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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

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Cold, Tired, Hungry and Stupid

Not me... this time!

Tired is stupid. Go to bed.

- Mom

Cold, Tired, Hungry and Stupid

We've all been there... 

End of a long day at the helm. Fires burning low. Getting dusky or dark and temps dropping as we approach our anchorage. Just when we need to be at our best, we're starting to fade.

So here's a ragtag bag of tricks that help. Some along the way. Some for our personal low ebb. I'll phrase these in the imperative for brevity, but please consider them as suggestions.


An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

Dress for Conditions - Don't allow your core temp to drop. Don't overheat. Don't get wet (or if you do, don't stay wet). Shoot for a comfortable balance, and adjust as conditions change. And for cooler climes and times, remember that cotton kills (hangs on to moisture which wicks away body heat).

Hydrate and Eat Well- Consider smaller amounts, more often to keep fuel and fluids fresh and topped off without bogging down on a heavy meal. Some snacks can be prepared ahead of time. Thermoses and Retained Heat Cookers keep piping hot food and drink at hand through the day. Remember that man (nor woman) lives on sugar, alone.

Trade Watches - No one can focus for too long. Develop crew competencies, trade off and trust. Don't hover, or you'll forgo your rest. Work out methods to let the boat sail herself, for the most part, so the watch only has to keep an eye on things.

Avoid Marathons - Plan your routes in manageable legs, with ample R&R between.

Protect your Most Vulnerable Crew - Plan around low tolerance, rather than high. Not that reserves will never be called upon, but only when plans have gone agley.

Maintain Safety Margins - Sailing near the edge is fun, but brinksmanship invites trouble. If cold, tired, hungry and stupid rear their ugly head, you'll want a margin for reaction time between yourself and disaster.

Manage Fear:

Fear is useful... an adaptive response that focuses our attention wonderfully, and initiates physiological responses that can be coping tools.

But fear is exhausting. 

Adrenaline spikes for short-term fight or flight, burning reserves at high speed. Blood pumps, radiating precious heat. Muscles tense, burning energy. Sooner or later, unchecked fear uses up what you've got. Converting fear to confidence is a big part of conserving energy.

Acquire Knowledge, and Practice - Ignorance makes novelty of everything; novelty invokes our fear response; knowledge informs practice; practice relieves novelty.

Neurolinguistic Programming - The narrative we use conditions our responses. Positive, confident assessments ("A is occurring, what are our options?" and "If A, then we B" vs "Oh no... A!" and "But what if A???") and affirmative assertions ("Confidence is high!" vs "This is terrible!").

Mantras - A mantra or 'fear song' can help soothe and calm the mind, keeping us from spinning our wheels. They're highly individual... look around for what works for you.

'Rose-tinted Goggles' - Well... amber works for me. When we put these on, a dark and glowering day suddenly seems a brighter place. Physically, they cut out distraction and effort from seeing through wind or rain in the eyes.

Treaters - Stimulant laced treaters - coffee nips, chocolate, a spoot (nut butter/flour/honey/spiced 'truffle' ball) - give us a physical and emotional kick. Used in moderation, they can provide a much needed lift.

Contact - Talk. An embrace. A kiss. A hand held. Reminds us we're not alone.


Simplifying systems and procedures increase the likelyhood that our flagging abilities will suffice. A lot of this focuses on anchoring, as it's the last thing we usually do before relaxing for the evening.

KISS Gear - A simple rig and gear is easier to handle when impaired. Easy reefing. Self-launching anchors ready to drop with lines free to run, preferably with little or no set-up. Ample working space. Fluke-less, resetting anchors requiring less attention.

Fathomized Calculations - Tidal range/depth/scope calculations are tough at the end of the day. If we're tired, we convert everything to fathoms and stay in the safe-and-simple zone. Thus, if max tide range is 3ftms, we stay in 3+ftms, and calculate scope for depth-in-ftms + 3ftms. Can't go dry; can't go short. Keeps us in deeper water than need be, but the math is simple.

Farmer's Loop - We often set a second anchor to limit swing in a tight anchorage. To keep twist manageable, we'll attach the second line to a loop in the primary rode, and let down clear of the hull. The secondary anchor's rode feeds from a spool that can be passed around the primary to untwist. To keep things simple, we use the following steps, adapted for your cleat/post system:
  1. Set the primary and secondary anchors, haul to center and make each fast.
  2. Haul back 2 ftms on the primary and make fast (it's now double tied, with a 2ftm bight on board).
  3. Tie a farmers loop on the inboard side of that primary bight, close to the holdfast.
  4. Tie the secondary rode to the farmers loop using a sheet bend (if not at the bitter end, form a bight inboard of its holdfast and tie it doubled).
  5. Let the 2ftms back out.
  6. Slack the bitter end of the secondary (if still aboard) and make fast. There should be no tension on its inboard end.
This should have formed a Y at the farmer's loop, well below the hull, with tension held by the primary rode.

