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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

Friday, November 25, 2022

Foraging Ahead: Independence Along the Way

Our Go-to Guide

Good info; great pictures
We also use it to organize notes from other sources

Hunter-gathers by nature
Store information for use,
Understanding that there may be a time
When information is scarce.

― Brian C. O'Connor, Jud H. Copeland, Jodi L. Kearns

This sudden sweet loot appearing...

― Aspen Matis

Foraging Ahead: Independence Along the Way

Anke and I have been pursuing the know-how and means to stay out and away for longer and longer periods. At least to have the option. We've come a long way; still have a long way to go.

We recently spent half of a four month rowing / sailing trip experimenting with near hand-to-mouth forage. During this time we lived mostly from fish and wild plants. We took along our complementary rice / lentil mix (2:1 for complete protein), dried fruit and olive oil, using each very sparingly.

Result? We lost weight and felt great! 

We were hungry more often than we normally tolerate, but not to the point of discomfort, and were eating amply at mealtimes. We quickly learned to make up a 'salad' for the day (fish and berries mixed in)... this allowed us to snack as needed between two cooked meals a day. 

Of note, the 'super-carb' diet of vegetables, fish meat and oils, and fresh berries - the bulk of what we were eating - supported the heavy exertion of rowing up to 12 hours a day (well... mostly more like 6 to 8).

Meanwhile, we were cooking and heating with a rocket stove modified for indoor use. This let us gather wood every few days with ratcheting anvil loppers (quicker and easier than sawing), while drying it onboard as needed.

So we're pleased to find that our sloppy assemblage of skills has brought us near to the point that we could subsist indefinitely, if need be. 


If we wish to venture away for any extended stretch of time - let's say months to years - from towns / resupply it helps to find werewithal along the way... shelter, water, food, fuel and materials.

Shelter is pretty easy, assuming we're sailors aboard our live-aboard vessels... they come with us as a matter of course. When necessary, shelter may be improvised from foraged materials (a big subject... maybe later?).

Water is nowadays only a little tougher. Offshore seawater desalinators are available in manual models and can be DIYed

'Longshore, especially in our rainforest, spring and groundwater flows provide plenty of fresh water, which can be easily filtered by compact, cheap and durable systems. These too can be DIYed with simple filtration systems, using home-made charcoal as the active principle. 

A plastic bottle filled with water and left in bright sun for a sufficient time will UV-sterilize its contents (SODIS: SOlar water DIStillation). Sadly, plastic bottles may be foraged along all the coasts of the world.

Food is foragable in hunter (fish, game, fowl) / gatherer mode. 

For sailors, fishing is the easiest, especially if you are willing to eat cod and other 'scrap' fish. I'll include other seafoods in this category, despite not being fish per se... crustaceans and molluscs  (grazing, single shell types are less prone to PSP (Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning) than bivalves).

Hunting and fowling are another deep subject I'll leave for another time. Consider salting, smoking, jerking and canning as longer term options for preservation without a freezer.

Most environments that are even marginally intact support a wealth of edible plants, and guides are generally available featuring local edibles and those to avoid.

Guerrilla gardens can help concentrate and enhance native plants, and add select, supplemental varieties. In our region, for instance, high-carb plants are few and far between... guerrilla potato patches are one way to add them. Alternatively, consider adopting a paleo-, neo-paleo- or neo-lithic diet... all three come much easier once you're out there.

NOTE: These diets are a little fuzzy. Generally speaking, paleo diet allows only wild grains (if at all), neopaleo diet adds early, cultivated grains, while neolithic adds 'modern' whole grains.

Plants can be dried (big weight and volume savings... just add water!), canned and fermented to preserve.

Fuel is used for heating, cooking and power (electrical and possibly propulsion).

Wood and other bio-fuels can be collected from land and shorelines along the way. 

We've had the most experience with wood, and supporting technologies are highly developed. A mild-steel stove or range, for instance, will work with driftwood, where cast iron will degrade. Rocket, gassifying and forced draft stoves are widely available, DIYable, and have the advantage of burning more efficiently and with less smoke. Less wood is necessary, and smaller pieces work well meaning reduced impact ashore, footprint aboard and gathering effort.

