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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

Sunday, June 28, 2020

SIP RIP: Deciding Against a Ply / Foam / Ply Hull

Adding inboard layer of 1/4in ply
Next space to my right has fitted foam ready and waiting
Two areas to my right, the inboard face of the hull is exposed

This guy oughtta be wearing his ear protectors!

I think I'd better think it out again!
-- Fagin, from Oliver! lyrics by Lionel Bart

SIP RIP: Deciding Against a Ply/Foam/Ply Hull

A friend of ours built a shop with reclaimed Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs). It flew together, was obviously superbly insulated and was strong and stiff.

But commercial SIPs aren't typically geared for marine environments (though I wish they were). Custom orders are possible but too spendy for us. With tape n' glue construction, these would be the bomb. Sigh.

DIY ply/foam/ply adaptations seemed within our reach, and they were. We've now built two boats with two approaches, and both worked out (WAYWARD's example). But, looking back, we've (pretty much) decided not to do it again.

Insulation (R-value) is awesome and totally stopped condensation. Positive buoyancy is a benefit we hope never to call upon. But...

Here's a list of cons:
  • Framing is necessary, finicky and expensive.
  • Through-hulls need blocking (in advance or retro-fitted).
  • Installing foam and inner ply is time consuming and adds cost.
  • Voids (which can rot or mildew) are difficult to reliably avoid.
  • They can't be disassembled for inspection.
  • Foam takes away from interior volume.
  • Foam adds fire hazard with toxic smoke.
  • Foam is a pile of plastic waste that can never be "disposed of properly".
Framing deserves special note, and is what truly tips our scale.

Its purpose is to take fasteners for furnishings (vs. epoxy welding or tape n' glue which we prefer to avoid), tie the inner skin mechanically to the outer, join panels and seal edges (as around window cut-outs). It must be well-planned, precisely installed and devil take those who change their minds. Corners are particularly aggravating, and may need doubling up.

So what's our alternative?

We now lean toward two layers of ply, laminated (we like an LPC such as Gorilla Glue for this).

Condensation is much reduced by 1in of ply, and 1 1/4in (using one layer of 3/4in for accepting fasteners) takes it down to near none. While insulation is relatively low compared to foam, it's still adequate. Strength is high. Buoyancy is still positive, though reduced. It weighs a bit more. Cost is oddly about even (pound for pound, thinner ply is generally more expensive).

Best of all, interior framing is eliminated... you can fasten anywhere into the wall or drill right through it without blocking.

TriloBoats are intended to be quick and simple as possible. We've found that ply/foam/ply in the hull sides run against that grain. While the results are good (at least in the shorter term), we feel that the net benefit doesn't pay for the effort.

Should we build again (please O Great Spirit, NO!), we'll continue to use a SIP approach for the main deck but go to a solid wall hull.

So R.I.P., S.I.P.s.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Hunkered Down, Sorta

Peering over the berm near high tide

 Social distancing. I've been preparing for this moment all my life.
-- Emblazoned on a T-shirt

Hunkered Down, Sorta

For the last several weeks we've been hunkered down in one of our favorite spots.

It's a small tidal estuary, protected by a berm which has been thrown back by winter storms. We float for an hour or two as the tide floods and ebbs. The residents - including the bears - keep their distance as well.

We pulled in with the idea of seeing how the (COVID) 're-opening' will go. One of the peculiarities of this place is that, for all its remoteness, we have a decent cell signal. Thus, when we peer over our berm, our view is wider than usual.

It seems clear that we are nowhere near out of the woods.

No vaccine. The virus is now well-seeded, relative to those early months. Contact tracing and quarantine authority are inadequate. Global (and U.S.) case rates are rising at a 'flattened' but still exponential rate. Many, many Citizens of the World, I salute thee! But re-opening?? Early results don't look promising.

Meanwhile, we are knocking down a number of projects on and around WAYWARD.

Chief among them is paint, but as yet, we've had no day without at least some rain. We're working on a prototype Power Fin (Atsushi Doi concept dumbed down in our usual way... more to come on this). The new sails need to be grommeted and mounted. The rudder system needed some work (lacing just isn't standing up to WAYWARD's heavier forces... we're adding at least one gudgeon/pintle). Spring cleaning calls as summer begins.

You know... the usual.

So here's wishing all of you health and happiness and a happy Solstice!


Dave and Anke

Edge of NoWhere, Alaska

Sitting dry at low tide

Safe behind 'harbor' walls

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Buddy Boating: Cruising in Contrast

Bristol Channel Cutter

Yeah, but you sail where no sane people go!-- Our Sailing Buddy

Buddy Boating: Cruising in Contrast

A dear friend lives aboard - and with his sweetheart sails - a Lyle Hess designed Bristol Channel Cutter (BCC). And we all went buddy boating for a bit.

Now, Lyle Hess cutters were my first nautical love. I fell hard through the writings of Lynn and Larry Pardey who sailed SERAFFYN engine-free around the world, back when the world was a wider place.

To me, these are the epitome of Curvy Dog. Fast, weatherly, seaworthy. And breathtakingly beautiful. Over a period of half a century, they have proven themselves outstanding cruiser / sailors.

Yet we ended up taking another road. Despite a general similarity of displacement, plan area and volume, our two boats represent near polar opposites. They take the high road; we take the low... and along the road, plenty of room for thought.

Where to start? Maybe at the beginning?

These cutters’ virtues make them difficult to build. Their fine waterlines, full bilges and firm buttocks… wineglass sections, tumblehome, sheer and sweeping keels… all add up to some serious boat wrightery. That comes at a cost in skill, time, effort, materials and outlay of filthy lucre.

Us? Box it up to go, please. Cheap, but with mucho bang-for-the-buck. Heavy on boat wrongery… let’s say we travel paths seldom trod.

Deep keels and a high proportion of ballast make Hess cutters fast. But shoal waters are only available if the tides run high. That heavy ballast takes away from what may be carried.

