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

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Crank Boats and the Cranks Who Love Them

Joshua Slocum - Leadin' the Way
Took this li'l fixer-upper round the world

I got an Old Fat Boat, she's slow but handsome --
Hard in the chine, soft in the transom --
I love her well!
She must love me,
Though sometimes I think its for my money!

-- from Gordon Bok's Old Fat Boat

Crank Boats and the Cranks Who Love Them

It used to be, tucked away in cove and backwater or moored along the far end of otherwise respectable harbors, one could find boats and persons of interest. Crank boats and the cranks who love them.

Cranks exuded personality.

Crank boats were strange and wondrous of line, often fantastic of rig. They had been built or converted or repaired or transformed, by steady and patient labor, to match the visions of some dreamer. Their pedigrees were dubious, mutted beyond all classification. Each a bold statement of individuality. Each a leap away from the mundane. Ex-centric.

Invention and experiment were casually strewn about, aloft and alow. Solutions by those long of need and short of pocket. Improvisation, makeshift and found-art the rule.

Form may have fit function in obvious albeit unfamiliar harmony. Or cross-purposes, inscrutable to the uninitiated, might jar the beholder.

Previous incarnations – as a ship's lifeboat, a painter's punt or fishboat – glimmered through overlays of ingenuity, hinting of past lives.

Their paint might have needed renewal, their rigging could stand tuning, moss or even grass might have found a foothold. Plank and timber may have relaxed, here and there, succumbing to entropy's lullaby.

Someone invested themselves in these vessels. Someone loved them. Created them in their own image.

Like their craft, those someones were a crank lot.

Often gimpy or missing bits... teeth gone awry or just plain gone... knurled by a life of hard knocks... piercing eye(s) squinting through clouds of smoke... gruff and squally of temperament.

They generally had nothing better to do than offer a drink and an afternoon's worth of pleasant company. Stories to tell and lives to recall. Big ideas and small. Horizons to cross once the Old Girl was brought back into shape. Any day now.

Mostly single men, but sometimes not. They formed a community who knew and looked after one another. Welcomed and mentored new-comers, young and old.


There is challenge and pleasure to a crank boat, mostly lost to a generation of sailors with standards. Who expect much of their toys. Even the renaissance in traditional boat-building often demotes tradition to dogma. Takes innovation for heresy.

A crank boat is created by warm-blooded hands to convictions personally felt and lived. Even second or third hand, it sings a siren song to seduce a kindred spirit. But somewhere along its way, someone with a soul cared enough to breath life into her.

Crank boats have personality. You've got to learn their ways and humor them. Maximize strengths and work around weaknesses. Most everyone loves their boat. Crank boats are loved passionately.

Why? What is it about imperfection that inspires true love where perfection palls?

I think the answer lies in intimacy, in the partnership which crank boats demand.

They are not turn-key. They won't settle for 'pride of ownership', that smug and shallow glow from having the sense and means to make a fine purchase. They didn't roll off some assembly-line perfected by specialists.

With a crank boat, you have to earn your pride. Overcome challenge and obstacle. Apply will, wit and wisdom to deficit and obstacle. Work the angles, break a sweat. Pick up a few scars.

Crank boats teach us to think outside the box. We learn from them, their lessons arriving without syllabus. They demand the best from us, and we love them for it.

When we buy a factory boat, we so often fit ourselves to them. Reduce ourselves to the dull mean for whom they have been designed. Our creativity is exhausted in the choice of colors, fabric or accessories drawn from a narrow list of 'options'. We convince ourselves that we are now among the Beautiful People who inhabit glossy advertisements. Worse, perhaps, is that it becomes true – that our lives become a photo-thin imitation of happiness.


Take a walk, now, down the docks among the gleaming extrusions. If anyone's aboard at all, how often are they polishing chrome to a glister of glare? Or washing salt spray from their topsides, as if their boat was allergic to the sea? How many have a morning or afternoon to while away? How many have even a story to tell?

Hmm. I'm being a bit hard and less than accurate, here. But you know what I mean.

The cranks are mostly gone, whether afloat or afoot. Pushed and priced and fined and impounded and scuttled and land-filled from the public harbors and corners of the sea. 'Cleaned up', as if we weren't talking about a person. A home.

Who gives a fig for vagabonds with their eye-sore fleet of derelicts?

I miss 'em.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Pogo Boatin’ with Walt Kelly

Don’t take life too serious... 
It ain’t nohow permanent.
-- Walt Kelly (1913-1973)

Pogo Boatin’ with Walt Kelly

The origins of obsession are often lost in the murky past. Why am I a Square Boat-nik?

Who knows? Maybe they sat me on a square bucket during potty training? Maybe the ‘voyages’ my Brother and I made in cardboard boxes played a role? Maybe being generally un-hip (aka square) had something to do with it?

But sometimes, they jump out at ya!

Walt Kelly’s Pogo featured a loose community of characters living deep in Okefenokee Swamp. Through them, he gently parodied (US) American life, politics and religion in a sly, folksy manner now all but extinct.

My Grandparents had several of his books, collecting the strip. One of the many highlights of visiting them was to read and reread them all, understanding more of their deeper wit with each passing year. Their antics were plenty amusing on a superficial level, and I came to see how they reflected those of the larger world around me, in all its nonsensical glory.

In another way of looking at them, each of the characters could be seen as facets of a single personality. The calm center of Pogo himself; loyal Churchy; grumpy ol' Porkypine; pragmatic Missus Beaver with her children chockablock with wide-eyed wonder and mischief; Albert, impetuous and half-cocked; Ma'm'selle, dreamy yet sensible; even the Deacon, tending to a grim preachiness... all aspects I recognize in myself.

And fer sure, the denizens of Okefenokee enjoyed their lives.

While often to be seen foraging for nuts or greens or fishing, they had no paid work. No schedules. No commute. Just the long, lazy days, filled with philosophistry, poetry, music and the occasional fooferaw.