The KISS part is the Farmer's Loop / Sheet Bend. Both are knots that can be tied in the dark by the walking dead, with practice. If even these are too much, skip this whole Y drill and figure out the twist in the morning. It won't be that much more difficult.


So there's a small handful of approaches that help us get through when we're not at our best-and-brightest. 

Our abilities and reserves ebb and flow, like all living things. The trick is not to macha/o them out, but to help ourselves along. To stack the deck in our favor.

To ease on down the road.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Sacred Coffee: A Review

The View out Front

Living on a homestead in Alaska is definitely a slower lifestyle, not because it's any less busy or full than others, but because our time is marked not so much in hours, minutes and seconds, as it is by the tides, the sun and the seasons.

Sacred Coffee: A "Homesteader's" Paradigm

Quite while back, now, my Brother's family was looking for land where they might settle, leaving a suburban home and lifestyle behind them.

One day, while reading the kindling paper I came across a picture of a log cabin on 10.6 acres, directly on Lynn Canal (northern SE Alaska), at a steal of a price. Ripped it out and got it to Mark.

Time passed, and they made inquiries. Turns out a misprint had dropped a zero from the price, but an accord was reached. They took possession of their new "homestead" (I'll let him explain the quotes), and it took possession of them.

Several more years have gone by, and Mark - who has been blogging about his experiences here - has collected a number of essays in his new book, Sacred Coffee: A "Homesteader's" Paradigm, available in hard-copy, digital or audio-book form.

And I'm proud to review it.


I thoroughly enjoyed SACRED COFFEE: A Homesteader's Paradigm, and heartily recommend it to anyone who relates to home as more than a place to sleep. And all the more so to those who dream of crafting a way of life a little further afield.

Here are the capitals from the TABLE OF CONTENTS:

A Disclaimer
Living Simply
Living Naturally
Living Frugally
Resource Use
The Paradigm's Pay-Off
The Adventure Continues

From these alone, one learns a great deal of what homesteading is all about. It is these that guide us as we transition from dependent lifestyles to more self-reliant ones. Never mind the thousand skills involved... as seen in Mark's writing, those skills are acquired in due course, as naturally as we once learned to shop.

Mark's writing is entertaining and hopeful.

His 'how-to' isn't so much the nuts-and-bolts variety as how to shift one's paradigm for living, to open one's eyes and heart to new possibilities. In his paradigm, homesteading is a process that can begin today, in one's home of the moment. If we but look up and begin, we can leave the 'burbs as far behind us as we dream, one step at a time.

No need to be raised by wolves, no rule that says you have to wear buckskin, that you have to be some sort of mountaineer.

Mark writes of challenges, false leads and mistakes met with research, ingenuity and patience. And at the end of the day, the satisfaction of work with one's own two hands, of drawing upon one's own resources.

And why?

"...The essence of our decision to live the way we do", he writes, is "to live a better life."

"...Our main impetus is to live more fully, focusing on enjoying our brief time together as a family, and pursuing the adventure of a lifetime in the process."

Process. Adventure. Joy and togetherness.

Over the years, Anke and I have enjoyed their hospitality... seen their new(ish) life up-close and at-length. Mark isn't just talking the talk (which he does well, by the way), he's walking the walk.

His family has forged and continues to create this reality for themselves...

And that reality checks out!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Kicking Up our Heels: A Simple Kick-Up Rudder

Left side shows layout lines;
Right side is as built
Rudder Post not shown.

He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor who boards ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast.

- Leonardo da Vinci

Kicking Up our Heels: A Simple Kick-Up Rudder

Kick-up rudders allow a very shoal boat to put down a deeper rudder without permanently increasing draft. This maintains positive steerage when "she's kicking up her heels", as they say, at the top of a wave. If it grazes bottom, it kicks back without help, maintaining steerage throughout. When not underway, the Blade can be pulled up and clear of the water, reducing wear, tear, noise and maintenance.

This style has a number of advantages:
  • Easy to Design - No fiddly bits or close tolerances. All the relationships can be adjusted to fit most any vessel and personal flair. For example, the straight, aft edge shown can be altered with a fairly free hand. The Rudder Post (not shown) might be angled forward (rudder flops outboard at rest), aft (swings to center) or plumb (neutral), each with pros and cons.
  • Easy to Build - Upper Rudder, Blade and Tiller are all solid pieces.
  • Easy to Maintain - Aft hung rudders are easy to get at, mount and dismount. This one breaks down into two, lighter components.
  • Hell-fer-Stout - Solid pieces (no housings) are at full strength, and no pockets for hidden rot.
  • Self-Sinking - The weight (zinc or lead), placed low and aft of the Blade Pivot Bolt forces the Blade down and forward (a bit more on this, later).
  • Balanced - Area forward of Turning Axis reduces stress on Tiller and helmsperson.
  • Roll Forward - As hull weight descends (ebb tide or grounding in waves), the lower curve rolls the boat forward, sparing the blade from breakage.
  • Effective when Horizontal - Fully kicked back, the shallow 'Hook' stays immersed, but clear of ground, protected by the hull, while steerage is maintained
  • Can Steer while Standing - The Tiller Bearing Plate allows positive steerage to a high angle. This allows standing high for a good view forward.


Upper Rudder - This piece (shown in blue and cyan) has a Tiller Bearing Plate at its head, and Blade Bearing Plate low. The radius of these plates can be adjusted as deemed fit. 

Consider that only their radius (half their diameter) is in play at any given time, and that leverages applied vary by whether the near or further half is active. Thus, they must be sized to withstand forces leveraged by that amount, in its high stress mode. Larger is stronger.

Note the Tiller Stop (forward and down from the Tiller Pivot Bolt)... it's top side supports the lower edge of the Tiller at its lowest position, while it's aft side supports the Tiller when raised up to over-balance backwards... this lets the tiller be stowed to clear the cockpit.

It can be cut from a plank or plywood. Simply draw pencil lines onto the Upper Rudder along the underside of the Tiller when held at these two, extreme positions. Cut the Stop to match (it's forward edge is free for art) and attach in position on those lines.

Tiller -  This can be simple or artsy, so long as it is plankish along the Tiller Bearing Plate, and strong enough to stand up to the large Blade. Consider, too, that when kicked near horizontal, Balance is lost and Blade leverage increases dramatically. Better too strong than not strong enough! Consider a spare with its own Pivot Bolt.

Its lowest position should be high enough to clear obstacles within its sweep. It's stowed position should be far enough back that there's no tendency to karate chop forward on ya.

It's Pivot Bolt is abetted by a lock-nut, and large, heavy washers at both ends. We prefer none in the middle, to keep play to a minimum.

Blade - This piece (shown in white and cyan) is rounded at its head to match the bearing plate, and extends downward, fore and aft of the Turning Axis. Greater area forward (up to about 25% of the total, immersed area) eases steering and adds lateral resistance. 

The immersed Blade can be tapered into a foil shape for more efficiency. We tend to do a little of this, but don't get too involved.

Its Pivot Bolt should be pretty heavy, with lock-nut and large, heavy washers. One or two between Bearing Plates keep friction down for easy raising. Or...

To keep things quiet, we've cut a 'washer' of camping pad foam - same radius as the Blade Bearing Plate, and a matching thickness washer of HMD (plastic cutting board) - about 4in radius. Cut a hole in the foam to match the HMD washer, and mount them between Upper Rudder and Blade. The small washer keeps the bolt from cutting through the foam.

[NOTE: The angled aft edge of the lower rudder looks good to my eye, but in practice can induce heavy loading on the tiller. Consider rotating it forward (by trimming the upper edge of the 'hook') moves its CLR forward and increases balance, reducing tiller load. In practice, we usually end up with this edge nearly vertical.]

Retrieval System - This is a line led low on the blade to haul it up for shoal sailing or stowage. We like to pass it through a strong fairlead (it has to resist a load at an 'unfair' angle when raised), and fix in a clam cleat (toothy cleat with no moving parts). A stopper knot at the end of the line keeps it from feeding through the fairlead, and provides a grip stop.

Attachment/Turning Hardware - We prefer figure-8 lacing or crossed straps a la Wharram designs (subject for another time). Alternatively, lifeboat hinges are sturdy and cheap. But gudgeons and pintles work, too.


At one point, a figure 8s chafed through at a point we couldn't inspect (rudder post hole). The lacing partially unravelled. We stopper knotted it, temporarily and got to shelter for repairs.

Sooo. Now we're using two pairs of a double, opposed lacings; upper and lower (a third, middle set is optional). Opposition prevents rotation around the post (the cause of the chafe), and multiple pairs reduce the likelyhood of a complete failure.

One pair of lacing starts with a stopper knot, passes across the post as an S (half an eight), leads up one hole, passes through and S back. Repeat as desired.

