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

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Bushcraft Bits and Baubles

DILBERT by Scott Adams

The more you know, the less you carry.
- Mors Kochanski

Bushcraft: Bits and Baubles

One of the great ironies of our time is that low-tech bushcraft skills are being furthered and spread on the internet, a high tech platform.

Many traditional skills and approaches are being recovered, advanced, adapted, and more importantly, shared by people from around the world. Instead of going extinct or languishing in some small, isolated community, this wealth is being spread far and wide.

In this post, I'll present a few, choice bits I've recently come across.

Vertical Fire Logs

There are skads of videos on how to make and use these in several variations.

Max Egorov (Advoko MAKES) is producing bushcraft videos, often mixing high and low tech. His approach is both innovative and experimental. It's well worth checking out his other offerings.

Here, I'll present one that briefly covers several versions of vertical fire logs, vertical grilling and a great recipe! Great ideas come thick and fast, so I'll give a time guide of highlights:

0:00 - 0:27    Introduction
0:27 - 1:12    Digression (?) An interesting but more complex Log Stove
1:12 - 2:00    Split Log Stove and Tent Warmer
2:00 - 4:05    Digression (?) Frame Saw from blade and field materials
                        NOTE: Elsewhere, Mors Kochanski suggests carrying a saw blade around the waist 
                                     in a belt constructed as its sheath.
5:15 - 5:50    Log Dogs
5:50 - 6:15    Vertical Log Stove
6:15 - 8:30    Spiral Cut Potato with Sausage (vertically grilled)
8:30 - End     Getting fancy plus Vertical Slotted Grill

Pine Tar Extraction

Pine tar (aka Stockholm Tar) is a thick glop at the heart of many marine recipes for wood preservation. It's also medically useful as antiseptic (farm veterinarians still use it for treating wounds in stock animals).

Again from Egorov, his is the simplest and one of the more reliable methods I've seen (he calls it 'oil' in the video):

Flip-Flop Winch

Where's this one been all my life??

If you have line (and what boat doesn't?) this winch can be improvised in the field. It generates a huge amount of force that can move your vessel/vehicle, logs, rocks or even uproot trees.

Take care to stay out-of-line with the tensioned lines... should they break, whiplash can be deadly.

Other videos mention the use of stakes to stabilize the winding pole (perpendicular to the line of pull), but correct set-up (shown in this but not all videos) minimizes the need. Worth looking around, though.

Creek Stewart has a number of short, to-the-point videos covering a range of skills.

NOTE: A good piece of on-board gear is the Maasdam Rope-Puller. It's like a come-along, but uses a clutch to pull along a length of line for much less set-and-reset. Rated at 3/4 tons of pull.

Pole Compass

Here's a trick for those times we're caught out longer than we expected, perhaps without the durn compass. It's getting dusky going on dark and we've got to get through a stretch of woods or brush and end up near our boat. A bearing with a compass helps, but keeping true is tricky in the dark.

Hence, the Pole Compass, from the late, great Mors Kochanski... he has many offerings emphasizing a practical minimalism:

Note that this method only works when you know the direction you want to go. It's an aid, not a substitute, for orienteering!

Roycroft Ski Shoes

Snow shoes are extremely useful to us some winters, but a pain in the neck to stow the rest of the time. Not only do these Roycroft Ski Shoes come only when called into being, but they are just SO COOL!

This video starts with a comparison with other types of snow shoes before taking a closer look at their construction.

This one gives another take with a little more detail, and presents a binding system I find simpler and more intuitive:

Wood Shavings

Here's another one I missed despite a life out-of-doors:

When making shavings for a fire, one usually whittles away from one's self (safety first!), most often spraying them in a wide arc across the wet ground.

But I seen it done better in some video... DUH! 

Stick your knife by the tip into a log or plank with the blade facing away from you. Holding it firmly by the handle, draw your shaving stock toward you at an angle to the edge. Rotate - to catch an edge rather than a flat - and repeat. Shavings accumulate docilely around your knife's tip.


NOTE: Hold your stock from the end toward you and keep your fingers your side of the edge.

Rules of Three

Rules of Three help prioritize your focus in survival situations.
  • You can survive three seconds without hope.
  • You can survive three minutes without breathable air (unconsciousness generally occurs), or in icy water (loss of motor functions generally occur).
  • You can survive three hours without shelter.
  • You can survive three days without drinkable water.
  • You can survive three weeks without food.
I consider the last three to be the most useful.


Once you find a useful tidbit, chances are there are a hundred related approaches. It's easy to get lost in the wilderness of the internet. But oh, the riches it holds!

Let's make the most of it!

Friday, December 20, 2019

At Anchor in the Belly of the Beast

Jonah in the Belly of the Fish
By Eugene Ivanov

I was the blood in the water, and Oh!
  It felt so good to run so red.

- From Little Red 
by Ashe Vernon

At Anchor in the Belly of the Beast

There are places where it all comes together. Where sun and moon drag the sea over granite bones of earth, churning it to froth. Where life and death wrestle in an embrace older and more intimate than love. Where we have had the luck to find ourselves.

Where the World Beast may be glimpsed by we, who dwell in her belly.

At such a place. On such a night. We set anchor at the edge of it all.

We'd been trying to round a vast promontory which bends that send of sea into whorl within whorl of turbulent gyre. Nutrients are churned in stately violence to permeate the water column. Life blooms and feasts.

Wind had failed our purpose. A storm was coming, but there was a chance we might sail forward in the rising winds of its advance. We sculled into the growing dark and fog and the lee of the current and set anchor at the fringe of a kelp forest.

