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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

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Simply Does It

LADY KATE (ex Bolger AS29)
photographed from the SHIRLEY VALENTINE (ex Bolger
From Tim Fatchen's Square Boats pages

This reminds me of a guy I met years ago. We were both building small boats, under 30 feet. I was going at it hard and fast, he acted like he was building a clock. He kept coming around telling me how sloppy this was and how wasteful that was. Well, I launched and headed south. I never did see him again, but a year later, as I was getting ready to head west from Puerto Vallarta, I sent him a postcard that said, "Having a great time. Heading to the Islands tomorrow; see you there, Melon Farmer!" I wonder if he ever did finish.

-- From Buehler's Backyard Boatbuilding (now updated for the 21st Century) by George Buehler

Simply Does It

Early on, Anke and I spent a couple of instructive years in the boatyards of Port Townsend, Washington (aka PT).

In case you hadn't heard, PT is something of a west coast, wooden boat mecca. Home to a fleet of beautiful, classic, wooden yachts. The School of Wooden Boatbuilding. Edensaw, purveyor of fine boatbuilding woods. The PT Wooden Boat Show. And lately, the Small Craft Advisor.

There, we got to see a number of boat building projects in various stages of fruition. And like fruit, some were fresh and dewy in the first blush of springy optimism. Others were shriveled in a winter of their discontent.

What struck us most were projects - often by professional boatwrights, mind you - that spanned years. Years which spanned a decade. Or two. Or more. Projects in the course of which the builders had grown old.

Lemme tell ya... that impressed a pair of impressionable, young wannabes!

A few of these did get finished, eventually, and some owners lived to enjoy their works for many's the year. Others were completed, but their owners' strength was spent... the boat sold. Many were still under construction - or worse, abandoned - when we returned for a visit some 20 years later.

Beautiful boats, all. Works of Art. The kind of thing you see in a maritime museum. 

There was another kind of boat in the yard... usually plywood or worked-over fiberglass. Not exactly ship-shape nor Bristol fashion. These came and went pretty quickly. Their owners generally (but not always) young; generally (but not always) handy after a rough fashion; generally (no... always) passionate.

They came, patched a vessel up or together... and left!

Off they went, in the teeth of well-meant admonitions from land-locked sailor/builders. That won't work! That'll never go to windward! You're risking your very lives! Off they went, nevertheless; over the horizon, under full press of sail.

We hear from them, occasionally. From New Zealand. From Thailand. From Chile. From the Caribbean. From Nova Scotia. From the Med. Or from their home town dock, if that floats their boat.

In short, from wherever they wanted to sail.

These boats were one and all flagships of the KISS concept (Keep It Simple Sailor). They did the necessary with a minimum of extravagance, and a maximum of efficiency. With tools, materials and skills at hand, their owners put together a working vessel.


If you choose build over buy, I propose this list of general KISS attributes, distilled from all those sail-away vessels:

  • Tolerably small (small is beautiful! - E.F.Schumacher)
  • Simple hull shape (easily lofted, easily built)
  • Simple construction (straightforward build from common materials)
  • Simple interior (avoid complicated spaces, joinery or detail)
  • Simple, durable finish (wipe-down, if possible; avoid varnish)
  • Simple, basic systems (avoid unnecessary, complex, unrepairable) 
  • Simple, robust gear (good quality, fix-it-yourself)
  • Simple, robust rig (low stress, fail-safer)
It is the combined economies of these points that keep overall costs down, and often make the difference between got 'er did, and got 'er didn't

Clearly, there's a lot of room, here, for interpretation. Saving here, one might lavish a bit, there. But the more one simplifies, the better the odds of completion, sail-away and keep-on-a-going.