Materials are mostly wood in some form, and, nowadays, beach-combed trash. These can be used for repair, replacement and fabrication of new features.

Wood grows on trees, and spars of all sorts - masts, booms, battens, sprits - can be constructed with minimal shaping (especially when your vessel has been designed for tree shapes). Planks, knees and half-rounds (rails) take more effort, but can cover most any ship-board need. Wooden vessels take these materials in stride; resin based and composite vessels can be patched with them but may require further work once back in 'town'.

Beach combed garbage can often be repurposed to fill all sorts of needs. We're living in the neo-plasticene, after all. Planks, fasteners, containers, hoops, chafe gear, (PVC) springs, hose, valves, and so on can all be improvised from plastic garbage. There's an amazing assortment of metal this and that floating about, too, attached to wood or half sunk in sand. Repurposing rulz!


Two additional aspects are key to all this; skills and tools.

Skills include the ability to identify, hunt / gather / process / preserve wild foods, tool use and maintenance. Is ingenuity a skill? Certainly of help! Ditto a sense of humor.

Tools run the gamut and are suited to your approach. Tools for mechanical, wood-working, wood-gathering and transport, fishing rods and reels, firearms, canning, drying, cooking and processing and maintenance are all possibilities to be tailored to your particular approach.

I lump into this category fasteners, wire, zip-ties and the what-have-you that lets you keep stuff from moving. Lubes to keep stuff moving. Consider generalist items that can be used flexibly in unexpected situations.


The learning curves involved vary from low pitch to steep, and all are more or less life-long pursuits. That being said, the journey has rewards from the very first step, and the entire path is rich in satisfactions.

Foraged necessaries extend our time at large on the water, freed from return to the world of shopping and the cash economy with all its demands.

The reward is freedom!

PS. On our return, our first serious guerilla garden plot of potatoes had done well despite record heat early on, followed by exceptional wet! WooHOO!!

Spuds in Space!
Well... it's a Rocket Stove.

Monday, April 25, 2022




– A particularly ambitious vessel from found materials


For a scavenger, patience is the key to the pantry.

– Delia Owens


Trouble can come upon whole peoples, catching everyone by surprise. It happens. It’s happening now around the world. It can happen here.

Let’s try a little thought experiment…

Say that things have fallen apart, a little or a lot. Either the local, regional or global center did not hold and things got chaotic. Looters came and went, along with most residents. 

Say we want or need to build a sailing vessel from scratch with materials at hand in a depleted sub-urban area. Let’s say things have been permanently abandoned, and the moral coast is clear. Let’s further stipulate that all stores have been emptied.

What do we need? What of that is at hand??

Triloboats are designed to comprise a workable minimum. Simple box barge / scows, they are relatively quickly and easily built from rectangular materials (sheets and planks). They’re largely ‘form stable’, requiring little or no ballast. 

But there are plenty of other contenders!

Free-standing rigs simplify construction immensely. They are set on what are essentially flagpole principles: get a solid grip at the bottom and let the rest fend for itself.

A whole range of waterproofing puckies can be magicked up from combinations of asphalt, oils, waxes, gas/diesel/mineral spirits/turpentines, cement (lime) and toxins (antifouling).

So let’s look around for what’s at hand…

  • Residential – Fasteners galore, plywood (sheathing and sub-floor, mostly), 2x framing, beams (solid and composite), hardwoods(?), insulation (foam and fiber), windows, roofing (asphalt, sheet metals and flashing), plumbing, electrical, hinges, carpets, fabrics, housewares, soaps and bleaches. Jonni Rings™ (micro-crystaline wax rings sealing toilets)!!! Electronic and electrical.

  • Commercial buildings and schools – Bolts, hardware, hardwoods (bars and VIP enclaves), plumbing/piping, stainless sheets and furnishings (from kitchens), propane hardware (can be used with home brew methane), industrial cleaning agents, big glass, plexiglass, electrical, asphalt (flat roofs). Awnings?

