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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

Thursday, January 18, 2024

Wall Hangin'


A Wall-Flower's View

I was pretty far gone, but not so far gone that I thought anyone with half a toehold in reality would think what we were doing was a good idea.

-- Meg Rosoff

Wall Hangin'

For years we would scurry for shelter at day's end. Weather can come up from flat calm no matter the forecast, and we were afraid of the dark.

Over the years, though, we slowly got used to night sailing. Getting caught out gave us plenty of opportunities. With experience, anxieties ebbed. We learned that we could almost always see silhouettes and learned to navigate by them, the lead and echolocation. Anxiety slipped away.

We began to notice that exposed anchorings -- we call them wall hangs -- have their own attractions.

First of all, they're at hand. When the wind dies, we can most often get a hook or two down within fifty yards of shoreline. Often while it's still light and we can enjoy sunset and the last of the day.

And the view! One-eighty degrees of vistas open far and wide, unveiled by the close embrace of  cove or creek. 

The full palette of the boreal maritime rain-country waxes and wanes in intensity from distance muted greens, grays and blues to sunshot opalescences of vermilion and golds against bands of brilliant azures. Illuminated gulls like white fire against the sky, or their fuligin counterparts -- the crows and ravens -- like animated rents in the tapestry to the black, underlying void. Then dimming back to the more somber and twilit purples, perforated by stars uncounted as full dark descends.

Most nights the moon, crescent or gibbous, sails above us, illuminating cloud and fog to shades of ghostly pearl. 

And around us, the wider seaways come alive with bioluminescent script, eloquent of all that move within it; fish and kelp and wave and stone. Porpoise surging along in sprays of light, or the great whales fluking dazzlement in their wake.

We're not yet to the point that we sleep as well while wall hangin'. We doze with one ear cocked for the first ripple of wind. Best to be anchors-up and sailing before the wind comes on to blow.

But we're well compensated for these wakeful nights!


A couple of observations...

  • Much of our coastline is steep-to, falling quickly off to unreachable depths. But for reasons unknown to me, there is often a ledge running along before the drop-off at around 2 to 10 fathoms. Kelp fringes tend to holdfast, along here, giving some indication of a spot to prospect at our preferred depths (about 7ftm max). Where the lead finds decent bottom, we have a contender.

  • Beware of rocks and reefs in this stretch, which are poorly charted, if at all... consider tapping around with the lead from the tender after getting a toe-hold, to confirm a clear spot.

  • Because this ledge is most often narrow, we often put out two anchors to limit swing inshore and along the ledge.

  • Consider setting a loose watch to check position occasionally... holding is unreported and likely to be marginal. We prepare to sail at the first breeze, though once awake and ready, may pause for breakfast at anchor if conditions stay light.

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

How We Got Started


Dave’s first ‘berth’ at 6 months

Begin as you mean to go on.

-- British Saying

How We Got Started, OR, Down to the Sea in Slips

My first sail, at fourteen, was with fellow teens in a flotilla of rafts and canoes faring from Hoonah -- in Southeast Alaska -- to Tenakee Springs and back, involving two inlets separated by a high-tide portage. 

This all went about as you might expect… passion and drama, high times and low.

One glorious, fair wind day we rafted our seven slim vessels together, erected a lattice of spruce boughs festooned with tarp and poncho, and sailed a sunny thirty miles!

Sailing!! Oh, it was wondrous, lazing along without a stroke, pushed by the kindly flow of the world! I'd had zero exposure to real-life sailing craft, and had somehow acquired the misimpression that such were nowadays yachts; toys of the very rich. Now this experience planted a seed of another species.

On to college. Strange financial terms meant that whatever I earned in summer came off my aid package. Summer overheads, in other words, translated directly to debt. What to do? Well. I hadn't seen much of the 'Lower 48'. Hitch-hiking was an obvious solution. Which I loved.

On the Road, I discovered the Tao -- that Watercourse Way – and Drift, a pace that suits me. To me the phrase, "sails full and by the wind's whim", are heart and soul of the drifting, dreaming Tao.

I considered hitching on; but the glow of the '60s was fading, and the Road was becoming dark and strange. I considered a 'hippie' bus; but a motor vehicle is no improvement on a motor boat. How to be free and footloose in a world of pistons, cogs and oil?

Musing, I returned to Sitka and signed aboard a salmon troller for a couple of seasons and worked the shoreside fish plants.

