Monday, March 31, 2008

Painting, Painting

Today I painted the garvey again. Bottom paint on the bottom after I taped off the waterline to the top of the bootstripe. Rubrails, scuppers, coamings, & centerboard cap in red. The canvas deck got a wash coat of Seattle gray. Looks good.


Interlux is another marine coatings company. I have used a few of their products for over twenty years. Our tenth anniversary dory is painted with Interlux Brightside enamel. I was looking up stuff online and found they have a "green" initiative from Portsmouth, RI. It's called the waterfront challenge. Basically an encouragement to get a group of people together and do some kind of edge project where water meets land.

Sunday, March 30, 2008


Trailer duties include new registration a tag sticker. I always forget to bring in the car insurance for this. Pete will check the bearings and grease them. The lights never work. There is something about immersing electronics in salt water and then letting it sit for months, even a week and for some reason the electrons get lost or stuck between the battery and the bulb. No electron flow - no light.
This trailer is a cobbled affair, recycled from a whaler, but it is custom fit for Urchin.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Pete Culler

This bit of sustainability is from "Pete Culler on Wooden Boats"

[11' sampan] "Pine would be used for the bow, stern, risers, and seats; white oak for the frames, chines, and stern and bow seat supports;and cedar for side and bottom planking. This was based largely on what is available in the northeast U.S. Your locale may have different species traditionally used for boatbuilding stock, but if you keep in mind lightness with strength and durability, plus good holding for fastenings, you should do fine with what is available locally."

[10'6" wherry yawlboat under sail] "This little boat incorporated many different woods in its construction."
"The idea is with these classic little boats, the amount of material is relatively small, and the different woods can be used to their best advantage in the various parts and pieces."

Emphasis mine. Finding alternatives to get the job done, looking for the best properties, and searching out local sources seem like good ideas. These came from "Skiffs and Schooners" the chapter on Materials, first published in 1974.
Pete Culler has a diverse collection of boat designs. You can't pin him down on just one type or style. He has done ships, but seems to be most cordial in relating to small craft.

I have built about sixty boats, all under twenty feet, over fifty of them with kids using the same general pattern. Most of them were built outdoors by the way. The first one I built to my own design about 25 years ago. It was a small dinghy, punt design. I learned a lot from the first one. We used it as a car top carrier, since we drove a diesel rabbit at the time had two kids and a ton of camping stuff to fit in the car. We went to the cape every year because that is where I grew up and is one of the "special" places for me. I had to have a boat. The kids learned to row on Red River on Nantucket Sound, and at night we tented in Nickerson State forest. I have a very funny photo of my Uncle Foggy and my dad in this pipsqueek boat with abot 3" of freeboard.
I learned a lot about group boat building running 4-H events and homeschool classes. I made a few modifications to the canoes each time we built another batch. I don't even use plans anymore.
The other boats I've built commemorate anniversaries, investigate building techniques, or were just because. I also have restored several boats including a compass sloop, and kept the Delaware River Sailing School boats floating for eleven years. I was the official "Boat Nurse", it is amazing how big a hole a sunfish can punch in another sunfish. The kids would also sail hard enough to rip the mast steps out of lasers and sunfish. That wa a trickier repair.
To answer your question, yes. After the first boat - cdx plywood because it was cheap. I don't recall even painting that boat. It didn't last long. The first group of canoes were made of acx plywood or doorskins. Later we built some out of oukume marine ply. Nice stuff, but imported. Everything at the beginning was cost based, so I used a lot of sheet material. Semi-traditional building skills. Flat bottoms are glued, nailed onto frame bent sides with gunwales and chines. I still have the plywood one of these, it is the green one, Fiddlehead, in previous pictures, I also have "Three sisters", "Punkin" and "St. Jimi's Tide" Punkin was built in two and a half hours as part of a race with the WoodenBoat Factory in Philly. Because Punkin, Fiddlehead, and Three sisters were constructed from cheap material, they require almost yearly maintenance. They are painted with cheap paint, usually "rustoleum". I find I have to re-laminate failing plywood and make other repairs. St. Jimi was made of better stuff and has lasted better than the others. She has marine paint and was made of doorskin, only one delamination. Three sisters, by the way, won a ribbon at St. Mike's in the boat judging.
As I worked with older boats I began to see how solid wood vs veneer products have lasted better. I am currently sailing a composite boat, Urchin. She is constructed in a traditional manner of mostly solid woods, but has a plywood bottom coated with fiberglass and resin. She will have a rehab this summer to get ready for publication in "Small Boats" as part of the Small Reach Regatta.
Since beginning to work at the Workshop on the Water three years ago I have had exposure to many different ideas about building boats and materials. Throw this in with a twenty or so year link with the Traditional small craft guys, most of whom build and own small boats or wish they did, and I have had a long look at what is out there with the combined resource of a committed group of friends.
You can't just go to your local Home Depot and get boatbuilding lumber anyway, so seeking out sources for the stuff has become part of the process. Even 20 years ago, BHD, it was a specialty item, you had to find a local sawmill, find alternate choices, or pay $ for freight. I never had resource for freight so I chose the middle road. I found local resources and made choices based on what was around. I re-sawed fir doorstop, yellow pine window moulding, and cedar 4 bys. I sorted through probably tons of two by fours looking for the right grain pattern for a part.

