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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

Monday, May 27, 2013

Boat Wine

Luxurious Cabin Wine in three modes... note double boilers for warming on stove,
with Vaporlocks and Plastic Wrap in use.
We use the black Jerrycan (summer) or Bucket N Boiler (winter) on board.

Voiliers de la Monde Ronde,
Gouton voir, si le Vin et bon!

(Sailors of the Round World,
Let us taste to see if the Wine is good!)

-- Apologies to les Chevaliers Francais

Boat Wine

When we partake of the rituals of Wine, it may seem the very Hallmark of Civilization. That it denotes culture, refinement and sophistication.

But it is Dionysus -- not Apollo -- who is God of Wine. Child of fruit and ferment. Dark and seductive, shadowed in madness. Pagan to the heart. The ancient Greeks revered both Reason and Unreason. Neither alone, but together they formed the hot, driving heart-pump of life. They gloried in excesses of either... and feared them.

Like the sea, Wine is wild, beautiful and dangerous.

Boat Wine harkens back to that older tradition. To peasant country -- backwoods, freeholds, outlands, frontiers -- or the back alleys of civilization -- dives, speakeasys, houses of ill repute. 

Our galleys are small. Clean enough, but can hardly be called 'sterile'. Our equipment is limited. Temperatures may rise and fall through the day and night. And a wine cellar for aging our wine? A bottle or two, maybe. Maybe.

On SLACKTIDE we ferment it rough and drink it young. Very young. Boat Jolais, you could say. It might not achieve perfect clarity (though it often does). But really, if clarity is our goal, should we be drinking Wine at all? It tastes fine and is full of vitamin B-complex. And we sailors can use all the vitamins we can get!

Boat Wine is economical. Financially, it cost less than a third that of boxed wine by volume. The ingredients are dry weight... we can carry the equivalent of cases and cases, virtually adding water as we go. Instead of hoarding a few, precious bottles for the way, we enjoy table wine deep into a cruise far from resupply.

The experience of home made Wines -- robust taste, rough edges, intoxication -- I find in perfect harmony with our home-made, barge boats. The savor and satisfaction of one's own creation is not to be found in the best Sommalier's cellar, no matter what connaiseurs say. If it's a little rough and gritty, well... so are we. If it's surprisingly leggy, smooth and clear, all the better.

Wine making on board is a magical, fascinating process. Wine is alive, and I find that I'm drawn into the drama of its life arc. I find myself staring into its depths, anticipating the cheery bloop of its bubbling. I bond with the yeast, cheer it on and mourn its demise... celebrate its passing in a wake of Wine.


The Gist:

Wine starts as flavored, sugar water solution, called Must. This is a paradise for yeast, which thrives on sugar and nutrients in the flavoring. In a process called Fermentation, sugar is converted into CO2 gas (which bubbles off) and ethyl alcohol (the good kind). This is toxic to yeast and, in smaller concentrations, to ourselves. When it reaches critical levels in solution (from about 12 to 14% alcohol), yeast die off (for the most part), settle, and our Wine is ready to drink.

Ingredients (given on a per gallon basis... multiply as desired):

About 1 gallon of Water -- Best water available. Our favorite is from granite bed, mountain cascades. But anything you're willing to drink will work. This amount yields somewhat more than a gallon of Must, but you'll lose some at racking time. Avoid chlorinated water (toxic to yeast).

4 pounds Fresh Fruit, or 1 pound Dried -- Chop to release the inner fruit. May adjust for strength of flavor. Actualy, almost anything can be used; vegetables, herbs, flowers. Dried Plums have consistently produced a strong, tasty wine for us.

2 pounds of Sugar -- White, brown or honey. Brown (pure cane) sugar and honey add flavors which we like, but suit yourself. Depending on the sugar content of the fruit and whether you prefer a dry or sweet wine, you may want to raise or lower the sugar amount (see Notes). Honey alone produces a honey wine known as Mead.   