An opposed lacing starts stoppered opposite the first, and the pattern is repeated in mirror fashion. Opposing lacings are doubling through each post and rudder hole from opposite directions.

Lacing ends can be trucker hitched together for tightening as line stretches. A dedicated lift line takes rudder weight off the lacings, further reducing strain and presumably, chafe. 

We're currently using 3/8in, braided nylon line.

I intend to update this post and video, shortly.


I'll leave you with a video of some operations made on our rudder, made somewhere along our learning curve. The lacing had not been secured from lateral slippage (Wharram calls for epoxy; we're installing strapping)... it had chafed internal to the Rudder Post holes, and failed in an exciting manner during an autumn squall. Gives a good look at the disassembled Rudder:

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Piecing the Bottom Together: A New Approach

First layer of aft End Curve built on its Nailers

NOTE: This post is an alternative to methods presented in  Barge/Scow Bottom Planking: Making it So, which introduces terminology. Since this writing, we've completed the bottom of our new boat using the methods presented here. Went off without a hitch!

Any order is a balancing act of extreme precariousness.
- From Illuminations: Essays and Reflections by Walter Benjamin

Piecing the Bottom Together: A New Approach

The one thing in boatbuilding that scares me is turning a hull.

Building upside-down has a lot of advantages. Gravity works with you, rather than against you. Especially when it comes to sheathing - which can be floppy or limp - it helps to have Mother Earth pulling for you. When it comes to painting, it helps to be on the upside of the gravity well.

We've turned two of our boats, now; ZOON and SLACKTIDE.

ZOON is a twenty footer, barely more than a skiff, so wasn't bad, weighing about 500lbs at the point we turned her. A bunch of friends and a stack of tires (to catch her fall) did the trick.

SLACKTIDE was another matter. She was well past a ton, and copper plated. Anke and I did it alone, using a hydraulic jack, a lot of blocking and tires again. Went smoothly, but it left me cotton-mouthed and wobbly in the knees. It's something to see your baby towering above your head, balanced precariously on one chine, kitty-corner and cock-eyed. 

And then to drop her on to tires... well... it's quicker than lowering, but dramatic.

For LUNA (our Bolgeresque Advanced Sharpie at 31x8 feet), we built the bottom upside-down, turned that, then built upwards from there. Alas, this sensible, sharpie approach wasn't matched by cash flow. We bought copper plate at a later date and installed it on a grid between tides. Don't recommend it.

So now we're planning our latest, a T32x8 LUNA (blogging the process at, and have been waffling over which way should be up.

And then... a brainstorm!

The basic idea is to build the bottom planking as components - two layers of plywood, a 'gasket' of some sort, and copper plate - and then assemble them into the finished bottom.

Build and finish components upside down, then flip upright.

Join components into continuous 'skin'

So far, this approach isn't new to us. We used a similar method to piece together the deadflat of Andy Stoner's MARY ELISABETH (top photo). But a barge's high rising bottom curves at the ends discourage a partial build of the inverted lower hull. It seemed all-or-nothing: a big, scary boat to turn, or suffer through overhead work at the ends (our final choice).

So what to do about the end curves? 

A huge, box barge/scow advantage is that the boat itself is it's own jig. No molds or frames apart from its own structure. But aha! A strategic exception can help, here!

Use the nailers - sawn chine timbers that join the end curves to the sides - to build a jig before installing them (separate from the hull proper)!  This lets us build curved components at ground level, just like we did with the flat ones. 

Simply laminate the ply layers in position on the jig, remove once glue sets, and finish with gasket and copper (or any sheathing of choice). Set aside and proceed as normal for an upright build, installing once the hull structure is established, using the same joining methods as if they were flat.

Typical End Curve Jig
End bracing optional... the curved ply overlay provides 3D rigidity
once (correctly) placed and fastened

Note that the fore and aft curves are typically different, so two jigs will be necessary where the ends are not symmetrical. The middle piece (made from scrap) may not be necessary, in narrow hulls, or you may want more in wider ones.

So there ya have it. 

There's a lot more finnicky detail that goes into executing this plan. Resin/Fabric bottoms will require a modified approach, and may need touch up at seams and fasteners. Plate fasteners need special treatment. Bottom to bulkhead, side and stringer fasteners need to be longer (more expensive) than if building a sheet at a time.

But I'd rather be scratching my head than tossing over turning!

NOTE: Andy Stoner's MARY ELIZABETH was built upright, with the ends built in place, overhead as documented in Barge/Scow Bottom Planking: Making it So. She relied on skegs for grounding protection, and was neither sheathed, nor copper plated.