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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

Friday, November 8, 2019

Travelling OffCenterBoards (aka LeeBoards)

OCB in forward, sailing position
(Photo from Pete Frost)

OCB in aft, stowed position
Windows clear!
(Photo from John Herschenrider)

Truly, she doth block a staircase!
-- From 
by Wallace Tripp

Travelling OffCenterBoards (aka LeeBoards)

Let's start with a leeboard.

As we sail into the wind with our leeboard down (on the lee side), the leeway we make presses it against the hull. It likes to slip forward but not sideways (LR for Lateral Resistance), so we don't make as much leeway as we would without it.

Ready about!

Helm down, we turn into the wind, sails flogging as the bow and boom cross the wind. We drop the leeboard on the new leeward side and raise the first one clear of the water. Sails fill, we heel over and off we go on the new tack.

If it sounds like allemande left and dosido, it is. A little choreography on what may be a heaving, wet deck and your partner is a big, heavy leeboard.

Lazy sailors that we be, our interest was aroused by Ida Little as she clamped a 2x2 outboard of her Bolger DUGONG's leeboards to form a slot, instantly converting them to OCBs (Off Center Boards).

No need to tend 'em between tacks! Just put 'em down and leave 'em. If you want to reduce drag sailing off the wind (no need for lateral resistance), you can raise 'em if you want to.

Years went by, and we transitioned to big view side windows. Problem is, with the boards raised (always the case at anchor), they block our view.

We wanted to haul and store them out of the way. We wanted a simple installation. We wanted it quickly and easily handled by one person.

So we scratched our heads and came up with travelling OCBs.


Walk-through of set and stow
Please watch first for overview

The video above walks through from stowed aft to set forward and back. Notice that the stowed position is in the 'blind spot' below the pilot house.

Tour of system components:

Upper cable, eve guard and stop

This is one of our early prototype stops for the board. It's two purposes are to act as a stop at one of the board's two positions, and to shorten the span of the cable.

The traveling block (description to follow) travels along the upper cable until it hits the forward stop (set) or aft stop (stow).

Both functions will eventually be met by a shorter upper cable (shorter span) and crimp on swage sleeves (stops).

In the meantime, we currently tie a double sided rolling hitch around the cable, with the ends led up to a handrail post (i.e., the vertical part, and not the grip), rather than the arrangement shown.

That aft tail is just 'cuz I hate cutting line.

Aft lower guard, mounting plate, lower cable and slot
Forward lower guard, sheathed turnbuckle, mounting plate and slot
Note the guard struts

The lower guard and lower cable - offset by mounting plates - form the slot.

The lower guard doubles as bearing for the OCBs and mounting steps fore and aft. Handy for boarding from the ground or a dock.

A rule of thumb for leeboards is to toe them in 2 degrees. This helps the vessel 'climb' to windward. We haven't done this on these lower guards, but plan to at the first opportunity.

On the lee side, the OCB acts like an ordinary leeboard. It bears up against the lower guard and pulls at the upper cable.

On the windward side, the lower cable prevents the board from winging out, and the upper board bears up on the eave guard.

We adjust cable tension to let them angle inboard, also at 2 degrees. Our thinking is that, when heeled, this produces a downward force at their Center of Effort, equivalent to someone hiking out, acting against heel. I mean, since we're leaving it down, why not?

Incidentally, since both boards remain down, we use only a little more than half the area one might in a leeboard (where one board handles all LR). This is cheaper, faster to build, lighter, and induces less stress.

There are big stresses on OCBs. I would like bigger and thicker mounting plates down the road, though these (1/4in aluminum) seem to be doing fine. I'm guessing the cables help to absorb and disperse some of the stress.

Bottom of OCB from aft

Here we see the retrieval line, its block and cleat. It is used to raise, lower and angle the board with 2 to 1 purchase (we're trying it out... may go to 3:1).

For stowing, the board is moved to the aft stop and raised clear of the water, but with its lower edge still in the slot. This prevents waves from clunking the board when stowed.

