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

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!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Copper Plating a Plywood Hull

Copper Bright on Launch Day
(high blocked for trailer)

A penny for your thoughts?

Copper Plating a Plywood Hull: What I Know and Don't

Near the beginning of our journey, a then 125 year old schooner hauled out near us.

It had been coppered with 1/16in strips, nailed over Irish Felt (no extra tar), and was just now starting to 'perish' (worn to holes). Never recaulked in all that time, and the owners were apprehensive about what they might find.

As the copper and felt were pulled away, a like new, DRY bottom was revealed!

Local caulkers (pronounced 'corkers' out here) pulled some cotton (and oakum?) and said it didn't need reworking! No one could tell if it had been initially oiled (no paint), so they went for it this time round (don't remember the oil), new felt and copper, and away they sailed.

Leaving us VERY impressed greenhorns in their wake.

Inspired, and guided by clues (mostly) from WoodenBoat Magazine articles, we're now copper plating our third hull. At this writing, LUNA is seventeen years old, and SLACKTIDE six -both rode hard for much of their lives... they and their copper in good shape.

Now, so far as I know, we're the only ones who've tried coppering with either plate or foil on plywood - would love to hear of other experiences!

Here's what we've learned, induced, guessed and gone for... everything I know (or don't) about it all.

The Pitch

  • Copper provides wood borer protection, non-toxic anti-fouling, and vastly reduces the work involved.
  • Plate copper provides great mechanical protection when grounding (by choice or not).
  • It provides ballast, as low as possible in the hull, proper.
  • It's high on the galvanic scale, so you need fear no "hot" neighbor. If your motor lifts out, you are mono-galvanic (copper and bronze) below the waterline, so no zincs.
  • It dissipates a lightning strike when bonded to your protection system.

The Price

Copper is initially expensive.

We tell ourselves that it's cheaper by weight than good cuts of meat, a gallon of diesel, a Big Mac. Most times it is. But it still staggers us when we go to pay for it.


  • The initial outlay is offset by savings on ballast, and costs of alternatives
  • It pays for itself quickly; in haul-out avoidance (haul-out, yard fees, paint, brushes and such, treats = $$).
  • It pays for itself slowly; longevity makes for a long, profitable payout.
  • It's ability to protect the hull constitutes fantastic, on-board insurance.
  • It's a commodity metal, with market value. Unlike most construction materials, it can be cashed in for a good chunk of your initial outlay. If prices rise, you may actually profit. It's incognito and off the radar of (most all?) would-be thieves.
  • It adds value at resale, not only for its virtues... but with a certain cachet.

Copper (Cu)

Construction (Roofing) Copper - Any copper with a minimum copper content of 99.5% to be used in building construction. Copper has been valued for centuries as a roofing material, for its aesthetically pleasing green patina that forms over time. It is also very economical, as many copper roofs have lasted up to 100 years and it is 100% recyclable. The roofing copper specification, ASTM B370 allows a slightly broader chemistry than does ASTM B152. Copper sheet 10 oz through 48 oz in our inventory is referred to as roofing copper.   -- Alaskan Copper and Brass Company (Seattle)
Copper sheathing's primary purpose is to counter wood-borers, followed closely by anti-fouling.

Elemental copper (I've read) is non-toxic, repelling growth with its intrinsic electrical field. Cu2O (cuprous oxide), the active ingredient in 'copper' bottom paints, is toxic and reddish in color. We do develop Cu2O along the waterline, under greenish patina, but light scrubbing (my favorite) won't expose it.

Borers are kept at bay by the presence of copper. It's inboard face is as potent as outboard, if not more so.

Anti-fouling is less than most paints, but keeps growth down to a light slime, during the year. We scrub the slime away two or three times a year, at about 15 minutes per side. Or, we hang out in fresh water for a few days to kill it, and it sloughs off when we get under way.

We experience zero growth under the chines (at least on our square boat hulls). It's possible that the combination of copper stress and low light exceed a threshold of viability. This saves immense effort in scrubbing the awkward under-hull, and limits area to mere hull sides!

Copper is high on the galvanic series. The higher on the series, the less a metal has to worry about electrolytic degradation. Galvanicly similar metals, such as silicon bronze and some alloys of stainless steel react negligibly with copper, so are used as fasteners.

Like any material, copper erodes over time through mechanical or galvanic processes. Longevity is hard to predict. I've heard predictions that seem remarkably short, but have witnessed lifespans ranging from impressive to phenomenal (as in that schooner's case).