And then. And then! Rummaging through a box of Library cast-offs I came across. Sailing the Farm! A Survival Guide to Homesteading on the Ocean!! Independence on Thirty Feet!!! Ken Neumeyer, I exalt your name!

My torch was finally well and truly lit.

But to build or to buy? That was the question! Didn't help that I soon fell head-over-heels with the Pardeys and SERRAFYN/Lyle Hess! Good people; good boats - but well out of present reach.

I more-or-less wasted a few years in research, dither and scheme.


Anke learned to swim before she could walk.

She grew up shoreside along the river Rhein in Duisburg, Germany; the world's largest inland port. Shipping, boats and barges were a constant backdrop. Riverside parks stretch for miles along the banks, and bridges criss-cross the river.

In Schleswig, on the Baltic coast, a family friend would sometimes take her along to join his children in working the nets.

But Europe is crowded. She was drawn to the wide wildernesses of boreal forest. She signed on for a cultural exchange, which took her to Sitka at the dawn of her adult life.

She soon found employment at Patterson Bay, a wilderness research station studying salmon hatchery. Lots of water-work, there, both fresh and salt, ashore and afloat.

And she loved cold water. There were rumors of mermaid sightings.


It was love at first sight.

I was watching a small (live-aboard) sailboat for a friend who'd urged me to take it out. To my concerns that I was a pre-beginner, he tut-tutted. "If anything breaks, you'll fix her, and we'll both be the better for it."

So Anke and I headed off, on the first adventure of our new life together. All book-larnin' and no experience.

We scared ourselves, of course. Despite small, bite-sized steps we occasionally encountered a puff of wind or send of swell. Our first real ‘voyage’ had us up sailing and worrying all night, resisting the motor we had forsworn, the sooner to learn what it takes to go without.

We finally put anchor down, fell into one another's arms, and slept.

Hooked for life.


In those days small, inexpensive wooden sailboats were scarce. In vain, we scoured the Seattle waterfront, looking for a small, sailing liveaboard that we could afford, yet was only moderately challenged (we wanted to learn marine carpentry, but not rebuild!). It also required that certain je n’sais pas quois.

I, of course, had my hopes set on a boat far above our means. Deep draft, ocean capable, classic! Anke pragmatically suggested that I wake from fruitess dreamboating and follow the Pardey's advice that we 'go small, go simple, go now.' Accordingly, our horizons expanded.

We found just what we were looking for in BRAMBLE (formerly TERRAPIN), a salty, gaff-rigged, lifeboat conversion from 1942. Bronze-fastened, larch-on-oak. 26ft on deck by 8ft beam by about 2½ft draft (this was our first taste of shoal draft - both serendipitous and portentous!).

The owner accepted rent-sized installments after an initial down-payment. I took a job flipping pizza, while Anke worked at a small winery. After eight months, we owned our own home, free and clear.

Our first port - while working off our debt - was in the late, great live-aboard community at Eagle Harbor, Bainbridge Island, across from Seattle. It has since succumbed to predatory Bureaucracy, but at that time was truly Magic Harbor. There, many gracious friends patiently mentored us onto the water.

Despite our (or at least my) slow and stuttering start, Anke and I now live aboard among the islands of SE Alaska's Alexander Archipelago. Since BRAMBLE, we've designed, built and sailed a series of vessels.

We sail on a shoe-string, engine-free, and are learning to subsist ever more on local forage.

Goin' on a while, now.

Friday, December 29, 2023

Buying or Selling a Vessel? Tips, Tricks and Traps


Illustration by Caroline Magerl of Queensland, Australia
From The Epoxy Book

Caveat Emptor (Buyer Beware)!

Buying or Selling a Vessel? Tips, Tricks and Traps

The market is a slippery, tricky place. Theory is that parties negotiate until they come to mutual agreement. Win-win. Everybody goes home happy. Another view is that it’s an adversarial contest. The seller wants the highest price, while the buyer wants the lowest. All’s fair in love and war.

One piece of advice I was given; Back off at the first whiff of adversity (pressure, hustle, prevarication, coercion). 

If we’re not dealt with in good faith, we’re likely to get cheated or stiffed. On the seller side, I’ve witnessed transactions which include hidden issues, false provenance (the seller didn’t wholly own the vessel), listed gear being stripped after sale. I’ve known buyers to skip payment/s, abscond with gear that wasn’t included in the agreement, wreck the boat and skip town.

Much better to negotiate amicably for that win-win. The waterfront is a small world, and it’s good business to make and keep friends.

