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

Monday, January 30, 2012

Winter Olympics

WarmSprings Bay frozen over (clear part is ice, too)

That which does not kill us, makes us stronger!
Friedrich Nietzsche

We're exhausted...

Started with a marten in the house. He'd show up downstairs, and we thought at first he was slipping in with us. Then he came through our open bedroom window one night. Got him out without too much trouble. When he showed up again, with us on high alert and window screened, we realized he must have a hole. Found it leading into the attic. Isolated attic from rest of lodge, but couldn't drive him up there (lot's of places he can go that we can't), so played guessing games as to whether he was out, or in but inactive. Once out, we screened it with machine cloth (wire grid), which he merely tore apart. Next try was successful with expanded metal mesh.

So we'd been up nights with a cold snap coming.

Maybe I should start with an introduction. For the past while, we've been alternating years winter caretaking Baranof Wilderness Lodge, this being our third year 'on'. It's an inefficient way to earn money, but the owners are great, there's internet and power for writing projects, and it's a way to earn, out-of-town. There's one year-round resident, one 'town' caretaker (currently with a couple filling in) and us. Last plane was about two months ago. We work October through April. Most years its considerable but not overwhelming work.

Quite a change from our little Boat!

One of our prime jobs is to keep the 10KW, pelton wheel based, hydro power system going, so long as possible. Water comes from a small lake at about 33degF, down some falls to an intake reservoir. In low temps, water super-cools to about 30degF, and forms ice slushies on rocks and intake grate, impeding flow and reducing power. After several days of this, the falls and creek freezes over, insulating the water; it's temps climb a bit and slushing stops. Our part is to clear the slush, and as water level falls in the dry, freezing conditions, reroute more water toward the intake. Should the whole shebang freeze solid, it's a small disaster.

In advance of the deep freeze, we cut steps up the hill (about 600 feet of rise in a rough quarter mile), dug out the rope lead for the really steep part, and took tools to intake pool. Thought we were ready. HA.

As temps dropped to 5-10degF lows we had to clear the intake of ice every 2 hrs for three days, then 3hrs, then 4hrs. During the whole time, we're losing power as the supply pipe freezes from the outside in. Finally the creek froze over and we could relax to every 6 hrs... 30 round trips in 5 days!  Got a stone diversion dam in place to keep water level sufficient from the falling creek, and we're just about to get some sleep.

Extra Sensitive Meter to ensure heating elements not encased in ice (explosion danger while thawing)

Then the three water heaters showed themselves to be freezing from their bottoms up (despite water happily running full bore through them. The first one absorbs surplus power, the second is a dump load for considerable extra, and the third is a standard domestic heater with thermostat. They're plumbed serially, and freeze-up could mean fire danger from excess power heating wiring.

We had to bypass the middle and domestic heaters, and use our last gasp of power to thaw the domestic. Then transferred its hot load to the middle, then drained both. Just about to get some sleep.

Anke chopping advancing ice.

Did I mention that meanwhile, the Bay froze over?

Piling should be near straight... can't see it, but it's leaning away, too.

We look out at first light, and the inshore piling is at an unlawful angle. Down we go... the ice sheet is moving, and forcing the dock and piling SE. Six hours busting a moat around the docks with sledge hammers and shovels, then 2 hour watches to chop more as it refreezes and/or advances. Luckily, only two nights and a day of this... then luxurious 3 hour watches on advance only (no refreezing in warming temps).

Meanwhile, we'd been waiting for the community caretaker and then his replacements to pump gas to run our skiffs and snow-blowers. Pump won't pump. Siphon about 3/4 of a gallon, when (sucky noises), we hit air! Dipped it and (metallic noises) sounds EMPTY (20,000 gallon tank, which should be at least half full). OMG!!! There's been a spill!!! Panic and $50K debt filled our sleep deprived minds. Wisely, we tabled it to deal with ice and got some snatches of sleep.

In the morning, new hypothesis... the dip tube is blocked (must be solid ice for that metallic a sound). We dipped again at the other end and landed right on the owner's marks. Siphoning works from there. Flooding sense of relief!

Since the Bay's frozen, fuel's got to be rough-hiked across (the 'Townies', are exhausted, too, from work on their intake and snow blower probs). Fortunately, by the time we figure all this out, the tide's broken up ice alongshore... at high tide, we can sneak a skiff around the edges.

THAT's when the four (count 'em) four winter storms came through. Two feet and change of wicked wet and sticky snow, before the break-up. Of course, we can't throw it into the moat, or it's durn hard to see when it's time to chop. Blower gets it out and past, but around the rim (cleat zones) has to be hand shoveled. Meanwhile, snow on ice depresses sheets to about 8 inches under slop, so chopping is an ordeal.

The 'Moat'... this is closing... we'll widen at 3-4 inches to about 18"

We had about 2ft of snow on the ground when this all began; we've had 5'4" since. No rest for the weary. But as I write, NOAA's promising a week of rain, starting tomorrow.

We're happy, healthy and mostly caught up on sleep... and though a little wobbly in the knees, are about as buff as you'll ever see us.

Down in the Valley...

Sunday, January 29, 2012

HiLow Tech Stoves: Rocket and Holey Roket (sic)

Photo from Photosfan
In the third world, much of the cooking is done around open, wood fires. We shantyboaters, living as we do in a third world of our own, can benefit from recent innovations in stove technology. Their workings are high tech, but their construction is low tech (or appropriate, if you prefer).