Longevity will be proportional to initial thickness. After that, such factors as time spent at rest vs underway, oxidation, groundings, mechanical scrubbing, growth quantity and type, electrical environment and... juju? I've heard a lot of theories!  8)  I'm sure there's some expert opinion out there.

Copper is milled in differing tempers. We've used a temper referred to as 'half-hard' as a balance between the need to bend and work it against it's mechanical durability. I haven't been able to confirm that this is a well-advised choice, in part because our application is virtually unheard-of.

I've read that CuNi (copper-nickle alloy) is preferred for marine use as having better mechanical properties, is even less prone to electrolytic degradation, and stronger anti-fouling. Internet searches pop up hulls built of the stuff. More expensive, but something to consider.

Copper-Nickel alloys are recognized primarily for their ability to withstand seawater corrosion, erosion and biofouling and therefore are widely used in marine and offshore industries.

C70600 - (90-10) Copper-Nickel is widely used in marine applications where resistance to both corrosion and biofouling is important.  -- ibid

Foil and Plate Sheathing

Hulls are sheathed with thick-ish foil or thin-ish plate.

Very Curvy Dogs tend to foil or very thin plate - generally in diagonal strips (possibly spiled like planks), fastened along their overlapped, longitudinal edges - which can follow their voluptuous forms. Strips are laid from aft forward for streamlined laps, and may change pattern at various points for ease or appearance.

Plywood and plate are both sheet materials, so both assume what is called a 'developed' shape (don't ask). This means that the plate can be much thicker and wider -up to uncut full-size - and still conform to the hull. Beyond a certain point, laps may be forsaken for butts (edges pressed tight, each against the next).

Triloboats - being based on sheet dimensions - plate up with the same ease they plank up.


Foil, and perhaps thin plate is usually fastened with bronze ring-shank (annular ring) nails.

Plate can be nailed or screwed. Either can have their heads countersunk to flush with the plate surface, which smooths water flow, and protects the heads from grinding when taking the ground.

We prefer wood screws for ease of repair/replacement.

Transverse edges are fastened every six inches, and about every foot mid-sheet. Along the chines, we use heavier fasteners passing through bronze angle (see below) and plate, fastening and linking them.

My thinking is that there is relatively little stress in tension (force pulling a fastener directly out of the wood). It would be greatest on the bottom while afloat... weight alone is roughly sheet weight divided by number of fasteners. Some suction forces are likely present, but have never seemed to amount to anything significant.

Our present (most sparse) pattern averages less than three pounds per mid-plate screw in tension.

Thus, we tend toward shorter fasteners, than not, with a preference for about 3/4in (18mm) minimum. We have used much shorter ones on the sides, into 1/2in (12mm) ply. We avoid poking through.

While I've not seen evidence of it, I suspect that (bottom) fasteners could undergo more stress in sheer. Therefore, we tend toward thicker fasteners than not. Shouldered wood screws make the most of the fastener where it passes through copper.


What to put between copper and wood?

The purpose of underlayment is to... um. Lotta factoids floating around out there.

As copper protects the wood from borers, and seawater is itself preservative, I'm not totally convinced that any underlayment is necessary. However, given the dry hull of that ol' coppered beauty, it's a property to shoot for. The underlayment, must, in this case, seal the fasteners, and isolate wood from seawater.

A survey of articles from WoodenBoatMagazine (as I recall... it's been a while), some paint or oil the wood. Some don't. Red lead and creosote (both currently illegal, most places) were 'common' (meaning at least two cases reporting). It's remarkable that, despite a wide range of approaches, all report success. Pretty forgiving.

Some tar the wood (with asphalt based roofing tars, mostly), and maybe more.

Irish Felt (tar impregnated wool felt) is often used, with or without extra tar. This is my personal first choice, but has become rare and is not always in economic reach. My guess is that any solvent resistant fabric and tar would do reasonably well.

We've used a thick layer of PolyUrethane adhesive on the ply to form a gasket. PU is elastomeric, which appeals to me, waterproof, and cheap in bulk tubs (sometimes sold as sub-floor adhesive). This is currently my second choice.

Presently, we're trying GRACE brand adhesive roofing underlayment - a rubberized asphalt product. It's used around here for bedding hardware or deadwood and the like. Unfortunately, we're having (minor) adhesion issues. I'm hoping warmer weather will improve its grip. Stay tuned for results.

I'm unsure whether our waterproofing efforts have been successful. Every boat has slowly settled. Whether that's 'middle aged spread' to which live-aboards are prone, or the slow absorption of 'water ballast' is unclear. Never had to rip into one of our bottoms, so it remains a mystery.

