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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, January 25, 2020

Obstruction of Congress and the End of the Republic

Stand beside her
and guide her
Through the night
with the light
from above

The prosecution of them [impeachments][...] will seldom fail to agitate the passions of the whole community, and to divide it into parties more or less inimical to the accused. In many cases it will connect itself with the pre-existing factions, and will enlist all their animosities, partialities, influence, and interest on one side or the other.; and in such cases there will always be the greatest danger that the decision will be regulated more by the comparative strength of parties, than by the real demonstrations of innocence or guilt.

-- From the Federalist No. 65 The Powers of the Senate Continued... this passage by Alexander Hamilton

Obstruction of Congress and the End of the Republic

I am writing, here, as a Citizen. A member of We the People of the United States of America. I stand in defense of our Constitution and the Rule of Law.

While I realize this has little to do with sailing barge / scows, it has everything to do with our home waters.

President Donald J. Trump has been impeached in two Articles by the House of Representatives, who as I write, is being 'tried' in the Senate.

The case for Article I: Abuse of Power should, I believe be properly tried in the adversarial, partisan Senate and full, impartial Justice be done to the best of Senators' abilities. Yes, it's messy and passionate and blood runs high. That is the nature of politics, which the Framers understood and attempted to encompass in a just and practical system.

Our own friends are divided on the issues. What is accepted as fact differs widely, even among those who agree in the main.

But our Republic can survive abuses of power as we have since its founding.

To me, the crucial issue is Article II: Obstruction of Congress.

The facts of Obstruction of Congress are public and explicit. No procedural argument can be raised against the sole power of Impeachment reserved to the US House of Representatives by the Constitution.

Here's the problem; the integrity of our system of Government laid out in the Constitution relies on checks and balances between three, co-equal branches - the Executive, Congressional and Legislative. Each are granted power to check the other two. It is this opposition - antagonistic at times - which establishes the balance which has endured two hundred years and counting.

Subpoenas are the teeth of Impeachment inquiry and trial. These are essential to the check exerted by Congress over the Executive branch. Non-compliance with House or Senate subpoenas pulls those teeth. Without them, balance is lost.

It's like the game of Paper, Scissors, Stone. As any child can tell us, if Paper cannot cover, there is no Game.

To permit non-compliance for whatever reason by the Executive of any Congressional Subpoena - whether issued by House or Senate - is to create an unchecked Executive and initiate a Constitutional Crisis.

Paper cannot cover. Stone smashes scissors. And the Game ends for good.

Rome had such a moment. The Roman Republic ended under the popular Julius Caesar,  who soon became Dictator Perpetuo. It never recovered.

Speaking as a Citizen, the Executive cannot properly refuse to comply with Congressional inquiry and judgement. To allow it, even once, is to abandon the Constitutional system of checks and balances. To abandon the Constitution itself.

Without the power of Congress to force compliance on the Executive, that power is thereafter unchecked.

Whether under this President or some other, we would set ourselves on the road to Dictator Perpetuo, that Tyrant whom the Framers so feared.

The Republic will have fallen.

Now is the time for all good Senators to come to the aid of their country.

I urge a wide margin of tolerance for petty differences and trivial irregularities.
I urge a full and impartial trial (e.g., subpoena relevant witnesses and documents).
I urge that non-compliance with Congressional subpoenas not be allowed to stand.


Since writing this, a similar conclusion is argued in this Atlantic article by Maya Wiley.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Models and Mock Ups

Building it isn't TOO much harder
(a LOT more expensive, though).

Shall we have an adventure now,
  Or shall we have our tea first?
-- From Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Mock Turtle Soup: Models and Mock Ups

If a picture is worth a thousand words, I'd say a model is worth a thousand pictures. I reckon that makes a model worth a million words!

It doesn't have to be a museum piece. Building in scale is important, so you can measure directly from the model. The more detail you build in, the more you'll solve and anticipate problems ahead of time. But TriloBoats are boxes... there's not so much to figure out on that score.

Note bulkheads, deck and framing lines...
almost all layout happens on sides or bulkheads.