Yeast, amount as directed -- Though bread yeast works, wine yeasts produce a more consistant flavor and higher alcohol content. Champagne yeast gets to around 14%. Some varietys are more tolerant of low temperatures, handy on board.
To measure, we go by the old rule-of-thumb pint's a pound the world around. We pack fruit or sugar snugly into a pint jar and call it close enough. Water is simply added to target level, plus a little for loss. It can be topped off at any time during the process.

We make four gallon batches, which fit handily into five gallon containers. Larger batches have proportionally less loss from the various steps, which can get significant in one gallon batches.

Adjust any of the above to taste, of course.  8)


Pasteurize combined fruit and water by heating to so many degrees for at so many minutes (look it up for your favorite approach). This gives our yeast the jump on wild competitors, and helps break down fruit cells, releasing flavor. In practice, we near-simmer the dry fruit and water, add sugar and let it cool on its own.

As the temp cools to the fever side of body temperature (feels very warm but not hot to the inside of the wrist), dip out a cup or so. Add a tablespoon or so of yeast (without stirring) and give it about 15 minutes to wake up before returning it to the Must. Cover with some method that lets vapor out but not in (see picture, above and Notes, below) and secure in a warmish place.

And let the Wild Ferment begin! Singing, dancing, fertility rites and such are all traditional accelerants, not to mention toasting its health from a prior batch.

After a few days, the yeast will settle down. Remove the fruit at this point, lest it begin to mold (see Notes). In about 10 to15 days, fermentation will slow to an apparent stop. Siphon the Wine into containers of choice (this is called Racking), avoiding the muck at the bottom. Our Wine is now ready to drink, but will clarify over the next couple of weeks, growing more alcoholic the longer it sits.


Sometimes yeast takes a day or two to get going. What's happening in there is exponential growth. If only a few cells activate, it will take longer for them to reach the big numbers with satisfying fizzing and roiling. Warmth speeds growth. You can also add yeast nutrient (a little goes a long way), available from wine-making suppliers. This helps stack the deck in yeast's favor. We often mix a pound of chopped raisins in with whatever other fruits we're using, since grapes have all the nutrients wine yeasts require.

Yeast can be dried and reactivated. I've read of using a birch 'log' to shelter the yeast between batches (dried out between uses and added to Must... don't pasteurize it!). Next time we sail north into birch country we'll try it out! Meanwhile, drying it in sheets and crumbling into an airtight container works, too. It activates slowly, compared to fresh yeast, but so far has been reliable.

Consider stuffing the chopped fruit into a nylon stocking and tying off the end. That or a perforated container. This makes 'removing the fruit' very easy. Just squeeze drippings back into the Must. Can use the spent fruit for cobblers and other goodies (Anke calls this 'spawned out fruit'). Alternatively, wine must be siphoned off the must, or strained to remove fruit.

Stainless steel can be used for processing, but if the Must sits in it too long, building acid starts to add metals to the Wine. Consider glass (best) or food grade plastics and wooden utensils for that organic je n'sais pas quois.

Black containers give us an edge for Fermentation, since they absorb heat quickly. Sitting in the sun or by the fire, they do much better at warming the Must. White works, too, just more slowly. Clear containers are as mesmerizing as lava-lamps.

Vapor-locks are fun, but not really necessary. Any cover which allows gas to seep out but keeps airborne schmutz from falling in will work. One fun cover for buckets is plastic wrap, held on with elastic (string+rubber band works great). Drum tight to begin with, it will swell to a beautiful, mammalian shape. A condom (non-lubricated) is amusingly effective for bottles. May need a single pin-prick, though, to keep it humble.

We reuse bladders from boxed Wine for the final product, rather than bottles. Bottles can explode if racked before Fermentation is completely finished, a small disaster, on board. Keep an eye out for ongoing fermentation... gas can easily by bled off via their spigots. They keep the wine very fresh, too, for serving by the glass. Their original boxes work okay to contain them, or you can make a sturdier, more attractive version from wood.

