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!

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Matinicus Double ender- Part 24

Rigging Sails

 Click HERE to view part one.

Setting up the rig for the first time.

Setting up the rig for the first time.
I hauled the as yet unfinished spars out to the club to set up on the boat. I wanted to locate all of the cleats and fairleads and what-not, and locate the leather chafe guards before varnishing, and I wanted to get it right. I spent most of a whole day setting up the rig, trying various boom and yard positions, relative to hoist and downhaul points. Since I designed my own rig, I didn't have any tried, true, and tested set of drawings to go by, only my own sketch with some basic dimensions. I moved the boom fore and aft quite a bit, looking for the best position overlaying the mast. I decided on a position for the both the boom and yard that set the luff more or less parallel with the mast, and that put the clew end of the boom high enough for head clearance. On a lug rig, downhaul tension is everything. When first set up, I was using just a spare block or two to get me in the ball park, but making a list of the parts that I still need to order. I didn't have enough purchase on the trial setup to get good luff tension, so we had a little wrinkle from the clew to the head. When I was satisfied with the sails, I marked all of the pertinent locations for line attachments and cleats, and made some sketches so that when I had the spars back in the shop I would know just what to do.

I placed an order for all the line, blocks, and doo-dads I would need, and set to work back in the shop. I tried to make as many of the fittings as I could, including various horn cleats, jam cleats, and bee blocks (for lack of a better word). My plan was to glue most of the hardware into shallow mortises in the spars. I did not want to use screws in the hollow sticks, because I would need solid blocking in those locations, and there are a lot of them. Rather than to have to plan out every location in advance and install the blocking, I opted for the shallow mortise. I laid out patterns for the various cleats, making sure to include extra depth at their bases for the mortise, then cut the many fittings out from scrap ash that I had in the shop, fairing them up and shaping the edges with chisels, files, and rasps. I sealed all of these with shellac, then began gluing them in the mortised spars, using blue tape for clamps. I then moved on to varnishing, putting on a coat each evening for several days.

Cleat layout on ash stock.
A pile of cleats and bee blocks, ready to install and varnish.
I glued the cleats into shallow mortises.

Once the cleats were on and the spars were varnished, I fitted the various chafe guards, using scraps of leather from the KikaNY shop down the hall. One day, Kika, I swear I'll buy a hide of my own! I went out and bought a nice little punch for the stitching. This punch has tines that are really too close together for my purposes. I really should cut off every other one, but I'll buy another just like it before I do, just in case. It's tricky to cut the leather the right length, because some space needs to be allowed for stretching, and different hides stretch at different rates, so predicting that is a bit of trial and error. I cut the pieces about 3/16" short of the circumference, punched the holes, soaked the leather in warm water, then stitched them up snugly, using two needles crossing back and forth in a kind of baseball stitch. There is a lot of information out there for this, but I kind of found my own way with it, and I'm pretty pleased with the results. I truly enjoyed this work. You just pull up a chair and go at it. It's kind of a zen zone thing, and nice music helps (probably not Marilyn Manson, though). Finally, all the spars were done!

I sanded the varnish for better grip on the leathers.
The punch I bought for stitching the leather.

The stitching is done with two needles.
The guard where the mizzen mast enters the deck.

Mizzen boom jaws.

A finished set of spars!

I think it's probably worth a written description of the rigging details for Mouse's lug yawl rig. The rig is pretty well understood and documented now, due to its recent widespread popularity among the sail and oar group, but I'll offer my take on it here. The fore is hoisted on a halyard that ties into a mast traveler ring, which slides up and down the mast. There is a rope strop around the yard that slips onto a hook under the ring.

I bought a mast traveler from Classic Marine in the UK.

