Saturday, July 4, 2015

Spring is just around the corner. Well, several corners and a couple of straights really.

Three minutes and forty four seconds.
Not a lot, you cant do much in that small amount of time.  I can type about 100 words, walk a hundred and fifty yards at a gentle pace, paddle around twice that if I am pushing it along, or brew a cup of tea.

Today I’m working on taking off the plank offsets for SEI, and I can tell you that although it’s not a complicated job, it takes a great deal more time than that. I’ve been on it most of the afternoon and it’s a job nearly done.

But todays time here in the southern hemisphere between sunrise and sunset will be three minutes and forty four seconds longer than the shortest day a couple of weeks ago. The seasons are heading for springtime and we’ll soon be able to tell the difference! 

I will be heading for summertime in 10 days time though, the long trip to Port Townsend has become an annual event for me, SCAMP Camp is a fixture these days, usually run just before the Port Townsend Wooden Boat festival in September this one has had to be scheduled early due to the Maritime Center being booked for our usual time so I am in there in a couple of weeks time being a Schoolmaster teaching people to put their kits together.

It’s a long trip, and most of the airlines go through LAX That place is my least favourite airport on the planet and I’d got to great lengths to avoid travelling through there, so this time I’ve managed to get a decent deal on the tickets with Hawaiian Air, flying via Hawaii then into SeaTac. No I don’t get a stopover, drat.

But its going to be an interesting northern hemisphere summer for me, Jackie Monies and I are touring, from Port Townsend to Michigan, back to Toledo Or for their boat show, then Port Townsend for the Wooden Boat Festival, then wandering south to Oklahoma, Texas and the Port Aransas PlyWooden Boat show.

Once we can get our heads together in PT we’ll be working out where we’ll be, who we can call on, what we’re doing. Our thoughts are to post our schedule so people will know when we’re in their area, stop for a day to meet builders and interested people, talk boats and other nonsense, then drive to the next stop.

All this takes time, more than the 90 days that my visitors permit allows, so I have to leave not only the country but “neighbouring countries and Island territories” as well.  So it looks as though we’re going to Belize, just for a few days. 

Could be a lot worse.

It will be well into spring when I get home to New Zealand again.

Hope to see you somewhere along the way.


Sunday, June 21, 2015

Its cold out there!

Its the shortest day of the year today, here in the southern hemisphere anyway.  Its calm after the mayhem that yesterdays fast moving winter storm caused, and while there is some light cloud its mostly sunny.
The significance of the day though is that  springtime, warm weather, boisterous early season breezes and the promise of summer is just a couple of flips of pages on the calendar away.

Maintenance, lots to do.  Haul, antifoul and paint my ship.  40 ft. of motor cruiser is a lump of a thing to do,  its three years since the last one,  the first since I bought her, and she not only needs her bottom done but the topsides are looking tired as well so it’s a big job.
I do manage to keep the worst of the barnacles off her, have several times put her on a sandy beach an hour before low tide and walked around with a hard broom to scrub and scrape, an hour means the water goes down about a foot so she leans over just enough for me to get well under with the long handled broom, but she’s about through the soft antifouling paint under there so its up on the hard when I get back from the  next trip.

Same with the little yacht “May” as well, living on a trailer she is not antifouled, but there is much maintenance to do there, even under her sheltering tarpaulin the varnish has peeled and some of the paint cracked, the interior is musty and there is a bit of mould, the rig needs attention and, well, more work.  I want to cruise her this summer, so its time to make a plan.

Paint, paint rollers and brushes, thinners, scrapers, sandpapers and sanders,  scrubbing brushes, all the tools and materials need to be assembled ready for the big days,  the ship will be done in one intense weeks work up on the hard, two ladders, a scaffold plank, mask, tyvek suit, gloves etc.  I’m not looking forward to that but little “May” can be done a bit at a time. Sanding, varnishing, and as the warmer weather dries out the lawn up where she is parked I can take the rig down, assemble it on the grass and make the changes I want.