Four Traps for Buyer and Seller

These traps don't themselves signal adversity. We’re all human, and these kinds of things often creep in somewhat below the conscious level.

  • Sentimental Value – Sellers often factor their sentimental feelings into a vessel’s price.  This, despite the fact that they are never-the-less unloading their Loved One on the market. No issues with their fond memories, of course, but those have zero market value.

    By the same token, our own sentimental attachments can likewise serve to jack up the price. We’re suckers for pretty, cute, trim, traditional and a host of other impressions which bias our neutral assessment. Rot, nail-sickness, blisters and other infirmities might be lurking… beauty is only skin-deep!

    They say one shouldn’t sleep aboard a vessel before buying, lest one fall in love. Not sure I’d go that far – we want to be in love – but keep a clear, cold eye on how much you’re willing to pay for it! Consider a professional survey as a reality check.

  • Sunken Costs – Closely related, seller’s often wish to make up previous expenses, which have nothing to do with the buyer. Dock and haulout fees, for example. Sellers often wish to recoup their costs, which often ends up on the buyer’s tab.

  • Issues – Just as in buying a house, issues may be dealt with before or after sale, with the price reflecting the agreement.

    Consider a well-written contract based on industry standard templates that spells it all out. Handshake agreements are well-and-good for simple cases, but a fully found vessel is complex by nature, with lots of room for mis-understanding and animosity.

  • Potential Value – Once you’ve fixed ‘er up, you’ll have doubled yer money! Um. Well. You might double the price when you come to sell, but that doesn’t automatically count the time, materials, labor and fees you’ll have supplied.

    The value of a vessel is ‘as is’, not ‘as it might become’.

  • New Prices for Old Gear – Yes, the price is high, but look at that gear list! Think of the replacement value…

    Hmm… that gear is not only used, but has been sitting around in the marine environment. It likely does have value (obsolete gear doesn’t count), but it won’t be the replacement value.


Assigning value is extremely difficult. Supply-and-demand gets us started, but in the world of vessels, supply is very often low (unique or uniquely available vessels), while demand is… personal.

Cost is somewhat easier to calculate:

Consider the state of the vessel as is… take a goooood look!

Consider the time and energy required to repair and outfit to your standard.

Consider the time and energy required for long-term maintenance, including moorage.

Consider alternative options.

If your total cost from all the above plus the price you can negotiate is greater than you can afford or are willing to pay, it’s no-go.

Buyers, consider doing as much of this calculation as you can before starting negotiations… no point wasting the seller’s time and your own if it’s a non-starter.

Good luck, and win-win!

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

A DIY Rocket Stove Smoke Hood


Eco-Zoom Rocket Stove with DIY Smoke Hood

Somebody who claims to speak for the ‘hood don’t need no private jet.

– Chuck D

A DIY Rocket Stove Smoke Hood

About half of the energy in wood literally goes up in smoke, and with it, a good deal of our own! If the smoke can be burned, efficiency nearly doubles. The corollary is that only half as much fuel produces a given amount of heat.

Rocket Stoves were developed as a low-tech solution. At their heart is an L shaped, insulated tunnel, wide open at both ends. Fuel is fed horizontally, oxygenation and combustion burn hot at the crux, and what little smoke is left is pushed vertically, up and out the top. Typically, a pot directly atop the stove absorbs heat from the hot, gaseous outflow for cooking.

We’ve been using an EcoZoom Rocket Stove for years as a nearly smoke-free, otherwise open deck fire for outdoor cooking in hot weather, an evening blaze in nice weather and to heat metals for various projects (it easily takes ferrous metals to red-hot). It runs on limbwood from about thumb to wrist size, the former for cooking and the latter for longer, more subdued heat. In short, perfect for easy wood-gathering, especially as we age..

In planning MUSTELID, we hoped to bring this marvel indoors for cooking and heating. It requires far less wood to gather, dry and store within her small volume. Being insulated, wood can be dried directly alongside the stove, warm but nowhere near wood’s flashpoint (we can touch the stove sides without burning!).

To bring it indoors, we must gather and direct combustion gasses outboard, like any other onboard stove. The solution is a smoke hood fit snugly over the stovetop with a stack, which has the extra perk of increasing the cooking surface area. We wanted one more feature… we wanted to easily install and remove the stove for outdoor use on deck or ashore. So we went for a swing-up, cantileverd variation.

This called for some head scratching…

Grate spacer for airflow under,

Ash tray…

Whole thing slides aft behind bulkhead lip

And between heat / splatter shields.

