Saturday, March 28, 2015

New Boat Project- The Point Comfort 23

The new molds! Thanks to Howie for this photo.

We could have chosen most anything as our inaugural project, but we’ve been talking about a bigger, better looking, more seaworthy boat to replace the thirteen foot Boston Whaler that we use as our race committee, sail instruction, and general yard boat. We need to be able to function safely in conditions that push the limits of the little whaler. That boat loves to gulp seawater over the bow. We looked at a lot of designs, including the nineteen foot semi dory from John Gardner, Carolina Skiff types, the Bateau Boats FS17, the Handy Billy 21, and finally the Point Comfort 23 from Doug Hylan. One important aspect of this building project will be to teach woodworking and boat building skills, and the use of hand and power tools to a group of interested people, some of whom have never seen a significant boat materialize from the ground up. We could have chosen a boat design that offered a CNC kit, but honestly, there’s not much to learn from a bunch of puzzle joints and fifteen gallons of epoxy. The Handy Billy was extremely appealing as an antidote to the kit boat route, but we felt like she wouldn’t offer us enough initial stability, good sea boat that she is. We need a stable platform and lowish topsides from which to work. I had looked before at the Point Comfort 18, but pretty as she is, she’s not enough boat for us. Then Doug Hylan introduced the 23, and we had found our project.

 It’s a simple, rugged, quite pretty outboard derivation of a classic Chesapeake deadrise skiff. She’s got the straight stem and deep, narrow forefoot of the type, but designed for plywood construction over more or less typical longitudinals. The hull is heavily built from 3/4” meranti ply. The forefoot is cold molded from two layers of 3/8” ply with vertical seams staggered. Besides the chine timbers, clamps, and keelson, there is very little internal framing, other than floors, bulkheads, and deck beams. The heavy skin makes this possible. This boat has twice the displacement of the 18, and maybe four times the dry weight. She’s substantially built, to be sure.

A  meeting was held to choose the boat design for our new project.
We held a meeting at the club before Christmas, open to anyone interested in the project. I was gratified to fill the room with interested folks. I’ll admit to putting a little spin on the presentation, having already decided that I liked the PC23, but the idea was taken up with real enthusiasm. Doug Hylan has designed and built quite a few mid-size to large power boats, and I trust his eye and his design skills. I took the idea to our board of directors, with a preliminary budget, and was given the green light to proceed! Which is a good thing, because I had already bought the plans.

Our group met again to review the construction process.
The first task in this project was to build a suitable strong back, which can be interesting on a very out of level dirt floor. I wanted to devise a system that would be rugged, but that would not be in the way when not actually building a boat, and which could be set up and adapted for any other boat. We went to concrete footings again, laying out three pairs of footings, about nine feet apart, put carefully in line and squared to each other. We dug holes and built 12” square forms which we lined up with a laser and strings, then poured the concrete.

Laying out footings for the strong back.

The forms were laid out with a laser and string lines...

And the concrete was poured.

After curing, we drilled out the concrete for threaded inserts (again with the laser for set up) which we epoxied in. This was done in sub-freezing temperatures, so we warmed the inserts in a pan on the wood stove, and set up light bulbs on the concrete, which kept everything warm overnight for a good epoxy cure.

Threaded insert with bolt.

Threaded inserts were epoxied into the concrete.

Locally applied heat cured the epoxy.
Next we bolted in some 4 x 4 clips like we used on the bench legs, again checking the alignment with a laser.

4x4 clips are aligned with the laser...

... and bolted down.
We then switched the laser to give us a horizontal benchmark, measuring the relative heights of each location, then cutting six legs to support 4 x 4 trestles, all at the same height. I like to take care at each step to insure a level and square set up, because it makes the final shimming of molds much easier. The trestle legs are all marked for their individual locations. We can remove them, and their clips, and just put the bolts in for an unobtrusive set up when not in use. For a smaller boat, we might use only two of the trestles.

Chris drills clearance holes in the trestle legs for the bolt heads.

The trestles were all custom cut to a common level benchmark.

