19 Apr


$4 Oars




In life in general, but especially when dealing with boats, there are two philosophies. There are those who worry about how things look, what the neighbors will say, the impression left with others when they see a particular object or witness a behavior, and there are those of us of the mindset that if it works, it’s the right way to do it. If a $3.90 set of oars can get you where you want to go, why spend $200 on a “pretty” set?

Having said that, there is still a time and place for “nice” things. Dave handcrafted a beautiful set of oars for our Fatty Knees. He spent more time on them than he could ever charge a customer for, but they were a project he’d wanted to do for many years. The oars were his reward to himself for having survived a decade of life afloat with three boys. But when one of those boys needed a dinghy (and therefore oars) for his transition back to the floating life, time and money were rare commodities. In this case, function was the primary goal. Thus, the two Daves built a set of oars for under $4.

They started by downloading a free set of oar plans. They chose these particular plans because the oars were simple and cheap to build. They bought a 2″ x 6″ x 8′ piece of Southern yellow pine for $3.90. The plans call for a 2″ x 4″ x 8′, but in order to get clear wood for the shafts, they had to buy a bigger board. Following the plans, they cut out shafts and blade halves on the table saw and with a Japanese handsaw. Dave ran the shafts through the table saw again at a 45 degree angle to make them octagonal. You could round the shafts to make them more aesthetic, but they were more worried about strength than looks, so they left them octagonal.

Where the blade halves were to be glued to the shaft, Dave made a single kerf cut, the width of a table saw blade. He cut these about 3/8″ deep. When the pieces were glued together, this allowed the thickened epoxy to act as a spline, increasing the strength of the glue joint.




After the epoxy cured, Dave shaped the blades with a power plane and grinder. At one point he was a little overly zealous in his shaping and took off more wood than he should have. He epoxied scraps back onto the oar, let it cure, and reshaped it. Accidents happen. The trick is knowing how to correct them. Later, he cleaned up all surfaces by hand with a block plane. They left the oar handles unfinished, since they weren’t sure how long David was going to want the oars. The maximum length they can be is 7′ 1″ because that is the available length of their new dinghy. With a wife who is new to boating, and a 2-year old, it is important that the oars fit on the seat rather than hanging over. Once the dinghy is painted and splashed, David can sit in it and determine the best oar length for this particular design of dinghy.

The oars were finished by the time the dinghy was, so they got a coat of paint every time the dinghy did. There is less product and time wasted in combining as many of your epoxying or painting projects as possible. Dave’s motto of “You can’t cover anything with one coat of paint” was amended for this project to “You can never have too many coats of paint.” These oars are going to be daily transportation for our son and his family when they begin their liveaboard life. They need to be strong, practical, and fit their budget. At $3.90, I think they’ll do just fine.

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24 Mar


Small-Boat Gatherings


With smells of spring sailing in on the floral breeze, it’s time to brush off the sawdust and start thinking about which of the many wonderful small-boat events you’ll want to attend this year. It hardly matters where you call home—there are great little-boat gatherings all over the planet. The Everglades Challenge just ended, but here are few other especially fun events on the horizon:

Cedar Key Florida’s small boat meet is May 6-8. Contact Hugh at huhorton@gmail.com.

Want to sail Scotland? Sail Caledonia is May 28 to June 4.

The Texas 200 sets off from the windy shallows along the Texas coast June 13-18.

John Goodman’s custom Puddle Duck at the Texas 200

Festivities including the Pocket Yacht Palooza and the associated cruise Palooza Crooza begin in Port Townsend, Washington on June 11th.

Boat gathered at the start of the Pocket Yacht Palooza

And the thrilling and challenging Race to Alaska leaves Port Townsend for Ketchikan Alaska on June 22nd.

Tired but jubilant R2AK racers arrive in Ketchikan.

For a more complete list of small-boat events, see the next issue of Small Craft Advisor.

If you’re looking to build a boat so that you can join-in all the fun, consider the upcoming RowCruiser Workshop in Port Townsend in October, or the SCAMP Camp events around the country.

The Colin-Angus-designed RowCruiser—a sleep-aboard rowing boat that can also be converted to a sailing boat.

A gathering of SCAMPs at the annual Red Lantern Rally

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27 Jan


“Over-sized” Anchor?


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Excerpted from Anchoring: A Ground Tackler’s Apprentice by Rudy and Jill Sechez

How conservative one should be when computing the load on the ground tackle is a personal decision. At one end of the spectrum would be day sailing in a small, limited area and only in pleasant conditions and where well-protected anchorages or ready access to mooring or a slip are plentiful. At the other end of the spectrum is a boat which spends every night at anchor in widely differing locations, wherein the anchorages are quite varied in protection, high winds may occur, and many, if not all, of these additional load factors may be encountered.

Fortunately, there is one rule that reigns supreme—those who “oversize” their gear, seldom have the problems which often plague those who don’t. But first, stop and think about he term “over-sized” for a moment—if the gear did not bend or break or if the anchor did not drag, is the gear really “over-sized”? Since the term “over-sized” often imparts a negative connotation, maybe we should, instead, start using the term “big enough.”

So you see, the loads on ground tackle, even for modestly sized boats, can be huge. So, when loads like this are anticipated, it is no wonder that the use of big, hefty gear comes highly recommended. If the boat can be located so as to not receive the full force of the wind or surge, so much the better, though it should not be depended upon that this can always be arranged.

Have you been wondering why that anchor, mentioned at the beginning of this chapter, bent? This anchor had dug in so deep that it could not come around sufficiently to stay “in-line,” as the boat changed direction, thus had a side load imposed on it. This anchor had a tensile strength that was more than adequate in straight-line pull, but as we discovered, it did not have the strength that it needed when when the boat veered and a side load developed on the anchor; thus it bent. Since bent anchors are not reliable anchors, we immediately switched to using a different anchor. Eventually we were able to return that anchor into service, but only after it was straightened back to its original shape…however, this anecdote does not end here.

For years we had been seeing reference to the idiosyncrasy for items to bend or break with less force when side-loaded than what it takes for them to bend or break in straight-line pull. Thus, about a year later we had an epiphany while perusing a tensile strength chart provided by the manufacturer for this, as well as other size of anchors. We noticed that the anchor one size up had more than twice the tensile strength than the anchor we had been using.

It was at this point it dawned on us that this idiosyncrasy of things to bend or break with less load when side-loaded can easily be overcome simply by up-sizing that piece of gear. Once the implications of this simple alternative sunk in, we replaced the now know-to-be-too-weak main bower with another anchor, one of the same design, only bigger, one strong enough to resist the side loads our boat can impose on the anchor in 60-knot winds.

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24 Nov


Riding the Wild Ocean


By Paul S. Krantz, Jr.


Butler Hole and Pollock Rip –
The seas continued to build, the wind now shrieking. Lou began to express concern with the narrowing channel. On the GPS screen, he could see the shoals squeezing us on both sides. Our flashing red four-second buoy was clearly visible off the port bow as we rode over wave crests but disappeared in the troughs. Once again hard on the wind, we were going to slip safely past the red flasher mid-channel. The next buoy, a flashing green about a mile to the east, was directly in our path. We had to stay to the north of that buoy to stay within the channel. Missing that to the south would take us over shallow areas of sixteen to twenty feet at the northern end of Stone Horse Shoal, the channel being generally over forty feet deep between shoals. The concern over those shallows was not bottoming out against the sandy sea floor but encountering locally larger, steeper seas. I could tack to port to reposition into the channel but preferred to avoid that risky maneuver in those dark seas if possible. Lou could feel the seas still building. He began voicing his concern that he could not control the boat in the raging maelstrom. Suddenly he cried out, “You have to take the boat. I can’t control it!…

Dawn began breaking. In the dim gray light of morn, I silently went into shock at the spectacle of the seas surrounding us. Although we had been in them for hours, we had not seen the seas before that moment. I had never been in anything like that in my life. Mountains of water nearly as high as my spreader, which is halfway up my thirty-foot mast, raced by. Every wave foamed with angry, writhing energy. Spray blew from every wave top into the next trough. There was no color in that predawn world, only bleak shades of gray…

Caught in a Fish Trap –
Not wanting to sail headlong into the net and dismast the boat on the overhead steel cable, I threw the tiller to starboard. The boat began to spin to port just as it slammed against the unyielding net. I heard the single starboard shroud screech and then groan as it scraped along the heavy cable. The wind plastered the sail against the net folding it about the cable. The boom clamored past and under the cable with a metallic clunk. The jib flailed violently against the net. The sea that drove me into the net slammed against the hull and into my sail pinning everything hopelessly against the unforgiving net. I could see little in the inky black night. I was soaked. I could hear large fish next to me inside the net smashing into one another in their panic to escape the unseen intruder trying to get at them through the net. The boat dropped into a trough, allowing the stern to wash deeper into the net. The starboard shroud, riding against the cable, held the bow somewhat into the wind and the seas. Waiting for the seas to swamp the boat, I knew I was going to die.

The Bull’s Eye rose with the next advancing wave as I stood in the cockpit somehow hanging on to the sail above me. As the boat lifted in the sea, my head was driven into the overhead cable, which then scraped down the side of my face and ear onto my shoulder. I screamed with pain expecting my collarbone to snap. The excruciating pain collapsed my knees, and I fell to the floor. As I went down, the cable followed me pressing my back ever lower…

Chatham and the Race to Provincetown with Tropical Storm Hannah –
Our host drove us out onto the pier to the arch leading down to our boat. As we exited the car, the wind-whipped rain pelted us unmercifully. Vaguely aware of a large human form standing in the archway, we hurried in that direction toward the gangplank leading down to the floating dock. As we approached, the form moved into our path making clear his intent to stop us. Under the semi-shelter of the arch, I could see his face glaring at me from under the hood of his yellow, commercial grade, rubber foul weather jacket. He was wearing khaki shorts revealing heavily scarred, well-tanned legs, and leather work boots. With rain cascading off his foul weather gear, he conveyed an ominous intent. I came to a stop about four feet from him, Lou behind me.

“Do you two belong to that little sailboat down there?”

I responded with a firm, “Yes.”

“Do you make a habit of helping yourselves to other people’s slips?” I stood there dumfounded, staring up into that hard craggy face, not knowing how to respond to the question…

“Get your boat off my dock! I don’t care where you go, but get it out of here.”

Stalling for time, I mumbled something about sailing all night into Butler Hole, and twelve to fifteen foot seas in Pollock Rip, searching for an opening in the combers across Chatham Bar, getting caught in a rogue wave that ripped my dinghy off the back of the boat…on I babbled…about how exhausted we were. I began to feel about as pathetic as I must have sounded as I contemplated the agony of going back out into that storm to search for another place to stop and tie up…

Book available here.

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