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Dave and Anke
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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


  1. Best of luck on the build! And I think it was an excellent rig choice, minimal head knocks and lots of low tension lines to tend. While planning your Chesapeake Bay splash, you may want to reach out to Don and Erica at, they would probably have some good ideas for location or possibly even coordination of events. It feels like a really small world, that I'm reading on Dave Z's blog about a project in Floyd, while I'm sitting in Roanoke, VA... if you want any volunteer labor this spring, please reach out! - Mark

  2. Mark,

    Thanks so much! Do me a favor and go over to my blog on the right hand bar, click on the "contact me" link and I have my email address written on there in cheerios so the spambots can't read it. Send me an email and we can talk.



  3. I did summer boatbuilding with elementary kids one summer (made 2 sorta pirogues), and with middle schoolers another summer (skin-on-frame kayak). The summer trip is a great idea! Search around for kid boat-building blogs of such for good advance warnings. Good luck to you!

  4. Be sure to do the sail math: I think I see strong lee helm with so much sail area so far forward of the leeboard.

  5. Jeffery,

    Thanks for having a look. If you look at the cluster of marks right above the center board, those are CE's with various sail combinations. They fall pretty close to the CLR to my eye.