For sailing into the wind, the board is moved to the forward stop and tied, then the retrieval line is hauled in a bit to angle it back a skosh. This encourages it to kick back if we bounce it on the bottom in a swell, relieving stress all round.

For sailing off the wind, we haul the board to as near horizontal as possible. This reduces drag from the now useless boards (lateral resistance is not required off the wind).

Due to the relatively poor lead for the retrieval line, while deployed, we can't quite clear the water with the OCBs' lower edges. We're considering a snatch hook under the eave directly above the load... this would improve the lead, but requires awkward handling with low payoff. Still mulling that one over.

Note the upper mounting plates which were cut from aluminum angle.

Top of OCB from Inboard

These two pics show the hanging / travelling arrangement for the OCBs.

As seen above, an inverted block runs its sheave above and along the upper cable. A lanyard is fixed to the block, and passed through the board to the outboard face. The board pivots from the block when raising and lowering.

[NOTE: We've found Stanley™ Pulleys to be perfect for the job... cheap, strong enough, and the sheave pin is R-sprung for easy dis/mounting.]

Below, we see the lanyard emerge and tie off to a cleat. We pull the block as snug as possible, inboard to set the board as high as possible. This gives good landing on the eave guard. The eave has the dual function of bearing against the upper board, and keeping deck runoff from the windows.

The tail of the lanyard - stopper knotted at its end - is used to haul the boards fore and aft. In the forward position, we tie off to the handrail with a clove hitch to keep the board from pulling aft when raised in place for off-wind sailing.

Top of OCB from Outboard

A little miscellany... 

There are two main criticisms of OCB/leeboards; clunking and picking up 'scultch' (seaweed Klingons).

We've only had board clunking issues in light winds and riptide conditions. Otherwise, the boards either immediately bear up and go silent or 'shuffle' along in no wind. In LUNA, we added firehose along the lower guard, which eliminated clunking, but it's seems only vaguely worthwhile.

We do pick up weed now an then, but it's easily dislodged by raising the board briefly.

As a frequent criticism of OCB/leeboards, I don't get it. Any LR device picks weed, and in most it's a LOT harder to ditch. I see plenty of fixed keelers dragging a garland.

OCBs are easy to construct and maintain, requiring no hull apertures or complex structures. Ventilation is most excellent!

Maintenance is a relative snap. To dismount, we uncleat the lanyard, which can then lower the board with 2:1 purchase. We temporarily hang the board by its cleat's lower horn hooked over the lower cable. We can leave it like that until ready to remount or take it ashore.

We shoot for a ballast load that floats them vertically, about a foot or so proud of the water when dismounted. We can easily tow them ashore on a 'leash' for whatever. Propped up flat, they make a great work bench, ashore.

We don't always sail with both boards down. Each significantly reduces leeway, but there are days we just don't need to be sailing at our best to windward (e.g., a short leg after a long run). In case we change our mind, the second is easy enough to set up, underway. If not, that much less to put away at the end of a pleasant sail.

Retractable LR is a given for ultra-shoal draft. It opens up a hundred sheltered spots for every reasonably deep anchorage. When the wind come on, it can save hours to the next hidey-hole.


We've been sailing with OCBs, now, for 20 years, and travelling OCBs for about half of that. We sail year round in SE Alaska most years, across a considerable range of wind, weather and water.

I'd say it's working!

[NOTE: In SLACKTIDE we had windows along the entire cabin. To stow, we had to lift the boards clear of the slot and slide them dead aft. This complicated retrieval to brute force. Lighter boards are recommended.

There's a primitive ancestor of this post on SLACKTIDE's system, here.]

Monday, November 4, 2019

Going Nowhere

Elev. ~20ft over low water

Going nowhere isn't about turning your back on the world;
It's about stepping away, now and then,
So you can see it more clearly
And love it more deeply.

-- Pico Iyer

Going Nowhere

It was a dark and stormy night...

Wait. No. It was bright and balmy day. We had turned the corner from Chatham into Peril Strait, cutting through Morris Reef as we've done a hundred times.

