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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, May 20, 2014

On-Board Economics: Toward a Gift Economy

Painting by Alexi Berry

May no gift be too small to give, 
Nor too simple to receive, 
Which is wrapped in thoughtfulness, 
And tied with love.

-- L.O. Baird

economy - from Greek oikonomia, meaning household management.

On-Board Economics: Toward a Gift Economy

There is the world-at-large. And then there is the world-on-board. Two very different spheres.

In the greater world - like it or not - economics are reduced to matters of money and commodities. Like the old joke: 

Me: Would you sleep with me for a million bucks?
You: Heck yeah!
Me: How about for twenty?
You: What do you take me for?
Me: That's been established, now we're just haggling over price.

This sad exchange resonates through every economic transaction we make Out There.

But aboard? This is - or I hope it is - an economy of a different order! Household management. Not based on money, but on gifts.

So what distinguishes a gift? Total lack of strings, especially the expectation that a gift will be given in return. And, in our opinion, gifts should be from the heart... providing their own satisfaction to the giver.

 In a loving relationship, the urge to gift the other is strong. If that urge diminishes, the domestic economy slows, and indicates that counsel and/or change is in the wind.

Anke and I have three modes, and expect a fourth:
  • Everyday Mode - Our home is safely harbored, and we have "no deeds to do, no promises to keep" (from 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin Groovy) by Simon & Garfunkle). In these times, we favor a state of Taoist anarchy.

    We think of this as a Gift Economy. From each according to their mood; to each with gratitude. Neither of us have specific jobs or roles in the Gift Economy, and no gift incurs a debt (wouldn't be a gift, then, would it?). For chores, deals are struck according to mood, with gifting often playing a role.

    And it's amazing how an exchange of gifts inspires more.

    TIP: For multiple chores, we use a trick learned from the movie, The Man Who Would Be King... one partner divides in two, even heaps, and the other chooses the heap.
  • Underway - Normally this is very similar to everyday mode, but archical... one of us is Captain at any given moment. Captain makes the decisions, mostly after consultation, and remains in charge until handing off the responsibility, or the anchor is securely down. Gifts still ebb and flow as conditions allow.
  • Crisis Mode - Things are NOT groovy. We HAVE deeds to do and promises to keep. Manure hits the windmill.

    Suddenly, we become Marxists under the Captain: From each according to their ability, to each according to their need. Gone are the small gifts, and much of the consultation. When the Captain says jump, the crew jumps.

    And, so far, we've pulled through.

We find that, for ourselves, these three work far better than common alternatives. Father or Mother knows best. You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours. Tit for tat. Equal division of labor. Equivalent contribution. All of these seem so often to degrade into resentment.

It's possible that our free and easy ways work better without having children. But I'm not sure of this... we've been around and responsible for children for considerable periods, at times. They appear to bloom under this system. It's true that, in their case, the Gift Economy is faux - we adults have an underlying authority over minors that all are aware of - but if not abused, it seems not to be resented. Crisis Mode is a more frequent occurrence with kids involved, but generally short-lived.

It's certainly true that, as LINKs (Low Income, No Kids), we certainly have the luxury of time to work out the kinks!

As I mentioned, a fourth mode approaches:
  • End Mode - Chronic, terminal crisis, when things aren't going to get better. We've not yet faced this, between us, but it's coming. This is when gifts potentially grow large and 'expensive'. Where the overt exchange may well falter on one end.

    When a lifetime of gifting has been, and now inspires the greatest of gifts.

We've seen this between others, and aspire to their grace.

Just a couple of pretty good eggs

Saturday, April 19, 2014


A sea house
A free house
A secret you and me house
A way out on the briny deep
As cozy as can be house!

A street house
A neat house
A better wipe your feet house
Is not our kind of house at all...
Let's go live in a sea house!

-- Apologies to Shel Silverstien


We've been away from home.

Not far away, I'll grant you. SLACKTIDE - emptied for the winter - lies out our front door. We've been caretaking our Lodge for half a year, now. It's a wonderful place, and we're employed by wonderful people.

