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Anke and I are building our next boat, and writing about it at Access to the net comes and goes, so I'll be writing in fits and spurts.

Please feel free to browse the archives, leave comments where you will and write, and I'll respond as I can.

Fair winds!

Dave and Anke
triloboats swirl gmail daughter com

Friday, August 26, 2016

Shanty-, House-, Boat: What's in a Name?

Think like a Bureaucrat...
Can you find all the things wrong in this picture?

(See end of post for answers!)
Blockprint by Harlan Hubbard

If ya can't hide it, decorate it.

-- Robin Hiersche, BBW

Shanty-, House-, Boat: What's in a Name?

Chances are that you, like me, look at the above scene and see a happy, thriving water community squeezed in the margins of the 'normal, productive society' topping the banks. When this was carved, that's exactly what it was.

But Concerned Citizens  and Bureaucrats (CC/Bs) see a sinister encroachment on their jurisdiction/privileges that is simply intolerable. They once thought of us merely as lazy ne'er-do-wells, but nowadays consider us to be full on parasites, criminals and detriments to property value. Maybe even Terrorists. Maybe, even...


Unless we're willing and able to spend our lives in hostile meetings and offices... unless we can live with frequent run-ins with Authority... unless we're willing to be moved along at (holstered) gun-point... unless we're willing to live with the chance of legal proceedings of condemnation and confiscation....

We've got to be wiley.

What follows, here, are some thoughts on strategies for avoiding pushing a Concerned Citizen's buttons. Setting in motion a Bureaucratic avalanche. Triggering the chase reflex of Busybodies and Authorities.

Musings, only. None of this is in the least intended to derogate anyone or their boats. Personally, my tastes run in almost perfect inverse to the 'standards' of Society! In those lovely backwaters where folks can still get away with being, in large part, themselves, I bid all power to the people.


Despite the rather resentful flavor of this rant, I tend to like and get along with the persons I'm calling CC/Bs.

It helps to remember that they are just folks - often frustrated by dreams they've felt compelled to ditch along the way and lives they've chosen. Given a chance, they can very often be won over. Often, they become surprise allies!

Smile - A sincere smile goes a long way toward disarming a hostile approach.

Be relaxed and friendly - What have we got to lose? Belly bumping and shouting harden lines of opposition. Escalation isn't  in our interest.

Be hospitable - To offer a cup o' kindness - whether or not it is accepted, evokes a powerful, positive

Seek common ground
- Getting to 'yes' is our goal, and common ground helps us forward.

Don't volunteer problems - We may be concerned that they think thus-and-so, but let them raise the subject. No need to drop problems into their minds.

Don't show fear or submission - Both arouse the Bully within.

Bottom line, treat CC/Bs with friendly and consistent courtesy, regardless of their attitude, and don't sell yourself short. I've seen a LOT of the other kinds of interaction go south in short order. Most of those didn't go well for our side.

Looks Can Be Deceiving

CC/Bs seem prone to love- or hate-at-first sight. We want to tip the balance in our favor, insofar as possible, or at least prevent a capsize the other way.

Note that none of these strategies actually imply what they suggest. They're more like camouflage, really.

Tidiness suggests responsibility. The first thing to set a CC/B on the warpath is a mess of any description. Trash, clutter,  loose tarp. Anything. Keeping it tidy is an investment in conflict avoidance.

Paint and trim suggest pride. There's a fine line between 'run-down' and 'quaint'. Neither are ideal, as they both attract attention. But since attention can't be avoided, we hope for the latter.

Visible safety gear suggests sea-worthiness and responsibility. .Running lights, anchor gear, PFDs, etc. all telegraph that you won't have to be bailed out by the municipality.

A visible motor or sailing rig (propulsion) suggests movement and trancience. We aren't a fixture. At worst we represent a temporary problem. Maybe we'll move along on our own, with no action 'required'.

What's in a Name?

Is there a functional difference between a shantyboat, a houseboat and a (liveaboard) boat (aka vessel)?

The distinction is at best fuzzy, and to my mind moot. The name reflects the romantic relationship one has with their vessel, more than any fundamental difference. I think of our own homes as in all three terms,  depending on mood and context. At most, any distinctions involve very fuzzy thresholds.

