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Anke and I are building our next boat, and writing about it at Access to the net comes and goes, so I'll be writing in fits and spurts.

Please feel free to browse the archives, leave comments where you will and write, and I'll respond as I can.

Fair winds!

Dave and Anke
triloboats swirl gmail daughter com

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Wind, Course and Sail: A First Look

The pessimist complains about the wind.
The optimist expects it will change.
The realist adjusts the sails.
- William ArthurWard

Wind, Course and Sail: A First Look

Sailing - matching sail and course to wind - is surprisingly easy.

[NOTE: For this article I am conflating course with heading, for simplicity's sake. For now, be advised that I am using it 'improperly', and that there's an important difference between the two.]

What I'm going to do here is skip all the jargon and terms that tend to make it seem complicated. Words are useful, and a few are introduced, here, but don't get hung up on them... they'll fill in over time. What we want is a framework to plug them into. Once you have the basics, it's much easier to see how all that fits in. So for now, let's look at the big picture.

Let's take a look at the above illustration. Picture your vessel able to spin like a dial at the center (heck, print this out and make one out of paper!). There are a few ways to divide this circle up, all of which are variously useful.

The line perpendicular to the wind divides our courses into on and off the wind.

The labels divide them into Irons, Reaches and Run.

But for simplicity, lets ignore lines and labels and focus on color.

Red is no-go; yellow is proceed with caution; green is go-go.

Red means you can't get there, directly. A rock in that quadrant is no danger (barring strong current)... unless you take action, it may as well be on the far side of the moon. To run on to it, or reach any other point in red, you MUST zig-zag, sailing in yellow.

If you set your course into red, no one will punish you, but your sails will flutter and flog, and your boat cease to move forward.

Yellow is sailing on the wind (aka into or toward the wind or to windward). Sails are hauled toward the centerline (how is a detail for another time).

This is the region you must sail in order to move the boat toward the general direction of the wind. The boat heels (leans over) and develops leeway (side-slips away from the wind) in this quadrant. If the wind blows hard enough, you will find yourself beating (smashing through waves).

Because of leeway, you're never going where the boat is pointed but always at an angle downwind of that. Thus, dangers on your downwind side deserve attention and avoidance. Ergo, caution.

Green is sailing off the wind (aka across or down the wind). Sails are eased out and away from the centerline, usually toward a maximum of 90deg.

Life is good in this hemisphere! Lots of power, even if your sails aren't optimally trimmed. Lots of choices in course - all of green, and yellow if necessary - good for approaching a buoy, say, or running a reef.

The only green concern is a jibe (read up on it, elsewhere in your further studies).


Now that we have this basic understanding, we'll venture a step into the 'how'. Let's focus on our labels, now...

Reaches require matching the angle of the sail to the wind and course. In doing so, we trim sail.

If the sail's out too far, it starts to flutter and won't generate power. If it's in to far, the wind blows flat into it... the boat heels more than it should (wasting power) and the sail stalls (losing power). Like Goldilocks, juuuuuust right is right. We have two methods.

To trim a sail, hold your course. Ease the sail out until it luffs (forward edge starts to flutter). Haul it back in, slightly. There is a sweet spot where you can learn to feel the power kick in. Practice makes perfect!

To sail full and by (sails full and by the wind's whim), trim sail as before. Whenever the wind shifts, alter your course - using the same indicators - until the sails hit the sweet spot.

Irons is still no go... you can't trim a sail there. Done.

Run has the sails out at about 90deg, so no further trimming there. Done.



With only this much info, you can sail most any small boat in wind from any direction. It's that simple! Early sailors had no clue about the Bernoulli Effect, say, or vector physics. Not needed to make the boat go.

This is not to say that continuing our education - a lifelong pleasure - won't increase our understanding and efficiency, and our abilities, options and safety. It will. Learning the language of sail, understanding the mechanics of sail and hull; your rigging, sail controls and the physics involved; the effect of currents and weather; and countless further adventures will endlessly enrich your seamanship.

But it's all building on simplicity!

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Options for Late in the Day

Old age needs so little, but needs that little so much.
- Margaret Willour

Options for Late in the Day

There will come a point, if everything goes well, when the toll of years will curtail our sailing.

While it's easy enough to imagine scenarios, it's very difficult to foresee which will pertain. Will our capacity - in the sense of ability to sail nearly as we have - ebb like the tide? Or will incapacity ambush us from one day to the next? Will the vigor of one linger? Or will we decline as one? The answers will affect our choices, of course, assuming any are left us.

Many of our older friends and relations have described aging as a process of one's world shrinking. They have outlived most or all of their contemporaries. Their senses - especially vision and hearing - often diminish, drawing inward. Their reach - and ours - grows shorter.

With all respect for the choices others make, withdrawing to a marginal living on some urban fringe has no attraction for either of us. Even less does institutional care. When the prospect for life more or less on our own dwindles to nothing, we're done.

But there is that time between the twilight of ability and the end. I see our options of interest boiling down to one of three...

Longer term anchorages - We might limit our major moves to the occasional transition. Meanwhile, the anchor goes down in a rich environment, and we putter together a mix of resources, on board and ashore.