We skim the shoals and sit flat when the tide goes out. Without all that extra lead (we get our stability from the boxy shape) we carry literally a ton more books, tools and supplies (which means we can stay out for months if not years on end).

Sailing with the wind, we were the slightly faster boat (our waterline length is about 30ft to the other’s 28). We winced a bit at their pitching, yawing and rolling in the 3ft following sea… our ride is ‘shippy’ in comparison. Still, we were quite aware that if we’d been sailing into the wind, they’d smoke us. But they'd have to work for it (junk rig tacks with tiller over... no sheet handling).

As the wind dropped, we turned inshore… even less wind, but if we needed to scull, far less distance to anchor. They stayed further out (motor back-up), and reached our destination a bit ahead of us.

We skimmed into the shallows and dropped a pair of anchors, drying out between tides. The view of the the surrounding mountains was panormamic, and that of the tidal meadows (deer, bear, mustelidea and birds) was up close and intimate.

After the tide rose high enough to clear a shallow bar, they motored in and anchored in a favorite spot. Indeed, were concerned that it might be taken. It had just the right depth - not too deep for their all chain rode and manual windlass, yet deep enough to stay well afloat through all tides. They had protection from wind from any direction, at the expense of a view.

It doesn’t get any more reliable than that all chain rode. But I wondered if a second anchor with nylon / chain rode might not free up their preference for just-so anchor depth and all-round protection (to avoid having to re-anchor). Well… that pointy bow… it just doesn’t allow room for doing much more.

I suppose we might contrast our accommodations at this point…

The BCC is ingeniously but traditionally laid out. Her galley is, by our standards, cramped. Her salon is two facing benches… one has a fold-out double bunk outboard, and the other locker and bookshelves. The two together make up a space about 12ft long by a social 7ft (idle bunk and lockers squeeze the active space of their wider interior). Lighting comes from an overhead hatch and small portlights. Forward is a workshop / head, which one enters via a small gangway… well separated with full privacy and standing headroom under a raised hatch.

Our social space is 20ft x 8ft with a generous galley / workspace, bench seat opposite a dinette and a very generous double bunk / lounging space all of which are open to one another. Lighting comes via two overhead hatches, large galley windows and even larger windows running along the sitting / bunk areas. The side windows, especially, open the interior into the wider world for a sense of spaciousness. Our head is a composting double bucket system with little to no privacy (which can be arranged or found on deck if our guests are shy).

Poking around, their 7ft dinghy (which fits well on their cabin top) takes a few minutes to launch and retrieve. It does very well with one person, but drags a bit with two. Her beautifully fashioned oars really grab the water, but shoals - especially cobbly or rocky ones - threaten their exquisite varnish which is quite a chore to restore.

Towing our 16ft shorey costs as much as a knot to windward, but is ready to go any time, and rows fast and far, even when heavily loaded. Her oars are fugly; the simple ply blades are worn from years of grinding bottom and most of the paint has left them. But free for 20 years with no maintenance prorates pretty well.


Looking across at one another’s boats and despite seeing the qualities of the other, we each, I think appreciated our own all the more.

Our boats very much reflect the way we roll, both on the front end - we choose a boat to match our purpose and style; and the follow on - our boats determine how we go forward.

Know thyself, my friends, and to thine own selves be true. Choose wisely!

Thursday, April 2, 2020

COVID-19: Ozone Generators for Sterilization

Diagram from PrimaZone

COVID-19... Some dis-assembly is required.

 COVID-19: Ozone Generators and Sterilization

We've been using an ozone (O3) generator for several years, now, to sterilize our boat cabin and holds against various fungi including dry rot, mold and mildews. We also blow into a garbage bag to sterilize small items, now including masks, gloves and other PPE.

 << Our EnerZen unit costs about $85 as I write.

An advantage over UV sterilization is that it fills a space, where UV is line-of-sight and won't work in the 'shadow'.

While several studies suggest that ozone (O3) 'kills' COVID-19, this hasn't been fully established.

A word of caution... this type of generator sterilizes the space by elevating O3 concentrations to lethal levels for a short time. No People, Plants or Pets while working and until fully aired out. Don't even want to breathe a little of it. We amateurs should probably leave the building, even if you're only doing a single room within it.

Here's a quick article that hits the main points. And another in more depth.

There is another kind of ozone generator on the market which uses low levels of O3 to ionize particles to help purify air with people in the room. Some are being marketed as helping against CV19. These are not recommended by most medical authorities ever, and especially not now.

If breathed in, ozone irritates, inflames and even kills cells all along the respiratory tract. This makes the cells even more susceptible to virus and bacteria, and if infected, inflammation is a serious co factor for worse outcomes. 'Safe' levels for O3 can be understood as merely 'negligible damage' even when threat of infection is low.

Incidentally, ozone also clears away smells from such maritime nuisances as locker funk, diesel or gas, wet dog, bilge, etc..

Thinking of you all, especially in these somber times.

NOTE: Most hospitals have ozone generators for sterilizing operating and patient rooms. PPEs can be treated for re-use in room-sized batches. Even if it only reduces viral load, it is better than some of the desperate measures (such as paper bags between re-uses!). Please help spread the word your health care professionals.

NOTE: For sailors using ozone in the Spore Wars, be aware that ozone is extremely oxidizing, the heat-producing reaction behind spontaneous combustion. Be sure there are no oily rags lying about!

Sunday, March 22, 2020

COVID-19: Why Nobody Likes Math

Double, double, toil and trouble!
-- Shakespeare

COVID-19: Why Nobody Likes Math
(Or at least, Mathematicians)

Um. The majority of people I speak with are busy making business-as-usual plans through summer.

COVID-19's global reach is doubling every 4 to 6 days resulting in explosive exponential growth. There's a lot of finicky issues in calculating these numbers... let's be optimistic and say it's only doubling every 10 days.

That is to say, the total number of people who have been infected with the virus doubles in every 10 day period. Let's roundly say that each month has three 10 day periods, so it will double three times every month. The total at the beginning of any month will grow by a multiple of 2... 4... 8 times by the end of that month.

As I write, today's global total is 300,000 who have been infected.

