Sunday, November 29, 2015

Double paddling

My wife took out her micro double paddle canoe today, the last weekend in November.  The two boats I built with the single sheet of plywood challenge that I put myself up to actually taught me a great deal.  By watching and experiencing the problems that boats with these dimensions have I have learned a bit about what I did wrong, and how I might have done it better.

The 5 acre pond was lovely today, with a slight breeze and nobody else around.  Even though this boat has it's flaws, it is so easy to portage down to this bit of water, it seems kind of just right.
Tomorrow the is the last day of access to the lakes for the season, so I'd like to get there with the pram before I give in to the calendar.

Monday, November 16, 2015

A short sail

After having such a lovely time in the morning rowing the pram around the pond, and getting inspiration from the amazingly pleasant weather, I decided that I needed to take the skiff out to the lake and reacquaint myself with her.
Sliding her into the back of the truck, I was reminded of how handy this boat is.  I drove to the closest of the lakes and launched there.  The breeze was up so I prepped the sailing rig.
Lake sailing.  This is the original cut of the sail
that is larger than the current sail.  The sprit is shorter now too.
We sailed the down the Western shore of the lake, the wind was out of the south.  A few little gusts kept me paying attention, especially as the water is cold again, and, there was nobody else on the lake, or it's shores.  When I reached the north end of the lake, where the sand beach is, I changed heading, gybing easily with the sprit rig and sailed across the wind skirting the beach along the entire north end to the eastern side where the dam is.  I beached the boat, dropped the sailing rig and rowed up the eastern shore.
On the southern end of the lake there are two large coves, or bays and I rowed up into the western bay and set the sailing rig back up so I could finish my circumnavigation with a sail back up the western shore to the launch site.
After hauling the boat from the water I spotted a set of antlers and the head of a deer swimming across the bay to get to the land on the other side.  He didn't need oars, but he could have easily set sails on that rack.  It was great to see him come out of the water and shake off before hopping right into the woods.
It was a nice way to end my sail.
Sailing along the sand beach was great fun and had such a different quality than sailing the  rest of the lake.  The beach was the lee shore today and the waves washed up on it making a sound and sight as if it were a much bigger bit of water I was upon.  Sailing along, with the bottom insight, sloping and sandy and the beach moving by quickly, was a bit exciting.
I have come to realize how much more pleasant it is to sail this boat with a minimum of complications.  The lovely rudder I built for it is not an improvement over using the oars as steering oars, each perched in it's after most oarlock.  It easy to switch between the two, or to just start using them both to row.  I still miss the ease at which the boat moved in light airs with the larger sail, but I do enjoy being able to sail in stronger wind.
I did not try to sail to windward at all, and being of the mind to row to wind kept me from worrying over a thing that this boat does not do well.
It was a very lovely day, a very "boaty" day and all in the middle of November to add.

While rowing the skiff I found that I should probably take the time to make a new middle thwart, just a bit wider to accommodate my big fat backside.  I made the thwarts the way I did, loose fitting so that they could be adjusted until the optimum position could be found, and so that the could be easily removed for sailing or lying on the floors.  This has all worked but I do sometimes wish that they were fastened tight so that there was one less thing to fuss over.  The middle thwart, the rowing thwart, needs to be about 6-10 inches farther foreward than I originally thought.  This would also have the affect of moving the bow down a touch, which would be a positive improvement.
I have decided that one of the things I don't like about this design is that the bow sits proud of the water.  This does certainly cause it to pound into the waves and it also gives much more area for the wind to get hold of her.  Instead of a sharp fine entry to the water she has a wide bottom that does help her to plane up over the water and makes her more maneuverable, but at the same time, takes away her ability to track.
In looking at the GOAT ISLAND SKIFF, which is a well reported sailing skiff,  I think it has less rocker, although  the stem doesn't quite make it down to the water, it exposes much less of the flat bottom to the oncoming water.
I do realize that by putting the sailing rig on this boat I was trying to get something out of it that it was not intended to do.  That being said, I have had some success getting her to sail.  She did better in lighter airs with the bigger sail, obviously, but she also seemed to go to weather a tiny bit better with that larger sail, probably due to the affect of the wind on the hull being so much less able to cause leeway.  But off wind and across the wind and in stronger wind, the current sail is much more comfortable to use.  I think it could be a bit longer at the foot, though the sheet lead would quickly become an issue, but it needs no more height on such a narrow beamed boat.
Although I do want to build a boat specifically for sailing and it may not be much different in form from this skiff (MAYBE THE GOAT ISLAND SKIFF)  I may still get the centerboard drunk installed and build a taller mast.
It was good to be out in her again.  It had been a while.  It was truly wonderful to have gotten to sail her.

The most pleasing sound of the day was when I heard the first bubble of the water along her hull as her sail started to pull and she began to make way.