And here they are. A level base to build our strong back on.
 Next time, we'll look at the strong back and molds. Thanks for looking in.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Sebago Canoe Club Boat Shop

My first boat- 1986

I’m gratified to have been a part of Sebago for these past twenty plus years. I’ve been a vocal proponent of a real boatbuilding program here for most of that time, and I’m happy to report that we are finally ready to move forward. The boat shop is largely done, though there will always be changes and improvements, but as of now we are fully functional. Many people have made significant contributions to the facility, both in the planning and in the construction, and I want to thank everyone involved, and a special thanks is due the Sebago Board of Directors for granting permission and allocating the funds to bring this about. Phil Giller was responsible for getting the roof put on, and that was a huge first step, for without that we’d still be working under a leaky tarp. And without John Wright’s vigilance we would never have gotten the tool room cleaned out and properly “exorcised”. Here's some pics of the new shop, several years in the making!

The roof goes up spanning two containers.
Phil Giller was instrumental in getting this roof for us!
Watch those wires!

We put in a stove.

And a workbench.


And we're operational! Sara and Laura restoring THE NAVY.
On tuesday evening, November the 18th from 7 to 9 pm, I will present a Power Point lecture on the building of traditional small craft. We’ll take a look at many boats that might be worthwhile projects to tackle in our new shop, and then specifically at what we’d like to do first. Here’s a quick preview of what’s coming up.






And much more!
Come on down, we'll have a fire in the stove.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Cricket Gets Some Much Needed Attention

Cricket was forlorn! She didn't sail at all last year, with all the energy going into the launch and rigging of Mouse. Not to mention being capsized the previous year (a first) and sailing with a split mast and mangled gooseneck. So I decided this year to do the repairs, get her rigged, and back in the water.

The mast and gooseneck were damaged at the dock when a gusting wind shift caught her aback suddenly, twisting the gooseneck, and pulling out screws, splitting the mast in the process. At the time, I jury rigged a repair (hose clamps) and sailed the rest of the year, but it bothered me having to look at the damage. With Mouse pretty much complete, I set out to do right by Cricket.

A good scrub out.

Cricket's paint job is 7 years old now, and still looks great.

I really like having a fixed gooseneck, but there were always problems with it. I put a round tenon on the mast when I built it, but the vang over-rotated the mast when tensioned and the boom fitting would gouge the side of the mast. So I put a key on the mast which engages a slot in the partner preventing rotation. I did this three times in fact, before I got one that wouldn't break. I put in a hardwood key first, which split off the first time I stepped the mast. Next was an aluminum key, which the epoxy would not grab onto reliably. It failed as well. A plywood key was the trick. Glue held, and ply didn't split. It suffers from abuse while stepping the mast, but has held for several years now. Anyway, the fixed gooseneck was the real source of all the difficulty, so I decided to replace it with a traditional boom jaw.

Pattern for jaws.

I made a pattern and cut the jaws out of some ash I had around, making sure to leave space for leathering the jaws. The boom is round, so to fit the jaws to the sides of the spar, I hollowed them out with a gouge and some 80 grit paper on an appropriately sized sanding drum (2" diameter). I cut the old Dwyer boom fitting off with a hacksaw and sanded off the paint in preparation for bonding the jaws. I used just two stainless screws on each jaw to lock them in place, and mixed up a thick batch of epoxy, using the squeeze-out to form a small fillet all the way around.

The hollowed out bearing surface.
I clamped a scrap across the jaws to keep them in plane.

At the same time I was making the new jaws, I began repairing the mast. I removed the old gooseneck plate and screws, then ground all the paint away to examine the splits. I could have let in some wood dutchmen, but the splits weren't too bad, so I ended up laying on some strips of biaxial glass cloth in epoxy. The mast has always been painted so this will look fine.

A couple of layers of biaxial glass cloth and epoxy went on the slits.
When the jaws were cured up, I did some shaping on all the corners, paying particular attention to the boom end where it bears up against the mast. I then drilled holes through the jaws for a pair of rope strops to attach the halyard, downhaul, and reefing block. The beauty of this traditional approach is (besides looking good) that it requires very little hardware. Just some bits of rope and a shackle or two.

Shaping the jaws.

I did some painting on the spars in the boat shop.