How many months ahead do you want to plan? Each month, the total grows by a factor of 8. Here's a convenient little planner:

  1. Mid-April ...              8 x 300,000   = 2,400,000
  2. Mid-May ...             64 x 300,000   = 19,000,000
  3. Mid-June ...           512 x 3000,000 = 153,600,000
  4. Mid-July ...         4,096 x 3000,000 = 1,228,800,000
  5. Mid-August ...   32,768 x 300,000   =  OOPS...
                                                              ...  exceeds human population.
  8.                          >>>  Here there be Monsters  <<<
  12.  As I write, this is the earliest we might hope for a vaccine.

Things not cool today? So many months from now, the first number is how many times worse it will be at the present doubling rate. The math spotlights the urgency

If you can think in terms of doubling time (rather than days, weeks and months) it will help you with vital decisions.


At the rates we used, the spread will peak sometime between four and five months out if it hasn't been flattened. That's the July? August? the President mentioned. 

While the CDC knows all this (their data, after all), they are coy about being specific. They urge, for example, that we have supplies on hand for "a period of time", or occasionally "two weeks". Yet stay-at-home orders implemented today are likely to be in place and tightening for months ahead.

China managed to flatten their curve and are seeing declining numbers of new cases. Whatever we might think of their politics, they moved relatively early and according to accepted epidemiological practice. In two months, they were able to locally flatten and reverse spread. Nevertheless, they may miss a case or two, or be re-infected from the rest of the world which has not taken strident measures to date. Then it's start over with the same 'draconian' measures.

Of course, this presently high doubling rate we're discussing won't sustain.

Social distance and travel restrictions will slow the rate of growth (won't eliminate it without unAmerican resolve). But these flattening measures also prolong the period of pandemic by spreading cases over time. Even if no measures are taken, the spread slows as a higher percentage of the population acquires immunity or dies.

Things won't turn on a dime. We are seeing measures ramp up late in the game, but early in the eventual spread. We hope to avoid the spike. At best, there will be tightening restrictions for months to come. Our best laid plans are all agley.

Meanwhile, the global economy is coming apart at the seams.

So provision up, batten down hatches and take a reef, me Hearties! 
Were in the storm, sure enough!!

The higher the dot, the slower the spread.
From Scientific American article

PS. Among the mitigation and travel restriction measures being implemented, travel by private vessel is being restricted in places around the globe. Even those of us who live aboard need to get where we want to be NOW, before rules and enforcement get around to our stretch of water!

Monday, March 16, 2020

COVID-19: Circle the Wagons

Important, but is it happening in time?
Treatment capacity lines seem optimistic, to me...
assumes healthcare is exceeded vs overwhelmed.

James gave the huffle of a snail in danger,
And nobody heard him at all.

-- A. A. Milne

COVID-19: Circling the Wagons

For those of you who don't know it, I've been huffling since the run up to Y2K about TEOTWAWKI - The End Of The World As We Know It.

Now I believe we're watching it unfold.

The basic factors are these
  • A fragile, Global Industrial Economy (GIE)... our tightly coupled, deeply indebted Complex Adaptive System (CAS).
  • A vast, overshot, human population which depends on a functional GIE for its livelihood.
  • Exponential spread of COVID-19 pandemic which will almost certainly overwhelm the healthcare system.
  • Failed containment and failing mitigation measures.
  • Exponential growth of associated problems.

Exponential growth of anything catches humans by surprise in almost every case. Windows of opportunity for meaningful action / preparation are snapping closed at a rate that's difficult for human beings to grasp intuitively.

NOTE: See here (~4 min vid... visceral impact of exponential growth) and here (~9min vid... exponential spread of COVID-19 vs flattening) to get a taste of the challenge.

David Korowicz lays out the general issues in his paper Trade-off (77 pages for the very interested) and specifically, pandemic based analysis in Catastrophic Shocks in Complex Socio-Economic Systems: A Pandemic Perspective (10 pages for the interested). Both are challenging reading, but, I believe, provide a foundation for viewing current events.

CAS's - such as the human body - have a range of stability. Within that range, they can be astoundingly resilient. But if events drive them beyond that range, a tipping point is reached and the whole system settles into a new equilibrium.

In the human body, an infection can lead to the loss of a critical function (breathing, say), and in a rapid cascade it collapses (and without rapid, correct intervention, dies). In a just-in-time economy, supply-chain interruptions block down-chain production and can rapidly paralyze the economy. In finance, disturbing the mountain of debt can bring currencies and institutions crashing down.

All of these are underway. [Or, for a less detailed and challenging glimpse of the problem, try this article.]

This is my long-winded way of saying that this is both serious and moving faster than we imagine.

 My Urgent Advice...

>>>  Get together with those you most love RIGHT NOW. Stay together for the duration.

>>>  Get together provisions RIGHT NOW (food, water, essential medicines, cooking/heating fuel) for a minimum of two weeks (CDC advice). Longer is better.

>>>  Make an isolation / infected plan and put it into action RIGHT NOW.

>>>  Don't panic, but GET MOVING.

Whether I'm right or wrong about larger consequences... even if the GIE manages to function beyond the crisis... even if your area has no known cases...  whether you are riding this out or hunkering down for trouble...

Containment and mitigation measures are shutting down travel and contact for unspecified periods. If flattening the curve is successful (our best chance), lockdowns will be in place for months, not weeks.

I say again, windows of opportunity are snapping closed.

Fair winds, health and happiness to all of us,

Dave and Anke

P.S. Here's some good advice from a guy who's been there.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Ama AHA! Quick and Dirty Approach to a Small Multihull

Insurance for a narrow hull

My escape is to just get in a boat and disappear on the water.

-- Carl Hiaasen

Ama AHA! Quick and Dirty Approach to a Small Multihull

Let's say we can get our hands on a canoe, dory, kayak or other small craft. We enjoy paddling around, but are thinking a sail would really be kinda fun. But we're cheap.

What might we do?