But to the CC/B , the distinctions are stark and have legal and procedural teeth.

Shanties - whether by land or sea - are seen as dwellings on 'the wrong side of the tracks'. Derelict by definition. A problem to solve. (Con)Damnible.

Houses - whether by land or sea - have a measure of respectability. They have an address. Valuation. Standing. CC/Bs generally live in one themselves, and aspire to own one or more. Just changing the label on a structure can afford a false sense of affinity..

Houseboats are an actual legal category; a box on the registration form! If you have any choice, 'tis better to live aboard a boat than a houseboat. Houseboats suggest living aboard, a not always licit activity. They're often restricted in number and location, if not forbidden outright.

Note that CC/Bs are often hypocritically associated with shanty- and houseboats of their own. A retreat, if you will, from the rigors of eradicating vermin. If sufficiently quaint or kempt and floating properly in a marina or alongside sufficiently privileged private property, or even in selective, look-the-other-way playgrounds, no problem.

, too, are a legal category, but as yet the least encumbered. All kinds of boats are necessary to the comfort and reward of CC/Bs. In all the confusion, they haven't fully gotten around to sifting what they see as wheat from chaff. But they're working on it.
There is a gradient, merely in the name, as to the response you receive. Try it out in coffeshop conversation, some time. Talk about a water community using the different terms, and observe the body language. Do shoulders tighten? Faces flush? Nostrils flare? Breathing become shallow and uneven? Does using a different term sooth the beast?

Of course, there's nothing to stop us from using our favored term among ourselves. But in these troubled times, strategies of duck, weave and cover can help keep us on the water in the face of bureaucratic blight.

A rose is a rose is a rose, and by any other name smells as sweet.

What the Concerned Citizen / Bureaucrat See

Monday, August 15, 2016

Easy Insurance for Ply Boats: Doubler Plate / Horizontal Butt-Strap

Hole-in-the-Wall... *GULP*!

Prevention is better than cure.
- Desiderius Erasmus

Easy Insurance for Ply Boats: Doubler Plate / Horizontal  Butt-Strap

In TriloBoat StudyPLANs (for square boats built of plywood), I suggest installing doubler plates.

Judging by questions I field, this isn't a self-explanatory concept, so I elaborate. But first, a yarnlet...


We occasionally get a wild hair to do something really... well... ill-advised.

This time, it was to shoot Hole-in-the-Wall, a narrow break in the levee separating an estuary from a passage between islands, in ZOON, our ex-Bolger LONG MICRO. At 19ft6in x 6ft6in, it was a tight squeeze. We wanted to do it just before max ebb, too, which generated a three foot water drop gushing through the heaped stone wall. This left us plenty of water, both beneath ZOON's flat bottom and to propel us with adrenal force. We thought of it as a training mission.

To our credit, we'd scoped it well, and were counting on a sand flare on the down side of the gap; if we overshot the sharp right turn necessary to clear to deeper water, we'd fetch harmlessly up on sand for a tide cycle. Fail-safer.

As we approached, however, we could see someone in a power skiff, doing something-or-other near that sand-bank. We hovered on standby, but didn't abort (as we should have) to see what he was up to. Once he zoomed off, we decided the increasing water flow was still manageable, and to go for it (without further reconnaisance!).

Well... it was satisfyingly gripping, and all went according to plan. Except. Except, the skiff guy had parked a log on our fail-safe, awaiting the turn of the tide!

We were not able to make the turn, and bumped the log, rather than the bank. But we skid along it, under force of water flow, and shot past into the clear.

Anchored and congratulating ourselves on surviving our foolishness, however, Anke discovered a drippy leak at the edge of our bunk. Turns out we'd encountered a (mercifully) short branch spike just above the waterline, and had punctured our 1/2in (12mm) side.

A bit of scavenging and jury rig later, the hole was patched and we went  on our merry way, not as sad as we might've been, but wiser.


Since that time, we've been installing what I call doubler plates - an extra layer of plywood installed along the lower hull, at least doubling hull thickness to well above the waterline.

