violin making workshop

Thursday, January 21, 2016

A 'Couta Boat on the lakes


Peter Medling of Paynesville came up with this picture of 'Pearl' built by Mitch Lacco in 1926 with a NZ Kauri hull and Queensland Beech decks. She was recently purchased and brought to the Lakes from Port Philip, I think...but I'll need to do a bit more digging for the details.

She is a powerful hull. Five up on the rails seem insubstantial. I am quite intimidated by the overhang of the boom!



I also include this pic from the early 20th Century of the jetty at Kalimna. The boat there is reputedly the one belonging to a well-known Melbourne business family, but it bears an uncanny resemblance to Beachcomber, whose origins and maker are still a bit obscure, despite lots of information.

 I recently spoke to a man whose lineage goes way back in this district and he claims that his ancestor was a likely builder of Beachcomber in the traditions of the French Canadian boats he learnt his trade upon before coming down to Oz. His name was MacMillan (a branch apparently unrelated to the explorer and pioneer in this area who has a very disturbing and unhappy reputation in his dealings with the local indigenous people ), and I'll be interested to find out more about him because the previous most likely builder has working dates that don't quite match Beachcomber's given history.

I keep an open mind on these things but glean anything I can by making these claims online and at dinners, and seeing what comes up...

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Sooty the Noble Greyhound


This remarkable creature is new to the family, and while I'm more than happy to share my pleasure in having his companionship, the reason I'm including him here is somewhat more complex.

He is three and a half years old,  a former racing greyhound, and having survived four trainers and a short career- including his share of wins- he was taken to a vet to be euthanised, like thousands of similar dogs around the world, when they have 'served' what is seen to be 'their purpose'. 

This magnificent animal is such good company.  He is solid and uncomplicated and calm despite his great physicality. The reason he wasn't killed by the vet is that he was rescued by a local group who make it their business to find good homes for retired racing dogs, and many wonderful relationships have come from their efforts. Vets are often overcome by the wastefulness of these destructions and are happy to have an organisation to call. We offered to foster him for them until a 'forever home' could be found, but I became too attached to let him go without a struggle.

We have watched as he has become used to us, and we him. He is now rediscovering his playful puppy-self, and finding time to dwell a little on the joy of just being. It has taken a few weeks for us to understand his particular needs, his never having lived in a home before nor had the sort of affection that a pet might expect from people. These are a bit different from other dogs, but they are full of pleasant surprises. People expect them to need a huge amount of space and exercise, but they don't. People assume that they are dangerous because they are big and muscular, but they aren't. 

Some might assume that they are 'industrialised' and incapable of domestication, but they are intelligent and adaptable, and they are very quick to recognise a calm and happy environment and give out much more emotionally than they expect in return.

Everyone wants to pat Sooty when we walk him. He is a great ambassador for the breed. Currently he is helping us foster a frightened, timid little female  also rescued from a wasteful end. She has made very quick progress into some sort of confidence and will make someone an affectionate and loyal companion too, and our Sooty will have been a part of her initial re-education from an industry that seems unforgivably wasteful to me.

His racing name was Pod's Elect, and the video below is of one of his better races. 
A disclaimer. I have never been to the dog or horse races and I don't support the idea of racing animals. (But watch him come from behind. He is in the red jumper, no.1)



Friday, December 25, 2015

you say lapstrake, we say clinker


Our little clinker dinghy is finally back in the water, after months on blocks at the shed being attended to intermittently between house renovations and other duties. The antifouling is to allow her to stay in the water at the jetty- she is longer and heavier than most modern tenders.

Below, a new (old timber)Kauri breasthook and various grafts to replace rotten inwales made for a solid structure again, but over 80years of weathering meant that the strakes were never going to look really tidy without a total rebuild, and that was not my intention.






You can see she is not exactly a car-topper, but this arrangement did just fine for the short run to the creek.


It was a bit of a shock to find she tracked so straight and rowed so well, despite the cheap oars and rowlocks, and she has given us hours of simple pleasure already. In a previous post I may have mentioned her previous lives, including as the net transporter from fishing boat to the shore just over the creek from our house in the early parts of the 20th Century. I really love to have utilitarian objects that have their own stories.


Monday, November 30, 2015

Three Gippsland Gaffers


Three gaffers, each of quite different form on Gippsland lakes in the early Twentieth Century. Their names were The Wanderer (with a very shallow transom and a cutter style rig), The Flying Scud (with a transom that is shaped in a way more common in recent times and a simpler rig. She has lapstrake planking) and the Marjorie (with what appears to be a counter stern). Only the canoe stern type is missing from the mix.

It seems that the local builders adapted several 'old country' styles to the shallow waters of these lakes in the early more isolated times, but the later builds were then also influenced by the builders of Port Phillip when it became more common to bring boats into the area.

The typical 'couta boat' of the Melbourne/Geelong/Mornington/Bellarine areas evolved with heavier deeper keels to venture off-shore, while the Gippsland types that kept local traditions alive persisted with centre-boards to make unloading the catch easier on a beach. The counter stern became less common in time, but the canoe stern persisted along with the conventional transomed types and are still scattered amongst the berths and pens of the areas around Lakes Entrance, Metung and Paynesville.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Gippsland Lakes in the 1920's


This old promotional film of our area reeks of the inter-war period. I include it here because of the boats and fishing techniques,  but I'm also charmed by the style of the period.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

To my lizard friends; I'm sorry


We are going to call him Keith after my father. I always regret becoming close to predators, because I know that the things they fancy and lust after as  menu items are also lovely small creatures that I like to spend time with. Some of my best friends may end up as his lunch.

Don't get me wrong. He's not called Keith because my dad was some kind of predator. That Keith was a giver, and a life-time solver of people's problems, but the thing that is pertinent here is that he was a morning whistler. One of those positive, enthusiastic souls for whom the morning was a cause for celebration and optimism. The sun had risen again, and that is enough to be happy. What a glorious thing it was to hear him whistle through his shower and shave, tunefully making his way back to the wardrobe in his short pyjamas. I fail both the whistling and the pyjama tests.

But the relationship between Keiths is even deeper. The one, pictured and I mimmick each other's call, and I'm almost certain that I can convince him to sing 'Some Enchanted Evening" eventually, but he keeps beginning in the wrong key. We are moving forward and the tunes are relentlessly positive in a 'King and I'  popular-musical-sort of way, like the things my dad used to whistle.

So Im naturally drawn to this bird, and he is causing me to whistle, and that causes me to remember my beautiful father, and that causes me to write this post.

So I continue to have confused and passionate relationships with predators and carnivors (like me) even though I believe that in a perfect world, we could all be fallen fruit and seed eaters....I just don't feel optimistic that I can convince this Keith about all the moral arguments that I would love to adopt if I were to become a better soul. But I'm working on his tunes. And he is connecting me with that bit of my father that was unfailingly optimistic despite his understanding of our limitations as humans.

I don't know if he ever understood that despite my turning away from many of the nineteenth Century religious paradigms that he held dearly, he was responsible for my on-going romantic idealism- that feeling that we can all do everything a little bit better if we give it some honest consideration.

Oh, and the bird? He is a grey butcher bird. Along with a clutch of King Parrots, Crimson Rosellas, Common Bronze-Wings, Magpies, Kookaburras, Rainbow Lorikeets, Pink Galahs, Wattlebirds, Honey-Eaters and Blue Fairy Wrens (amongst others) he is a beautiful part of the reason I'm enjoying being here, now.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

from horn cleats to a little bit of cam

 Beachcomber came with a splendid array of wooden horn cleats, and they somehow looked 'proper', and representative of the satisfying habit of 'making fast'. They are easy to use because they are big and well-proportioned, but for a sometimes lone, and a not overly confident self-taught sailor they presented a bit of a risk in a sudden gust if I need to de-power any or all of three sails quickly without leaving the helm. So I felt it was a safety issue to bring a little cam (calm?) into the arrangement.

The pic above shows the old horn and the new by-pass, through the combing to the cam cleat on a merbau block. The angle is 45 degrees. Being a two-ended main sheet, this end will be cleated off while I sit next to it, working its opposite number across and under the tiller- and that side can be cleated too, obviously...but released in a panic without needing to go anywhere.


I will arrange the jib sheet similarly, but I'm struggling to decide how far aft to take these cleats. If I had crew, they would prefer them further forward, near the side seats, but alone, I would prefer them quite close to the main sheet, so that two lines come from a similar direction can lay across my lap. Either way will have benefits...

The staysail is self-tacking and will probably remain horn cleated for the moment, because it its the outer one, the jib that is most likely to want to power me into trouble in a blow.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Metung Old Gaffers, East Gippsland


Soon, the old gaffers will come out of hiding in preparation for a series of six events on Sundays. Above, Endeavour owned by Peter Harvey is sailing in second position (last year), ahead of the red sailed Calypso. I hope to spend some time celebrating and photographing some of these local boats in the future, and will try to find a few stories about them too.


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

magic morning merely motoring


Above, a beautiful, tranquil Lake King viewed from off Shaving point, looking towards Paynesville.


After the trip I managed to toss a bit of varnish on the decks on the basis that a 20% chance of rain was also an 80% chance of the varnish drying...

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Mainsheet blocks


The kit for Beachcomber's main sheet has been brought home for treatment. It has been a joy to tackle the tackle.

Some of the loftier blocks have been a challenge , particularly the peak halyard system, which involves five blocks altogether, and a very long piece of string. The topmost double block is at the very top of the mast. Despite this, I've managed to decommission about seven blocks in simplifying the rig from exhaustively traditional to more pragmatically practical. Of course I'm open to being wrong about these simplifications, but will always try to simplify and 'add lightness'.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Cape Conran beach textures


Our first trip to Cape Conran on the East Gippsland coast- one of several new places for us to explore in an area of the state we have only seen superficially before. This is wonderful and expansive farmland, bush and coastal country. The bush is not unlike that of the Western parts of the state- the places most familiar to us- but there are significant differences in species and climate. In the bush this is Banksia country with gnarled old trunks supporting masses of the unusual flowers.