One of the odd facts about wood fires is that, without efficient combustion, up to half the energy of wood goes up in smoke. This means twice as much wood need be gathered for a given amount of heat, leading to deforestation in many areas. Smoke is, of itself, toxic, and women and children (predominantly the ones doing the cooking), suffer heavily from emphysema and other lung conditions and cancers.

The Approvecho Center, with Dr. Larry Winiarski, developed the Rocket Stove to address these problems.

It is essentially an insulated, L-shaped combustion chamber. The horizontal portion accepts wood and air, the hard turns at the angled join provide efficient mixing, and the upright portion is the chimney. The combined effect is a very hot burn, both of the wood and the smoke. Remaining hot gasses emerge from the upright chimney under appreciable pressure.

There are many ways to adapt this concept, including cookstoves, thermal mass heaters, steam generators and so on. For inside use, they may be enclosed in a box and vented outboard.

Holey Roket Stove with Holey Bio-briquettes
One of the more intriguing variations is the Holey Roket Stove. Instead of wood fuel, this uses donut shaped bio-briquettes. These are DIY from slurried biomass (manure, paper, sawdust, peat, weeds, etc.), formed and baked right on the stove. In areas where wood is scarce or protected, bio-briquettes offer a wide range of options for scroungers.

Of course, they needn't be mutually exclusive... with good design, a Holey Roket could burn either wood or Holey briquettes.

StoveTec is offering ready made (outdoor) rocket stoves in a roughly 5-gallon pail format for quite reasonable prices. These would make great deck or 'patio' cookers. You may also purchase stoves for Third World families at very low cost.

So look this stuff over. See how it can be worked in to your situation. The technology is highly scalable and versatile. Chances are, some variation will enhance your life.

This post also appears at

Sunday, January 22, 2012

A Durn Good Hat

Bailey's DURANGO Hat

Expecting rain, the profile of a day
Wears its soul like a hat....

John Ashbery

Call me Bartholomew.

I'm a hat guy. As Martha Sliter put it, "A hat is a flag, a shield, a bit of armour...". A good hat - a hat that's right for the situation - is a comfort and a joy... it may literally save your life. A bad hat - one that is wrong for the situation - may be less than no good... a distraction and inadequate.

Being condemned to wearing glasses and living in a rainforest, a brim keeps my windshield clear in all but very windy weather. I'm also balding, and contribute a bit more than my share to global warming.

Sailing in these parts presents a challenging environment, for a hat. It's got to stay on, blow high, blow low. Keep you warm, but not too warm. Keep rain at bay, but let moisture escape. If it can cover your ears, great, but you have to be able to clear them to hear, or if that cold wind turns warm. And the more 'hats' it can wear, the fewer alternatives are required; important in a small space. If it can be washed once in a blue moon, or be used as the occasional bailer, it merits extra credit.

So I've tried out a lot of 'em, looking for the smallest combination that covers the widest range of needs. I have many more than one, of course, as one hat simply won'f fit all needs. But the Winner for the title of My Favorite, All-Round Hat is...

Bailey's DURANGO Cowboy Hat!!! My prize hat! Ooooo, I love this hat!!

Features include 'Crushable' wool felt, tie-down lanyard, shapable wire rim on 3-1/2 inch brim and EAR-FLAPS! Everything I want in an outdoor SE Alaska hat! They're spendy suckers, but pro-rate well over years of hard wearin'.

My Sister, upon meeting it, then in its fresh purchased prime, was impressed. She allowed as how, wearing it, I was finally able to fare una bella figure (cut a dashing figure, more or less). Until I gleefully showed her the ear-flaps. Her comment: "Oh Dave. You were almost cool!"

But it's warm, even sopping wet. Drips dry fairly quickly and while damp can be shaped (fashion adjustable!). The wire rim keeps the brim from flipping up in gale force winds, and from going all jellyfish with age. Lanyard locks it on the head, if you remember it. Ear-flaps keep frostbite at bay.

And, at least for the first several years, it's rather dashing. After that, it enters graceful old age as a romantic slouch hat. I've still got my first one, some twelve years up the road. Can't throw it out, even though its successor has taken over the business. It kept me warm in many's the rain-laden blow. It's the long odds survivor of a successful, impromtu MOB drill one stormy, winter day in Peril Strait.

It's hard to let go of a good friend.

Me 'n' muh Hat

This post also appears at

Monday, January 16, 2012

Floating Your Boat - Musings on Wherewithal (Income)

Well it comes in pretty handy on this planet, Pal!
Tony Rice, speaking of Money

Floating Your Boat - Musings on Wherewithal (Income)

Money. Moola. Filthy lucre. I hate it. I want some!

The chain linking our culture to subsistent lifestyles has been broken. We're left reinventing the wheel in diminished environments. We are distracted from this pursuit by the need to generate income. Income fills the belly, shelters and clothes us until we can learn old ways in this new world.

Anke and I work for money. We volunteer for like and love, on our own terms. You may love your job, but that's a lucky coincidence. Bottom line is, you're in it for the money.

I'm going to assume that you, like me, would rather be sailing.

So we grapple with how  to honestly generate income, without giving life over to its pursuit.

Gotta warn ya; I'm short on answers. What follows are a number of things that have influenced our thinking over the years. You'll notice that the terms aren't exactly dictionary defined. As a group, they aren't even consistent. A pinch of this and a dash of that.

I'll share what I've got.

Useful Books:

Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin, Joe Domiquez and Monique Tilford
     [This book is associated with The New Road Map Foundation and Financial Integrity]
Economically, these books are identical. They both start with the same premises and arrive at the same conclusions. Their goal is financial freedom from return on capital, in order that you may get on with your life.

Annie's book is the more relevant (and fun!) for sailors, but I recommend them both. Together, they provide a backbone for thinking about money.