I set the rig up on the boat to check everything. A little fiddling got the old reefing lines working, but I had to change my halyard lead at the deck. The old lead came to a block on deck, just to the port side of the mast, but this location interfered with the new boom jaws, so I ended up moving the block to a position forward of the mast. I still have to put a fairlead back on the deck on the port side, to line the halyard up with its beehole through the forward coaming and thence to its cleat. The fairlead will keep the halyard from chafing the side of the mast.

Setting up the rig.
When I was satisfied that the new plan would work, I got out the leather to line the jaws. I keep threatening to buy a whole hide, but I always seem to be able to scrounge up nice big scraps from Kika down the hall, so I'll save my money for now. Leathering a curving surface is a little fussy, and my techniques I'm sure are not the best, but some knife work and canoe tacks does an okay job. The leathers will stay put, I think. I pre-drilled for the tacks to keep the wood from splitting, a fairly necessary precaution. After the first split, I learned my lesson.

The leather was cut to fit around the jaws. Note beeholes.

The finished leathers.

I got Cricket all put back together- floorboards, floatation, dock lines, and ground tackle, then launched her yesterday and went sailing. Cricket was very happy to be back sailing! One little fussy thing is happening. My downhaul seems to inhibit easy rotation of the boom. So I may end up cutting off the key that prevents the mast from rotating. That way, the mast and boom can all move together. I don't know if the vang will still be a problem. I have to sail it more and think on it a little more.

Nice to be back!

Heading out at low tide, looking for the sand bar.

Next time, we'll welcome aboard new Goat Island Skiff sailor Pat Daniels, and have a look at Mik Storer's deservedly popular design. But I need to go for a sail on it first!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Canoe Sailing - UK Style

Note: I asked for, and got permission from various UK sailors, and from Solway Dory to use their photographs and link to their pages. Solway Dory does not at present ship their products outside of the UK, because of past problems with damage and liability. I know they do not want to field a lot of emails asking for their products overseas. It is my intention to highlight what I consider to be good design, and to encourage the same kind of thoughtful design and careful craftsmanship here, that they exhibit across the pond.

Gavin Millar- Solent sailing.

I've been thinking a lot about canoe sailing lately, for various reasons. I recently sold my first sailing canoe Spy, to a sailor up in Salem, Mass. on Boston's north shore, and that empty rack in the canoe shed has got me thinking. I have often wondered what I might do with a sailing canoe design if I started from scratch, with no pretensions to racing in any organized sense, but with the intention of building a wholesome and seaworthy canoe for day sailing and cruising. It was while banging around the internet in search of all things canoe sailing, that I came across the Open Canoe Sailing Group (OCSG) and Solway Dory, the UK builder of sailing canoes and rigs.

I actually had heard of both of these outfits many years ago while racing in the ACA and C Class nationals at Moose Pond in Maine back in 1995. Several of the British sailors had come over to race with us, and to talk up the boats and events that they had going on. John Bull was the founder of the OCSG, and of Solway Dory. (Sadly, both John Bull passed away just last year.) With John came Keith and Ann Morris, Tony Ball, and Bernard O'Connor. The following year, several of the US sailors went to the UK to sail with them (couldn't afford it myself!). If memory serves, there was talk of establishing an International Canoe Rig for open canoes (not IC's, the sliding seat canoes), but I don't believe that ever materialized. At any rate, over the intervening years I moved away from organized canoe sailing, built an outrigger, sailed a Hobie 16 for a while, and a 27' cruising cat, then with Holly, organized the dinghy sailing program at Sebago Canoe Club. But I always kept the canoes, sailing them mostly by myself, reveling in the simplicity and handiness that canoe sailing affords.

Photo- Gavin Millar.
It turns out these Brits have pushed the sport forward quite a ways, developing new boats and rigs, and organizing adventure cruising events all over Great Britain. Some of the canoes resemble our own, built on stock-boat platforms with drop-in rigs. But I think the decked, expedition rigged Solway Dory models have a lot of potential for demanding sailing, and the boats are proven in real world environments, with several (highly experienced) sailors making very ambitious voyages.

