Friday, June 27, 2014

More winter entertainment

Some years back a US East coast resident asked me to to design a sail and oar cruising boat. The brief was for a boat that would suit a wide variety of waters from rivers and canals where long stretches of rowing could be expected, to wide open ocean passages of up to 50 miles. He wanted to sleep aboard, and the boat when not being used for adventuring had to be workable for family daysailing, thats two adults and two kids.

Walkabout was the result,  on the face of it a very specialised design as it has no provision for an outboard, has a rig thats a bit different to the usual jib and triangular mainsail and an unusual interior layout that has an offset centerboard, side seats, a remote tiller that pivots on the mizzen mast and lines back to the rudder.  She's relatively slim so she will row easily, is  light enough to drag up the beach on your own, and is capable of unaided self rescue if rolled over or swamped.

Its been a very popular design, a number of notable voyages have been made in various versions of her including Sail Caledonia, the Everglades Challenge, and a singlehanded voyage from Perth Australia north up the coast to Shark Bay and back.  Changes in family circumstances meant that the original customer did not get to build a Walkabout, but I know that he is watching the design that he sparked with interest. ( Hi Steve, howzit?)

Martyn Long has the latest version, he's changed the offcenterboard for a leeboard but otherwise his craft is as per the plan, heres a nice little video he's just posted.

Congratulations Martyn, and thanks for showing us your little ship.

While on the subject of adventure sailing, and Walkabout, Osbert Lancaster in Edinborough , Scotland  built a Walkabout so he could get out on the water both sailing and rowing, and he's become a real ambassador for small boat adventuring.  He has a marvellous blog  here

and an inspirational presentation video here.

 Well worth watching if you are considering taking your boating a little further.  If you are not? Then, after you watch this you might change your mind.

Thanks Osbert, great work.


Thursday, June 26, 2014

Winter entertainment

Here in the Southern Hemisphere its winter of course.  So what am I doing instead of going sailing?

Around the shortest day here in NZ we tend to have wet, windy weather.  This year is for the most part true to form apart from being unseasonably warm, one of the theories is that the warmer weather provides more energy to the weather systems so we get more and worse but warmish. 
These last couple of weeks has seen some really odd stuff, 70 knots on the nowcasting weather buoy off the mouth of the river, and a few hours later bright sun and absolutely still air. Not for long though as the next frontal system is generally only a few hours away, they say that here in New Zealand “if you don’t like the weather just wait for a few hours”.
Too true.

So in between the stuff which has to be done each day, work and chores and such, rather than go outside and wade around in mud and puddles I stay inside drawing and researching, writing and generally getting on with the design work.

Between times though I’ve been watching some of the videos posted on the various small boat and design groups that I haunt, and todays post has some of my favourites from among the recent ones.

Here’s one showing Richard Schmidt in his Navigator  and Grant Nalder in his Pathfinder out enjoying themselves in allcomers dinghy class racing on Wellington harbour.

Another Pathfinder out cruising in New Zealands fabled Bay of Islands,  the author will have to forgive me for not knowing his name,  but he’s done a nice job of his build and this video shows off both the boat and the lovely waters of the BOI  .  Well done Skipper.

A third one from Western Australia, another Navigator out sailing with three friends,  nice work.  I’m sitting here in pitch darkness,  cuddled up to the heater while the rain beats on the cabin top.  No I’m not unhappy, I can go and watch videos like this to remind me of summertime.
Again, I don’t have the “authors” name to hand but congratulations, and yes I do envy you those warm blue waters.

Nice watching, have fun.

Thanks to the authors of these lovely little productions.


Sunday, June 22, 2014

WInter has arrived, and a dog along with it.

  Change of Season.

Well, the shortest day has just gone past, today was 37 seconds longer,  gosh it made a difference! (heh!)  .  But seriously, while today is officially the second day of winter here in the Southern Hemisphere the prospect of lengthening days makes it bearable.
Today though, if winter were like this all the time, was beautiful.
Warm enough to take the sweater off,  not a breath of wind on the water to mar the mirror calm, and just the occasional light cloud in the sky.
I’m home again after a few days of the same old same old,  there  wont be a lot of  gas in the tank for a couple of days but each time it’s a step in the right direction.
I did manage a short paddle in the kayak, I’d had time for a short nap when I got back to the ship here on the river and when I woke it was about 10 mins short of  high tide so the kayak was slid over the side and I went off up the river.
Occasionally I make an effort for conservations sake and pick up  the rubbish I come across, today was one of those. There was a string of Steinlager bottles afloat,  necks up, six of them about 50 yards apart as though they’d been carefully set that way, but I must say that I don’t appreciate the skill shown to get that spacing right.
I also picked up the usual plastic Coke  and water bottles plus a few other bits and pieces,  since I began doing this the place is noticeably tidier. Almost park like.  I’m thinking  of putting a sign out in the middle that says “Keep off the grass”.

Denny and I had agreed to “shared custody”  Indy, of her little Border Terrier dog,  he and I get on very well together and Denny had been worried about me being on my own so much, so had sometimes sent me back here with him which was nice.  But he’s her dog, she trains him for agility where he has proven to be a quick learner and smart but easily distracted, and she likes to have his company when she’s on her own.
We’d thought that perhaps after the next trip to the North, SCAMP Camp and Academy courses,  Boat shows and Messabouts, I’d find a small dog, “ship sized” so to speak.  We’d thought perhaps a Cairn Terrier or Wire haired Foxy, and she’d do some training to “civilise” the little monster then I’d have a dog of my own.
But, she was idly flicking through “Trade Me “  (Our version of E Bay) and what should come up but a Cairn Terrier Cross needing a good home.   He’d been “widowed” so to speak when his elderly lady owner passed on back about Christmas time, none of the family wanted him and friends had volunteered to rehouse him. Yes I know, “one elderly lady owner” but this was not a second hand car!
Said friends came to visit us here on board, Denny was here with Indy, and after a very pleasant afternoon tea they went away but “Dimbleby” stayed.

 Yes there are eyes under there! When he arrived there was no way he'd let anyone near his face, or feet but the other day I had him calm and relaxed so clipped a little of the hair around his eyes, am working on getting him ok with me handling his feet so I can clip his claws, and he's even relaxing when being brushed.  He'll be ok.
By the way, 11.5 kg, and a real "Terrier" temperament.  Loyal, smart, chase anything that moves and no idea that a full grown Rottweiler is bigger than him.

He’s fitting in pretty well, is good company, after a few days to settle in has become a cheerful and outgoing little guy, attentive and loyal (to whomever feeds him at least) and generally well mannered.  He’s 11 years old so the commitment is probably a four to six year one which I can cope with, and I’m  very much enjoying having him around.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Scrubbing her bottom, then out with the camera to show you some of the secrets of this river

Cleaning her bottom.

There is much variation in tidal heights here, Its springs right now, and of course not only are the high tides high, but the low tides are also very low.  I’d been wondering how to get the ship out and scrubbed and worried that I’d have to do the marina and travel lift thing with the corresponding bills.  She was a bit weedy around the waterline but with the slightly muddy water here there is less light to grow weeds below the waterline so she is not too bad underneath.
I noticed at dead low tide yesterday that she was sitting with about 200 mm below her normal waterline out of the water, solidly aground on the soft muddy bottom. Normally she is just clear of the bottom at low tide but the lows are very low right now, so I stripped off, got over the side with my heavy broom and scraper and went around the boat in about waist deep water. 
Its a bit soft, you need shoes or sandals that are fairly firmly secured but its ok.
So now she's all clean apart from the stern section where she was hard against the dock float, and I will do that today when the tides flowing out as she sits away from the float then.  All done! 