Green Paint Stripper?

I ordered a green product to try out. Usually, I scrape off big chunks, which fall onto dampened paper for clean up, sand to fair edges, which creates dust. Yesterday when I was sanding the centerboard and rudder, I used the plain old shopvac hose in one hand and the sanding block in the other to collect as much dust as possible at the source. Festool has some lovely, but high priced options for collecting sanding dust at the source.
The video for this paint stripping product shows the demonstrator dipping his finger into the product, something you would not do with a VOC or lye based option. The retailer for the product states you should wear nitryl gloves. The paint that is being removed seems to slough off in a few hours. I have lots of old varnish to remove from Urchin to get her ready for Maine in August and St. Mike's in Oct. I'll let you know how this stuff works.


Many boat parts are named after parts of the body: knees, ribs, head. Then there are animal parts: roach, leg-of-mutton, sheep-shank.
Quarter knees provide a bearing surface and reinforcement for joints; in this case the transition from sheerclamp to transom. The sheerstrake is screwed directly to the transom. Nothing is square. The boat has been set up with the bow plumb. A level can be used to strike off a lime parallel to the floor. In the picture above, Newt is using a small bevel gauge to deterine the angle of the sheerclamp to this line, then he'll cut that on one side of the blank. He'll repeat the process to get the angle of the transom.

This last sketch shows how crotch wood was used to make "grown" knees. A chance to make use of otherwise dubious lumber. Knees cut from wood with grain like this are actually much stronger than sawn or cut knees.