To sail, we'll need some basic things:
  • Stability
  • Sail and rig
  • Lateral Resistance
  • Steering


I'll presume our little boat is narrow and tippy. We may get some stability from ballast, but that's awkward and complicates everything. So we look for ways to increase form stability.

The arrangement shown above looks quick and dirty to me.
Three features excite me...

A) The simple, bent ama shape... even with blunt ends, most of the time the immersed shape will be hydrodynamic. These look to be PVC which can be momentarily softened and permanently shaped with moderate heat (hot air gun, hair dryer or holding over a heat source). 

Small trees for cross beams and curved drift logs from the base of select trees would work as well, and can be quickly shaped with an axe.

B) The over and under arrangement with the cross beams... the aft strut could easily be eliminated with more curvature or an arced cross beam.

C) The whole affair can be lashed up... all we need is some line and a few holes bored below the sheer rail at mounting points.

This simplifies a scheme Anke and I have been wanting to try with our dory as well sas a planned, half-open beach cruiser, in which we can go into proa or tri mode using beachcombed crossbeams and akas. Using this approach, so long as the hull has xbeam mounting points, the whole thing can be lashed up with minimal carpentry. 
When done with a (windward) sailing stretch, we can disassemble and row/downwind sail off leaving the components in our wake. 

Of course, this works especially well in an area like the Cascadian Passage. Won't be so easy, in a lot of places where the beachcombing is limited.

Sail and Rig

A sail is a simple thing. Any flat fabric of the right size will do. Problem is, flat sails work (if you allow them to twist) but they are not powerful. A little shaping goes a long way. The trick is to get the right amount and proportion of extra fabric toward the middle of the sail.

Q&D fabrics include tarps of most any kind, house-wrap, awning material, sheets and so on.
Q&D solutions for shaping a sail:
  • Cut one or more perimeters with some curvature (curved away from the sail's center). When straightened along a spar or under tension, the extra fabric goes toward the middle.

  • Seize around one or more corners. This pinches the tied corner, tightens the perimeter and radiating cloth from the corner toward the middle.

  • Selectively dart the edges. This is a little fancier, and takes some knowledge or experience. But good in the tool kit.

Masts can be made from small diameter trees (chances are your guess at about right will be about right). If straight ones aren't available, consider a balanced lug rig, which sets well on a crooked mast.

They need at least two points of support - step (or heel stop) and partners with as wide a spread as you can manage (can always add stays). Since we're talking small boats, these needn't be too beefy. U-shaped pipe hangers have worked well for us as partners and stop. If the hull is thin, we'll add a small plate of plywood under the mast heel (bottom end of mast).

If you decide to go bigger, scale up as need be.
You'll need sheets to haul the sail in and let it out. A halyard is optional (sail may be fixed to mast). Some rigs will have their own extras. Consider rigs that keep the extras down (sorry Junk Rig!).

PDRacers are a racing platform with no specified rig. In short, you can see all manner of practical (and impractical) rigs for small boats here.

Lateral Resistance

The harder the chine (angle or radius between sides and bottom), the more lateral resistance from the hull. If we want to sail to windward, we'll need to add more.

Simplest means I know of is an Off-CenterBoard. Most just call them leeboards, but they work on both tacks. Of these, among the simplest is Jim Michalak's pivoting leeboard.


The simplest solution is no rudder. Balancing sail adjusted with sheets against lateral resistance adjusted by weight shifts (LR moves for and aft with crew weight). This is why sailboards need none.

An oar over the side or stern is next. A well placed pin or stern notch, respectively, help keep it in place and reduce fatigue.

A light kick-up rudder (bearing plate style is simplest of these) can be easily hung on strap hinges, and doesn't require mounting or dis-mounting when leaving or approaching shore.


So there you have it. A bag of Q&D approaches that can have you sailing day after tomorrow! 
Don't forget flotation and life-jackets!


Full disclosure: COVID-19 has me on alert. If you may need to travel by water, it's a good time to be getting a boat in hand. Go small, go simple, get ready!

Saturday, February 29, 2020

A Coronoviral Stitch in Time

Essalunga Supermarket, Milan, Italy
25 February 2020

Prudence prevents panic.


A Coronoviral Stitch in Time

Dear Friends,

You have likely been following the spread of COVID-19, which has to date evaded containment. Responsible agencies such as the World Health Organization and the US Centers for Disease Control are publicly urging citizens to prepare for a pandemic.

Standard, official containment measures include voluntary and enforced personal health measures, social distance (isolation) and travel restrictions. Quarantine is currently being enforced in Asia and Europe.

What this means is that, should we find ourselves in an area of contagion, we may be confined or confine ourselves to a limited area, and possibly our homes.

An immediate response to quarantine is panic buying of food and supplies, leading to local short-falls. In pandemic conditions, those short-falls may become widespread. Public utilities may not provide continuous service.

Panic is never helpful, but timely, prudent actions widen our options.

We urge that you strategically arrange essential water, food, supplies and medications ahead of crisis (as soon as possible), to sustain for an extended period without resupply.

A wait-and-see approach is likely to leave us unprepared for official, rapid containment responses in emerging conditions.

Last minute purchases - or at least the attempt amongst the crowd - are then the only remaining option. Goods may rapidly become wildly inflated or unavailable at any price. Panic and desperation are common consequences.

For how long is a good question. US Government sources recommend two weeks for pandemic conditions. COVID-19 quarantines in China handily exceeded this period. This does not appear to take into account possible to probable supply chain, economic or social disruptions which could extend a period of self-reliance.

We recommend three months as a working minimum, with a year preferred. Think of it as affordable, edible insurance.

Death from the virus is not likely for most of us. But reaction, over-reaction and inappropriate reactions by institutions, business and individuals may well create and extend a situation in which supplies are scarce or prices inflated. This is already the case in parts of Eurasia.

We suggest staple foods which don’t require refrigeration.

Whole grains and legumes, pastas, raw nuts, dried fruits, vegetables and spices, dry cheeses and salamis, and canned goods keep well, are (presently) inexpensive and can be used in everyday cooking (even if nothing significant happens).