Astrid- Gavin Millars Solway Dory canoe.
It is my belief that the development of these canoes without the constraints of class racing rules has had a very positive effect on the cruising capabilities that these craft exhibit. The Solway Dory models are a little different than what we are accustomed to here in the states. They are somewhat shorter and a tad wider, and I believe carry a little more rocker than ours do. Their Fulmar solo model is 14 1/2 feet long, with 40" of beam. The Shearwater is a solo or two-handed canoe that is 16 feet long, on the same beam. By contrast, my Mohawk Ultima, Alien is 18 feet long with a 38" beam and very little rocker. I can't speak to hull form, because I haven't seen the actual boats, or line drawings either (understandably).

There are a couple of features in particular that I think are worth considering. Watertight bulkheads close off the end decks, and that's pretty standard. Additionally though, these boats have bulkheads running fore and aft down each side, creating large side buoyancy tanks in the cockpit which really aid in righting a capsized boat. These bulkheads run parallel with the centerline, and are a constant width apart.

View of the deck and cockpit. Notice the side tanks. Gavin Millar photo.
There is a removable seat at deck height from which to paddle. The seat can be easily adjusted fore and aft because of the parallel risers on which they rest. Paddling from the seat with a longish single blade appears to be quite easy.

Paddles can be stowed on the fore deck. Gavin Millar photo.

Leeboard bracket and cross beam attachment. Gavin Millar photo.

There is no leeboard thwart, though there is often a thwart to land the mainsheet cleat on. The longitudinal bulkheads stiffen the hull, and the leeboard bracket is carried just on the side deck. As an accessory, Solway Dory offers an outrigger package. These outriggers are interesting, in that they are intended as safety amas only. They are quite short, and carried high, well forward on a single cross beam. It is not intended that they be sailed immersed like a trimaran, but are there to provide an extra margin of safety in rough conditions. I doubt I would use them daysailing, but I certainly see their value in expedition type sailing.

Gavin Millar photo.

Gavin Millar photo.

Gavin and Stacey. Gavin Millar photo.
Most of the rigs I've seen are unstayed, unbattened bermudans which roller-furl around the mast like a Seapearl. They use end-boom sheets and kickers (vangs), which must be unshackled from the mast before furling. The decks are well thought out, having straps for paddle stowage and fairleads for rudder control lines, etc. For steering, they all seem to use a single push-pull stick which snaps into a fitting to lock the rudder for paddling. The outrigger cross beams attach with just two bolts. I believe that what these folks have brought to modern sailing canoe design is valuable. I know that some sailors in this country prefer narrow boats, with "sit-inside" cockpits and double paddles, but I'm a fan of the wider hulls, sailed like a dinghy. The sailing canoe (unlike most racing dinghys) is a boat that can be car-topped, yet loaded with gear for cruising while leaving plenty of room in the cockpit to sail from. The addition of fore and aft buoyancy chambers, smart deck layout, a wide, flat hiking seat on the side decks, and the safety amas for voyaging all contribute to a sensible design and a craft worth studying further.

On the beach, rig furled. Gavin Millar photo.

Loch Sunart. Andy Whitham photo.
David Stubbs of Solway Dory. Andy Whitham photo.

Loch Sunart. Andy Whitham photo.

David Stubbs, fitting a deck hatch. Solway dory photo.

When I started looking over the UK canoe sailing scene, I came across Gavin Millar's blog. Gavin, who lives on the Solent in the south of England, proposed to sail solo in a canoe around mainland Britain, a distance of about 2200 miles. Gavin had Solway Dory build him a custom Shearwater, and prepared for the trip by circumnavigating the Isle of Wight. Gavin managed 1000 miles of the voyage, before running out of time and cutting the trip short. This is still a tremendous feat, and speaks both to Gavin's skill as a sailor, and to the suitability of the boat for expedition cruising. I can't do justice in this small space to Gavin's feat, but encourage you to read his wonderful blog describing the journey. It was largely through his very good photographs that I became interested in these boats.

Keith Morris' lug yawl.
The OCSG and Solway Dory both have links to many cruises that are undertaken yearly in the UK. I've focused primarily on the decked boats, but I don't want to give short shrift to the open canoes. There is a ton of canoe sailing of all sorts in the UK. In the Lake district, in Scotland and, as Gavin has shown us, in the solent, too. Take a look at what these folks are doing, then let's get busy!