Saturday, January 24, 2015

Small things and happiness

Lifes  annoyances.

There are days when nothing seems to go right.  A couple of days ago I spilled a cup of tea when sitting up in my bed writing on the laptop, I’ve done it before, and its really annoying.
There was nothing that I can put the cup on that was within easy reach so I was wedging it upright with the duvet and that’s not a reliable way of keeping a full mug upright.

I’d come to the conclusion a while back that happiness was not so much a matter of getting all the big things into order, its more a matter of dealing with the little day to day annoyances.  Get them right and life’s a lot more comfortable.
Like buying some new key tops for my Mac laptop, replacing the duff switch on the cold water pump, securing the edge of the carpet on the step up into the main cabin, and yes, doing something about a place to put my mug of tea in the morning.

Done!  That spill was the last straw!

I’ve made a little folding shelf from material in my scraps bin.  The panelling along the cabin side above the edge of the bunk is recessed, and as a permanent shelf would be in the way, I made the shelf such that it would fold up into the recess when not in use.  Its just in the right position so I don’t have to reach, but does not intrude on my work area when I’m wedged up in the corner of the bunk reading or writing,

Hinged so it sits into the recessed panelling when its folded the little shelf does not intrude into the bed space when not in use.  Those swelled areas on the side rails form "props" to support it when its down. 
I’ve spent a lot of time in this bunk, and this weekend, a top of the summer holiday one for those who work or have kids at school so there are literally thousands of boats out there on the water, thousands of people on the beaches, the rods are clogged with traffic, and I’ll spend most of my day here. 
Yesterday was possibly the last time I will visit the haematology clinic at the hospital,  things are all good.  But it leaves me feeling really wrung out  for a day or two so the bed is a good space until I’m back on the pace.
Cup of tea in the morning, no spills! Magic!

Small things = happiness. And yes, I am reading that.  Interesting stuff, I'd not have bought it but it was on the local libraries "for sale" table at just a dollar.  Now thats good value.

By the way, when I called at the clinic yesterday, I had my 18 ft gaff sloop on its trailer hung on the back of my little truck .  She’s a lump,  with bowsprit and outboard motor mounting, she’s close to 22 ft long, with the trailer the combined weight is around 3200 lbs so the rig is not “nimble”. 
 I'll be doing a tidy up on the varnish, and have some work to do to re rig her with the new carbon fibre mast.  Thanks to the guys for the very good deal on the reject carbon tube, the new mast is 9 kg, the old one 19.4.  Pushing the old one up when rigging took a very deep breath and a big heave.  Now its a one hand job.  The difference in stability is very noticeable which has to help the boats performance too.

Finding a space for a near 40 ft long combination at the hospital carpark took a few minutes, many thanks to the lady who kindly moved her car across one park space so I had two spaces in line to park in.  She and her husband are sailors, he’s in getting a new knee joint and they’re looking forward to going cruising long term.
Nice person, I wish them well, and thanks again..

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Stuart Reid and one of his designs, plus news on sails

Blog post

I’ve known Stuart Reid for over 30 years, watched his gradual progression from an architectural draftsman through retirement  and time to pursue a passion for  boat design and some stunning artwork. We don’t see each other often, but the friendship has been there for a very long time so we’re supportive of each other and do what we can to help.
Stuart designs some very good small boats, and would be the first to admit that he’s a better designer than a marketer or salesman, so I’ve included several of his boats in my on line catalogue and sell enough to provide Stuart with his “beer money. I suspect that there has been very little beer and quite a lot of high grade art paper and such, all good by me.

Sadly, Stuart lost his wife Rose last year, his brother tells me he was managing ok until recently when he was seriously injured in a fall which has left him with spinal damage and paralysed with an unknown long term prognosis.
I hope to visit him in hospital this week, and yesterday went over to a customers place to take some pics of a build to his “Optimus Maximus” plan so I could show him one of his “babies” .

 Optimus Maximus, she's a little flat bottomed pram, about as simple a build as you can imagine.
This is about 3 weeks work, there is not a lot left to do and the young man will have a boat to be proud of.
 She's got a lot of room in there, a couple of good sized plastic hatches would give access to the huge bouyancy tanks for storage, I've been camp cruising in boats much less suited than this one.
 Way back when,  courting my now wife, I introduced her to sailing in the original Optimus Maximus.  She sat on the starboard side facing aft, back against the forward bulkhead and legs out alongside the centercase. There is plenty of room there to be comfortable and sheltered, and the boat is so stable that she did not need to change sides each tack.
An adult and two kids would be a good load, this is a much bigger boat than you'd expect.

Built over the holidays by a family which includes a very keen11 year old and a yachting helper, this boat is a very simple, but very capable adventure boat that will suit Kawau Bay where they live. I’ve sailed the original years back, and its big enough for two adults in some comfort, faster than you’d think and  both stable and easily recovered if some enthusiastic type manages to tip it out.
This is one of my favourites among Stuarts designs, and we’ll have more photos as the family gets it rigged and in sailing.

Here is more information 

On the rigging, I’ve supplied the family with a sail that I’d obtained as a sample, one which I intended to go on SEI.  I am offering a small range of very economical sails,  RSS ( Really Simple Sails) are made in the Philippines by  the family and friends of  Mik Storer, While they are made to suit some of his designs I have found that they will fit a lot of small boats and am now redesigning some of the rigs on my boats to suit them.
They are cheap, very nicely made, and will be available off the shelf,  they’re a good deal, made by people who understand traditional sails,  and almost half the price of a custom sail from a sail loft.

For those of you outside NZ, you can get them “here”

Or within Australia, “Here”.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

SEI progress. Slow, not very steady, but progress!

Progress in the boatshop.

 Bow on, I spent a little time researching this, and as a result hope that she shows a little of the Norwegian imagery that inspired her.
Shes fiberglassed up to the first lap joint, and in anticipation of a bit of hard use I fiberglassed  the inside of the lowest plank back about 1/4 of the boats length to provide impact strength should I sail into a deadhead or snag.
Yes I'll finish painting those shelves soon, I'd just put them up that day, cant have too many shelves and cupboards.
 Stern on, she's sharper forward than aft.
Those bundles are two sets of mast staves plus the gunwale strips.  All awaiting the cutting out of the worst knots and scarfing back together.
Stern view of the boats interior,  seams taped, seats rough fitted.  Note that the center thwart will sit down onto that frame. At this stage of the build I can very easily lift either end to waist height with one hand, I'd say she's about 90 lbs or so. No need for a diet there.

At a couple of hours every three or four days, SEI is taking longer than I like, but that’s all I can put into the project at present.  But she’s all planked up now, and I’m fitting the seat tops.
When I drew her, I tried to pinch the topsides a little in the midships area, the idea being to narrow the boat slightly to get better rowing geometry, but the planking did not want to lie fair so I let the top two planks spring out, and there are some “corrections” made to the framing after she was flipped over.
She’s a nice shape, to my eye at least.  I’ve drawn her finer forward and fatter aft than tradition would have it, but the area in which this boat will be used is notorious for short steep waves and I’ve drawn the boat this way to control her pitching when sailing to windward in these conditions.  That’s the theory anyway, I’ll be able to tell you how it works in a couple of months.

The job on hand right now is to cut the hatch openings into the seat tops then glue the doublers on underneath so the hatches can be properly fastened, then some sanding of the glass reinforcement on the seams so there are no spikes, then paint the inside of the tanks with epoxy and glue the seat tops on.

Those seat tops have to be airtight, they’re buoyancy tanks as well as places to put my behind, may have me standing on them at times, and any flex may break the seal and let water in /air out so this is a “do it right” operation.

Fitting the stern sheets, there will be a little brace under the forward end, that brace doubles as a footrest when rowing.

The other thing that’s happening is the mast. I’ve bought some cheap Baltic Spruce, full of pin knots, and the grain is a bit shaky but I figured that it’s fairly strong, quite light and comparatively cheap so its worth a try.  This will be a “birdsmouth” spar, 8 staves with a notch in one edge, so made that when they are put together they form a circle.  Glued together this system makes a nice light hollow mast, and in this case if I am careful to space the staves so the knots don’t coincide I expect that it will be strong enough.

For anyone interested, or wanting to build a spar this way, “Here” is a calculator which gives the angles and sizing for your spar. 

If you go to and search for “birdsmouth” you’ll get a whole lot of articles on making these masts.

 I ran a spare piece of knotty rejected wood to test the dimensions and section, heres the result, an 8 in long section that shows that the mast staves will produce what I want. The finished product of course will be rounded off, 65mm diameter, a hardwood section fitted inside where it goes through the mast step, same at the lower end and a lightweight plug goes in the top end.

I’m lazy, and prefer to do things the simple way so I use 8 staves which makes for a 45/45 angled notch which is only one setup on the sawbench, but it may be that a 6 stave spar is easier to assemble.  We’ll see in a day or two when I put this all together.

I’ve run the wood through the saw to make the staves, (thanks Blair for the help on that) and then made up a jig that held the staves against the saw table and fence while I ran them through to put the vee notches in one edge.  It took a little fiddling, but once set up I was able to run the 16 pieces for two masts, plus  4 spares through in less than half an hour.

 A rail to hold the batten across against the fence, and another above to hold it down solidly on the sawbench top, no slack, just a sliding fit. The saw blade was over at 45 deg, and when the batten was through it got end for ended and run through again which produced the vee section on one edge, the "birdsmouth".

The next job is to cut the biggest knots out, and scarf joint the pieces back together.  I have to do this with the gunwales as well and I’m expecting to have perhaps 20 scarf joints to make up, these in 16mm x 34mm pieces that are pretty flexible to handle.  So, another jig, this one a sliding “sledge” with a rail that fits the groove in the saw table (that’s what that groove is there for) and an angled fence and clamp that carries the piece through the saw blade at just the right angle.

Next, more jigs. These like little “goalposts”.  I don’t have a bench long enough to lay up these two masts, one 4.2m and one, the one for Blairs Saturday Night Special, at 4.5m so have made up a series of profiles on legs. These will be set up every 500 mm and lined up with the Makita laser level, and will provide a channel shaped assembly jig where I can lay each piece, coat the edge with glue and fit the next piece. 

I will be reinforcing the mast through the high load area of the  partners by fitting a fiberglass sleeve,  this material “here”   adds considerable strength to the wooden spar as well as preventing wear or abrasion damage where it comes out through the top partner ( mast step).  Its much easier to fit than trying to wrap the spar in cloth or tape, much stronger too. Good product.

I have in the past made hollow masts from two pieces and used a router with a ball end bit to hollow them out, then glued them together.  This  birdsmouth technique is much more fiddly, but I’ll hold the verdict until I have the two masts built.

Right now its 5 45 am, high tide in half an hour and I’m about to hop into the kayak and go upstream to watch the sun come up over the hill.


Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year to all

One of the good things about this time between Christmas day and New years day is that here in New Zealand its sort of “slip time. Much of the country is on summer holidays, schools are closed, beaches full of swimsuits with people (sometimes) inside them, dogs sleep under shady trees, and the weather is warm and gentle. There are no lawnmowers within earshot, few heavy trucks on the roads, the earthmoving machines on the new subdivision along the road are silent,  and the world is taking a quiet break.
It’s as though these few days don’t count, there are no penalties for not getting on with the “honey do” list, no bosses griping about missed deadlines, no hurry, no pressure.  Would that life could be like that always!

But it’s a good time for reflection, both as to what the new year may bring, and about past victories or otherwise.
A couple of weeks ago I came across a pic of one of the really memorable design projects I’ve done.  The Mini Transat race is for monohulled yachts of no more than 6.5m long ( about 21 ft 4in) by no more than 3m wide ( about  10 ft). The vertical measurement can be no more than 14m (about 46 ft).  That measurement is from the lowest point of the boat with the keel, canting keel or daggerboards fully lowered to the top of the mast.
A short keel will allow a taller mast, and a deeper keel, vice versa.

They are an extreme development class, incredibly fast, originally intended to make serious singlehanded ocean racing achievable within a reasonable budget, but of course there are always ways of making boats faster by spending more money in spite of rules about exotic materials.

I was approached by Chris Sayer, then just out of his boatbuilding apprenticeship, top apprentice for that year as well, and was asked to design a Mini Transat.  She was built on a very small budget, using materials and techniques not far different to those used by a lot of amateur builders. Some very good skills make a difference though, but it was all fairly simple stuff.

He was third in the 1999 race, from France to the Caribbean, Her major sponsors sent me to Guadeloupe to “pitstop” Chris as he would otherwise be alone there, which was a real adventure on its own.

The boat has been raced with distinction by other owners ever since, is still doing well, and still holding up structurally in spite of many tens of thousands of miles under her.

Here she is.  She carries a little over 2000 sq ft of sail downwind, around 450 sq ft upwind in a breeze, and remember, she is a singlehander with three daggerboards, twin rudders and a canting keel to keep track of as well as the rig.
There is little chance of being bored on these little monsters.

Having looked backward some, seeing as the time is 8 pm on New Years Eve, its time to think forward to next year.  I have seen the last of hospitals for a looong time ( fingers crossed) and hope to have a lot less holes poked in me by large women with various kinds of medical needles. I’ve more energy, and much more enthusiasm than I had this time last year so can plan ahead some.

Some of the planning for this year is around small things, you know, the things that continually annoy you but you don’t get around to fixing them so they continue to irritate.  One of those has been my workshop alongside my ships berth, the only area I had on which to put my tool sharpening equipment was a cluttered bench about a handspan too high, which made it very awkward to use, and very poorly lit which meant that even if I stood on a stool I could not properly see what I was doing.
So, yesterday I built a sharpening bench, its alongside a window,  I’ve wired in another power point to service the cordless tool charger shelf alongside it, and fitted a Zyliss universal vice to the right hand end of it.
I’ll build some shelving tomorrow, small ones to take all those boxes and jars of screws and nails. In a workshop as small as this one (14 ft x 28 ft floor space, but that’s about to be extended another 8 ft in length) it pays to be tidy or you very quickly end up not being able to find anything.
So that annoyance has been dealt with. Tomorrow I hope to sharpen all the tools. 5 Block planes, 8 chisels, three spokeshaves and a drawknife, a scorp, (look it up, they are an interesting tool) an adze and a broad hatchet.  I can start the year all sharp and keen edged.

The new bench, painted with leftover paint from my wifes house painting job, and yes I built the other shelves earlier this year. Cant have too many. shelves.
The machine by the way is a Ryobi combination bench grinder and Linsher ( belt sander) . Its ok, sort of, you get what you pay for and it was cheap. Bear in mind that this is my number two workshop, the one that I have where I stay to be within commuting distance of that ( love hate relationship ) haematology clinic so I cant afford to buy the good stuff for this relatively temporary shop.

Sad things, I’ve lost 5 friends in the past 6 months, all people whom I valued, and my world is much the poorer for their passing.
Mike Monies, Mike Newstead, Rose Reid, Joe Porter and Pauline, that’s Jackie Monies Mum. 
Vale, rest well, you’ll be remembered.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Best wishes for Christmas day

Christmas day.
5 30 am.

The sunrise is spectacular,  the sun bright orange, turquoise  and green coming up through high cirrus cloud,  dead flat calm, the tide a very low one so my ship is well down below the level of the riverbank, sitting just aground in her berth.

The birds are just awakening,  setting out their territories for the day with song,  the Terns patrolling the river and occasionally plummeting in to pick up breakfast,  two King Shags ( Cormorants) are fishing just outside my bunks window, there are kingfishers sitting atop the pilings at the end of the jetty and Wellcome Swallows flitting around the stern.

Its full summer here in New Zealand of course, we’d expect about 24 degrees C today, and the forecast is for a warm, gentle day.

Perfect, I am due at my sisters place at about 11, have been told to bake an apple cake to help the festive lunch.   I’ll go for a paddle on the river while that’s baking, if I get on with it I’ll be able to do that before the flood current gets strong enough to be annoying. 

More birds, the resident flock of White faced herons have just flown in to join the Oystercatchers picking over the mudbanks while they are exposed, and I can hear the Canada Geese making their wakeup noise just across the way. I see that my pet pair of Mallard duck have just splashed down and they’ll be expecting breakfast.

Time to wish you all a very merry Christmas,  Summer solstice, midwinter celebration or which ever celebration fits your faith.

Time I got up, and got on with the day.

Kia Ora E Hoa.  E Haere Ra.

John Welsford

Sunday, November 30, 2014

A Very Useful engine

 As the Fat Controller in the Thomas the Tank Engine stories would put it.


 My Ryobi Cordless Brad Nailer, I've wrapped it in masking tape to prevent a buildup of epoxy, and its worth being really careful about cleaning up the "nose" as a little hardened glue in there makes it unreliable. Great Machine, not so much for finesse or style but hey, its a "really useful engine".

Ok, I admit it.  I’m a serial boatbuilder, it’s an incurable thing that I just have to learn to live with.  It means that I have almost always got a boat building project going in my shop, usually a small plywood boat but occasionally something bigger, plus there is the maintenance on the ship and repairs or helping out other people.  One of the tasks that takes time and effort is holding pieces of plywood in place until the glue sets. When you think about it that takes a lot of time, clamps don’t always work, screws need pilot holes and generally need to be pulled out and the holes filled up later on, plus it takes more hands than I’ve got to hold the piece, drill the hole, then put the screw in. It’s a pain, and that’s without the issue of the screw being glued in by the epoxy and not wanting to come out when the time comes to remove it.

A couple of SCAMP Camps ago (By the way,  heres the schedule for next years camps Hope to see some of you there) Howard Rice, co instructor and top notch organiser  in these build classes turned up at Port Townsend with a serious timesaver in the form of a cordless brad nailer and a couple of boxes of stainless steel brads ( fine tee headed nails)
I figure that saved us three or four hours per boat, a plank could be buttered up with glue, held in place and fastened in minutes, same with inwales, frames and  “off” centercase assembly.  The ability to just hold a piece in place, put the nose of the nailer up against the piece and pull the trigger, repeatedly if needed, and have it securely fastened is wonderful.

Last SCAMP Camp, (August 2014) Howard came into the build at very short notice and had not time to bring his kit of tools with him. So, with my own shop in mind I went out and bought one for myself.

I love it, great thing. What more can I say?
A few words though, Home Depots on line catalogue advertised these as a full system, battery, charger and nailer, all in the same box.
 I printed off the ad, sent friend Beth off with the ad in hand to fetch one, and she did well. She figured out that there were no batteries in the box so bought two, but missed the fact that there was no charger. BEWARE.
The tool itself is fairly cheap, but you need to budget on a couple of Lithium Ion Batteries and a charger in addition to the nailer, so the cost ramps up. Also, it’s seriously frustrating to get home with your new toy only to find that you cant use it without batteries or charger.  Ten yard penalty Mr Ryobi!  20 yard penalty Home Depot.

However, in use, (once I got all the bits together) its great, there are stainless steel brads available on line, mine are  from Steelhead Fastenings and are 1in length stainless steel brads catalogue number STB181SS .  They are fine little tee head pins that hold quite well even in edge grain plywood, and as the machine can be set to put the heads of the brads well below the surface of the wood its usual practice to leave them in there rather than pull them out.

I also found out that there are plastic nails available from that will fit and work.  Chuck Leinweber gave me a handful to play with and yes, they work on everything apart from really dense hardwood. You can plane them off, sand them, cut them with a chisel or saw through them, no harm to the tools.  They hold ok although not as strong as the steel ones so you might need to pull the trigger twice to ensure that they hold, but its nice not to have to worry about the steel pins damaging your carefully sharpened tool.

While I’m annoyed at both Home Depot and Ryobi about the charger and batteries not being included in the package as advertised, the product itself is a serious timesaver when building a small plywood boat. 

Points? The tool itself, probably an 8 out of 10,  but the time saved is priceless.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Home again.

 Two big trips, and I'm very pleased to be back at home.

Its been a very busy time,  three boat shows, two small boat gatherings, a two week boatbuilding course, a two day workshop skills course, a one day one on epoxy and fiberglassing, eleven presentations at shows and gatherings, way way too much time in cars and aircraft, enormously way too much time in airport terminals ( if there is a hell on earth, they are a very close cousin) and even more enormously too much time away from home.

I had worried about how my recovering physical condition would cope, but with the help of good friends and lots of sleep along the way I got through it, but you can bet that I’m feeling more jetlagged than I’ve ever been before.

The trip home went as follows.
Travel from my friends place to the airport, 1 1/2 hours. 3 hours at San Antonio Airport, not a bad place as far as airport terminals go, then a 45 min flight to Dallas Fort Worth.  4 hours there, and if I was about 7 years old I’d have had a lot of fun riding the elevated railway that connects the various elements of the terminal.  It’s a good system with good views out the big windows. Its clean and prompt, well signposted and, at least when I was there not crowded.
Then, THEN! The monster airplane, the Airbus A380 double decked super jumbo.
16 ½ hours, the longest scheduled airline flight in the world, nonstop for 7 ½ thousand nautical miles from DFW to Sydney Australia.
That aircraft is a revelation, its still a big tubular prison in the sky, still a high tech sardine can packed with bored and uncomfortable people, but in fact there is a lot of room to move around, you can walk for quite a distance, the restrooms are plentiful, there is a little snack bar down aft with cookies, fresh fruit, water and cans of soft drink courtesy of the management, and space enough down there to do your stretches and excersize.
The seats seem a fraction wider, the  legroom a little better, and the seats lay back a little further.  They’re not as uncomfortable as most other airline seats, and there is a good choice of movies and entertainment on the little tv screen.
The meals are ok, the limitations of having to have meals pre prepared and reheated mean that you don’t get a la cart restaurant food, but its ok. Two full meals plus a snack bag for midnight munchies, the crew cruise the aisles at night quietly checking that everyones ok and will bring whatever you ask for, water or food. I saw the hosties sitting and chatting with people a couple of times and for me, travelling as “impaired hearing” ( I’m mostly ok apart from when there is a lot of background noise which makes Airport terminals difficult) Lois went and got me a pair of full earmuff headphones from first class so I could hear the soundtrack on the movies.  Thanks Lois, much appreciated.

By the way, I really enjoyed “ How to tame your dragon” one and two!  Real fun that did not require much concentration to follow.
There were 42 movies available, plus music plus a whole range of tv programs (without the ads)  games and such.

The big plane is smooth, turbulence does not affect it nearly as much as smaller aircraft, and its much quieter.  It’s a good experience as far as air travel goes.

I asked Lois if the cabin crew had a space of their own, and yes they do, a bunk and a little bit of privacy which is possibly one of the reasons that they were all of them cheerful and helpful throughout the flight. Quantas has a new CEO, and they have really upped their act.  Well done you guys.  Air New Zealand,  get with it!

Back in Sydney, that place is not one of my favourites, not as bad as LAX (which scores minus 10 on the “Pits” scale ) but very very noisy and uncomfortable.  Only an hour and a half there, but why, when having been screened to get onto the previous flight, and in an area where one has to be screened to get into, do we all have to go through another screening to get onto the flight back out of Sydney?  I think its an employment program for retired police officers or sommat.

3 hours 45 mins to New Zealand.  Half an hour to get out through immigration and customs, this time they did not lose my baggage.  An hour to get out to the motel where my little truck was stored, and then two hours to where my bed is.

I’d been travelling for almost 40 hours and travelled about a third the way around the globe plus from 30deg north to 35 deg south.  Tired does not describe it.

Its four days since I got in, and while I don’t usually suffer from jetlag, in the past I’ve not had the issues that I’ve had of late but I’ve been sleeping a lot, puttering around very gently and am just about back to normal.

I came home with a lot of work to get on with,  am still in catchup mode on the outstanding work,  and am in better shape than I have been in a while.


Right now, I’m in my bunk on the ship. Its raining, the river is interestingly bi coloured as the grey green  incoming tide pushes the silty runoff of the river back up ahead of it,  the rain sounds like a team of snare drums beating on the cabin top, that’s sort of peaceful.
Or it would be if my little dog was not running around growling, demanding to be let out to go and fight the thunder and lightning that’s been rumbling and flashing for the past hour or so.

Its very nice to be home.

John Welsford