And frequently they would enjoy themselves in a series of punts – box barges in miniature – named after cities and notables whom Walt admired.

Naturally, the indolence and sheer fun of it all blended in my mind with those square boats.


NOTE: I believe all graphics to be the work of Walt Kelly, with the exception of the final panel (drawn in tribute on Walt's passing), which artist I was unable to identify. [I've since found an attribution to Selby Kelly, Walt's wife and collaborator... seeking confirmation.]

NOTE: Other fictional communities of roughly similar flavor include A.A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh stories, Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows, and Arthur Ransome's Swallows and Amazons stories.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Bootstrap Economics: Reaching for Escape Velocity

Maybe UP isn't the preferred direction?

Bootstrap's bootstraps. Hehe.
- From Pirates of the Caribbean

Bootstrap Economics: Reaching for Escape Velocity

I've been mulling over a reader's recent comment regarding the building of our new boat, WAYWARD:

To tell the truth, it is a little hard to see how 30 grand in materials for a boat is exactly shoestring living. Maybe it's different on the water, but where folks around here live close to the land, owning our own little places, people are very hard pressed to gather into one place a little pile of money one-sixth of that. HARD pressed.

We don't think of WAYWARD as a shoestring build, despite many shoestring aspects of our operation.

The actual number is closer to $20K for materials (now in retrospect... reduced by discounts and adjusted to eliminate costs of building remote). Our labor is 'free' to us. Almost half of that is copper plating costs, which we feel pays for itself over time AND - as a commodity metal - has intrinsic value. By making other choices we could possibly have cut the remainder in half (we made some expensive choices based on our build situation... it could have been much simpler and cheaper to build elsewhere).

So before copper but including infrastructure, our materials came to about $11K.

But the point is well-taken. THIS boat swallowed up a chunk-o-change. The question is a good one...

How do low-income folks sweep together this kind of cash money?

Income - Overheads = Disposable Income or Debt

Disposable income is money free to be directed where one will. Toward ease, entertainment, travel... or the fulfillment of dreams.

It is the left-overs from income after overheads - those costs necessary to one's lifestyle.

Low income folks seldom have reasonable opportunity to substantially increase our income. In fact, the general trend is downward. But lifestyle can be changed to reduce overheads.

Life on the water is potentially very low overhead. This fact underlies bootstrap economics that make it possible to attain the dream, even on low income.

Let's start with the simple life on land...


"...Folks around here live close to the land, owning our own little places..."

A whole economy is implied in this phrase.

Nowadays, property for habitable land must be inherited, gifted, rented or purchased. Before and after land is paid for, it is subject to property taxes based on assessed value (which may be far above actual market value). Access and rights-of-way must be reserved and maintained.

Structures either came with the property or must be constructed. If not let run to ruin, they must be maintained, often in accordance with zoning laws and regulations. Generally, their scale produces proportionally large expenses. Their value is taxed, and improvements of one's own or one's neighbor generally increase assessments.

Whether you rent or own, these costs find their way to the Occupant.

Generally, one or more vehicles are involved. Purchase, maintenance, repair, fuel, insurance. Secondary costs creep up, too... that trip to see Auntie, a wedding just a few hours away, that rendez-vous just a state over... each side-trip is festooned with small, extra-vehicular expenses.

From the full comment from which I quoted above, the folk in question seem to be keeping up. Foreclosure is not mentioned, and some savings are possible. But it is implied they are not getting ahead.

NOTE: Children are sometimes thought of as generating overheads, but I'm not so sure. In our case, we're a couple of LINKs (Low Income, No Kids). This frees a certain amount of cash, though not as much as our culture generally assumes. Kids don't require cash... they mostly thrive on love, food, water and fresh air. I won't go into it further, here, but there are plenty of quality families persuasive on this point.

Crunching Some Numbers over a 5-year Span

Let's look at rent. Since 1985, $500/month has been near what's considered to be low end for a functional space in places I've lived (Pacific NW). That's $6K/year. Over 5 years, that's $30K!

NOTE: That rental price used to be for a modest apartment - nothing fancy - in okay condition... now it's getting to be dive price. In some parts of the country, rents may be somewhat lower, but will nevertheless generate large figures over time. My contacts assure me that ALL these numbers are wildly conservative.

How 'bout a car? Let's say $1K purchase price. You put 5K miles on it per year - half the national average - at 25mpg and $2/g for gas. Legally required liability insurance costs, say, $100/month. Over five years, you replace the tires with retreads for say, $500, and  do your own oil change/tune-ups every 2K miles averaging $25 a pop (oil, filters, plugs, etc). In five years, these conservative numbers generate costs close to $10K!

Okay... that's a $40K lump swept together from $8K/year given over to quite modest rent + vehicle.

If we could eliminate just these two overheads, the same, low income that had been narrowly paying the bills would generate relative heaps of disposable income.

Fortunately, there is a way...

Bootstrap onto the Water and Deep-Six Overheads

Once on the water overheads can be low to niggling - especially for engine-free sailboats, with solar or wind electrical generation and biomass heat/cooking.

If you anchor out, no rent. No utilities (though on-board electrical is in effect a utility cost). No fuel. No taxes. Reasonable costs to meet Coast Guard regulations. Low maintenance. Replacement costs are low and spread out.

How to get there?

Bob Wise, at Volkscruiser, has a lot of good advice on the how-tos of getting a boat under you for reasonable outlay. When I say 'reasonable' I mean obtaining a home for the cost a used car. It's a buyer's market, out there, with a lot of lonely, serviceable boats at fire-sale rates.

With both feet still on land, one can save toward a small cash-down purchase or build. The bar can be lowered by arranging 'owner-financed' terms.

Consider avoiding credit with attendant interest payments (which can easily double the cost of purchase).