My guess is that we are absorbing water, which does not appear to be a problem. One approach might be to design for a saturated bottom, anticipating the weight as water-ballast.

Copper/Angle Schemes for Square and Deadrise Ply Hulls
Underlayments not shown


Where plates come together along chines, their butt is exposed to trouble. They can be covered with protective angle.

Right angle chines (square boats forever!) can use heavy, 90deg bronze angle (L-section lengths of bronze metal). This is great for withstanding heavy grounding stresses. For example, sweeping across the bottom while settling or lifting, one can encounter a salient rock with a lot of force. Nice to know that heavy metal is on task!

In the above diagram, a scheme for right-angle protection of the edges of a ply grounding plate is shown. The lower reaches of deadrise are still vulnerable, but not so much as they might have been without the salient plate and angle.

Other angles may have to make do with a strip of copper, creased along the mid-line, to span the gap.

Either may be darted to help conform to a curved chine. A good machine shop can roll angle to spec (well done, it's a beautiful thang!).

They may be bedded in tar or PU to fill any voids on the concave side.

We like heavy screws to fasten angle, alternating side and bottom, about every 6 to 9in (150 to 225mm).

Stress and Scantlings

Bottom stresses will vary with Pounds per Square Inch involved (or their equivalent).

A bigger boat will generate higher PSIs, all things being equal.

A rockered bottom will generate higher point loading, when grounded, along its transverse line (band, really) of contact with the ground. The more the rocker, the narrower the band and the higher the PSIs.

A deadflat, tends to spread the load across its whole area. The bigger the deadflat, the lower the PSIs.

Transitional bottom (up-curving toward the ends or transverse deadrise) are exposed to rocks toward their lower areas. Increasing angle, however, will decrease PSIs.

It's when we settle down on a tall standing, pointy rock that PSIs skyrocket. Especially if we're whumping up and down on one in the surf. Our best laid plans often expose our bottom to such high stress point-loading. Scantlings had best cover this eventuality.

Given that (with one truly exceptional situation) our plate has shrugged it off, I suspect that the following is more than adequate:
LUNA (5 ton, high rocker bottom at 1/4in (6mm) amidships and 1/8in (3mm) toward the ends)... the 1/4 now seems excessive, though doesn't hurt more than wallet and waterline.
SLACKTIDE (4 ton, deadflat bottom at 3/32in (about 4.5mm))
I've come to prefer 1/8in (3mm) for these sized cruisers in general, but economics have led us to round down.

So far, even the thin end of the range has stood up well to hard groundings. It seems that, if it's solidly backed by ply, it's pretty durn tough. If the ply crushes (can happen), the copper will deform, but has never yet holed. In fact, there are very few scratches, even after years.

We've used 1/16in (1.5mm) plate for our (vertical) sides, with full satisfaction.

Screws we (now) use are #6 x 1in (25mm) for sides and bottom, and #14 x 2in (50mm) for angle.


LUNA and SLACKTIDE's copper has held up over years and through hard use.

We 'take the ground' often in an area short on sand. Even the best beaches usually have some of the planet protruding. We sail year round, in a place where weather can get uppity. We like to run the fringes where the charts are, charitably speaking, approximate.

Copper plate has our back... er... bottom!

PS. We've also used so-called copperpoxies - both DIY and commercial - in which powdered, elemental copper is mixed with epoxy and applied thickly to the hull. Once cured, the surface is intermittently sanded to expose fresh copper particles.

Our experience has been positive, but not in the same ballpark as sheet copper.

It is fairly expensive, and nasty as any epoxy. Sanding  is unpleasant and difficult with plastic residue, especially after the first time. It's anti-fouling properties are far less than foil or plate - or even standard anti-fouling - and require considerably more elbow grease. It's longevity and mechanical protection are much less than copper.

Where copper sheathing has eliminated under-the-hull growth, copperpoxies do not.

Still, it's initially cheaper than copper, lighter, consistent with hull encapsulation, and outlasts most anti-fouling paints. Once cured (and between sandings), it's non-toxic. It can stand extended haul-out, unlike some paints.

We'd still consider it for dinghies and camper cruisers.

PSS. On SLACKTIDE, we tried gluing the plates on with PU, but it was a fiasco (story quoted here from correspondence with a friend considering epoxy):
RE epoxied copper - I'd be apprehensive about expansion differentials stressing the bond. Not so much while immersed, but once dried out, especially in hot weather. But then, I've grown paranoid.