If you can store wine over longer periods, consider Racking several times, between settling periods. The wine will get clearer and clearer. At each racking, there is some 'loss' as we avoid sediment. Me? I drink it like a Wine Smoothie.

Whatever Container you use, secure it well! Sugar water spills are bad news, below. Molds love sugar every bit as much as yeast. Consider doing all fluid transfers on deck.

Our rate seems to work out that we start one four gallon batch as we start to drink from the previous Wine. This gives it a little down time to settle between Racking and drinking. If we're among many friends, we'll start a little sooner and drink it overcast.


When the Ferment seems done (before Racking), try a taste test. If the wine is...
  • Dry and low alchohol, the yeast ran out of fuel. Add more sugar.
  • Too sweet and low alchohol, the yeast stalled. Add new yeast and/or nutrient.
  • Too sweet but high-alcohol, we started with too much sugar. Add water.
A practical method:
  • Drizzle a bit of sugar into the dry end of a ferment... if it fizzles, add more...
  • Drizzle a bit of nutrient into a stalled ferment... if it fizzles, add more...
...and continue Fermentation.
  •  If the wine is too 'dry' (not sweet enough) but alcohol is high, add sugar to taste. Rack immediately.
  • If permanently stalled and low alcohol... well... you can always 'spike' it with vodka, whiskey or rum. Or simply enjoy for what it is.

Remember that Wine impairs judgement and balance, two very essential items in our lives aboard. Plus, Wine is addictive. It can ruin us if we slide too deeply into its embrace.

As with the Wine-Dark Sea, approach with caution and respect.

Monday, May 13, 2013

The PROMISE of Speed


Showin' 'em what FAST is!!
The PROMISE of Speed

Scows and barges have a reputation for being slow, which I and TriloBoats have done little to assuage. But Great Lakes racing scows have always been among the fastest monohulls, adjusted for length. Lately, high-sided, bluff-bowed racing scows such as MAGNUM, here, have been running with the big boys... and whuppin' 'em!

Note the 'saucer' bottom, which could be described as three dimensional rocker. 
Francois Chevalier’s 100ft Maxi Scow yacht and WallyCento superyacht concepts

The heeled, immersed area of the scow hull form remains nearly in-line (less power loss to cross-hull flow) and much larger (more righting arm to stand up to sail). The broad-yet-low-resistance forward area of the scow rises over waves, where the fine entry of the sharpie-style digs in and absorbs more of a wave's stopping power.

TriloBoats are optimized for DIY construction, not speed. Their large deadflat, amid-ships, plays an important role in minimizing lofting, layout, cutting, spiling and bevelling. Sheet materials (e.g., plywood, foamboard and copper plate/bronze angle) are easily incorporated. Curves are few and simple (no recurve and lying in a single plane).

But the hard angles at the bow slow the boat in steep chop. The ends are thus carried high to keep them clear of the water, but the resulting curves are more abrupt (lacking a 'good run').  The long deadflat is not as fast as a rockered bottom. A merely rockered bottom is not as fast as a 'saucer' bottom.

NOTE: I've only
heard it asserted that rockered bottoms are inherently faster than deadflat ones, but never come across actual evidence. Fact is, many commercial tow barges have large deadflats, despite their apparently efficient use over long hauls. If anyone can point to substantial evidence, one way or the other, I'd love to hear of it!

SKROWL, by Quenet Yann, is a brilliant, DIY interpretation of a MAGNUM scow hullform.  Using multiple chines, he approximates a saucer bottom. Using foam-carved corners, glassed over (forward and outboard), he softens inefficient entry angles and planes at the bow. In combination, this should be a very fast hull form at any size. In addition, he outfits the boat with gofast bells and whistles... high aspect foil daggerboards, twin rudders, powerful rig (he has others than shown in this lines plan).