Working at the boatshop is a real treat, not only do I get to work on large projects that I would never have the opportunity or resources to do by myself, but the folks who show up to work are such a good community. Some have skills and talents, good ideas, life experiences, job training, and personalities that are different. There are guys who like woodworking (not boats), guys who like boats but not woodworking, artists, sculptors, surgeons, a vegan, retired guys, kids in school programs, a couple engineers, actually it is not all that different than our class, with the exception that I am not the only person with gray hair.
I like composites and am thinking that is the way to go for the boat I am building. We built the rig for Elf of sitka spruce. We built one of the same wood, but with a carbon fiber core for Silent Maid. Test parts showed a minor increase in weight for the composite one, but it was 4x stronger. It was still lighter than a solid mast of the same size. Aesthetics are very important to me in wooden boats. You can not tell the difference between the two rigs by looks since the carbon is on the inside, which keeps the epoxy out of the UV degredation.
There are lots of folks trying out new concepts for sailing all the time, not unlike aircraft design. I've experimented with kites as sails, beach umbrellas, clothing, etc. I have watched the kite surfers at Wellfleet and own a trainer kite. I have wind surfed, which I like very much. I have read about hydro foils and jet propulsion and venturi systems. All of these may have some sustainable practices inherent in design, but application is the end. I have a concept for the boat that is sustainable for me. It must be large enough to sail and row well, take friends out on, sleep overnight or camp for a few days, inexpensive as far a materials, be build-able in a semester, be trailer-able and launched by one person of small stature, be single handed. The boats we are building at the museum are either contract boats or museum accessions. Contract boats are built to specifications. The a-cats I have been talking about frequently in this blog are a class boat,which means that modifications and improvements are made slowly and tested. They are not a one-design class. That means all the boats in that class are almost exactly alike, as in the Laser or Comet classes.
The museum boats were built as
or collected as representatives of historically interesting boats. Most bear relation to some aspect of local history, racing, hunting, fishing, etc. Boats develop in relation to the areas and waterways in which they function. That aspect makes them examples of sustainable practices for their time periods. Resources were committed to their development for a purpose that increased the wealth of families or increased their pleasure. The sneakbox and the garvey that I have worked on are example of these kinds of boats. The garvey is a historically accurate replica that was built new about 20 years ago from old offsets. The sneakbox was a Perrine built boat collected by the museum and reconstructed by the boat shop. Most of the original boat was replaced over three seasons of building. This activity of building boats and operating a working boatshop as a museum exhibit passes along not only skills, but inspires visitors in the same way that going camping get people to be more aware of their environment. It helps them think green; where does wood come from; how should we use it? Why doe we need different kinds? The fact that we use a lot of hand tools and power tools comes mostly from the preferences of the people tasked to preform a job. I might be comfortable with one tool, while someone else would choose another. That is one of the delights in working here. You can have as many choices in how to accomplish something based on the number of people you ask.

Nothing is Square

Nothing is square in boats, except for reef knots. My carpenter friends who are on the level might have difficulty here. Engineers seem fine with the angles, but have trouble determining tolerances. Architects are used to building on a firm foundations but even the earth moves in slow tectonic waves. Seismic ones are faster and violent.
You could say there are parallels in building since the a-cats are stick built, made of many smaller forms comprising the whole. The precis is different. Boats are only temporarily land bound; they are designed to be water creatures supported by the buoyant force of the water mass they displace. The ends of the sticks come together in odd joints which must take into account species and grain.

Here John is setting up a deck beam, a supporting member for the deck whose joints with the hull will combine to create more support for the mast and a tight stiff smooth structure to transmit the driving force of the sail. Notice the intricacies of the joint, It must match the curve of the beam with the curve of the sheerstrake, be flush with the oak frame it abuts, and sit firmly on the sheer clamp.

Many kit boats are cut on computer using cnc routers with step scarfs and other niceties. I've put a few of these together. I like the kit-ness of them. Kind of like your it house idea. Some building methods like stitch and glue, don't require joints at all. They use an engineered lumber product and sheet shapes to create form. The epoxy filler and glass or carbon tape creates the joint. Other building methods use strips of solid wood with cove and bead moulded edges, glued together over the molds. This creates a very light hull which is then covered with carbon or glass to form a composite structure. Both the above methods could be as green as traditional practices.

Friday, March 28, 2008


John's shop name for the garvey is "Box Kite." Very fitting I think, since she flies sails at either end of the boat which looks rather like a rounded refrigerator box. Today, I scraped, sanded, primed, & painted various parts. Started by planing smooth the "dutchman" epoxied in yesterday. Scraped the centerboard and rudder, sanded both of them and the tiller before lunch. Sanded the primed parts we did yesterday to break the shine and tackragged them.
After lunch we painted the bottom with an aluminum based underwater primer. I'll have to look up the product specs on this one. sometimes we use what is left over on boats that are meant for use. That way we are not consigning product to a landfill or hazardous waste facility. The boat is good for the year, and more volunteers get to have the pleasure of working on "dream" boats. After scraping and priming the centerboard well, I painted the cockpit trim.
Spyder was getting her deckbeams and knees.

Thursday, March 27, 2008


The garvey is back. This one was built to Chapelle's drawing in
American Small Sailing
about twenty years ago by John Brady. The seaport staff fixed it up and got it back in the water last year. This year the plan is as using it as part of a summer sailing program.
Today Charlie & I sanded & primed it. Kids from CHAD school had done a lot of the rough sanding yesterday.