And oh - the waters ran red.

The hunters were round about. Whales and porpoise. Sea lions and seals. Otters of both land and sea. These, we could hear by breath and bark and song. And others working the web, inaudible to our ears.

Krill ate plankton who in turn lit the waters in auroral splendor, illuminating the kelp. Fish ate  krill, and were in turn consumed. Each moving thing leaving its trail of fire in the water.

And the birds, awake to this nocturnal gluttony, their excited cries piercing the fog.

We sat on deck in the midst of it all, silenced by Music.

A Music whose bass notes shook us to the core. Whose high notes 'most evade the ear. Whose every voice is sung by the very mouth which feeds. Whose every note choired a harmony unplanned, but resonant beyond human ken.

A Music which calls to our feral selves. To our selves before we sowed the field or built the walls. When we, too, sang our own wild song with our brothers and sisters 'neath the untamed moon.

To our selves before we dreamed we had a self, separate from the World.


But I am a child of civilization, so called. Burdened with the gift of tongues, wagging ceaselessly in my head, I am cut off from direct experience of the World.

A note, or here and there a phrase, are all that is vouchsafed me.

Yet there is a joy in knowing - as perhaps no other animal can - that we are all related. In life. In death. Knowing our own mortality. That predator and prey are but organelles within a greater Beast.

That within our very own guts, legions of flora and fauna are wholly engaged in a microcosm of that give and take of life and death which surged around us that night. In our very cells, predator and prey are merged in symbiotic union. And throughout this ferment - underlying all - life's very cipher flows horizontally, grafting the branches of the Tree of Life.

We may call it struggle, red in tooth and claw. The survival of the fittest and the elimination of the weak. War. Our words hand us only what we know.

We do not yet know that all are One. Always have been.

I, for one, sail to find nights like ours,  in the dark and blood and seethe of Life.

For just a glimpse.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Hand Tools for the BOATYard

Our two tool boxes, vice and grinding wheel.

We carry a full array of hand tools necessary to build the boat from scratch. 

Timber tools to leverage our options with materials gleaned from beach and woods. An array of fasteners, wire, line, rod, plywood, 1x and 2x stock, aluminum plate and  flat-bar... enough to fix or fudge most anything. Goops, glues, paints and puckies. Enough sailcloth for a whole new suit. Heavy movers to lift, shift and haul the boat. Tarps to work under. 

Everything necessary for stop-gap measures or measured, permanent repair.

-- From BOATYard vs. B.O.A.TYard

Hand Tools for the BOATYard

 I wrote the above a number of years ago, about the distinction between a BOATYard - that 'yard' we carry with us - versus the B.O.A.TYard - The BringOnAnotherThousandYard we pay money to haul out into, somewhere in the Medean bosom of civilization.

Now it's winter and we're cleaning our tools... they look so pretty I thought I'd share.

Here's what we think of as a 'full array' of hand tools.

First, we have a general division:
  1. Small  'Twiddly Box' - This lives easy-to-grab under a companionway step. It contains all we need to handle about 90% of everything. 'Twiddly' cuz it's all the twiddly li'l bits.
  2. Large 'Big Box' - This lives out of the way, but as accessible as possible. It contains all we need to repair our vessel.
  3. Vice and grinding wheel - These live clamped at one end of the (galley) workbench until needed.
  4. Others (not shown) - These include a hacksaw, clamps, crow-, prise- and rockbar, sledge, jacks, hoists and pullers, crosscut and rip timber saws. Bowsaws and axe, Rigging, electrical, paint/glue and spare tools. These would (in theory) let us build a vessel from drift logs.

In this post, We'll take a closer look at the first two

Twiddly Box contents
  • Files - Mill bastard, feather, point, 4-in-1 rasp, rasp bits (rat-tail AWOL).
  • Blades - Bad Knife, razor, saber blades for the multisaw (right of tray), utility.
  • Drivers - Slotted, bit driver and angling bit driver with bits, offset phillips and slotted (top right of tray), allen wrench set, slotted brace drivers (lower right of tray).
  • Grippers - Nippers, pliers, vice grips, adjustable wrench, socket wrench and (universal+) sockets and adapters, 'universal' chuck wrench.
  • Miscellaneous - Multi-tool, saw wrest (set), raker guage, Clamptite, step drill set (lower left), knife sharpener, spark plug gapper, mini pipe cutter, zip-ties.

Main Tools

Our main tool box extends the Twiddly Box... we rarely use this one without the other:
  • Files - Mill bastard, feather, rat tails, round. 4-in-1 rasp.
  • Bits - Auger, spade, large twist, small twist drill set.
  • Blades - Good knife, drawknife, chisels and gouge, cornering tool, cold chisel, low angle block and bull-nose/shoulder planes, cross- and ripsaws (Japanese), hack-, coping- and keyhole saws, scraper.
  • Beaters - Carpenter's- and ball peen hammers, hatchet and small splitting maul (not shown... live at wood range).
  • Drivers / Drills - Large slotted (square shaft), long phillips, angling bit driver and bits, 'improved' Yankee style driver (uses bits), 'eggbeater' drill, brace, right angle drill adapter, large allen wrench set, punches.
  • Grippers - Large vice grips, adjustable wrenches, channel locks, tin shears, nibbler, clamps.
  • Layout - Quick- and leaf square, bevel guage, 12 and 50ft measure tapes, plumb bob/chalk line, compass, pencils.
  • Miscellaneous - stud finder, cutting angle guage (both to right of compass), sharpening stones, propane torch nozzle, glass cutter, small prise bar, red cedar for plugs and wire twist for threading, tongue depressors.