My guess is that this style scow will tend wider for their length than pointy boats, though windsurfers (same hull form) successfully tend long and narrow.  For a cruiser/live-aboard, however, the ability to achieve speed in a boat that's wide for its length is a welcome feature.

So naturally, I find myself musing on the spectrum, represented by TriloBoats on one end, and SKROWL on the other. As usual, it is a 'morphing' process of small steps. I've left many possibilities out, here, hitting only the highlights. Keep in mind that these sketches are but crude characatures, exagerated for clarity, and don't represent likely proportions or curves.

Each step along the way eases some of the inherent drawbacks of a TriloBoat, at a cost in money, building time and effort. Involvement of resins and synthetics tend to increase. The easy incorporation of other secondary sheet materials (principally copper, angle and foamboard) becomes more and more complicated.
Payoff needs to be considered, as always.

Anke and I build on a shoestring, usually in marginal and/or time limited conditions. Since we like to copper plate, it takes some tricky work to handle the new curves. It's difficult to fasten copper to glassed foam. A fast hull with a our slow rig (etc.) won't make the most of the investment. And, truth be told, we're already fast, off the wind, and prefer not to sail in sloppy headwinds, where the SKROWL approach really helps.

There are drawbacks, as well, even once built. Rectangular storage is very hard to give up, even though the slopes involved are small. Bronze angle is tough, tough, and can make the difference between shrugging off a rock and major repairs (SKROWL bows can't use angle at the vulnerable, forward quarters).

One more concept to throw into the blender. Phil Bolger's ADVANCED SHARPIES (AS) are 'box' sharpies whose bottom curve in profile matches their side curves in plan. The idea is to create a symmetrical chine... this tends to equalize pressure on either side, reducing or eliminating drag from turbulent, cross-chine flow. LUNA (our AS) did, in fact, slip right along and tracked beautifully.

An ADVANCED BARGE (AB) could utilize the same principles, and be SKROWLed, as well.

So here's a gander at such a beast, adapted from a T32x8:

One solution to the copper plate dilemma would be to carry the forward bottom higher, SKROWLING forward and above the end of the copper plate (Bottom and Sides) with its bronze angle. This would make the curve more abrupt, and therefore less slippery, but that's what compromise is all about.

Another would be to leave it low, and copper in the more traditional manner -- narrow strips of thinner copper which can follow the curves. Fastening is still a problem... still, epoxy sockets for barbed or threaded fasteners are one among many possible solutions. Where there's the will, there's a way.

A few thoughts about the after arrangement shown... it is a modification to the simple, box barge shape, intended to compliment the faster, TABed and SKROWLED bow. Essentially, the flat bottom is divided into three 'panels', and the outboard ones are twisted from flat at their forward ends, increasingly angled, aft.

This 'faux' multi-chine could be achieved by darting the flat expanse of bottom material (similar to a tailor's dart in fabric). The mid panel is raised to the desired curve. The outer panels' outboard, aft corners are jacked up and a bit in, twisting them from flat, forward to canted at the transom. Tape N Glue along the matching seams.This draws the sides slightly inboard for a bit of aft, side curvature. More can be added, if desired, by trimming the outboard edges.

By lowering (easing) the aft curve, better release is achieved for a slipperier hull. The canted, outboard panels clear the water, when heeled, avoiding (box barge) transom dip and drag.


In conclusion, TAB and/or SKROWL adaptations of TriloBoat hulls should result in  slipperier, more easily driven hulls. Coupled with a powerful rig and efficient lateral resistance, I believe these hulls could be quite fast while retaining most barge/scow advantages, including relatively easy construction.

Monday, May 6, 2013

The comPromise of Speed

There was once a young fellow named Bright
Who exceeded the Speed of Light.
  He left early one morning
  And returned  without warning
At dusk of the preceeding night.

Some things aren't meant to be rushed.

Speed is Relative.
-- Albert Einstein

The comPromise of Speed

Speed under sail is a glorious thing. But it isn't the only thing.