But this time, we were continuing the turn into Sitkoh Bay, intending to skirt the outlying reefs along the inside corner. We'd threaded the reef on the last of the rising tide, and it was now starting to fall. What's worse, it was now past top of springs (tides getting smaller for the next week and wouldn't be this high again for two weeks). Flat seas, that day, but forecast SE 20kts rising to 30kts (from the worst quarter) with seas 4 to 6ft for the next day.

We took bearings from the chart and gave ourselves some extra margin. Not enough as it turns out, and definitely given those italics above.

Anke had the good sense to think one of us should be at the bow (me saying, "Only if you like... we're well clear!"). She wasn't even all the way forward before she called out, "Hard to port!"

I duly put 'er over hard, but too late. We fetched up mid-ships against the only point in the whole durn area that could have caught us, a little 4in pinnacle standing atop a sunken hill.

In 30 years of sailing cheek on jowl with reefs, this is only the second rock I've hit. Ironically, the first was about a hundred yards away (broke my rule about running through unscoped kelp patches) and about a mile from where we spent a few memorable days on the beach.

This one was a doozy!

Initial assessment showed a couple knots of current held us pinned against that toe-stubber at about our Center of Lateral Resistance (side point around which a boat will spin... or not), so we:

  1. Tried to spin off under sail... not enough wind to overcome current.
  2. Tried to pole off... not enough strength at a steep angle.
  3. Stepped onto the rock and tried to push off by hand... we were on a peak and I couldn't step far enough away from the CLR to gain leverage.

    By now, we're starting to settle on whats showing as a small, thwartships ridge a foot aft of CLR. It's no longer just current we're fighting, but gravity.
  4. Tried levering off... ditto.
  5. Tried lever + handybilly... double ditto.
  6. Rowed out a kedge... by now, we're settled too hard to shift, even with capstan assist.
Okay. At this point, we give up on trying to get off the rock, and turn toward stabilizing ourselves on it.

Luckily, that ridge was plenty long enough to support us across the bottom. No fear of tilting and falling sideways. But, being a ridge, it was like a teeter totter with the big kid at the bow. The bow started to settle, and our stern reached for the stars.

Our first impulse and effort was to lash some fenders under the bow for a cushion. But it soon became clear that even with their extra height, we would be dangerously bow-down by the time they fetched up. At worst, we'd nose-dive down the hill and fetch up hard.

Sooo. We had plenty of firewood... we were able to post two pieces on end - one on each side, about 4ft forward of the fulcrum point, standing on the rock and shouldered under the bottom. Further settling of the bow was stopped, and we could breathe a little easier as the water ebbed away.

Fortunately, we could move freely around the boat without our weight being an issue, though we were pussy-footing, to be sure. Didn't want to shake ourselves off those posts!

We rested a bit and had a meal. What a view! The sun was getting low over two of SE Alaska's great waterways. First snows on the peaks all round. Us in the high bleachers, looking down upon it all. Warm food, coffee and time to think out a plan.

Kinda like yoga.
Doesn't really catch how high up we were!

First thing was to run the numbers. Check the tides, calculate ranges, apply the Rule of Tenths. Check it twice. Safe by a foot... we would float in the very early morning.

Next, we contacted the Coast Guard to let them know our situation (about which they would likely get some calls from passing traffic), and that we had it in hand.

We reset the kedge further out in sandy bottom, well off the port quarter (the free shot out).  Set up a snatch block for the anchor line to lead it fair (from directly forward) to the capstan. This let us use nearly its full power.

Before calling it a night, we added two more rounds of firewood lying flat, aft of the fulcrum. Our thinking was that, as the bow lifted and stern lowered, we would rotate around those, lifting up and away from the stone fulcrum. Any wave-induced pounding would be on a more forgiving surface.

Oh. And I took a sledge to that 4in pinnacle and beat it flat. If we were going to bounce in the morning, we sure didn't want it poking up at us!

Approximate line of 'our' rock...
Post and round drawn in brown.

In the wee hours, the tide duly came back, and as promised, lifted us free, aided by light chop. We waited until we were just quivering before hauling the kedge line bar taught. 