We used doorskin (this time) and cardboard, held together by hot melt glue. Crude, but tells us all we need to know. A couple of scale models of ourselves (and a pet or two have since materialized) to picture lines of sight and boarding issues and there ya go.

We laid out the principle (side) component landings, and window cutouts.

Next step is to start marking it up with material counts:
  • Ply Sheets -- Sides, bottom, bulkheads and transoms, decks... each gets written up in place.
  • Copper Plate and Angle -- Sides and bottom; along both chines.
  • Framing -- Chines (bottom and sheer) and nailers, bulkheads and transoms, decks.
  • Nail Counts -- Parallel to framing, one or two sides... How long? How often?
  • Surface Areas -- How much for paint, sheathing, glue?
Writing our results in place beats a list by far... we can see at a glance what we've counted, and what not. Much less likely to over or under count. A different check mark for each pass through lets us check and recheck.

And we can just sit there and stare at it!

Amazing what cardboard and hot-melt glue can do!


Mock-ups are different. The trick here is to be able to get the feel of a feature in full size.

We've got a collection of chairs, tables and counters picked out that we can go to for the feel of things. We might set up a mock 'gangway' to get a feel for how tight things have become in our present state of 'middle age spread'. And maybe a (literal) fudge factor? A strip of plywood simulates the overhead.

We like to look down (not just out) from our windows to see what's happening close up. This ability is affected by the height of the lower window opening and our distance from it (the closer we sit to the window, the lower we can look over the frame). Mocking up lets us see how our furniture height and location will interact with our view.

Window height has been a big issue for us. Here, we mock up the shortest windows in prospect, in their correct location on the sides.  If these are okay, the rest is gravy.

And it's okay.

Not a bad view for below-decks in a sailboat!


Same table, different model.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Fail Safer Hull Design

All of life is the management of risk,
  Not its elimination.

- Walter Wriston

I have two rules about winning in [...] life:
  1. You can't win if you don't bet.
  2. You can't bet if you lose all your chips.
- Larry Hite

Fail Safer Design for Barge/Scow Hulls

Life is risky.

Every act. Every step. Every beat of our hearts. Every breath we draw entails risk. To go forth upon the waters is in a sense 'unnatural' and carries risk.

Yet we act, walk and run. Our hearts pound and we suck in air. We sail forth in vessels of our own design and build. We live.

We manage risk.

To me, the mantra of risk management is fail-safer.

Not fail safe, which I believe encourages hubris, neglect and risks catastrophic failure.
Rather fail safeR, which I believe encourages humility, continued awareness and involvement with our journey.

Fail safer is a lens through which we can view the design of the hull (in this case, I'll include the decks and superstructures).

Many of the risks to a hull can be reduced at the design stage, and it's these I'll talk about, here.

Structural Integrity

A boat that cannot maintain its shape or watertight integrity in a seaway is on its way to Davey Jones'.

Robust construction - Always a plus, of course. Strongly joined components, especially along exterior angles (chines and corners) hedge your bets. Girder construction backs up and stiffens the entire structure. Consider well bonded girder furnishings and web-frame bulkheads throughout.

Thicker Bottoms and Lower Sides - Impacts with rocks - especially sharp ones - can pierce the hull. Adding material resists puncture. The extra weight is low in the hull where it doubles as ballast. If added to outboard of the bottom proper, its added volume floats its own weight, increasing displacement (if it soaks up water, however, wood approaches slightly negative buoyancy).

Protected Weak Points - In some conditions, a weak point (such as windows) can give before the storm. Shuttering systems with strong closures protect these. Closures, tie downs, dogs, and good storage of loose items are all design options.

Water Management

One of the main jobs of the hull is to keep water outboard. Water's uncontrolled weight - whether on deck or below - is one of the main factors pushing a situation from bad to worse.

Good Deck Drainage - Should green water come up and over the sides, its weight is high on the hull and precarious... like Santa standing on a rocking chair. It can be encouraged by design to drain quickly overboard. Large scuppers (drain holes), open edges, sloped decks, small footwells, inverted or covered dinghies (when carried) and watertight hatches help 'show water the door'.