Their weight is low, contributing to ballast stability, their volume more than floats themselves and being outboard, contribute to form stability. The fact that they overlap the bottom edges means it protects then and its glue join is considerably improved. We view them as more or less sacrificial... while they are constructed as hull proper, being add-ons, any scrapes or dings in them can be easily repaired or filled with little concern for the hull's integrity.


Twenty-four inch (1/2 sheet) and sixteen inch (1/3 sheet) are convenient heights given plywood's 48in sheet width.
Doubler plates of 3/4in or thicker provide good 'bury' for any fasteners used while gluing them in place.

For square boats built from plywood, another feature soon became apparent.

Many hull sides are taller than a single sheet of plywood, and must be extended upward via a run of full or partial width ply. These strakes are often joined with a horizontal buttstrap (narrow strip of plywood straddling the seam where they butt together), but these must be notched into bulkheads requiring careful placement and carpentry, and they interrupt the smooth interior wall... vertical joinery must be further notched around them.

By placing the narrow strake low along the chine and using doubler plates which are taller than the lower sides, a longships rabbet (notch) is formed. The upper strake can be lowered into this notch and glued and fastened in place along it.  All this without any notching, and a smooth inner wall results. In my opinion, this feature alone pays for the increased cost/effort of installing doubler plates.


We're building WAYWARD with 5ft sides, calling for 4ft plus 1ft. The 1ft strake is run low, and our 2ft doubler plates form a very deep notch. Given draft designed to range from 12 to 16 inches, the top of the doublers will rise 12 to 8 inches above the waterline. In our case, we've chosen to copper plate the bottom and sides to the top of the doublers, for excellent combined protection.

A further perk: Since the doubled lower hull is quite low, it facilitates the option of completing the lower hull upside-down, flipping it, and building upward from there. Temporary frames may be used, or clever types can divide their bulkheads into upper/lower portions.

This simple upgrade improves puncture resistance, simplifies construction and makes the inverted build option more attractive and manageable.

Not bad for a coupla extra sheets of ply!

Monday, August 8, 2016

More than One Way to Sheath a Boat's_logo.jpg
Better Living along the Milky Way

Hell has an entire level devoted to... wrapping.
- From the Internet, Somewhere

More Than One Way to Sheath a Boat

Once upon a time, before Epoxy was crowned King of All and took Fibra Glass to be his Queen, there lived a simple lagging compound named Arabol, and his true love, Dynel.

Wait. No. Is this any way to talk about boatbuilding??? Let me start again...

Arabol was once made by Borden, Incorporated, a dairy on steroids. Trademarked in 1905, it was a milk-based  product which was essentially waterproof Elmer's Glue (another Borden product).

Arabol's main commercial use was as a lagging compound.

I know... I had to ask, too. Lagging is the cloth once used to wrap hot water pipes for insulation and protection of those who might otherwise burn themselves. Lagging compound is a latexy substance used to saturate and waterproof lagging, making sort of a softly plasticized cast.

Someone along the way realized that this stuff could be used to sheath boats (generally, but not always above the waterline). BRILLIANT!!!

To apply, lay down fabric - anything from burlap to mosquito netting to fiberglass. Wet it down with water and slap on a first coat of compound. Once dry (which can go quickly on a warm dry day), add another full-strength layer. Repeat until the desired thickness is achieved. Topcoat with flat, latex primer/paint (one among many options).

The result was said to last 15 years or more.

Borden quit making Arabol by the time we built LUNA in 1997, so we tried Childers Chil-Seal (Marine variant CP-50A HV2) over fiberglass cloth. Nineteen rough-shod years later, it's still looking good.

These decks are a bit soft... one can dent it with a fingernail or pierce it with a dropped anchor, but tougher than most traditional canvas. But they're not easy to harm, and easily repaired if you do. Should you want to take up a section for any reason, they have relatively low peel resistance and come up easily with no grinding.

Further alternatives might be other lagging compounds or water-based, concrete sealer?

Recently, we're trying the same approach with TiteBond III, made by Franklin International. It's applied by the same procedure, but finishes to a much harder surface, almost indistinguishable from epoxy. Our new hull's decks are sheathed with it, and it has now survived a year of Southeast Alaskan weather with no sign of trouble.

As noted in the comments by astute readers, it may be that new TBIII won't readily bond to itself after full cure. For multi-layer applications, we've always done 'wet over green (not fully cured), and ditto for any topcoating of primer (though one topcoat test bonded well to fully cured TBIII). My intuition is that, roughed up, the bond should be reasonable to good, but that has yet to be seen.

Dynel is a trade name for woven acrylic fabric once made by Union Carbide. Jamestown Distributors still sells 5oz under that name, and my guess is most any woven, and possibly knit acrylic will do. Alan Jones reports good texture results from acrylic fleece, but that it drinks glue.

Acrylic is highly resistant to abrasion, and often laid over kayak keels to protect fiberglass/resin. It's cheaper, easier to handle and better conforming than glass fabric without those itchy shards. Grinding can 'pill' or 'fuzz' it, but that's easily shaven smooth with a sharp scraper.

So our state-of-the-art is Chil-Seal (proven) or TiteBond III (awaiting further results) with acrylic cloth.

Cheap, easy, pleasant, non(or ver lowly)-toxic, easily maintained...

...Just the thing for the quick and dirty among us!


More on water-based alternatives, here.

By the way...

We used Chil-Seal between LUNA's 2x2, red cedar, strip-planked deck planks, since it was on hand and extra. Turned out to be quite adhesive and filled the gaps easily between the un-bevelled edges as they followed a 6in crown. Undiluted, it was about like gap-filling toothpaste, as I recall. Dried to a sandable solid, like old chewing gum.

We didn't clean up right away with water, and regretted it later. I set up firm enough that we couldn't easily cut it. Burred it away with a Dremel tool along the underside grooves. The things we do for vanity!

I'm thinking Chil-Seal or equivalent would make a very friendly adhesive for general strip-plank construction. It's modest elastomericity would help prevent longitudinal edge failures sometimes seen with epoxy and other rigid glues.

LUNA's deck before sheathing

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Deep Survival by Laurence Gonzales: A Review on Second Read

By Laurence Gonzales

If you're not afraid, you don't appreciate the situation.
-- Ambrose Curry, big surf instructor [Quoted in Deep Survival]


Most of us sleep through the test. We get in and out and never know what might have been demanded. Such an experience can make us even more vulnerable, for we comee away with the illusion of growing hardy, salty, knowledgeable: Been there, done that.

The maddening thing for someone with a Western scientific turn of mind is that it's not what's in your pack that separates the quick from the dead. It's not even what's in your mind. Corny as it sounds, it's what's in your heart.
-- From Deep Survival

Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why 
by Laurence  Gonzales
A Review on Second Read

Deep Survival explores what it is that survivors do in the approach to crisis, during and in its aftermath.

Via heart-stopping accounts of life, death and the sometimes hairbreadth boundary between, Gonzales guides us through vistas at once familiar and alien. Where children under six are a demographic with a high incidence of survival. Where 'Rambo types' are the first to go. It is a surprising journey.

We find ourselves, lost in the World. Vast and chaotic. At once predictable and utterly beyond prediction. Absolutely consequential, yet hinged on chance.

We map the world in our minds, plotting our futures as best we may. Yet correspondence between map and mapped is imperfect. Discrepancy alone can lead us astray. Under stress we tend to "bend the map", such as it is, imposing what we wish or fear upon the lay of our surrounds. Our very expertise can blind and mislead us with unwarranted assurance and unlooked for Pavlovian response.

We are introduced to conflict and accord between amygdalian imperatives - our ancient brain center urging freeze, flee or fight - versus neo-cortical overrides - more recently evolved, in hot pursuit of rational pattern. Gonzales writes, "The amygdala would urge instant action without thought. It has the chemical authority to do that, too. So it takes energy, balance and concentration to shift control to the executive functions of the neocortex."

Yet the 'rational' neocortex can be anything but... micro-managing, rationalizing, derailed, overloaded, distracted. Or dead wrong. It's a system whose bugs are still being worked out under the none too gentle hand of natural selection.

As Malcom Gladwell put it, "Choking is about thinking too much. Panic is about thinking too little." [Quoted from Deep Survival]

Somewhere in the mix - its nature and origins as yet mysterious - is the 'heart' to keep going in the face of overwhelming odds.

