Friday, August 19, 2016

_______________________ THE CANOE YAWL (2) _____________________

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.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

_______________________ THE CANOE YAWL _____________________

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.

Friday, August 12, 2016

___________________ SORTING THE WORKBENCH (3) ___________________

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.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

___________________ SORTING THE WORKBENCH (2) ___________________

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 ?

Monday, August 8, 2016

___________________ LAST OF THE WINTER SERIES ___________________

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.

The 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.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

____________________ SORTING THE WORKBENCH ____________________

The top photograph is of my outdoors workbench which has been modified from its first use as a general purpose outside table ( Here it is in its original condition on the left in the lower photograph).

I first modified the table by fitting a small vise. But I found the bench far too low and awkward to use. Despite this I have actually done a power of work on it at the low height of 67cm ( 2 foot 2 1/2 inches).

The height of the workbench in my small workshop is 94 cm ( 3 foot 1 inch). I was going to raise the outdoor workbench to this height but I then remembered a chapter I had read in L. Francis Herreshoffs' book The Compleat Cruiser (Note the American spelling of 'Complete'!). In Chapter 2 Herreshoff provides a nice diagram of an amateur workshop and discusses many things including bench heights.....

"............. I used to do the planing of planks on the long bench, which is 35 inches high, like most benches, but you can certainly plane easier on a table 29 1/2 inches high. It is the general custom to have the top of the vise right at the height of a man's elbow, believing that one can file straighter and evener at this height, but I prefer a vise one or two inches lower than this because the work itself is generally held above the vise".

By simply using timber I had in hand I have compromised between the height of my small workshop bench and Herroshoffs recommendations and obtained a good working height that fits my own body height and way of working.

So the comparisons now break down like this:

Workshop bench height = 37 inches  (94 cm)
Original unmodified outdoor table height = 26.5 inches (67cm)
New outdoor workbench height = 32.5 inches (82.5 cm)
Herreshoffs recommendation = 29.5 inches (74.93 cm)

This issue of heights may seem to some to be a trivial thing but I can assure you that if you are putting in hours at a time at a workbench then it's imperative that you make sure that the working height is comfortable.
Further modifications will be to provide some diagonal bracing at either end of the table to make the whole outfit as rigid as possible and the addition of some plywood shelves to hold tools and lengths of wood etc.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

____________________________ WHAT RIG? ____________________________

The question is: With a mast in each corner of this yacht of sublime design, what rig is it? A four masted? ........ (Auxiliary engine works well).

Thursday, July 28, 2016

_______________________ SORTING THE SHED ________________________

My work shed is quite small - 2.13 x 2.44 meters ( 7 x 8 feet). Surprisingly I can actually work in it quite well so long as the job is not too big  (I can't get the dinghy I am working on at the moment inside this space). The problem with small work spaces is keeping them clean, tidy and uncluttered. Planing, sanding or grinding anything soon has everything covered in debris. So the trick is to use the space mainly for gear and tool storage and for doing small clean jobs. The carport that the workshop opens onto complete with its small workbench is the main work area. This arrangement works quite well so long as the weather is reasonably fine and warm. At this time of year rain is often driven into the carport making it an unpleasant place to work..... which I don't mind at all because it gives me time to commune with the physically passive side of being retired which is meditating, reading, cogitating on the meaning of life and eating food.

Recently this little work space had become so untidy and cluttered that I couldn't get from one end of the workshop to the other. Boxes of unsorted tools and gear were literally at waist height and the whole workshop resembled the chaos of someone with a serious hoarding problem.

So over the last couple of days I have been sorting, rearranging and throwing out a whole swag of gear. I still have a few boxes of gear to deal to but I think I am now pretty much sorted. Feels good.

The graphic artist Maurits Cornelis Escher said: 

“We adore chaos because we love to produce order."

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

______________________ MARINER'S DINGHY (7) _______________________

The 'inwales' or internal gunwales are now completed including a new transom block which provides internal strengthening for attaching an outboard motor and enough wooden area to cut in a semicircular sculling hole.

The new internal ribs are now complete with six, 2mm laminations per rib. These ribs have greatly strengthen the hull. I can now move the dinghy around without feeling the hull flex and twist as it has done in the past.

When the central seat or rowing thwart is in place the dinghy will be stronger than it has ever been.
Apart from the added strength to the hull the new ribs will provide fastening points for wooden slats that will make up the new floor.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

_____________________ Leonard Cohen - Anthem _____________________

It is an old cliche to say that if you can remember the 1960s / 70s you weren't there. I will swim against and contradict this stream of thought and state that I was there and that I remember Leonard Cohen very well indeed.