Both agree: Spend consciously!!!

YMoYL has a number of helpful methods and approaches, organized under Nine Steps:


In Your Money or Your Life,  money is defined as something for which we trade chunks of our finite life energy. Money can be traded in turn for goods and services, but it's sort of a middle man; we could also say that we're purchasing goods and services with life energy.

Point is, in any cost / benefit analysis, cost is always and only meaningful in terms of life energy. And we want, of course, the greatest return for life energy expended.


The Seven Laws of Money by Michael Phillips and Sally Raspberry

1. Do it! Money will come when you are doing the right thing.
2. Money has its own rules: records, budgets, savings, borrowing.
3. Money is a dream - a fantasy as alluring as the Pied Piper.
4. Money is a nightmare - in jail, robbery, fears of poverty.
5. You can never give money away.
6. You can never really receive money as a gift.
7. There are worlds without money.

(Read the full version here.) 


Supply and Demand, Baby!!! Don'tchoo forgit it!


Useful Terms:

Gross Income - All money and resources which enter your possession.
Overheads - All money and resources required to provide Necessaries (vs. Electives).
Expenditures - All money spent for Overheads plus Electives.

Net Income = Gross Income minus income related Overheads.

Disposable aka Surplus Income = Net Income - Overheads.

I note that Net Income could be deemed Profit, and would agree at the venture level. At the household level, however, I'd rather think of Disposable Income as Profit, having subtracted necessary living Overheads. They are themselves income related for households, though they tend to be considered in separate accountings.


Asset - Anything which increases net income.
Liability - Anything which decreases net income.
Capital - Assets which exclusively produce income.

The first two are from Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad and Poor Dad.

Under these definitions one could argue that Assets are Capital. I've drawn what I find to be a useful distinction for integrating the terms with others presented here.


Return On Investment (ROI)

ROI can be positive, neutral or negative. This is a good standard from distinguishing Asset from Liability.


Cost / Benefit  Analysis

Similar... used to clarify Returns.

Key concept: Costs and benefits are yin and yang... related opposites each containing the seed of the other!


Three (honest) ways to come by what the Pardeys call Freedom Chips:
  • Income from Hourly Wage / Salary
  • Income from Piece-Work
  • Income from Capital (invested).
The problem with the first two is that one directly trades life energy for income. When life energies wane or wander, income drops. In a full-blown emergency, it comes to an abrupt halt.

The enemy of all three is rising expectations. They tend to rise faster than income, leaving us racing to fall behind.


Income from Hourly Wage / Salary

Two approaches:
  • Do something you love, income secondary.
  • Do what pays best, satisfaction secondary.
The first can be prolonged, but more satisfying.
The second can be less satisfying, but less prolonged.

Often that 'something you love' is not your dream aka 'what you most love'. It can be the seductive difference between living the dream and living something else. 

Either way, while working toward the dream, we can accumulate habits, addictions, obligations and encumbrances that prevent us from realizing the dream. Cave opararius! (Worker beware!)

Income from Piece-Work

Two approaches:
  • Create art to sell, income secondary.
  • Create what sells, art secondary.

Income from Capital
  • Monetary capital (lending at interest (banked funds,  bonds, direct loans), securities, etc).
  • Commodity capital (trade goods, exchange goods, property).
  • Intellectual capital (copyrighted material, patents, licensing, reputation).

Both YMoYL and Voyaging on a Small Income both choose government bonds as being relatively stable and relatively easy to liquefy (cash out).

Note: Thanks to various economic crises, the interest returned by gov't bonds has tanked, crippling the compound interest aspect of this type of investment.
    We are most interested interested in accumulating Intellectual Capital. It's big advantage is that it can be pursued on our own terms, and once created and producing income, needs little to no further investment from us. In particular, it's resistant against declining energies as we age.


    Subsistence Model

    Subsistence farms worked for generations by three simple principles: 
    1. Forage or grow all food, fuel and materials.
    2. DIY what you can.
    3. Find a 'cash cow' to generate cash income for what remains.
    The 'cash cow' could be any asset in reach of the first two, which can be exchanged for cash. It might be an actual cow, wild chokecherry wine, herbs, etc..

    In my great-grandfather's case, he had a good eye for skinny horses. Bought 'em cheap, fattened 'em up on his surplus corn and sold them at a good profit. This cash went to purchase metals and salt, mostly. Lived to 97 years, subsisting all the way.


    Commodity vs. Value Added

    If one's cash 'cow' is a commodity, consider adding value with labor or synergy. 

    For example, choke cherries are a commodity. Choke cherry wine is value added, and may well fetch a better price. Choke cherry liquor further adds synergy with, say, distilled alcohol from home-grown grain. 

    [NOTE: These examples have legal issues!]

    Depends on what the market will bear, which is itself a corollary of supply and demand.


    Compounded Returns

    Compound - to re-invest Return On Investment as Capital.

    Compounded Income (Returns on Capital) grow one's Capital exponentially.

    Compounded Capital doubles (roughly) by the Rule of 70:

    Doubling Time =  70 divided by Rate of Return

    For example, any compounded pile of capital returning 5% in a year will double in about 14 years (70 divided by 5), all things being equal, and ignoring units.


    Trickle (or Micro) Streams of Income

    Multiple small income producing assets or endeavors that each produce a little. Added up they contribute to, or even cover one's entire budget.

    Organizing Assets:
    • Cash - Ready assets (cash) to cover monthly overhead and expenses (budgeted).
    • Cushion - Readily liquifiable assets to cover living overheads for, say, six months.
    • Capital - Income producing assets.

