Today I went kayaking with my brother Tony. The aim was to enjoy some kayaking again after a rainy and cold winter and to inspect the Pohutakawas trees that my good friend Gerry had planted and asked me to keep an eye on because he was relocating to Wellington.
The 21 small, newly planted Pohutakawa trees ( right foreground) were generally doing very well indeed and were thriving after a winter that had come with a few pretty ferocious storms. One had died and one is looking a bit worse for wear, but the rest are doing well. This is the third time I have checked on them since they were planted at the beginning of the year. Two of the previous visits were to apply fertilizer. This trip I weeded some of the planting sites that had become inundated with weeds, completely enveloping some of the trees. I will go back again soon to complete this work.
With a fast incoming tide only half way in, a first circumnavigation of Rat Island was cut off by a rapidly disappearing section of sand. There was only one thing to do - some good old fashioned portaging. I like the word portage, it reminds me of stories I used to read about the exploits of North American Indians and their adventures in the wilds of the USA and Canada. In the stories I read as a youngster they were always portaging their bark canoes from one lake to another as they traversed the wilderness hunting, foraging and exploring.
So my brother and I, two guiltily overweight old age pensioners (and both recipients of quadruple heart bypass surgeries) had a go at portaging. It's hard work. We stopped frequently, discovered again that the rear end of the kayaks are much heavier at one end - the stern - and took turns in this position as we portaged them one at a time across a strip of sand that ended up being a lot longer than it looked.
Three quarters of the way across and time to have a discussion about whose idea it was to portage across this strip of sand. We could have sat in the middle of the sand in our kayaks and waited for the tide to come in, but, call me old fashioned - once a couple of pensioners have made a portage commitment they are not apt to give up easily.
The last stretch of sand. My kayak is sitting waiting on the horizon.
On the run back to the launching ramp Tony produced his 'piece de resistance', a medium sized umbrella which pushed his kayak along at the rate of a steady paddle pace. I had forgotten this trick of his with the umbrella and wasn't equipped in a similar manner - bugger.
As he gradually forged off into the distance I spent some time on the paddle back designing a suitable sailing device that can be readily attached on the fore deck of my kayak - either that or an umbrella of my own!
Back at the launching ramp and loading up the boats. When we got home we drank some 'Spieghts - Pride of the South' beer and talked portaging with arms so yanked in their sockets it was hard to lift the beer cans to our lips.
I will have to email Gerry and send him some photos showing how well his beloved Pohutakawas are doing.
Late this afternoon I sailed in the first race of the Onerahi Yacht Clubs twilight racing series. I was keen to try out my centreboard with its new added area. There wasn't a very good turn out for the Starling class (only two boats) and the wind was light ( 2 - 6 knots). I was second in the first race and first in the second. The third race was called off for the lack of wind. Despite all this it was really good to be out on the water again.
It feels like the boat is pointing closer to the wind with the extra area added to the centreboard but I think I will need a few more races in varying wind and sea conditions to make a full assessment.
It was good to catch up with the other skippers and in the ensuring banter, where it was pointed out that I was almost twice the weight of the other Starling sailors, I was offered for purchase two Laser yachts that are for sale. I am finding it hard to resist the logic of such a purchase although the Laser is not high on my list of preferred boats. But it is pretty much the only adult sailing dinghy racing at the club in anything like relatively substantial numbers. It's a bit of a no brainer really if I want any sort of sailing competition on a level playing field. Hmmmmmm.
A narrow central piece of pale pine timber has been laminated into the middle of the centre board and two dark mahogany pieces added fore and aft at the bottom. The operation was a little tricky as the centre board has an aerofoil shape - but sighting by eye after the major operation shows that things are aligned well. I am hoping the added width and depth will allow the boat to sail closer to the wind giving added windward performance.
The first application of a couple of coats of primer paint. This will be followed by an undercoat and final finishing coat - with judicious sandings in between coats. The season begins this Sunday with the 'Round Limestone Island Race' (Three circuits of the island). I hope I am not sailing too close to the wind in getting this modified centre board ready by then.