Within a few minutes, we slipped free in two lunges. No grinding, no damage.


As you may have noticed, there was considerable luck involve, good and bad, as is the usual case.

If we'd been half our beam in either direction, it would have been a close call but no contact.

If we'd hit that pinnacle a few feet from CLR, we could have spun off.

If the rock had been flatter (longships), we could have spun off.

If it had been too much of a steep rock, we could have slid off either forward or sideways.

As it was, we were reminded again how forgiving ultra-shoal draft boats can be, particularly those with flat bottoms. 

We appreciate the virtues of girder construction. You can see how rigidly our stern cantilevers. The wide, flat, rigid bottom facilitated posting to limit rotation.

These two features most often mean that, even if a strong sea builds up, we can get out with little harm from a scrape like this. As the tops of the first waves lift us, the kedge pulls forward. Only a small drop and crunch are likely, and only a few of those.

All in all, however, we count our lucky stars.


On Appraisal, we draw these reminders and lessons:

  • Always give extra margin on falling tides, especially falling from springs to neaps!!
  • Remember that reefs and shorelines are rarely accurately charted!

    Pilots advise traffic keep whopping distances off visible landmarks. We run reefs all the time, but when skirting need to be on full alert or follow the pilot. Extra wide margins! Lookout at the bow!
  • Set a kedge early!

    We dillied and dallied too long, partly as it was a foul spot; easy to lose an anchor. Still, anchors are cheap relative to risking the boat, so delay was a poor choice. For ultra-shoal, it's not usually the first response, but shouldn't be delayed long. It's our heavy lifter.


We met thirty some years ago at the Pioneer "P" Bar in Sitka, AK. Its walls are covered with photos of boats on the rocks. Not exactly a Hall of Fame, but rather a Wall of Infamy.

We finally earned our spot!

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Where We Been

April Showers

Spirit of place! It is for this we travel, to surprise its subtlety; and where it is a strong and dominant angel, that place, seen once, abides entire in the memory with all its own accidents, its habits, its breath, its name.
- Alice Meynell

Where We Been

Well, life has been a whirlwind but is now settling down to another winter caretaking at Baranof Warmsprings Bay. And that means some steady signal (barring the technological demise of our iPhone 4).

Last winter (2018-19) we spent in Sitka, AK, touching bases with old friends and making new ones. Among other things, we installed a new, full-sized foremast. Our original was undersized and therefore temporary, but come spring, we were poised for full strength sea trials. This summer, we sailed roughly 500nm as the crow flies.

In short, WAYWARD sailed well on and off the wind over a wide range of conditions. We were able to sail, short tack to windward, luff up and 'tread water', sail backwards, on and off the anchor... in short all we asked of her.

Our route took us from Sitka Sound to WarmSprings Bay, Tenakee, Haines, Juneau, Hoonah and WarmSprings Bay again. But ah! The reaches between!!

So here's a few images from along the way:

We helped an injured juvenile sealion aboard for the night...
It was spooked, injured, and we think avoiding orcas.
This little guy woke us by ramming his head against the hull as he tried to climb onto our narrow board guards. He was obviously panicked, but not by us. He tried and failed to get in the dory, so we tipped one edge up (to lower the other) and he flopped in. Stayed with us for about 16 hours. Turns out he had a lacerated flipper, which was badly swollen the next morning. Finally, the horseflies drove him back into the water, and he swam off with some other sealions.

Sari weather, or less!

New sculling oar blade
Rocket Stove (EcoZoom) on bench to my right
I'd thrown together a vertical blade sculling oar for WAYWARD out of poor materials (grey blade to my left). It worked so well, it was our scull for almost two years. But the loom was giving up, and the blade was from a skinny plank. So time for new.

These were inspired by Douglas Martin's sculling oar for MOCKINGGULL.

Rocket Stove deck fire

Our little rocket stove let us cook outside on hot mornings, using just a handful of kindling sized sticks for a meal or popcorn. Afterwards, sunset and stars with a blaze and sumpin' sippy!