Eggs keep surprisingly well (several months) if kept cool and turned once a week. Best if unwashed and never refrigerated, but even store-bought last. Consider oiling to block pores. Float and sniff test before adding to other food when getting on. Should NOT float nor smell ‘off’.

A mixture of 2 parts rice (grains) to 1 part lentils (legumes) provides a complete protein, carbohydrate food base which stores well. It can be ‘dressed up’ with spices and various ingredients for a wide range of meals.

We calculate total, dried starchy carbohydrates at ~8 pounds (~1 gallon) per person per month. That's three, four-gallon buckets per person per year.

Note: This amount of starchy carbs provides about 1/3 of the daily calories recommended for a sedentary male. Other calories would be supplied by supplemental foodstuffs, especially oils. If they are your only source of calories, consider tripling this amount.

Consider a camping stove and fuel in case deliveries are interrupted. Retained heat cookers conserve fuel. Wood / biomass burning stoves use fuel on hand.

We urge you to lay in supplies now, ahead of the arrival of COVID-19 in your area.

Wishing health and happiness to you and yourn,

Dave and Anke


In the picture of the Milanese shelves leading this post, we see that only certain shelves have been denuded, while others remain stocked. This is not yet total panic buying.

Some runs have been selective and others less so. Runs are occurring across the globe; common in outbreak areas and increasingly in advance.

What's clear is that the window for measured preparation is closing.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Captain's Crunch: Seven Tensions of Leadership

Barbossa vs. Cap'n Jack Sparrow
Pirates of the Caribbean

Every virtue is a mean between two extremes,
Each of which is a vice.
-- Aristotle

Captain's Crunch: Seven Tensions of Leadership

In their recent article, Every Leader Needs to Navigate These 7 Tensions, Jennifer Jordan, Michael Wade and Elizabeth Teracino contrast old- versus new-school (business) leadership paradigms They propose that a superior balance may be achieved between the opposing tenets of their respective approaches, rather than adhering rigidly to either one.

In sailing terms, we might (very loosely, I admit) think in terms of Cap'n Barbossa vs. Cap'n Jack Sparrow.

Balancing opposing values is something I think a lot about in boat design and sailing, so I perked up when I came across the article.

Let's take a gander:

Tension 1: The Expert vs. the Learner

We who captain presumably have been gathering experience, skills and, hopefully, wisdom along the way. But no matter how much we know, our crew bring their own knowledge and perspective which can benefit the ship. The sea has its own lessons.

Zen calls this balance beginner's mind.

Tension 2: The Constant vs. the Adaptor

The value of a good plan is indisputable. They put us in sync with wind and tides, making the most of them in a traverse. But they can also lead to dangerous, wishful thinking and denial of warning signs.

Make the best plan possible, but stand by for evolving situations.

Tension 3: The Tactician vs. the Visionary

Sailing is tactics in service of vision. No tactics in the world will tell you where you want to sail. No wanting will get us there without tactics.

May our spirit be willing, and our flesh be strong!

Tension 4: The Teller vs. the Listener

The captain has the final word; s/he must tell the crew what to do. But listening is vital as well, from the call-out of the lookout to the wishes of the most junior aboard. At least if we want a happy ship.

Knowledge speaks; wisdom listens. -- Jimi Hendrix

Tension 5: The Power Holder vs. the Power Sharer

Captains must command; a ship cannot be safely run by committee. Yet crews may be empowered through training, consultation and even turns as captain (in which case we become hearty crew for the duration). Note that captains are often not the best sailor on board.

One at a time and a clear order of succession!

Tension 6: The Intuitionist vs. the Analyst

Intuition is a powerful force, honed by four billion years of evolution. But analysis is a powerful tool. Intuition guided by reason is what makes human beings so formidable.

All gut, no glory.

Tension 7: The Perfectionist vs. the Accelerator

Do we wait until everything is perfect? Or wing it? On the one hand, perfection will be attained never. On the other, look what happened to Icarus. We need a solid vessel under us; not the perfect one. We need to know enough; not everything.

Go small, go simple, go now!


They follow up with some how-to nuggets which pretty much speak for themselves:

  • Self-Awareness
  • Learn, Adapt, Practice
  • Contextual Awareness

Suffice it to say that, all of these represent a balancing act. It's hard work in a dynamic environment.

Don't beat yourself up over mistakes... they happen. Don't go it alone if you've got friends and crew to help. Do strike a balance between in-control Cap'n Barbossa and slippery Cap'n Jack Sparrow.

It'll be worth the effort!

Friday, February 14, 2020

The Subject of Love

Love is friendship afire.
-- Paraphrased from many Lovers

Give yourself to love if love is what you're after.
-- Kate Wolf

My love for you doesn't begin with me.

The Subject of Love

Growing up in the days of father knows best, one heard much of love's object. The object of desire. The objectification of women. The objectification of men. Of the world and all who dwell within it.

We were putting a man on the moon. Fusing hydrogen. Discovering the joy of plastic. A TV in every house and a car in every garage. Conquering nature.

Objectivity was a virtue; subjectivity an embarrassment.

She's a redhead or blonde. He drives a jag. She's svelte or sturdy. He's a hunk or reliable. She'll shine at parties. He'll go far. Good mother. Good father.

So many of those relationships based on objective virtues - whatever they may be - seem formal. Going shopping, dressed up in cinematic trappings of swelling music, clever banter and soft lighting... hiding what's missing. I think there was love there at its best, but only of a sorts. I believe we have a better chance today. At least we're talking.

But we're not so very far down the road from all that.

A more subtle form of object love: many come to believe that love originates in the lover. That love must be earned. That one must be worthy before one can be truly loved.

But love is a reaction, I believe, to whom we love. It is the loved one who ignites us. It's personal.

We can open ourselves to love. Work to remove obstacles to it. Cultivate the ground for it. Even pursue it when it finds us. It can only find us through some special one who ignites love within us.

Myself, I'm no great reservoir of love, waiting to spill upon the worthy. On the contrary, I'm just this guy, see? On my own it's just a plod along the slow passage from cradle to grave.