Most of the better tools were acquired second hand. A few were bought at full, expensive price (e.g., the bull-nose/shoulder/rabbet plane). Others are lesser tools that only need work adequately once every many years. Yet others are the rare good tool at a reasonable price (e.g., 'disposable' Japanese saw blades.

Between yard and estate sales, flea markets, local and on-line auctions (like, hardware store back alleys and the occasional grit-your-teeth purchase, I'm guessing these tool kits can be put together for a couple hundred dollars or less.

How's your haggle hangin'?

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Phil Bolger's BIRDWATCHER Concept

Photo by John Kohnen

A “bird­watcher” [is] a craft “in which one might poke through a marsh or backwater in search of nothing more than a pleasant lunch and a tan.”
-- Jack Dunn as quoted by Phil Bolger

Phil Bolger's BIRDWATCHER Concept

Phil Bolger introduced a true revolution in micro-cruiser design with his BIRDWATCHER concept.

A watertight, transparent super-structure is built upwards from the sheer of an ultra-shoal-draft, heavy bottom hull. Decks continue the water-tight integrity inboard to an elongated mid-ships companionway (which may be covered by removable fabric and/or hatches).

The crew is seated midships - the vessel's 'prime real estate', and low in the hull (vs. a raised cockpit) where their weight contributes to trim and stability. When standing in the 'infinite headroom' companionway, they are protected to well above hip level. 

The vessel is fully operable with excellent all-round visibility from the cabin where crew is protected from exposure. Dry shelter - whether at anchor or aground - is permanently available.

In a beam ends knockdown, such a hull floats all openings clear of the water, and is strongly self-righting from this position. A rollover is only possible when caught broadsides by a breaking sea.

A requirement peculiar to small, oar auxiliary boats of Birdwatcher lineage is that the “rig be quick enough to strike that one is not tempted to row with it standing.” Rowing via side ports is from within the cabin.

Core concepts:
  • Waterproof to above the knocked-down waterline (should float on its side without shipping water).
  • Long gangway running the length of the interior (mid-line security for standing crew).
  • Self-rescuing from inside the hull(!).
  • All operations possible from within shelter (no outside cockpit necessary).
  • Easily stricken rig (to reduce windage for rowing).
  • Reasonable performance under oars (eliminates expense, and weight of motor, and allows extended cruising away from fuel sources).


All (prudent) small boat sailors learn to right their craft from the water in case of a full knockdown. Chances range from significant to assured that they will use this skill, sooner or later. And then, we'd better be trained and geared up.

Wind gusts up. Attention lapses. We're in the water next to a half swamped boat. If the water is cold, the clock is ticking. Fast.

If the water is cold, the situation can be dire. If your gear is poorly stored, the situation can be dire. If conditions are bad, the situation can be dire.

It's hard to overstate the quantum leap in safety that the BIRDWATCHER concept affords the micro-cruiser.


Let's look for a minute at a full sized cruiser.

Can we sail (not just steer) the boat from within the pilot house? Are the lifelines substantial and higher than the hips? Can we recover from a full knockdown? Can we run it up on the beach? Trailer it? Row it at more than a knot or so? See out with an all-round view from belowdecks?

Maybe yes to a few of these, but seldom if ever to all.

Looking at micro-cruiser issues...

In micro-cruiser design, we juggle fixed shelter against the kind we must erect. Tent shelters are often high windage. They're often wet, hard to enclose and, once enclosed, to get in or out of. If we have to leave in a hurry, they're a bitch to strike.

If fixed shelter, we juggle against cockpit needs. Both compete for space. Both are pushed to the (usually tapering) ends of the hull. Crew weight pops up the bow or stern, depending on which end we're using. Certainly, we won't be steering, rowing or handling our rig from a cuddy.

And yep, if they blow over, we're back in the water.


In my Triloboat adaptations of the concept, the box barge foundation simplifies construction in the usual ways for the hull, and also for the window to hull interface (no bevels).

Oars present a challenge. When in use, the watertight ports must be open (risking flooding in a knockdown). They must be dismounted from inside or outside the cabin; both awkward. When let go, it's convenient to let them trail aft (Bolger solved this neatly with his port placement on BIRDWATCHERs' curved hull... but this limits rowing stations to one).

My solution to these issues is bent oars... they needn't be dismounted (stow in position), can be booted waterproof and trail alongside when let go.

Other designers - notably Jim Michalak - have employed BIRDWATCHER concepts in highly successful designs.

Full knockdown flotation and recovery test
in TRILOBYTE (T16x4)


NOTE: The BIRDWATCHER approach isn't the only successful one. Matt Layden and Sven Yrvind, among others, have successful designs (ballasted) for micro-cruising that answer 'yes' to the wish-list line items. These are ingenious balances of more traditional approaches.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Dock? Am I Gonna LIVE??

No dock; no body.
Photo by Amy Gulick

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I...
I took the one less traveled by.
-- Robert Frost

in·ter·stice /inˈtərstəs/ an intervening space, especially a very small one.

Dock? Am I Gonna LIVE??

The Inside Passage is an amazing, fractal coastline of islets entwined among waterways. Literally tens of thousands of places to anchor, each with their own perspective on a breathtaking land and seascape.

Yet so many we see passing through scurry from dock to dock. If they anchor at all, it must be in one of a relative few 'hurricane harbors' - protected from all winds at all times. And then it must be of a certain depth - not too shallow, not too deep.