Fireweed Friendly

The islands with the fireweed had big stretches of thimbleberry, blue berry and blue- and red huckleberry. A little further on, we found great patches of skunkberry and rowanberry (mountain ash). Each made gallons of fine boat wine!

EcoTourism in action
Note trail of smog...
Starting to look like I-5 North along Lynn Canal / Chatham
Unfortunately, and despite promises from the industry, cruiseships emit pollutants rivaling those of any of the permenant, small cities in SE Alaska. Stack emissions and dumping in 'donuts' (a patch of inshore water three miles from any shore) are visibly altering the relatively pristine air and water of our archipelago.

Up a creek, got a paddle
Here we're in a tidal stretch about a mile and a half up from the river mouth. Salmon are running, but severely reduced in number due to drought. We're about a half mile downstream from where they pool to ascend the river.

Top o' the reef at about 18ft above low tide.
Thereby hangs a tale for another post. Suffice it to say I could'a used a more generous margin of safety!

Anke and I met over 30 years ago at the Pioneer Bar, whose walls are adorned with pics of boats in similar situations. We've now joined that wall of infamy.

The Queen o' King Boletes
Once the rain started after months of drought, the mushrooms were fantastic! King Boletes, Chantrelles and Hedgehogs are our main staples.

Hiding from the wind

Paula Bunyan

Averaged 2kts in not much wind!
At the end of the season, workers from the Lodge replenish their wood supply. But that strips the local beaches of good beach logs, and Chatham is often a nasty place toward the end of the year. So we did our logging 20nm N of the bay and towed a raft S with us. Friends met us about halfway, so we got an engine assist for once.


So there's a quick tour.

Hopefully the winter will be mild and uneventful and I can get back to writing!


Dave and Anke

Friday, May 17, 2019

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

The Humbug spreads his wings

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

-- From Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson

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

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

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

Sailing engine free is kinda like that. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Acquiring Tastes

Image Source Here

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

-- From Still Life with Woodpecker 
byTom Robbins

Acquiring Tastes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Vinegar Tasters
by ???

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


Bonus Story:

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

Fishing, of course, is hungry work.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, April 12, 2019

A PhD in Sailing

Gettin' Started

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

A PhD in Sailing

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

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

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

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

But the spirit of it? Yes.

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

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

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

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

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

Go forth, start small and live large!


And now, a touch of Cutsie:

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

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

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

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

Sunday, March 17, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

All ingredients adjusted to taste/tolerance.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whatever the case, it sure seems to help!


Bonus Yarn:

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Getting Concrete... Sorta

Why concrete and box barges go together?

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

--Louis Kahn

Getting Concrete... Sorta

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Building for Blue Water

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

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

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

Building for Blue Water

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Make good decisions!


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

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Heavy Weather

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

Heavy Weather

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

Lately, my luck has been called into question.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lucky in love.


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

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Sewing Kit: A Stitch in Tiny

A penny for a spool of thread,
A penny for a needle...

Sewing Kit: A Stitch in Tiny

A stitch in time saves nine, as they say, and that is never more true than when underway.

On the road, a minimal sewing kit keeps weight down. On board, it helps declutter the living space, since a more comprehensive kit can be stowed less handily but out-of-sight.

This little kitlet shown above has been a companion since my hitching days. It still handles 90% of all the sewing I need do.

Waterproof Matchbox (Coglan's™, among others)
Polyester Thread (Gutermann's™ #10 Black 100m)
2 Needles (One heavy, large eye and one small, fine eye)
Tailor's Thimble (I.e., no cap; sized to index finger)

That open top tailor's thimble is important, as others likely won't fit in the standard matchbox. Stow with narrow end down.

There's a little extra space left in the kit. Consider a sheathed Exacto™ blade for cutting thread, and maybe a Bandaid™?

Another 9% of my sewing is handled by the Speedy Stitcher™ (shown below). This is for heavy duty work, such as leather or canvas, and develops a chain stitch. There is another type with the spool stowed above the handle, in line with the needle. This makes sense, though having tried both, I prefer the in handle variant. Beware of cheap imitations!

I haven't carried the Speedy with me on the road, though it would have come in handy at times, but it  has a place of honor in our middle kit.

Watch out for the pointy ends!

Speedy Stitcher™

Monday, January 21, 2019

Guest Post: SpringShip Fundraiser

Guest Post by David Reece
(Shown with family)

Greetings Triloboats Readers! You may have read my blog, Our Square Trailer Sailor, featured on the right hand side of this page. In it, I chronicle the construction of a 24 foot trailerable boat, CORNCAKE.

While it was not one of Dave's “official” designs, I feel it is every bit a Triloboat. As these build blogs often do, it slowed way down after the maiden voyage and pretty much stopped with me mothballing her and taking the whole family away to South America.

Now that we have been back for awhile, there are several new pursuits afoot. CORNCAKE is getting a rig, the kids are helping me build a rowing skiff for their own use, and I have a new and exciting job. This last is the reason I asked Dave and Anke to let me write a post on their blog.

In the disoriented mental fog that is readjustment to stateside life, I somehow I blundered into a job teaching at Springhouse Community School. Springhouse is a small private school, here in the mountains of Southwest Virginia, where we live.

I was hired on to run a semester-long boatbuilding program that I have dubbed “SpringShip.” In SpringShip, I serve two roles. Two days a week, I lead a group of students in building a yet unnamed boat, hopefully the first in a series. The rest of the week, I co-teach a class that teaches Math and Science through the lens of boat building and sailing, with a touch of nautical culture thrown in by literature and the singing of sea shanties.

Click HERE to donate
(to project described below)

The Class

Together with Chris Wolf, my faithful sidekick (just kidding, I'm the sidekick), we are taking the kids through an educational Odyssey. The voyage begins with scaling, where the class divides into four groups. Each group is charged with building a cardboard model of Phil Bolger's CANARD, a bare bones flatiron skiff. The catch is that each group is assigned a different finished length for their model, from which they must determine a scale factor which they will use to determine all the other dimensions of their craft. This gives them a real-world application for solving equations and an experiential understanding of scale.

In phase II, we move into building sails. Each group makes a Leg O' Mutton sail to fit their variously sized masts. The catch, once again, is that they are all given the same surface area for their sails and must solve for the height of the triangle to get their particular boom length. The sails are lashed on to the masts, complete with shaping dart, sewn by a sewing machine-handy student. In this phase, they get real cozy with the Pythagorean theorem, manipulating variables in a surface area equation, and solving equations with exponents.

Once all the sails were bent on, complete with mini, functioning sheets and snotters (no reefing, we like to live dangerously), we lashed the boats onto the arms of a free-spinning carousel, eight feet across. We were blessed with a windy day and the model boats fairly flew around their circular course, tacking and gybing through all the points of sail in a most seamanlike fashion. This makes a segue for us to explore Bernoulli's principle and aerodynamic lift.

Once they were warmed up on miniature sails, we went right into full sized sail making. As of this writing, they have finished the jib and mizzen of the full sized boat that is being built in the shop. Stay tuned for further exploration of buoyancy, hull speed and more!

The Boat Shop

Springhouse being about the size of a modest dwelling, there was no place to build a boat on campus. Therefore, our first task was converting one bay of a massive dairy barn into a heated boat shop.

The students threw themselves into the task of cutting and nailing boards across the posts of this old barn, then battening plastic across it to keep out the whistling wind. Most of these kids have scarcely driven a nail in their lives and yet they work like any crew of roughnecks.


The Boat

My first impulse was to build a square boat. No other shape lets you achieve more with less skill, time, and money. However, the public nature of this project, I feel, dictates that the design conform a little more closely to the popular idea of what a boat should look like. Therefore I took the next best thing, a flatiron skiff just one step fancier than CANARD, with a touch of spring lofted into the sheerline, leaving the bottom of the side panels straight: namely, Bolger's PIRATE RACER. Of course, this is a 14' boat intended for a crew of two light people, so compulsive scaler that I am, scaled it up to 22'.