But when the living subject of love comes into our lives - a particular person - we are kindled in love despite all objection. My god, we are set afire! We awaken and feel it in every burning ember of our souls. It is who they are - not what they are - that enflames us.

Subjective as hell. Subjective as heaven.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Boat as Sculpture

Scuplture is the art of the hole and the lump.
-- August Rodin

Architecture is inhabited sculpture.
-- Constantin Branscusi

Boat as Sculpture

I prefer boat as sculpture, as opposed to an assemblage of parts and pieces.

Both ways have advantages. An assemblage can be fully or partially disassembled for repair or extension. Each piece is a small bite, easily chewed. Maybe rebedding is all that's called for. Then again, maybe you're removing it because the bedding has worked and failed?

A sculpture, on the other hand, is all of a piece, bonded together as one.

Should some area go amiss - rot set in, say, or blunt trauma damage - the affected region is destructively excised. Maybe cut, chiseled or planed away. Then a repair is fit and bonded in, resculpting the boat.

A big advantage is that water intrusion behind mounted pieces (as opposed to bonded pieces) is much reduced. 

Another is that boat bonded as sculpture is essentially monocoque, like the shell of an egg. Forces are distributed far and wide, and the whole structure works together to provide strength.

In contrast, boat as assemblage is multicoque, like a picket fence. In a carvel hull (plank on frame construction), relatively heavy, criss-crossed grids are fastened at their intersections (relatively fragile) and corked (relatively fragile) along their edges. The nearest weak point is only half a plank away.

Modern resins, glues and sheet materials make the sculptural approach more attractive.

A sheet of plywood is so large, there's little advantage in treating it like a traditional plank. Fillets and tape 'n' glue joins are not easily to take apart. Removal destroys piece or damages it to the point that repair is more work than replacement.

So... once started, why stop?

Corner posts, rub rails, tabernacles and the like take a few minutes to cut away if, when and where necessary, with that certain schadenfreude of demolition. We get a little taste of the ecstasy of Kali, Hindu goddess of destruction/transformation/creation.

Most times a partial repair (graving or patch) is all that's necessary, and even full replacement of a bonded component is usually a minor project, limited in scope. We're aided by not having to dismount much before beginning a repair... just whack on and replace what you carved away.

To be sure, we still mount plenty of pieces onto our sculpture. Handrails, hatch coamings, cleats, pad eyes, mounts, deck flanges and a slew of other items get bedded down and fastened to our boat. These can be removed and moved without destruction.

Hmm... boat as Mr. Potato Head?

Doesn't ring the same, somehow.

Stanley FUBAR
My favorite sculpting tool...
Not bad for zombies, either.


Tips and Tricks for Removal / Resculpting
  • When cutting away, it often helps to carefully delimit the perimeter of the affected area with full depth cuts. Then go hog wild with the rest, splitting away in long strokes. Longitudinally splitting material stops at your cuts.
  • Be aware of grain run-out which can dive deeper than you intend. Remove material working from the deep end of the grain (splits don't dive below control depth).
  • Full strength, glued scarf joints should taper at about 12:1. Consider that full strength is only necessary here and there... check the context. Much easier alternatives include butt plates, straps and variations on Payson Butt Joints.
  • Consider sealing the components of the sculpture before bonding together, and then again as a whole, both initially and in repair.
  • A arrival on the scene is the oscillating multi-tool. This is most useful as a plunge cutter in limited space (for example, the back cut of a notch). Also tight radius curve cutting. It's very useful for surgery in repair.
You can just SEE the possibilities!

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Frontier and Ingenuity

No. 5 Gravity Well
by Larry Marley

TAZ springs from the historical development I call “the closure of the map.” The last bit of Earth unclaimed by any nation-state was eaten up in 1899. Ours is the first century without terra incognita, without a frontier. Nationality is the highest principle of world governance–not one speck of rock in the South Seas can be left open, not one remote valley, not even the Moon and planets. This is the apotheosis of “territorial gangsterism.” Not one square inch of Earth goes unpoliced or untaxed…in theory.
-- From The Temporary Autonomous Zone by Hakim Bey

Frontier ingenuity characterizes an attitude of make-do with materials on hand.
It entails inventive improvisation, adaptation and overcoming of shortages of materials. 
 -- Adapted from Wikipedia entry on "Yankee" Ingenuity

Frontier and Ingenuity

Inventive improvisation, adaptation and overcoming of shortages of materials.

For anyone living along a frontier, necessity is certainly the mother of invention. Improvisation is a daily exercise. Adaptation is sink or swim. Shortage of materials is chronic. DIY (Do It Yourself) is a way of life.

While the frontiers - and the maps - have been closed throughout all of our lifetimes, there are cracks.

Hakim Bey called them Temporary Autonomous Zones. Brand Stewart called it Briarpatch Society. The wrong side of levees. Hardscrabble land. Industrial deserts. Economic sacrifice zones. Ghost towns. Places which are underserved, far from the beaten path, difficult for any reason.

Each of these cracks is a sinuous frontier between the purchased ease of civilization and freedom from all that.

If you are the type who longs for that kind of freedom, you must give a tinker's damn. We pack up our kit as best we may and head out, knowing that if something is wanting, we make it. If something breaks, we fix it. If a wheel is called for, we re-invent it. If a rotary girder is called for, we invent it.

It's heady stuff!

Mind, body and soul meet in an act of ingenuity. Sure, it can happen anywhere. But how often do we 'throw money' at a problem? Buy food rather than grow or collect it? Purchase goods rather than create them. Contract services rather than DIY?

To be sure, I'm in line at the store with all the rest. Please don't hear that I look down on bartering hours of my life for money and money for all the rest. I'm employed as I write, earning filthy lucre for more of that.

But when we turn our hands to an essential improvisation - as we must sailing a frontier...

What a rush!