We Water Rats have in our favor the ability to take on remote work while providing our own infrastructure, plus the generally handy skills we WILL develop aboard. Having to make-do naturally suits us to a range of jobs that drive Professionals nuts on the urban frontier.

We can get a job done without an employer having to worry about our transportation, care and feeding. Out-of-the-way work affords a substantial and uncrowded market niche for our services.

Odd jobs suit our kind; commuting to regular work does not... leave that to the Lubbers! We strike a bargain, fulfill our commitments, collect our pay and sail off.

Micro-streams of income, thanks to low overheads, can play a large role in our micro-budgets.

Special situations may call for something like a 5-year plan. In effect, we financed WAYWARD by working two extra seasons (seasonal caretaking), between recent every-other-year gigs. That extra push provided the 'extravagant' wherewithal without raising our prospects to anywhere near the official poverty level.

We're now looking forward to recovering from chronic employment.  8)


Much of this presupposes that we live aboard in areas which are not yet rigged to milk us, nor yet move us along. There are generally two types of suitable waters:

Waters remote from population centers - Concerned Citizens - and conformity regulations they tend promote - are few and far between. They're more likely than not to be friend, client and employer material. Much of Cascadia is an example of this type, especially its mid- to northern reaches.

Cracks - In these, regs might well be in place, but enforcement is low to lackadaisical. If Concerned Citizens inhabit the neighborhood, it has enough blind spots to keep out of their view. A bit more shuffling around might be in order to diffuse the profile. The Sacramento Delta is such an area.

Sometimes, a funky marina can be found for a reasonable trade-off between increased income (earned nearby) and low rent. But careful... a lot of us who enter, never return. Escape was hard enough the first time round!

If you wish to attain escape velocity but don't currently live in an area where on-board life is inexpensive, consider relocation as part of your plan.


Disposable income is very often disposed of. Money burns holes in pockets. A splurge here; a luxury there. Just doesn't seem to accumulate.

Your Money or Your Life recommends we spend consciously. Put that money toward realizing dreams, not impulses.

You might be surprised how quickly it accumulates.  How powerful money, well spent, can be!

Our Escape Trajectory

In 1990, Anke and I bought our first boat, used, for $5K - $1500 down and $500/month for 7 months (could see it as short horizon rent-to-own). To pay it off, I flipped pizza at a notch above minimum wage, while Anke worked at a winery and childcare for a notch below. We both quit steady work the day we put paid. From then on, we were able to live on odd jobs (easier to manage from the water), yet sock half our piddly earnings away.

We lived on BRAMBLE for five years, learning to sail and boat carpentry. When we sold her, we recovered our purchase price.

The financial story is a bit more complex than this, but the gist is, the low overheads enabled by that first boat freed up 'capital' for use toward building our own. A sizable portion of our investment in each vessel has passed from one to the next (equity). Our moderate income over the years has been divided between low overheads, family related travel and a short run of DIY, liveaboard vessels.

An important point... BRAMBLE was not our dream boat, but rather our 'kindergarten boat'.

All inadvertently (and thanks to Anke's pragmatism), we lucked into a viable, bootstrap approach which broke the financial burdens of life on land. If we'd followed my lead, we'd have dithered away years - if not our lives - vainly scraping for that 'perfect' boat, anchored by overheads.

From our first days on the water, it has been different.

NOTE: There are many reasons to council that one NOT build one's first boat, but rather buy used. There is so much that first boat will teach you; lacking that experience to inform your choices, it's difficult to justify the time, effort and expense invested in building, unless you simply enjoy the process. Triloboats attempt to lower that cost, while this blog attempts to fill some experiential blanks. But the main goal of both is to help those of you who wish it toward the water!

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Introducing Ray Jason's SEAGYPSY TRIBE Proposal

Pair of Wharram Catamarans

I believe that a catastrophic global collapse is coming and that the best escape is through small bands of enlightened sea gypsies surviving and then sculpting a style of living that is authentic, just, sustainable and joyous.
- Ray Jason

Introducing Ray Jason's SEAGYPSY TRIBE Proposal

Ray Jason (aka the Seagypsy Philosopher) is one who balances a love of the moment with the belief that our modern civilization, built on 'conquest agriculture' - he calls it Humanity 2.0 - is going down. Hard. Hard enough that NTHE (Near Term Human Extinction) is, at least, a plausible outcome.

But he has a proposal for us... the Seagypsy Tribe.

Loosely networked, anarchic tribes of sea gypsies sailing vessels able to keep the sea for considerable periods, he argues, would have the best chance of surviving local and/or global disaster. In his Start-Up Manual, he outlines his thinking on how the tribe might coalesce.

In case of local trouble, head 50 miles offshore - beyond the range of fuel-strapped marauders - and await developments. Should the region become untenable, set sail for a new one.

For Ray, as or more important than survival is a better way of looking at things. Wisdom.

His proposed Seagypsy Tribal Principles include such as Life is a web - not a pyramid. Simplicity is better than complexity. Embrace co-operation and not competition. Each a step-stone toward Humanity 3.0.

If you don't agree with all of them, no problem... they and your own can be discussed over a friendly cup o' kindness.

Preserving some of what has been wonderful about civilization while warning of its pitfalls is part of the Seagypsy Tribe's true essence. Ray calls it Mozart without the mushroom cloud.

But what about piracy? And a sailing vessel can't stay at sea forever! Ray addresses these concerns and others in further thoughts.


Of course, this is right down my alley!

I pine for such a tribe in an earlier post, TAZ, Sea-Steading and Water-Borne Communities. A coming together - and going a'venture - of similar souls in a watery environ. In no small measure, this blog has been a way of attracting such a community. Scratching that itch, as it were, and I thank you all for your friendships.

Like Ray, I see the hand-writing on walls closing in. Limits to Growth tightening everywhere I look. The sea is no exception. But the sea is old, and vast.