  • Cars, RVs and trucks – Oils, 12VDC electrical and batteries (keep an eye out for lithium based batteries or better!), alternators + regulators, inverters, engines (can run on wood -smoke or -gas), pumps, hose, radiators (vehicular air conditioning radiators use lead-free solder), bolts, tires, tarps?, jacks, tools and tire irons, maps.

  • Roads – asphalt, bolts (guardrails), sheet metal (signs), manhole covers (ballast), culverts. Bus-stops (plexiglass).

  • Power Lines and sub-stations – Poles, guys anchors, bolts and Ubolts, turnbuckles, wire (electrical and supporting cable). Copper for melting and plate production.

Appliances and accessories yield small AC and DC motors (windshield wipers, vacuum cleaners, hairdryers, washers and dryers, etc), alternators and vacuum pumps (refrigerator/freezers). 

Line can be found in various ropings, scaffolding and window-washing set-ups, on flag poles. Keep an eye out for line in the back of trucks.

Look around for tools. Saw blades and files are some of the harder things to improvise, so keep an eye out. The business end of power tools can be given handles and used manually. Home garages, garden sheds and firehalls may have been overlooked. 

If you’re in a higher-brow kind of area, look for copper furnishings, roofing, gutters and flashing for anti-fouling.

Marinas and boatyards could be full of goodies, up to and including vessels that weren’t cherry-picked and need some work, much of it left behind in the rush to turn-key

 (see Bob Wise’s Volkscruiser Blog). 

Junk yards, of course. And landfills.

I’ll bet libraries - full of analog know-how - will largely be unlooted. Meantime, any skills acquired in advance of trouble are a plus.

And I didn’t even mention dumpsters!

Point is, we’re awash in material abundance which our ancestors would have coveted, and immediately pressed into service. No matter which way we turn, the merest garbage of our age is the stuff of early sci-fi dreams.

Consider looking around for vessel ideas that might work well with found materials. Let’s use our imaginations! Think out-of-the-box!!

The scenario of our thought experiment is extreme-ish. But no need to await some fallen sky… much of all this is available now for nearly free. Permissions to mine liabilities (condemned or obsolete installations) are easy to come by.

Look around!

Related Posts:

A Rogue’s Gallery of Boat Recipes

Musings on the Economics of DIY

Simply Does It

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

A Rogues' Galley of Boat Recipes

Witch Hazel

Warner Bros. character from Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies

Boil, boil, toil and trouble,

Fire burn and cauldron bubble!

– From Shakespeare’s MacBeth

A Rogues' Galley of Boat Recipes

Once upon a time, we mixed our own.

The better-living-through-chemistry stuff was still in development and, if available, cost an arm and a leg. Slowly, the industrial materials got better and cheaper. Now, when I ask around, I find that it’s only a few old-timers and Luddites that still mix our own.

Not to disparage the new goods… quite the contrary. Adhesives can’t be matched by home-brew. Plastic resins are ultra-versatile; a one-size-fits-most solution. Paints are hard to beat.

But where goes wood, there lies a spectrum of needs. Wood works and swells and shrinks and cracks and closes up again, as one expects of a once living material. To meet the needs of wood, a just-so solution is often the best fit, filling in the wishlist between the broad strokes of modern, industrial magic.

The following amounts to a menu of oil based puckies and schmears with various consistencies and properties. Being mostly oil-based, they can’t easily be painted over or adhered to, neither in the short nor long term. 

Using them sets you down a road less traveled. Insofar as they replace plastics, they might be considered ‘greener’ on the whole. Their half-life is certainly shorter. For ‘natural’ wooden boats to be maintained in the field, this approach has a lot going for it. For modern approaches, they may be limited to stand-alone components.

All in all, I can’t really recommend going back to them while modern methods are available. Nor would I advise against them, exactly. They DO represent a set of alternatives, and set one to thinking along pathways now mostly overgrown.

So, for posterity, here’s what I’ve stumbled across from boatwrights and fishermen and women…


The following include materials I’ve heard of as having been used. New stuff shows up all the time (can you say Buckyballs?). Improvise and adapt!

Thick Stuff

  • Bees and Microcrystaline Wax - Great bases for filling cracks or waterproofing. Microcrystalline wax is superior… most toilet rings are made from it and cheap.

  • Asphalt - Fibered or not, is used for roofing. Messy but cheap and versatile.

  • Tar (aka Pitch) - This used to be common around boatyards. Have to heat it to melt.


  • Pine Tar - A fave of mine. Anti-fungal. On the thick side.

  • Tung Oil - Reputed not to mold or mildew. Turns laquery black after long sun exposure.

  • (Boiled) Linseed Oil - Pleasant oil… ‘boiled’ has drying chemicals added.

  • Oil Sludges - Generally used crank-case oils.

  • Corn Oil - New to me via a young old-timer. Inexpensive base. Outdoor apps look great, several years down the road.

NOTE: All of these are prone to spontaneous combustion. Rags and brushes should be immediately burned after use or immersed in water in a closed, metal container. Do NOT leave rags in direct sunlight for even a minute! (Experience talkin’, here).


  • Turpentine - Distillate of wood. I trust this one irrationally.

  • Mineral Spirits and Paint Thinners - Cheap and work.

  • Diesel - Ditto, but smells like you’d expect… not too bad if evaporated.

  • Gasoline - Careful with this one. Deep penetration, then evaporates.

  • Acetone - Ditto.

NOTE: All of these are rich in VOCs (don’t breathe them) and highly flammable to the point of explosive (no sparks or flame). Note and employ all pertinent safety precautions!

Thickeners (Thixotropics)

  • Wood Flours - Cedars are fungus resistant, as are select exotics.

  • Talc - Thickens without setting firm (sometimes used above the waterline).

  • Chalk - Thickens without setting firm.

  • Cement - Thickens, but also sets firmer (sometimes used below the waterline).

  • Plaster of Paris - Ditto.

  • Brown Paper Fiber - Special case additive to tar ‘ties the room together’.

  • Various Chopped Fibers - Glass, poly, dryer lint, hemp, oakum, etc..


  • Bottom Paint - Cheap copper bottom paint is antifouling for below waterline.

  • Cuprous Solutions - Used for toxifying wood in contact with ground (e.g., Naphtha and Cuprinol).

  • Cayenne and Paprika Powder - High BTU capsicum is anti-fouling. Added to exterior below the waterline. Might work in the interior, and seem to be much less dangerous overall than leads?

  • Varnish - This is a generic term… lots of proprietary varnishes with various properties.

  • Powdered Mica or other UV inhibitors - These help slow deterioration and oxidization.

  • Red and White Lead Powder - Formerly used in beddings and exterior primer coats. Work great, but are highly toxic, especially when in powder form (both applying and repairing/renewing). Available as pottery glaze. Many consider these off-limits… we prefer Pine Tar as our go-to anti-biotic, with copper or capsicum thrown in as needed.

NOTE: Again, these powders and solutions are NOT to be touched, much less breathed in. Consider carving conspicuous warnings to boatwrights down the road who may wade in unawares.


Rogues’ recipes are fuzzy things, and tend to vary wildly from person to person. These proportions will vary in the real world, according to your choices and by ingredients’ specific manufacture. Consider the proportions given a rough starting point.

Get to know the materials and how they react in your environment. Consider your purpose, and select for the properties you desire (flexibility, reset in warm conditions, penetration, hardness, antifouling, etc.). Nuance one way and the other as you deem fit, adjusting for the properties of each ingredient.

Small batches and test samples are strongly advised until you get a feel for it. A graduated Liter makes for easy, proportional math. All recipe parts given by volume. While all can be combined at ambient temperature, most mix better when heated in a double boiler, then allowed to cool.

Feel free - very free - to  experiment, innovate and otherwise roll-yer-own. It’s kind of addictive, really!

Here are a small sample I’ve encountered… adjust, extend or modify as desired:

Bedding Compound -

  6 parts Thickener : 1 part Oil : Dash of Additive (anti-biotic)

  Talc is a common choice for Thickener, while Pine Tar is antibiotic. Adjust mix for consistency.

Radial Crack Filler


 1 part Pine Tar : 1 part Wax

 Thicken with more wax, thin sparingly with turpentine.

Seam Compound (below WL) - 

  2 parts Fibered Asphalt : 1 part Portland Cement : 1 part Cuprous Bottom Paint

  Stiffen with more Asphalt, harden with more cement, thin with more paint.

Canvas Waterproofing -

  1 part Wax : 1 part Oil : 1 part Solvent

  Consider reducing Solvent to effective minimum.

  Saturate warm cloth and roll to penetrate fibers. Maybe check YouTube for a range of ideas.

Wood Slurry (Sealer for horizontal exterior surfaces) -

  1 part Wax : 2 parts Oil (Corn Oil was suggested to me for this application)

  Apply on cooling wood. Scrape lightly smooth once cooled.

Wood Slurry (Sealer for vertical, exterior surfaces) -

2 parts Pine Tar : 1 part Oil

Consider adding Solvent for the first coat and a little Wax for subsequent coats.

Wood Exterior Water-Resistant ‘Stain’ -

10 parts Heavy Solvent: 1 part Oil : 1 part Non-Fibered Asphalt Tar

More Tar darkens; less is lighter. Consider an inexpensive solvent (such as Diesel) that will evaporate.

NOTE: For exterior coatings aka ‘Log Oil’s, I remember seeing a US Forest Service recipe that added powdered Mica to reflect and protect against UV rays. Powdered Mica is widely available, but I’m not sure about effective proportions. One full recipe is cited in the Using Paint, Stain and Oil section, from Dovetails and Broadaxes: Hands-on Log Cabin Preservation by USFS, which I am unfortunately able to access presently.

Monday, February 14, 2022



Photo from Everplans

Let us be lovers, we’ll marry our fortunes together.

– Paul Simon

Surrender n: The act of giving one’s self over to another.

– One among many meanings


The act of giving one’s self over to another…

In the context of love, surrender is a mutual act of intramission based on trust. Of willing entanglement. Of choosing to turn toward as a way of being. Of letting go of the power of individuality for the greater power of loving partnership.

Surrender is also associated with a unilateral act of submission absent trust. Of unwilling engulfment. Of being forced to turn toward. Of yielding the power of individuality to conquest by a greater power.

The word is powerful and passionate in either sense.

Perhaps because the same word blares at full volume both meanings - will ye and nill ye - surrender is so difficult? 

By the time we find love, so many of us have surrendered in situations and relationships that have left us battered and scarred. We raise the walls and close the gates. We don armor and raise the sword by reflex. The gauntlet becomes as familiar as the backs of our own hands. The glaive becomes our hand.

But to surrender to one another… is there anything so sweet? To dismantle the walls and fling open the gates. To remove with love, patience and care each layer of defense. To win trust. 

To emerge together, hand in hand, to face the world?


Surrender has a shipboard context, too, one which pervades the spectrum.

The ship surrenders itself to the sea. Um. Sort of. Certainly the sea has the first and last word in every discussion.

All aboard surrender themselves to the needs of the ship… as goes the ship, so goes its occupants.

The captain surrenders to a leadership role… one in which power is most definitely not unbridled or lacking in obligations. 

The crew surrenders their independence to the captain’s decision and command… ours is not to question why (at least in the crunch).

All more or less. Consent is nowadays much in vogue, but the heirarchy (sea, ship, captain, crew) doesn’t promote mutuality. Yet neither is it set in stone.

On a happy ship, we look to working with the sea  and not against it. We look to our vessels’ trappings and trim. We aspire to Cptn. Bligh’s ability, but eschew his HR. We jump to with a will when called to duty.

We surrender and sail on.

NOTE: We find that it’s good to recall that the role of Captain is just that; a role. We can and do trade off. Good for learning and a counter to hubris!

