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Anke and I live aboard WAYWARD, and wrote about it's design and construction at

Access to the net comes and goes, so I'll be writing in fits and spurts.Please feel free to browse the archives, leave comments where you will and write... I'll respond as I can.

Fair winds!

Dave and Anke
triloboats swirly gmail daughter com

Saturday, 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...