Wednesday, April 23, 2014


Back on the river, musing about life, the universe and everything.

Wednesday evening. I’m back aboard.  Among other things I’ve had a trip to lovely Clare the doctor back in my old hometown, that’s been a regular as has the clinic where the treatments are inflicted upon me.  All that has had to be regular for some time but she tells me that I can now stretch that out to 6 weeks between visits.  She’s a real sweetie, but while I’ll miss her smile I wont miss having needles poked in me so often.
Blood pressure is much improved, back up to 100/65, I can sit up suddenly without much problem now so that’s a good start.
Note to anyone in the lumber industry, stay clear of Pentachlorophenol wood preservative. Fortunately its very rare now, but if they use it where you work, quit and go work somewhere else. Right now!
Its effects can surface decades later, and are not at all nice.

All that said, I'm happy to be back on the river, its near dark, there are a few lights on in the houses in the forest along the riverbank and they are perfectly reflected in the mirror calm waters, tide coming in, I can hear the crackle of the crabs on the muddy bottom under the ship, and I’ve a heater on to warm the interior up a little.
This is great, I'm warm and comfortable in my bunk, the song birds are having a discussion in the patch of forest along the riverbank, there are fish jumping, seabirds  are out hunting their dinner and the ship is moving just enough in the tidal current to remind me that I am afloat.
Why would I buy a house instead? This is the cheap option, the old ship cost maybe 20% of what  the cheapest house I could find that was near the water would cost,  and with the floating berth, the boatshed workshop and the ship this is about as nice a place as one could wish to live work and play.  My costs are a fraction of those of maintaining a house with its property taxes, insurance, maintenance etc and even then I’d still need a boat or boats so would have those to drain the bank balance as well.
This way I’ve got everything at a bargain price.

My loving and very dedicated lady is carrying on with her career, being much younger than me she has sent me off to live some of my dreams, living on board and playing with boats being the top of the list. She and I spend a lot of quality time together, and it’s working pretty well.  Although she finds small sailing boats uncomfortable and does not understand or enjoy them she really enjoys cruising in the ship.  We have a “honeymoon” more weekends than not.  Absence sure makes the heart grow fonder.

But back to serious stuff, give me a day to get over the session at the clinic and I’ll be working on SEI again. I’ve precoated  the frames and stems where they will become hard to access when the seat tops are on, One more coat and its setup time. I’ve stripped a couple of pallets for lumber to set the frames up.  That’s this weeks workshop task.

I’ve decided to build this little boat for several reasons, she is a departure from my usual transom ended boats and I’d like to try some of the ideas and theories in the boat myself, it’s a good idea to have the design and drawings thoroughly sorted before any plans go out so I can be confident that she will work as I expect and be sure that I have not designed in any traps for builders. 
All that plus the only boats that I have of my own design are a kayak, a 14 ft rowing boat and of course Scraps, at least until Scraps goes off to her new home in September.
 I like to experiment, have built several boats in “partnership” with friends, borrow them when I’m able and that’s a good way to try a new design. That experience of course ends up helping future designs, but while its very helpful its not the same as having one of my own tied up at the dock.

My 18 ft gaff sloop Spook, although not of my design is a classic, had been close to derelict in someones back yard for years and would not have survived there for long.  My friend Bruce had her rebuilt, but was sadly unable to keep her. She is deserving of a good home, so I took her over, take Bruce sailing now and again, and now that I have built a new set of spars, re rigged and tweaked her, done some deferred maintenance, and added some interior furniture she is sailing really well.  She makes a lovely weekender, so she remains in the fleet, much loved and admired. 
I learn from her as well, my Pilgrim and Pelegrin designs both incorporate lessons learned from the experience she has brought. Its never too late to learn.

Where to from here?  I’ve not done much work of any kind for a while,  (see the first paragraph) but now can work a few hours a day if I’m careful. I’ve a couple of custom designs part done, some of those will not be available as plans as they will belong to the client who has commissioned them, and those have kept me busy and meant that I’ve not done much in the public eye for a while.
One of those is a big very long range voyaging power boat, I’d really love to have one of that design for myself but she’d have taken me years to build, and even building her myself she’d have cost around 5 times what my little ship cost, so that was not an option, I’ll have to be satisfied with going on the maiden cruise with the owner when the builders yard has launched her.

So I’ve several small boat designs on the go, little Scraps is done, plans will be completed in a few days, SEI being the next set of experiments and those plans will be completed when I’ve done some serious sailing in her to find out how she goes both in build and in her performance. There are a couple of others which are high priority to complete including a sailing canoe, and then?

The mind likes to stay busy, so there are always thoughts of what designs might be way off in the future.
I’ve been asked for a really serious long range sail and oar voyager.  That’s a subject very close to my heart, but as a designer there are risks and obligations in something as extreme as this boat.  I’ve not drowned a client yet, in part because I refuse to get involved with such as the gent who wanted to row from New Zealand to the Antarctic Ice then manhaul to the pole, or the guy who wanted to solo sail a 9ft boat from UK to Japan nonstop, or the guy who wanted to journey from NZ to Germany in a kayak.  All of these are theoretically possible, but I prefer not to be part of someone being seriously at risk.

So what to do about the “serious sail and oar voyager”?

I’ll think about it.

Meanwhile, I’ve a whole lot of work to catch up on, I’m not at all short of things to do. And, most of them are fun.


PS, a friend of mine, a very capable and experienced sail and oar voyager, one of the best, got tipped out of his boat the other day. There are threads running on a couple of internet forums about the incident which I’m finding very interesting.   Some of the questions and answers are making me think very hard about what is really needed to make a boat of this the best it could possibly be.

He may have done me, and a lot of other people a favour in that respect.


  1. John, very good to see you getting back into your element.
    James validated my build choice. For that and the pf design i am grateful.

    1. Thanks Rik, do bear in mind that preparation is a large part of whats needed to achieve a good outcome in a situation such as what James had happen. The boat is part of it, but equipment and experience helps as well.
      Nice to watch your build, keep up the good work.

  2. Sorry about the health problems John, but glad to see that you seem to have things under control. 100/65 is not much fun.
    Where to go from here? Indeed! Have you ever thought of going the experimental proa route?