But docks and such ideal havens are few and far between.

These 'cruisers' nervously push from one to the next in tight and often tumultuous weather 'windows', which often snap closed on them. They hurry past mile after nautical mile of beauty, heave a sigh of relief on making it to a 'safe' spot, and squeeze in amongst all the others who think alike.

And then they start to build up a head of steam for the next leg.

At the end of 'the season', it's push home (wherever that is) to avoid storms. Usually motoring for hundreds of miles.

But hey... now they've 'done' the Inside Passage.


Here are some tips and tricks to help open up the interstitial world between docks. Many are for extreme situations, but hedging your bets makes for confident sailing.

Stay Put Gear

Good anchor gear is essential for getting away from the dock. What follow are some ideas for what you might look for, and why:

  • Redundancy - Having several anchors with rode safeguards in case of loss.
  • Variety - Different anchors excel in different conditions... consider anchors for a range of bottom characteristics.
  • Synergy - Consider systems that work well together (e.g., swing limiting, pin-pointing, doubling up for storm conditions, etc.).


  • Shore tie lines - The shore never drags!
  • Manual option winch(es) - These haul the boat into strong wind and the anchor home, plus many other jobs. More than one, of varying strength are possible.
  • A good tender - This lets you scout an area that may be (very) poorly charted. Poke around and eliminate surprises.
  • Tender deployable gear - Can you set and retrieve anchor from your tender? In what wind strength?
  • One or more anchors with rope / chain rode - These are adequate for many bottoms. Being lighter and more quickly and easily raised than all chain rode, deeper anchorages are less trouble.

Shoal or Ultra-Shoal Draft

A boat that can slip into skinny water and take the ground (dry out) level is perhaps your biggest asset.

  • The shoal vessel can shelter in a hundred places for every one available to a deep vessel.
  • Shallow water means generous anchor scope (the ratio of anchor rode to depth) requires less rode, and at any given scope, swing radius is smaller.
  • Dangers are most always visible when only submerged in a couple of feet of water.
  • If you do go ashore in a hard chance, you'll be wading ashore - not swimming.
  • When aground, waves that lift the vessel are enough to move in (deeper vessels can pound their sides open before they float free).

If you can't go shoal, consider using sheer legs (aka beaching legs). These let you stand upright on a more or less protected beach.


Rivers often provide the shoal boat with excellent shelter behind shoals, berms or banks. If you're weather bound, they're wonderful places to explore.

'Open' Anchorages

For years we felt as many do that we needed to find a snug cove for the night. Protection from anything that might come up, from any direction, while darkness was... um... dark.

Over the years, we slowly realized that night sailing is not to be feared, but enjoyed.

This means that 'open', temporary anchorages can be enjoyed in steady weather. Pre-assess fallback destinations, then just get up and go if the wind rises or changes to an unfavorable direction.

They fall into three types:

  • Lees - Hunkering down on the lee side of anything that blocks the wind will do until the wind changes.
  • Open bights - Dips in the coastline often provide shelter from coastwise winds in either direction. Do take care not to become embayed (caught by an onshore wind in a bight you can't sail out of)!
  • Wall-hangs - Finding bottom along a smooth stretch of coast is fine in calms and some of the most beautiful, wide view anchoring there is.

In all cases, know your escape route and destination options for various eventualities. Easy in / easy out anchorages are just that. When things change, get going while the getting is good... don't wait until it's untenable.

Remember, the wind blowing you out of a hidey-hole is a fair wind to somewhere.


Docks are fine things. Secure, all-round coves are better. But they are the beaten path.

There is a whole world of opportunity in between. Glorious vistas. Intimate nooks. Holes in the wall. Hangs along the wall.

And all far from the madding crowd.

Not really a harbor...

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Hero's Journey, Fool's Journey

By Scott Stoll at

MERLIN: What are you afraid of? 

ARTHUR: I don't know. 

MERLIN: Shall I tell you what's out there? 

ARTHUR: Yes, please. 


The Dragon.
A beast of such power that if you were to see it 

whole and complete 
in a single glance
it would burn you to cinders.

ARTHUR: Where is it?


It is everywhere.
It is everything.
Its scales glisten in the bark of trees.
Its roar is heard in the wind. 

And its forked tongue strikes like.... 
like lightning! 
Yes, that's it.

ARTHUR: How can I...? What shall I...? Must I...?

MERLIN: Do nothing. Be still. Sleep.

--From the movie Excalibur by John Boorman

Hero's Journey, Fool's Journey
Joseph Campbell's concept of the Hero's Journey

Who is the Hero? And who the Fool?

Folks back home say whoever sets out is a Fool. Ya don't know what's out there! It's dangerous! Whaddaya know about anything, anyway?

Folks back home say you can't do it without this or that. You're too young. Too old.

Sure, the world winnows both Dreamers and Seekers. The saddest tales are of those who Dream, but never set forth. Of those who do, some run home, tail between their legs. Some are lost along the way. Some fail their Ordeal. Some achieve great things, but never return to tell of them. Some drown within sight of  shore. Some return home, having traded the cow for a handful of 'magic' beans.

Some few return with treasure. Of wealth. Of mind. Of spirit. Only these few are called Heroes... and the rest Fools.

Some win through by luck. By pluck. By persistence. By virtue. By True Love. Many of the storied Heroes are simply psychopaths... as monstrous as any met on the journey.

But all begin as Fools.

Why set out on this perilous Journey? What calls us out of our comfortable beds? Away from hearth and home? From the devil we know?

