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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

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Duet Together
Photo by Dorothea Lange

We hail from a time when,
If something gets broke, ya fix it.
Ya don't just throw it away.
-- An Elderly Couple's Secret to Long Love

Duet Together

Sad news percolates through the grapevine; another couple, once very much in love, has grown apart and split the sheets.

Now, we don't think of these as failed partnerships, and shy away from the judgement implicit in the word. There are as many reasons why couples part as for coming together. Rather, it's a time to support friends who are most often hurting, and helping, where we can, to facilitate their transition from love to simple amity.

 But there's a pretty common thread, running among these partings; often, the couple spent a great deal of their waking hours apart. Work and commute, domestic chores, hobbies and pastimes, social activities, social interactions, toob time... many of these are activities pursued separately. These take a toll on time and energy that might be invested in partnership. These run lovers along paths which can, and so often do diverge.

There are other possibilities.

Anke's about to head out to renew her passport – for about a week – while I stay at our winter care-taking gig. It occurs to me that, from 26 years, this will bring us up to total of one month apart. I hate it; she hates it. Gotta be done.

One of the most frequent questions we're asked about living aboard is, “Don't you need some time and space away from each other, now and then?” Answer, “Umm, no. Why?”

I suppose we do take time apart, in a sense.. We both like to read, and only sometimes in the same subjects. I write, she draws. She hits the hay earlier than I do, most days.

But this all takes place within reach of conversational tones. It's easy to share, and check in, and steal a kiss 'n' a hug. We're not walking in lockstep, but neither do we lose contact.

When we're home, we live close.
Life onboard is ... well... intimate. The needful goes better with all hands, pulling together. The pleasures of the life are shared by all aboard. One is never further than voice can carry, and thoughts and laughter are easily shared.

When we work, we work together.
Bad enough we have to work, now and then... but to work apart from each other?? Package deal or no deal. This can deliver a hit to our economic potential, of course. A job like care-taking pays the same, whether for one or two. Or working possibilities are limited to the overlap of our skills.

When we travel, we travel together. No separate vacations for us. Most of our travel is just moving around with the wind; travel without really leaving home. Travel overseas to see her family is an arduous and risky venture. If anything's gonna happen, we'll face it together.

If something gets broke, we fix it.
We may fuss and we may fight, but it ain't like that all the time (line from Ruby Pearl by the Hackensaw Boys)! We work at this as hard as anybody, and with as much cause. We're not always fair or patient with one another, but we notice, and talk until we get there.

I'm not bragging here. These approaches won't work for everyone. This is a way that works for us, and we like it. I merely suspect they might avoid some of the growing apart that goes around.

That, and stay in touch with why you fell in love.


PS. What got me thinking about this was a task we've been tackling, together, these last few days. A generator is failing, and its 500lb replacement needs to be swapped in. This entails getting it out of storage, across a couple of separate docks, up a tidal ramp, across boardwalks and a gravelled path, through some woods and over stones and boulders, up two levels of powerhouse porches, through a narrow door and crowded machine room, then wire up its three phases and presto! I'll spare you the reverse trip for the old one.

The job entails chewing gum, baling wire and a whole lot of odds and ends. It's a little dangerous, and if we drop it, we've bought it. Alone it would be doable, but tedious. Together, it's doable, and yet another bonding experience, replete with laughter and copious opportunities for growth.

She is my 'buddy from work', and so much more.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Footwear's Footprint: Problems and a Solution?

Tire Sandals.

From Thomas J. Elpel's Primitive Living Skills
Article contains tire sandal pattern and instructions

Sell a man a boot, you boot him for a while.
Teach a man to boot, you boot him for life.

-- Ancient Chinese saying, sort of 

 Footwear's Footprint: Problems and a Solution?

As coastal cruisers in temperate climes, we are oppressed by our mountain of footwear.