I don't know if you heard about our fiasco gluing copper w/ polyurethane (on theory that elastomeric bond would be preferable)? Did great, both on tests and while dry. But once launched, virtually every plate failed. Lots of oxide intrusion patterns from the edges on those that were still partially adhered.

Almost lost one, but mechanical fasteners along the chines saved the day. Ended up nailing (bleah!) over the PU 'gasket' (original glue, which remained firmly adhered to the ply).

My hypothesis is that minute intrusion at the edges oxidized the copper, which voided the bond and advanced the leading edge for another round. All in all, it went quickly. Possibly some chemical interaction among copper, salt and PU ingredients?

We did not, however, acid wash our plate. It came protected with a 'mill oil' film, and was 'new penny' bright, We washed with acetone before gluing (best guess at the time, no precedents I could find). We'd certainly acid wash if trying again. While dry adhesion was excellent, it's possible an oxide film allowed the initial edge-failures.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Easy vs Ease vs Opportune

When I works... I works hard.
When I sits... I sits loose.
When I thinks... I falls asleep.

Easy vs Ease vs Opportune

I've been mulling the differences among these three.


Easy is effortless, limpid, lazy. It's opposite is difficult, strenuous, arduous.

Between hard and easy, always pick the easy. Right? Well...

A lot of what we want to do in life may not lie along the easiest path. What if we want to see the world from yonder ridge? What if we want to visit a distant friend? What if we want to live afloat, and must therefore acquire a vessel and the skills to sail her?

Often, we choose what is not easy, and never look back.

But short term hard often becomes long term easy.

When I first started sailing - for the first year - I would precede each day's venture with a liquid while on the bucket. 

Leaving anchor, weaving through a fleet of moored boats, safely exiting harbor and returning, a day exposed to wind and weather I'd not yet learned to anticipate... the responsibility of it all. 

All these turned my bowels to water... not easy!

And then, one day sailing from harbor, I realized I'd surpassed my moment of gastric distress. Come to think of it, it had been a while. Without realizing it, what had been so frightening and hard - struggling to learn to walk the walk - was now... well...


It's the verb I'm thinking of; to ease. To slide, flow, drift. Be in the moment. Centered. Calm. A stillness that has nothing to do with motion or it's lack.

One can ease one's way, I feel, regardless of whether or not the path is easy

When things are easy, of course, it's easy to ease one's way. But when it's hard - in the teeth of the gale or the anchor drags or even when there's just a few too many people around - one can still ease along.

Breathe, deep and regular. Relax muscles which have tensed to no purpose. Look ahead but don't worry about it. Attend to what's needful in this moment.

Ease your way out of trouble. Ease your way along.


The Opportune Moment.

This is the moment we've all been waiting for! Making hay when the sun shines; strike while the iron is hot; take a stitch in time to save nine. Such sayings may sound trite, but carry a cargo of wisdom if we listen with open minds! There's a reason they've been repeated down the long years.

I mean, it's all well and good to choose a harder path on the road to heart's desire. But if we ignore the Opportune Moment, our efforts redouble. We may be thwarted, exhausted... our hearts denied.

The Opportune Moment is like a temporal, Ockham's Razor; a concept which winnows the possible moments of action down to the one that matters. That moment where the stars align; that cusp between hard and easy...

That moment to ease on down the road.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Eric Sloane's WEATHER BOOK: A Review

Right Turn... I GET it!
from Eric Sloane's WEATHER BOOK

Anyone who has known a sailor with "a weather eye" and who has also seen the inside of a weather bureau knows the difference between being weather-wise and being meteorologically accurate.

-- Eric Sloane

Eric Sloane's WEATHER BOOK: A Review

When I studied trigonometry, I memorized table after table of mind-numbing tables of ones, zeros and negative ones just long enough to regurgitate them for a test. In the blizzard of unanchored data, I struggled to make out the point of the exercise. Finally - in an afterword - the authors of the textbook condescended to mention the Unit Circle. The picture that generates all those piddly numbers in lean back, close your eyes and visualize the answer fashion!

I was thoroughly disgusted.

Weather mechanics had been a similar story. I slogged through book after book, nodding off over arcane terms and lists. Even classic pictures of clouds, with their names and meanings were mere creatures of rote.

For instance, high pressure winds spin one way; low pressure winds the other. But which is which? My mind just doesn't hang onto that kind of information without some underlying principle.

And trying to understand weather - arguably a good thing for a sailor - little came together. Like anyone, I could and did look to windward for trouble, but the whys and wherefores of weather eluded me. Neither the gestalt of real weather, nor the usual books were of any help for anything beyond the obvious.