But it's away from home.

Folks with houses often need someone to look after them for a while, long or short. They'll often tell us, it will give you a chance to get off the boat; to spread out; to stay in a beautiful area; to catch up on movies.

Mmm. We hem and haw. Dance a little side-step.

It's very difficult to explain to our beloved and well meaning friends - who would like to grant us the favor of their beloved homes - that our interest is purely mercenary. A job. Sometimes a favor.

We love our home. 

We love the mobility and freedoms of life aboard. We love cozy. We like our stuff at hand, cleverly stowed or awaiting some, future cleverness. We love the quiet of media at a distance - phones, the internet, the toob... out of reach in the moment of weakness. We love what we do instead of live in a house... the weaving of our life afloat with the shorelines of our archipelago.

And a beautiful spot? What stops us from spending as much (or as little) time as we wish, anywhere water flows? And with no more deeds to do nor promises to keep than any other day aboard?

Each moment afloat, the world laps at our hull, sings in our rigging, rocks us to sleep, pours in through our windows.


Monday, April 14, 2014

A KISS of Paint

The pleasures of paint
Colorful Sailboat by Bill Jones

There are only two colors to paint a boat - black or white - and only a fool would paint a boat black.

 - Nathanael G. Herreshoff on How to Express Oneself as an Opinionated Old Fart

One is the loneliest number that you'll ever do. 
Two can be as bad as one. 
It's the loneliest number since the number one.

 - Three Dog Night on Color Schemes

A KISS of Paint

'Tis Spring, and this young man's heart turns to thoughts of... paint.

Paint and painting goes hand-in-hand with boats and boating. Wooden ones, at least. Even the brightest, glossiest yacht sports a fair amount. Paint seals and protects wood, cleans much more easily, brightens dark corners and dresses her up.

It's unbelievable to me how much ink has been spilled debating the proper scheme for a yacht (naturally, I'm spilling my own, here). Opinions (like ol' Nate's, there) run strong and deep.

Color schemes range a wide gamut.

So-called fisherman's finish (stark, raving white) anchors one end of the spectrum. It's cheap and easily applied. No trim or detail work. No edges to cut, anywhere. Get it on, get out there and make money. But One is the loneliest number...

To tell you the truth, I've only ever seen one case of full-blown fisherman's finish, and that guy was himself on the stark, raving side. Fisherfolk in our area use a range of color and detail structures which provide natural trim.

At the other end, are the gorgeous kaleidoscopic flourishes of color usually found in many southern climes, often among the least cash-ready folk. I've often wondered if this is in part due to having access to a cup or two of any given color at a time?

We stick to a more utilitarian (one could say boring) scheme.

The following considerations apply for the way we live:
  • Thermal Dynamics - White reflects well, cooling and reducing thermal flux in wood joints. The more pigment is added, the more stress on wooden structures. This is the science behind NH's proclamation.
  • Glare - White is easy on wood, but hard on the eyes. Sunglasses help, but aren't always handy. Other colors help ease eyestrain.
  • Footprint - It's good to have paint on board when ready to slap some on... the fewer the cans, the better.
  • Clean-Up - Solvent based paints generate (especially) nasty pots of Evil Incarnate. Water-based paints can be disposed of in-the-field with (relatively) little harm.
  • Aesthetics - A little variation, a little trim, a little color are nice, when practical. A white hull, grey decks and whale, and eyes to keep watch decorate the box.

Our solution has been to use latex paints and primers. These have come a long way, due to development for the humongous housing market. Cheap, easy to apply, durable, water clean-up. Seem to get about two years between exterior coats. Interior depends on use, but seems on a par with oil paints.

Flat paint outside 'chalks off' over time. This means it doesn't build up and require stripping every so many years, and naturally provides good 'tooth' for the next coat. All we do is feather edges and spot prime any barespots. 

Gloss paints inside - especially 'Porch and Floor Enamels' once cured are very durable and hold up even under heavy scrubbing. A little harder to touch up, but then, you're out of the weather and not limited to its vagaries. You can not sweat the small stuff.

Color scheme is based on black and white, mixing our own, light greys. Anything else is a 'guest-star' (something we might add when near town, then give the dregs away). Hull and interior get white, name and eyes get black, decks and cockpit vertical faces get grey (doesn't show dirt as much on decks, and verticals cut down glare). This keeps it down to two cans on board.

At the beginning of each season, we start with two new chip brushes each, and store them in two peanut-butter jars of water (tight lid)... one for white, one for not-white. To paint, shake it out on a dry log and go. Brush out at the end of the job, but don't bother to rinse.

And that's it.

Our paint jobs tend to be gritty affairs. Paint suffers from over-wintering, forming a few but ubiquitous lumps. Without fresh, running water, there's always a bit of 'texture tread' that evades the broom. We try to wash things down in the rain, shortly before painting, then let the chips fall as they may. 

Let's say an afternoon of prep a year, and a morning to paint. We don't win blue ribbons, but do pass the 50 foot test.

Good enough for us!


TIPS from Work Boats:

Consider ways to ease free-hand painting. For instance, a trim piece or right angled edge dividing two color fields provides a physical stop. Overlap paint with by the thickness of your brush (or tip), and sweep it on.

Consider making more complex areas (the cockpit, say) monochrome. Sweep it on.

Consider git'r'done for traffic areas or out of sight zones. Pour paint and slather it around. Skip brushing out unidirectionally, from dry to wet, as you might where visible. Dust Bunnies won't be impressed, either way.

Consider oil primer + latex topcoat for best economy. Oil primers penetrate wood pores deeply, rather than 'float' on the surface. Solvents can be recycled in most towns, so its a relatively green option on the first round.

Consider solid pigment oil stains. These are inexpensive, very easy to touch up, and seal well. Take a look at how they hold up in waterfront housing in your area.

Consider resin + primer (apply while resin is 'green'... not completely cured) + topcoat. This has been the most durable paint coating I've seen. First noted it along our dory's tape n glue, then used it on SLACKTIDE's decks. Downside is resin cost, mess and toxicity.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Lehman's Non-Electric Catalog: A Review

Dietz Lantern / Cooker

We're a strong handshake and a helping hand.
- From Lehman's Who We Are

Lehman's Non-Electric Catalog: A Review

You might think that the Amish are among the land lubbinest group of folk to be found anywhere, not to mention land-locked Kidron, Ohio and its environs. And you might be right.

But we Water Rats have a lot in common with them. Or, at least, a lot to learn from them.

The Amish are an enduring community who values simplicity, appropriate technology, independence, DIY, and one another... all themes near and dear to my heart.

More than most, they walk the walk.

So, Lehman's... a company who was originally created to serve Amish customers' interest in manual tools - for carpentry, the kitchen, the garden, for livin' -  but who has found a wider market. In their words:
Since 1955, we've offered simple products that simply work.
  • We value locally made products
  • We honor the past and respect tradition
  • We sell low-tech items in a high-tech world
  • We carry what others don't
  • We stock non-electrical products that are dependable and reliable

Their prices tend to be somewhat on the high side, for any given item, but they are a single point source for a wide range of hard-to-find items. Between energy dissipated in shopping around and multiple shipping and handling charges, the difference is handily overcome.

Anke and I aren't exactly repeat customers. Why? 'Cuz nothing we've bought from them has worn out in a quarter century of hard use. 

Need I say more?

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Yuloh 2.0 and Beyond

For full recipe see Some Thoughts on the Yuloh by Slieve McGalliard

Yuloh 2.0 and Beyond

A while back, I wrote this post on our yuloh implementation. Since that time, we ran across Some Thoughts on the Yuloh by Slieve McGalliard, R&D Director of the JRA (Junk Rig Association). Very good thoughts, indeed, including a general recipe induced from drawings and photos of Chinese Junks and Sampans.

