Wednesday, December 13, 2017

‘Tis full summer here, we’re getting unusually hot weather, dry and often windy.  It was 30 deg C a couple of days ago, that’s about 85 F, much hotter than we’re used to.
But the beaches are crowded, people are out and about, especially in the evenings, my dog is flat on his side in the long grass under a shady tree and I’m having to refill his water bowl a lot more frequently than usual.

Summers here, and its going to be a good one.  The Kenepuru Kapers dinghy cruise is on again, here’s a video from last time which shows what we got up to last time, thanks Hamish. https://vimeo.com/225650216

For those who’d like to join in, here’s the facebook page,  last year was a real treat, I spent much of the  time with Brian Hogg on his 6m Whaler “Emeraude”, there is plenty of room to sleep on board, he’s a pretty fair cook and we got along famously.   For dates and more information ---

The Lake Rotoiti Classic Boat Festival was on the day after we pulled out of the water, and we, in Emeraude, managed a very handy win in the sailing race, helped by very gusty and strong winds on a course that took us out into the worst of it.  Emeraude handled that well. Sailing on my own designs is a treat, I learn a lot from that.

While several of us are planning to cross Cook Strait on the boats own bottoms, buttthat doesn’t prevent others from crossing on the ferry and either launching at Picton and meeting the rest of the  fleet at a pre arranged place, or for the mainlanders, joining us where suits.

Last year was four boats, six people, and we had a very relaxed and enjoyable time, with the occasional “learning experience” to keep it interesting.

In the meantime, next weekend, a couple of us, with anyone else who wants to join in, are sailing from Sandspit across to Kawau for the weekend,  Haddon and I hope, Anthea, will join us on Saturday, and more are welcome.
Breakfast/brunch at Kawau Yacht club on Sunday, probably around 10 am or so. Good food and a lovely place.

15/16/17 Dec, the tide is helpful, and I expect that we’d be leaving Sandspit mid evening, so if anyone has to finish work and drive on up you should still be ok for water in the estuary.

Then there is the Mahurangi Regatta of course, the biggest classic boat event in NZ and a mind boggler for those who’ve not been there before.  I’m planning to take Spook up there, my 18ft on deck gaff sloop, Ive not sailed her much of late and its past time I did. She’s a sweet little ship and deserves more than to just sit on her trailer dreaming of the sea.

That event is on January 27th next. 
There are a lot of small boats based on the beach, which by the way is a great place for a family picnic while the boating events are on, the small boats race the same course as the big boats (which is exciting, having a 70 foot gaff cutter bearing down on you when you're sailing a 12 footer is a bit intimidating but accidents are almost unknown) but once around instead of twice.
There are rowing races as well, events for the kids, sandcastles, egg tossing and a fairly serious tug o war event.  One of the best days out of our summer.


I’ve just had a call from Marcus Raimon telling me that there is a move afoot to include a “Small Ships” class in the annual Tall Ships event in the Bay of Islands, this would be for sailing boats under 6m, of somewhat traditional type, the rules to be set sometime, and its quite possible that this summer that class could be included on an “informal” basis, with the next event including it “officially” if there is enough interest.

Jan 6th.  Pathfinders, Navigators, Houdini’s, SCAMPS and Pilgrims, all would be very suitable.  The party after the race is ledgendary!

I’m thinking that the “Summer of the paintbrush” had better include some new varnish for Spook, new wheel bearings on the trailer and a tidy up for the dink (My prototype Scraps) . Its about a three hour tow to get up there, I can do that.







Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Getting back in the routine.

Its comforting in a way, relaxing and feeling somewhat in control. I find I like it, adventures of any kind are generally uncomfortable things, and lifes dealt me a few lately.