All boats are a balance of numerous compromises. One virtue at the expense of others. A vice tolerated for net gain. A good design is a good match with its owner's priorities. Such a balance is as precise, magical and rare as is to be found in any good relationship.

There are only two broad considerations concerning speed:

First one is easy. Generally speaking, displacement monohulls are limited to their hull speed, a mere one and a third times the square root of their sailing waterline length.

The only way to raise the hull speed ceiling is to lengthen the waterline. But a curious result of the math, here, is that short boats are faster for their length than longer ones. A long hull is an expensive way to gain speed. Cost rises exponentially at construction time, in maintenance, heavier gear and rig and linearly in harbor fees. Speed gains diminish exponentially with length, however... each extra knot of hull speed will cost you dear.

In effect, because hull speed is strictly relative to waterline length, it doesn't usefully distinguish fast boats from slow.

The second, more pertinent question is how easily does the boat reach its hull speed? Most boats achieve low fractions (to about half) of hull speed with little energy input. But diminishing returns apply as one approaches full hull speed. A fast boat will start ghosting sooner and reach hull speed sooner than a slow one. This is one reason that the crew's skill and attentiveness is such a big factor in any competition.

The faster boat, adjusted for length, is simply the one that, for whatever the reason, spends more time at higher fractions of the narrow range between zero and hull speed.

Hull shape plays a major role. Easy entrance (at the bow) and exit (aft) minimize plow and drag. Well placed curves ease water aside and return it to equilibrium with minimal disturbance. Hull shape may be optimized for specific conditions; flat water, steep chop or anywhere between. Wetted surface area (friction) from keels and such is a liability, balanced against lateral resistance and optimal ballast placement.

But these are hard to construct, and carve away volume and displacement. Angles of heel and motion are affected. Easy lines can make for relatively tender hulls, tamed with expensive ballast that reduces payload. Hull smooth and clean? No brainer, but what are the costs of keeping it so?

Then there's the rig. Bigger rigs supply more power, all things being equal, but size must be balanced with expense, stability and handling issues. Fail-safe vs fail-dangerous. Maintenance issues. Windward ability? Another round of compromises struggling for a point or two.


Anke and I have a set of priorities for live-aboard sailing that runs in clusters approximately as follows:
  • Ease and economy of construction -- If we can't get it built, it's a pipe dream.
  • Ease and economy of maintenance -- A) We're lazy. B) We'd rather be sailing).
  • Ease and economy of operation -- Ditto.
  • Fail safer -- Hedge our bets.
  • Ultra-shoal draft -- Opens up our world and safe harbors.
  • Single handling in all weather -- If one of us is sick, hurt or otherwise occupied...
  • Reliable windward ability -- We count on being able to make good to windward shy of storm force winds.

  • Relatively heavy displacement -- We carry a lot of stuff.
  • Relatively high interior volume -- For inside projects and hangin' with friends.
  • Speed and efficiency under sail -- Suckin' hind teat.

Our solution has been box barge hulls sporting lee (off-center, actually) boards and simplified junk sails (on two+ masts).

It can be fairly said that each and every choice along these lines makes it just a little harder for us to achieve hull speed. It takes a little more wind or a little more time. Both of these, however, are free. We also tow a 16ft dory, which sucks up another erg of energy. One of these days, I'd like to take SLACKTIDE out for a spin without it, just to see what she'll do. But, around here, round-trips on windy days are never guaranteed.

Still and all, we don't find that our choices cut too deep.

Off the wind, we're surprisingly fast -- we objects in your mirror which are closer than we appear. On the wind... well... we'll get there, slow but sure, though it's often more pleasant to wait for it to turn around. In fact, it's only the last fifth of hull speed that we're reaching for. If we have wind, we cruise with a decent average for our size. We won't be placing in any races, but we get where we're going.

We do sometimes dream of speed, I won't deny it. A Bolger ROMP. A Wharram catamaran. A Brown JZERRO.

If we owned a magic wand, instead of a hammer, maybe things would be different.