Some are driven by the sheer trauma of the life they leave behind. Anger, abuse or poverty can send a soul packing. Seeking something, anything better.

For others, it is discontent with law and order too ordered. Predictable, safe, empty and self-satisfied.

And then there's the call of the unknown. That far horizon. Adventure. Dreams. Great deeds to be done. Great treasure to be won.

Some of us long for the remains of the natural world. Our first home. The Wild.

For these Fools, the Hero's Journey has been turned on its head... it is the Wild, not the furrowed field that is the point of departure and return. The Wild that is, of its own being, the treasure. That is, itself, the Reward.

These Fools make friends with, rather than slay, the Dragon. Learn to ride the Dragon. Live to love the ride.

Until that day the Dragon consumes us, as it will, Hero and Fool alike. Whether at home or abroad.

For my money, it is Heroic enough to set out upon the Journey. To risk all on the Road. To risk the Dragon. The Abyss. Heck, I think it's heroic enough to stay home and live a life of quiet integrity.

What kind of Fool are you?

What kind of Hero?

Saturday, November 16, 2019

REVIEW: Buck Knives PAKLITE Combo

Buck 684 (Top) and 135 (Bottom)
Photo from Buck Knives

Ah! Sweet mystery of life, at last I've found you!
- from Naughty Mariette by Victor Herbert

REVIEW: Buck Knives 684/135 Bucklite Paklite(R) Combo and Sheath!!!

A while back I wrote Good Knife, Bad Knife involving the carrying of two knives; a better quality 'good knife' for sharp, clean cutting and a lesser quality 'bad knife' for all the rest.

As usual, I'm putting up with two, inferior sheaths on my belt and putting off building a decent, double sheath.

And then... AND THEN...

Along comes Buck Knives' Paklite Combo. Two quite decent knives at - if you shop around - a quite decent price (about $45 at this writing).

Both knives are well made of good quality steel. Useful shapes. Jimping (notching) in the right places. Comfortable, secure grip handles.

I use the 684 hunting knife as my good knife. The rubber handle gives more control, power and comfort for fine work.

I use the 135 as my bad knife. I was concerned that it's hollow grind on a thin blade (0.1in... it's designed as a caping knife) wouldn't stand up to the rough use we require of it. But after a year of abuse, I can report that it has done very well. The edge is easy enough to touch up and holds quite reasonably well.

Should I lose one or several, I've found 135s for as low as $20, delivered. That's a little rich for my bad knife standards, but they fit their sheath perfectly. And a skeleton knife / sheath opens the door to many, many other less expensive options if I'm feeling cheap.

Showing my set, above and apart
with Anke's, below and assembled

Now, knives that are both economical (cheap) and useful abound. What is in short supply, to my mind, are decent, inexpensive sheaths to hold them.

In every case, I've either endured the sheath supplied, or built my own. In all these years, I've worn two on the belt and never gotten around to building a double sheath to conveniently carry both knives.

These blades are better than cheap. But what's truly makes the Combo stand out is their supplied sheath system.

Somebody really thought this one out!

The system has two main components:

A sturdy, durable (and modifiable) polyester holster secures two separate but interlocking sheaths. Features include

  • Vertical and horizontal belt loops... loops are snug for a firm carry (not floppy).
  • Snap-down security flap... this may be folded back and tucked behind sheath when knives are being actively accessed.
  • Snap-down to sheaths... locks them securely into the holster.

The sheaths are hard polypropylene. Features include:
  • Symmetrical... sheaths hold their knife equally well either way, for left or right hand carry.
  • Slender, integrated design... together, they are less bulky than many of the single sheaths I've encountered.
  • Separable sheaths... they can be separated and slipped into a pocket.
  • Interlocking tips... these securely unify the sheath tips into a unit when used in the holster.

My only quibble is that the 135 skeleton blade fit just a bit loosely in its sheath. This allowed a slight rattle, and if working ass-over-teakettle with the flap open, could fall out.

Easy fix... a couple round turns of seine twine in the skeleton sheath provides enough friction to resolve these issues. More turns = more friction, so you can adjust to taste.

So I'm happy with this combo set of blades. I'm WAY happy with the sheath!

Down the road, I'm likely to modify the holster to accept a marlinespike.

Hey Buck! Hint, hint!! Howzabout a mariner's version?

Friday, November 8, 2019

Travelling OffCenterBoards (aka LeeBoards)

OCB in forward, sailing position
(Photo from Pete Frost)

OCB in aft, stowed position
Windows clear!
(Photo from John Herschenrider)

Truly, she doth block a staircase!
-- From 
by Wallace Tripp

Travelling OffCenterBoards (aka LeeBoards)

Let's start with a leeboard.

As we sail into the wind with our leeboard down (on the lee side), the leeway we make presses it against the hull. It likes to slip forward but not sideways (LR for Lateral Resistance), so we don't make as much leeway as we would without it.

Ready about!

Helm down, we turn into the wind, sails flogging as the bow and boom cross the wind. We drop the leeboard on the new leeward side and raise the first one clear of the water. Sails fill, we heel over and off we go on the new tack.

If it sounds like allemande left and dosido, it is. A little choreography on what may be a heaving, wet deck and your partner is a big, heavy leeboard.

Lazy sailors that we be, our interest was aroused by Ida Little as she clamped a 2x2 outboard of her Bolger DUGONG's leeboards to form a slot, instantly converting them to OCBs (Off Center Boards).

No need to tend 'em between tacks! Just put 'em down and leave 'em. If you want to reduce drag sailing off the wind (no need for lateral resistance), you can raise 'em if you want to.

