Please visit our home site at

Anke and I live aboard WAYWARD, and wrote about it's design and construction 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... I'll respond as I can.

Fair winds!

Dave and Anke
triloboats swirly gmail daughter com

Saturday, August 26, 2023

5VDC Revolution for Smallish Boats?

MUSTELID's 5/12VDC Hybrid Electrical System
(Lithium Ion Batteries are HAZMAT, so we went with Lead/Acid)


An immense effect may be produced by small powers
Wisely and steadily directed.

-- Noah Webster

5VDC Revolution for Smallish Boats?

A while back I wrote about a simple 12VDC system, here.

For a very long time, 12VDC systems have been the go-to foundation for small vessels. There's been a host of products available both in marine and RV/auto markets that meet all the needs of the small scale sailor.

But there's a quiet revolution boiling along for the last decade or so, and it's reaching maturity. I'm speaking of USB charging, 5VDC systems. 

From charging arrays (PV) to controllers to lightweight, high-capacity batteries to products ranging from smart phones, laptops, GPS, VHF, depthsounders, navlights, cabin lights, spotlights... all has become available at generally lower up-front costs and considerably lower draw.

Many of these devices have rechargeable, onboard batteries, each of which can contribute to total power storage, eliminate runs of wiring and reduce the size of a central battery. USB 'hubs' serve as power strips for centralized charging and flexible power supply.

If your vessel is already set up for 12VDC, it's likely most economical to stick with it, or possibly hybridize with a USB hub to handle new acquisitions. 

But if you are outfitting a small vessel, particularly in the micro-cruiser range, The small footprint and low draw of 5VDC is well worth a look!

Monday, July 24, 2023

The Payson Butt


Payson Butt
(Used by permission)

My butt may be big, but there's no song about your flat one.

-- Internet Meme

The Payson (Fiberglass) Butt

The Fiberglass Butt - shown in plan below the main illustration - has become a common means to join plywood sheet edge-to-edge, and works as well for patches.

Of it's provenance, Dave Carnell writes:

In 1986 I wrote about the joint in Small Boat Journal. About the same time "Dynamite" Payson wrote in Boatbuilder about a similar joint concept. Years later I discovered that Joe Dobler had used the principle well before our publication, as had Jack Chippendale in England.

This method includes variants in which the ply is step-layered to accommodate the fiberglass at or below surface level.

Payson produced this great illustration for a variant that's come to be known as the Payson Butt. He was kind enough to grant permission to reproduce it, back before the internet. 

Recently I was shocked to be unable to find it posted entire (uncropped and showing the standard butt), so am putting it out now. This version has been lightly edited to clarify text that had been poorly digitized.

The Payson Butt was proposed (originally, so far as I'm able to determine) that the 'step' depression can be done as a ground-out dip, with the addition of the smoothing technique shown above.

According to Payson, the full method is unnecessary for strength (the plain fiberglass butt is sufficient), but smooths the hull for an aesthetically smooth finish.

Either way, it avoids simple-but-intrusive buttstraps and labor-intensive and sheet-shortening scarfs.


Dave Carnell uses multiple layers proportional to ply thickness. My understanding is that his schedule - 3 layers each side for 1/2in ply - is now considered conservative. 

Consider weight of cloth, thread orientation (i.e., orthoganal , bi- or triaxial weaves) and adjacent structure for your particular application.

Have fun!

NOTE: A similar method can be used for wood repair... grind a fair, 12:1 curved dip (or as easy as space allows) across a break and lay in glued layers of wood, bent to the curve. Trim and finish. Works great for frames, but can also be used in place of graving or butt patches.

Monday, July 3, 2023

MUSTELID Venture (Video Series)

Photo courtesy of David Reece

MUSTELID Venture (Video Series)

Anke and I are proud (and a little nervous) to announce that Small Boats Nation (online, and affiliated with WoodenBoat) is releasing a 15 part video series about our MUSTELID Venture.

It is appearing each Saturday in weekly installments, collected in this Playlist and this Collection at SBN. This is outside their paywall, so no subscription is required to view it. 

Episodes 1 - 6 focus on MUSTELID's goals, concepts, construction, outfit, rig and life aboard.

Episodes 7 - 14  follow our trip in MUSTELID around Chichagof Island (plus a detour).

Episode 15 takes a look back on what we learned.

Episode 1 introduces us, the need and proposal for our vessel.

Plans will be available at after Episode 6 is released, scheduled for 12 August 2023.


Small Boats Nation has a wealth of useful information... please consider subscribing. I've written this article for them about this trip which appears in their July 2023 issue.