I absolutely love what we have accomplished in our garden (See previous post) but shipmates, I am a sailor first and a gardener, sometimes, never nearly, and quite not often. Being a non gardener means I don't have green fingers, rather I have the blue fingers of an experienced sailor. So when it comes to gardens I bring the eyes of a child rather than the eyes and experience of the garden aficionado. Case in point:
Look at this thin strip of shaded garden along the side of our house. To the left and to the right in the photo are two plants that were purchased from the local garden centre. These rather dull muted green plants owe their existence in the garden to the advice given by the grand masters at the garden centre. The vibrant, lush, healthy green plants between these two official straggly plantings are a myriad of weeds. Personally I like the look of the weeds much more than the expensive garden centre offerings.
The official advice is that I should concur with standard best practice, view and note relevant exemplars and vigorously rip out the weeds. But I like my lush emerald green weeds. Perhaps if I just leave them alone and let them grow, in summer they will flower with wild, free, splendid meadow colour.
.............. and here is the empirical photographic evidence.
These are the first bulbs to flower. Unfortunately not every bulb planted has reached the light of day, but I guess there is still plenty of time.
Most of the pots have had bulbs planted among pansy flowers.
This is one of two Mandarin trees we have planted.
This little bushy plant is called a 'Little Kiwi".
The inspiration for finally getting our act together in the garden was our 2015 European "Garden Treasures" tour. The results so far have been pleasing. The big pots have a 'stone' rather than a 'terracotta' colouring, which is pleasing to the eye and provides a more neutral background for the fast developing garden colour. Who would have thought that this old sailor would be fussing over pot plants and walking around outside early in the morning in his dressing gown looking for any new bulbs poking their little heads through. Yikes!!
Last season when racing my Starling sailing dinghy I kept wondering why I often was unable to point as high into the wind as the other boats. I thought the reason was because I am a lot heavier than the other skippers.
Recently I checked the Starling Class rules and found that my centreboard is shorter in length and narrower in width than the class dimensions specify. This relative lack of area may explain my lack of pointing ability, although I can't be absolutely sure.
So I am putting my renovated workbench to good use as I add extra area to the centreboard. I have sawn the board in half length ways and are laminating in an extra 2.5cm of timber into the width. I have cut off the shaped bottom of the board and will add an extra 4cm length. These alterations will bring the width and length up to the correct dimensions. The alterations will add roughly 150 square centimetres (24 sq inches) to the centreboards area. Time will tell whether this extra area will make any difference.
So today there was a slight hiatus from Mariners dinghy renovation as I began the first stage of gluing and cramping up the centreboard alterations in the vise. It has been good having a good sturdy workbench to work on.
Here I have just completed shaping and fitting the new wooden slats for the dinghies floor. The next job is to do something very counter intuitive, namely put my trusty antique Makita jigsaw to work and cut a slot in the bottom of the dinghy so that I can install a center board - gulp.
Shipmates, this is a copy of the Form Letter update from John C. Harris of Chesapeake Light Craft regarding the plans for the Canoe Yawl 'Autumn Leaves'. I can't wait to get my hands on the plans for this little boat. The build is relatively speaking very, very simple. This design is a serious contender for my next major retirement project. I have blogged about this little boat before here:
The design of the canoe yawl "Autumn Leaves" is the sort of undertaking that exercises my brain in the midst of dreary instruction manual work, magazine deadlines, and (most of all) answering email. As such it has been hard to keep Autumn Leaves on the front burner. But there has been so much enthusiasm and feedback that I have made completion of the plans a priority and we are ALMOST there.
So many emails have arrived, in fact, that I've abandoned hope of answering each and every one. I am resorting to that most lugubrious of dispatches: the form letter.
I did read every single email I got about Autumn Leaves and pulled out your questions, which I hope to answer here.
When will plans be available?
We're down to a few weeks. If Jay and I weren't headed out on CLC's West Coast Tour the final drawings would be done next week. I will ping this list with another email the moment we stick a fork in the plans.
What will the plans look like?
At present the plans comprise 18 pages on 11x17 paper. They will be offered as a downloadable PDF. Here are some snippets of the plans to give you a taste of the detail:
What will the plans cost?
The cost for the PDF download will be around $50. Will there be a pre-cut kit for Autumn Leaves?
Sure, we can cut a kit for you. All of the CNC-cut marine plywood parts, shipped on a pallet, would fall in the region of $4000.
Has a prototype been built?
No, not yet.
What is the plywood thickness for hull sides and bottom?
The sides are 1/4", reinforced with four stringers and six bulkheads. The bottom is 3/4", with an additional 3/4" doubler running down the center. (So you're grounding out on 1-1/2" of plywood.) Decks are 3/8".
Do you think "chine runners," a la Matt Layden, would work instead of bilge boards?
This has been a common question. I'm an unabashed fan of Matt Layden's designs and admire everything he does. Chine runners as on his "Paradox" design simply aren't very effective upwind, however. The canoe yawl philosophy requires that the boat have EXCELLENT sailing qualities on all points, and can be sailed in and out of tricky spots, including dead to windward. For this I think the specified bilge boards are the best solution.
Would this be a good Everglades Challenge boat?
It would be the most comfortable Everglades Challenge boat on the course. It's heavy, though, something like 1300lbs rigged, so getting it off the beach during the Le Mans start of that race would be a real challenge. (I note that Autumn Leaves is still light enough to tow easily with a 4-cylinder car.)
Could you sail Autumn Leaves to the Bahamas?
Yes. At this displacement, any such cruise is going to be mostly about the skill of the crew. Given a good boatman at the helm, I would have no reservations about sailing this boat from Miami to the Bahamas on a good weather report.
Could there be an engine? Impossible to avoid this question. The original canoe yawls were engineless, of course. The original canoe yawl partisans favored a Zen-like philosophy that your itinerary worked with the wind and tide, not against it. And this was all in the fast-moving currents and tricky shoals of Britain's Thames Estuary.
However, it may be impossible to use the boat in some scenarios without an engine of some sort. In this case I would rig a side-slung mount near the stern for a 2hp 4-stroke Honda.
How tall are you? This from several folks contemplating the published drawings and lamenting the absence of a scale. I am 6'1" tall. In the process of making this sketch I actually mocked up the interior of the boat with cardboard and scrap lumber. It's a small cabin but extremely ergonomic.
Are there any other rig options?
No plans for other rigs, no. I think I've got "engine" and "chassis" matched up pretty well. If compelled to do something different, it would probably be a cat-yawl with balanced lug sails for main and mizzen. Are you going to do a larger version? What would that look like?
The second-most common question after "When will plans be done?"
Short answer: No.
Long answer: I'll do it if someone commissions the work. There's only so much time and money available for speculative designs like Autumn Leaves. It'll be a couple hundred hours of naval architecture work for Team CLC.
With so many requests, I did take a few hours to sketch out a larger Autumn Leaves. The big version is 21'4" long and has pleasant accommodations for a pair of consenting adults. Here's a drawing; the original Autumn Leaves is shown at the top for comparison.
Thanks again for your interest and stay tuned for more updates.
John C. Harris "
Chesapeake Light Craft
"The Best Boats You Can Build"
[ Personally speaking, even if the larger design was available I would build the small version (below) . I think one of its many attractions is its diminutive size - Alden Smith ]
Shipmates, let me tell you about a sea change in my thinking. As I fitted the new central thwart and strong chunky knees in the stern and bow of Mariners' dinghy I was seized with a sea fever of reveries involving 'Swallows and Amazons'. Small creeks, estuaries, sandbanks, islands, rowing, sculling, sailing, camping, pirate flags and hidden treasure exploded into my consciousness and I became entranced with the idea of fitting a centerboard, mast and sail. After such a inundation of enticing possibilities all I can say is, "who am I to ignore my muse?"
Here, straddling the sawhorses are the dinghies new floorboards, the edges of which I have just planed smooth, having cut them from a sheet of plywood with my trusty 36 year old Makita jigsaw. I will coat them in resin and two pot paint to make them weather proof and durable.
I have placed this model of a small shoal draft centerboard gaff cutter (Not unlike the late great Maurice Griffiths little 'Lone Gull') in the window of my diminutive workshop. It helps focus the mind.