Gaia Theory notes that the liquid state of water can only pertain in a very small range of temperature. Below freezing (273.15deg Kelvin) and above boiling (373.15 Kelvin) - a tiny fraction of possible planetary surface temperatures- our oceans freeze solid or vanish, taking all life with it. Yet, for 3.5+ billion years, the liquid sea has harbored life, which has in turn moderated planetary geophysics within that narrow, crucial range.

If our life is to go forward, what better refuge than the sea? What better vessel than one which sails?

What better tribe than one composed of friends?

Here are Ray Jason's SEAGYPSY TRIBE essays to date, recapped from the preceding text:

The SEAGYPSY TRIBE - The 'why'.
The True Essence of SEAGYPSY TRIBE - The spirit.
The SEAGYPSY TRIBE Start-Up Manual - The 'how'.
The SEAGYPSY Tribal Principals - The wisdom.
SEAGYPSY TRIBE Further Thoughts - Responding to the response.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

R2AK!!! The Race to Alaska

Right now teams from all over North America are rolling into town, packing gear into dry bags, carbo loading, and praying to whatever god will listen.

-- From

R2AK!!! The Race to Alaska

Now, I'm not a fella who ordinarily gets excited over a race.

Puddle Duckin', here and there, maybe, for the fun of it. I keep tabs the Everglades Challenge and Texas 200 for the innovative ideas that course through them. But mere competition? Leaves me cold.

But 4 June 2015 (tomorrow, as I write) marks the commencement of the first R2AK - The Race to Alaska, the longest engine-free race in North America.

I find myself excited!

Organized by the folks at Small Craft Advisor, it's a wind-muscle-brain push up 750 very nautical miles of the Inside Passage. Starting in Port Townsend, Washington (USA) they'll head up the coast of British Columbia (Canada) to finish in Ketchikan, Alaska (USAgain).

Clearly, this covers a lot of challenging waters!

Some long, high-current narrows are unavoidable. Queen Charlotte Sound might as well be open ocean. Hecate Strait is a shoaling and narrowing approach, funneling the North Pacific. By the time they re-enter Alaskan waters, it's almost anti-climactic... archipeligan intimacy is re-established. Harbors re-abound. Summery, inshore weather is likely to be clement. And the fleshpots of Ketchikan to salve their aching muscles.

Any boat without an engine may enter.

One might think that a long hull with ample spread of sail would nail the $10K first prize. But this country has a way of leveling the field.

Small, muscle driven boats can drive through calms and skirt currents that will slow the larger vessel. A boat that can be hauled above the tideline can save hours of detour, entry and exit to and fro safe anchorages.

Skill, cunning and persistence will get a crew further and faster than their vessel's dimensions might dictate.

Too much reliance on wind, and one is at it's mercy; too much reliance on muscle, and one is on a strict budget. Sprinters won't stay the course; laggards will lag.  Time, distance and geophysics moderate the impact of fortune, be it for good or ill.

Pace, balance and good decisions are everything.

It's got my attention!

PS. Good luck, good times and safe travels to all ye who enter!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Gypsy Rules for the Road

Cruising Live-Aboards

 The sky became their canopy
The earth became their throne
And as their raiment ran to rags
They thought it nothing wrong
For earth and sky are robe enough
When you sing the Gypsy Song.

-- From Beggars to God by Bob Franke

Gypsy Rules for the Road

The term Gypsy - our outsider's name for the Romani peoples - stirs in settled folk a feeling of nostalgia and sometimes unease. Nostalgia for their own, lost, nomadic past, whether real or imagined. Unease from xenophobia - fear of the stranger. As a consequence, the Rom have had to navigate many hostile centuries, yet largely kept their identity and cultures intact.

Live-aboards and shanty dwellers have much in common with them, to the point that we often share the Gypsy moniker. We too are mobile among those who would prefer to see us settled down. We too often have more in common among ourselves than with those ashore. We too live along a fringe; in the cracks, as it were.

The following Gypsy tips, or rules for survival/thrival appeared in a post by Ugo Bardi, plus a few gleaned elsewhere. I'll start with the bare list, which I've paraphrased, generalized, rearranged and loosely grouped in triads, then take them one by one. They're presented as 'rules', but consider them advice...

Be yourself.
Cultivate a free spirit.
Family First.

Protect your privacy.
Blow smoke.
Never stand and fight.

Stay mobile.
Live light, travel light.
Seize opportunity.

Cultivate know-how.
Minimize overheads.
Waste not.


Okay... let's unpack 'em a bit:

Be Yourself

BE yourself! Don't yield to conformity. Homogeneity. The pressure to be like everyone else. To blend in. You are unique in all the world. In all the Universe. Don't trade that away for love nor money!

To do so is to impoverish yourself and the world itself.

Cultivate a Free Spirit

Dance, sing, celebrate, make love! Never lose sight of the joy of living.

It's what makes it all worthwhile. What makes living more than mere survival.

Family First

Your family - be it your partner, your children, your kin or your tribe - are your first priority. Your family is your strength and well-being.

Invest yourself in them and theirs.

Protect your Privacy

Lots of folks are curious about how we live. But be cagey about what you tell whom. Not all of those interested are your friends. Detail can be used against you as gossip, rumor or as a pretext for official action.

Loose lips sink ships!

Blow Smoke

Mis-direction and mis-representation have their place, especially when dealing with officialdom. We want to appear as though we fit within the boxes on their forms, whether or not we do. We want to appear more settled and 'legit' than in fact we are.

Smoke and mirrors, my friends.

Never Stand and Fight

When in danger, when in doubt, hoist your sails and bugger out!  - Tristan Jones

Those dedicated to keeping freedom freedom-free tend to have the upper hand. To fight them is at best a full time job. At worst a losing proposition.