Monday, June 26, 2023

Maybury's Laws for the Low Road


You who are on the road 
Must have a code that you can live by...

-- From Teach Your Children Well by Graham Nash

Do all you have agreed to do.
Do not encroach on other persons or their property.

-- Richard J. Maybury's Two Laws

Maybury's Laws for the Low Road

Along any road -- but especially the Low-- a Code is a fine travelling companion.

The further we walk with a Code, the more we internalize its virtues. Cloudy, moral dilemmas condense and wash away leaving pellucid vistas of arid clarity.


A Code cuts through the BS. It blows away the smoke. Guides our choices. Walk far enough with the Code and really, truly we begin to see more clearly, reason more cogently and react more instictively.

But that goes for most any Code. The Samurai had theirs. Fascists have theirs. Predatory capitalists have theirs.

A good Code, by my estimation, helps us ease on down the road. And nothing, me again, nothing  eases our way on any road more than earning and giving Respect. This goes double along the Low Road.

We earn respect through integrity, which in turns makes us reliable. Respect is something it costs us nothing to give, but elevates every relationship it touches. Along the Low Road, we are often assumed to be both disrespectful and unworthy of respect. To ease down this road, we must earn it. To give it freely is to inspire it.

Which brings us to Maybury's Two Laws.

Do all you have agreed to do.
Do not encroach on other persons or their property.

These two laws are about as good a Code as I've come across. The first earns Respect; the second confers it.

Let's look at them in turn.

Do all you have agreed to do...

This is a pretty durn good idea. 

If you don't follow through with what you've agreed to do, your are living down to expectations. Even those who like and love you will not turn to you in their time of need, nor likely be there in yours. You'll be kept at arms distance by most. The next gig will be hard to land. Opportunity will flee.

Let your word be your word. It's that simple.

This doesn't mean you have to agree to anything, much less everything. Be selective about what you agree to... only those things you expect and intend to fulfill. Another's need is not, of itself, an obligation. But, according to this Code, your word is.

Of course, the best intentions don't always work out. But if you cannot fulfill a promise, promptly communicate your inability, your regret and work to make it right. 

Few will begrudge us a good faith effort.

Do not encroach on other persons or their property...

This one's a doozy!

'Encroach'... that's a great word, but what does it mean? I think it's something we each have to answer for ourselves. But we each of us know when it happens to us... turn it around.

'Property'... I've known many's a Low Roader -- and even more High Roaders -- who play free and easy with what constitutes another's property. Our entire culture, having commodified everything, struggles with the notion. The phrase 'the Haves and the Have Nots' gives a glimpse into the the moral mush involved.

Here too, we must find our own meaning. And best do it before that tempting morsel is discovered, unattended before us! The answers we improvise in that moment are likely to be facile.

And that's where a Code helps out. It helps cut our own BS as well as that of others.

What's In It for Me?

These Laws... they're more like guidelines, really.

They're not handed down from God. They're not really enforced across the reach of their jurisdiction. So why follow these and why follow these?

Well... I speculate that the more of us who follow this Code for more of the time, the better the world will be for all of us in it.

I further speculate that, if this Code were a meme released into some evolutionary substrate (human culture, say), it would multiply and come to dominate, outcompeting its rivals.

[You see what I'm doing, here, right?]

Finally, I speculate that we will prosper as individuals if we follow this Code. 

I have followed these Laws for decades, now. It comes natural... maybe that's why I'm drawn to them? Or maybe I'm the result of them? Anke seems to have come that way!

Despite our drifting, dreaming life, we are known to be reliable for that to which we commit. Despite our (technical) poverty, we are known to be trustworthy. Despite sailing full and by without an engine, we are known to be punctual.

And that comes back to us, with interest.

As we travel the Low Road, we follow the Code not because we are good, nor because the Code is righteous...

We're simply selfish.

Sunday, April 2, 2023

Dream vs. Reality

Obi-Wan Squareboti


A bird may love a fish

    But where will they build a home together?

– Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof

Where are you going?

Who will go with you?

What vessel shall bear you?

Answer these in the wrong order

    And you are in trouble.

– Howard Thurman’s Observation, extended

Dream vs. Reality

Some of the very first advice we got when first moving toward the water was, whatever you do, don’t sleep aboard a boat you’re thinking of buying… you’ll fall in love with it and lose yer objectivity!

And so it was. Sorta.

Here’s the problem, though… the point entire of the whole sordid affair is passion. Practical concerns have their place of course, and maybe even the final say. How do we find the right balance between dreams and reality? 

In Fiddler on the Roof, Tevya is speaking to his daughter who has fallen in love with a young man of another faith and ethnic background. It’s a good question and lovingly posed. Against his wishes, they go forward in love as lovers must. Who knows the outcome, for them or for any of us in the real world? 

We love. We act on love. We live the consequences of our choices.

The western-ish Apollonian imperative - know thyself - is excellent advice, but a little passive for my taste. To it, I would add the eastern-ish, Zen imperative - seek balance.

Day-dreaming a vessel is a wonderful passtime. Not only does it carry us to far and fragrant shores, but fills our hearts with those things we relate to as the well-springs of passion. Sometimes its sheer escapism from our daily grind is a soothing and revitalizing relief.

For we are embedded within a life of our own making. Our priorities and choices have cocooned us within habits, relationships and obligations. I don’t disparage… we’re all entangled, one way and another. But these are more or less the ecography of our lives.

So, if we have made a life we wish to more or less continue - have a home ashore and full of family, perhaps - it constrains our passions for, say, a vessel. Or, maybe better put, it informs our passions.

Just as the parts of a vessel must work together to fulfill its purpose… just as it must be fit to face the waters it sails… just as its accommodations must accommodate its crew… so must it conform to its place within its owners’ life.

Here’s a subtle difference… I propose vs. I purpose. Americans tend to the former, British to the latter. In the case of adding a vessel to one’s lifestyle, I prefer purpose. It’s intentional, rather than hypothetical. Hypotheses have their honored place, but sooner or later, they’d better resolve… options winnowed to purpose followed by action.

And once in action, be persistant! More stubborn than mules!!

For adding a vessel into one’s life is no small affair, whether by one’s own hand or by simple acquisition. The success of the venture hinges on how well dream and reality comport. As in any other endeavor, the better matched our hopes and expectations with our actual wants and needs, the better the prospect of success. 

Wrecks of dreams on the bedrock of realities litter the boatyards and backwaters of the world.

Not enough dream; what’s the point?

Not enough reality: no dream comes true.

So here’s my advice, taken in order…

Know thyself. 

Seek balance. 

Dream as you purpose to live. 

Go fall in love.


Realize your dream.

[Note: Thanks to David Reece for the (facetious?) moniker; Obi-Wan Squareboti!]

Saturday, February 11, 2023

Duetude: Rowing in Tandem


The Owl and the Pussycat sailed to sea
in a beautiful, pea-green boat...

Image from the MirrorOnline

If you want to go fast, go alone. 
If you want to go far, go together.

-- African saying

Duetude: Rowing in Tandem

There are a few things in modern life, undertaken by couples, which require sustained, closely coordinated physical effort. Dancing, and folding large tarps come to mind.

And then there's rowing.

To row a boat together - each with a pair of oars - well... first there are the thousand or so strokes of bickering.

Our cockpit is on the small side, so we can bump if we're a little out of sync. You know. Scratch a nose. Adjust a cushion. Look at the birds.

Both of us are facing aft, and I'm usually at the aft, mid-ship oars (they're longer and I'm bigger). My job is to look over my shoulder as I begin to pull, matching Anke's stroke, and thereafter maintain a steady rhythm. Oh... and if a little bit of oar steering is needed, I favor the correct oar, and maybe even call out RIGHT OAR! or LEFT OAR! in a voice loud enough to hear.

You'd think that's simple enough. It is but it ain't. Takes a while to get each of those down, and a while longer to get 'em in combinations.

Anke, at the forward oars, is continuous power. Her job is to watch out for any quirks in my cadence and avoid collision with my shoulders. She too needs to be steady on the oars, to keep all four moving free. She's got to respond to steering commands promptly, and occasionally shout out some of her own if I've drifted off somewhere.

You'd think that sounds simple enough. It is but it ain't.

But the bickering dies down after a day or two, and the magic sets in...

The magic of moving our vessel... gliding across calm water or working our way into a headwind. The magic of passing through vast and wild land- and seascapes. The magic of our bodies working together in sync, muscles aglow and warm with the effort.

We pull together as one. Our hearts beat as one. We face the work and dangers as one. We savor the pleasures as one, not least those of our own company.


Happy Valentine's!

Sunday, December 18, 2022

Subjectivividy: Row / Sail Around Chichagof


Our route, minus squiggly bits

Is it not better to applaud
and embrace the ever-changing seas,
not a longing dream stranded
on an eroding shore?

For the relentless tides shape
the coastlines: changing the world,
leaving their imperfect marks on time.

-- from The Perfect Myth by kategorical_poet

Subjectivividy: Row / Sail Around Chichagof

Circumnavigation was incidental.

We were aiming for the outer coast. Outer Chich, as it is locally known... the (west) side of Chichagof Island exposed to the Gulf of Alaska. Big water. A half a million square miles big. One and a half million square kilometers. Wind and wave each have plenty of room to develop power. 

So we Inside Passagemakers plan to head outside in a small vessel. And not just small, but new to us, and encumbered with every oddball idea we've collected over an oddball career. 

We got more than the usual cargo of advice. Yagottas and Yacants and Yashouldnts and Yamusts. We're gonna love it. We're gonna die. There's no shelter. There's shelter everywhere. It's all foul bottom. It's good holding anywhere you'll want to be.The usual, in other words, but this time at full volume. 

A general rule of thumb is to prefer those experienced mariners who report positively. 

Nay-sayers - even those with experience - are typically reporting the negative experiences consequent to poor choices. Careless anchoring, poor choice of shelter, machoing out the blows... these all lead to a pessimistic view. Those who have good experiences are typically applying both knowledge and prudence. If these can ride out the storm, it ain't braggin'. If they find holding, it's there. If they find shelter, it's there. If they read advanced notice of trouble, it's there to read.

Still, we approached the trip with caution and not a little trepidation


Passage from Tenakee to Kalinen Bay, jump off point to the outer coast, involved a lot of rowing.

But our third day, in Peril Straits, a forecast of 'light winds' turned suddenly nasty. Five foot chop and gusts to 30kts of wind caught us mid-strait. This was our first stiff wind and way more than we'd bargained on! But MUSTELID took it well. With her whipstaff (vertical tiller) fixed a smidge to port, we could steer to s'brd by sheeting the main and raced across to shelter under a patch of sail.

Away in the distance, a humpback whale - longer than our hull and maybe 20x the mass - was coursing more or less toward us. But so long as we both maintained course and speed, it would pass easily behind us.

A few, absorbing gusts later and I looked again to find it now on a collision course! Not much time, and no room to maneuver on the face of the waves, I stomped the hull and called to Anke, below, to make noise.

That whale surged close, breathing slow and easy all the while, before it suddenly realized we were there, gulped air and emergency dived. I could have touched it with an oar. Anke saw its back, point blank, eclipse the sky. It's quick action saved us from being t-boned!

It would prove to be the closest call of the whole trip!


From Kalinen, we faced a NW passage along 14nm of foul bottom shoreline, girded by breakers over jagged rock teeth. Wind was predicted S15 with 7ft seas, which would allow us to adjust distance off as needed, despite the rock 'n' roll. The concern was SW wind (prevailing direction along there)... we weren't sure we could close reach in the slosh of sea... if not, that coast would be a gradual lee shore.

As it happened, following a wild start the wind dropped to nothing. We rowed. And rowed. And rowed. All the time rising and falling to W seas from the Gulf and watching them burst against the shoreward rocks, close at hand.

Finally, we found the S wind, blowing hard, and made for Peele's Passage.

Peele was a paragon of the many Prohibition era smugglers supplying hootch to hundreds of outer coast miners. He knew this rock strewn passage well, and ditched pursuing law enforcement in its narrow, weed-wracked confines.

Our first look at it, we come screaming in under dark of a squall. We close-hugged a windward rock, ensuring we could make the sharp turn in. As we rounded, we were alarmed by the roar of several sharp, black fangs of rock that seemed to surge toward us!

Quickly became clear... those were no rocks. Sea lions, startled as we were!


Crazed and Crazy

Once through Peele's we entered an island wonderland. 

I don't love the word 'awesome' (overused), but it's hard to think of a better. 'Terrific', maybe, in it's archaic sense of ability to inspire fear and respect? In any case, words fail.

Stretching from Slocum Arm in the south (Peehle's snakes along it) to Lisianski Strait in the north, outer Chich packs thousands of miles of coastline into a raven's flight of 30nm.

Approaching from the sea, solitaries and spray lines of rock must first be negotiated. Then fans of myriad tiny islands surrounding larger anchor islands. Then the perforated main body of Chichigof itself. All separated and connected by a labyrinth of weedy, bereefed passages. Shoals and deeps. Mountain, cliff and moor. Sheer rock and climax forest. And populated by fish, fowl, land and sea mammals running the local gamut.

Pretty much all of Southeast Alaska in a nutshell!

We drifted. We rowed. We sailed. We poked and prodded and scrabbled and scrooged. Feasted on its bounties, nourishing body and soul. And tucked away like the gem it is, White Sulfur Hotsprings let us look out on the open Gulf from the luxury of hot water! OMFG!! (Can I say that??)

We moved about in a daze - sometimes a literal daze of fog - overwhelmed by the beauties of the place.

But autumn was approaching, and with it equinoctial gales and storms rolling off the Gulf. On the first day of September, we rounded Three Knob Rock and turned toward inland waters.


Sunset over Icy Strait

Icy Strait looks simple. Should be simple. Ain't simple.

Forecast winds blow mostly E or W. Water rushes in and out the E end... that's a fact. After that, it's complicated. Deep troughs are separated by relatively shallow ridges... water rises, turns and rushes. Waters collide in rips and ridges. Eddies back and fill. Point Adolphus puts a kink in the whole works, throwing water from one side of the strait to t'other.

Over the years, we've figured out jigsaw pieces of the puzzle. Maybe put a corner together.

Going E from Adolphus, for instance, if you follow the S shore (where all the good shelter is), you soon run into a W setting current. A strong one. Always. Goes like this:

  • Outgoing tide, headed W to the sea, is on the nose.
  • Incoming tide, headed E from the sea, is on the nose.
Wait, WHAT?? Well, incoming water is thrown NW by Adolphus, setting up a huge back-eddy that curls and back-fills alongshore, headed W.

Best bet is to push E at low slack, hoping to forge across the eastbound river of water, into the eye before the back-eddy sets up full throttle.

And that's just one challenge!

But the vistas! Wide waters aligned with sunrise and sunset. Towering, glaciated mountains and Glacier Bay to the NW, with lesser but no less beautiful mountains lining the shores. Deep sounds, inlets and estuaries to either hand.

With all this open water view we realize that we're surrounded by whales in flight, breaching for reasons they have never shared with us.

They say when pigs can fly, meaning never. But whales do fly. Go figure.


Chilkoot Mountains

So we pull into Swanson Harbor at the cross-roads of Icy, Lynn and Chatham Straits. It's now late September and well past time to return to Tenakee before winter comes down hard.

But. But. But. But. 

But we're having such a great time! The temps are milder than usual for the season, and we're feeling in command of our vessel. Having family up there in Haines gives us a pretext. If we're there for a birthday on the 1st of October, we can take the next window S.

Now Lynn Canal is a full on fjiord let into mainland, North America. The wind comes down, as a friend says, with his Long Boots on! We've sailed it often, but even in bigger vessels, we prefer to keep our time there to the summer months. It would be... y'know... ill advised to head into the Lion's jaws this late in the year.

So rather than turn our bow south for home, we head north.

It's a humbling run at any time of year. The Chilkat and Chilkoot mountain ranges ramp up and up as we sail north, their peaks shredding the clouds. But as October approached, snow fell high and beautiful, clothing the naked rock with a mantle of white.

Birch turned autumn golds and reds are at first now and then. Soon they crowd the alluvial fans spreading at the outflows of valleys yet buried in ice. Flats along the way are limned with grasses turned sere and electric. Birds are flocking and on the wing, heading for winter grounds. 

We had more wind in six days of actual transit, coming and going, than we had all the rest of the trip combined! Water heaping up with 'well marked streaks' between bouts of scud blowing off the cresting waves. 

Sailing in such felt much more under control, however, knowing our boat and having advanced our small craft sailing skills considerably over the summer. A little cotton mouth here, shaky legs there, and speedy runs up and back.

At one point, we were running south with a fair wind and last end of tide. Wind and sea had both been picking up, but a large lee lay close ahead. But then three short, steep, tall waves overtook us, one after the other. If they arose with a fair tide, we'd better get out of that before it turned foul! We had at hand a cove with a tricky tidal entrance, but low slack is the perfect time. So we rounded into a sudden, flat calm and rowed, easy as you please, with the new incoming tide into one of the best harbors in the world.

Slept like babes.


Back in Swanson in mid-October, it was only a matter of waiting for a window to head for home. It's still the cross-roads of three cranky stretches of water, and Swanson itself is a geographical wonder... wind might be 15 gusting to 25kts higher than the surrounding areas at any given time.

But in due time, a window came. After all this, the homeward leg was uneventful, to our great relief. We rowed and sailed in lighter winds for the very most part.

Turning that last corner into Tenakee inlet aroused mixed feelings. 

We felt the pull of that next horizon strong within us. Despite generous helpings of friends and family along the way, we'd mostly been just the two of us, delighting in our duetude. We had faced much together. Leaned on one another with an intensity not called from us since our early days on the water. To immerse ourselves in a community, even for a season, is to trade something we value for something invaluable.

To me, this closeness to one another throughout the trip was the most vivid aspect of our whole, luminous venture.

Subjectively speaking.