Move ashore with the boat - At some point, even the short commute across the water might be too much. We could pull the boat ashore and 'terraform' it... make it more accessible for elder access by land. A side door, say, that allows us to board with a single step or low ramp.

Move ashore (possibly) without the boat - If, by some miracle, we could be of some use to some form of intentional community and were offered shelter and sustenance in return, we'd consider it. It would surely be interesting. As things stand, the possibility seems remote, but who knows how the world will go?


I see three things necessary to these first two options:

1) A capable, small boat - This would be an adjunct to the bigger liveaboard we no longer sail regularly. Able to be sailed and rowed with little effort, beachable, have shelter for overnighting, and be manageable with our remaining strength.

I see this as necessary since no place (in SE Alaska) we've come across has all necessary resources in one spot. From the First Peoples on, mobility has played an important role in obtaining sustenance from a range of resources.

2) A garden - This can be a purely indigenous Guerrilla Garden, which has the advantage of requiring very little physical input. Merely concentrate productive strains of local plants within easy reach would enrich our diet. Add spuds and we're golden!

3) A larger community - Among all the Oldsters that lived along our shores, even the most independent were abetted by younger, or at least more able folk. Often, firewood was cut and chopped, a bag of grain or coffee gifted, a roof leak patched. The very gift of company was cherished. One can survive without these friends, perhaps, but they helped the Old Ones to thrive.

Making new friends from across the age spectrum has always seemed a habit of the most vital elders I know. These interactions stimulate and involve the aged, and entertain and educate the young. These relationships carry on with gifts flowing each way.

Such elders partake in a multi-partner dance in which it is a joy (as a relative youngster) to participate. Such elders inevitably, one day, bow out of the dance. But they dance to the end.

Something to keep in mind!


To prepare for old age, we pretty much need to live our lives.

Have a boat in hand, and learn how to live aboard. Live in a region from which we can subsist, and learn its ways. Make friends and cultivate relationships.

Anke and I aren't among those who think old age is merely a state of mind. We see it as one stage in a beautiful journey which eventually winds to its end. We love it, from its beginning to that end we face without regret. Oh... perhaps a hint of anxious wonder. But that's only natural.

It's all good.

For more thoughts on aging sailors, see this related post.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Hermit Crabbing: Another Way to Go

Hermit Crabbin'
Prints available HERE

The ideal is to feel at home anywhere, everywhere.
- Geoff Dye

Hermit Crabbing: Another Way to Go
How Michaela Poppleton aka Mimi P rolls...

Over at VolksCruiser, Bob Wise asked his readers what we would like in a VC. Among the responses was Mimi P's alternative approach, Hermit Crabbing. Michaela Popperton, the woman behind the netID, graciously expands, here, on her comments.

The beauty of the HC approach is that one can sample from the smorgasbord of possibility - both in sailing grounds and types of vessel - without the heavy investments of time, money and energy that a fully found vessel can consume. Yet one is much more connected to one's time aboard than in, say, a bareboat charter. Such kits are scalable, and can be personalized to many styles of cruising, ranging from open beach cruiser to trade wind sled.

Just find a shell!

The following is her lightly edited account, reformatted from our correspondence...


I'm just about to turn forty-four years of age, was born and raised in and around Toronto.  I studied architecture in university but never pursued it beyond that, becoming rather turned-off by the profession's narcissistic self-obsession... which is pretty ironic seeing as I've ended up in the middle of all-things-yacht which is about as self-absorbed as it gets.

I work in the marine biz, so I have a sort of love-hate relationship with boats.  It's a career that has afforded me some great opportunities to live in lands far-away, but it also sometimes takes the fun out of doing something as simple as going sailing; there are days when the last thing that I want to do is deal with another boat. even if it is my own!  I'm shore bound for a while right now, so hopefully that will help to rekindle the passion; to freshen the breeze, in a way.

I've sailed all my life, raced much of it, and being a natural tinkerer I got involved in production yacht building with the late PDQ Yachts in the late nineties.  I started on the shop floor fitting joinery into the boats, but between having a pretty solid boating background and being pretty bright I quickly moved into a role managing (ack...) the existing and in-development sailboat lines, and eventually ended up in a role as the president's right hand and acting as a sort of liaison between the engineering, sales, and production departments.  
[I'm now] acting as [...] liaison between a customer or marketing group, a designer, builders and a boatyard.  The customers know what they want and the designer knows what it should be.... then I figure out how and what it will take to build it, and then convey that to the hands in the yard.  It sounds pretty glamorous, and sometimes it even is.... but it's mostly a lot of drudgery penning specifications, populating bills of material, and schedule building.

I've built on the beaches in Thailand, in the furnaces of Taiwan, up the river in Argentina, aside the Broads in the UK, down the Eastern Seaboard of the US, and most recently in sunny, breezy Western Australia.

I took to living aboard out of economy more than anything else.  I could afford to keep a home or a boat, but trying to keep both was going to be a stretch... so I chose the boat.  Doing the kind of work that I do, one or two or three years at a time, demands that I be flexible, unencumbered, and mobile; this is reflected in my hermit crab style of boating, and living.  