This is not to say that one shouldn't give due process a chance. But standing on principle come-what-may is a good way to lose one's home and possibly more.

Consider moving along before push comes to shove.

Stay Mobile

Mobility has us ready to roll on a moment's notice. Extends our range of options and access to resources. Keeps us fresh in outlook. With mobility, we are not bound to the misfortunes of one place. Nor must we suffer a bad neighbor.

If not mobile, we are sitting ducks.

Live Light, Travel Light

Don't you carry nuthin' that might be a load. Ease on down, ease on down the road. - The Wiz

To live and travel lightly keeps one focused on essentials. This good advice has been passed on from the most ancient of Wise Ones to the most successful of present-day sailors.

Take what you need and leave the rest.

Seize Opportunity

Make the most of good fortune. Recognize the Opportune Moment. Act decisively when a windfall comes your way.

Strike while the iron is hot!

Cultivate Know-How

DIY maintains your independence. Knowledge is portable, cannot be taken from you and makes you intrinsically valuable to others. What you can do is stock-in-trade.

Minimize Overheads

Overheads eat away at our substance. While we can never eliminate them entirely, we can keep them low.

The lower our overheads, the greater the return on any investment. The greater our freedom.

A penny saved is a penny earned.

Waste Not

We want to make full use of what we've acquired at cost. We often want to make full use of what others have neglected or abandoned.

Recycle, reuse, repurpose.

Thrifty does it...


So there you have 'em. Rules for the Road from those who've been traveling a long time gone.

Like most advice of this nature, they're for your consideration. Take 'em or leave 'em. Adapt them to your unique situation. Add to them from any source you deem fit...

And ease on down the Road.

PS. Here are the original rules from Ugo Bardi's post, Survival Tips from the Gypsies, in order presented:
  1. In battle, the best strategy is flight.
  2. Don't carry and don't use weapons.
  3. Cherish your mobility.
  4. Travel light in life.
  5. Cultivate creative obfuscation.
  6. A man's family is his refuge.
  7. What you learned to do yourself, can never be stolen.
  8. Catch the occasion when you see it 
  9. Be jealous of your identity.
  10. Be a free spirit.
Note:  I skipped number two in the preceding post. Definitely a point to consider seriously. It may be somewhat more context dependent than the others? Certainly, the use of a firearm against a human being is a choice fraught with consequence, however justified one may feel.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Wind, Course and Sail: A First Look

The pessimist complains about the wind.
The optimist expects it will change.
The realist adjusts the sails.
- William ArthurWard

Wind, Course and Sail: A First Look

Sailing - matching sail and course to wind - is surprisingly easy.

[NOTE: For this article I am conflating course with heading, for simplicity's sake. For now, be advised that I am using it 'improperly', and that there's an important difference between the two.]

What I'm going to do here is skip all the jargon and terms that tend to make it seem complicated. Words are useful, and a few are introduced, here, but don't get hung up on them... they'll fill in over time. What we want is a framework to plug them into. Once you have the basics, it's much easier to see how all that fits in. So for now, let's look at the big picture.

Let's take a look at the above illustration. Picture your vessel able to spin like a dial at the center (heck, print this out and make one out of paper!). There are a few ways to divide this circle up, all of which are variously useful.

The line perpendicular to the wind divides our courses into on and off the wind.

The labels divide them into Irons, Reaches and Run.

But for simplicity, lets ignore lines and labels and focus on color.

Red is no-go; yellow is proceed with caution; green is go-go.

Red means you can't get there, directly. A rock in that quadrant is no danger (barring strong current)... unless you take action, it may as well be on the far side of the moon. To run on to it, or reach any other point in red, you MUST zig-zag, sailing in yellow.

If you set your course into red, no one will punish you, but your sails will flutter and flog, and your boat cease to move forward.

Yellow is sailing on the wind (aka into or toward the wind or to windward). Sails are hauled toward the centerline (how is a detail for another time).

This is the region you must sail in order to move the boat toward the general direction of the wind. The boat heels (leans over) and develops leeway (side-slips away from the wind) in this quadrant. If the wind blows hard enough, you will find yourself beating (smashing through waves).

Because of leeway, you're never going where the boat is pointed but always at an angle downwind of that. Thus, dangers on your downwind side deserve attention and avoidance. Ergo, caution.

Green is sailing off the wind (aka across or down the wind). Sails are eased out and away from the centerline, usually toward a maximum of 90deg.

Life is good in this hemisphere! Lots of power, even if your sails aren't optimally trimmed. Lots of choices in course - all of green, and yellow if necessary - good for approaching a buoy, say, or running a reef.

The only green concern is a jibe (read up on it, elsewhere in your further studies).


Now that we have this basic understanding, we'll venture a step into the 'how'. Let's focus on our labels, now...

Reaches require matching the angle of the sail to the wind and course. In doing so, we trim sail.

If the sail's out too far, it starts to flutter and won't generate power. If it's in to far, the wind blows flat into it... the boat heels more than it should (wasting power) and the sail stalls (losing power). Like Goldilocks, juuuuuust right is right. We have two methods.

To trim a sail, hold your course. Ease the sail out until it luffs (forward edge starts to flutter). Haul it back in, slightly. There is a sweet spot where you can learn to feel the power kick in. Practice makes perfect!

To sail full and by (sails full and by the wind's whim), trim sail as before. Whenever the wind shifts, alter your course - using the same indicators - until the sails hit the sweet spot.

Irons is still no go... you can't trim a sail there. Done.

Run has the sails out at about 90deg, so no further trimming there. Done.



With only this much info, you can sail most any small boat in wind from any direction. It's that simple! Early sailors had no clue about the Bernoulli Effect, say, or vector physics. Not needed to make the boat go.

This is not to say that continuing our education - a lifelong pleasure - won't increase our understanding and efficiency, and our abilities, options and safety. It will. Learning the language of sail, understanding the mechanics of sail and hull; your rigging, sail controls and the physics involved; the effect of currents and weather; and countless further adventures will endlessly enrich your seamanship.

But it's all building on simplicity!

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Options for Late in the Day

Old age needs so little, but needs that little so much.
- Margaret Willour

Options for Late in the Day

There will come a point, if everything goes well, when the toll of years will curtail our sailing.

While it's easy enough to imagine scenarios, it's very difficult to foresee which will pertain. Will our capacity - in the sense of ability to sail nearly as we have - ebb like the tide? Or will incapacity ambush us from one day to the next? Will the vigor of one linger? Or will we decline as one? The answers will affect our choices, of course, assuming any are left us.

Many of our older friends and relations have described aging as a process of one's world shrinking. They have outlived most or all of their contemporaries. Their senses - especially vision and hearing - often diminish, drawing inward. Their reach - and ours - grows shorter.

With all respect for the choices others make, withdrawing to a marginal living on some urban fringe has no attraction for either of us. Even less does institutional care. When the prospect for life more or less on our own dwindles to nothing, we're done.

But there is that time between the twilight of ability and the end. I see our options of interest boiling down to one of three...

Longer term anchorages - We might limit our major moves to the occasional transition. Meanwhile, the anchor goes down in a rich environment, and we putter together a mix of resources, on board and ashore.

Move ashore with the boat - At some point, even the short commute across the water might be too much. We could pull the boat ashore and 'terraform' it... make it more accessible for elder access by land. A side door, say, that allows us to board with a single step or low ramp.

Move ashore (possibly) without the boat - If, by some miracle, we could be of some use to some form of intentional community and were offered shelter and sustenance in return, we'd consider it. It would surely be interesting. As things stand, the possibility seems remote, but who knows how the world will go?


I see three things necessary to these first two options:

1) A capable, small boat - This would be an adjunct to the bigger liveaboard we no longer sail regularly. Able to be sailed and rowed with little effort, beachable, have shelter for overnighting, and be manageable with our remaining strength.

I see this as necessary since no place (in SE Alaska) we've come across has all necessary resources in one spot. From the First Peoples on, mobility has played an important role in obtaining sustenance from a range of resources.

2) A garden - This can be a purely indigenous Guerrilla Garden, which has the advantage of requiring very little physical input. Merely to concentrate productive strains of local plants within easy reach would enrich our diet. Add spuds and we're golden!

3) A larger community - Among all the Oldsters that lived along our shores, even the most independent were abetted by younger, or at least more able folk. Often, firewood was cut and chopped, a bag of grain or coffee gifted, a roof leak patched. The very gift of company was cherished. One can survive without these friends, perhaps, but they helped the Old Ones to thrive.

Making new friends from across the age spectrum has always seemed a habit of the most vital elders I know. These interactions stimulate and involve the aged, and entertain and educate the young. These relationships carry on with gifts flowing each way.

Such elders partake in a multi-partner dance in which it is a joy (as a relative youngster) to participate. Such elders inevitably, one day, bow out of the dance. But they dance to the end.

Something to keep in mind!


To prepare for old age, we pretty much need to live our lives.

Have a boat in hand, and learn how to live aboard. Live in a region from which we can subsist, and learn its ways. Make friends and cultivate relationships.

Anke and I aren't among those who think old age is merely a state of mind. We see it as one stage in a beautiful journey which eventually winds to its end. We love it, from its beginning to that end we face without regret. Oh... perhaps a hint of anxious wonder. But that's only natural.

It's all good.

For more thoughts on aging sailors, see this related post.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Hermit Crabbing: Another Way to Go

Hermit Crabbin'
Prints available HERE

The ideal is to feel at home anywhere, everywhere.
- Geoff Dye

Hermit Crabbing: Another Way to Go
How Michaela Poppleton aka Mimi P rolls...

Over at VolksCruiser, Bob Wise asked his readers what we would like in a VC. Among the responses was Mimi P's alternative approach, Hermit Crabbing. Michaela Popperton, the woman behind the netID, graciously expands, here, on her comments.

The beauty of the HC approach is that one can sample from the smorgasbord of possibility - both in sailing grounds and types of vessel - without the heavy investments of time, money and energy that a fully found vessel can consume. Yet one is much more connected to one's time aboard than in, say, a bareboat charter. Such kits are scalable, and can be personalized to many styles of cruising, ranging from open beach cruiser to trade wind sled.

Just find a shell!

The following is her lightly edited account, reformatted from our correspondence...


I'm just about to turn forty-four years of age, was born and raised in and around Toronto.  I studied architecture in university but never pursued it beyond that, becoming rather turned-off by the profession's narcissistic self-obsession... which is pretty ironic seeing as I've ended up in the middle of all-things-yacht which is about as self-absorbed as it gets.

I work in the marine biz, so I have a sort of love-hate relationship with boats.  It's a career that has afforded me some great opportunities to live in lands far-away, but it also sometimes takes the fun out of doing something as simple as going sailing; there are days when the last thing that I want to do is deal with another boat. even if it is my own!  I'm shore bound for a while right now, so hopefully that will help to rekindle the passion; to freshen the breeze, in a way.

I've sailed all my life, raced much of it, and being a natural tinkerer I got involved in production yacht building with the late PDQ Yachts in the late nineties.  I started on the shop floor fitting joinery into the boats, but between having a pretty solid boating background and being pretty bright I quickly moved into a role managing (ack...) the existing and in-development sailboat lines, and eventually ended up in a role as the president's right hand and acting as a sort of liaison between the engineering, sales, and production departments.  
[I'm now] acting as [...] liaison between a customer or marketing group, a designer, builders and a boatyard.  The customers know what they want and the designer knows what it should be.... then I figure out how and what it will take to build it, and then convey that to the hands in the yard.  It sounds pretty glamorous, and sometimes it even is.... but it's mostly a lot of drudgery penning specifications, populating bills of material, and schedule building.

I've built on the beaches in Thailand, in the furnaces of Taiwan, up the river in Argentina, aside the Broads in the UK, down the Eastern Seaboard of the US, and most recently in sunny, breezy Western Australia.

I took to living aboard out of economy more than anything else.  I could afford to keep a home or a boat, but trying to keep both was going to be a stretch... so I chose the boat.  Doing the kind of work that I do, one or two or three years at a time, demands that I be flexible, unencumbered, and mobile; this is reflected in my hermit crab style of boating, and living.  

The Hermit Crab Approach

I've taken [...] a cue from the hermit crab.

I have a small collection of good "stuff" that I take with me from boat to boat as my situation or locations change. Everywhere in the world I go there are countless almost-retired hulls waiting shoreside for me to move in, and they are generally of a type that suits well the local waters. It is easier, and less expensive, to pack my kit in a crate and ship it across an ocean than it is to forever keep a boat that has passage-making capability that is only occasionally used to advantage.

Essentially, it's a collection of decent and useful gear that I've collected over the years, some of it purposefully bought and some of it scavenged, that lets me move onto just about any boat in the twenty-five to thirty-five foot range without that boat having to be already well fitted and maintained.

It allows me to use (just about) any of the countless, long-forgotten hulls that litter the marinas and yards all around the world.  I have been involved in the construction of so many of them... an enabler, in a way... to the wastefulness.  It bothers me, so I find some joy in giving them even a brief bit of care and extended usefulness.

The Boats

None of them are going to be up to making long passages, so I don't get too attached to them and happily leave them behind when I need to move some place new.  Cost and effort to restore or renew any of them would be highly unlikely to be recovered, so I minimize my investment: easy-come, easy-go.

I actually put very little effort into any of my own boats, because it's the sailing that I love and not the boat; it's about the wind and the water, not the gadgets and brightwork.

When it comes to choosing a boat, I usually let the location do much of the deciding for me.  They never need to get me very far from where I already am, so those qualities that make "great cruisers" don't necessarily need to be paramount; it affords me quite a lot of flexibility and freedom.

The estuaries in the UK really cried out for a shallow-bellied, tall-rigged bilge-keeler (which was wood, and so full of rot that is sort of "oozed" over the waves!), while in Fremantle I made the most of the perpetually-gorgeous sailing conditions and picked up an older generation lightweight racer that wasn't great to live on, but absolute bliss to sail.  In Toronto I had a C&C Redwing 30 and a Niagara 30 at different times: very different boats, but both had decent headroom which made winters bearable.  In Argentina I spent the most out of any of them when I found an old German Frers IOR warhorse and proceeded to regularly get it stuck in the mud.  It was quite enjoyable to actually meet him at his home, and tell him the story ; )

I like boats that have histories, and stories.  When they're shiny and new and washed everyday they seem "silent" to me.  None of them have been over ten thousand bucks to buy, and generally they have been around five or six.

Reselling at the end is the hard part and could take forever, or even never happen. Having put little in I really don't need to get much back out so I cut my asking price right down to a few thousand dollars and someone usually jumps on it.  People are far more likely to buy an old boat that is the in the water and being used than they are a boat that has been sitting dry for years, or decades.  I look at what I spent as my rent for the duration, and my return covers the expense to move me and my gear to the next place.

The Kit

I got tired of always dealing with engines and old outboards, so I bought a shiny new 6hp Yamaha one day when I was feeling plush.  It is a little undersized at times, but the weight savings compared to the 8hp models is enormous and lends me confidence when I'm hefting it on and off of mounts, and it saves 15 kilos worth of freight each time I move.

I have a collection of plastic UN-approved and sized 20L jerry cans: two red for petrol, four blue for potable water, and two white for anything else.  This way I don't need to rely on integral tankage, and having all of them of equal and manageable size allows them to stack beautifully.  I made bicycle panniers that hold one can each side, but I fit them to whatever bike I find locally.
I have a galley box with all of the essential utensils and implements, and a single-burner MSR multi-fuel backpacking stove that happily runs on the same gasoline as the outboard, so I only need carry one type of fuel.  I have a collapsible charcoal grill at the moment as well, which generally (but not always!) gets used shoreside and sometimes with foraged wood.

I use a Sawyer gravity fed water purifier when needed.

I'll probably add a composting toilet at some point, when I come across a boat that doesn't already have something that is make-workable.

I have a hefty Whale portable manual bilge pump that so far has (luckily) been used for everything except pumping water out the bilge.

Electrical systems are the hardest part to generalize and need to be dealt with individually.
Individually rechargeable lights are always a great solution, though more often than not I manage to cobble something workable together with what's already there.  I have considered building myself a box-mounted distribution panel and harness "octopus" that I could move from one boat to another (there are really only a couple of layouts used in sailboats in this size range, right?), but again, I've not yet run into a situation where what was already there was a completely lost cause.  I like making what I have, work.

I bought a used Watt & Sea hydro-generator from a guy who was disappointed by its performance (expecting miracles, I suppose...) and that has proven fantastic as a source.  I take the moorings that nobody else likes because they are in a high-current or -tidal flow, and it happily spins out watts all day and night. I really like the fact that it encourages me to sail more.  It starts putting out current at less than two knots of flow, but really shines when it has about five... so that does create a practical minimum waterline length on any potential hull.  It is also pretty pricey...   

I've also got a roll-up solar panel that is useful at keeping the anchor light working when I'm away from the boat, or keeping the cell phone and stuff charged.

The hydro-gen comes with it's own controller, as does the solar panel.  I let them both operate independently, but it is rare that both are ever used at the same time.

All of my navigation kit (software, GPS, etc) is laptop based, and I have both wifi and cell boosters.  The cell booster isn't completely universal, but has worked fine over my past few locations.  It probably seems extravagant, but my data plan is my connection to the world and lets me work on contracts elsewhere; it's a necessity for work, not for living.