Midline Openings - In a knock-down, mid-line openings stay as far as possible from the water. Those offset further outboard are that much more likely to take a swig. Companionways, hatches, vents, smokestacks, exhaust pipes and the like are all fail safer the closer they are located to the mid-line.

Secureable Offset Openings - Opening ports, vents, intakes, etc. which are offset from the mid-line can let water in. Consider gasketed, doggable arrangements.

Multiple, Water-tight Bulkheads - Should water get below - via hull breach, a lost hatch, getting pooped, leaks (from above or below), spray... - dividing the hull into separate water-tight areas maintains the flotation of intact sections, which can continue to float the vessel.

Multiple, Water-tight Longitudinal Dividers - Because...

Free Surface Effect (slosh) is a boat sinker. Loose water or other shifting masses in the hull can slosh from one side to the other, transferring weight plus momentum. This makes a vessel roll dangerously and can capsize it. The cure is to keep it out of the hull when it doesn't belong, and minimize slosh once aboard.

For shallow hulls, this is a particular problem. Where a deep dead-rise hull (V shape) encourages water to remain low in the hull, a shallow hull can allow the free flow across the interior.

Longitudinal dividers, even if open at the top, can help manage this cross flow.

The girder structure furnishings, which contribute to structural integrity, can be arranged to reduce free surface effect.

NOTE: These GIFs from Free Marine.

Stability and Self Righting

The ability to automatically self right from a knock-down is a fine thing. From beyond a knock-down to a roll-over is also fine, but not an essential for most vessels plying inside or 'longshore waters. In looking toward this fail safer feature, consider the use and actual needs of your vessel

I cover this at some length in the post Where Ultra-Shoal, Square Boats Get Their Stability, so will keep it brief, here. 

Low Center of Gravity - A heavy bottom, secure storage for heavy items low in any hull and possibly ballast all contribute to the cause. While many barge / scows do not use any ballast (relying entirely on form stability), it's an option to enhance.

Longer and Beamier - Barge / Scow hulls are naturally form stable (their shape makes them harder to tip over, regardless of ballast). Lengthening a hull adds to its initial and reserve stability. Making it beamier does, too, but if it does flip, wider beam makes it harder to return to upright.

Higher Sides - These add reserve buoyancy, which kicks in later to resist roll-over. They also add to windage and raise the center of gravity.

Inversion-Proof Ventilation - This one, oddly, seems often overlooked. The principle is to create an air-lock when rolled, usually below-decks, between vent(box) and the interior which blocks water from passing from outside in.

A loop of large diameter (dryer?) hose works, or boxes can be arranged with overlapping baffles (the latter shown here). Hose is less compact, but works throughout a tumble.

Sea-going Features

Trailing Lateral Resistance - Most sailing at sea is downwind. As such, an aft area of lateral resistance (skeg, large rudder, board, etc...) aids downwind tracking. Think of the fletching on an arrow.

Strong Bitts - In a storm, lying to a sea-anchor or running with a drogue are vital tactics. But you need very strong bitts with good fairleads. To reliably deploy them. Don't want to be improvising in Force 10!

Secure Deck Storage - When it whumps up, you don't want loose oars, pike poles, dock-lines or other paraphernalia blowing about. Make sure there is a secure place for every item, and that they generally stay there.

Secure Mountings - Things like solar panels have incredible windage. At sea, they must be stowed in very high winds or have extra strong mountings. Plan for hurricane force winds.


In all respects, better safe than sorry.


In designing our own vessels, we have a free hand to nudge the whole toward fail safer. In acquiring a vessel, we can use the principle to guide our choices, and can further modify it as we may.

One last thought... so called safety-in-depth (many layers of redundant fail safers) is a concept used in such endeavors as a nuclear reactor.

I believe in and practice the approach.

Yet to think that we have magically conjured safety is that pride which goeth before a fall. Think Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima. All were 'protected' by safety-in-depth design.

The World denies us safety. We are mortal. Human error is our lot. Entropy and what a friend calls 'depreciation' rule with universal jurisdiction. To imagine that we have engineered away the hard chance leads to betting more than we can cover.

Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom!