Sunday, May 15, 2016

Couta Boat restoration in Port Fairy

Garry Stewart is a fine professional boat builder, working on the Moyne River in Victoria's west, and he has recently restored this 20ft coat boat in what he describes as a refit and a new laid deck. This is quite small by 'couta standards but is a lovely no-nonsense hullform of rather beautiful proportions.

Garry wrote that she has a length of 20 ft, a  beam  of 7ft 6'' draft 2 ft 6'' and was  built by Peter Locke boatbuilder at Queenscliff around 1935-1940. She has a lug rig, centre case with 3/8'' steel centre plate, planking and ribs are New Zealand Kauri. The new deck is Iroko, new combings King Billy pine, and is powered by 20hp Volvo diesel.  He added that as she has lifting eyes for and aft she would have worked from Lorne or thereabouts on the Surf Coast where it was usual to lift boats onto the pier for storage between fishing trips.

'Castwood' (ex 'Dolphin') on the lovely jetty at Port Fairy

Sunday, May 1, 2016

the dog splice

The couch faces west and the autumn sun unravelled itself across the floor to where I was sitting, book on lap, beer in left hand. The view was all sparkle and golden explosions where my eyes were looking, so I closed them and focussed instead on the warm orange pink of my backlit eyelids- seeing nothing, but looking at the colours while my right hand draped from the arm of the couch, relaxed and loose.

Rising to that hand Smiling Billy lifted his head and adjusted his posture to be more fully under the space between fingers, confident  they would be on Automatic Stroke. And they were. He didn't know then, like I did, that it was his last day with us before leaving to be adopted.

This is all about bitter-sweet. Simple, everyday sensations and moments that become more beautiful because the moment has limits and what is present and powerful now will not be forever. These are the things I take note of and try hardest to hold onto,  remember and  recreate, but they can't be replicated. It isn't the event that has been moving, it is the context and the meaning and the ephemeral, ungraspable and insubstantial qualities of joy that come upon me when I least expect them.

 Billy was a shadow, a pal, and the least complicated foster dog we've had. A wiggler, and always involved in whatever was going on, he was  loose, laid-back and long, soft as feathers, dreamy, enthusiastic and always hungry. He left us considerably heavier than he was when he arrived. He has moved onto a happy pet-friendly extended family.

The 'dog splice' above is of Billy, Panda in the middle (she is still with us) and Sooty below, anchoring the team. Together they were like a pod of hyperactive dolphins when ready for a walk, a camp of teenage boys when things became competitive, and an ageing choir when a phone rang.

Walking the three was an absolute joy as the four of us would head up the middle of our country road in straight almost military formation, turning in unison to follow birds that flew across our path and waiting patiently and without pulling while one of our squadron squirted a tree, bin or interesting patch of ground.

I document this story because I've really enjoyed the process and these moments are easily forgotten, but I have learnt from my blog that a post can send me back into an experience...and occasionally I notice that others seem to find them worth revisiting too.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

rally traffic

It is very rewarding to have sailed so close to a bunch of generous photographers. I don't think we ever had pictures from our trips on Corio Bay or the Western District Lakes and it is a real luxury now to have a collection of pictures of this boat out there sailing. Of course that is one of the features that made the Paynesville rally so successful- the narrow straits at the town centre where the crowds congregated. So I hope my reader doesn't mind a few more indulgences here from those days.

Since then quite a few things have happened to the boat, and I have these as a permanent record of her gradual evolution. The unrestored topsides show up well in the bottom pic and when I figure out where and when I can get her on the hard for antifouling and topsides painting the job will be substantially done, at least for a while...

Sunday, April 24, 2016

getting wired: more time aloft

 These didn't just get on my floor by accident. They took a fair bit of ladder work before they reached the hard. I'm aware that my devoted reader will be quite bored by these pics- the gory entrails and shrouds that used to keep the mast perpendicular, but they are here because I have a deep-rooted love of interesting lines in composition, and because getting me to the top of the mast so often has me so far out of my comfort zone, I need to think that the effort has produced something worth saying, and at least for me, something worth looking at. 

I didn't fall off. Surely that is reason enough to celebrate with a picture.

The new pile above consists of an inner and an outer forestay, four side stays, and two sprit stays              (I call 'em whiskers). The trick was to detach the shackle pin at the top of the mast without letting go of either  the shackle or the old stay (using pliers) and lowering the old stay, retrieving the new one, pocketing the pliers (still without dropping the pin or the shackle), offering the new stay to both the mast band and the shackle, insert the pin then find the pliers again...all at full stretch while powerboats wakefully sped past below. And all while at the very top of the ladder, not knowing if my measurements had been accurate enough for a good fit. 

The dogs were happy I came back in one piece with something salty to smell. Six of the eight wires are up, but I've run out of lashing, so I'm having a beer instead.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

an incremental thing

While I wait for the new standing rigging to be made up, there have been quite a few lovely moments bobbing around Beachcomber in the old tender, with sandpaper, brush, varnish and paint in hand. 