Tonight on Prime TVs'  'Prime Rocks' series  Leonard Cohen was featured; and back flooded the songs and the memories. All those years ago I thought his songs were dark, brooding and somewhat foreboding. His was a voice from the depths of the human condition.

Forty odd years on I feel the voice of his work as paradoxical. Often he seems like a prophet, sage or shaman come down from the mountain to speak of what he has seen - yet at other times his songs speak of someone sharing and illuminating our common humanity; peeling the weeping layers of an existential onion of sorts; digging deeper, searching to find the way. He is a true fellow pilgrim. His musical lantern still shines its light, and I give thanks.


The birds they sang
at the break of day
Start again
I heard them say
Don't dwell on what
has passed away
or what is yet to be.
Ah the wars they will
be fought again
The holy dove
She will be caught again
bought and sold
and bought again
the dove is never free.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.

We asked for signs
the signs were sent:
the birth betrayed
the marriage spent
Yeah the widowhood
of every government --
signs for all to see.

I can't run no more
with that lawless crowd
while the killers in high places
say their prayers out loud.
But they've summoned, they've summoned up
a thundercloud
and they're going to hear from me.

Ring the bells that still can ring ...

You can add up the parts
but you won't have the sum
You can strike up the march,
there is no drum
Every heart, every heart
to love will come
but like a refugee.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.
That's how the light gets in. 

That's how the light gets in.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

______________________ MARINER'S DINGHY (6) _______________________

What you see are the first laminations for four structural ribs; six laminations per rib. I am using West System Glue, something I am not familiar with but not too much trouble if you read the manual first.

Again, my trusty G - gramps come into their own for part of the job as have some big blocks of fire wood which are keeping the ribs in contact with the bottom of the dinghy. I counted my G - gramps the other day and found I had 26 - which for some jobs is still not enough!

For subsequent laminations a staple gun will make it easier to fasten them in place and to keep  pressure on the glue.

Friday, July 1, 2016

______________________ MARINER'S DINGHY (5) _______________________

The new port and starboard inner gunwales or 'shelves' have been glued in place. I have also cut and fitted a new central thwart. The thwart needed some careful work as the ends are curved horizontally and cambered vertically to fit the sides of the hull. I was pleased with the fit and happy that this time I didn't have to fill up the gaps left by bad woodwork with glue.

From a sheet of 2mm plywood I have cut enough long lengths 4mm wide to use as laminations for the installation of the four new ribs. The addition of ribs, knees and a thicker and strong central thwart will add weight to the dinghy but will make the boat much stronger and more robust.

........... and shipmates; you can see why a renovator of small boats needs as many sawhorses as he can lay his hands on.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

______________________ MARINER'S DINGHY (4) _______________________

It seems a bit like the monsoon season here is Whangarei at the moment so what better way to spend my time than to continue the work I have started on restoring Mariners big dinghy.

After having sanded the outside of the hull I have turned the dinghy upright, sanded the inside, removed the central thwart, stern and bow knees and the internal sheer planks all of which require replacing.

It has become a tricky job replacing the sheer planks as the planks have to twist and bend in two directions to fit. To bend the planks without breaking them I have cut them in half length ways and are fitting them one length at a time. The photo show the second (lower) starboard internal sheer plank glued and cramped in position. The port side is awaiting its two piece fit.

After the sheer planks are glued and glassed in place I will laminate in four sets of ribs which will stiffen up the hull and stop it flexing. The ribs will also provide support for some wooden floor boards; something the dinghy hasn't had before.
On this renovation I have realised yet again - you can never have too many G - cramps!

Friday, June 24, 2016

______________________ MARINER'S DINGHY (1) _______________________

 [ This story was posted in April. I have re - dated this post and re - posted it here to give some continuity to the  'MARINERS DINGHY (4)' post (above) ]

Shipmates in April I bought Mariners fiberglass dinghy home. She's a big stable useful workhorse that I will miss using. I have temporarily replaced her with another smaller dinghy while I do some much needed maintenance. She has suffered being permanently moored to the launching pontoon. She gets knocked around by other pontoon users and has to constantly contend with the weather.

 The new dinghy trailer came in useful to get her home.

The gunwales on both sides been severely compressed which has split the fiberglass hull away and opened up the wooden gunwales to the weather.

 The wooden knee in the bow has rotted out due to water ingress.

 The support for the central rowing thwart needs replacing.

This single reinforcing rib is broken in about six places. To stop the whole hull from flexing I will repair this one and add a few more.

At both sides of the stern sections at the sheer level water has rotted out the wooden reinforcing.

There are four raised rowlock pads that will require replacing.

Having another dinghy at the pontoon ready to go means the much delayed winter work on Mariner will not be delayed due to dinghy repairs. 