To these, I would add my own (opinionated) ultra-KISS advice, accumulated over 25 years of loafing about:

  • Flat bottom (easiest build, greatest volume/displacement on given dimensions)
  • Square sections (easiest build, highest form stability / volume / displacement, reduces ballast)
  • Ultra shoal draft (offers a hundred harbors to every deep draft one)
  • Outboard rudder (external, inexpensive, easy maintenance)
  • Leeboards (external, inexpensive, easy maintenance... prevented, they needn’t be tended)
  • Free standing, junk rig (inexpensive, simple to use, maintainable with DIY materials, fail-safer)
  • Copper plating (long lived, non-toxic anti-fouling, mechanical protection... works particularly well with flat bottoms and ply construction)
And last, but not least:
  • Move aboard (If you don’t, let’s face it; your vessel is an expensive toy)

Moving aboard converts expenditures on the boat into investment in your home. Even a modest home on modest land costs more than boats up to their high middle end. That lower cost means less wasted on debt service. 

The work of maintaining a liveaboard is less than a shoreside home-owner's (Mow the lawn? Reroof the house? Dig up the septic system? Puh-leeze!). Vacation means a voyage (low transportation cost, no hotels, all the comforts and economies of home!). And property taxes? Low to none.

Putting all your eggs into one basket concentrates one’s risk, but it’s certainly an economical way to go. If it means the difference between doing it and not... 

I’m just sayin’.

PS. Check out Bob Wise's VOLKSCRUISER blog for plenty more on this theme.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Thank you, Ken Neumeyer! and Fare Well! (Author of SAILING THE FARM)

Ken Neumeyer
30 July 1953 - 3 July 2013

If there are two things the sea has provided man throughout history, they are the abundance of wealth to be found within its waters, and the ability to travel long distances. With the proper tools and skills, man has lived from the sea since time began, and he will continue to do so as long as he survives on this watery planet.


How to live lightly on the earth, how to convert energy efficiently, how to minimize needs for expensive resources and how to reduce unrenewable energy requirements - these are the basic questions we must answer to attain greater levels of self-determination and control. These skills will determine our fate and destiny as humans.


I'd rather have a well stocked sailboat and the ability to sail it anywhere in the world than money in a bank that might fail, a job from which I might be laid off, a government pension that might dry up, insurance policies, etc.. The ability to carve your living out of the raw earth is the best security you could have anywhere at any time.


I have learned from many years of sailing that the ocean is the safest place on the planet - but the shore will ruin you.

-- From Sailing the Farm by Ken Neumeyer

Thank you, Ken Neumeyer!
And Fare Well!

A young man wrote the words above, and a younger man read them.

In 1981, Ken Neumeyer wrote Sailing the Farm: A Survival Guide to Homesteading on the Ocean (see note following post).

Four years later, I was embarking upon my adult life without a clue as to what to do with myself.

I'd done some hitchhiking... and loved the drifting, dreaming nomadics of the Road. But the warm glow of the '60s was fading fast as the nation took a flinty right turn. I saw no future in the mainstream; nor were the backeddies to my taste.

But then - in the discarded freebies from a public library - I stumbled across... Sailing the Farm! [BOOM] A Guide to Homesteading on the Ocean!! [BOOM] Independence on thirty feet!!! [BaBOOM]

I could feel my heart thunder in response to the mere titles! Sensed synaptic conflagration; the shift of paradigm... the very snicker-snack of a thousand, disparate pieces falling into place.

A boat! A sailboat!! A seastead!?! 

Ken's words granted me satori. My aha! moment. And... well... you can see where it led me. This blog is a part of my token attempt to pay that gift forward.

The book is a classic.

Virtually sailor afloat knows of Sailing the Farm. There's a well-thumbed copy on many the cruiser's shelf. Many swear by the spirit - if not the letter - of the approaches Ken pioneered and championed. 

There's even a group of young, international, passionate farmers who take that name and are building their own sailing seastead!

He wrote up a brainstorm of ideas toward thriving at sea on one's own terms. Ways of survival at sea which render the approach to land elective, rather than compulsory. Ahead of many who followed, he foresaw the moment of Peak Everything, and offered an alternative.