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Obstruction of Congress and the End of the Republic

Stand beside her
and guide her
Through the night
with the light
from above

The prosecution of them [impeachments][...] will seldom fail to agitate the passions of the whole community, and to divide it into parties more or less inimical to the accused. In many cases it will connect itself with the pre-existing factions, and will enlist all their animosities, partialities, influence, and interest on one side or the other.; and in such cases there will always be the greatest danger that the decision will be regulated more by the comparative strength of parties, than by the real demonstrations of innocence or guilt.

-- From the Federalist No. 65 The Powers of the Senate Continued... this passage by Alexander Hamilton

Obstruction of Congress and the End of the Republic

I am writing, here, as a Citizen. A member of We the People of the United States of America. I stand in defense of our Constitution and the Rule of Law.

While I realize this has little to do with sailing barge / scows, it has everything to do with our home waters.

President Donald J. Trump has been impeached in two Articles by the House of Representatives, who as I write, is being 'tried' in the Senate.

The case for Article I: Abuse of Power should, I believe be properly tried in the adversarial, partisan Senate and full, impartial Justice be done to the best of Senators' abilities. Yes, it's messy and passionate and blood runs high. That is the nature of politics, which the Framers understood and attempted to encompass in a just and practical system.

Our own friends are divided on the issues. What is accepted as fact differs widely, even among those who agree in the main.

But our Republic can survive abuses of power as we have since its founding.

To me, the crucial issue is Article II: Obstruction of Congress.

The facts of Obstruction of Congress are public and explicit. No procedural argument can be raised against the sole power of Impeachment reserved to the US House of Representatives by the Constitution.

Here's the problem; the integrity of our system of Government laid out in the Constitution relies on checks and balances between three, co-equal branches - the Executive, Congressional and Legislative. Each are granted power to check the other two. It is this opposition - antagonistic at times - which establishes the balance which has endured two hundred years and counting.

Subpoenas are the teeth of Impeachment inquiry and trial. These are essential to the check exerted by Congress over the Executive branch. Non-compliance with House or Senate subpoenas pulls those teeth. Without them, balance is lost.

It's like the game of Paper, Scissors, Stone. As any child can tell us, if Paper cannot cover, there is no Game.

To permit non-compliance for whatever reason by the Executive of any Congressional Subpoena - whether issued by House or Senate - is to create an unchecked Executive and initiate a Constitutional Crisis.

Paper cannot cover. Stone smashes scissors. And the Game ends for good.

Rome had such a moment. The Roman Republic ended under the popular Julius Caesar,  who soon became Dictator Perpetuo. It never recovered.

Speaking as a Citizen, the Executive cannot properly refuse to comply with Congressional inquiry and judgement. To allow it, even once, is to abandon the Constitutional system of checks and balances. To abandon the Constitution itself.

Without the power of Congress to force compliance on the Executive, that power is thereafter unchecked.

Whether under this President or some other, we would set ourselves on the road to Dictator Perpetuo, that Tyrant whom the Framers so feared.

The Republic will have fallen.

Now is the time for all good Senators to come to the aid of their country.

I urge a wide margin of tolerance for petty differences and trivial irregularities.
I urge a full and impartial trial (e.g., subpoena relevant witnesses and documents).
I urge that non-compliance with Congressional subpoenas not be allowed to stand.


Since writing this, a similar conclusion is argued in this Atlantic article by Maya Wiley.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Models and Mock Ups

Building it isn't TOO much harder
(a LOT more expensive, though).

Shall we have an adventure now,
  Or shall we have our tea first?
-- From Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Mock Turtle Soup: Models and Mock Ups

If a picture is worth a thousand words, I'd say a model is worth a thousand pictures. I reckon that makes a model worth a million words!

It doesn't have to be a museum piece. Building in scale is important, so you can measure directly from the model. The more detail you build in, the more you'll solve and anticipate problems ahead of time. But TriloBoats are boxes... there's not so much to figure out on that score.

Note bulkheads, deck and framing lines...
almost all layout happens on sides or bulkheads.

We used doorskin (this time) and cardboard, held together by hot melt glue. Crude, but tells us all we need to know. A couple of scale models of ourselves (and a pet or two have since materialized) to picture lines of sight and boarding issues and there ya go.

We laid out the principle (side) component landings, and window cutouts.

Next step is to start marking it up with material counts:
  • Ply Sheets -- Sides, bottom, bulkheads and transoms, decks... each gets written up in place.
  • Copper Plate and Angle -- Sides and bottom; along both chines.
  • Framing -- Chines (bottom and sheer) and nailers, bulkheads and transoms, decks.
  • Nail Counts -- Parallel to framing, one or two sides... How long? How often?
  • Surface Areas -- How much for paint, sheathing, glue?
Writing our results in place beats a list by far... we can see at a glance what we've counted, and what not. Much less likely to over or under count. A different check mark for each pass through lets us check and recheck.

And we can just sit there and stare at it!

Amazing what cardboard and hot-melt glue can do!


Mock-ups are different. The trick here is to be able to get the feel of a feature in full size.

We've got a collection of chairs, tables and counters picked out that we can go to for the feel of things. We might set up a mock 'gangway' to get a feel for how tight things have become in our present state of 'middle age spread'. And maybe a (literal) fudge factor? A strip of plywood simulates the overhead.

We like to look down (not just out) from our windows to see what's happening close up. This ability is affected by the height of the lower window opening and our distance from it (the closer we sit to the window, the lower we can look over the frame). Mocking up lets us see how our furniture height and location will interact with our view.

Window height has been a big issue for us. Here, we mock up the shortest windows in prospect, in their correct location on the sides.  If these are okay, the rest is gravy.

And it's okay.

Not a bad view for below-decks in a sailboat!


Same table, different model.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Fail Safer Hull Design

All of life is the management of risk,
  Not its elimination.

- Walter Wriston

I have two rules about winning in [...] life:
  1. You can't win if you don't bet.
  2. You can't bet if you lose all your chips.
- Larry Hite

Fail Safer Design for Barge/Scow Hulls

Life is risky.

Every act. Every step. Every beat of our hearts. Every breath we draw entails risk. To go forth upon the waters is in a sense 'unnatural' and carries risk.