Then along came Eric Sloane's WEATHER BOOK.

Mr. Sloane's gift is pictures (he's not bad at words, either). Every illustration from his hand is a wonder of clarity and apt information, succinctly delivered. He manages to capture motion and relationships in black and white sketches. His drawings are often beautiful, often humorous or whimsical... always educational.

Another aspect that appeals to me is that it's not merely about weather, but also its effects and affects.

For example, he presents an 'insect thermometer'; from the onset and quality of various insect sounds, one can estimate temperature pretty closely. Of course, no katydids (or katydidn'ts, for that matter) here in Alaska. But maybe the mosquitos?

He opens our eyes to the wonders of weather and the world enveloped in it. He draws out and entices the inner, junior scientist within his readers.

And there lies the beginning of weather-wisdom.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Way Off-Grid Laundry

 The rest of my clothes are still wet!

I believe you should live each day as if it is your last, which is why I don't have any clean laundry, because, come on, who wants to wash clothes on the last day of their life?
- Wisdom from the Web

Way Off-Grid Laundry

Doing laundry is a challenge for those of us living far from the Grid. 

For offshore sailors fresh water is precious, so efficiency is paramount. And getting it dry - is no small feat in the maritime reaches of a boreal rainforest!

For years, we've been picking away at the problem of laundry at large. Here's what we've found (or hope to find) for those times when the sink just isn't enough...


First we need a decent anchorage. 

Laundry can take a day or two, all told, so we need to be confident we won't get blown away in the night. We might have to wait in a good location for laundry weather, which could be anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.

Next, we need a freshwater non-salmon stream with good flow and accessible banks. Fortunately, these abound. If we happen to be near a sea-level hotspring, its run-off simplifies the whole operation.

An adjacent, south-facing beach for drying is a big plus. We'll likely heat water for washing, too, so need some drift- or standing deadwood close at hand.

A big, smooth rock or clean driftwood log is a plus for sorting and folding.


Most of our stuff is wool or synthetic, and colorfast. A few cottons take their chances. No whites (it's been said we favor "moth colors"!) or delicates. No sorting; everything gets thrown into one wash. Hot wash (mostly), cold rinse. Regular cycle (we do our worst, in other words).

Wool does shrink, a bit, and can be a little tight the first day worn. Most trousers end up 'let out' at the cuffs. After that, it seems to find its way back. If not (rare), it goes to rags.

We don't have anything that requires a special coating, or I should say, that coating doesn't last. Anything 'breathable' becomes an ordinary garment in fairly short order. And good riddance. Even new, they just tempt us into the rain where we get soaked.

A Cheap and Easy DIY Washing Machine. Spin Cycle Included!
From Tiny House Listings
YouTube location with several useful comments here
Synopsis follows post for the connectivilly challenged


The video (above) presents a brilliant, DIY washing machine; inexpensive, compact, economical and... well... just freaking BRILLIANT! Just heard of it and can't wait to try it out!
It's made from two, stackable plastic buckets with plumber's helper agitator (one bucket, lid and agitator modified), rinse, press and spin cycles! Just add water, laundry and muscle.  If you can't load the vid, there's a verbal description following this post.

We're hoping that the the perforated bucket will streamline our present (one bucket) practice, and encourage the heavy agitation and  thorough rinsing that seem the key to clean loads. More efficiency here may further our quest to reduce or eliminate soap (see below).

Aside from their obvious advantages, both buckets can do double duty for other jobs around the boat. The perforated bucket can be a laundry hamper, colander, sieve, clam basket, line bucket, etc..

NOTE: The 'spin cycle' may not be a big improvement over mere gravity drip? But then, all it has to do is overcome surface tension (which holds water in a sponge in spite of gravity), and spinning may help transport what does drip. Either way, it's just too cool a step to skip!  8)

We currently use a Lehman's 'good' hand wringer  (their 'best' wringer is bigger, costlier and harder to clean.. didn't work any better that we could see). But it's amazing the amount of water clinging to fabric! We often have to send it through three to six times. Getting water out is one key to quick drying.

A Press/Spin Cycle prior to wringing may get it down to a single pass. Or none!

Cleaning Agents

Laundry produces a lot of grey water (used, often soapy water), which is difficult to dispose of in a conscientious manner, in town or out. In wilderness settings, its impact can be acute.

We aim to use soaps sparingly or not at all, and to follow (ever evolving) guidelines for disposal.

When in a situation where limited soap seems tolerable, Doc Bronner's is our one-soap-fits-all choice.

First off, the label is a hoot! It's biodegradable, pure castille soap (no animal fats) in concentrated liquid form (Dilute! Dilute! Dilute!) with a range of pleasant scents and righteous credentials. It doesn't foam up, much, which I read as an environmentally good sign, yet cleans well.

Castille soaps can be combined with baking soda and/or vinegar to handle just about any freehold cleaning job. The label even has directions to use it as toothpaste and contraceptive!

If we can get our hands on it, a bar of bile aka gall soap, or, alternatively, naptha soap, can be used topically for oil or grease stains. Both cut right through, and, at least on an engine free sailboat, last a long time.

On the counter-soap side, we've had good luck with some re-usable 'laundry balls' that came our way, for everyday laundry.

These are a collection of ju-ju rich, ceramic pellets in a water permeable container. They claim they reduce or eliminate the need for laundry soap. The science behind them is... ah... dubious. But there's plenty of anecdotal satisfaction (including our own), especially regarding odor neutralization.

Many types are available, and apparently not all created equal. Also, different users get different results, even within the same brand. Caveat emptor!

A similar, and maybe less controversial (?) possibility is stainless steel bars of 'soap', which purport to remove odors. Again, lots of anecdotal success (from professional chefs, among others), and the science is more credible. They're spendy, but generally well made and last forever. They're marketed for hand-washing, not laundry, but what the hey? Eventually, we'll try one and get back to you. Same cautions.

Drying Laundry

Drying is most places a simple matter of line drying. Not so simple in our rainy climate.

We look for a sunny day (ha!) and a breezy spot. As with firewood gathering, we scope the undergrowth for relatively dry, open woods. If it looks like the Black Lagoon, it probably is... even in dry weather, humidity stays high in such spots. And, of course, it has to be close to a freshwater stream.

Direct sun is a big plus, as UV rays help reduce any remaining biologics (cooties) in the laundry, and radiant heat helps dry the clothes. If we ever get it together, I've been thinking of a low level, solar concentrator, cobbled up from reflective space blankets.

Might exceed our productivity threshold, though. Mere laundry is daunting enough!

Summary of Methods

These approaches, in this order (descending) strike me as most effective:
  • Dirt is removed by mechanical agitation in hot water.
  • Grease/oil is removed by solvents (i.e., soap).
  • Odors are neutralized by ionic (?), UV and/or chemical action (e.g., baking soda).
All of the above are aided and abetted by:
  • Multiple rinses (especially with hot water) remove or dilute all of the above.
  • Mechanical extraction of water between rinses multiplies benefits.

None of this is exactly news. It does remind us to lean on the agitator and go light on the soap. Odors tend to evaporate with their medium (grease and dirt), but it never hurts to hedge our bets.

So... whoops... gotta go!

Laundry, again.


SYNOPSIS of DIY Washing Machine: 

Build: Two equal sized, plastic buckets, stackable. Inner bucket and plumber's helper perforated with small holes (not so many as to weaken). Smooth inner hole edges. Hole lid at center to accept helper handle. 

Wash Cycle: Load laundry + water + cleaning agents into inner bucket (stacked in outer). Attach lid over helper and plunge (~5 to 10 minutes). 

Rinse Cycle: Empty liquids and repeat as necessary, minus cleaning agents. 

Press Cycle: Insert intact bucket into perforated one (may raise on two sticks) and sit on it.

Spin Cycle: Hang inner bucket from line. Twist by manually spinning, then stand back and let gravity do the work. Repeat as necessary.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Spawned Out Fruit: Some Recipes for Wine Musts

Must find a way to use the must!
Photo from

Some very fine fruits died in the making of this wine. Show some respect!
-- Gleaned from the Internet

Spawned Out Fruit: Some Recipes for Wine Musts

Boat Wine generates a fair heap of must; slightly used fruit of dubious appearance... Anke dubbed it 'spawned out fruit'.

It looks a little worse for wear... smooshed, and a bit ragged around the edges. Texture is on the firm side of  'stewed' (especially with liquids drained or pressed out). Little sweetness remains after yeast has had its way.

On the plus side it's chock full of B vitamins from yeast content, as well as fiber, vitamins and minerals from the fruit itself. Much of its original flavor remains, accompanied by a distinctive, alcoholish flavor.

If you're out and away, you work for a living or even try to live mindfully, throwing out this perfectly good food seems wanton waste!