    Sunday, January 15, 2012

    Civiliztion vs Wilderness: May the Best Win

    Lisbon Bridge, commissioned by El Mundo/Expresso Magazine, Portugal

    May you live in interesting times!

    -- Ancient Chinese Curse

    Civiliztion vs. Wilderness: May the Best Win

    I guess timing is everything.

    Big change is coming - more drastic and far-reaching than any in history, certainly... perhaps only rivaling ice age, meteor strike or 'volcanic winter' events in human prehistory. The coming generations will bear the brunt, whether to sink or swim. Fortunately, we're a resilient species. I, for one, wish us well.

    My biggest concern is that we're not leaving much to those who come after. I'm only 53, as I write, but have seen huge losses of wilderness from my youth. Big timber is mostly gone, fish runs depleted, one watershed after another pole-axed by development... that same process that transformed the West Coast's I-5 corridor from incomparable paradise to running strip mall in a mere 150 years; only three times my span.

    The same process grinding along just about everywhere. The great forests and oceans are dying. And it is we who are killing them. Every day brings us closer to a tipping point. Our very civilization -- in and of itself and business as usual -- is a rolling, Extinction Level Event.

    But there is hope. Biotic systems repopulate exponentially. Civilization has wilderness in retreat, maybe even in rout. But wilderness springs back given half a chance.

    I've been interested to check in on the humbling rebound of wilderness in area surrounding Chernobyl. Remove the pressures of human civilization for a handful of years, and the world thrives. We are of that world. It must be said, that that environment was highly 'remediated' at great, human cost.

    I believe that our surviving children and theirs will thrive within this new wilderness once the traumas of  transition subside. Thrive as billions presently do not, subject, as they are, to the 'benefit' of civilization. Wilderness is the state for which we are evolved, and I believe that we shall return with a sigh of relief.
    We are, in the company of hundreds of human civilizations before us, rushing toward collapse and ensuing Dark Ages. This time, our reach is global. The future looks dark to me.

    For a while.

    Hound Voice

    BECAUSE we love bare hills and stunted trees
    And were the last to choose the settled ground,
    Its boredom of the desk or of the spade, because
    So many years companioned by a hound,
    Our voices carry; and though slumber-bound,
    Some few half wake and half renew their choice,
    Give tongue, proclaim their hidden name -- 'Hound Voice.'

    The women that I picked spoke sweet and low
    And yet gave tongue. 'Hound Voices' were they all.
    We picked each other from afar and knew
    What hour of terror comes to test the soul,
    And in that terror's name obeyed the call,
    And understood, what none have understood,
    Those images that waken in the blood.

    Some day we shall get up before the dawn
    And find our ancient hounds before the door,
    And wide awake know that the hunt is on;
    Stumbling upon the blood-dark track once more,
    Then stumbling to the kill beside the shore;
    The cleaning out and bandaging of wounds,
    And chants of victory amid the encircling hounds.

    William Butler Yeats

    Saturday, January 14, 2012

    A Window on Our World

    Don't need X-ray vision to see Paradise!

    A Window on Our World

    Windows on sailboats run small, for the most part, at least those on the hull proper.

    This has excellent historical reasons. Water weighs roughly a ton per cubic meter, about the equivalent of a good sized car. And it's moving, sometimes fast. And you're moving, sometimes fast. At sea, collisions with waves are a dime a dozen. While there are special varieties of glass that, in larger sizes, can stand up to this, they're expensive. A compromise was reached... small port or deadlights (portlights open, deadlights don't).

    Shoal boat designers struggle with height. There's not much boat in the water, so we have to work harder than others to keep the hull low. Pilothouses are often built on top of the hull to provide an all-round view via larger windows, but this adds height, raising the center of gravity and windage. If we could improve our view from lower, in the hull itself, it reduces the need for superstructure.

    Fortunately, we're living in the Age of Miracle and Wonder (thanx, Paul Simon). Polycarbonate (poly) - the stuff of bullet-proof windows for Popes, Presidents, armored cars, bathyspheres and ROVs - is available at DIY prices. My glasses, snow goggles and shop glasses are all made from the stuff.

    LUNA's windows were already bigger than is usual... we often got comments on how light the interior was, and how much view we had. But the 1/4 inch polycarbonate scratched quickly. Pledge (TM) is optically clear, and fills small scratches, but couldn't keep up. After a decade, our clear views were noticeably dimming.

    But coatings have come a long way. For a moderate price, sheets with a scratch resistant finish are now available. Still have to treat them gently, but three years into it, we've only got the one or two scratches from bigger blunders... not the thousand micro-scratches from mere cleaning.

    We helped Andy Stoner build his MARY ELIZABETH (T32x12). Big windows for a 360deg view. It was an epiphanal moment when the tarp came up, opening out the view, even onto limited glory (driveway, urban neighborhood, small highway). Anke and I flashed on the fact that, relatively speaking, we'd been living in a hole!

    Still... SLACKTIDE is a low hull, even as 26 footers go... would 8' x almost 2' side windows, barely a foot above the waterline work?

    LUNA rarely saw sea-water that high... the leeboard guards help by acting as splash guards. But the hulls are so light and buoyant, they're lifting over all but the very tip of green water reaching that high. Only one way to find out!

    SLACKTIDES side panels, before and after window cut-outs.

    SLACKTIDE's hull (along the cabin) is ply-foam-ply composite, totaling 2 1/8 inches. We fastened 1/4 inch polycarbonate outside, using SS screws and finish washers bedded in DAP Alex Plus. DAP AP is 'siloconized acrylic' latex window caulk... cheap, easy to work, water clean-up. It's only lightly adhesive... can be removed and rebedded... we use it for most bedding jobs.

    The trick is to spread it under where the windows will land (we use 1 1/2 inch overlap), then run a thicker bead down the center of that. Be gentle, and apply gradual pressure as you fasten. Once full contact is made (you can see it), stop (don't tighten too much and drive the bedding out). As it dries (may take quite a while) you may have to snug down the screws, here and there, as water evaporates. Once the edges are well and truly dry, paint to protect (raw DAP mildews, and may rehydrate and wash out if it's not fully cured). If thermal cracking around the edges occurs, touch up with DAP before maintenance painting.

    Alternatives might be silicone, butyl and, possibly, neoprene tape (gasketed, but not bedded).

    Square boats and those from non-tortured plywood are easy... the poly can be fastened directly to the hull. Might have to frame out a bit on complex-curve hulls, as sheet poly won't take the bend.

    Inside the hull, we applied adhesive weather-strip around the window cut-outs, and fastened panes of 1/8 inch acrylic. This is much cheaper material; brittle and far less flexible, it nevertheless stays clear and is considerably less prone to scratching (no coatings necessary). We used no bedding so, if moisture fogged the windows from between, we can open and air them out. Hasn't been a problem.

    The purpose of this inner layer is to create an insulative dead air space. Despite it's low tech (no vacuum or exotic gasses) it totally eliminates condensation and retains a whopping portion of heat.

    As far as strength goes, my thinking is that the outer layer, bearing as it does against the hull, should be proportioned to handle all foreseen external loads. The inner layer, is both weaker, brittle, and unsupported by hull (fastener grip is the only holdfast). If the outer layer gave, I wouldn't count on the inner one. Poly comes incredibly thick, but I've never seen more than 1/2 inch (and often 3/8 inch) on large, offshore fishing vessels, many of whom have taken green water at bridge level. Their windows (even lower in the hull) are typically far larger in area than cruisers would need, and installed with H-rubber lockstrip (not directly backed by hull). Conclusion is, strength should be adequate with this simple installation.

    So. Sailing SLACKTIDE over three years, now, we have very occasionally run green water over the lower edge of the window (time to reef, as we're dragging guards, anyway). Our windows have gotten splashed, but never immersed by a wave, even in short, steep seas. No indication that it would be a problem if we had.

    We toyed with the idea of opening windows. That would have been SO sweet! Decided against, for our first go, but I think they're in reach. Framed with 2x2 stock and double paned, one can create a very rigid girder. In ply-foam-ply, it's easy to cut the inner layer openings smaller, creating a strong, integral lip. Good hinges, gaskets and dogs necessary, of course, and maybe a failsafe splash trough on the inside. Next boat.

    Meanwhile, the payoff is handsome. LOTS of light in the interior. And the view! THE VIEW!! Everything we always envied in motorboats' (or some motor sailors') large houses with their huge windows. We no longer have to press our faces to small openings - perhaps taking turns for the one with the right angle - to catch glimpses of events in the world around us.

    Now, any small movement catches the eye. We have but to turn our heads to watch a herd of deer making their silent way across adjacent flats, the swoop of an owl on some hapless vole, a tumble of fighting marten or a slide of otter. Or bear in their many routines of exploration, play and predation.

    Sea-lions spy-hop to see what we're up to, whales swim so close we can look down through the windows to watch their passage, watched seals clowning and cavorting a boat-length away.

    Once a pair of otter in the water alongside spent an hour in passionate (and somewhat rough) love making, triggering... well...

    Time to draw the curtains!

    PS. Here are some more  looks out the windows while underway.

    Wish we had a panoramic camera!

    Thursday, January 12, 2012

    The SWiss Army Boat

    All the tools, all the time!

    The SWiss Army Boat

    The way I look at it, sea-steading is staking a way of life to the sea. It doesn't have to mean at sea, or even on-board a boat. But the sea is part and parcel of the homestead's environment, resources and possibilities.

    Anke and I choose to live aboard, loving the mobility and access to a thousand corners of our vast archipelago. The shoresides and intertidal zones, in our approach, are every bit as important as the sea itself. For our tastes, one without the other would be a sore diminishment.

    But we've nowhere near arrived at our goals.

    Here's the kind of fantasy we are working toward:

    We pull into this year's autumn camp, one of a hundred options, in time for the late summer run of salmon. It's a place we know and love, having returned many times over the years. The full moon is rising, chasing the sunset, as we drop anchor in the protected cove - proof against equinoctial gale and storm. In a few minutes we're rowing  ashore, eager to check on the garden.

    We listen, on our way, to the plash! of salmon pooled and leaping off the flats of a small river. They're females, it's believed, slapping down on their sides to loosen their eggs. A faint echo returns off the steep mountain face bordering one side of the meadows, mingling with the sounds of a freshet cascade.

    Spawning salmon will soon fill the river. Dying, their bodies nourish a complex chain of energies. But we're evolutionary newcomers, here... for us the water is tainted. We chose this place in part for the waterfall, close at hand. Too steep for salmon, it supplies us with fresh water for drink and the work ahead.

    Our guerrilla garden is thriving, though you couldn't tell, to look at it. In fact, if you can spot it at all, you've got an educated eye. It's diffuse, spread out over the alluvial fan and into the fringes of the woods. Most of the plants are indigenous to SE, though we've concentrated and encouraged them, here. Others, here and there are select, hardy exotics, known to fare well in this clime. They need occasional help to keep going in the long run, but can fend for themselves for years. Potatoes, rhubarb, kale. We've had some loss to deer and bear, but there's plenty to go around, and nothing special to attract them.
    At next morning's high, we slide the boat ashore, neaping her for Swiss army maneuvers; from the hold, we unfold an array of contraptions. Some have been flattened for storage, their hinges and pins letting them collapse from three to two dimensions.  Assembled, the following tools are at our disposal:
    • Big Tarp - This gets pitched over the small clearing near the cascade, and among convenient trees. It will let us work in all weather without having to 'gear up' in PVC bibs and jackets.

    • Big Table - Cobbled together from the boat's sliding seat/workbench, table, and hatches (now open under biminies) and fixed along lashed up supports from on-site spruce spars. It'll serve to process fish or game, or as a workbench for this or that project (carpentry, say, or metalwork).

    • Food-Dryer - This is the biggest item, and took the most ingenuity. Unfolded, it's 2' x 4' x 4', with a single, pitched roof. Inside are up to 32 shelves of stainless steel, perforated sheet metal. These make easy to clean, non-degrading drying racks. 

      The whole affair is reversible; with the clean side in, it dries fruits, vegetables, seaweeds and seeds en masse. Smoky side in, it's a smoker for salmon and maybe venison.

      A collapsible, wood-burning campstove provides heat to both in the cool, often damp autumn weather, and smoke for the smoker. Plus it handles our small cooking needs while in camp. Coffee! Or maybe by now we're addicted to roasted dandelion root?

    • Firepit and Oven - This is our chance to do some real baking... stone and clay or mud form the body. Some years it's more involved, some less. This year, it's a simple cavern; we make a fire in the oven, heat it up, scoop out the fire and bake. The firepit will produce a steady stream of coals for pressure canning at consistent heat.

    • Laundry Station - At a wide distance from the creek. Our huge stock-pot, wringer and drying lines let us do the bedding - a big job that's hard to tackle when on the move.

    • Greenhouse? - A small greenhouse helps get some fall starts going, babysits a batch or two of wine, keeps us in sprouts in the cooling weather.

    By afternoon, we're all set up. We spend the afternoon cutting wood for the coming days. 

    By the end of a couple of pleasant weeks, we'll have topped off our stores for the approaching winter, with dried or canned fish and venison, and dried berries, mushrooms, greens and tubers half- and wholly wild. The garden's been expanded, perhaps, and fertilized with kelp and mulch; ready for another spell on its own. Several pending projects on the boat have been seen to.

    We break camp, cleaning and collapsing down to its shadow phase. Like the blades of a Swiss Army knife, we fold them back into the holds. The oven is broken up and dispersed along with most signs of our presence here. When spring tides run high, we float again and sail on under the new moon.

    None of this fantasy runs too much different than what we're already doing, but the scale would be ever so much more efficient. And efficiency means that more and more of our needs are met locally, from sea and shore.

    As it is, we throw money at legumes and grains, oils, cheese and peanut butter. We've a small, on-board dryer for wild forage, light fishing gear and pickling jar. One carboy and a few bags for young wine. Relative to our sea-steading hopes, we're living hand-to-mouth, supplemented by Costco.

    But we dream...


    LUNA's Hull on Launch Day
    T32x8 LUNA.. Note the eaves (mid-deck overhangs) and larger windows.
    Phil Bolger developed the Advanced Sharpie hull type, a descendant of traditional East Coast sharpies. It's distinguished from them by rectangular sections, bottom raised well clear of the water at the ends, and matched side and bottom curves (seen in profile and plan view, respectively).

    Matching curves equalizes pressure on both sides of the right angle chine, reducing drag from turbulent cross-flow along its length. To match the curves without a long overhang at the bow (whose exposed bottom is prone to pound, it is clipped to the distinctive bow transom.

    The high ends mean a short waterline, when upright, for nimble tacking. Heeled, the sailing waterline lengthens to almost full length, raising hull-speed accordingly.

    Rectangular sections maximize form stability and reserve buoyancy, and simplify construction greatly. Chine logs are bent in gentle curves (no steaming or beveling), and all vertical lines are straight (no curves). Longitudinal components must be lofted or spiled (their curve transferred from the hull), but only once for any given area. Thus, a set of shelves in the salon, say, all have the same, longitudinal curve against the hull, rather than a different curve at each height.


    We followed Phil's lead and designed LUNA for ply dimensions (vs. the trailer and slip constraints the AS29 was designed for). We used a simplified interior inspired by British Pilot Cutter layouts, blaspheming by adding a dinette. Junk Rig, outboard rudder, off-centerboards (leeboards prevented from winging on the windward tack). Went together relatively fast and cheap, and we lived happily aboard for 13 years.

    Alas, we didn't insulate and overballasted (and/or under displaced). Probably would have lived with it, but wanted to check out TriloBoats. SLACKTIDE (our current T26x7) proved the concept to our satisfaction. On the drawing board, now, is LUNA, recast along TriloBoat lines.

    TriloBoats carry AS construction savings to the bitter end. Rectilinear as possible, excepting only the ends, to let the hull slide forward. The cabins, especially, are designed to be fully rectilinear, so interiors may be installed square and true.

    Where a sharpie (or any curved boat) carves displacement and volume with every curve, box barges stubbornly hang on to every cubic centimeter. Thus, on the same overall dimensions, a TriLOBOaTomized LUNA has half again the displacement (13500lbs vs 8300lbs).

    I expect we'll lose some speed... rockered bottoms are said to be easier to drive, and I believe it. The long, barge dead-flat combined with right angle chines makes them slower turning. But SLACKTIDE has met our sailing needs with room to spare, so these are compromises we accept.

    One could build an AB (Advanced Barge), by pinching in at the bow and stern to match bottom, end-curves. This would help keep transoms clear of the water when heeled, and eliminate that pesky cross-flow. I'm sure that it would improve performance. But each time, we talk ourselves out of it... the construction savings, bountiful deck-space and interior volume advantages make our cost/benefit analyses favor the simpler approach.

    If we ever get to the point of building again, it'll likely be this design - LUNA's more ample sister.

    SIP construction, lumber framed with selective tape 'n' glue, copper plated, Dynel/resin decks... maybe even resin saturated ply walls for easy maintenance in our golden years.

    In the sweet bye 'm bye...

    LUNA's Rig and Layout... will repeat in T32x8 LUNA with more elbow room.

    Wednesday, January 11, 2012

    Where Ultra-Shoal, Square Boats Get Their Stability

    Rick Bedard knock-down testing his Michalak JEWELBOX JR

    A ballast keel is necessary for a boat's stability. TRUE or FALSE?

    If you answered TRUE, you lose the tickets for two to the Bahamas (as if there were any to lose). But it's understandable. The term ballast keel is itself misleading, making it a bit of a trick question.

    In fact, a keel's primary function is lateral resistance (LR); resistance to lateral (sideways) motion while allowing it to slide forward with relative ease. On the wind, it helps counter leeway (side slippage) and thereby enhance progress to windward. 

    Plenty of other gizmos can do the same thing. All LR devices help, when sailing into the wind; all of them hinder (drag) when sailing off the wind. Therefore, ones which may be raised (pulled clear of the water) have the advantage off the wind. They may or may not be as effective as fixed keels on the wind (other factors involved).

    But these gizmos aren't likely to be as packed with ballast as a keel. We've got to raise them, after all, and raising ballast is a lot of work.

    So, in shoal boats - and I mean ultra-shoal boats - ballast is usually fixed low, inside the hull or as plate outside.

    Ballast Stability

    Remember Weebles? Here's a sea-going specimen...
    Weebles wobble but they don't fall down!

    They tell you at a glance everything you need to know about ballast stability in shoal boats. 

    No keel necessary. When afloat, a Weeble's or boat's center of buoyancy (CB) - the midpoint of all the 'floaty forces' - acts as a fulcrum. Ballast fixed well below the CB levers it back to upright.

    Boats with ballast keels providing a longer lever require proportionally less ballast for the same righting moment.

    Shoal boats, with a short lever, require proportionally more ballast for the same righting moment.

    There's more to it, but that's the gist. Either way, you can achieve the same ballast stability whether the boat is deep or shoal. 

    Form Stability

    Let's compare a floating wine bottle to a floating milk carton.

    The wine bottle's form lets it roll easily. Without ballast, it's just as happy on its side, upside down or any point whatsoever. It and round bilged boats have low form stability.

    The milk carton, even without ballast, resists rolling, up to a point-of-no-return whereupon it settles happily onto a new face. It too, is just as happy on its side or upside down, but doesn't care for points in between. It and square boats have high form stability.

    Another contributor to form stability is length. The longer a boat, all things being equal, the higher its form stability. Picture a catamaran. Longer amas (hulls) have more buoyancy than shorter ones, making the whole harder to rock. Same thing happens with a monohull... lengthening it is adding more buoyancy along the chines with every added foot.

    A boat with low form stability needs proportionally more ballast to achieve the same overall stability. They knock-down easily, but they also recover easily.

    A boat with high form stability needs proportionally less ballast to achieve the same overall stability. They resist knock-down, but they also resist righting.

    Reserve Buoyancy

    Reserve buoyancy is form stability that is above the upright waterline. When the boat heels, plunges, is overtaken by a wave, knocks down or capsizes, some portion of this reserve is immersed and comes into play.

    Aspect ratio is that of height to width. We're interested in the sectional aspect ratio, that seen when looking from one end of a boat or the other.

    A plank has low aspect ratio and not much reserve buoyancy. A plank - especially a ballasted one - is very hard to flip over, but once over likes to stay that way. It takes almost as much force to right it as it did to flip it.

    A beam has high aspect ratio and lots of reserve buoyancy. A ballasted beam is still difficult to flip... even harder than the plank. But it floats its ballast much higher, once over. It doesn't take much to get that ballast to the tipping point, whereupon it 'avalanches' down, levering the beam back to its feet.

    Likewise, hulls with high aspect ratios - that is, tall for their beam - have lots of reserve buoyancy, which resists heeling, knock-down and capsize and is relatively unstable when inverted. Unflooded deck structures, such as trunk cabins, further destabilize a boat when upside-down.

    Side benefits include increased headroom, interior volume and wall surface area. Downsides include increased windage and higher center of gravity.


    Shoal, square boats get their initial stability from moderate ballast and high form stability.

    Reserve buoyancy from high sectional aspect ratios (high sided hulls relative to their beam) resist heeling, knock-down and capsize, and, in the latter case, contribute to the instability of the upside-down hull.

    Knock-down testing our unballasted T16x4... Anke has to lean out to keep it from righting.

    Monday, January 9, 2012

    Are Shoal, Square Boats Seaworthy? An Interview with Bob Wise about LOOSE MOOSE II

    From WoodenBoat Magazine, #114 OCT 1993

    For her material and labor cost, 
    LOOSE MOOSE is a fast, roomy, handy and seaworthy boat, 
    as shipshape as a supertanker.
    Phil Bolger

    It is very often maintained that, when it comes to sailing offshore, A) shoal boats are unseaworthy, and B) square boats are unseaworthy.