The Hermit Crab Approach

I've taken [...] a cue from the hermit crab.

I have a small collection of good "stuff" that I take with me from boat to boat as my situation or locations change. Everywhere in the world I go there are countless almost-retired hulls waiting shoreside for me to move in, and they are generally of a type that suits well the local waters. It is easier, and less expensive, to pack my kit in a crate and ship it across an ocean than it is to forever keep a boat that has passage-making capability that is only occasionally used to advantage.

Essentially, it's a collection of decent and useful gear that I've collected over the years, some of it purposefully bought and some of it scavenged, that lets me move onto just about any boat in the twenty-five to thirty-five foot range without that boat having to be already well fitted and maintained.

It allows me to use (just about) any of the countless, long-forgotten hulls that litter the marinas and yards all around the world.  I have been involved in the construction of so many of them... an enabler, in a way... to the wastefulness.  It bothers me, so I find some joy in giving them even a brief bit of care and extended usefulness.

The Boats

None of them are going to be up to making long passages, so I don't get too attached to them and happily leave them behind when I need to move some place new.  Cost and effort to restore or renew any of them would be highly unlikely to be recovered, so I minimize my investment: easy-come, easy-go.

I actually put very little effort into any of my own boats, because it's the sailing that I love and not the boat; it's about the wind and the water, not the gadgets and brightwork.

When it comes to choosing a boat, I usually let the location do much of the deciding for me.  They never need to get me very far from where I already am, so those qualities that make "great cruisers" don't necessarily need to be paramount; it affords me quite a lot of flexibility and freedom.

The estuaries in the UK really cried out for a shallow-bellied, tall-rigged bilge-keeler (which was wood, and so full of rot that is sort of "oozed" over the waves!), while in Fremantle I made the most of the perpetually-gorgeous sailing conditions and picked up an older generation lightweight racer that wasn't great to live on, but absolute bliss to sail.  In Toronto I had a C&C Redwing 30 and a Niagara 30 at different times: very different boats, but both had decent headroom which made winters bearable.  In Argentina I spent the most out of any of them when I found an old German Frers IOR warhorse and proceeded to regularly get it stuck in the mud.  It was quite enjoyable to actually meet him at his home, and tell him the story ; )

I like boats that have histories, and stories.  When they're shiny and new and washed everyday they seem "silent" to me.  None of them have been over ten thousand bucks to buy, and generally they have been around five or six.

Reselling at the end is the hard part and could take forever, or even never happen. Having put little in I really don't need to get much back out so I cut my asking price right down to a few thousand dollars and someone usually jumps on it.  People are far more likely to buy an old boat that is the in the water and being used than they are a boat that has been sitting dry for years, or decades.  I look at what I spent as my rent for the duration, and my return covers the expense to move me and my gear to the next place.

The Kit

I got tired of always dealing with engines and old outboards, so I bought a shiny new 6hp Yamaha one day when I was feeling plush.  It is a little undersized at times, but the weight savings compared to the 8hp models is enormous and lends me confidence when I'm hefting it on and off of mounts, and it saves 15 kilos worth of freight each time I move.

I have a collection of plastic UN-approved and sized 20L jerry cans: two red for petrol, four blue for potable water, and two white for anything else.  This way I don't need to rely on integral tankage, and having all of them of equal and manageable size allows them to stack beautifully.  I made bicycle panniers that hold one can each side, but I fit them to whatever bike I find locally.
I have a galley box with all of the essential utensils and implements, and a single-burner MSR multi-fuel backpacking stove that happily runs on the same gasoline as the outboard, so I only need carry one type of fuel.  I have a collapsible charcoal grill at the moment as well, which generally (but not always!) gets used shoreside and sometimes with foraged wood.

I use a Sawyer gravity fed water purifier when needed.

I'll probably add a composting toilet at some point, when I come across a boat that doesn't already have something that is make-workable.

I have a hefty Whale portable manual bilge pump that so far has (luckily) been used for everything except pumping water out the bilge.

Electrical systems are the hardest part to generalize and need to be dealt with individually.
Individually rechargeable lights are always a great solution, though more often than not I manage to cobble something workable together with what's already there.  I have considered building myself a box-mounted distribution panel and harness "octopus" that I could move from one boat to another (there are really only a couple of layouts used in sailboats in this size range, right?), but again, I've not yet run into a situation where what was already there was a completely lost cause.  I like making what I have, work.

I bought a used Watt & Sea hydro-generator from a guy who was disappointed by its performance (expecting miracles, I suppose...) and that has proven fantastic as a source.  I take the moorings that nobody else likes because they are in a high-current or -tidal flow, and it happily spins out watts all day and night. I really like the fact that it encourages me to sail more.  It starts putting out current at less than two knots of flow, but really shines when it has about five... so that does create a practical minimum waterline length on any potential hull.  It is also pretty pricey...   

I've also got a roll-up solar panel that is useful at keeping the anchor light working when I'm away from the boat, or keeping the cell phone and stuff charged.

The hydro-gen comes with it's own controller, as does the solar panel.  I let them both operate independently, but it is rare that both are ever used at the same time.