I designed the rig for this monster that I am calling the “Springhouse Skiff” with four considerations in mind.

  1. Manageable spar length
  2. Minimal possibility of boom/head interactions
  3. No time wasted in engineering a reefing system
  4. Lots of ropes to keep teens from ever getting bored underway. 
The result is a rather idiosyncratic looking three-masted sharpie sprit rig with identical fore and main, a transom stepped mizzen and a handkerchief jib (could someone please comment to help me categorize this? Yawl-Ketch?) As silly as it may look to some, I expect it to achieve the four goals above. The masts are 18' long, you'd have to be standing up to get whacked, you can strike individual sails without inducing helm imbalance, and there are five (count 'em) sheets to hold, plus a tiller. Thats six busy kids.

Other features include ample, four-chambered side air boxes for a flotation scheme beyond reproach and an open footpath almost from stem to stern.

The Voyage

In the first week of May, the plan is to take the Springhouse Skiff as well as any additional boats we have time and funds to make, to the Chesapeake bay for a voyage that includes camping, sailing, and some sort of service learning element, TBD.

Cutting Tape at the New Location

The Ask

Springhouse is a tiny, rural private school, firmly rooted in the middle class. We have neither funding from the state, nor the power to levy taxes on the local community. Springhouse strives to keep tuition costs within reach of families of average means.

As nice as it is to be doing this project, it is funded with donations above and beyond the normal operating costs of the school. We are grateful to those who have supported this effort thus far, but we are still not fully funded. We will need, at the very minimum, another $2500 to see this project through. We have started a Kickstarter campaign to try to make up this gap.

Click HERE to donate

If you are able to donate, you will be helping imbue a new generation with a love for sailing and the independent spirit of the garage boat builder. A worthy cause if you ask me!

Thanks to Dave and Anke for inspiring us all in things nautical, philosophical, spiritual, and relational. Never have I been more influenced by folks I have never met. I'm sure the other readers of this blog will echo my sentiments.

-David Reece

Monday, January 7, 2019

Farewell to LUNA

Farewell to LUNA


We designed and built her for our own needs, following Phil Bolger’s Advanced Sharpie concept. Launched in ‘97 of the previous millennium. Lived aboard for thirteen years and sailed a very good chunk of that. Anke, Scups (our canine partner) and me. Great years.

We sold her to another couple who lived aboard for five more years. They sold her to an officer in the Coast Guard who wanted to use her as a (motorized) hunting platform. After that things get fuzzy.

Well… under a further series of owners, she slid downhill. Fresh water leaks developed and went unattended. Ventilation went by the wayside. Rot set in.

In the end, we bought her from the Harbor for a dollar, salvaged her copper and remaining gear and burned her on an island beach.

It’s hard to do.

A boat is still something more than a mere object. We dreamed her into being. We put her together with our four hands. Lived and loved aboard her for almost half our lives together.

Experiences sere and lang were had aboard her. Friends and family sometimes sailed along with us.

‘She’ (in LUNA’s case) partnered us, sheltered us, carried us, looked after us and depended on us. Taking her mortal remains apart by craft and force, saving what could be saved, then setting a match to her… it’s a solemn task.

We could see in her abandoned interior that the last(?) owner had struggled with life. Bills unpaid. An acquisitive obsession packed the hull with a super-abundance of stuff… worn clothing, broken tools and rotting food.

Yet she had tried to make a home for her child. There were sparkly, upbeat sayings tacked to the walls, small treasures assembled here and there, and drawings in a juvenile’s hand that showed that there was joy to be found in life.

LUNA’s decks were still watertight. Her woodstove was still operable and showed signs of use. Her walls, while softening, still held the wind at bay, and her ever strong bottom, the sea.

LUNA was our home.

Our friends’ home.

And maybe at the end - for a while - she was home to a mother and daughter in their time of need.

Fare thee well

PS. We cut the hull down to a 'barge' to deliver the copper plate for transport. LUNA's last voyage was under tow but she carried her own with dignity.