In the meantime, full tide, and as with yesterday it’s a very high one, will be in about an hour so I’m getting the kayak out and will do my morning constitutional on the water. I’ll take the camera this time as there is an old coastal freighter in a little inlet off the river about 20 mins away and I’ll take a pic or two.
She’s maybe 60 ft long, the sort of boat that would have been used to service the inner islands around Auckland or the Bay of Islands, maybe the Kaipara.
I’d guess that she was built back in the ‘20s or ‘30s ,  vertical stem, fine lines aft, and the big “house” forward of the wheelhouse would have had a cargo hold when she was in her prime, a small ship for commercial cargo but its not that long ago that most of the towns north of Auckland were dependent upon shipping for heavy freight and “Tio “ would have been ideal for creeping up the rivers,  sitting on the bottom when the tide was out and unloading onto horse drawn carts.  Until about that same time the sailing scows were still trading. We’re not that far away from our history here, New Zealand was the last landmass settled by Europeans and sometimes that shows.
I’ll see if I can spot the owners house and sometime or other will try and find out her history.

 Hidden away in the mangroves, she's been out recently, came woofling past my berth with that lovely gentle sound that big old fashioned low speed diesels make.  Hardly a ripple in her wake but the swirls from her prop stayed visible for a long time after she'd passed.

 Old,  rusty in places and her seams are a bit rough, but she's still in very solid shape. There is work being done, and there are little changes each time I paddle past so she is not just sitting there dreaming of her past.

At a guess there would be over 2.5m from the water to the deck there on the bow, that foc'sl would be a nice place to sit and think about where she'd been and what she'd seen.


I really enjoy solo sailing, that’s my “time out” from the world. I’ve not been able to do much of that for a while, but next summer is looking promising.
That said, living on my own does not feel quite right, its nice to have company, someone around who is interested in my well being and someone for me to care for in return.
Pets are the answer for many older singles, and I’ve almost always had a dog around. Denny and I agreed that we’d “share custody” of Indy the Border Terrier, but really he’s her dog, training him for agility and to do tricks is her hobby.  While he’s with me on board here on The River she cant do that.  He’s very good company, an interesting and attentive companion, but he’s her dog.
We’d agreed that I should get a dog of my own, and we’d been thinking of a Cairn Terrier which she’d look after while I travel, and I’d babysit her Indy when she is busy.

But "best laid plans" and all that,  two weeks ago Denny spotted an ad for a  “free to a good home” Cairn Terrier / Poodle cross.  11 years old, his elderly lady owner had passed on some months ago and the little dog had been handed from one member of the family to another, was not wanted, and was showing signs of being both nervous and depressed.
The people who’d picked him up from the family, volunteering to find him a new home, brought him out to meet Denny and I on board the ship, they're nice people and concerned about his well being but they have two dogs already which is the limit in the city.
He came on board, had a sniff around then curled up at my feet.
He’s there as I write this.

So Dimbleby is now a boat dog, he’s learning, and after two weeks is becoming much brighter and more interested in whats around him, knows the routine,  loves going out in the truck and is doing his best to fit in.

“Dim” has some new tricks to learn, new foods to get used to,  has decided that the space under my armchair is just about the right kind of space for a small dog to sleep in, and  is very attentive now that he has “bonded” with his new owner.

Its nice to have company, and he’s very little trouble. Its not the same as getting a new puppy, his behaviour is already pretty good, he knows whats acceptable and whats not,  and while he has a few quirks I can live with them as long as he can live with mine.

Thursday, June 5, 2014


 REALLY big!
This is the superyacht M5.  Her mast is 88.5m high, read on. Those tiny things on the bow just inside the outer forestay are people, full sized.

I had an opportunity to have a look around part of the factory at “Southern Spars”   in Auckland this week,  gobsmakingly mind bogglingly amazing stuff.  No cameras allowed  but I did ask if I could “talk” about what I saw and that’s ok so that’s the subject today.
This outfit makes carbon fibre masts, booms and such, has autoclaves that look as long as railway tunnels, robotic machinery for cutting the carbon and fiberglass sheets, paint robots, all sorts of computer controlled machinery for purposes I could not fathom in a simple walk past.

So heres me, among all that stuff using a 24in plumbers pipe wrench, a paint stripper gun for heat and a bricklayers hammer to unfreeze a corroded collar on a sawbench spindle. “Appropriate technology for the job” I told one guy who walked past with eyebrows raised.

Out in the main part of the assembly bay there is a mast that is over 90 metres long, not feet, METRES!.  A football field in length! Inside its full of hydraulics, electronics, expensivelics, ( I just coined that word )  and its going to be the tallest mast on the planet, for a few months anyway as there is a bigger one going to be built sometime soon.
Just to give you an idea, those huge old J boats that sailed for the Americas Cup had masts that topped out at less than half that.
There is a boom in the next bay, big enough for me to walk through!  It will be set up for in boom roller furling so there is a lot of machinery to be installed in there, the stresses are staggering so its seriously strong. Huge amounts of carbon fibre, literally tons of it, think of that when you are buying a roll of 6oz fiberglass tape!

The amount of money involved is beyond comprehension, remember that this is a “toy” boat, not used for the earning of money, a status symbol. A big and probably very impressive one for sure, but not a practical ship in any sense.

I don’t mind though, think of how many people earned wages while building it, while making the materials, while transporting it and fitting it up. Spending money on toys is fine by me as it keeps people in jobs that pay pretty well, then they spend their money locally and so on.

No I don’t want to discuss economic theory,  but when you see the workers carpark full of nice cars, and think that this is only the mast shop and that its maybe 10% of the total project, lots of people will work on it and get paid for their efforts.

As an industry we’ve come from adzes and drawknives shaping tree trunks for masts to this in about a lifetime, what does the future hold?


Sunday, June 1, 2014

Not much building, but the subject is still boating.

Its Sunday, what with one thing and another the past week has been a very quiet one on the boatbuilding front, I’ve cut the notches for the seat riser stringers in SEI,  cut the stringers with the bevel on the top and rounded the lower corner and that’s about it.

But there has been quite a bit of correspondence to answer, a couple of articles to write, and work to do on “the book”.  Yes that’s surfaced again and I’m making very slow but steady progress on it. One of the issues that stalled it was the loss of all the pics and drawings when the publisher of the first edition was sold to another publisher, then that group changed as well, much of the material in the original companies editorial warehouse disappeared, much to my annoyance and I’ve not been in good enough shape to put the effort in to redo what had been a pretty big effort in the first place.
But just after  Christmas last a bundle of drawings arrived in the mail with a note from the very nice woman whom I’d been hassling about them, no pics but they are easier to find replacements for, so the project is now possible again.

On the publishing front, I’m busy learning how to use MS Publisher, have not thrown the computer against the wall yet but have been close, yes I know that there are easier and better etc, but that’s the only one I have right now so it must suffice.
I’m putting together a catalogue, seeing as I’m going to be at three events in the USA later this year ( you can bet that those fingers are crossed) and there is the opportunity to sell some printed matter so I’m working on that. Slowly, but it will get there.

In the meantime, among the correspondence was a superb pic of 7 SCAMPs tied up in the Point Hudson Marina at Port Townsend last March, there for a SCAMP Sailing skills course run by the inimitable and peripatetic Howard Rice this was a very special event and the participants went away with some wonderful memories.  I really wish I’d been able to make it.
Ah well, next time.

 SCAMPs in the morning , a great day coming up.

Photo by Simeon Baldwin. 

I have exchanged emails with Simeon, asked who's boats these were.  I recognised some but wanted to get it right, so heres his reply. Thanks Simeon, well done all, what a great little fleet.

Hi John -

Here's the line up

Foreground - 
#170, Mike Moore

Background, L-R - 
#158, Peanut, Bob Threlkeld (now owned by son Ben Threlkeld)
#11, Noddy, Simeon Baldwin
GH Demo boat, Dave Robinson
GH, Javier Soto, Crumpet
#208, Skol, Terry Stoeser
#1, SCAMP, Josh Colvin


Simeon Baldwin
Port Ludlow, WA
A Village in the Woods, by the Bay