Turns out our approach was in the ballpark, but was significantly improved by following this recipe. We don't seem to move appreciably faster, but maintain speed with considerably less effort.

That's a good thing, in case you were wondering.

Yuloh 2.0

The diagram above shows a simplified version of the McGalliard recipe (check out his article for his full discussion and geometric construction method). 
Note that the decimal fractions used in the diagram have percent and fractional equivalents. For example, 0.66Y = 66% of Y = (2/3)Y.
The Yuloh's overall length - designated as Y - is 60% of Hull Length. Personally, I have a feeling that the height of transom is more likely to be a relevant figure. Eastern, yuloh powered vessels tend to be high sterned relative to modern western hulls. Check your results against common sense.

The '30% to WaterLine' distance determines the position of the Loom, relative to the water surface and angled at 45 degrees.

By moving the Loom fore or aft, the Fulcrum point along the Loom (2/3rds of its length from the Tip) determines the upper endpoint of the Fulcrum system. Adjust position until the Fulcrum height and angle agree with your situation.

Once the Fulcrum position and height are determined, operator height is adjusted, if possible, until the loom is slightly above their head. Height can be raised by standing on a platform or plank (more on this, below).

The Lanyard is fixed near the end of the Loom (or to the lower end of a right angle pin, offset from a straight Loom) and led to deck level and made fast. The original recipe calls for about 14 degrees, but we find a steeper angle (8 to 10 degrees) more comfortable.

Note that the aft, upper face of the blade is flat, while the lower, forward face is rounded (cambered). This develops low pressure on the forward side, developing hydrodynamic, forward thrust.

Details we favor are still those presented in the original post.


The chief difference between our first try and this one is that we now scull using the Eastern system:
  • Facing the Loom nearly athwartships, we place our aft hand on the Loom, about shoulder height... it remains more or less relaxed, riding the Loom and acting mostly as a 'damper'.
  • Our forward hand grips the Lanyard at about chest height and does most of the work - alternately pushing and pulling as we rock our torso back and forth.
  • We can change the 'pitch' of the blade by moving our grip up or down the Lanyard. Low makes for a steep pitch (good for 'shovelling' the stern around in a turn, feathering the blade or lifting clear on the backstroke). High makes shallow pitch for short, rapid strokes (good for accelerating from standstill). Medium for cruise control.
This method increases our leverage, puts more joint-forgiving play in the system and allows for greater control with less involvement from wrists.


I tend to think the numbers are more like guidelines, really.

The difference between perfection of efficiency and pretty good, as usual may demand a price. For example, to adjust one's self to the derived loom height by standing on a platform is inconvenient, to say the least. A shorter Loom and lower Fulcrum height might drop a fraction of a knot, but keep the cockpit clear of contrivances.

I'd personally sooner juggle solutions - fitting the proportions to our hull and layout - than to fit ourselves to the numbers. So far, it's not been an issue for our situations and the recipe as given, but (like Eastern vessels) we're high-sterned for our length.

I'm just sayin'...

And Beyond

Many of the 'improved' sculling systems I've seen over the years lack KISS, a prime ingredient in DIY and carefree cruising. So I really perk up when something comes along that is KISS, elegant and powerful!

Atsushi Doi is a Japanese inventor with due appreciation of traditional virtues. He's come up with several simple sculling inventions whose performance is impressive.They go by names such as ADScull, Ve-Scull, I-Scull, Ro-Scull and PowerFin. Several have been patented.

Not sure we'll ever get around to trying these out, but they bear thinking about!


Here's an article (translated from his site) to get you started.

To get a feel for the potential, here's a sample video of the PowerFin in action, pushing a Layden LITTLE CRUISER to 2.8kts:

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Cold, Tired, Hungry and Stupid

Not me... this time!

Tired is stupid. Go to bed.

- Mom

Cold, Tired, Hungry and Stupid

We've all been there... 

End of a long day at the helm. Fires burning low. Getting dusky or dark and temps dropping as we approach our anchorage. Just when we need to be at our best, we're starting to fade.

So here's a ragtag bag of tricks that help. Some along the way. Some for our personal low ebb. I'll phrase these in the imperative for brevity, but please consider them as suggestions.


An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

Dress for Conditions - Don't allow your core temp to drop. Don't overheat. Don't get wet (or if you do, don't stay wet). Shoot for a comfortable balance, and adjust as conditions change. And for cooler climes and times, remember that cotton kills (hangs on to moisture which wicks away body heat).

Eat Well - Consider smaller amounts, more often to keep fuel fresh and topped off without bogging down on a heavy meal. Some snacks can be prepared ahead of time. Thermoses and Retained Heat Cookers keep piping hot food and drink at hand through the day. Remember that man (nor woman) lives on sugar, alone.

Trade Watches - No one can focus for too long. Develop crew competencies, trade off and trust. Don't hover, or you'll forgo your rest. Work out methods to let the boat sail herself, for the most part, so the watch only has to keep an eye on things.

Avoid Marathons - Plan your routes in manageable legs, with ample R&R between.

Protect your Most Vulnerable Crew - Plan around low tolerance, rather than high. Not that reserves will never be called upon, but only when plans have gone agley.

Maintain Safety Margins - Sailing near the edge is fun, but brinksmanship invites trouble. If cold, tired, hungry and stupid rear their ugly head, you'll want a margin for reaction time between yourself and disaster.

Manage Fear:

Fear is useful... an adaptive response that focuses our attention wonderfully, and initiates physiological responses that can be coping tools.

But fear is exhausting. 

Adrenaline spikes for short-term fight or flight, burning reserves at high speed. Blood pumps, radiating precious heat. Muscles tense, burning energy. Sooner or later, unchecked fear uses up what you've got. Converting fear to confidence is a big part of conserving energy.

Acquire Knowledge, and Practice - Ignorance makes novelty of everything; novelty invokes our fear response; knowledge informs practice; practice relieves novelty.

Neurolinguistic Programming - The narrative we use conditions our responses. Positive, confident assessments ("A is occurring, what are our options?" and "If A, then we B" vs "Oh no... A!" and "But what if A???") and affirmative assertions ("Confidence is high!" vs "This is terrible!").

Mantras - A mantra or 'fear song' can help soothe and calm the mind, keeping us from spinning our wheels. They're highly individual... look around for what works for you.

'Rose-tinted Goggles' - Well... amber works for me. When we put these on, a dark and glowering day suddenly seems a brighter place. Physically, they cut out distraction and effort from seeing through wind or rain in the eyes.

Treaters - Stimulant laced treaters - coffee nips, chocolate, a spoot (nut butter/flour/honey/spiced 'truffle' ball) - give us a physical and emotional kick. Used in moderation, they can provide a much needed lift.

Contact - Talk. An embrace. A kiss. A hand held. Reminds us we're not alone.


Simplifying systems and procedures increase the likelyhood that our flagging abilities will suffice. A lot of this focuses on anchoring, as it's the last thing we usually do before relaxing for the evening.

KISS Gear - A simple rig and gear is easier to handle when impaired. Easy reefing. Self-launching anchors ready to drop with lines free to run, preferably with little or no set-up. Ample working space. Fluke-less, resetting anchors requiring less attention.

Fathomized Calculations - Tidal range/depth/scope calculations are tough at the end of the day. If we're tired, we convert everything to fathoms and stay in the safe-and-simple zone. Thus, if max tide range is 3ftms, we stay in 3+ftms, and calculate scope for depth-in-ftms + 3ftms. Can't go dry; can't go short. Keeps us in deeper water than need be, but the math is simple.

Farmer's Loop - We often set a second anchor to limit swing in a tight anchorage. To keep twist manageable, we'll attach the second line to a loop in the primary rode, and let down clear of the hull. The secondary anchor's rode feeds from a spool that can be passed around the primary to untwist. To keep things simple, we use the following steps, adapted for your cleat/post system:
  1. Set the primary and secondary anchors, haul to center and make each fast.
  2. Haul back 2 ftms on the primary and make fast (it's now double tied, with a 2ftm bight on board).
  3. Tie a farmers loop on the inboard side of that primary bight, close to the holdfast.
  4. Tie the secondary rode to the farmers loop using a sheet bend (if not at the bitter end, form a bight inboard of its holdfast and tie it doubled).
  5. Let the 2ftms back out.
  6. Slack the bitter end of the secondary (if still aboard) and make fast. There should be no tension on its inboard end.
This should have formed a Y at the farmer's loop, well below the hull, with tension held by the primary rode.

The KISS part is the Farmer's Loop / Sheet Bend. Both are knots that can be tied in the dark by the walking dead, with practice. If even these are too much, skip this whole Y drill and figure out the twist in the morning. It won't be that much more difficult.


So there's a small handful of approaches that help us get through when we're not at our best-and-brightest. 

Our abilities and reserves ebb and flow, like all living things. The trick is not to macha/o them out, but to help ourselves along. To stack the deck in our favor.

To ease on down the road.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Sacred Coffee: A Review

The View out Front

Living on a homestead in Alaska is definitely a slower lifestyle, not because it's any less busy or full than others, but because our time is marked not so much in hours, minutes and seconds, as it is by the tides, the sun and the seasons.

Sacred Coffee: A "Homesteader's" Paradigm

Quite while back, now, my Brother's family was looking for land where they might settle, leaving a suburban home and lifestyle behind them.

One day, while reading the kindling paper I came across a picture of a log cabin on 10.6 acres, directly on Lynn Canal (northern SE Alaska), at a steal of a price. Ripped it out and got it to Mark.

Time passed, and they made inquiries. Turns out a misprint had dropped a zero from the price, but an accord was reached. They took possession of their new "homestead" (I'll let him explain the quotes), and it took possession of them.

Several more years have gone by, and Mark - who has been blogging about his experiences here - has collected a number of essays in his new book, Sacred Coffee: A "Homesteader's" Paradigm, available in hard-copy, digital or audio-book form.

And I'm proud to review it.


I thoroughly enjoyed SACRED COFFEE: A Homesteader's Paradigm, and heartily recommend it to anyone who relates to home as more than a place to sleep. And all the more so to those who dream of crafting a way of life a little further afield.

Here are the capitals from the TABLE OF CONTENTS:

A Disclaimer
Living Simply
Living Naturally
Living Frugally
Resource Use
The Paradigm's Pay-Off
The Adventure Continues

From these alone, one learns a great deal of what homesteading is all about. It is these that guide us as we transition from dependent lifestyles to more self-reliant ones. Never mind the thousand skills involved... as seen in Mark's writing, those skills are acquired in due course, as naturally as we once learned to shop.

Mark's writing is entertaining and hopeful.

His 'how-to' isn't so much the nuts-and-bolts variety as how to shift one's paradigm for living, to open one's eyes and heart to new possibilities. In his paradigm, homesteading is a process that can begin today, in one's home of the moment. If we but look up and begin, we can leave the 'burbs as far behind us as we dream, one step at a time.

No need to be raised by wolves, no rule that says you have to wear buckskin, that you have to be some sort of mountaineer.

Mark writes of challenges, false leads and mistakes met with research, ingenuity and patience. And at the end of the day, the satisfaction of work with one's own two hands, of drawing upon one's own resources.

And why?

"...The essence of our decision to live the way we do", he writes, is "to live a better life."

"...Our main impetus is to live more fully, focusing on enjoying our brief time together as a family, and pursuing the adventure of a lifetime in the process."

Process. Adventure. Joy and togetherness.

Over the years, Anke and I have enjoyed their hospitality... seen their new(ish) life up-close and at-length. Mark isn't just talking the talk (which he does well, by the way), he's walking the walk.

His family has forged and continues to create this reality for themselves...

And that reality checks out!