Sunday, November 15, 2015


Went out on our 5 acre pond this morning.  The pond isn't really ours, or when I say ours I mean the area's pond.  Anyway I portaged the pram down the 700 ft or so, with little effort.  This is what that pram was intended for.  It being early sunday morning the place was mine to share with the birds and squirrels.
The really great thing about being out there this morning was the reacquaintance with the virtues of this little boat.  It is small but it does so very well for what it is.  I didn't bring along the CrazyCreek chair that I wanted to tryout in the boat.  I think that it, or something like it will add great comfort while just sitting and enjoying  the view.  I am tempted to just make a wooden seat/backrest for the boat but I really don't want to clutter the space up any more or add weight to it.
With this experience fresh in my mind I think I can imagine how the WEE PUP must handle.  The dimensions are just different enough to make a real impact.
Just enough boat, just
I am pretty happy with this little boat and sometimes it just takes seeing it again, or using it again to remind of just how happy about it I am.
Oh yes, I think every boat should have a set of oars made just for it as well.
I look eagerly forward to this winter's build.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Double paddling

L.F.H.'s double paddle canoe?
While sitting in my fiberglass kayak, paddling upon a placid lake, surrounded by fire like Autumnal leaf expressions, I fantasize about the double paddle canoe/kayak I might build.  I pay attention to the boat I am in and all of it's positive attributes so that I might bring them to the boat that I might build.  I pay attention to the boat I am in and all of it's negative attributes so that I might avoid them in the the boat that I might build.
A ripple in the water disturbs my minds wanderings and I look down into the fresh clean water and see the small sunfish below.  It is as if I am flying above the underwater world of rocks and grass that is below the surface.   I wonder if those fish look up at me the same way I look up at the red tailed hawks and the turkey vultures that seem to be ever present in the skies here.
As I think about the boat I want to build and get excited at it's possibility I realize that I am, at that moment, in a boat, and in a wonderful and beautiful setting, easily paddling along, and wonder why it is that I want something more than what I have right at this moment.  In the next moment I know that I don't need anything more.
Oh I may yet build that other boat, but if it never happens I still have a boat, a good one, and the chance to use it, and that is certainly good enough, not just good enough, but really good.

"It is my opinion that the double paddle canoe gives the most fun for the money of any type of boat a person can poses"-L. Francis Herreschoff

Sunday, November 1, 2015

The power of a straight line

I have been thinking about acquiring another fiberglass sailboat, the Venture 17, to be more specific.  I have found a nice 40 year old example in good condition, for a reasonable price.  The dilemma I face is wether or not to acquire another "plastic" boat, another adequate boat, another compromise, but something that would get me quickly out on the water.
This morning, it being a grey, damp, chilly, Autumnal sunday, and not having any other commitments than the coffee pot, the wood stove, and thinking about boats, I was looking at the picture I have of the Venture 17 and wondering what it was that I found so unappealing about it.  I then looked at pictures of my other boats and the thing became obvious right away.
The Ventures have a plum stern, straight up and down, and look as if somebody just came along and cut off the section to be used as it came sliding out of a sausage grinder or the playdough machine/toys we had as children.  This alone is not such a bad thing and has plenty of practical things to recommend it.  The rudder and outboard are much easier to hang on this kind of stern.  The volume, and thus the useful space inboard carries all the way to the end of the boat.  The water line length is potentially greater.  It could add reserve bouncy astern.  It's easy to construct.  This last bit shouldn't really be a concern for a fiberglass boat that can be molded to any shape pretty easily.
The Ventures also have a straight sheerline, with no rise at the bow or stern.  This gives the aft quarter the visual similarity to a shoe box.  Because the bow is higher than the stern, this gives the over look a rather crude, blunt and unappealing quality when viewed from the side.
I do think that the boat looks just fine in plan or while standing at the dock looking down onto the deck.  The beam and shape from this perspective is very good, I think.
In the boats I designed and built for myself I have always had a bit of shape to the sheer, a bit of arc in the sheer line.  That has as much to do with the nature of a plank of wood bending in 3 dimensions to accommodate the  beam, flare and the ends coming together, as it does with my own aesthetic preference.
The curved line in the sheer seems to reflect something a bit more natural and less humanly forced.  On the transom a bit of angle there gives the idea of continuation and motion and seems more able to interact with the sea than a flat surface would.
So, the end result was that I am putting off the acquisition of the Venture 17, for at least another day.  I won't buy it today because I don't have to, or really want to.  It would be too much of an aesthetic compromise and how I feel about a boat is very important.
While looking at the photos of my other boats, their construction and their launchings, I was reminded of the feelings I had then.  I was excited about them, inspired by their looks, proud of the thing that I had coaxed out of some unrelated bits of wood and glue and fasteners and paint and daydreams.  That is a very different feeling than what I was anticipating having in purchasing another assembly line fiberglass vessel with little in the way of looks or spirit.  I will say that this particular vessel is well kept and probably given it's stewards a good bit of fun, adventure, and pride, or at least it's condition would reflect this.
I have the good fortune to ask a little bit more of a boat than just economy, or just convenience, or just immediacy of ownership.  I have had to wait before, and had to do the work, and had to come up with the craft and suffered the discovery of my own limitations in the application of that craft, and it has all been a positive experience.  So, if I can, I will NOT buy this boat and rather build my own answer to my sailing challenges.  After all it is such good fun just daydreaming of a boat that might be and what it might do with me in it.

On the practical side it would also be in my econmic favor to build the boat, if my past builds can be used as a measure.  I also really need to finish getting the shop in order so that I can add the centerboard to the skiff and see what difference that makes in it's sailing ability, and thusly, my enthusiasm for taking her out on the water.