Exposure to deep ocean currents makes for interesting beach combing. I couldn't resist a few pics of sponges and weeds that competed with the horizon for my attention.



Friday, July 24, 2015

love my tender


You know how things go when you feel like you are on a roll. Thought a tender would be handy to get around Beachcomber from the water, and maybe row across to the little beach for a stroll or a picnic.

Fantasies of teaching grandchildren to row. Small disposable plastic tenders would do. Something cheap- I'm already way too into this...but then the ideas start conflating with my love of a good story, and my love for a nice hand made line and suddenly I'm taking delivery of this from Clive, our local slip owner and boat guru.


Before the second war this boat used to be filled with fishing nets to take them in from the big boat and brought to a landing just over the water a hundred metres from us. She was made locally from kauri pine and has had a few stories to tell. One of the shipwrights that worked a lot on the restoration of Beachcomber in the 1990's owned this one for quite a while. So did Clive.

A couple of ribs, a bit of inwale, a new breast hook and quite a bit of abrasive surface work will see her nice...but I'm not going to rush it.


Friday, July 17, 2015

Bosun's Backside Blog


The only time I have knowingly photographed my backside, above. Thoroughly harnessed and 'lanyarded' to the ladder and mast, I have found some gaps in the weather to go aloft, gathering blocks and halyards to take home for refurbishment. The picture below shows something of recent work on the cockpit sole pieces. The long thin ones next to the centreboard are still of the original timber. I found some rot in them but was able to resaw the boards and introduce some breather gaps and reassemble them without new wood on top. (although some of the cross pieces on the underside have been replaced from good wood sourced in other inserts that were too far gone)


I have to decide whether to paint or re-varnish those pieces below the side seats. They are in pretty good condition, so the decision will be largely a visual one. If I paint them it will be to try to make a large, simple, uncluttered area all of the same colour and texture. If I varnish them it will be because I'm paying homage to the last restoration and the honesty of the timber, and maybe also because I'll decide that I like the shape provided by the contrast of colour....sue me, I'm not decisive at all sometimes.


This close-up, above is of some of the servings that survived nearly a quarter of a century outside in the harsh Australian weather and still needed significant force to be cut open. Fred did a truly beautiful job with his blocks and fittings. I've always struggled a bit with soft furnishings and threads. Me doing up the buttons on a doonah cover for the bed is often a source of amusement for my dear Julia, although I have to say it is some years since she fell about, laughing...it is more of a knowing smile now. I did manage to get my 'knot badge' when I was a Cub Scout, but only just. It reminded me too much of my deviant method of tying my shoes.

Anyway, the point of all that is to explain why my restoration of the servings and blocks will not be anything like as artful as Fred's.


Above, the new throat halyard (top)  has been prepared and it's lower block has been fitted with it's partly served grommet. Making grommets and splicing are quite pleasant to do, but I don't think I'll ever nail them as skills.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Sole, Grate and Varnish




One coat of Cetol on the decks has shown me that despite several scrubbings with oxalic acid, and plenty of sanding, the white beech will still look a bit patchy, varying between yellow and darker browns, but I hope that with a reasonable surface quality the colours will simply look 'woody' and of suitable patina. The merbau has come up beautifully red.


The panels above have three coats of Jotun alkyd primer and two coats of Norglass marine decking enamel for a non-slip surface of the sole plates aft. The grey was chosen to give it a workboat kind of simplicity as there is so much timber elsewhere, and while these boards may be temporary, I wanted to see what a neutral floor might do to lift the appearance of the brightwork. The square holes in these two boards are to provide a bit more air movement around the bilge and they are shaped in a grid of squares to reference the grate at the feet of the helmsman.


This panel is shown with only primer on it but with the restored grate. I need to decide whether to paint the floors on the inside hull sides grey like the panels above (to unify the inside a bit) or repaint in the cream which is also the topsides colour. The little box at the top of this pic conceals the Yanmar control panel, ignition and warning lights etc. When in use the lid folds up and away.


Thursday, June 18, 2015

Beachcomber's Mushroom Farm


Just to prove that I am a 'regular guy' I include this glossy shot of the twenty-plus year old Yanmar after de-corosion and respray. The prettier motor will enable faster burnouts and donuts I'm sure.


The aft sole looked a little rotten in one corner, and the grating had lost a tooth, but I was surprised to find a mushroom farm underneath when I brought it back to the sensible atmosphere in what has to pass for a workshop at the moment...


So I'm glad I decided to make a new sole, it may be temporary, we'll see what else needs doing while I see how it works. The grating was nicely made and is rotten in places, but I have cut out the rot as far as I can tell, and have grafted new wood to make it useable again.

Above, the table saw was used to remove half the thickness around the perimeter, and below, new rails are attached.


The ply will be painted with Jotun alkyd Primer initially. It is a light grey and very robust. We'll see if it is too light in tone to be serviceable under foot. The grating will be coated in Sikkens Cetol.