Whangarei, New Zealand, is a great place for the sailing aficionado. In a good season over 400 yachts visit Northland. They voyage south to avoid the Hurricane season and to take a break from the tropical heat. Most clear customs at Opua a little further north of Whangarei in the Bay of Islands. Many yachts then come south to Whangarei to make use of the many very good facilities to haul out and refit. This influx of yachts pumps more than $25 million into the local economy.
So many yachts come through Whangarei that I have to make sure I don't become a bit blase or take for granted the wonderful changing parade of interesting and fascinating boats that I am able to view only five minutes away from my backdoor. So spoiled for choice am I that I find only the unusual and quirky take my eye and prompt my interest and comment. This yacht 'Vindal' which based on my internet searches I strongly suspect is a Swedish 'Storfidra 25' design is such a boat.
The uncommon rounded gunwales (hints of lifeboats) reminds me of John Guzzwells', Giles designed 'Trekka', the Uffa Fox designed trailerable 'Atalanta' design and L. Francis Herreshoffs three masted schooner 'Marco Polo' design - all have this feature incorporated in the design.
In a small yacht this treatment of the gunwales reduces useful deck area but provides much useful additional internal volume (including headroom) without raising the topsides to any unsightly degree. Another effect of obtaining internal volume in this manner is that a big beam to length ration does not have to be relied on to do this, making for a slenderer, swifter and more seaworthy hull.
The ironic thing about canoe yawls is that strictly speaking these wonderful little boats are not always yawls. Technically many are actually ketches because the mizzen mast is in front of the rudder head. Neither are they always canoes. Although the hull is double ended like a canoe the more evolved types are never paddled like a canoe, rather they are rowed with long sweeps. It gets even more complicated considering that many canoe yawls, although double ended, do not have the celebrated 'true' drawn out 'canoe stern', their sterns being more like that of the Colin Archer type. So the appellation 'Canoe Yawl' is a broad reference to a 'type' - both the early yawl rigged canoes that were also paddled and the bigger boats that evolved over many years in the UK of which a modern example is shown in the above photograph.
This particular canoe yawl (above) is the beautiful little 18 foot Nutmeg designed and built in the UK by David Moss. She is a modern build of the type and includes all the elements that make these little boats so enticing and pleasing to look at.
A brief history of the evolution of the canoe yawl which is inextricably linked to the Humber Yawl Club of the late 19th Century will be the topic of subsequent blog post.
Shipmates, today my long awaited copy of Richard Powells new book 'The Canoe Yawl' arrived trailing two mysteries in its canoe stern wake. The first is a postal mystery. Published by Lodestar Books 71 Boveney Road London, printed in Spain, it arrived in my letterbox with a big green Swedish Post Tulldeklaration (Customs Declaration) CN22 sticker and 'Posten Sverige' stamp from Malmo, Sweden - Go figure that! These are the wondrous mysteries that engage the mind of this retiree - don't laugh shipmates, your time will come, your time will come. 'The Canoe Yawl' is a fine companion to another older Lodestar Books publication - John Leathers, 'Albert Strange; Yacht Designer and Artist'. Needless to say I am voraciously devouring my new books contents. It's from its early pages that I have learnt that a third version of John MacGregors 'Rob Roy' canoe circa 1897 survives to this day as part of the National Small Boat Collection in the UK at the National Maritime Museum Cornwall, at Falmouth. I didn't know that. (The Voyage Alone in the Yawl Rob Roy - 1865).
The second mystery relates to the photograph on the cover of 'The Canoe Yawl' . It is a mystery more easily felt if you have the book on your knee when you look at it, but you can get some inkling by looking at the above photograph. There is an immediacy about some old photographs despite their age or sepia tint. It feels as if the photo was taken yesterday. As I gaze at the light glistening off the water on the windward side of this little yawl designed by the gifted Albert Strange,time seems to dissolve. Yet the photograph of the little yawl 'Birdie' was taken in 1897.
John Leathers book (above) and John Powells book 'The Canoe Yawl' were built in similar boatyards. They both explore the voyaging exploits and yacht designing talents of the Canoe Yawls forefathers. Both books contain numerous designs and photographs surrounded by tantalizing text of the type that will keep those possessed by canoe yawl madness enthralled and shouting across the ocean for yet another book.
The workbench has finally been sorted. The larger renovated 'Record No 52' vise has been secured in place and the previous small vise relocated on the end of the workbench where it will be handy for holding things that require cutting.
In its original wobbly form (and without a vise) this bench saw out its time as a handy workbench when I was renovating the Starling dinghy. You don't need big expensive kit to do things.
Like most things that you want to endure they need to be placed on a sure footing. Raising the table and placing it on some chunky wooden bearers and hefty solid feet was the first stage.
The second stage was cladding and a couple of shelves. This stiffened up the structure immensely.
I am pleased with the work bench renovation and now have a good solid work
station to wile away my time on various projects of a nautical nature.
Spending time on something you love helps the mind to concentrate on only one thing at a time, its a 'mindfulness' exercise of sorts. It is meditative, absorbing and turns off the deluge of chatter that characterizes the 'monkey mind' that plagues our waking existence.
The renovations on my outside workbench are pretty much completed. The addition of extra timber strengthening, cladding and shelving has added greatly to the weight of the bench and made it hefty and stable. I am sure it won't creep across the carport when I am hammering away on something in the vise as it has done in the past.
The current vise on the workbench is too small and light to cope with the sort of work I will be using the workbench for. So I am cleaning, painting and restoring an old spare vise that I have had stored away for just this occasion.
Recently when I was sorting my small workshop I also sorted the workshop vise. I cleaned, greased and repainted it and it is now fit for many more years of use. The vise I am renovating here is the same model and size as this newly restored workshop vise and will look exactly the same when cleaned up and bolted in place on the outside workbench.
The question now is - do I paint the newly renovated outside workbench or leave it au naturel ?
Yesterday the last of the winter centerboard racing series was held at One Tree Point Yacht club, about three quarters of an hours drive from Whangarei on the southern side of Whangarei harbour.
The OTPYC is one of the nicest on the shores of Whangarei harbour being close to the water on a narrow headland with approximately 220 degree views of the harbour.
The weather was cold and a bit rugged at 20 knots with continual squalls approaching 25 - 30 knots making the upwind hiking taxing on my old legs but the downwind rides wild and exhilarating.
Most of the courses in this series have been windwind - leeward races only but yesterdays races contained a triangle. So the course was: Start - windward - triangle - windward - leeward - windward - finish. I like the triangle part of the course because the boat is broad leading and planing very fast - the problem is that a fast and efficient passing of the buoy requires a gybe, which is a precarious manoeuvre especially in high winds.
In the above selfie I have just changed into dry clothes after coming ashore. I have two big lumps on my head having been belted from gybing booms. I also have a cut hand after a spectacular capsize in the last race (how it got cut I don't know).
Luckily for this very cold skipper my brother Tony was at hand with a steaming cup of tea, having driven out in his camper van to watch the racing. He had passed the time watching the races and getting regular updates on the Olympics on his TV (hence the satellite dish) - I hope our Kiwi sailors in Brazil do better in their respective races than I did on the cold winter waters of Whangarei harbour.
Starling dinghy I am racing has a recommended weight range of 50kg -
70kg and I am 90kgs + This fact has made me rethink the sort of dinghy I
want to race in the coming years. I think I need a bigger
centerboarder, one that I can safely gybe without having to wear a crash
helmet. The NZ Zephyr class is looking most attractive at the moment.
Despite my love of OK dinghies which has always been my preferred bigger
boat option I have noticed some of the older OK skippers sailing out of
Whakatere Yacht Club in Auckland wearing protective helmets - I know
why. The NZ Zephyrs boom is quite high and would easily clears my head
in a crash gybe - so maybe this boat is an option worth investigating.
NZ Zephyr Class Centerboard Dinghy
The Des Townson designed NZ Zephyr class yacht is a bigger (round bilge rather than hard chine) version of my Townson Starling dinghy. There is a strong class association with many of the skippers older sailors getting back into sailing. These boats are much sort after and pretty expensive.