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Feeling Buoyant


Don't let that sinking feeling get you down!
From Disney's Pirates of the Carribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl
via BroBible

You don't drown by falling into the water; you drown by staying there.

-- Edwin Louis Cole


Feeling Buoyant?

Here’ a tale of specific gravity I heard via Kevin Allred…

Seems a friend of his, living along one of the great sea-lanes of SE Alaska built him a small, open sailboat of cedar. 

For his first sail, he guesstimated what he’d need in ballast and accordingly threw a ten-count of sandbags onto the floorboards. Figgured he’d adjust as needed, then bolt in their equal in fixed, lead pigs sometime down the road.

Off he went, sailing along sweet as ya please, proud as punch of his new vessel.

Well, it was blowing pretty good and gustin’ up a little, but nothin’ to worry about. All the same, he made his sheet fast with a slipped hitch for easy let-go, just in case, which come along in due course. 

Up come a big gust. He gives the sheet a yank and whoops. The bight jammed. His new boat is knocked to her beam ends, throwing him overboard and cutting under sideways. He pops to the surface, sputtering and snatchin’ for breath (that cold water’s a shock, lemme tell ya!). He looks around and… no boat, with the shore a mile off! 

But waidaminit… there’s a few inches of vertical stick up and down a few yards away, which he recognizes as his masthead. Over he swims and is clinging to the very top of his rig, with - not much, but a little - time to think it over. But, y’see, he’s motivated. After due consideration…

Down his mast he shinnies, holding his breath and poppin’ his ears. He gets hold of a sandbag and heaves it over. Then another before he has to go back up for air. Gained him a few feet of mast!

Four trips and eight bags later, he’s bailing for his life and raises her up and high on her lines. Almost like nothin’s happened.

Straightaway he beelines it for shore and his last neighbor before a long, long downwind sail.

Neighbor hears a faint knock and goes to the door to find a jittery, blue apparition, soppin’ wet:

“Holy SMOKES! You okay???”



We get to see some principles in this story.

One, in small open boats - especially when gusty - hold the sheets in hand or wrap just enough turns to friction hold the load between gusts. 

A slipped hitch is better than a hitch, but no hitch (with ju-u-u-u-st right turns) is better than any hitch.

Two, positive buoyancy is a fine thing!

In boats, we think of buoyancy as one of negative, neutral or positive. Negative sinks. Neutral just hangs out (it may move up or down with momentum from wave action). Positive floats.

Those few inches of mast floating proud of the water mean there were just enough more floaty than sinky bits in the immersed portion ofboat to support the weight of protruding mast. A matter of a few pounds transformed this potential tragedy into comedy.

The moral? The more positive buoyancy, the merrier.

  • Keep sinky bits to the practical minumum (i.e., functional plus safety margin).

  • Add as much floaty stuff as is practical, preferably stowed so it can’t float away if immersed.

  • The goal is to float crew and maybe decks clear of the water when awash.

Think positive!

PS… Anke hears the yarn part of this post and says to me, “You don’t talk like this!” She’s referring to the many colloquialisms, such as, “Up come a big gust.”

On examination, it turns out, I DO talk this way, when relaxed, just not so ‘cogently’.

Mine is the local vernacular style on our waterfront, and I’ve spoken it all my life. Mixed with some East Coasterisms I’ve absorbed from nautical readings and songs along with other flip and foolery from over the course of 40-some years. Along with turns of phrase that resonate with me. Gordon Boklets, among others.

If I’m writing for technical clarity, however, as now, my training kicks in. Highly edited, fairly grammatical sentences are more common, though I hardly stick to Turabian. Not always successful, I know, but it’s my best shot.

What I’m not so good at is telling a story both verbally and well. What I hear in my head is soooo much better than what comes out of my mouth. But tongue pulls ahead of brain. Detours. Red herrings. Lost threads. Dead ends.

However, I’m a slow typist, and my brain can spill at that rate. Stories come out as I think them, for better or for worse. I only ever lightly edit this stuff. This is why what I write doesn’t always sound like me to Anke.

You’re getting my Voice, such as it is.

Umm… you’re welcome?