I have an old-but-oddly-reliable Simrad tiller pilot as my extra set of hands, and I generally have enough electricity from the hydro-gen to run the pilot and my laptop while sailing along and working from the cockpit all day; I reach off in one direction in the morning and then come about and reach back in for the afternoon.  Life is good sometimes : )

I use handheld compass, GPS and VHF, but mostly as a safety tool in the event that I go MOB so they are always stashed in my PFD.

Tools... Of course, I've got an assortment of the usual hand tools including fids, needles and a stitching palm that lets me keep old rags useful and earn a few extra bucks when I need to.  There is also a bunch of useful bits of rigging that I always take with me, ranging from shackles and blocks to cordage and tape.  I organize it all in canvas bags inside of appropriately sized buckets, which are always useful to have on hand.

I don't have anything too crazy, partly because I work in and around boatyards so a few bottles of beer and big blue eyes often get things "done" for me.

I have two Japanese-styled handsaws, because they are light and break down into very little space.  I like to whittle, so I have few knives and gouges and rasps.  Spanners, sockets, screwdrivers, allen keys, side cutters, linesman's pliers, caulking gun, rubber mallet, hatchet, sand paper, paint brushes, scrapers.  The outboard came with every tool that is needed for user-servicing.  It usually all sits in a bucket.

None of it is interesting or exciting, but on a boat that doesn't have too much, not much can go wrong nor needs to be fixed.

I avoid power tools, because the electricity common to each of these places varies.  There really are very few places where 110-120VAC is used in the world, but I'm still hesitant to commit to 220-240VAC tools (adapting two available 120 receptacles to one 240 line is easy enough) even though I don't have a really good reason why I haven't.  Aside from not having had to yet....  Toss in the differences in frequency, and the chargers of cordless tools get even more limiting.

Fasteners and adhesives... Ziplock baggies full of new and reclaimed screws, bolts, nuts, and washers.  In bags they all cram down into a very small space and are worth shipping especially after an Asian stint.

Fibreglass is very easily available so I don't bother, and resins have a very short shelf life so they really shouldn't be kept.  They would have shipping issues as well, I suspect.

I've always got a tube of silicone and a tube of not-too-adhesive bedding compound on hand, because old boats leak.  A lot.  I don't ship any of it.  I suppose I could figure out at which point a product becomes a candidate for saving and shipping based on weight, but I tend to look at it as partial tubes have such a short life that they aren't worth going through the hassle of listing, declaring, and proving safe to ship.  I'm really good at giving things like that away to the next guy.

Shipping the Kit

I don't have a preferred method of shipping my gear, instead trying to make the best use of carriers and agents that we're already using at the boatyard.  Using local shipping agents also lets my little and relatively light pallet ship as part of a full consolidated container, though that sometimes means that things take a bit longer to get back into my hands at the other end.

I often use an empty pallet and crate from an engine because they are sturdy and light, and let the customs agency that has been getting all of the boat building material into the country figure out how to get my stuff out. I have always had easy access to crates, so I've not thought much about what it could be if I were to want it to be reusable. Maybe a two-piece dink could be designed to close like a clamshell with everything inside....

It is always surface-shipped, as none of the previously fuel-containing articles can be shipped by air.  The same is true of lithium batteries in many cases, so that needs to be kept in mind.  
My most recent shipment coming back to Toronto from Perth had a bunch of clothing and "stuff" and weighed in just over 100kg crated and took about a month, door-to-door; those two points are just about as far apart as is possible on the globe....

General Thoughts

I think a camp cruiser kit is quite viable, with thousands of twenty to twenty-four foot boats out there to be had wherever you might be or want to go.  There were so many of them built and they are easily and inexpensively had that buying two just to merge them into a single, slightly better one is an option (especially with scrap lead selling for over a dollar a pound so the discarded keel might help finance other parts of the project).  Camping gear is readily available, and so long as one doesn't fall for the marketing it can be very affordable and all fit in the trunk of the car or a broom closet at home.  Maybe an all-in-one kit box that is freight-company-acceptable might be marketable?

Languages!  It makes things interesting, that is for sure.  I used to work really hard to learn the local language, but have found that most of the official entities and port authorities have provisions in place for dealing with English-speakers.  Learning the indigenous language makes my day-to-day life of shopping for vegetables and underwear a lot easier, even if only because I am trying and the locals appreciate that.  As far as work goes, I tend to deal largely with fairly well educated people and they have long known that being able to communicate in English is invaluable, so it has made it easier for me.  Sometimes, though, there is merit in keeping my mouth shut, my ears open, and my comprehension secret....

To Sum Up
Advantages to the way that I approach life afloat?  Two advantages, and two reasons:

(i) The biggie:  It gets me on the water wherever I might be quickly, as I usually don't have to build or repair much of anything.  I hand over an envelope with a bit of cash, shake hands, check the through-hulls, paint the bottom and go.

(ii) The fun:  It lets me pick a boat that suits the waters that I will be in and the type of sailing that I will be doing, even if that might sometimes be dock-bound.  I can afford to be a bit frivolous and try out something different if I want to because I'm not overly invested of time, money, nor sentiment in the boat itself.

(iii) The peace of mind, on a professional level:  I'm holding myself accountable for the part that I have played in creating the mess... the wasteland of forgotten dreams... by quite literally living with and in it.

(iv) The right thing, on an environmental level:  The most environmentally-friendly boat choice (at least as it relates to construction) is one that has already been built.  I'm not making anything worse.


Clearly, hermit crabbing is not for ‘all the people, all the time’. But it’s something to keep in mind when opportunity arises over some far horizon.

It’s a way to see some more of the world, accumulate inexpensive education or establish a base along any sea.

The possibilities are endless....