 The halyard passes through a sheave at the masthead, which runs port to starboard (not fore and aft). This orientation routes the halyard down the starboard side of the mast, to a block strapped to the mast thwart, then back up to a cleat on the mast. To ship or unship the yard, the strop just unhooks from the traveler. The boom is held to the mast largely by a several part downhaul that tensions the luff, though it is finally secured by a line or some such around boom and mast after hoisting. Some folks use an actual dog collar for this, and I will too when I get to the pet store. In the meantime, I named that line that I use the 'dog collar". When the downhaul is hauled tight, the yard peaks up and the whole rig is under control. Hoisting is a little bit of a fire drill and must be done very quickly. Until set, the yard flails around a bit. Afloat, this whole scene is made possible by that little mizzen sail, which keeps your nose comfortably upwind. Without the mizzen, the boat will want to start sailing before things are under control, and that would not be fun!

This shows the halyard and downhaul arrangement. It's a little messy looking here, but it all works.
Close-up view. The mast chafe guard is just taped on here. I didn't have a big enough piece of leather at the time.
The downhaul itself clips into another strop on the boom via a carabiner. It's fast to clip on and off. The tackle consists of an old Laser fiddle with v-jam that is strapped to the thwart. On the top there is a double, giving a total 4:1 purchase. That has proved sufficient, though some sailors use even more. The sail is lashed to the yard, but is loose footed at the boom. The tack is simply tied off through a hole in the boom's end. The clew has a line through the grommet that passes around the boom and serves as a traveler. There is an outhaul that dead ends at the aft end of the boom, then passes through the clew grommet and back to a cheek block on the other side of the boom, then to a wood jam cleat up forward a little ways.

For reefing at both tack and clew, I dead end a line around the boom with a bowline, go up to a carabiner that clips into the reef grommet (the carabiner has a ring fairlead) then down through a hole (dumb sheave) in the boom and forward or aft to a jam cleat. (Note that when these photos were taken, I had not yet installed the carabiners for the reefing tackles. The line just passes through the grommet.) The clew reef should have an angle aft to automatically tighten the foot. You want a tight outhaul if you are reefed. The sail is neatened up with reef pendants through the grommets as usual. To reef afloat, I haul the mizzen in and let go the helm. The boats sits there roughly head to wind, drifting straight backwards (leave room to leeward). I drop the whole rig into the boat, unhook the downhaul and mast traveler quickly, then tie in the reefs and re-hoist. The only time to hurry is during lowering and hoisting. As with anything to do with boats, practice builds confidence.

The following is an excerpt from a post on the Wooden Boat forum after my first sail-

"Finally took a first sail on Mouse yesterday, and could not be happier. The little mizzen works as advertised, and once I got comfortable with the setup, steering, sheeting the fore, and mizzen was easy and handy. The forecast from I- Windsurf was for light wind (5-7) from the SW, so naturally it blew 14, a little gusty and shifting W to S. The boat is tender (I have expected to ballast all along), so I was a little edgy at first, but heeled down she is quite stiff, and really fast. I'm going to try a couple of sand bags, then add some permanent ballast under the floor boards. I must have got my sums right, the balance is perfect, and I can tweak the helm with an inch or two or three of sheet on the mizzen. I love that little sail. I don't even have to look, as I can hear when it luffs, and feel when it needs freeing up. I led the sheet to a cam on the deck just behind the coaming, on a little ash riser block. I'm quite happy with the lead to the rudder head, too. My location is aft enough on the boom that I can get the sail very close to dead center. At any rate, she heaves to pretty close to dead upwind. I have not yet run a reefing drill afloat, but I'll do that next time out. I tucked into the lee of an island, and reefed there. Did some creek crawling in the marsh at high speed, and she tacks and jibes very reliably. I really had no idea how she would behave. Its a new rig for me, and my own design, so there's lots of ways I could have gone wrong. I had crew with me, but I handled all the stuff myself so I could get a feel for the rig and helm."

Well folks, this kind of wraps up my double ender saga, at least for the time being. As I write this, we are in the middle of a series of "polar vortexes" as they say, with temps rollercoastering between 30 and the single digits. I'm looking forward to next season's sailing, when I can get the rig all tidied up, and a lot more time in the boat. I will post some updates from time to time. Thanks to all who took the time to read and look. It's been fun putting this build to press, so to speak. I'm looking forward to continuing this blog with many other boat and boating stories!