    In Phil Bolger’s LOOSE MOOSE II (a.k.a. LM2 a.k.a AS39), we have both in one go. Totally rectangular sections. These put her at toward the far end of both the shoal and square spectrum.

    Phil Bolger and Friends drew an updated version of LM2 called LE CABOTIN, intended to address hypothetical problems. These changes added complexity, building time and expense. From what I gather, the boats are successful, despite the fixes being arguably unnecessary.

    Bob and Sheila Wise commissioned and built the original LM2. They subsequently sailed her in the Mediterranean, the coast of Africa, across the Atlantic and extensively among Carribean Islands, before her tragic loss to lightning strike.

    Bob (RLW) shares his experience in the following, reconstructed interview [Bob is quoted from email exchanges with me and forum posts. Punctuation has been added, here and there, for clarity. Brackets signify elision, transitional text or comments added by me. My questions are arranged, after the fact, to simulate an actual interview - DZ]:

    DZ:  I've heard second hand reports that LM2, and thus you and Sheila, did not fare well at sea. Yet from your posts around the web, my impression was entirely different. What's the straight scoop?

    RWL:  The truth is we loved the boat and while like all boats it had some issues and foibles it always kept us safe and never ever made us feel it was not up to anything Neptune could dish out.

    DZ: How was her motion at sea?

    RWL: The boat was comfortable and had an easy motion while sailing and at anchor it did not roll... We both remember days when other boats [' crew] in rough anchorages would be crawling on hands and knees up to their foredeck to check for chafe on their rodes and Sheila and I would be sewing flags or doing woodwork project... square boats don't roll.

    DZ: But don’t flat bottom boats pound, especially with that exposed portion toward the bow?

    By my reckoning we spent something like over 2500 nights at anchor and not once did we experience slamming of the hull at anchor to a point that it was problematic.

    DZ: LM2 was rigged with a single, unstayed gaff main, a departure from the cat yawls Phil favored in that period (e.g., the AS29 was designed as a gaff, cat yawl). Did you sail to windward often, and how did she perform on the wind?

    RWL: I was frankly very surprised with LM2's windward ability which was no bad thing as we seemed to sail to windward a lot. With only a foot of draft, an off-centerboard and a gaff cat rig we often outpointed Moody's and other European boats. Truth is we never ever had a boat pass us going to windward that did not have it's engine on...On a reach they'd have the advantage but downwind we left them behind.

    Did you encounter storm force weather? How did LM2 handle in heavy conditions?

    While we were doing our circumnavigation of the Med we had three serious storms/weather situations that left me somewhat shaken because the storms were scary but left me with nothing but good feelings about the boat and a renewed belief that extreme shoal draft is much safer than a any boat with a keel.

    The worst storm (a force ten with 40-50 foot seas so closely spaced that it was more akin to riding an elevator up and down and up again than sailing) was a recipe for a knockdown or capsize situation and if we had been in the boat I'm sitting on right now (CAL 34) I'm sure we would have been knocked down or worse rolled but on LM2 with our board up and two reefs in we never once had even a close call.

    DZ: So reports of problems with LM2 did not originate with you?

    RWL: The scary thing is while we were busy sailing LM2 around the Med, down to the East coast of Africa and up the Gambia River folks were telling stories about LM2 as it had been featured in Wooden Boat and folks do like to tell a story... The fact that we were incommunicado only seemed to fuel the fire.

    When the couple who had commissioned Phil and Susanne [...] to redesign LM2 into ANEMONE [ex LE CABOTIN] called us up out of the blue with questions about the performance of LM2. They were actually the first folks who had asked us stuff other than the usual dockside that's a weird fucking boat two step.

    They then proceeded to tell us all of the issues they were having Phil/Susanne fix on LM2 and we were in a kind of "But it does not do that" and "Nope that was not a problem" and "WTF"?

    Anyway the short version is just about every improvement for ANEMONE was based on a perceived problem that simply did not exist.

    DZ: Do you have any problems to report?

    The fact is that the only issue I had with the boat was Phil designed the rudder a bit too small and as a result we had a bit too much weather helm for my liking... When we reached the Canaries and finally found out we had been in Wooden Boat ( a year and a half later) we wrote Phil told him he had designed an awesome boat but about the weather helm... Two weeks later we got [a letter from] Phil who admitted that in point of fact he had had a sneaking suspicion that the rudder may have been a kiss too small and sketched out three fixes for the problem ( adding a couple of skegs, an increased rudder using a second set of wings on the wing, and using a jib).

    Any last words?

    One of the things we have noticed is that almost all of the changes to the newer version of LOOSE MOOSE 2 were all about fixing problems with the design that in fact were not a problem at all but simply an inexperienced builder/sailor listening to too many dock side wags making pronouncements about boats with flat bottoms and so on. So strong is that kind of word of mouth that in fact even the designer began to doubt his own work. None of the word of mouth being from anyone who actually sailed on the design...

    The scow front [a.k.a. flat bow transom] was another non issue and the list goes on.

    By no means was LOOSE MOOSE 2 a perfect boat (none ever are...) but for a boat built within a six month time span on a bare bones budget it has done exceptionally well... and is still greatly missed!

    ***** End of Interview *****

    Anke and I have sailed nearly 15 years aboard ZOON (AS19) and LUNA (AS31) in Puget Sound, WA and SE Alaska. We're now sailing an even more square barge (SLACKTIDE, T26x7).

    Everything Bob says dovetails with our inshore experience, blow high, blow low.

    Conclusions? A) SHOAL boats ARE seaworthy. B) SQUARE boats ARE seaworthy.


    A good look at the bottom in question.