Without restoring the sugar, the fruit can be added to savory dishes. Stir fries, pastas, salads, cassaroles. It goes especially well with meats in the manner of chutneys, along with perhaps a bite of vinegar. Or added to pot roasts and other slow-cooked meals.

Sweetening is a simple matter of adding sugar to taste, after which you can add it to oatmeal, pancakes, cinnamon rolls and the like. Or adapt your favorite recipes for pie, cobbler, strudel and cakes - upside up or down. Or...

In short, you can add it to most anything, playing with possibilities and refining results. You can supplement flavors which all work in the same direction, or experiment with piquant contrasts that titillate the tongue. Plain Jane or Cordon Bleu.

Due to its appearance and a general aversion to 'left-overs', must dishes can encounter an initial lack of enthusiastic reception. But a little creative 'dress up' enhances presentation, making use of its colors and textures.

While it's unique taste is sometimes an acquired one for those raised in Puritan cuisine, we find that, if our friends can get past that first bite, we've usually made a convert!

Bon apetit!

PS. I'm pretty sure the alcohol bakes out of cooked must, but the taste remains. Consider that some of our friends are recovering alcoholics, for whom a bite can range from uncomfortable to downright dangerous. Others may wish to avoid alcohol for religious or personal reasons. This isn't an ingredient to spring on the unsuspecting!


Here are two less common recipes to whet your appetite:

These are essentially a three layer fruit bar. Thickness and texture of the three vary widely, depending on taste, and how you adapt proportions. The crumble (dough) texture can be varied by a little more or less oil, adding small amounts of water, milk or other liquids. The fruit mix can vary from jam-like to almost chewy, depending on how much thickener is added. Can be gussied up with spices, nuts, chocolate, etc. to taste. 
Combine 1 part each of flour, sugar and rolled oats with 1/2 part oil (minced butter is mighty tasty and works best but it's seldom available to us, so we use liquid oil). Comes out somewhat crumbly. Consider more or less oil, to taste.

In a cake pan or equivalent, spread half this mixture. Press to preferred depth.

Start with fruit in a separate bowl (about 1/2 the volume of the other stuff)  and sweeten to taste.  Add a thickener (cornstarch or flour) as you would for pie filling. Spread evenly over layer in pan, to preferred depth.

Spread the rest of the dry mixture (if you wish to add water, do it while still in bowl).

Bake at 350degF/175degC for 25 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool before cutting into bars. Often at its best after a day in a cool (not cold) spot.

NOTE: Our 4g batches of wine use enough must to fit with 1c (~250cc) portions, and fit into a 9x13in (~25x35cm) baking pan.

 Fruit Kim Chi
Kim Chi is ordinarily a fermentation of vegetables with spices. In this variation, it's a second fermentation of fruit with spices (one suite we like is chili peppers, garlic and ginger).
Anaerobic fermentation and salt inhibit yeasts and molds, but permits lactobacilli to produce that 'sour' taste we associate with kraut and pickles. Find precise guidelines here, and free and easy guidelines here.
In a glass container, layer a glop or two of fruit, dried or fresh spices, and (non-iodized) table salt at the rate of one heaping teaspoon per pint (10 grams per half liter). May adjust salt up or down, but I suggest researching the whys and wherefores at the links, above..

Top with a bioplug of any edible, leafy vegetable. This is a sacrificial lamb which
may float, but helps to keep the fruit submerged. Periodically pushing it into the brine should keep it mold free, but if not, exchange it for fresh, carefully wiping any mold from edges of glass.

Add liquid (water, generally, but consider wine or vinegar), with maybe a proportional dash of salt.

Cover with a clean cloth and let sit at room temperature. Bubbling will come and eventually go. Sample occasionally, and use when delicious!

NOTE: You can always add more salt, if not enough (chronically moldy bioplugs), or dilute it if too much (no fermentation or unpleasantly strong taste of salt). If you want extra salty (for garnish, say), you can add it after fermentation or at serving time.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Simply Does It

LADY KATE (ex Bolger AS29)
photographed from the SHIRLEY VALENTINE (ex Bolger
From Tim Fatchen's Square Boats pages

This reminds me of a guy I met years ago. We were both building small boats, under 30 feet. I was going at it hard and fast, he acted like he was building a clock. He kept coming around telling me how sloppy this was and how wasteful that was. Well, I launched and headed south. I never did see him again, but a year later, as I was getting ready to head west from Puerto Vallarta, I sent him a postcard that said, "Having a great time. Heading to the Islands tomorrow; see you there, Melon Farmer!" I wonder if he ever did finish.