Note black fire-retardant pad
protecting carpet from sparks

Swing hood upward to remove

A look under the hood...
a vertical ring fits closely over upper plate
for extra fume collection


Smoke Hood Plan
Not to Scale

Smoke Hood Elements

At it’s simplest, the hood is a flattish box made from sheet metal (in our case, stainless steel from and old stove’s grease trap… a heavier top plate has better thermal mass for cooking, if available. A large hole in the bottom fits closely over the Rocket Stove top, while a smaller hole in the top has stovepipe fit into it, which leads to a standard deck-jack and smokehead. If you leave the stove in pace, this is all you need.

For a swing-up top – allowing removal of the stove – we broke the hood into two boxes, each with an open end:

  1. The far box is fixed (in our case to bulkhead and flanking heatshields), with the flue let into its upper surface. Its near end is open, with rounded shoulders and an under-lip. This part is female, slightly larger than the second part.

  2. The near box is cantilevered (stops may be additionally fitted to help support heavy pots). Its far end is open, with a partial rounded shoulder fairing to 45deg… extending an over-lip, while the angled section limits upward swing. This part is male, slightly smaller than the first part. Insert its open end into the female’s until their respective hinge-pin holes align.

Other parts:

  • The long hinge pin (alternatively, short, opposing pins) are let through paired holes centered on the shoulders. If it binds while swinging upward, grind away from the lower male shoulders till clear.

  • A vertical smoke collar can be used around the stove-top cut–out (not sure it’s necessary). We used a strap of sheet metal, its edges doubled over just short of its outer mid-line (result about one inch wide) and tabbed around its outer mid-line (tabs bent alternately, slightly away from cut-out). When pressed into place, it ‘snaps’ in to lock. It works best to cut the tabs before bending.

  • Rims, rails, bars and what-have-you may be added to secure pots while cooking underway. In our case, we added a low front rim and let that and tall heat / splatter shields along each side contain pots. Watch for swing-up clearance.


  • Any gaps allow air to be drawn into the hood. The closer the fits, the more energy is available for cooking and heating. Once the stove is drawing (seconds) there appears to be no leakage, even from wider gaps. We didn’t use gaskets, but they can’t hurt.

  • We sized our male part to be 1/16in smaller than the female’s inside dimensions. Given our crude techniques, we managed between 3/32in and 1/8in. So long as it slides in without undue forcing and the gaps are small, it should work fine. Thermal expansion binding isn’t a problem as we only ever move it out once cool.

  • In both cases, the lips should overlap the opposite part to help close the gap and contain ash. Small tabs may optionally be bent along single edges to help minimize warping with heat.

  • Sizing can be more or less according to your available space. We sized around our frypan plus our small teapot, to cook and heat water at the same time.

  • The smokehead can be lower to the deck than is usual. Although it does induce some draft, Rocket Stove’s generate expansion in their combustion chamber, and actually push gas about 40ft. Still, an efficient draft smokehead hedges our bets in some gnarly conditions.

  • We didn’t have a brake (sheet metal bender), so clamped sheets over a piece of sharp-edged hardwood, then hammered it over. Cutting was with a thin-wheel grinder and touched up with a mill file. We used bent tabs with (copper/stainless) pop-rivets to join. Wear gloves, eye, ear protection and work safe!

Looking Ahead

One of the intriguing possibilities with Rocket Stoves is to make our own from a substance that insulates, absorbs and radiates thermal energy. In other words, which acts as a thermal mass or ‘sink’. Such are easily made from brick, firebrick, concrete, clay, cob and other materials. 

Perlite (pumice) is a light, inexpensive insulator, and can be mixed with concrete for a lightweight aggregate with decent thermal mass. The combustion chamber can be lined with refractory clay. A thick, steel cook surface is easy to install over a lipped smoke chamber for a full sized stovetop / smokehood. Sand makes a good gasket between plate and stove. Alas, this doesn’t sound very portable!

But we keep on thinkin’.

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, produced by ourselves and featuring our MUSTELID Venture.

It is appearing weekends, in weekly installments. 

Episodes are collected in this Playlist and this Collection at SBN as they are released. This is outside their paywall, so no subscription is required to view the series.  

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

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 (I'll link this once released).

NOTE: Releases have been irregular, ranging from one to three week intervals, and Fridays to Sundays. Further, the latestest episodes have been mounted behind their paywall, but these playlists link to open-access Youtube. Go figure.

Plans for MUSTELID and other designs are available at


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.