The bowsprit appears as though it means business again, the new bob-stay gives me some adjustment against the pull of the forestays and the rubbing strip has a new, more subtle colour. It is of a mid grey, but like the greys inside the hull it tends to photograph warmer (a bit lilac) because of the warmth of the wood...but so far, I like it. I feel it lightens the appearance of the hull from a heavy Victorian to a more creamy, light hue. It used to be 'Brunswick Green' like the sail covers.

Of course, nice shiny paint on the rubbing strip only makes the topsides look dirty and a bit weathered, but this is an incremental sort of rejuvenation and it will all get done eventually...Including the sail covers which have started to become cream, but still have some green bits there to keep me edgy. She will come out of the water this year for more antifoul and I will paint the topsides then, and replace the green covers at some useful point too.

I admit the two pics below aren't really fair in measuring progress because the 'before' pic was taken on a grey sort of day, but hey, I need motivation sometimes too.

It will be interesting to see if the new stays, shrouds and whiskers fit because I measured without removing the mast, by means of overlapping timber sticks (which needed to cover six metres for the forestay) poked up to the heavens towards the upper shackles with optimism and a bit of economy-driven confidence.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

these nights are tough

 Tomorrow our latest foster greyhound goes to her new forever home, and we believe she will be loved there and will really contribute something to the people who will become her guardians. Frankie has been a gorgeous presence in our home since she was rescued about four weeks ago, and we have tried to teach her a little about being a regular dog- and a functional companion in a human household. When we first had her at home she walked into glass doors because she had never seen them. She was overjoyed to have toys and affection, and human company, but also to hang out with Sooty, our adopted greyhound.

For all the good news in the above paragraph, tonight is tough in the same way it has been spending our last days with the others we have fostered. They all bring something to us in combination with their own particular difficulties.

Below left, Angel (now called Maggie) was a former racer who was retired to be a breeder. She was incredibly wise and tender, but lacked any interest in walks or exercise in the time we had her because she just wanted company, food and peace. We hope her new owners go further than we had time to, in re-engaging her with the wonderful doggy world of smells and natural noises.

Below right, Rosie was frightened of everything when we got her. She had more neuroses than we could count- particularly her fear of men. But after a couple of months she followed me everywhere and was ready for her new home with Flynn, a lonely whippet and his 'mum'.

We've only been at this for some months, but all of these dogs are happily placed with people who needed them, and are themselves transformed from soon-to-be-exterminated gambling devices into wonderful companions.

So, like the other times, tonight is tough. We'd love to keep them all, but as Julia wisely reminds me, it is not about what is best for us.

I look across at Sooty, who is still a bit bolshy and territorial, and I remember how difficult it was for him to be loving and accepting of affection when we got him, and I remind myself that he had four trainers in his four years before we got him, and he had to compete all the time to get anything. In the end even winning a number of races wasn't enough to keep him alive, so I forgive him his moods, and I concentrate instead on the times he reaches out to me with his foot to indicate that he does want me to keep stroking him, even if he struggles to be overtly affectionate.

And he has been a star at helping these other dogs transform into family dogs. He is rock solid on our walks, and a role model in sniffing, hanging out and welcoming guests into our home. He has gravitas and dignity and when he comes for a cuddle, you feel blessed.

Friday, April 8, 2016

bobstay boogie

Trying to remain vertical while standing in and working from the tender has taught me some new moves.

Never was much of a dancer...but with one hand holding a tin of varnish, the other using a brush and the tender untethered as I work along the big pole, the new moves become impressive when a motor boat speeds past.

The jib tensioning rig needs restoring, as do the whiskers and the bobstay chain, tackle and line. But I began by resurfacing the bowsprit which had been beyond the reach of the tools until now. It is now being recoated as weather and time permits.

Below, the jib traveller is attached to an endless out/inhaul. Lovely leather sheathed bronze ring and wiggly bits.

Below are the parts of the bobstay tensioning tackle. Galv chain is shackled to a block and then linked by line to a double block. At the inboard end a wooden eye is spliced onto the line to provide another two part purchase inboard by means of another line spliced to the bowsprit at the standing end, then fed through the wooden eye and back to a horn cleat on the sprit. The chain was looking mildly disreputable, so it has added gravity to my bin. The gal pulley blocks have stood up remarkably well and have been redeployed without any interference.

All of the gal. shackles have remained serviceable- probably due to the beef tallow used to lubricate the threads. A big bucket of the stuff was kindly provided with the boat (Fred's supplier had grossly overestimated how much he required) and it is remarkable stuff. You would think after more than 25 years in a shed the tallow would be rancid and beyond sniffing, but it remains a clean, white, low odour and  serviceable marine lubricant. Needless to say all moving galvanised parts going back on the boat are retallowed.

Below, the new lines, chain and splices for the long outboard parts. The splice on the inboard line will need to be done on the boat.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Geelong WB Festival 2016 and a brand new Aussie Navigator

 Because I haven't seen much coverage of this event in the blogosphere I include a few pictures supplied by our friends Peter and Felicity. Since there is often very little feed-back about this sort of coverage I found it hard to know how many pics to include. There are more on Felicity's disc if needed...

Below are some shots of Peter's new home built Navigator. I have been thrilled to see it emerge from a pile of promising plywood. Peter chose to build light and has used the thinner plywood for his hull and I'm sure he will find it fast and responsive as his early tests suggest. Observant readers will notice sails from Duckworks.
I don't want to embarrass Peter at all, but I do need to say that his passion for wooden boats goes a lot further back (and a lot deeper) than just this, his recent build. He has played several major roles in the Geelong event for many years, on the committee (I am without details here) and as the representative of a major sponsor. 

The boat is named after the very talented Felicity, below.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Paynesville 1905-ish. Fishing boats coming in

Despite this blog already being stretched across too many areas of content and interest, I can't resist these occasional delvings into the local history of boats- and working boats in particular.

The photo above is from Paynesville maybe 1905-ish, maybe earlier, but I still sail alongside boats that come from this era, and our boat was 30 odd years old when this pic was taken, and I can't help wanting to get inside this thing- whatever it is- that has persisted here for so long...and also to understand a little how it is that the local traditions are so unknown in the rest of the country.

I hope that any remaining readers will see how this picture differs so little from some of my recent postings. The persistence of these types even in small numbers is a celebration of the fact that the pioneers here took what worked from various immigrant traditions, and what worked then to earn a living is still a very suitable vehicle for exploring the lakes.

The four boats pictured are luggers. The one on the left is incredibly similar to Queen Mary, recently featured, the second one along has a canoe stern, and all four have those top strakes I mentioned in several recent posts.

These, of course were fishing boats. During this period there were already more lavish boats around here built on North American styles, to be used by the wealthy land owners for recreation. I will try to assemble some pictures of that type in another post. Our boat 'Beachcomber' was neither just a fishing boat nor only a recreational one.

It began it's working life as a transport and supply boat with picnic and social visiting benefits. During it's middle years though it was well known in the district as a sort of farm truck. I have spoken to a man locally who remembers Beachcomber fondly in the 1930's being 'sailed by Freddy Barton in all weathers', and he particularly remembers 'the boat full of sheep and also goats as Freddy transported his stock from island to island' near Sperm Whale Head. My informant tells me he lost contact with Beachcomber after 1946, and that was probably because she went to another family nearer Bairnsdale, probably until her restoration.

This line drawing is of the canoe stern type in the top picture. Both images were sourced from the Paynesville Maritime Museum.

Monday, March 28, 2016

The Gippsland Lakes 'Queen Mary' (again)

 In an earlier post I wrote about the characteristics that make this boat such a representative example of boats built in the local tradition. These pics illustrate the strake/carvel arrangement, but I include extra pics because she is just lovely.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

New sheets and Outhaul

Since the rally I have been moved to replace the main and staysail sheets, choosing 10mm over 12, and a multi-braid over 3 strand. The reason for this was that the cleats in a double-ended mainsheet need to work fast and they  struggled with the size and lumpiness of the old 3 strand.

Below are the main sail outhaul lashings and grommet- at the end of their working life. A new grommet was made for the job and a new outhaul line was spliced at both ends to attach to the 2 part adjuster, back along the boom. You may notice that in the old arrangement the grommet has been distorted by the lashings, so I fitted a galvanised eye into the outhaul line so the lashings will work on it and not the grommet. The outhaul pulls astern to a large sheave set in the boom, then back along the boom underside. The grommet stops the sail lifting, while the outhaul helps set sail shape.

Incidentally, we were thrilled by the shape of the sails, they are beautifully cut in a traditional pattern, with vertical seams on the main contrasting with the diagonals of the foresails.

Below the new grommet made from 8mm Hempex, next to the old pieces.

The other end has a wooden eye spliced onto it for the 2 part adjustment on the boom underside.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

it wasn't ALL about sailing but...

There was a lot more to the Rally than just sail boats, but whenever we got together, these old gaffers just seemed to meander around each other, like they were looking for family. Beachcomber and Queen Mary ( not the big one) above, sauntered back from the buoy in the non-race, finding the odd puff, but the trip back was made with cockpits alongside and conversation flowing between boats the whole way in.

QM has a feature which was common on Gippslander fishing boats. The hull is carvel up to the top two boards, which are lapstrake (clinker). The fishermen liked to approach the fish without the noise of strakes, but the top boards acted as spray rails. It is thought that this feature had it's origins in Norwegian boats and the idea came here with those people.

Owned by David Griffiths, she is 26ft by 9ft, with a 3'6" draft, and was built on Raymond Island (in the background of this pic) in 1898. Comparing her to Beachcomber (right) it can be seen that by the turn of the Century, the Gippslander type had evolved from British/European roots significantly. She is broad and shallow with a small transom and very capacious cockpit. If there is interest I can find more pics to illustrate the type. The above comparison is a bit dicey though, because one boat was always intended for carriage and cartage, while the other was designed specifically to fish.