All of my navigation kit (software, GPS, etc) is laptop based, and I have both wifi and cell boosters.  The cell booster isn't completely universal, but has worked fine over my past few locations.  It probably seems extravagant, but my data plan is my connection to the world and lets me work on contracts elsewhere; it's a necessity for work, not for living.

I have an old-but-oddly-reliable Simrad tiller pilot as my extra set of hands, and I generally have enough electricity from the hydro-gen to run the pilot and my laptop while sailing along and working from the cockpit all day; I reach off in one direction in the morning and then come about and reach back in for the afternoon.  Life is good sometimes : )

I use handheld compass, GPS and VHF, but mostly as a safety tool in the event that I go MOB so they are always stashed in my PFD.

Tools... Of course, I've got an assortment of the usual hand tools including fids, needles and a stitching palm that lets me keep old rags useful and earn a few extra bucks when I need to.  There is also a bunch of useful bits of rigging that I always take with me, ranging from shackles and blocks to cordage and tape.  I organize it all in canvas bags inside of appropriately sized buckets, which are always useful to have on hand.

I don't have anything too crazy, partly because I work in and around boatyards so a few bottles of beer and big blue eyes often get things "done" for me.

I have two Japanese-styled handsaws, because they are light and break down into very little space.  I like to whittle, so I have few knives and gouges and rasps.  Spanners, sockets, screwdrivers, allen keys, side cutters, linesman's pliers, caulking gun, rubber mallet, hatchet, sand paper, paint brushes, scrapers.  The outboard came with every tool that is needed for user-servicing.  It usually all sits in a bucket.

None of it is interesting or exciting, but on a boat that doesn't have too much, not much can go wrong nor needs to be fixed.

I avoid power tools, because the electricity common to each of these places varies.  There really are very few places where 110-120VAC is used in the world, but I'm still hesitant to commit to 220-240VAC tools (adapting two available 120 receptacles to one 240 line is easy enough) even though I don't have a really good reason why I haven't.  Aside from not having had to yet....  Toss in the differences in frequency, and the chargers of cordless tools get even more limiting.

Fasteners and adhesives... Ziplock baggies full of new and reclaimed screws, bolts, nuts, and washers.  In bags they all cram down into a very small space and are worth shipping especially after an Asian stint.

Fibreglass is very easily available so I don't bother, and resins have a very short shelf life so they really shouldn't be kept.  They would have shipping issues as well, I suspect.

I've always got a tube of silicone and a tube of not-too-adhesive bedding compound on hand, because old boats leak.  A lot.  I don't ship any of it.  I suppose I could figure out at which point a product becomes a candidate for saving and shipping based on weight, but I tend to look at it as partial tubes have such a short life that they aren't worth going through the hassle of listing, declaring, and proving safe to ship.  I'm really good at giving things like that away to the next guy.

Shipping the Kit

I don't have a preferred method of shipping my gear, instead trying to make the best use of carriers and agents that we're already using at the boatyard.  Using local shipping agents also lets my little and relatively light pallet ship as part of a full consolidated container, though that sometimes means that things take a bit longer to get back into my hands at the other end.

I often use an empty pallet and crate from an engine because they are sturdy and light, and let the customs agency that has been getting all of the boat building material into the country figure out how to get my stuff out. I have always had easy access to crates, so I've not thought much about what it could be if I were to want it to be reusable. Maybe a two-piece dink could be designed to close like a clamshell with everything inside....

It is always surface-shipped, as none of the previously fuel-containing articles can be shipped by air.  The same is true of lithium batteries in many cases, so that needs to be kept in mind.  
My most recent shipment coming back to Toronto from Perth had a bunch of clothing and "stuff" and weighed in just over 100kg crated and took about a month, door-to-door; those two points are just about as far apart as is possible on the globe....

General Thoughts

I think a camp cruiser kit is quite viable, with thousands of twenty to twenty-four foot boats out there to be had wherever you might be or want to go.  There were so many of them built and they are easily and inexpensively had that buying two just to merge them into a single, slightly better one is an option (especially with scrap lead selling for over a dollar a pound so the discarded keel might help finance other parts of the project).  Camping gear is readily available, and so long as one doesn't fall for the marketing it can be very affordable and all fit in the trunk of the car or a broom closet at home.  Maybe an all-in-one kit box that is freight-company-acceptable might be marketable?

Languages!  It makes things interesting, that is for sure.  I used to work really hard to learn the local language, but have found that most of the official entities and port authorities have provisions in place for dealing with English-speakers.  Learning the indigenous language makes my day-to-day life of shopping for vegetables and underwear a lot easier, even if only because I am trying and the locals appreciate that.  As far as work goes, I tend to deal largely with fairly well educated people and they have long known that being able to communicate in English is invaluable, so it has made it easier for me.  Sometimes, though, there is merit in keeping my mouth shut, my ears open, and my comprehension secret....

To Sum Up
Advantages to the way that I approach life afloat?  Two advantages, and two reasons:

(i) The biggie:  It gets me on the water wherever I might be quickly, as I usually don't have to build or repair much of anything.  I hand over an envelope with a bit of cash, shake hands, check the through-hulls, paint the bottom and go.