Heart is the the central theme in Gonzales' fugue on survival. Survivors may react by reflex to save themselves. They may override the blind and sometimes disastrous impulse to beeline for safety. They may let go of expectation to accept their situation. They may organize their resources and small steps toward survival. But it is what's in the heart that gets and keeps them going.

That's good news and bad news, maddening to this writer's Western scientific turn of mind.

The good news: with heart (and luck), anything is possible, to the point that survival may seem super-human. The bad news: heart isn't easily acquired if you don't already have it. Worse, one really doesn't know if one has it or not until crunch time.

Heart is habitual, according to Gonzales, and I have litttle reason to doubt him. It is the habit acquired in meeting the crises and challenges of everyday life. It may be sought and even cultivated. It can be acquired, but only through long practice. That weekend or week or month long survival course, of itself, won't do it. At best, heart is exercized and strengthed in each step of one's every day. At worst, we float half-alive through our days and our atrophied heart is AWOL in our hour of need.

So Deep Survival doesn't turn out to be a toolkit of strategies that can be learned, though it offers some of those. It doesn't impart skills though it values them. Nor resolve the conflicts within the mind, though it makes suggestions. It doesn't promise easy mastery or make guarantees. But it informs. It illuminates. It sets before us a series of koans to unfold. It encourages the accumulation of expertise without loss of  beginner's mind. A Tao of Survival as useful each day as it is in the pinch.

Gonzales leaves us with Rules of Adventure, his distillation of advice and survivor practice/attitudes. I've dumbed them down for my own use, and present them here, along with my strong recommendation that you read the book in it's full glory.

One day and every day, it might save your life.


Be here now.
Prepare yourself as best ye may.
Be open to wonder.

Get busy living, or get busy dying.
Be confident, yet humble.
Be boldly cautious; cautiously bold.
Surrender, but don't give up.

Go get 'em, Grasshopper!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Barge Yacht: A Thousand Words to Paint a Picture
Garvey Houseboat (Kissin' Cousins to Barges)
Designed/Built/Owned by Chris Cunningham

 No need for us, even in the tiniest boat, to wear sackcloth and ashes merely to be tough and seamanlike and brave.
-- Maurice Griffiths from his Arrow Book of Sailing

Barge Yacht: A Thousand Words to Paint a Picture

In my early readings of the watery world – voracious and then as yet vicarious – I ran across a description of small barge yachts that had been converted from bridge tenders (wooden barges used as platforms for bridge maintenance). I've not been able to find that passage, but I'll reconstruct it from memory as best I may:
Their owners were inordinately fond of them. Most were gaff yawl rigged and often sported leeboards. In most cases a small, homey looking cabin had been fitted. One would frequently encounter them lying tucked up the shallow reaches of some remote estuary, a curl of woodsmoke rising from her stack, pretty as a picture. Their presence in such distant, hard to reach corners bespoke long passages and unlooked for capability.
These words spoke loud and clear to my soul. But alas, by then my head had filled with second-hand and somewhat knee-jerk opinions. I read voraciously and, for a long while, vicariously of 'facts' drawn from 'history'. But facts are slippery li'l devils, and wriggle in one's hands.

Broadly speaking, small, sailing workboats.led to an aesthetic for yachts, whose owners' interest in racing petrified preferences into the 'facts' we speak of. Shoal draft isn't seaworthy. Flat bottom boats pound and can't be made to sail. Deep keels and sloop or cutter rigs are the best or only way to get to windward. Junk sails won't sail to windward.

Let's take 'em, point by point:

Barge/Scow Hulls - Not often the fastest kids on the block, but shine in every other way. Economical, roomy, capacious, shoal of draft. Sit flat in the mud. With all that, what's the rush? Oh. And PDQ off the wind! Actually, given the way we rig and sail, windward ability of box barges remains largely unexplored by us. Even we can trudge slowly but reliably to windward up to about 45kt in heavy slop. After that, no data.

Alternatives to 'Marconi'/Bermudan Rigs
  - Quadrilateral sails (Gaff, Lug, Junk, Sprit) have many advantages over triangular ones. Stresses are reduced and distributed. More sail can be spread per foot of mast height. Centers of Effort are lower, and shift less when reefing. Generally lower, more robust masts mean a fail safer rig throughout.