More than anything, he conveyed an attitude... Courage to find one's way. Faith that obstacles can be overcome. Tolerance for mistakes along the way. Confidence in one's self.

Ken did far more than write... he was out there

Living and learning; sailing and seasteading; granting the concept its clearest expression since Cap'n Nemo. Delivering it (unlike the NAUTILUS) into the hands of small-pocket dreamers.

He took his best shots and some hard knocks. Sifted through the workable and the unworkable, the wise and the foolish, the beauty and the beast.

Yet Ken wrote no sequel. His exploits didn't appear in the rumor mill or weigh in at the forums or show up at rendevous. The sailing community is a small 'hood, especially in those early years, yet no one seemed to know his whereabouts. 

His silence and absence were conspicuous. To the larger community of sailors, it was as if one of our luminaries had sailed over the edge.

I fondly imagined him permanently at sea aboard his latest generation seastead. Too busy and engaged to drop a postcard. 

It happens, but not this time.

In 1982, Ken's car crashed into a cradle that toppled a thirty foot sailboat onto the roof of his vehicle. He suffered serious brain damage, ending his years of sea-faring. His family and friends provided on-going, loving care throughout the next three decades. 

In July of 2013, they saw him off on his Last Voyage.


Of all those who have inspired, taught and mentored me - of all the giants upon whose shoulders I climb - I owe the greatest debt of thanks to Ken. 

Without his words - reaching me at the crossroads of life - I might well have trudged, head down, into a rut for which I was nowise fit. Might well have walked right by the open door that leads to the sea.

Now, belatedly, I've heard his story. It saddens me, but reminds me once more that there are so many ways to live well, especially when surrounded by those who love you.

Ken, for all the many sweet years at sea to which you opened my eyes, I thank you! For love I found along this path you set me on, I thank you! For the very life for which your words were catalyst, I thank you!

Fair winds and fare ye well!


Sailing the Farm can be found on-line here.

Ken's memorial (original found here):

KENNETH W. NEUMEYER July 30, 1953 to July 3, 2013 In the last days of Ken's life, a bouquet of caring persons surrounded him with love yet gave him space to experience his own journey with dignity, softly listening to the sounds of ocean waves and seagulls and Susan Boyle singing "Somewhere over the Rainbow." These friends and family, and the professional staff of Hospice, cared for his comfort on his last adventure. And then, in the quiet of the late night, with his sister Susan, his niece Phyllis, and his faithful dog Min Min Feedlets quietly encouraging him to embrace the warm light of the Lord and those loving persons who had gone before him, he set sail. Ken, "Kenny", was and still is, a free spirit. He is survived by his dad, Fred Neumeyer, "Good bye, son!", and recently predeceased by his best friend and mother, Phyllis Neumeyer, who for 30 years after a car accident which left Ken head injured and handicapped, championed each and every resultant surgery and challenge Ken faced with passionate determination. Along with his sister, Susan Morgan, they worked tirelessly one step at a time, one day after another, to encourage him to reach his maximum potential. He maintained many friendships from before his accident in 1982 and was cherished by many who met him and got to know him from that time forward. Two months prior to his devastating crash into a cradle that brought a 30 foot sail boat down upon the roof of his small car, he had published a sailor's bible called "Sailing the Farm", a survival manual on how to live aboard a... thirty foot sailboat independently. Reviewed by the likes of Tristan Jones, who nicknamed him "Noomie", he welcomed Ken to sail with him anytime. Ken received letters from all over the world sharing with him opinions and sailing stories. He was hoping to publish these reviews and letters in an anniversary edition, and his family will now help him finish this dream. "Uncle Kenny" to Thomas Morgan, Phyllis Stewart and David Stewart, and great Uncle to babies Kayla and Tommy Morgan, Ken was blessed with each of these children in his home to delight in their growth and be a part of their lives, with his intact communication and charming sense of humor raising them with a natural acceptance of a handicapped person in the family, community and universe. His caregivers and friends, Janna Rastrelli, Victor McNulty, Nick, Gary, and Marie not only prayed with him during his final days but had just provided a special new environment for his healing. His sailing buddies Robert Steinberg, David Cook, David Weisenbach, Tom Sheridan, Susi Walsh and Debra West maintained lifelong friendships. His cousins, especially Walter Neumeyer, his Aunt Lassie, friends Rachel Wray, Shay Ford, Clare Hanks, Laurie Nezbeth, the Becker boys and Mark Stewart were a constant source of strength. Ken was also predeceased by his big brother and big sister Freddy and Karen Neumeyer. At the age of 14 he endured their loss in a canoe accident. Ken responded with a will to make a difference. From fixing and selling bigger and better sailboats, leading to the loss of a fifty footer on the rocks of Baja California, to relearning how to talk, walk, write, and sing time and time again, his will and determination is an inspiration to all who knew him. "and, oh, the difference to me!" Fairwell to you, Captain Courageous, darling Ken, with enduring love from your soul sister and adoring crew.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