(ii) The fun:  It lets me pick a boat that suits the waters that I will be in and the type of sailing that I will be doing, even if that might sometimes be dock-bound.  I can afford to be a bit frivolous and try out something different if I want to because I'm not overly invested of time, money, nor sentiment in the boat itself.

(iii) The peace of mind, on a professional level:  I'm holding myself accountable for the part that I have played in creating the mess... the wasteland of forgotten dreams... by quite literally living with and in it.

(iv) The right thing, on an environmental level:  The most environmentally-friendly boat choice (at least as it relates to construction) is one that has already been built.  I'm not making anything worse.


Clearly, hermit crabbing is not for ‘all the people, all the time’. But it’s something to keep in mind when opportunity arises over some far horizon.

It’s a way to see some more of the world, accumulate inexpensive education or establish a base along any sea.

The possibilities are endless....

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Girder Construction in Square Boats

Rotary Girder
A term used when a person is referring to something technical about which he has no real knowledge.
Originally used in the movie "Tommy Boy" with Chris Farley.

[CAUTION: This post is a 'rotary girder' on my part, based on my take-away from technical information that was more or less over my head in its fine detail. While our experience has apparently confirmed my understanding, common sense ajd a grain of salt are advised.] 

Girder Construction in Square Boats

Girder construction is fundamental to TriloBoat and most other box barge/scow/square boats, especially when built with sheet materials.

A girder separates parallel faces by edge-bonding one or more faces at a substantial angle to them (in square boats, this angle is typically 90deg). Relevant examples are box, I, H and T girders. Separated faces are prevented by this attachment from moving, relative to one another.

This enhances rigidity in two ways:
  • Stress loads try to bend the girder. The face away from the load lies along a longer radius than that toward the load, so acts in tension to resist flexion (bending). That face can't appreciably stretch, so until it fails (it or the edge-bond tears asunder) the girder resists the load.
  • As the stress tries to bend the girder, the connective faces at right angles to the stress resist torsion (twisting). Its region toward the stress acts in compression while that away from the stress acts in tension (try bending a playing card on edge). That face can't appreciably stretch, so until it fails (buckles or tears) the girder resists the load.
The wider the separation of a girder's faces, perpendicular to the load, the greater its rigidity. The greater the cross section of its faces in line with the load, the greater its rigidity.

Clearly, the edge connection along all adjoined faces must be very strong.

Metal girders, built from sheets may be welded. Typically, they will not require further reinforcement along their edges.

In wood construction, we seek excellent glue adhesion (a function of surface area and the glue's working PSI), and/or substantial fasteners. Notably, the strength of a timber, running along that edge is secondary. It provides surface area for adhesion, but does not, itself, come under significant stress unless the bonding mechanism (glue or fasteners) fail. It is the bonded faces which provide strength, not the timbers framing the girder.

An interesting phenomenon in materials is that stresses tend to run along outer skins. Two relevant consequences:
  • Web Frames - Generally, you can cut large, rounded edge holes in girder faces without losing significant rigidity. If the face material is substantial and stresses are low (or distributed) then simple cutouts suffice. If not, the edges of the the cutouts can be framed to resist buckling. This feature is especially useful for internal bulkheads, windows, and hatches.
  • Solid Structure vs Girder Failure - We've noticed in solid ply leeboards that, in hard going, we may crack a veneer (the outermost 'skin') to leeward (the side of stress loading). From that point, in fairly short order, it will walk through the board, veneer by veneer (actually, transverse veneers put up no resistance... in effect, we lose two at a go).

    By separating sheets of ply in a girder arrangement, however, the full thickness of ply is now the 'skin', and all its veneers work in concert at full strength. Unless the leeward sheet of ply tears asunder or its edge bonds fail, the board holds. This holds generally true as well for solid vs hollow spars.


Square Boat = Box Girder

The hull and decks of a TriloBoat comprise a modified box girder. Sides are edge-joined to bottom and decks at near right angles to one another. In addition, transverse bulkheads (among which I'll include transoms) internal to this girder form sub-girders.

Picture attempting to bend the hull up or down at the ends, like a banana. You will be strongly resisted by the vertical sides.

Try bending laterally, like a banana on its side. You will be strongly resisted by the horizontal bottom and decks.

Try twisting it, or collapsing it sideways (like a cardboard box with its endflaps open). You will be strongly resisted by the bulkheads.

These are analogous to the major forces acting on any hull as a whole.

Hull areas which are curved - the bottom end curves and crowned decks - have a great deal of inherent resistance to stresses from outboard. Their inboard skins work in compression to resist; the principle of an arch. Accordingly, they require less internal support.

Large, flat panels left unsupported - say, deadflat areas between bulkheads - are not inherently rigid. Their inboard faces work in tension, and allow considerable flex. So I often recommend girder furnishings; furnishings built as boxes bonded to bottom and sides. Like the hull entire, these resist flexion and serve to much reduce the open flats within the hull, stiffening the flats and contributing to overall rigidity.

A final technique is to double hull surfaces (decks, sides and/or bottom), making girders of them. Simple longitudinal, bulkhead spanning stiffeners (rub-rails, leeboard guards, etc.) suffice, in conjunction with girder furnishings, but doubled is hell-fer-stout.

Girders within girders within girders! The result, robustly joined, is an exceptionally rigid hull.

Perhaps you've noticed the care with which a competent crew will crane and block a Curvy Dog?

In the water, CDs use monocoque principles to distribute stresses widely, diminishing their point loads. Try to crush a raw egg on end between the palms of your hands... you can do it, but it's surprisingly hard. But use your finger tips and you can easily rupture the shell. Out of the water, wracking forces and point loads from poor support can wreak havoc on the hull and its interior joins.

Not to disparage Curvy Dogs, but out of the water, they are like fish out of water.

A girder boat, on the other hand, remains rigid on land or sea. It can be jacked from any girder interstice, side-to-side or end-for-end, or cantilevered from three, poorly placed high points. Not that these are best practices, but they happen, and afford little concern. You can practically juggle them!

It seems to me that the fiber strength of the materials in use (ply and connective timber) in PSI (Pounds per Square Inch, or equivalent) is the limiting factor for adhesive bonding. Many modern glues well exceed the failure thresholds of the woods they bond.

Two strategies: a) increase the glue surface area to sufficient (increase timber faces or tape n' glue), and/or b) through-bolt on a schedule that raises the strength of the bond.

I personally favor glue-centric approaches. We've used 1 1/2in gluing surfaces, minimum, for structural joins along the outer hull in ZOON, LUNA (32ft) and SLACKTIDE, with no signs of failure. Fasteners were light and I consider them only useful for temporary clamping pressure (structurally negligible).

I'm unqualified to recommend this much reliance on adhesives. Consider running your construction solutions by an qualified Naval Architect for approval. Consider backing up the adhesives by through-bolting along the major hull edges, from both outboard faces. Err on the side of caution.

Girder construction is found from houses to bridges to jetliners to super-tankers to skyscrapers. Without girders, much of the modern world's architecture would be impossible.

So let's gird ourselves for DIY!

Girders within girders... walls and deck are ply/foam/ply
If additional lateral rigidity were deemed necessary,
lockers could have fixed lids with hatches cut into them.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Musings on the Economics of DIY
The Floating Neutrinos' SON OF TOWN HALL
Crossed the Atlantic...
Viewer discretion advised.

If you don't build your dreams, someone will hire you to build theirs.
-- Tony Gaskin

In fact, most home projects are impossible, which is why you should do them yourself. There is no point in paying other people to screw things up when you can easily screw them up yourself for far less money.
-- From The Taming of the Screw by Dave Barry

Musings on the Economics of DIY

I've been trying to wrap my head around some of the big picture economics of DIY. It's fuzzy. My head hurts. Here's what I got:

Okay. We face the question of where we lie along a spectrum between Do It Yourself (DIY) at one extreme, and Throw Money Around (TMA) at the other.

Pure DIY would be a neo-plastic (vs neo-lithic) venture... bootstrap ourselves up and into a vessel using only found materials. Living, as we do, in the Age of Waste, found materials cover a lot of ground not available to our ancestors. With large enough doses of time, ingenuity and skill, one can clearly bring a vessel into being from our wilderness of natural and unnatural abundance without dropping a single penny.

Pure TMA is entirely a market transaction. We sell our time, ingenuity and skill out to the highest bidder, or for the highest return in Money. We then hand said Money over for a turnkey vessel. 'Course, there's the little matter of overheads along the way.

Most of us lie somewhere in between. We scavenge and improvise, stay flexible and open to windfall, lavish our very own labor on DIY. Yet we TMA for tools, for uniform or exotic materials (e.g., plywood and epoxy), for hardware (forged and galvanized anchors), for rent and utilities.

Insofar as we TMA, theory goes that our time is worth more traded for Money than in direct application to the job at hand. We go on to trade Money for materials worked by specialists (or specialist processes). Theory goes, we get a better return on our time if we TMA than if we DIY.

But that's a shaky assertion. Those overheads - and the little perks we use to carrot our way through the misery of the marketplace - have a way of eating up a paycheck. If you add in all the prep time, energy and $$$ (gone to apprenticeships or education) required to command a decent wage... well... Money doesn't seem so efficient. Matter of fact, relatively few find their way past making it to living their dream.

One of the things I love about looking at boats built with early technologies is that all those boats were viable, DIY vessels! Not a stick on them was manufactured, bought and paid for, at least in the modern sense. Hulls were usually built by their owners in wood stopped with home-brewed pitch. Anchors were hand-made and they worked. Ditto capstans and winches. Ditto line and blocks. Sails were woven by hand and loom before machines could do it for us.

Not an inch of those vessels was out of reach of any one of us, today. What's more, we can now cross-pollinate ideas from cultures that never met. What's more, we have modern understandings of physics which inform our solutions. What's more, we have the material advantages of abundant, cast off plastics, composites, metals, line and fabrics. All overflowing dumpsters, junkyards and landfills. Smothering the once pristine beaches of the world. There are folks who will pay you to haul their unwanted materials away.