Yet we act, walk and run. Our hearts pound and we suck in air. We sail forth in vessels of our own design and build. We live.

We manage risk.

To me, the mantra of risk management is fail-safer.

Not fail safe, which I believe encourages hubris, neglect and risks catastrophic failure.
Rather fail safeR, which I believe encourages humility, continued awareness and involvement with our journey.

Fail safer is a lens through which we can view the design of the hull (in this case, I'll include the decks and superstructures).

Many of the risks to a hull can be reduced at the design stage, and it's these I'll talk about, here.

Structural Integrity

A boat that cannot maintain its shape or watertight integrity in a seaway is on its way to Davey Jones'.

Robust construction - Always a plus, of course. Strongly joined components, especially along exterior angles (chines and corners) hedge your bets. Girder construction backs up and stiffens the entire structure. Consider well bonded girder furnishings and web-frame bulkheads throughout.

Thicker Bottoms and Lower Sides - Impacts with rocks - especially sharp ones - can pierce the hull. Adding material resists puncture. The extra weight is low in the hull where it doubles as ballast. If added to outboard of the bottom proper, its added volume floats its own weight, increasing displacement (if it soaks up water, however, wood approaches slightly negative buoyancy).

Protected Weak Points - In some conditions, a weak point (such as windows) can give before the storm. Shuttering systems with strong closures protect these. Closures, tie downs, dogs, and good storage of loose items are all design options.

Water Management

One of the main jobs of the hull is to keep water outboard. Water's uncontrolled weight - whether on deck or below - is one of the main factors pushing a situation from bad to worse.

Good Deck Drainage - Should green water come up and over the sides, its weight is high on the hull and precarious... like Santa standing on a rocking chair. It can be encouraged by design to drain quickly overboard. Large scuppers (drain holes), open edges, sloped decks, small footwells, inverted or covered dinghies (when carried) and watertight hatches help 'show water the door'.

Midline Openings - In a knock-down, mid-line openings stay as far as possible from the water. Those offset further outboard are that much more likely to take a swig. Companionways, hatches, vents, smokestacks, exhaust pipes and the like are all fail safer the closer they are located to the mid-line.

Secureable Offset Openings - Opening ports, vents, intakes, etc. which are offset from the mid-line can let water in. Consider gasketed, doggable arrangements.

Multiple, Water-tight Bulkheads - Should water get below - via hull breach, a lost hatch, getting pooped, leaks (from above or below), spray... - dividing the hull into separate water-tight areas maintains the flotation of intact sections, which can continue to float the vessel.

Multiple, Water-tight Longitudinal Dividers - Because...

Free Surface Effect (slosh) is a boat sinker. Loose water or other shifting masses in the hull can slosh from one side to the other, transferring weight plus momentum. This makes a vessel roll dangerously and can capsize it. The cure is to keep it out of the hull when it doesn't belong, and minimize slosh once aboard.

For shallow hulls, this is a particular problem. Where a deep dead-rise hull (V shape) encourages water to remain low in the hull, a shallow hull can allow the free flow across the interior.

Longitudinal dividers, even if open at the top, can help manage this cross flow.

The girder structure furnishings, which contribute to structural integrity, can be arranged to reduce free surface effect.

NOTE: These GIFs from Free Marine.

Stability and Self Righting

The ability to automatically self right from a knock-down is a fine thing. From beyond a knock-down to a roll-over is also fine, but not an essential for most vessels plying inside or 'longshore waters. In looking toward this fail safer feature, consider the use and actual needs of your vessel

I cover this at some length in the post Where Ultra-Shoal, Square Boats Get Their Stability, so will keep it brief, here. 

Low Center of Gravity - A heavy bottom, secure storage for heavy items low in any hull and possibly ballast all contribute to the cause. While many barge / scows do not use any ballast (relying entirely on form stability), it's an option to enhance.

Longer and Beamier - Barge / Scow hulls are naturally form stable (their shape makes them harder to tip over, regardless of ballast). Lengthening a hull adds to its initial and reserve stability. Making it beamier does, too, but if it does flip, wider beam makes it harder to return to upright.

Higher Sides - These add reserve buoyancy, which kicks in later to resist roll-over. They also add to windage and raise the center of gravity.

Inversion-Proof Ventilation - This one, oddly, seems often overlooked. The principle is to create an air-lock when rolled, usually below-decks, between vent(box) and the interior which blocks water from passing from outside in.

A loop of large diameter (dryer?) hose works, or boxes can be arranged with overlapping baffles (the latter shown here). Hose is less compact, but works throughout a tumble.

Sea-going Features

Trailing Lateral Resistance - Most sailing at sea is downwind. As such, an aft area of lateral resistance (skeg, large rudder, board, etc...) aids downwind tracking. Think of the fletching on an arrow.

Strong Bitts - In a storm, lying to a sea-anchor or running with a drogue are vital tactics. But you need very strong bitts with good fairleads. To reliably deploy them. Don't want to be improvising in Force 10!

Secure Deck Storage - When it whumps up, you don't want loose oars, pike poles, dock-lines or other paraphernalia blowing about. Make sure there is a secure place for every item, and that they generally stay there.

Secure Mountings - Things like solar panels have incredible windage. At sea, they must be stowed in very high winds or have extra strong mountings. Plan for hurricane force winds.


In all respects, better safe than sorry.


In designing our own vessels, we have a free hand to nudge the whole toward fail safer. In acquiring a vessel, we can use the principle to guide our choices, and can further modify it as we may.

One last thought... so called safety-in-depth (many layers of redundant fail safers) is a concept used in such endeavors as a nuclear reactor.

I believe in and practice the approach.

Yet to think that we have magically conjured safety is that pride which goeth before a fall. Think Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima. All were 'protected' by safety-in-depth design.

The World denies us safety. We are mortal. Human error is our lot. Entropy and what a friend calls 'depreciation' rule with universal jurisdiction. To imagine that we have engineered away the hard chance leads to betting more than we can cover.

Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom!