Wednesday, January 11, 2017

waterline, weather and leather


There are dozens of reasons why a trailered boat shouldn't wear antifouling below the waterline, and I have chosen to do it anyway  now I'm in  a situation where I can sail often because the boat can spend weeks in the water if I wish. The bliss of this is not lost on me.

Whereas before we moved here a sailing day needed to be chosen carefully, planned for and then travelled to- with the possibility that the morning could be wasted if the weather was ordinary (or worse)- now if I get the weather wrong, I can be much more philosophical about it, and maybe treat myself to some uncomfortable lessons in the wrong conditions, and then take my little tail home for comfort, without getting in the car.

So she has had the business- black antifouling below the waterline after I scraped the growth from her bottom again (not a comfortable thing to do on a bottom that is so horizontal, and so close to the ground). The pleasure for me this time was to figure out a way of getting Annie off her trailer without lifting anything. This was all achieved with a few clamps, a pair of saw horses, a few boards and a horizontal platform.


The trick is to lower the trailer dolly wheel, which lifts the stern. Slide in an angled support just under the stern, then raise the dolly again- on a block of wood if necessary- then place some support across the front (a 4 x 2 on edge, or bigger) on saw horses spread wide enough to clear the trailer wheels. Lower the dolly and then move the trailer forward, under the beam and out of the way. For this trailer anyway, the beds were now well clear of the hull. Your back is spared, but do be careful if you try this. I always add a couple of fail-safe back-up braces and supports before working under the boat.


Last time I went out the wind was up and threatening but the forecast was for it to ease so I had an interesting sail under mizzen and jib for an hour or so, and was quite pleased with her handling and tacking in those conditions. The wind then turned and made a part of the bay very rough and messy and another part more sheltered, so I raised the main without a reef and had a great couple of hours reaching back and forth over a longish gap between Bell Point and Shaving Point in a fresh wind on a rolling swell. To keep the boat level and just because it felt good, I sat out and sheeted in for  an exciting ride. 

The Navigator can usually be sailed without hiking out (especially if sail is shortened to suit conditions) and so the extension is a discretionary tool really....but I like it. This was my longest period using the tiller extension and it worked a treat, but my sweaty palms eventually began to struggle a bit on the bare wood.


Because the extension often needs to be out of service I designed it to sit low over the curve of the tiller so as not to get in the way, and it sits on a little locating pin so as to stay put. Both the tiller and extension flair out slightly towards the ends and this makes gripping easy, but I've added some leather on the extension just to make it less slippery.                                       I considered thin line, servings, turks head knot work etc and couldn't find a rope work solution that fit my purpose, but finally settled on leather because this is the traditional technique I used to replace the leather grip on violin etc bows. It feels good, looks restrained and doesn't add much to the bulkiness of the rod. The edges are rounded over so sit tight on the timber by means of a cut bevel on all four edges. This is done with a razor sharp chisel on the inside face of the leather. The leather was then treated with a product called Dubbin- used here in the past for treating boots etc without adding colour.






Monday, January 9, 2017

if I were a wave



If I were a nasty, bolshy, fulsome, front-on trough of a wave, I'd be struggling to suck her down with all that firmness of  bilge and flare in the forefoot, if I wanted to get the better of Annie. She's so broad...


If I were a rising, cresting, crashing wave coming down on her stem, I'd have nothing to get hold of if I wanted to push Annie abaft, there's nothing to grasp. She's so thin...


Now she's having her bottom scraped again, but you'll be relieved to know that she and the wave lived happily ever after.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Kingdom by the Sea. A review

It was 1982, the summer of the Falkland Islands War, and the birth of the royal heir, Prince William--and the ideal time, Theroux found, to surprise the British into talking about themselves. The result is a candid, funny, perceptive, and opinionated travelogue of his journey and his findings. Cultural snobbery? Perhaps, but it is always interesting to read about interesting times.





The Kingdom by the Sea The Kingdom by the Sea by Paul Theroux
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Paul Theroux has insights here that are perhaps more interesting for the passing of so much time than they were when he wrote them. Always engaging and pithy, he brings some objectivity by describing Britain through the eyes of a traveling alien.

These are brutally wrought observations of an island in disrepair, even existential despair, and it is a bleak and pallid culture exposed by the failure of industry and the punishments delivered by globalisation, but it is not without warmth and empathy.

The book is written at the same time that his friend, an Englishman Jonathan Raban was circling Britain in a sailing boat, making observations of his own. Whereas Theroux is walking and riding trains around the coast observing the population sitting idle and looking outwards, Raban is looking landward from the perspective of the sea. Raban's account (Coasting: A Private Voyage) is far more concerned with the causes of economic failure, and is attuned to the suffering that comes from economic idleness, whereas Theroux focusses on his perceived flaccidity of the population in the face of these factors.

Both books focus on the year 1982, with thirteen per cent unemployment, huge failure of coal and fishing industries, the beginning of the end of ship building and automotive industries, the Falklands War and the unpopular unraveling of the complex and ancient British railway network.

Both books are limited of course by the personal views of the observers, but they benefit greatly from many quoted conversations with ordinary folk facing the future bravely. I enjoyed both books, but I would find this one tough going if I were a patriotic Brit.


View all my reviews

Sunday, January 1, 2017

obsessed by the golden ground


The last post about my former self mentioned that  some old images of instruments were lost, but now some are found. There may not be a particular interest in them, but like in that last post, I include them to keep as a digital record of a particular mission that I was on at the time.

When beginning with violin family instruments I made and used a particular varnishing system well-known to those luthiers who like to create their own finishes. It was a spirit  based system from a recipe dating back to the early 1700's, and it used several gums,  oils and lacs. It had the advantage of being quick to dry and fairly hard wearing (in the absence of alcohol) and was commercially useful, but the ground under the varnish never looked right.


  By about 2002 I was becoming very interested in the performance of the coatings as they combined with the engineering and thicknessing of the plates, because it was obvious that if you go to a lot of trouble to get a certain set of tap tones from the plates, and if the structure of the arches and the thicknesses are all managed to produce a certain sound then the coatings that go over the top of all that will need to be considered too, in their capacity to help or hinder vibrations.


This led to a lot of research into the very old ways of doing things, and rather than looking for a 'secret' (which everyone seems to think is at the bottom of great instrument sound) I read up on the trades and traditions of the guild workers who had such an influence all over Italy- The Byzantine Greeks, who revolutionised almost all trade work before the renaissance. I'm not going to try to summarise that whole story, but it became obvious that many trades shared a set of procedures in the application of coatings, including furniture makers, guilders, carriage builders, church fitters, instrument makers amongst others. 

One of the reasons that there was commonality amongst them was fashion. The fashion for a gold appearance either as a finish, or as a reflective surface under a translucent finish. This is the quality that underlies the great Italian violin family masterpieces. The effect is a consequence of practical considerations as well as visual ones, and by identifying the common materials used in the ground layer (the solid base upon which the coloured layers are placed) it was possible to create a more golden, sparkly, subtle, impossible to photograph sensibly without looking like a complete nutter, and dependable surface that could be relied upon to be a consistent contributor to stiffness in the vibrating plates (the back and the belly)



The down side was that this stuff needed to be built into  oil based coatings, and I ended up applying them with thumbs rather than a brush, and they took a long time to dry. I had to make a UV drying cupboard, but the system still took as long to do as it took to build the instrument. But it did look lovely under lighting from different directions....and these pics were my attempts to capture on film what excited my eyes so much, but of course they end up just looking like a bunch of violins.



The conception of a fine instrument is much more than an accurate outline. A beautiful varnish is more than a pleasant colour. Successful arching can only function in a direct relationship to  the thicknessing and the varnish. A well cut f hole is conceived with reference to arch, outline, body length, placement and it's effect on the resonant frequencies of the corpus. Masterful work holds these things and others in harmonic balance.


 A fellow, now deceased, called Koen Padding was a revelatory figure in my journey and he supplied products that made it all possible. A wonderful mind now remembered in this story.


Some of my stash of very old hand cut and air dried Bosnian maple. Just gorgeous...These are  for one-piece backs that you will spot in a couple of the violins pictured above.


I found this little slideshow originally made around 2005 I think (although I have shortened it in case there are people out there who don't like looking at paint drying)....but if you do, then try it on a big screen so you can become bored in real style.


Thursday, December 29, 2016

more about dogs


A dedicated reader (there might be prizes and badges...) may remember earlier posts about our adopted greyhound Sooty and the others that we have fostered until good homes were found for them (-after they were rescued by the organisation that we volunteer with).

Well here are two of them. Lazing laconically, cranked loosely towards the kitchen in the picture above, our Sooty (top) and Tippy, our latest foster are recovering from a bone idle, lazy day, waiting for some serious sniffing, and the business of decorating posts and bushes  - checking their p-mails is what we sometimes call it. I don't mean to be indelicate here, it is just that the things these boy dogs do are done so artfully and with such consideration, to say simply that they are going for a walk is to sell them short. A walk for dogs is a sensory symphony. It places them in the scheme of things, the politics of local wildlife and  the maintenance of spheres of influence when the hounds are walking the bounds.

Well, Tippy has been with us for two and a half months, and that is a long time to foster a dog. We have become a more powerful influence in his life as a consequence, and he also, in ours. He is a big boy and big boys are hard to find homes for. His becoming such a beautiful family member makes the inevitable more difficult to face.


Sooty is even more gentle and affectionate as he has become accustomed to safety and security. Whereas, last year a houseful of family and guests for a week would have sent him to his 'cave' often, for peace, he now engages fully and happily with all the people in the house. And wiggles doing it.

Tippy is naturally affectionate, and has a boofy quality I find hard to describe, but if I said that he has no agenda, limited expectations and just wants an easy life and lots of touching, you'd get a bit of the picture. He has begun to play with soft toys, to be exuberant and express opinions on life. He is inquisitive, hungry and very gentle. We are told he won more than $50,000 before being retired and given up, but he has none of the arrogance one might expect of a champion.

He is our eleventh foster, so I've met a few. For what it is worth, the three dogs that have been most temperamentally matched to my worldview have been Sooty, Smiling Bill and Tippy. They are all  big and dark and neutered male, and while each has had his own troubles, needs, strengths and anxieties when we took them on, they all just somehow reached into me more deeply than most.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

the speed of our weed


Initially, Annie was to be in the water for a week or so, but then she started taking me out onto the lake in the mornings (she made me do it), and pretty soon it was more than two weeks...and we wanted her in the water for Christmas, but a timely reminder from a friend about the speed of our weed in the creek prompted me to take her up for a bottom scrub. 

I was surprised at how much biology had attached itself to her hidden bits. It took more than the pressure from a hose to loosen the stuff, and I resolved to antifoul her at some point soon.


In the carport again, attending to a few details over a couple of days, she is ready to launch, but this time I'll try to keep track of time. She now has a wooden jamb cleat on the underside of the tiller to hold a bit of line or shock chord (interchangeably) because there are times when the tiller needs to be held without me. Also I shortened the tiller extension by about 5mm to allow a wider swing of the tiller when the extension is not in use (it sits on a short brass locating pin to keep it from falling about).

And now a note for Russian readers:

Я заметил значительное увеличение числа посещений этого блога из России, я бы очень рад, если кто-то может позволить мне знать вероятные источники этого интереса и если я могу сделать больше, чтобы поддержать его.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

not always wanting fast


The need for speed is a slippery slope that I have tried to outgrow since my forties. The thing about wanting to win and be the fastest is that you set yourself up for an un-winnable contest with the next level- that thing that you need to achieve to be better than last time. The bar will always lift above you.

I was like that with running twenty years ago. And it took the healthy pleasure from a rather sublime activity.

I quite like the rush of a good bit of wind, and the feeling that I need to be on my mettle to stay in control, but equally, (perhaps more so) I love the shift in thinking that occurs when 'getting there' is just open-ended, and dependent upon my interaction with the elements. This is the most precious element of sailing for me. When they are scarce, you really value a puff.

A trip in a sailboat needn't be all about getting somewhere on time, to do something. The sailing is the thing you do and the somewhere can be just taken as it comes. This thinking is completely outside the current Western norm. Meandering is almost a crime. The antithesis of the commute. Movement in any sort of vehicle is nearly always about getting somewhere. Listening to the noises of going slowly is self-indulgent. What does it achieve?

Well, quite a bit, really.

Forward motion without fuss can arouse the senses as much as banging high into the wind. If we feel nothing and hear nothing and see nothing, it isn't the fault of the experience, it is our impatient belief that if we try harder, more will happen, and this prevents us from appreciating what is already there.

I'm a hopeless romantic idealist who always feels a small twinge of doubt in any experience, on the basis that it could  be done better, but this pointless, aimless sailing just for it's own sake gives liberating relief, and also perspective. This sail, that sail, this fast, this slow...it just is what it is, and what matters is what I make of it and what I take from it.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Navigator Annie in retrospect: fitting her out


Having Annie at the jetty this week (instead of trailered and covered) has enabled me to fine tune a few things that I used to be in too much of a hurry to worry about. But the details are really sweet- they give rise to pleasant little operations and habits that are almost as therapeutic as sailing....so I thought I'd share a few of the details that went into my boat, especially since the book I wrote about the Navigator didn't feature many finished details of my boat at all. I felt strongly in writing it that the book should be about the design in various hands, not simply mine. It is in the details that your boat becomes an expression of your priorities and methods of operation.

So I offer these thoughts in that context- and with the reminder that there are a few excellent videos and tips about other methods of set-up available online from Joel, navslipjig and others.

Let's start with the pic above. This is all packed up for transport, with a boom crutch at the other end, and here the tabernacle top bolt supports the mast, with the yard and boom under it, sails all still attached. The tabernacle is detailed in my flickr pics (-RHS margin of this blog) Hanging off the cleat is the mizzen mast with it's sail still on too, and it is suspended there for transport by the forestay. It is still attached to the furled jib which is, in turn still attached to the pad eye at the bowsprit. This is incredibly quick to deploy and very compact. The only downside is that the gooseneck maximum height for transport is limited by the height of the tabernacle, but I have it where it stays anyway.


Above is the boom crutch; mast on top, boom below on far side, mizzen near side.





I chose to make a sort of 'push-me-pull-you' to link the CB to the tackle because in this design the top of the board disappears into the case when lowered, and a solid link is really useful in either direction if something gets stuck. The CB case lid can also be removed with two through bolts if necessary, but I never have. Until today, I needed to leave the helm to lower the board if there was forward movement or strong currents because the tackle has a certain braking effect, but a simple line fitted from the front of the wooden member, led back to the CB cleat at the rear of the case has meant that I can raise or lower from the helm.



Not needing to leave the helm has many advantages. Left shows the throat and peak halyards and the topping lift on their way back to cleats on either side of the back of the board case. From the helm, the main can be raised or lowered and the jib unfurled, without leaving the tiller.

Below is a reefing block made from teak over a shop bought nylon sheave, and below that the same method to make one for the rudder downhaul. These are really easy to make and little blocks like this aren't cheap to buy.








 below, the hull was turned (on hay bales) with the main sheet block for purchase. The rest of the pictures are just bits and pieces that give pleasure in the making and in the using. Many of these fittings would be useable on any small craft.


the beginnings of the tiller



all the horn cleats are from Australian hardwood. Of course you don't need to make these things, but they are a pleasure to do if you can make the time to do them. I made a side profile pattern from ply, used it to trace out a number onto a board then cut out the profiles. Knives were used to cut bevels and gradually round them to a pleasant shape, but you could use chisels or rasps.



tiller and extension from teak and cypress




making the tiller extension swivel joint from sheet brass






Always a happy boat for me




Wednesday, December 7, 2016

the Cruise of the Teddy

The Cruise of the Teddy (The Mariner's Library)

really liked it·  
In 1928, Erling Tambs and his bride set off from Norway in the old pilot cutter Teddy, with no sextant or barometer, and only one and sevenpence in small change. They had no special destination and no urgency, but it was the beginning of three years of adventurous and often accident-prone sailing amongst islands in two oceans. At Vigo the crew of two was increased by the gift of a dog, Spare Provisions, and at Las Palmas by the birth of Tony, and in New Zealand by a daughter, Tui. Moments of high drama occurred, too: the Tambs family were in New Zealand at the time of the great earthquake of 1931, and they were also forced to endure a terrifying and disastrous shipwreck. But the charm of the narrative lies in the delightful picture of the Tambs family afloat, and in their encounters with people and places in the more exotic corners of the world. 
Paperback182 pages
Published 1989 by Grafton

The Cruise of the Teddy (The Mariner's Library)The Cruise of the Teddy by Erling Tambs
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A charming account from a simpler time. Modern sailors will enjoy the plentiful references to sail management without the insurance of motor back-up. Four stars.


Sunday, December 4, 2016

those moments


That first time in a Summer that you feel your naked toes on a bobbing deck in the warm sun is a recurring memorable moment over the years if you are lucky. We're fortunate to get the toes on the bobbing deck thing all through the year, but not the naked toes part. Thinking about that, and taking this picture of my blue/pink Winter Toes made me remember some thoughts I tried to express in one of the chapters of the book 'Something About Navigator'. It was the beginning of the chapter called 'Navigator Moments', which was primarily to introduce a small collection of Navigator stories and adventures by other owners/sailors/builders/writers. I hope you don't mind if I include a piece of the preamble (slightly edited) here:

'Sailing is such a compelling medium in the use of our bodies and our senses, for routines, skills and transport but also simply for finding some space. I really enjoy the sensory inputs of a nice trip on the water; the different sounds of water lapping or sloshing or frothing or breaking; or the push-pull simplicity of the balance between tiller and sheet- the hard and the soft, the easing or firming, the one hanging off the other with me flexing and contracting in between.

The lines have a beauty of their own too, whether braided or twisted, rough or silky and the organizing of them can be therapy for an everyday cluttered mind.

A gust rustles fabric and pulls at the boom, so the sound in your ears becomes the rise of your backside and the weight in your hand. These things go mostly unnoticed, but their interconnectedness makes them sensations as worthy as any, to be remembered as special, memorable, and maybe even defining.

And what can give these sensations an edge is the scale and power of the forces you play with, and the possibility of being caught by the very things that are so beautiful. The routines that are practiced make responding automatic, but in those moments when everything is in balance, or your mind is in a state of ‘flow’, process becomes timeless, the goal is just ‘now’ and nothing further, and expectations are forgotten. That is my sort of ‘moment’.

I find ‘flow’ in making things too, when a technique or a process is just beyond me, challenging or unfamiliar to me, but I proceed intuitively, letting hand and eye carry on without my supervision; without logic getting in the way. This idea seems strangely neutral, as though things happen automatically, and yet it involves a very strong feeling of being fully in the experience. Focussed and more than ordinarily aware.

I’m sure that some of us lose something very powerful by not learning to use our hands, although that feeling- of working slightly in new territory, is of course at the heart of any creative project and in the thrill of an expedition too. There is the excitement of exploring the known unknown, and the slight anxiety involved in planning for the unknown unknown.

For this to be a positive and comfortable experience, the anxiety needs to be matched by some confidence in our ability to adapt as the experience unfolds. Working even just a bit too far ahead of our past experience will be stressful. We can certainly learn from that, (some even thrive on that) but most, perhaps aim to avoid it.
All this without mentioning boat designs, location, companionship, weather, destination or refreshments! '

Howard Rice's current expedition project was another motivation for dragging out these thoughts, and I know that many of us- even the armchair explorers amongst us- are watching with great interest and support  in mind.


On the subject of 'moments', this little video is of a very special one I had a while ago, no wind, no shoes, waiting for a puff to arrive, but meanwhile just sitting with my feet dangling over Annie's bow enjoying the peace.                              


a brief encounter

Thursday, December 1, 2016

sailing Navigator Annie after way too long


Across the creek from us there is a sort of ramp...well it is more a gap in the bushes really, but after far too long (what with moving, renovating and the charms of Beachcomber) I thought I'd try this little sandy spot for a launch of Annie. The trouble with the jetties around here is they are generally set a bit high for compact and lower boats- I always feel I need a truckload of fenders.


 The vehicular part was fine in 4x4 mode and she slipped effortlessly into the creek. I knew the foliage would prevent raising even the mizzen mast until after launch, but there was a nasty breeze blowing straight up from the south and in such a confined space behind the jetty pictured above it was necessary to cast off and tie up to a couple of trees in very shallow water to rig.
The spars had been revarnished before we moved so lines were all in the wrong places and it all took much longer than usual.


The sailing was certainly worth waiting for and Annie spent a few pleasant hours exploring Bancroft Bay and our bits of Lake King. Other gaff sailors will all have their ways of raising the yard, and with Beachcomber I like to see it going up horizontally until the throat is within cinching height, and then the peak can be trimmed. I had forgotten that the forks I made for Annie are a little tight to do that smoothly, so hers tends to go up with a fair bit of peak halyard first, and she likes to come down the same way. I'll have to get some tallow onto the leathers all the same.