. Plans altered radically. For that time hours, days and nights of our seamless life divided and fell away. Emotions ran high.

I passionately believe that we’re not in control of love. It comes to us - or doesn’t - on its own terms. Can’t be forced. Can’t be denied. We can cultivate it or we can discourage it, and that’s about all.

I passionately believe that, if you truly love someone, it’s for who they are. Not who or how you might wish them to be. Not for what they can be for you. But for themselves… for the fire which they - as they are - alight within you. We sail with them as best we can, out of love, whatever the course.

Love is a gift, and I passionately believe that a gift has no strings. One should never abide abuse, but there is a world of challenge where harm nor pain was ever intended. If there are strings, the impulse is to pull or cut them… and that seems to me neither gift nor love.

So, with love all around, we made it through as a couple. I believe we would have made it through as three, had that been our path. Come hell or high water.

Lucky in love.


PS. Thanks to all of you who wrote with support and good wishes. We both appreciate you so much!