What's in a Name? Naming One's Vessel

Yacht names carved into boardwalk at
Tofino Hotsprings, BC

“A name can't begin to encompass the sum of all her parts. But that's the magic of names, isn't it? That the complex, contradictory individuals we are can be called up complete and whole in another mind through the simple sorcery of a name.”

 ― From Dreams Underfoot by Charles de Lint

What's in a Name? Naming One's Vessel

Ideally, the name should evoke the spirit of the vessel. One's approach to life. One's Self. All of these.

But contenders have to run a gamut of quibbles. 
First and foremost, if one is plural, it has to grab both of you...
For example, Anke loves MUSTELID, which represents a whole family of admittedly fascinating varmints. They share a certain funk to which we relate. Me? I'd like to narrow that down to two that have a strong, aquatic connection; LUTRA - land and sea otters. But that sits lower down Anke's faves than others...
Cute and clever are tempting, but often have a short lifespan.... too long on the lips and it may come to gall.

SQUARE PEG (in a round world), for example. Or CUBIT, BOXER or C- or R-SQUARED.

The name must fit into society.

For example, we love the name ANARCHY. But its the kind of word that puts Concerned Citizens up in arms. Wouldn't do to sail into a town that doesn't know us with a name like that. Ditto ERIS (Goddess of Discord).

It has to be distinctive on the air (radio communications). 

US Coast Guard Vessel LIBERTY, this is the QUIRK, the QUIRK, the QUIRK. 
Quebec... Uniform... India... Romeo... Kilo. QUIRK.
Affirmative, QUIRK.

Too obscure:

WAMPETER. LIFE o' CONWAY. HOPEFUL MONSTER. BENTO. OPUS (Oppure Se Muove!). GREAT MOMENTS (in Evolution... a Gary Larsen cartoon that... well... nevermind). LI T'SI PO. TRILOBOAT (what the hay???).

S'CHAO was our most 'hopeful monster'. Chao (pronounced cow) is a Discordian (see ERIS, above) Unit of Chaos. YEAH! The S' prefix, with a little, local dialectic stretch passes for it's a, and makes the name a homophone of scow. Cool on all counts but about as obscure as they come. And get it across over radio?
Cool sub-text is welcome...
SLACKTIDE: Ambiguous uncertainty; Stillness in transition; Adaptability (from the I Ching).

Too much character can broadcast more than we might wish.


So, we have a short-list of contenders, but no final decision.

As she takes shape, her character grows ever more pronounced. One of these days... and very soon...

She'll whisper her name to us.


Sunday, November 2, 2014

The WAFER Dinghy Approach

MAITRE D' (to MR CREOSOTE): And finally, monsieur, a wafer-thin mint.
-- From Monty Phython's The Meaning of Life

The WAFER Dinghy Approach

Dinghies are indispensable to the cruising lifestyle.