-- From Buehler's Backyard Boatbuilding (now updated for the 21st Century) by George Buehler

Simply Does It

Early on, Anke and I spent a couple of instructive years in the boatyards of Port Townsend, Washington (aka PT).

In case you hadn't heard, PT is something of a west coast, wooden boat mecca. Home to a fleet of beautiful, classic, wooden yachts. The School of Wooden Boatbuilding. Edensaw, purveyor of fine boatbuilding woods. The PT Wooden Boat Show. And lately, the Small Craft Advisor.

There, we got to see a number of boat building projects in various stages of fruition. And like fruit, some were fresh and dewy in the first blush of springy optimism. Others were shriveled in a winter of their discontent.

What struck us most were projects - often by professional boatwrights, mind you - that spanned years. Years which spanned a decade. Or two. Or more. Projects in the course of which the builders had grown old.

Lemme tell ya... that impressed a pair of impressionable, young wannabes!

A few of these did get finished, eventually, and some owners lived to enjoy their works for many's the year. Others were completed, but their owners' strength was spent... the boat sold. Many were still under construction - or worse, abandoned - when we returned for a visit some 20 years later.

Beautiful boats, all. Works of Art. The kind of thing you see in a maritime museum. 

There was another kind of boat in the yard... usually plywood or worked-over fiberglass. Not exactly ship-shape nor Bristol fashion. These came and went pretty quickly. Their owners generally (but not always) young; generally (but not always) handy after a rough fashion; generally (no... always) passionate.

They came, patched a vessel up or together... and left!

Off they went, in the teeth of well-meant admonitions from land-locked sailor/builders. That won't work! That'll never go to windward! You're risking your very lives! Off they went, nevertheless; over the horizon, under full press of sail.

We hear from them, occasionally. From New Zealand. From Thailand. From Chile. From the Caribbean. From Nova Scotia. From the Med. Or from their home town dock, if that floats their boat.

In short, from wherever they wanted to sail.

These boats were one and all flagships of the KISS concept (Keep It Simple Sailor). They did the necessary with a minimum of extravagance, and a maximum of efficiency. With tools, materials and skills at hand, their owners put together a working vessel.


If you choose build over buy, I propose this list of general KISS attributes, distilled from all those sail-away vessels:

  • Tolerably small (small is beautiful! - E.F.Schumacher)
  • Simple hull shape (easily lofted, easily built)
  • Simple construction (straightforward build from common materials)
  • Simple interior (avoid complicated spaces, joinery or detail)
  • Simple, durable finish (wipe-down, if possible; avoid varnish)
  • Simple, basic systems (avoid unnecessary, complex, unrepairable) 
  • Simple, robust gear (good quality, fix-it-yourself)
  • Simple, robust rig (low stress, fail-safer)
It is the combined economies of these points that keep overall costs down, and often make the difference between got 'er did, and got 'er didn't

Clearly, there's a lot of room, here, for interpretation. Saving here, one might lavish a bit, there. But the more one simplifies, the better the odds of completion, sail-away and keep-on-a-going.

To these, I would add my own (opinionated) ultra-KISS advice, accumulated over 25 years of loafing about:

  • Flat bottom (easiest build, greatest volume/displacement on given dimensions)
  • Square sections (easiest build, highest form stability / volume / displacement, reduces ballast)
  • Ultra shoal draft (offers a hundred harbors to every deep draft one)
  • Outboard rudder (external, inexpensive, easy maintenance)
  • Leeboards (external, inexpensive, easy maintenance... prevented, they needn’t be tended)
  • Free standing, junk rig (inexpensive, simple to use, maintainable with DIY materials, fail-safer)
  • Copper plating (long lived, non-toxic anti-fouling, mechanical protection... works particularly well with flat bottoms and ply construction)
And last, but not least:
  • Move aboard (If you don’t, let’s face it; your vessel is an expensive toy)

Moving aboard converts expenditures on the boat into investment in your home. Even a modest home on modest land costs more than boats up to their high middle end. That lower cost means less wasted on debt service. 

The work of maintaining a liveaboard is less than a shoreside home-owner's (Mow the lawn? Reroof the house? Dig up the septic system? Puh-leeze!). Vacation means a voyage (low transportation cost, no hotels, all the comforts and economies of home!). And property taxes? Low to none.

Putting all your eggs into one basket concentrates one’s risk, but it’s certainly an economical way to go. If it means the difference between doing it and not... 

I’m just sayin’.

PS. Check out Bob Wise's VOLKSCRUISER blog for plenty more on this theme.