I put in a "dutchman" to replace an area of rot on the waterline, we scrubbed the spars & cleaned lines.

The rig on this boat is a yawl rig of two sprit sails. Garveys are workboats; farmers haywagons for the salt marsh, market hunting, freight carrying, produce delivery, shellfishing, tonging, and whatever else.

I have always liked the form of garveys, even as a youngster. I saw them around Barnegat Bay, mostly as powerboats. They have an unusual scow like shape easily constructed of rough lumber, the local lumberyard sort. They lend themselves to plywood construction because of their peculiar slab sides. They have hard chines.

Dutchmans are patches you put in wood to fix a hole, like plugging the dike. This is an area of rot on the garvey, under the waterline. It is right above the bottom planking, whose endgrain is visible.

The small cedar block shows the practice cut I made with the router.

If you look carefully, you can see the same cut reproduced on the garboard of the garvey, which has cleared out all the rot down to clean wood.

Last, I taped off the surrounding space so the epoxy would not make a hard spot on the cedar. Then I made a thickened batch of epoxy and glued in the patch with a screw to clamp it. The grain of the patch should match the grain of the original as much as possible. That way the wood will move the same way.

The next picture is from Friday's batch. I planed off the excess patch, then sanded it. You can't see it at all under the primer.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


I came home to three more books tonite.
Sailmaker's Apprencice, Marlinspike sailor and and Riggers Apprentice.
Funny, I was just thinking about that rhyme yesterday that goes,

"Worm and parcel with the lay,
turn and serve the other way."

I can't even tell you why I know that line, must be from pre-history.
Anyway the scanner is broken so no pictures today.

The meaning of the rhyme is how you serve rope. When hemp rope is used as standing rigging it needs to be protected from water and chafe. To do this you lay in, along with the lay, or twist of the line, a smaller line. This kind of fills in the space between the strands to make a more circular cross-section. That's the worm. Then canvas strips are wound overlapping tightly over that, also with the lay, sort of spirally bandaging that keeps water out. Last, tarred marline, a kind of twine, is wound tightly against the lay over all that and usually painted, making a very stiff watertight covering.

I want to eliminate standing rigging from my boat design. I was forever tuning my 420 rig. My 420 only had three stays: a fore and shrouds. I helped John tune Torch's rig last summer while bouncing along on the foredeck, much fun. A-cats have 7 stays: a forestay, four shrouds, and two running backstays. So when sailing, six are in use: the five standing on the foredeck, plus one of the backstays. The leeward one is slacked off, until you come about or jibe, then the leeward becomes the windward and vice versa, so a quick change is required. Port & starbord backstay handlers are part of the designated cockpit crew. The two others are Skipper, the driver manning the helm and a mainsheet tailer. When racing you will also have a navigator looking for the marks and planning the course headings. Everyone else is rail meat or movable ballast subject to the whim of the skipper in balancing the boat to the breeze and also fore & aft to make her speedy.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Bee Boxes

Put together the boxes for the hive. Bees arrive 4/12.

Honeybees in America have always been assisted. They are not native. They are European or Asian or African. The bees that I am starting the hive with are coming from a colony split. Beekeeping is a lot like animal husbandry with insects instead of animals. Different kingdom. Farming on a small scale. I have 18 years experience in New Jersey horticulture - farming on a wholesale level. Many growers rent hives to pollinate their crops. Otherwise the smaller harvest makes growing unsustainable, farmers don't recoup their investment of labor and seed.
On another thread, there is no stopping evolution. Things are going to change no matter what. Entropy is part of the physical system we inhabit, we adapt to change. Here is the sailing analogy, seldom is the breeze constant, it comes in puffs and gusts. Sailors must shift to accomodate the changes because more or less pressure on the sail affects the stability of the boat. There are subtitle shifts happening all the time, you lean out a bit, put a little more or less pressure on the tiller, change course, head up, fall off, pull up the board. A rash or dramatic shift in mass or force will upset the system entirely and you'll be in the drink. Sailors try to predict what wind is coming by watching the sky & water. Cats paws will leave little ripple dimples while force five drives combers smothered in foam. I stay shoreside when the tops blow off the whitecaps.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Garden time

Here is what is blooming now. Tulips are up and on their way. I started: broccoli, parsley,eggplant,peppers, cabbage, brussels sprouts in paks. A little late, but if it stays cool long enough they'll do fine.
The woodpile is way down. Here is where one side of the porch was in Nov.