Years went by, and we transitioned to big view side windows. Problem is, with the boards raised (always the case at anchor), they block our view.

We wanted to haul and store them out of the way. We wanted a simple installation. We wanted it quickly and easily handled by one person.

So we scratched our heads and came up with travelling OCBs.


Walk-through of set and stow
Please watch first for overview

The video above walks through from stowed aft to set forward and back. Notice that the stowed position is in the 'blind spot' below the pilot house.

Tour of system components:

Upper cable, eve guard and stop

This is one of our early prototype stops for the board. It's two purposes are to act as a stop at one of the board's two positions, and to shorten the span of the cable.

The traveling block (description to follow) travels along the upper cable until it hits the forward stop (set) or aft stop (stow).

Both functions will eventually be met by a shorter upper cable (shorter span) and crimp on swage sleeves (stops).

In the meantime, we currently tie a double sided rolling hitch around the cable, with the ends led up to a handrail post (i.e., the vertical part, and not the grip), rather than the arrangement shown.

That aft tail is just 'cuz I hate cutting line.

Aft lower guard, mounting plate, lower cable and slot
Forward lower guard, sheathed turnbuckle, mounting plate and slot
Note the guard struts

The lower guard and lower cable - offset by mounting plates - form the slot.

The lower guard doubles as bearing for the OCBs and mounting steps fore and aft. Handy for boarding from the ground or a dock.

A rule of thumb for leeboards is to toe them in 2 degrees. This helps the vessel 'climb' to windward. We haven't done this on these lower guards, but plan to at the first opportunity.

On the lee side, the OCB acts like an ordinary leeboard. It bears up against the lower guard and pulls at the upper cable.

On the windward side, the lower cable prevents the board from winging out, and the upper board bears up on the eave guard.

We adjust cable tension to let them angle inboard, also at 2 degrees. Our thinking is that, when heeled, this produces a downward force at their Center of Effort, equivalent to someone hiking out, acting against heel. I mean, since we're leaving it down, why not?

Incidentally, since both boards remain down, we use only a little more than half the area one might in a leeboard (where one board handles all LR). This is cheaper, faster to build, lighter, and induces less stress.

There are big stresses on OCBs. I would like bigger and thicker mounting plates down the road, though these (1/4in aluminum) seem to be doing fine. I'm guessing the cables help to absorb and disperse some of the stress.

Bottom of OCB from aft

Here we see the retrieval line, its block and cleat. It is used to raise, lower and angle the board with 2 to 1 purchase (we're trying it out... may go to 3:1).

For stowing, the board is moved to the aft stop and raised clear of the water, but with its lower edge still in the slot. This prevents waves from clunking the board when stowed.

For sailing into the wind, the board is moved to the forward stop and tied, then the retrieval line is hauled in a bit to angle it back a skosh. This encourages it to kick back if we bounce it on the bottom in a swell, relieving stress all round.

For sailing off the wind, we haul the board to as near horizontal as possible. This reduces drag from the now useless boards (lateral resistance is not required off the wind).

Due to the relatively poor lead for the retrieval line, while deployed, we can't quite clear the water with the OCBs' lower edges. We're considering a snatch hook under the eave directly above the load... this would improve the lead, but requires awkward handling with low payoff. Still mulling that one over.

Note the upper mounting plates which were cut from aluminum angle.

Top of OCB from Inboard

These two pics show the hanging / travelling arrangement for the OCBs.

As seen above, an inverted block runs its sheave above and along the upper cable. A lanyard is fixed to the block, and passed through the board to the outboard face. The board pivots from the block when raising and lowering.

[NOTE: We've found Stanley™ Pulleys to be perfect for the job... cheap, strong enough, and the sheave pin is R-sprung for easy dis/mounting.]

Below, we see the lanyard emerge and tie off to a cleat. We pull the block as snug as possible, inboard to set the board as high as possible. This gives good landing on the eave guard. The eave has the dual function of bearing against the upper board, and keeping deck runoff from the windows.

The tail of the lanyard - stopper knotted at its end - is used to haul the boards fore and aft. In the forward position, we tie off to the handrail with a clove hitch to keep the board from pulling aft when raised in place for off-wind sailing.

Top of OCB from Outboard

A little miscellany... 

There are two main criticisms of OCB/leeboards; clunking and picking up 'scultch' (seaweed Klingons).

We've only had board clunking issues in light winds and riptide conditions. Otherwise, the boards either immediately bear up and go silent or 'shuffle' along in no wind. In LUNA, we added firehose along the lower guard, which eliminated clunking, but it's seems only vaguely worthwhile.

We do pick up weed now an then, but it's easily dislodged by raising the board briefly.

As a frequent criticism of OCB/leeboards, I don't get it. Any LR device picks weed, and in most it's a LOT harder to ditch. I see plenty of fixed keelers dragging a garland.

OCBs are easy to construct and maintain, requiring no hull apertures or complex structures. Ventilation is most excellent!

Maintenance is a relative snap. To dismount, we uncleat the lanyard, which can then lower the board with 2:1 purchase. We temporarily hang the board by its cleat's lower horn hooked over the lower cable. We can leave it like that until ready to remount or take it ashore.

We shoot for a ballast load that floats them vertically, about a foot or so proud of the water when dismounted. We can easily tow them ashore on a 'leash' for whatever. Propped up flat, they make a great work bench, ashore.

We don't always sail with both boards down. Each significantly reduces leeway, but there are days we just don't need to be sailing at our best to windward (e.g., a short leg after a long run). In case we change our mind, the second is easy enough to set up, underway. If not, that much less to put away at the end of a pleasant sail.

Retractable LR is a given for ultra-shoal draft. It opens up a hundred sheltered spots for every reasonably deep anchorage. When the wind come on, it can save hours to the next hidey-hole.


We've been sailing with OCBs, now, for 20 years, and travelling OCBs for about half of that. We sail year round in SE Alaska most years, across a considerable range of wind, weather and water.

I'd say it's working!

[NOTE: In SLACKTIDE we had windows along the entire cabin. To stow, we had to lift the boards clear of the slot and slide them dead aft. This complicated retrieval to brute force. Lighter boards are recommended.

There's a primitive ancestor of this post on SLACKTIDE's system, here.]

Monday, November 4, 2019

Going Nowhere

Elev. ~20ft over low water

Going nowhere isn't about turning your back on the world;
It's about stepping away, now and then,
So you can see it more clearly
And love it more deeply.

-- Pico Iyer

Going Nowhere

It was a dark and stormy night...

Wait. No. It was bright and balmy day. We had turned the corner from Chatham into Peril Strait, cutting through Morris Reef as we've done a hundred times.

But this time, we were continuing the turn into Sitkoh Bay, intending to skirt the outlying reefs along the inside corner. We'd threaded the reef on the last of the rising tide, and it was now starting to fall. What's worse, it was now past top of springs (tides getting smaller for the next week and wouldn't be this high again for two weeks). Flat seas, that day, but forecast SE 20kts rising to 30kts (from the worst quarter) with seas 4 to 6ft for the next day.

We took bearings from the chart and gave ourselves some extra margin. Not enough as it turns out, and definitely given those italics above.

Anke had the good sense to think one of us should be at the bow (me saying, "Only if you like... we're well clear!"). She wasn't even all the way forward before she called out, "Hard to port!"

I duly put 'er over hard, but too late. We fetched up mid-ships against the only point in the whole durn area that could have caught us, a little 4in pinnacle standing atop a sunken hill.

In 30 years of sailing cheek on jowl with reefs, this is only the second rock I've hit. Ironically, the first was about a hundred yards away (broke my rule about running through unscoped kelp patches) and about a mile from where we spent a few memorable days on the beach.

This one was a doozy!

Initial assessment showed a couple knots of current held us pinned against that toe-stubber at about our Center of Lateral Resistance (side point around which a boat will spin... or not), so we:

  1. Tried to spin off under sail... not enough wind to overcome current.
  2. Tried to pole off... not enough strength at a steep angle.
  3. Stepped onto the rock and tried to push off by hand... we were on a peak and I couldn't step far enough away from the CLR to gain leverage.

    By now, we're starting to settle on whats showing as a small, thwartships ridge a foot aft of CLR. It's no longer just current we're fighting, but gravity.
  4. Tried levering off... ditto.
  5. Tried lever + handybilly... double ditto.
  6. Rowed out a kedge... by now, we're settled too hard to shift, even with capstan assist.
Okay. At this point, we give up on trying to get off the rock, and turn toward stabilizing ourselves on it.

Luckily, that ridge was plenty long enough to support us across the bottom. No fear of tilting and falling sideways. But, being a ridge, it was like a teeter totter with the big kid at the bow. The bow started to settle, and our stern reached for the stars.

Our first impulse and effort was to lash some fenders under the bow for a cushion. But it soon became clear that even with their extra height, we would be dangerously bow-down by the time they fetched up. At worst, we'd nose-dive down the hill and fetch up hard.

Sooo. We had plenty of firewood... we were able to post two pieces on end - one on each side, about 4ft forward of the fulcrum point, standing on the rock and shouldered under the bottom. Further settling of the bow was stopped, and we could breathe a little easier as the water ebbed away.

Fortunately, we could move freely around the boat without our weight being an issue, though we were pussy-footing, to be sure. Didn't want to shake ourselves off those posts!

We rested a bit and had a meal. What a view! The sun was getting low over two of SE Alaska's great waterways. First snows on the peaks all round. Us in the high bleachers, looking down upon it all. Warm food, coffee and time to think out a plan.

Kinda like yoga.
Doesn't really catch how high up we were!

First thing was to run the numbers. Check the tides, calculate ranges, apply the Rule of Tenths. Check it twice. Safe by a foot... we would float in the very early morning.

Next, we contacted the Coast Guard to let them know our situation (about which they would likely get some calls from passing traffic), and that we had it in hand.

We reset the kedge further out in sandy bottom, well off the port quarter (the free shot out).  Set up a snatch block for the anchor line to lead it fair (from directly forward) to the capstan. This let us use nearly its full power.

Before calling it a night, we added two more rounds of firewood lying flat, aft of the fulcrum. Our thinking was that, as the bow lifted and stern lowered, we would rotate around those, lifting up and away from the stone fulcrum. Any wave-induced pounding would be on a more forgiving surface.

Oh. And I took a sledge to that 4in pinnacle and beat it flat. If we were going to bounce in the morning, we sure didn't want it poking up at us!

Approximate line of 'our' rock...
Post and round drawn in brown.

In the wee hours, the tide duly came back, and as promised, lifted us free, aided by light chop. We waited until we were just quivering before hauling the kedge line bar taught. 

Within a few minutes, we slipped free in two lunges. No grinding, no damage.


As you may have noticed, there was considerable luck involve, good and bad, as is the usual case.

If we'd been half our beam in either direction, it would have been a close call but no contact.

If we'd hit that pinnacle a few feet from CLR, we could have spun off.

If the rock had been flatter (longships), we could have spun off.

If it had been too much of a steep rock, we could have slid off either forward or sideways.

As it was, we were reminded again how forgiving ultra-shoal draft boats can be, particularly those with flat bottoms. 

We appreciate the virtues of girder construction. You can see how rigidly our stern cantilevers. The wide, flat, rigid bottom facilitated posting to limit rotation.

These two features most often mean that, even if a strong sea builds up, we can get out with little harm from a scrape like this. As the tops of the first waves lift us, the kedge pulls forward. Only a small drop and crunch are likely, and only a few of those.

All in all, however, we count our lucky stars.


On Appraisal, we draw these reminders and lessons:

  • Always give extra margin on falling tides, especially falling from springs to neaps!!
  • Remember that reefs and shorelines are rarely accurately charted!

    Pilots advise traffic keep whopping distances off visible landmarks. We run reefs all the time, but when skirting need to be on full alert or follow the pilot. Extra wide margins! Lookout at the bow!
  • Set a kedge early!

    We dillied and dallied too long, partly as it was a foul spot; easy to lose an anchor. Still, anchors are cheap relative to risking the boat, so delay was a poor choice. For ultra-shoal, it's not usually the first response, but shouldn't be delayed long. It's our heavy lifter.


We met thirty some years ago at the Pioneer "P" Bar in Sitka, AK. Its walls are covered with photos of boats on the rocks. Not exactly a Hall of Fame, but rather a Wall of Infamy.

We finally earned our spot!

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Where We Been

April Showers

Spirit of place! It is for this we travel, to surprise its subtlety; and where it is a strong and dominant angel, that place, seen once, abides entire in the memory with all its own accidents, its habits, its breath, its name.
- Alice Meynell

Where We Been

Well, life has been a whirlwind but is now settling down to another winter caretaking at Baranof Warmsprings Bay. And that means some steady signal (barring the technological demise of our iPhone 4).

Last winter (2018-19) we spent in Sitka, AK, touching bases with old friends and making new ones. Among other things, we installed a new, full-sized foremast. Our original was undersized and therefore temporary, but come spring, we were poised for full strength sea trials. This summer, we sailed roughly 500nm as the crow flies.

In short, WAYWARD sailed well on and off the wind over a wide range of conditions. We were able to sail, short tack to windward, luff up and 'tread water', sail backwards, on and off the anchor... in short all we asked of her.

Our route took us from Sitka Sound to WarmSprings Bay, Tenakee, Haines, Juneau, Hoonah and WarmSprings Bay again. But ah! The reaches between!!

So here's a few images from along the way:

We helped an injured juvenile sealion aboard for the night...
It was spooked, injured, and we think avoiding orcas.
This little guy woke us by ramming his head against the hull as he tried to climb onto our narrow board guards. He was obviously panicked, but not by us. He tried and failed to get in the dory, so we tipped one edge up (to lower the other) and he flopped in. Stayed with us for about 16 hours. Turns out he had a lacerated flipper, which was badly swollen the next morning. Finally, the horseflies drove him back into the water, and he swam off with some other sealions.

Sari weather, or less!

New sculling oar blade
Rocket Stove (EcoZoom) on bench to my right
I'd thrown together a vertical blade sculling oar for WAYWARD out of poor materials (grey blade to my left). It worked so well, it was our scull for almost two years. But the loom was giving up, and the blade was from a skinny plank. So time for new.

These were inspired by Douglas Martin's sculling oar for MOCKINGGULL.

Rocket Stove deck fire

Our little rocket stove let us cook outside on hot mornings, using just a handful of kindling sized sticks for a meal or popcorn. Afterwards, sunset and stars with a blaze and sumpin' sippy!

Fireweed Friendly

The islands with the fireweed had big stretches of thimbleberry, blue berry and blue- and red huckleberry. A little further on, we found great patches of skunkberry and rowanberry (mountain ash). Each made gallons of fine boat wine!

EcoTourism in action
Note trail of smog...
Starting to look like I-5 North along Lynn Canal / Chatham
Unfortunately, and despite promises from the industry, cruiseships emit pollutants rivaling those of any of the permenant, small cities in SE Alaska. Stack emissions and dumping in 'donuts' (a patch of inshore water three miles from any shore) are visibly altering the relatively pristine air and water of our archipelago.

Up a creek, got a paddle
Here we're in a tidal stretch about a mile and a half up from the river mouth. Salmon are running, but severely reduced in number due to drought. We're about a half mile downstream from where they pool to ascend the river.

Top o' the reef at about 18ft above low tide.
Thereby hangs a tale for another post. Suffice it to say I could'a used a more generous margin of safety!

Anke and I met over 30 years ago at the Pioneer Bar, whose walls are adorned with pics of boats in similar situations. We've now joined that wall of infamy.

The Queen o' King Boletes
Once the rain started after months of drought, the mushrooms were fantastic! King Boletes, Chantrelles and Hedgehogs are our main staples.

Hiding from the wind

Paula Bunyan

Averaged 2kts in not much wind!
At the end of the season, workers from the Lodge replenish their wood supply. But that strips the local beaches of good beach logs, and Chatham is often a nasty place toward the end of the year. So we did our logging 20nm N of the bay and towed a raft S with us. Friends met us about halfway, so we got an engine assist for once.


So there's a quick tour.

Hopefully the winter will be mild and uneventful and I can get back to writing!


Dave and Anke