Thursday, January 29, 2015

Trapped by the weather. Not such a bad thing.

Being the height of summer,  the schools not open yet, and many people off on annual holidays work is very quiet at this time of year here in NZ, so I figured that I could combine a job on the ship with a little voyage. It’s the first time I’ve been cruising solo for a long time,  but the best laid plans and all that. The intention was to take the ship up to a tiny boatyard about 25 miles north of “home” and sit her on a scrubbing grid for a bottom scrub while the tide went out, and back.
I had decided to try a little local boatyard, one where my fee for using the facilities would not be to usurious and where the money would help support someone who deserved it rather than a corporate.
I'd known of the Whangateau Boatyard for a long time, but had not been there for years.  I called in the other day and met Pam and George, had a look around and thought it is worth a try so planned to go there and try the place.

Here is a nice article about Pam Cundy and her boatyard.

Here’s more on the boatyard.  It’s a great place to visit, Pam and George are welcoming to visitors and very much deserve any support that we the public can give them in preserving an historic site as well as the skills and the boats.

Go to the links and click on the boatyard one.  Its worth exploring the rest of the steam guys site as well.
But I got into Kawau Island to the historic Mansion House Bay, home of New Zealands first Governor, this was before NZ became an independent country, and anchored just off the lovely beach where the mansion is.
It’s a park now, and something of a sanctuary for  birds so dogs are not allowed ashore. My little mutt needs taking ashore a couple of times a day to be dewatered so later in the day we moved up to the head of the harbour.

The forecast was for a bit of wind, onshore, making the bar at the little estuary where the shipyard is a bit dicy so we sat, sheltered, and did lots of walking on shore.
Three days later, I’m still here.  Writing stories, cooking far too much food, and eating it, then walking it off with the dog.

 South Cove is very sheltered when the wind is from anywhere but due west, its north east today so its much better in here than "out there".
There is birdsong instead of traffic noise, an hour ago I caught a fish big enough for dinner,  Dimbleby ( I didn't name him!) and I will go ashore for a bush walk this evening, maybe a swim on the beach on the other side of the ridge, and the very few locals are friendly enough to stop for a talk.

I must say that its been good being trapped here.  No hassles, and not really much of a deadline, yes there is plenty to do when I get back, but I don’t have to be there just yet.
 Local traffic, there is a little network of roads on this side of the island, and that pickup is being used by a carpenter to tote materials up to a new house on the far end of the road.  The barge is much better than its lack of paint would suggest, driving it would not be a bad job.

Perhaps, just perhaps, if as forecast the wind drops some this afternoon I’ll make my way back to Mahurangi and park in the estuary there to wait out the rest of this weather.

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.