Alternatives to Sloop and Cutter Rigs
- Multi-masted rigs (yawls, ketches, schooners) tend to be more expensive, more to handle and are less efficient. BUT. Expenses are offset by lower stresses throughout, requiring lower tech solutions and cheaper gear. While controls are doubled, what they must control is lessened, so handiness is enhanced. Having two Centers of Effort, maneuverability and balance options abound. Because the rig is handier, non-racers are likely to keep her sailing at her best for overall effficiency gain. As a bonus, having an extra mast is great, on-board insurance.

Alternatives to Deep Keels - One still hears that deep keels are a must for blue water sailing, and by implication, any serious sailing. This despite contrary evidence accumulated pretty much across the Age of Sail. Leeboards, centerboards and daggerboards have all proven themselves time and again, arguably riding out storms at sea with more comfort and safety than with a deep, ballast keel. With the advantages of easy retraction (reducing risk of broach in heavy seas), they're a more than viable alternative.

Leeboards - A specific note, here. Even the great Phil Bolger characterized them as 'ugly, loud, needing tending (raising and lowering between tacks) and prone to collect floating sculch (floating debris)'. Ugly? A matter of taste, I suppose, but I sure see a lot of art that disagrees.. Loud? A little fire-hose padding quiets clunk (only an issue in a calm). Need tending? A preventer outboard of the 'lee'board keeps them from winging out to windward, so they can be left down all day. Sculch? What doesn't? Leeboards have the advantage of being exceptionally easy to clear. Unlike center and dagger boards, they require neither a hole in the hull nor a complicated trunk. more of their area provides lateral resistance (if wung out a bit, count from the waterline down), so can be smaller for the same effect.

Shoal Draft - Well, suffice it to say, you don't see many deep draught boats 'tucked away' anywhere... miles of shoals and abundance of new harbors open before the shoal hull. Dangers are much more often below hull depth, and if not, generally much more visible. You can hop off and stand next to the floating hull in the shallows, often without o'er-topping your boots. When dried out, it's easy to get aboard.

Biomass Heaters (A plug in reference to that 'curling smoke' )
- Plants are solar collectors and storage rolled into one. Biomass heaters convert that stored energy into thermal energy for cooking or heat. Cost? Stove + installation and gathering. Woodstoves (in woody areas), Rocket Stoves (for bushy/twiggy areas) or Holey Rocket Stoves (for grassy/peat/dung areas). These can be supplemented with Fossil Fuel Heaters, if you wish, but the ability to burn biomass helps cut the ties that bind.


A fella giving a talk once stated that a boats primary purpose is primary. He fielded a number of butwhuddabouts by simply repeating the question what is its primary purpose?

The primary purpose of our boats has been to provide an economical mobile home, far from the madding crowd. The hull and layout, rig, outfit and stores are all designed to get us on the water quickly and economically, ease us down the road, and once there, to stay out as long as possible.

One by one, alternatives to the standard picture of the boat one must have if one is serious fell into place. Anke and I found ourselves tucked into those distant, cozy corners with a warm fire ablaze. Seriously.

Barge yachts. Their owners were inordinately fond of them. Unlooked for capability.

Gotta love it!

Pretty as a Picture!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Walk Softly

'Typical' Beach Terrain
Photo from
Great source for SE Alaska
from a commerciial fishing and poetic perspective

Eggs have no business dancing with stones.
-- Haitian Saying

Walk Softly

The world is a rough place.

A mis-step, a lurch, a moment's inattention... we can so easily find ourselves treading water or clutching a turned or broken ankle. Our thoughts and plans of a moment before delayed or altered beyond recognition. In the blink of an eye, we might compromise our future, or even end it.

If we wish to walk long, we must learn to walk softly. Carefully. Consciously. Easy does it.

I've often admired elderly persons, making their careful way along some vector, by land or sea. It's not at all obvious which is the responsible factor; the deliberate placing of each step en garde of age and attendant fragility? Or longevity furthered and attained by early acquisition of prudent habits? Likely some of both.

The School of Hard Knocks is one we all attend. Gravity, Mass, Momentum and Leverage are a faculty comprised of strict teachers. From the moment we are born they tutor us in lessons not always gentle. They make no pets, reward no slackers.

Yet, thanks to our evolutionary heritage, we may entertain youthful notions of invincibility. We leap and soar, tumble and bounce, break and mend with – often – a sense of impunity. But in the vague aftermath of our reproductive prime, we begin to find ourselves vincible indeed!

Caution creeps upon us.

Hesitation tempers the thoughtless impulse... to jump down or climb? Climb. To sprint or trot? Trot. To apply brute force or mechanical advantage? To free hand or take hold?

Bit by bit, we learn the habits of caution. That, or add to a growing flotsam of scar-tissue borne on a rising tide of impairment.

It's a choice.


Anke and I spend a lot of time on rough beaches.

Not the fabled swathes of sand where one may dream along, bare of foot and free of care. Rather the kinds where, if rocks are not jagged and toothy, then worn round and shifty. Seaweeds and algal slimes make either variety all the more treacherous. Ditto the tangles of drift logs, with their occasional branch, ready to spindle the unwary.

Primeval forest is little better, underfoot. Pitfalls and sloughing moss, root and rock, tangles and snares. And again, the splintered threat of bush and branch.

Our rule for rough terrain:

Never move without eyes on the ground; STOP to look around.

And yes, Class is still in session; violate the rule and like as not, a Hard Knock ensues. Generally in pretty short order.

Most sailors have heard the rule:

One hand for yourself; one for the ship.

This one was made in an era when life was cheap in general, but in situations where supply and demand demanded a crewman preserve himself for ship's sake. Easy to generalize. Just in case we might think it was for  his own, survivors of infractions might well incur the lash.

In our case, supply is even lower and demand much higher. How many of the two of us could we afford to lose? The rule stands.

Plenty of others accumulate. Look before you leap. Look both ways before crossing a street. Three-point progression (three secure landings for feet and hands; one seeking the next). Better safe than sorry. If the slow you down a bit, good. If they stop you, too much caution. We seek a lively balance.

And so we go forward, cultivating new and expanding habits of caution. Cautiously and humbly proud of having made it thus far with all our digits intact. Our joints neither fused nor torn. Our scars but reminders of some small lesson learned. Walking ever more softly.

Even so, as I pondered these very words - blithely walking a sandy stretch of beach - for the first time in years...

I fell flat on my foolish face.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

A Workboat Layout

Photo by Joe Upton from his Journeys through the Inside Passage

Hard to forget first puppy love.
― Toba Beta, Master of Stupidity

A Workboat Layout

When Anke and I first went south, looking for a boat, we wandered the docks of Seattle. Even in '90 o' the previous millenium, wood and DIY were giving way to fiberglass and production lines. But there were still a few old salts dreaming along the edges.

I was recently elated to run across this photo of one the first vessels to win our hearts.

By the time we ran across it, in a small marina below Gasworks Park on Lake Union, it had been stripped of its rig. Grass was growing in the cockpit. No one we could locate had ever seen an owner. The marina claimed it had been abandoned. We could have the boat, but couldn't stay or make repairs at their dock.

We were attracted to its sleek, whale-boat lines and rakish house. The forward cabin was beautifully formed. Whoever had converted her had done so with skill, respect for her workboat origins and a sense of romance.

Her layout was intriguing.

The snug, steering cockpit is well protected by the house, with easy access to the galley and nav station. Sleeping quarters in the fo'c'sle cuddy had good lounging space and plenty of air. The large, mid-ships cockpit make a flexible work/play space that can be used for projects, cargo, a fish-hold, etc..

For working boats, this is a common arrangement (though far from universal). We see it on hulls ranging from about 26ft to the 70ft power scows in our area. I've used it as the basis for the layouts of Trilobyte CARGO designs.CERES (of the Vermont Sail Freight Project) used the layout successfully in their two seasons of operations.

Downside, for cruisers, is that living spaces are separated. This means potentially needing two heating systems, and traversing the decks through weather when switching cabins. Later, we came to savor the joys of one lying a'bed as the other brews coffee, chit-chatting in easy earshot.

It was the light, showing between planks within inches of the waterline, that finally disuaded us. We had few resources and fewer skills.While we sought a boat with a few problems from which we could learn, this one seemed beyond us.

But, oh! We still sometimes dream of her.