I will wash, clean and sand the whole hull before chocking her off on a set of saw horses in the carport so that when the winter rains begin I will be able to get on with the repairs. There's never a dull moment Shipmates.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

___________________________ SCAMP (2) _____________________________

This is a picture of the modified Scamp design that is being prepared for a journey through the area of the Magellan Straits and around Cape Horn. In my previous blog [Scamp (1)] I voiced some misgivings about the lugsail rig. I still have those reservations about the lugsail but its not really a big deal. The lugsail is very simple and handy and I would be happy to give this rig a try. But here is the  option for those who share my inclinations for a more 'conventional' rig. It's 'Southern Cross's Ketch rig - which to my eyes looks aesthetically (though not technically) rather like a Yawl.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

___________________________ SCAMP (1) _____________________________

This little ship is, I am sure, well known to small boat aficionados. She is 'Scamp' designed by New Zealander John Wellsford. 

Scamp has been described variously as "Truncated", "A little pig like in looks" and "Somewhat amputated". The people I have heard describing 'Scamp' in this manner have all made these remarks whilst totally transfixed with 'that' glazed look in their eyes. None of them were damning 'Scamp' with faint praise, they were all too busy falling in love with 'Scamps' abundant possibilities; and 'Scamp' has this in spades.

To my eyes she is the logical outcome of putting a sail and a small cuddy cabin on an oversized pram dinghy. I think her looks are attractively quirky and immensely enticing. She contains the paradox of something the size of a shoe box providing commodious day sailing and camping type over-nighting accommodation. Her possibilities are endless. As I type this there is someone sailing one around Cape Horn. She is an Everest of adventure in a small boat just one inch under 12 feet in length (3.63m).

Tumblehome designed into the stern avoids a 'boxy' look.

The unstayed lugsail rig is simplicity itself.

The small recessed cuddy provides shelter. With a tent over the boom the cockpit becomes somewhere to sleep.

Commodious cockpit.
It's 'Swallows and Amazons' revisited - (Albeit to date mainly with us older guys).
This is a very popular design with many being amateur built. She is also now commercially built in GRP.

My only misgiving about this design is the lug sail rig - despite the fact that I am aware how this rig contributes to the boats simplicity and ease of handling:

The mains'l forms a nice aerofoil shape on one tack but when going over onto the other tack the sail shape becomes compromised  by the imposition of the mast cutting across the sail. I always like to sail my boats as efficiently as possible whether cruising or racing and I think on one tack I would find things a bit annoying.  I think I would prefer a mains'l attached to the rear of the mast. I am aware that the front of the lug mains'l acts as a proxy jib of sorts and that altering the rig alters the center of effort and perhaps the position of the mast; but to obtain an efficient mains'l on both tacks I would be prepared to trade off absolute lug sail simplicity with a 'normal' mains'l and a small jib on a short bowsprit. I have seen a photograph of a 'Scamp' rigged as a yawl with mizzen, main and jib with bowsprit looking in proportion and well balanced (but of course with simplicity compromised). Other than this point I think she is a great little boat!

Here is a link to a great Blog about building the Scamp:

Go to the Blog Archive on this page and click the Blogs first page in December 2013 where the log of  building a 'Scamp' design begins.

Here are another couple of good links:

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

______ Banned TED Talk: Nick Hanauer "Rich people don't create jobs" _____

Via Business Insider: "As the war over income inequality wages on, super-rich Seattle entrepreneur Nick Hanauer has been raising the hackles of his fellow 1-percenters, espousing the contrarian argument that rich people don't actually create jobs. The position is controversial — so much so that TED is refusing to post a talk that Hanauer gave on the subject. National Journal reports today that TED officials decided not to put Hanauer's March 1 speech up online after deeming his remarks "too politically controversial" for the site...".

This banned TED talk goes some way to explain the disenchantment of middle America with the reality of the policies of Americas' political and economic elites. Nick Hanauers talk exposes the vacuousness of the economic neo-liberal lie. The focus of this rage and disenchantment can be seen in the current round of presidential elections which is turning out to be both dangerous and unpredictable.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Wild Horses can’t keep Kathleen Jenkins from singing | Week 3 Auditions ...

I watched 'Britains Got Talent' on the telly last week. Each performance is an individual personal drama with much at stake. The personal hopes and dreams of the performer hangs by a thread. Such a context is ready made for television. I found this performance particularly moving. As is often said, "There wasn't a dry eye left in the house".

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Monday, May 23, 2016

_________________________ POSITIVE THINGS ________________________

If you watch and listen to the daily news you could convince yourself that the world has gone completely stark raving mad. But happily among the mayhem and madness most of the world continues to live productive and positive lives; working, creating and generally enjoying themselves as they live out their own truth and make the most of the context they live in.

I came across this video and thought it expresses something of that continuity.
I like the name of this lovely little ship.