So there is a shelf and a toolbox up there in the boatshed, devoted to the spring maintenance.  The toolbox has all the sanding and painting gear plus protective clothing, one end of the shelf has the paint and varnish for the little yacht, the other for the ship.  I’ve got quite a lot of it including $450 worth of antifouling,  but there is more to get.
I’ll go and see my friend at Burnsco the boat chandlery about that, but am sorry that they don’t sell bulk elbow grease.  I’m going to need some.

But today I’m going to fit the rowlock plates to SEI. Nothing fancy this time, she’s not a boat that I anticipate rowing for hours at a time, so I am not going to fit my “patent” tufnol lined sockets, just a bronze strap top and bottom of a hardwood block, drilled to suit the rowlocks, and through bolted.
The hardwood came from a shipping pallet, its oily wood, hard, I’ve no idea what species but it is very tough with interlocked grain that should wear well, and like everything else for a serial boatbuilder it was there when I needed something so that’s what got used.
I’ve oars to build for her as well, they’ll be long ones at 9 ft. Again they’ll be simple with narrow blades that wont need to be feathered when rowing to windward and be sturdy enough to push the boat off with.
Stowing  a pair of 9 ft oars in SEI is going to be  a pain, they'll be either in the way or hanging out the end of the boat,  I'm thinking of getting myself a pair of Chuck Leinwebers clip together oar sleeves,  this will allow me to make the oars at the correct length, then cut them in half and with these sleeves, clip them together when needed. I have been using a pair of his paddle ones, and they're very good, those allow me to use the paddle at my usual 45deg left handed configuration and my visitors can use them just straight which is easier than feathering, allows them to concentrate on no falling out.  
The oar ones are shown "Here".

I've lots to do before springtime. Not a lot of time in which to do it!  On the 14th of next month I’m on the plane again for what has become an annual pilgrimage to Port Townsend in the USA. It’s a long trip this time, so my spring will be spent travelling rather than doing all the work that’s stacked up at home.

All of the above adds up to the fact that its time I got out of my nice warm bunk and got on with it.


John Welsford

Monday, June 15, 2015

Cruising, from a small boat perspective

Camp cruising

I love camp cruising, began my cruising career in a then 40 year old open 14 ft sailing dinghy with a damp kapok sleeping bag, a very old and temperamental kerosene stove, two spoons, a can opener and a bucket.  We had a tarp which got slung over the boom, and generally tried to get the boat up into the head of the harbours or estuaries where she would settle fairly upright on the mud overnight.
We had no outboard motor, no cellphones of course, and were frequently late home.  Not just an hour or two, sometimes several days!  If we could we’d find a phone box and ring one or the other set of parents knowing that whichever we’d talked to would phone the other.
I recall one trip where we were trapped about 40 miles from home by a change in the weather that brought a headwind too strong for us to handle, a headwind that  stayed for days, so we eventually caught a bus home, sitting alone at the back to spare people the smell of our unwashed selves.

A week later, bathed, laundered, rested, carrying a bag of food and praying for for a change in the weather we caught the bus back, dragged our little ship out of the mangroves and sailed her home.

My friend and I were 15 years old, parents and school seemed ok with our disappearing for a few days now and again. Great memories, but these days I prefer to be a bit more comfortable. Dry, warm, better fed, and with space to lie flat, stretch out and sleep well.

I still get to go camp cruising. I very much enjoy it.  A week in a small open boat brings me so much closer to the elements than other forms of cruising. Sometimes I’ll camp on shore, but of late the pressure of housing being built in even the far reaches of the harbours means that many of the little spaces that were so suited to pitching a tent are no longer available, so I build and play with boats that have a sleeping space built in.

I prefer to stay dry, properly dry not just less damp than usual, so a decent shelter is part of the equipage.
Its  a somewhat fraught subject, there is much debate as to what fabric, what configuration and how to do the detail work.  As my next build is to be a serious open sail and oar cruiser I watch for debate on this subject in the hope that I’ll pick up some useful ideas.
Rick Thompson built one of my Walkabout sail and oar cruisers in a rowing only version a while back, has done an exceptional job on the build and has been very active both in using the boat and in participation in internet forums.
I was very interested to see his posting over on the WoodenBoat forum on his building of a quick erect tent for his boat, he’s meticulous in both research and methodology, and his tent is one of the best I’ve seen.

I’ve borrowed a couple of his pics and posted them below, nice work Rick, thanks for posting that information.

Go and have a look at the thread for the detail on how it was done.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

News from the boatshed.

A grumble and other things.

Just recently over on the jwbuilders yahoo group, there was some discussion about temporary shelters in which to build a boat.  There were some good suggestions, and some that don’t apply here in NZ, but one of the things that came up was a reference to the very cheap kitset garages and carports available from several distributors of same.

I’m back home on board my ship again after a couple of days at my Ex’s house.  In exchange for another consideration I had volunteered to assemble a kitset garage that she’d bought.
Its one of “these”.

I’d hoped to use the completed space to get a couple of projects done, ones that are not easy when out in the weather here in New Zealands winter but that hasn’t worked out well.
In the little time that I’ve been able to put into it, I’ve put the foundations in, got three walls assembled and stood up, have a little of the roof on and have decided that it was not going to work the way I wanted.
It’s a nightmare of a thing to build, its so lightly framed that getting it straight and true is very difficult, the whole thing is in my humble opinion so light and flimsy that its not a good deal at all.

In fact upon asking around I’ve come across several other people including two who build this sort of thing for a living who are of the same opinion, so if you’re looking for a shed, I’d suggest that look very hard before you make your choice.

So I’ve bought a heap of cheap 45 x 70 framing lumber, drawn plans and today made up five roof trusses. Harder work physically than I’ve done for a while, but they are done.
In a week or so I’ll be back and will pre cut all of the studs and plates for the walls, and if the weather (dead of winter here in the South) co operates will have the old structure down and stripped, the idea being to put the wooden frames up and clad them with the tin from the kit.

She’ll have a decent  garage in which to put her little car, and I’ll have the use of my old shop again for 12 months.
The shop here where I am living is nowhere big enough for all the machinery I have in the old shop and I’ve nowhere else to put it. I’m ok with that for the most part but gosh I miss that big bandsaw.
And the buzzer (jointer).  And the big Drill press.  And the thickness planer, and the dust extraction system, and and and – Oh well, I think that its time to get the kayak out and go for a paddle.

Design wise, John Owens of JOWoodworks is working up a prototype for a kitset version of  SEI, and today I am going over the plans and the hull of my own boat to get the “as built” measurements into the plans.
I’d tried on the drawing to pinch the hull slightly midships  to reduce the length of oar required to row her easily, but the planks would not easily take that shape.
Another demonstration of the old engineering saying that goes “in theory there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice there is!”.
 So I’ve a little work to do.

John Owens is hoping to have that boat at Sail Oklahoma and the Port Aransas PlyWooden Boat show,  see you there.

About subject matter on this blog. 

It was originally started as a place for me to chat with my friends and some of those who are building from my plans, and its been going for quite a while now.  Readership is fairly high, around 5 or 6000 page views a month and its been useful to be able to refer people to posts where I’ve already written on a particular subject.
On reading through the statistics, I note that the posts that attract the most readership, are those on somewhat technical matters.
Some on boats, some on machinery or tools, and some on design.  Understandable, so I’ll be working on that in future, more tool tests and I have a couple of interesting ones coming up, as well as more design work.

I’m still trying to put up a post each Friday, but don’t bet on it, sometimes life gets in the way.

See you next week.


Saturday, June 6, 2015

Home again and back to work

Home again.

It’s a long way home from Vancouver to my ship in Auckland, Skytrain in Vancouver (great public transport, quick, quiet and cheap! Well done Vancouver BC) then a flight to San Fran, (very nice airport terminal by the way, so much better than LAX, in future I’ll be  paying the slight difference in airfares to avoid the latter) then the loooong 11 ½ hour flight across the Pacific,  then two buses and a 2 km walk towing my suitcase. 25 hours in all. 
You have no idea how glad I was to walk up to the crest of the hill and look down on the river!