Here's our current list by type and purpose; 
  • Rubber Boots Edge-of-the-water and wet hikes ashore.
  • Leather Boots – Longer, more rugged hikes.
  • Hip Waders – Wading for repairs or thin water maneuvers... chest waders would be nice, instead.
  • Winter Boots – Insulated for cold weather sailing or snow ashore.
  • Sandals – In and out of water in warm weather... good soles allow doubling as street shoes.
  • Slippers – Sheerling for lounging and fair-weather sailing, while high soles allow short, wet deck excursions.
  • Snow Shoes – Snow and occasionally mud.

Times two! Sheesh!! This adds up to a bulky heap o' gear.

Shoes get a lot of wear and tear, and replacing them adds up, over time, to a pretty penny. 

If not given prime storage, they tend to mildew, no matter how well cleaned.
Our vital rubber boots, in particular, only last a few seasons at best... we face a choice of carrying a spare set or patching (mixed success) until pulling into a town for replacement. And over the years, they leave a trail of unrecyclable garbage. Can sometimes cut them down to 'garden loafers' and pass out to friends, but most of them are doing the same, themselves.

My hip waders are heavy rubber whose tops fold down and up again, like old-fashioned sea-boots (this makes them near impossible to use with pant-style raingear, and a short rainjacket doesn't cover their tops). While I like them in dry weather, they are too heavy and expensive for general use. Anke uses a lighter set, but they're still not economical for frequent use.

In general, we go for robust treads for afloat/ashore use. Not for us the sliced sole, deck-gripping yacht tread... they just can't cope with a slimy rock or mossy log.

But I've come across some ideas that might help reduce our footprint.

Leather has some distinct advantages, with DIY potential.

Well made, maintained and oiled, leather boots are reliably waterproof. Irving Johnson, in Around the Horn, reports that professional sailors preferred leather sea-boots to rubber. Apparently, they kept feet warmer and overall dryer. I'm guessing it's because rubber doesn't breath, and feet are soon dampened from condensation, even on dry days. 

Boot leather is tough stuff. We wear out our resole-able rubber treads, but the uppers just keep on going.

A friend directed me to this brilliant idea: 

Make DIY sandals from old tires. Add a moccasin. Add good socks. Go. 

This system has been reported to be extraordinarily comfortable on thousand plus mile treks in rugged terrain. In our case, we'd be looking at boot moccasins (or moc + tall, waterproof socks?). 

It's a modular system (my favorite), which confers high versatility. Each component can be used separately or in combination. The sandals provide solid, sure, cheap soles to the boot mocs, while the socks layer up to moderate weather.

In our case, we would need the boot leather to be selected, treated and built for waterproof service. At best, waterproofness is pursued from the tanning process on. 

To this basic system, I would like to add a roll of light, water-proof or -resistant fabric to the boot top. Waxed cotton, for example, dampens when immersed, but will not flood through. It would normally be worn furled, but could be unrolled as hip-waders. This avoids the weight and volume issues of folded leather. Having them always available would be a big asset. 

Insulated overboots from sturdy fabric for cold-weather can be DIYed, again using the sandals for soles. Weather cold enough for insulation is generally dry. With care, these can be used ashore. With luck, the overboot could double as a lounging slipper?

In-soles are a low-profile accessory. Wool insoles provide cushion and insulation from the ground without over insulating the foot above. Specialized insoles increase shock absorption. 

The only sticking point is that, while moccasins are easily made by the home craftsperson, waterproof moccasins are not (they can be DIYed, but it's skilled work). There are a few professionals who offer these, custom made, but they cost considerably more than one normally expects to pay for common footwear. 

Still, I'm guessing that a custom crafted boot moc will pay for itself with decades of life if faithfully protected by the sandals. We waffle, but my guess is that this is one skill we'll not acquire unless forced by circumstance.

If this works, we'd be down to the modular system and snowshoes... 

That's more like it! 

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Considering Multihull TriloBoats


Verrrrry interesting.... but STUPID.
-- Arte Johnson (I'm half kidding) 

Considering Multihull TriloBoats

Judging by the amount of correspondence I field on the subject, there's a fair amount of interest in multihull TriloBoats – catamarans (cats), trimarans (tris) and proas. 

Here, I'll lay out the modest benefits and considerable pitfalls I see in this approach at cruising sizes, along with an impressive example of a smaller scale project that I consider highly successful.