Here is where it is today.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

I <3 the FedEx

More books on the porch when I got home tonite.
Today was graduation of the winter quarter class. My friend George was awarded honored faculty for this quarter. Spring must be around the corner.

Books are not for the timid.
I am.

Centerboard Pennant

I spent part of Wednesday making a pennant for the centerboard. This is a short line used to set or pull up the centerboard. The bitter end has a monkey fist tied around a spherical core. This is a stopper which will keep the centerboard from going too far down. The soft line won't mar the paint. It is the right length to keep the board from extending past the opening of the case. About half way up it's length it has an inline eyesplice made of two short splices so the board can be pulled partway up during a reach. The other end will be spliced and seized around a thimble attached to the strap on the board. Each end of the eyesplice should be seized as well as the base of the monkey fist. There is a hole in the board for a bronze pin which holds the board all the way up for running or in port.

Some of this stuff I learned in scouts, some from watching, some from looking at pictures, and a lot from from making mistakes, figuring things out and being corrected. Part is just living experiences, I am too old to die young now. That is why things like the 'messabouts', the TSCA, and the WB Small Reach Regatta are so important. They are places to connect, swap stories, fail in safety with support from like minded people, and try new ideas, a community.


This is a photo taken by Andy of Mike sailing Pepita. It is clear how Mike must use his body mass to balance the force of the breeze on the sail. Most small craft have no ballast other than the mass of the hull plus the live weight of the crew.

Melonseeds are a typical local small craft, rising to perfection in the 1800's, indigenous to the bay and marshes of NJ. They are thin water boats that can skate over mud flats and be poled over marsh grass & weed. They show sustainable practices in several ways; structure, continuity of community, materials, and uses and aesthetics. There are still builders of both the wooden ones and plastic versions. Pepita, above, is a wooden version off Chappelle's plans, strip built by Carl W. of red cedar using Titebond III adhesive, a waterbased glue. Strip building produces a clean (not lapstrake) hull which is commonly sheathed in glass to produce a monocoque structure. Wish you could see Pepita close up. She has some beautiful details in her decking and spars.

Urchin, by contrast is an open lapstrake boat. She has no decks. She was designed as a pulling boat for the Salibury River in Massachusetts. The loosefoot lug sail has quite a bit of twist sailing to windward which makes it lose power. The sailmaker has provided two rucking lines on the leech and foot of the sail so in light air I can change the shape of the sail by adding fullness. In strong breezes I flatten the sail by letting them loose. In actuality this system is almost self tending as a stronger gust will blow out the lines from the small jam cleats on the clew of the sail.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


This book is a wonderful collection of stories about gunkholing in England. Small sailing at it's best.

Small Reach Regatta!

I made it into the WoodenBoat Small Reach Regatta and will be taking Urchin to Maine in August for a week of camping and sailing. There will be 57 other small craft including my Jersey TSCA friend Mike and his boat, Peptia, a melonseed built by Carl Weissinger about two years ago, maybe three. The picture above is from the WoodenBoat website from last year 2007 Small Reach Regatta.

Urchin is a Lowell Boatshop Salisbury Point River Skiff built 20 years ago. She is pine on oak frames, copper fastened, spruce mast & yard, with a standing lug sail. She rows quite well, I average about two & half knots in an hour rowing single. She can also be rigged for doubles. Lizzie & I came in third in the 3-legged race in St. Mike's last year. Not bad for a short heavy boat.

New Books

New books came in the mail today. I can't wait till I have time to read them . Today, I spent making oak cleats for the sneakbox. I made a centerboard pennant with a monkey fist at one end, an eye in the center for half-down broad reaching and the bitter end eye-spliced around a thimble on the centerboard.