Just a comment on airline comfort, Air New Zealand now has seats where a family or friends can fold the oversized leg rests of adjacent seats out to make a couch. Behind me there was a couple with a young child, and they were able to get much more comfortable than is usual in cattle class.
I was super lucky on this flight and was the only one in a row of three so was able to lie down flat, got some “real” sleep which makes a big difference. Recommended, even if you can’t get an empty row those seats are better than any others I’ve seen.
Other than that, I watched (again, for about the fifth time) the first two episodes of  “The Hobbit”, noting all the places in the scenery that I know and have been to.
Its an odd feeling watching a fantasy movie and recognising the mountains and the hills in the background, fun though.

I made it through the trip in fairly good shape which is a relief, a couple of trips ago I would not be fit for much for a week or more afterward but today I’m good. It will take a day or two to reset the sleep cycle, but today I’m going to be working on the drawing board some, have to do some lawnmowing, will be off up the river in the kayak for my excersize run for the day, and will be putting the mast box into SEI. 
There is not so much to do to the little boat now, and I’m determined to get her in and sailing in time for our summer.
I miss sailing small boats, they give a feeling of connection to the water that bigger boats don’t, and its been a while since I had a boat that I could sail on impulse, my little gaff sloop takes an hour from arriving at the ramp to sailing, and an hour to pull her out and unrig her.  Much too long for a sail after supper, but SEI will take maybe 10 mins, less if I leave the rig set up and just bundle the sail and spars.
Note that the rig fits in the length of the boat so its all “inside” when being transported, I trimmed the mast by about 100mm and altered the plans to do this, makes things much easier.

On sails, for SEI I have one of the OZ Racer RSS sails from Mik Storer, you can get these from Duckworksmagazine 

Nice sails, very well made, and super well priced!  I expect to be able to put up a post telling all about performance and set, but from what I have seen so far I’m impressed.
Its dead of winter here, the shortest day is only two weeks away, we lose another four minutes out of an already short day, dawn is about 7 30 am, and sunset about 5 15pm.  Yes I know its not anything like the UK or the Northern states, Canada or Scandinavia, but its still wetter and colder than summer, so its heater on so the pens will work, and sitting at the drawing board with my dog curled up asleep in the warm.

Nice, I don’t mind the weather at all.

But roll on springtime.


Tuesday, June 2, 2015

From Desolation Sound BC

Morning has broken-------

In these deep sided sounds the sun does not come up over the tops of the trees until a little later than you’d be used to, but we’re only about 3 weeks short of the longest day and the dawn is very early.
So this morning we had daylight early, but sun about 8 am.
What sun though, the air is crystal clear, see forever air, so clear that distances in this enormous place are very deceptive.
Desolation Sound is stunning, piloting our ship around in here is an adventure in ever changing vistas. From the low rocky islands with little channels winding into the hidden anchorages of Prideaux Haven to the astonishing vertical granite walls, thousands of feet high, of Toba Inlet.  There is infinite variety here.

We spent our first two nights in Roscoe Bay, walked up to Black Lake where we swam in warm waters dark with tannin from the forest around, lay out sunning like lizards on the rocks, explored the forest trails and watched the deer walk across the path just a few paces ahead of us.

Our next night was in the cove up past Squirrel Cove General store, and stopping at the store was the first time I’d had to bring this big lump to a dock, in among other boats at that. It is not quite like parking a car!
But the ships big single propeller tends to kick the stern of the boat one way in forward and the other way in reverse, so I pulled in and put her in reverse to stop “Grand Mariner” about a metre out, the prop walking the stern across toward the dock on the port side while I  used the bow thruster to push the bow in the same direction.
The fenders touched so gently that Jackie did not wake from her nap on the settee.

That general store is great, I’d rate it with the Brooklin General store just down the road from WoodenBoat magazine in Maine, and the Nordland General Store on Marrowstone Island across from Port Townsend. They’re a vanishing breed, but such a treat to shop in, all the unexpected treasures lurking on the shelves and in the corners, and the people behind the counters know all the places, the gossip and the places to go.

Our fourth night was in Prideaux Haven, we wriggled in there through tiny channels, standing up on the top deck wearing polarised sunglasses, watching carefully for the shallows and the rocks and anchored in about 10m of water with just enough space on each side to swing with safe clearance from the rock walls of the cove.

Day five, 10 hours of gentle motoring, Jackie and I taking turns steering on our way up the Homfray Channel, around the corner into Toba Inlet with its snow capped 5000ft high mountains, white foaming waterfalls cascading down through the forests that cling to the rocky sides and past the huge granite walls with horizontal marks where the glaciers that formed this amazing place had ground their way past.
Toba Inlet is like a wind tunnel, I imagine that there are big differences in air pressure from one end to the other which cause high winds in here when everywhere else is calm.  We encountered 25 knot winds in there, enough to make steering our ship downwind a little demanding, but coming back upwind she handled the steep short chop quite happily.

Last night we stopped in Walsh Cove, a tiny harbour in behind Gorges Island in the Waddington Channel.  Its small but very deep, and my first attempt to anchor did not stop us when I backed up so I pulled the anchor up and tried again.  This time was ok, holding at half throttle in reverse but I have all the chain out just in case.  I think its 200 ft of 3/8in chain with a 40 lb Manson Supreme anchor on the end of it (They’re made about half an hour away from my home in New Zealand, very good anchors by the way) so I’m very glad of the electric winch.

Today I’m planning to take us around into Pendrell Sound which has the peculiar reputation of having the warmest water north of Mexico on this coast.
I’ve asked, and was told that its because its on the midpoint of the tidal flows behind Vancouver Island. That is, some of the flow comes around the south past Victoria and through the Straights of Juan de Fuca, and some comes around the northern end and they meet here in Desolation Sound. Pendrell being the nexus. This means that the water here remains and does not flow away carrying the sun warmed water out into the deep, and I feel like going for a swim.

At 50.18 deg. North. 

With snow capped peaks all around.

Monday, May 25, 2015

From Desolation Sound, British Columbia.


Desolation Sound, British Columbia.
Jackie and I found each other ok at Vancouver airport and the flight across to where we were to pick up our ship was quick and efficient, the cab driver who took us from the little airport into our motel pleasant and helpful, and the motel itself  (the “Port Augusta” conveniently close to both a very nice restaurant and the charter companies office at the local marina.
The crew at the charter company are wonderful, a this is a friendly and efficient outfit, 10/10, highly recommended!
It was a very rough trip across from the Charter base at Comox on Vancouver Island, waves up to about 3 ft high, but very close together.  I’d slowed the ship down to about three knots rather than just bashing on and was trying to steer into the worst then bear away and run across in the calmer patches but our ship is not as nimble as I am used to, so we got bounced around a fair bit.  Uncomfortable but there was no risk.  “Gulf Mariner” is pretty capable, she’s a “Mariner 40”, a fairly typical “Trawler” type cruising motorboat, comfortable and roomy, well appointed and Desolation Sound charters do a good job in terms of maintaining the boat, ensuring that I was properly briefed, shown all of the systems and where all the equipment is.

Navigation in this maze of channels is no so easy for a first timer here, its very easy to get lost and I have to admit to having been a couple of miles out when looking for the anchorage that we’d planned to spend our first night in, but serendipity found us a perfect spot and we didn't move for two days.

“Roscoe Bay” is a long narrow groove, cut by glaciers millennia ago. The entrance is very narrow and is only accessible from mid tide upwards. Inside there is a pool wide enough to anchor in perfect shelter. The steep rocky sides  of the pool are covered in spruce, what I think are hemlock, and a few douglas fir.  The area would have been logged in the early 1900s so the regrowth is quite tall, almost mature forest and its lovely to walk the many trails that run through it.

We’ve a small lake only a few hundred yards up what was a logging road alongside the small outlet stream from that lake, and once there the warm fresh water was so inviting that we were in swimming within minutes of arriving there.  Waterlilies, foxgloves, several berry vines with the remains of the spring flowers add colour, some of which have found their way onto the dining table in the main cabin here.
There are deer around and they appear not at all fazed by our walking past.  Compared to our New Zealand forests these are quiet, not a lot of birdsong, but peaceful. Its been perfect, but today we’re moving around to Squirrel Cove, will do a run ashore to the store there for a few bits and pieces plus wifi to email and post this to the blog, and then will head out to our next overnight stop.
The store here has to be seen, great place with lovely people.

I’m more familiar with the gps upstairs now, so don’t expect to get lost again, but in this amazing place, who cares if we do.