I warn you... this is rather dull going. Unless you're particularly interested, I'd bail.

A bit of jargon: Amas are the longitudinal 'hulls' composing a multihull. There's some variation in use about the net, but it seems a pretty generally accepted term.

NOTE: The T40x20 CATAMARAN, shown above, was a 'cartoon' made on request for relatives who'd fallen in love with Phil Bolger's DOUBLE EAGLE. It's way beyond my engineering skills to even put it out as a design, but gives a taste of a square boat approach.

I should emphasize that this approach is not our taste, in general. Anke and I would be off on a Wharram TIKI, or at least a dory-ish trimaran if we ever succumbed to the allure of polyhullery and warm waters.

Multihull Principles

The use of multiple hulls is primarily to greatly improve stability. They may follow one or a mix of two strategies:

Float the leeward ama – Its reserve displacement resists heeling moment, tending the whole to low angles of heel. Its wetted surface and resulting drag, however, slow the vessel and induce lee helm.

Hike the windward ama – Its weight, lifted at the long end of a lever arm, resists heeling moment, tending the whole to low angles of heel. Lifting up and clear of the water's surface reduces wetted surface and resulting drag, as well as hull-dynamic weather helm, optimizing speed.

Cruising catamarans favor the first strategy, while proas favor the second, as do most racing or speed maximizing craft. Trimarans mix the strategy, and tend to work with shorter lever arms.

The longer and leaner the hull(s), the faster the vessel can be. Wharrams suggest a minimum of 11:1 length to waterline beam ratio. Such hulls are easily driven to higher-than-displacement speeds. Extremely narrow hulls with very high freeboard (over low draft) are enabled by the amas, which keep them from flopping over onto their sides.

Circular hull sections are fastest, but have low lateral resistance and can't be easily built of sheet materials. Rectangular sections carry the most load (assuming equal beam and draft), and have high lateral resistance. V sections have good lateral resistance and speed, but low displacement on a given draft.

Long and narrow has ergonomic consequences. In order to have a wide enough interior to fit even a snug double berth within a fast hull, the hull quickly gets long. Flare above the waterline can help, but a platform must be placed high to take advantage, reducing its headroom. The interior is linear, in shorter hulls, with little opportunity for circular social settings below-decks.

A common solution is to live largely on top of the hull/ama(s)/deck. But this generates considerable superstructure which adds weight and windage.

A mixed strategy is often employed... low superstructure to provide headroom over the narrow hull, into which, perhaps, only feet may dangle. It may overhang the sides to help provide 'elbow-room', storage or even low headroom bunks.

Wharrams recommend a 3ft sea-riding height for bluewater cats (I take that as applying generally to multis), measured from the waterline to the underside of decks between amas.

Caveat to Multihulls vs Monohulls

Here are some for DIY builders to consider when comparing types:

For a given footprint, a multihull adds cost, complexity and engineering challenges.

You are building two to three monohulls, cross beams to join them, with one or more decks and/or superstructures over. Each of these components represents a fair chunk of the effort required by a monohull. Special challenges – like mast steps, Ackermann steering, high leverage forces throughout – make design daunting to dangerous for the amateur. Everything multiplied x multi.

In terms of square sections, things get scarier... the initial and reserve buoyancy of a slab is much higher than usual sections. Larger forces develop faster than the usual rules-of-thumb were evolved to handle.

If one joins the very few pioneers in this field, I recommend a cautious approach, backed by modelling, certified expert advice and incremental sea-trials.

The payoffs are speed(!) under sail, humongous decks and undeniably cool. For the pure of heart, able to run lightly through the world, multihulls can more than pay their way.

So, with that caveat, let's continue...

Simple Conversions: Adding Outriggers to Square Boats

Adding amas to a full-width TriloBoat designed as a cruising hull, I feel, is a losing proposition.

Triloboats and other box barges already have the highest monohull form stability possible on a given footprint (length x beam x draft).

As cruisers, box barges skim upright downwind, benefitting from shoal draft relative to their displacement (don't have to push much water aside). On the wind, they benefit from heeling by presenting a V section to the water.

A simple, multihull conversion detracts from both. The outrigger(s) add displacement and drag off the wind, and force the hull more upright on the wind. Plus, they clutter the deck, increase the beam with high windage, vulnerable bits, and – starting from the high mono-deck – don't offer usable sidedecks.


Critiquing the T40x20 CATAMARAN

Let's take for granted that my T40x20 CATAMARAN can be well-engineered to be affordably and soundly built.

Even so, the two amas together total only 8ft hull beam. Displacement is roughly equivalent, then, to a T40x8 square monohull. But the monohull wouldn't require the two, inboard ama sidewalls. We'd be able to live within the T40x8, rather than on top of it, eliminating much of the superstructure with its weight and windage.

If a large living platform were the goal, converting to a barge by hulling over between amas would increase displacement by roughly 250%, and likely halve construction effort.

Box Section Approach to Multihulls

So let's look at it from the other direction. Could a 'square' multhull be worthwhile, designed from the ground up? This, to my mind, shows much more promise.

Triloboat approaches that might apply:

  • Square sections
  • Constant section
  • Whole and even fractions of sheet materials

These are independent, and can be considered throughout the design.

We'd likely want to start with a long, slender hull, as per multihull normal, for an easily driven hull.

Square sections carry the same weight on less draft than all others. That can be useful. Their right angle chines provide good lateral resistance. They're easy to build, and interiors are easier to fit. Hull mid-bodies benefit most.

But flat bottoms forward – especially when held upright by amas – pound when slapped by the water's surface. What to do?

Fining down the bow - and maybe adding a cutwater (a sharp, faux hull bonded under the bow) - helps a lot with this. I'd consider matching the forward curves in plan and profile (TAB) for least turbulence.

I doubt the stern needs to narrow, and full width preserves precious deck space at the transom. I'd consider a very easy exit, with the bottom of the transom at or slightly above the waterline. Being a multihull, we're not going to heel much (so won't drag the transom corners), while the release wave depresses to help match the exit angle. Never actually seen this in square hull action, so needs experiment.

Constant sections – of whatever shape – naturally develop parallel longitudinal lines (such as the sheer) along the constant section. This is especially useful amidships, with superstructure planned and fit along this stretch.

Constant section amas , with shaped foam ends (where shapes get complex) and glassed over, show promise, I think, for easy construction and good performance. I'd personally favor assymetrical V sections (especially Newick plow-style), with the leeward face(s) oriented vertically for lateral resistance.

Whole and even fractions of sheet materials can be applied to hull, superstructure and decks, for economies of effort an material.

Another approach to square sections might be to rotate the square sectioned hull 45deg, for an upright V section. We'd end up with a diamond-style section resembling Superman's chest logo (variations are possible). The right-angle keel would run the entire centerline, eliminating any need for a cutwater at the bow. Downside is increased draft for the same displacement.

A Square Trimaran: (Mostly) A Success Story

Mark Meyer designed and built an upright box section trimaran at 27 feet. It is wicked fast, fun, good looking (I think) and carried his family safely across the waters of northern Southeast Alaska. He used it extensively to fish Tenakee Inlet for at least a decade.

Notably, he used square section, aluminum girders, rigidly mounted, for cross-beams. These worked very well.

His only disappointment were the flat-bottomed amas – skimming across the water they pounded hard. He added a V section cutwater toward the bow, which improved the situation, but not much. Apparently, flat-bottomed, flying amas proved to be a poor choice.

NOTE: Wharram Designs abandoned flat-bottoms for their catamarans for the same reason... the windward ama raised enough to pound badly. Nevertheless, they safely travelled far and wide.

Mark definitively proved the concept for the main hull, and new amas were in the works last I checked in. 

My personal opinion is that  square sections are a viable choice for hulls that stay immersed, especially when building quick and dirty or on a small scale. 

I, myself would opt  for other shapes in any project large enough to represent a significant investment. It seems to me that, beyond a certain point, the savings in construction effort cut into long-term multihull values.

But that's me.


So there you are, dear Readers. For those of you interested in these exotic pursuits, I wish you happy doodling.

And keep me posted!