When used to ferry us to and fro the shore, schlep our gear or while a pleasant afternoon away, they are fine and dandy things. But when we try to tow them, stow them, ship or unship 'em, or even lie quietly next to one of a flukey night... well... they can try a sailor's patience.

Partial solutions include dinghies which break-down, nest, inflate or fold for onboard stowage.

So, I been thinkin'...

This partial solution - which I call the Wafer Dinghy approach - is a DIY, hard-shell folding type. Unlike most other folders I've seen, it folds flat. Bottom and sides are permanently joined, so getting ready for use is merely standing up the sides and inserting spreaders.

Here's the general recipe, borrowing heavily from Great Minds:
  • Start with a heaping helping of Matt Layden's (brilliant) folding dinghy approach (ply panels with interlocking notches along chines (like interlocked fingers of two hands), tape n glued with 'canvas' bedded in elastomeric glue (e.g., polyurethanes, such as 3M5200, Sikaflex, etc)).

  • Stir in a full measure of Phil Bolger's (brilliant) matched curvature between bottom and sides (reduces turbulence from cross-chine flow).

  • Make height-of-Sides less than one half the Bottom beam, with sheer to taste.

  • Season with favored 'folding dinghy transom method' at both ends (e.g., waterproof fabric with plank or stick spreaders).

  • Bake in the harsh light of Reason until reasonably safe.

  • Spread ends and mid-ships sections with plank seats or stick spreaders, and serve!

Since the side heights are less than half the bottom beam, they do not overlap when folded, and therefore lie completely flat. Since curves match, when folded flat, the bottom curve relaxes to flat, as well. As sides are stood up into position, their lower curve springs the bottom into shape.

Bottom shape may be either fully rockered, or have a mid-ships deadflat. To design, first lay out the flat Bottom, and use it to draw the Sides, super-imposed on the bottom. Consider that you'll lose some overall length to curvature when unfolded.

The approach can be applied to dinghies which range from short and beamy to long and slender.

My guess is that the interlocked notches along the chines that Matt Layden proposes aren't strictly necessary, unless subjected to very heavy use. But they are a brilliant solution, cheap and easy, and hedge one's bets.

Of course details would want to be kept to a minimum, in the spirit of a wafer. Rubrails, seats, oarlocks, etc... they all want to stow easily and flat, or they work against the grain. 

One simplifying variation is to use more rocker and eliminate the end transoms (Side sheer will meet the corners of the Bottom). This might be useful for warm water paddling or as a backup against loss of a more capable tender.

A complicating variation is to split the Bottom down the centerline, tape n glue as chines, and fold like a W (end view). Possibly with an overlapping skeg of light strapping fixed to one side of the cut and spanning across to the other, forming a rabbet? The sprung bottom rocker resists spontaneous UNfolding in use, so no locks are necessary. The folded hull is now 4-ply, but only half the beam tall.

If you wish, the sheer need not be a straight line... this would allow relatively higher ends and relatively lower, mid-ships freeboard. 

In our yet-to be-completed prototype, we built in 1/4in ply, doubled along the sheer, and cut oarlocks into that. To date it lives, Wed behind our settee cushion waiting for a few hours to finish the ends and paint. An update is someday forthcoming.


These would be light, quick to assemble, and relatively cheap and easy to stow. I could see a family cruiser with a 'short stack' of them; one for each family member. Folded, they can lie flat (stowed along superstructures, under solar panals(?) or against shrouds), parbuckled (inboard of leeboards?) or be sprung to deck camber.

We've not yet managed to finish one full-sized, though a second, on-board dinghy for the new boat would be nice!

If you do, you'll let me know?

Matt Layden with  Dave and Mindy Boldav's
Micro Folding Dinghy
Note the light and partial rubrail.