DIY is an education; a crash course in all the skills and knowledge that comprise your vessel. Design and lash up, weld or forge your own anchor, and I guarantee you'll know more than the sailor who paid for theirs. Knowledge which may well come in mighty handy in some far and lonely place. TMA can't by ya love, Baby.

So the impovisational path is a Low Road I much admire.

For various reasons, Anke and I have talked ourselves out of this approach. We've always wanted to go sailing (not spend forever building). And we've done okay. But looking back, I'm not so sure we made the best bargains.

We build quickly with the help of Money. But, if you count what goes into earning that.Money - hours on the clock, overheads, perks- it could well be well into net loss. Worse, the Money Economy is slowly shutting down the world through which we would sail. Our participation grinds a little bit more away.

I look back and count up the years gone for Money gone to 'speed' the process of getting on the water. Five year plans for six month boats. Hmmph.

Mighta shoulda just gone dunnit.

PS. On one of our first boat jobs, I was sanding away with a random orbital. Being a skinflint by nature, I was running each round of sandpaper into the ground. To save Money, of course.

Our employer observed this for a bit, then said, "You need to change that paper every three to five minutes."

"But won't that burn through sandpaper like toilet paper?", I sputtered, incredulous.

"Dave, materials are cheap. Labor is expensive."

And it's true.

That's the economic good of DIY... we don't have to pay for our own labor, beyond righteously sore muscles, here and there (work safe, though, or all bets are off!).

Monday, April 13, 2015

The THINGS We Do for Art

Three semi-circles join straight edged framing
Larger to smaller arcs from inboard out

In a minimal interior, what you don't do is as important as what you do.
Nate Berkus

The THINGS We Do for Art

Moderation in all things, I suppose. In this case, I'm thinking of the balance between Quick 'n Dirty Git 'Er Done, and trim-works.

Trick is, not to get carried away.

Trim - in the broad sense of framing, cutouts and rounds - definitely purtifies a space. It delineates areas of paint and may eliminate taping. It helps with cleanup, and keeps spores from their corner crack strongholds.

We know of several builders of simple boats who whizzed through construction of hulls, decks, rig and gear, only to bog down in a jewel box interior. Drown in umpteen layers of varnish. Be brought low by dark, exotic woods, intricately molded and joined. These were their boats, and I applaud their results.

But me? Seems to me that complex interiors befit complex hulls; simple interiors for simple hulls. It seems a mere matter of proportional investment.

We select a few circular containers to trace, with radii that work well together (judgement call). There are only a few ways things come together in a square boat, and we'll use a given size for each, typical situation. If several arcs are present across a bulkhead, we'll use larger ones inboard, diminishing radius as we work outboard. A 3in radius or thereabouts - whether traced or cut with a hole saw - is convenient for the smallest.

There's nothing particularly practical about these standards. Larger radii provide bigger 'knees' between framing and therefore more structural support; something to keep in mind. But we have a pretty free hand.

Trick is, not to get carried away.

Rounding tool with 1/4in and 3/8in cutting ends

Finish rounding can be simple as well. We round corners with a 45deg sawcut, tangent to the desired arc,  and rasp smooth. Edges get rounded to a 1/4in radius with our handy dandy rounding tool (or rasp over endgrain). Sand smooth, and done.

Note: A router with a round-over bit is very fast, once set up, but we find that, given router set up time, we are often faster by hand. And lacking a router table, our handwork is often superior.

In a few cases, we may use a bit of molding to cover a raw join. Shim any carpentry voids and caulk (trim in a tube), with a small, finger fillet for ease of cleaning.

All this froo-froo lies along a very slippery slope. One can always go a bit further. Trade time for a higher level of perfection. Complexify. We raise the bar, here, and go back to rework there. Before you know it, things have gotten out of hand.

Trick is, not to get carried away.

Simple Effects
Ends are merely bedded and butted...
Ply backing provides knee strength

Straight cuts followed by rounding.
Note the caulk running along the sole lines.

In this case, trim serves as landings for platform panels (eg, fold down dinette)...
Longer, tapered ends and rounded corners save hang-ups and shin bark
Simple, lapped joints.

The good news is that these simple techniques can be relatively quickly combined to dress up the spare, box lines. Some of it is faux (unnecessary); added merely for looks. One could very easily do with even less and use paint to 'frame' the interior. But we like it.

Bad news is that even at this low level, vanity exacts a price. I figure we've spent nearly a quarter of our build time on aesthetics, compared to even simpler, trimless approaches. Yeesh! But we hope to cash in on years of pleasure in the contrast of oiled cedar and paint.

Whatever path you take, you'll likely find that a style of your own quickly evolves. Your boat will have a look that reflects your sensibilities in ways that 'classic' styles seldom do. If you build more than one, you may find that each have the feel of home.

Trick is, not to get carried away.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Introduction to THE FREEDOM STORY by Garry 'Gary' Hoyt

Tortola Sloop

On the sea, Mon, you got to be free!

Introduction to The Freedom Story by Garry 'Gary' Hoyt

Among the inspirational, formative writings that shaped much of my sailing philosophy, an essay penned by Garry Hoyt - sailor, cruiser, racer and inventor - stands out.

In it, he presents the thinking behind his ground-breaking series of Freedom Yachts (read his full essay, here).

But what really caught me was the story he tells to introduce the concept.

His words were enshrined in a promotional pamphlet spied among my local library's reject treasures. I snagged it, and carried it with us for many years, before losing it (and nearly our boat) to mischance. I searched the internet high and low without success until today, when I found a scan at (thank you, Folotp!).

So, here I cast Garry's pearl of wisdom; a parable for our Dark Age of Consumerism:
[Note: I have broken up long paragraphs for easier, on-line reading. Otherwise, all is as I found it.]

Introduction to The Freedom Story
by Garry Hoyt - Originator, Freedom Concept

Somewhere between the stately clippers of the late 18th century and the spin-out specials of the SORC, sensible sailing design seems to have lost its way.

Perhaps the problems started when sailing ceased to be the main method of locomotion for international trade and became more of a rich man's sport instead. But whatever the reason, there has been a dreary lack of progress and even some discernible regressions in the field of cruising design. The slightly better speeds shown by modern sailing boats when compared with their forebears of a century ago are more to be accounted for by the improvements in building materials - aluminum, dacron and fibreglass - than by any actual advances in design.

Just how seriously we have gone astray was vividly illustrated to me some years ago in the Caribbean.

We were taking a new cruising/racing machine out on her trial run. No expense had been spared in giving this superboat every possible technological refinement. When we had finished admiring the Barients, the Loran, the Sonar, and single side band and the gleaming array of dials, we scanned the horizons for a victim on which to test our speed.

The only target in sight was a large and cumbersome Tortola sloop, crammed with cement bags. vegetables, children and several goats, and powered by a tatty old battenless sail. Well, even though this didn't present much of a challenge, we set out to make short work of her. Winches whirred, lines hummed, and lips were whetted for the kill!

Except, somehow, maddeningly, that wretched old sloop just wouldn't come back to us. True, we were gaining on her - but agonisingly slowly. We were finding out just how good - despite appearances - that design of a Tortola sloop was, especially in 25 knots of breeze, on a reach.

After all, it was the product of 300 years of constant testing. And when a boat went well, they went back and built another just like her, only changing when they were sure they had one that went even better. That's how progress used to be separated from change.

Anyway, after sustained hiking by all members of the crew, and determined efforts to keep our new wonderboat drawing, we finally came abreast and passed the old sloop. The new owner, who had paid richly for the ability to leave the competition in his wake, looked particularly relieved.

The conversation onboard changed at this point from how well our boat sailed to "how well she rated". We happened to have a lady novice aboard who had the temerity to ask, "But doesn't rating well mean sailing well?" Embarassed by such ignorance, we explained (with the patience that experts reserve for the very young and the very inexperienced) that ratings were something quite apart from performance. "I see," she said, but I don't think she did. Poor girl - what naivety to confuse a good rating with good performance.

So on we went to our harbour destination, beating that old-fashioned sloop by a full 3 1/2 minutes. Naturally we used the engine a little at the end, to manoevre in to the beach, so that did give us a small advantage.

Fortunately we also had our modern depth finder switched on, giving us an admirably clear picture of what was below us. And if only that coral head which we glancingly struck had been below us, we would certainly have spotted it. As it was, we just bounced off, which we all agreed was a great tribute to the strength of our modern fibreglass construction and indeed our 6 1/2 feet of draft was a small price to pay for our high performance fin keel.

We were just getting our 160% genoa down (after sending someone aloft to clear the halyard which had jammed in our high performance airfoil forestay), when that old sloop came swooping by, turned cleanly into the wind and neatly dropped her anchor in about four feet of water, right off the best bit of beach. Quite frankly, we all thought it was a bit cheeky of him to show off and anchor there when we were left about 90 yards offshore.

However, the prospect of a piping hot meal out of our super electric stove soon gave us something else to think about. We sat around, watching the refrigerator, the oven, the lights and the hi-fi all humming away together. It was wonderful to see how modern science had triumphed over all the inconveniences of nature.

That was just about the moment we discovered that some sort of electrical malaise had drained our batteries to desperately low levels, causing the slow demise not only of our oven but also our entire electrical life support system. I mean, what do you do with half-cooked beef stroganoff? And no water because the pumps won't work?

After some argument, we decided to requisition help from the only source in sight - the native sloop.

After ten minutes of wrestling with the inflatable dinghy (specially packed for quick assembly in an emergency), and ten more minutes of trying to row this impossibly ungainly design into 15 knots of trade wind, I came alongside the sloop.

Light was streaming from their battered old oil lamp, and on the ancient paraffin stove, they were cooking a delicious-looking kingfish which they had caught on the way. I ignored the admittedly enticing aroma of this primitive fare and explained our plight.

At least the native skipper was polite enough to appear puzzled rather than amused. There wasn't much he could do to help us, other than give us some water, which he quickly tapped off a simple barrel on deck.

But he did pass along some advice as I was leaving.

"Mon," he said gently, "those conveniences got you all tied up. On the sea you got to be free."

He was so right he even rhymed.