Today was a good start. Paintbrush out, working on painting the ship for an hour or so as soon as the dew is off,  then off out to do anything that I have to do “out”. Yesterday was a small engineering job fixing a return spring on a big crosscut saw in a lumber yard. Where do you get spare parts for a  machine probably built in the 50s?
Its now got a set of pulleys,  a big weight and some line connecting it all together. Pull the saw out and it lifts the weight, let go and the weight pulls the saw back in out of reach of the operator.
Not perfect, but they’re going to buy a new one when they move to their new yard in 8 months time.

So, back home, at the drawing board in the heat of the day, then out in the shed working on Long Steps in the evening.  After what lifes been like over the last while its nice to get back into a routine and make progress on all the outstanding jobs.

“The ship” is way overdue for her paint, when I get at her with the sander I find that she’s got probably 6 coats on her, some in Latex paint filled with granulated cork, that’s all the decks, and its letting water in underneath then trapping it so all that has to come off.  That’s a job for the big gas blowtorch, the stuff is quite plastic and its like trying to sand rubber so it’s the burner and the carbide scraper. Big job, so I’m just doing a bit at a time.

The rest of her is enamel paint, sandable, so I do a small area every couple of days, prime the area, (the grey) then put a prep coat over that, and when I’ve got the whole of one side of the cabin done I’ll think about the colour and when the decision has been made I’ll do it all in one go. A bit at a time is much less onerous than trying to do the whole lot in one go.
She’s been white, with blue decks but I’m thinking perhaps very pale blue on her cabin sides might be nice.

Drawing, I enjoy drawing, but of late have had some meds that made my hands shake, that’s all done now so I can get on with it. But I bought some ink cartridges for the Rotring pen, I draw on Polyester drafting film which requires a very special quick trying ink, and somehow or other the shop supplied the wrong ink, a small thing, but it was in the correct packet so I persevered. Had to do two major plan sheets twice and even then they werent up to standard.
Went back to the supplier, and got “ Oh dear, we knew about that but didn’t know how to get hold of you, we hope it didn’t cause you too much trouble” ( yeh right, about three or four days work scrapped) . Anyway, they gave me the right stuff and I’m away again.

Just to make life even more interesting, my computer was hacked a few weeks ago, I lost all my email, files, address book, sent files and everything. A lot of what I though I was sending didn’t go.
So if there is any one expecting me to communicate, please email again so I can put you back in my new address book.

But up there in the shed is a peaceful place, free of the troubles of the world. I was given a very sturdy windsurfer mast a while back, that’s going to be the mizzen for Long Steps.  It needs a square section on the butt end to fit the socket in the mast box, so I’ve been puttering around on the lathe, made a stub that fits into the end of the mast, with a square on the end.
There will be a packer on the mast at the top of the mast step box, I’ll just wrap that in fiberglass until its up to the right diameter, then there is a plug to go in the top for the halyard and some paint, and that’s the first spar for the new boat.
Progress, in the meantime the lathe has me covered in shavings. Not unpleasant.

The lathe is a Nova 11, a little mini lathe which I like a lot, yes I've a bigger lathe but its 200 km away and this one is portable. Nice little thing, does most of what I want.
I've no idea what the wood is, a friend gave me a heap of well seasoned pieces and they've been very handy for odd jobs, this piece is quite hard, seems very strong, has no smell, and as it will be glued in and painted it should be fine.



 That square end fits into a shaped socket in the bottom of the mizzen mast box, I dont want it to rotate as that would tangle the halyard and mess up the sprit boom. Yes that mast is a tapered carbon fibre tube, ! Its a reject windsurfer mast, I'm hoping its stiff enough, but if not its no big deal to replace it. 




Sunday, November 26, 2017

The summer of the paintbrush is upon us.

It’s a busy day up there. A few minutes ago there was a vintage De Havilland Chipmunk  outward bound to somewhere, her Gypsy engine sounding quite different from the usual Lycoming or Continental flat fours. I am watching out the window as a tiny microlite aircraft wafts past a couple of hundred metres up,  above it is a Cessna 150 on approach for the small airfield just over the hill, A Britten Norman Islander is out on the horizon heading for Great Barrier Island 50 miles away, I can hear a radial engined aircraft somewhere, a helicopter is heading along the coast and there is a big jet above all that, throttled down on her glidepath for the international airport 40 miles away.
As a contrast, I was out in my rowing boat just before dawn this morning, sitting, drifting with the current as the tide pushed me along and through the wooded area near the head of the river, watching as the sun came up and listening to the dawn chorus of the birds awakening.

Such a contrast.

I was busy yesterday prepping and spot painting my old ship, I’ve had her now for three years and she was way overdue for a repaint when I got her, so now the paint job has become urgent.  But life, travel, bad weather and work have meant that apart from fixing some rot spots and deck leaks the outside has taken second place to recoating the varnished inside,  fixing the electrical system and generally tidying and repairing inside.
After an amazingly wet winter we’re now having a warm, dry spring so in between drawing, boatbuilding, cutting the grass and fixing other peoples machinery I’ve been burning and scraping, filling and spot priming .  There’res a lot to do, so while its dry I’m getting on with it.


Scraped, sanded, primer coat and prep coat on, at least that part is ready for two coats of top coat. The side deck of course will have a non skid grit added to the paint.

Technology is an amazing thing, I completed two drawings yesterday, in between all the other stuff of course, called in at the local print shop to have them scanned and emailed back to me.  I expect the emailed files to be in my inbox this morning, and will forward one to Portland OR, and the other to Boise Idaho, not so long ago that would have entailed getting a plan printer to pump out copies then a long slow trip by snail mail. 
I’m working on the next drawings today, I’ve run out of primer paint and wanted to leave a couple of areas where the wood behind the peeling paint was wet, to dry out so I do have an excuse.

Long Steps is at that stage where there is not much to see in the way of progress, I’m coating the inside, all those areas that wont be accessible soon, with three coats of epoxy.  That entails not only the coating but a light sanding off between coats, a slow and boring job but it will be done soon. 
Thats the "Scotsmans Brush".  A section of lambswool paint roller, cut to 50mm then split lengthwise into three, one of those tacked to a wooden handle. It does a much better job than a paintbrush, and is a lot cheaper too. Apologies to the Scots reading this, All of the Scottish people I've ever come across have put the lie to the old tale of meanness, but in spite of that the legend persists.

I have though just fitted the towing eye.  Its a 10mm threaded eyebolt, a substantial lump of stainless steel, I'm hoping that I don't have to accept a tow, just use it to pull the boat onto her trailer, but its there and solid enough just in case.


The eyebolt is set through a lovely piece of hardwood that I cut from a natural crook, its glued in and screwed through the stringers before the planking was fitted, drilled oversize right through the stem, the hole then filled with epoxy glue and redrilled at the right size and the bolt fitted.
There will be a neoprene "O ring" fitted under the "outside" washer to prevent water coming in.

SEI needs a repaint too, I was experimenting with water based enamels, different primers and undercoats, and can say that in this case the water based primers are nowhere near as good as the spirit / oil based ones, with almost total failure of the paint system where I’d used the water based ones and somewhat better results where the oil based ones were used.
So I have to scrape her interior down and repaint, she’s looking very ratty right now, but the experiment was worth it.

Totally different subject, I needed to replace a pocket, point and shoot camera that had finally died. I wanted a waterproof one that I could carry when out in the small boats, one that I didn’t have to think about, just switch on, point, zoom and click.  After window shopping both on line and in the shops, I had the bright idea of looking in “Trade me” which is our equivalent to “Ebay”,  got a Fujifilm Finepix J15 fd.  It’s a fairly decent small camera, seems to do everything I want
Complete with charger, waterproof case, a couple of the special 1GB  cards, all the accessories and even a carry bag for $12 plus $3.50 freight. The equivalent new one would run to a couple of hundred bucks.  I’m very pleased. 
There will be more pics of work on Long Steps.

Meanwhile, the tides are right for a trip down the river in the ship, she’s in need of a scrub around the waterline, and I’m thinking that if I row down and check the sandbar out, I can put the ship on the bottom an hour before low tide and walk around with a scrubber.  An hour would leave a handspan or so of her bottom exposed and I’d be afloat an hour later.
My new camera can be used to take a pic or two of the prop to check that out, I cant hold my breath long enough to do that as well as I’d like so a pic would allow me to study it at lesure, while breathing.

But thats tomorrows job, right now I’ll mix some glue and put a piece of plank on Long Steps. All pre coated on the inside of course.







Friday, November 3, 2017

Hot meals aboard require some thinking in advance.

Cooking on board Long Steps

I expect to be heating food rather than being a chef afloat, but hot food no matter how simple can be a lifesaver when the weather is bad and the body is wet and cold. So I’ve been giving much thought not only to the food itself but to the method of heating. 
“Jetboil” has been suggested by quite a few people, but these are really only intended to heat fluids . I don’t drink coffee but a mug of tea is nice, as is hot chocolate but its hot food that I’m really wanting.
I’m happy to rip the top off a can, boil some pasta and tip the contents of the can in on top, I might even add some beef stock and potato flakes, or a packet of pea and ham soup.  Yes, when I’m really hungry I’ll eat stuff that normally I’d turn my head away from, there are times when a belly full of hot calories is a real treat no matter how prosaic it may taste, within reason of course. But then, "reason" is negotiable on a wet cold night when  the nearest Michelin four star restaurant is a long long way away.

So I needed a heat source, needed it mounted so it would be easily accessed, sheltered from the wind and spray, secure, and able to hold a pot securely.

All this in a small boat, one that is for the most part open to the elements.

My solution, after much thought, is to build a shelf on the inside of one of the big hatches at the forward end of the little cuddy, that’s B#3, and they give access to the big storage and bouyancy space up there under the “cabin” and into the bow.

On that shelf will go a little stove that I’ve bought by mail order from Aliexpress,
My friend Paul Mullings had bought one, the product looked very good, and it cost so little that if it doesn’t work I could toss it in the trash( unlike the Jetboil which here in NZ, even by mail order, is horrendously expensive).
It arrived on Saturday, 8 days after ordering it, all the way from China. Good service, and I know that if I tried to send a parcel that size back to China by post it would cost more than the stove and postage coming the other way.


It uses the ubiqitous 220 gram propane cartridges, around here we can get five of those for under five bucks, the stove in Spook, my 18 footer, uses those and I get around three days of cuppateas, full hot thermoses and an evening hot meal out of each one.  Say three dollars worth for a weeks cruising. I can live with that.

I’ve tried it out, it boiled 500ml ( a little less than 1/8th US gallon or two medium sized coffee mugs full) in 2 mins 40 seconds. To give you an idea a popular brand of Methylated spirits (acohol) stove took 4 mins 35, my Optimus white spirits (white gas or Coleman fuel) stove took 2 mins 15 seconds so its pretty reasonable in terms of heat output.
I’ve found it very controllable, it has a piezo lighter so the barbeque lighter or matches aren’t needed, it has feet that can  be drilled and bolted to the shelf, and wide arms that can take the modification that I’m planning.

Keeping the pot on the stove when the boat is bouncing around is an issue, so I’m planning to go to an Opportunity shop to find an old aluminium pot just big enough to take my cooking pot or the mini frying pan I use, cutting the bottom out and slotting the remaining ring over the stove arms, securing it with bolts or pop rivets and cutting a slot where I want the frying pan handle to rest.  That aly ring “fiddle” will be deep enough to retain my pot in quite rough conditions and with the lid on the pot, I’m hoping to keep the food in the pot rather than on the cockpit sole.

I’ve baked bread on worse cookers than this.

I’ll report later on when I’ve got it all set up.

Oh yes, pancakes with maple syrup!  Mmmmm!