Monthly: February 2010

28 Feb


The Microship Project


This is a link to a website called The Microship Project, in which a crazed geek named Steven Roberts expounds on the construction of a very interesting, albeit very nerdy, trimaran:




The author is some kind of crazed engineer, or perhaps mad scientist, who takes what should be a straightforward idea, like a recumbent bike or small multihull, and transmogrifies it Frankenstein-like into a human-machine hybrid bristling with electronics and clever mechanical gadgetryMy composite treadmill desk.  If you are a geek like me, you will find the details fascinating, and perhaps even inspiring– Mr. Roberts’ treatise on cardboard-fiberglass composite construction led me to devise a simple treadmill desk, at which I am currently writing this very blog post (currently passing 4.3 miles).

Now, I know I posted previously about the evils of complexity.  When & if I build a boat, it will have no systems more complex than can be repaired with duct tape and bailing wire. And possibly sugarless gum.  But there is something deep inside of me  that really gets off on triumphant engineering– And this guy has done it in spades. The link I posted at the top discusses the engineering of the boat in great detail, and explains how & why everything was done.  Even if you never try to build anything as wild as this trimaran, I feel that the thought process laid out on the site is worth viewing.  The construction techniques are applicable to any boat construction project.  And the boat itself is actually pretty cool.

For a while now, I have wanted to build a boat– It’s like this continuous background noise in my little brain.  I am not quite ready to take the plunge and try and convince The Admiral to disburse funds, but the itch needs to be scratched.  One thing I’m seriously tempted to try is to build a small experimental boat using the aforementioned cardboard composite construction.  I love the idea of recycling a waste material, and the resulting structure can be made amazingly strong. Of course, I know that I’d be flying along at 12 knots out in the middle of the lake one day, hit a floating log or something, and be forced to try and make the shore before my paper boat dissolved around me. But The whole concept–  A carboard boat!  Is just too cool to resist.

I have all kinds of goofy ideas regarding my dream boat, including a mini sampan, a HarryProa, and something like Tony Bigras’ Miss Cindy. I think I could build something fairly cheaply out of cardboard as a proof of concept. Then I could take it  to a local body of water and play with it, close to the shore, until I am satisfied that the concept is workable.  Then I could remake the boat out of real boatbuilding materials (Home Depot plywood). I’ll let you know if anything actually comes out of this lunacy.  In the meantime, go check out the Microship project.  It’s some very cool stuff.







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25 Feb


The Voyage Of The Damien


Damien is a Robert Tucker design with reverse sheer

courtesy Creed O’Hanlon

Damien departs La Rochelle in May of 1969
courtesy Gérard Janichon

In the ice
courtesy Gérard Janichon

Passage du cap Horn d’Est en Ouest, le 4 mars 1971
courtesy Gérard Janichon

Damien returns to La Rochelle, September 1973, after 50,000 miles
courtesy Gérard Janichon

After the first Damien there were several iterations, larger boats most with steel hulls.
cf. Northanger
courtesy Gérard Janichon

One of several books on the journey
courtesy Gérard Janichon

By Creed O’Hanlon

In May, 1969, a small sloop named Damien slipped its mooring within the French harbour of La Rochelle, on the Atlantic coast of south-west France, and made its way seaward through the 12th century fortified stone walls that protect its entrance. Once across the narrow channel between the harbour and the low shores of Ile De Ré, it altered course northwest, out into the wide maw of the Bay of Biscay. She wouldn’t be seen again off this coast for another four years.

The beginning of this voyage was the culmination of a long-held dream for two young Frenchmen. Five years earlier, when they were both still teenagers, Jérome Poncet and Gérard Janichon seized on the idea to build the 33-foot, cold-moulded, reverse-chine Robert Tucker design and follow in the wake of their hero, Bernard Moitessier.

They ended up sailing to places even the far-voyaging Moitessier had never ventured.

After rounding Ushant, the westernmost extremity of France, they made their way ‘up’ the English Channel to the North Sea and after a layover in Bergen, in Norway, continued north to Spitzbergen, in the Svalbard Archipelago, well inside the Arctic Circle. They then turned south-west to Reykjavik in Iceland. From there, they laid a course past Greenland’s Cape Farewell to the east coast of the USA. After rounding Cape Hatteras and beating south to the Caribbean, they port-hopped to the north-eastern coast of Brazil, where they decided to sail 2,000 nautical miles up the Amazon before resuming their voyage south. Months later, after rounding Cape Horn from east to west, they double-backed and sailed homewards through the Southern Ocean, via the three great Capes (including a second rounding of the Horn). They eventually logged more than 55,000 nautical miles over a track that spanned the parallels of 80ºN and 68ºS and encircled the globe.

Janichon and Poncet were among the most prominent of a distinctly Sixties’ generation of young French sailors who were all inspired not by phlegmatic English deep-water sailors, such as Francis Chichester, Alec Rose, Blondie Hasler, Bill Tilman, Robin Knox-Johnston and others, but by the somewhat hermitic, hippy-ish Bernard Moitessier and his ‘agricultural’, Jean Knocker-designed, 39-foot steel ketch, Joshua. Born and raised in colonial Vietnam, Moitessier was a tough, highly skilled sailor – arguably, the most accomplished of his age – but he was also a man very much of that odd, spacey time: a dope-smoking, philosophical, manic-depressive visionary for whom ocean voyaging was as much an opportunity for Zen-like self-exploration as it was an adventure.

Damien’s long, extraordinary voyage attracted little attention outside of Europe and Janichon’s classic book, Du Spitsberg Au Cap Horn (From Spitzberg To Cape Horn) was published only in France (one of many wonderful maritime titles assembled by the local house, Arthaud). The influence of Moitessier’s reflective interior monologues are occasionally apparent not only in Janichon’s writing but also the narration for the 16mm film Poncet and he shot during their voyage (just as Moitessier did on his non-stop voyage around the world during the Sunday Times’ Golden Globe Race in 1969). An excerpt from Janichon’s film, during which Poncet and he recklessly pilot Damien right up to the sheer blue cliffs of a towering, castellated iceberg in the high latitiudes of the Southern Ocean, can be found here:

In these days of corporate sponsorships, professional crews, and exotic multi-million dollar vessels built to claim the most arcane of ocean passage records, its worth reminding ourselves that the men and women who undertake such unsung, unsponsored, under-funded but perilous voyages in small, spartan yachts for no other reason than the voyage itself – think Roger Taylor in Ming Ming or the Berque twins, Emmanuel and Maximilien, in their tiny, home-built Micromegas – still have more capacity to capture our increasingly meagre imaginations than the flashiest, fastest, highest profile, round-the-world ra

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25 Feb


‘Precious’, a Sam Rabl Picaroon for sale in San Diego


Illustration by Irwin Schuster, courtesy Annie Holmes

Precious racing circa 1995

Precious at the Coronado YC 2005

courtesy Annie Holmes

Precious at a boat show


Aft shot showing boomkin

Precious nuzzling Little Bird, a Rabl Titmouse, Annies newest passion.

all photos courtesy Annie Holmes

Mike Taylor of DIY Wood sent me an email about a boat for sale by Annie Holmes in San Diego. Annie is the author of ‘Skiff Song’, which looks to be an interesting saga about the search into the history of a fifty odd year old small wooden boat which led to some unexpected results ( see below). Precious is a Sam Rabl Picaroon and appears to be absolutely gorgeous. Weston Farmer said she was “A delight to the eyes of every sailorman,” and the designer say’s she’s “the same boat in which Hank Hemingway had his great adventure in the Gulf of Mexico”.

Here are some particulars:

She is 1″ x 3/4″ strip-planked mahogany over oak frames, and is water-tight.
(She was coated with epoxy inside and out before launching.)
She is 18.5′ on deck and 24′ overall.
Her beam is 8’1″.
She displaces 4,000 lbs. and draws 3.5′.
She has a Sunbrella 3-piece full boat cover.

Annie says, “She’s a departure from the original design in that her builder made her a Marconi cutter rig instead of a gaff sloop with running back stays. That explains the boomkin and bowsprit, which are not on the original drawings. She is much easier to sail single-handed for that reason. I’ve owned her for 25 years and keep her in tip top shape. I bought her in early 1985 from the builder, who is a consummate craftsman. He still builds gorgeous custom violins and guitars, and he built this boat over a two year span and put her in the water in 1980. Her decks and laserettes are teak. Her full keel has a 700# (or thereabouts) lead insert. She is roomy and lovely inside: varnished louvered cabinets, a working sink, lots of storage, and two six-foot bunks. Light grey upholstery with forest green piping. She has a full compliment of sails, including a spinnaker, 180 lapper, staysail, main and jib. My jib is an old Hobie jib which fits fine. I should get serious about replacing it, as the plastic window is cracked. One of these days I will if someone doesn’t buy her first. At her last haul-out I stripped and varnished and over-painted the mast and spreaders, so that won’t have to be done for some time. She’s as lovely as she looks in the photos.

She is a dream to sail, and I’ve won lots of racing trophies with her, racing against other wooden boats. She’s taken prizes at local wooden boat shows as well. I have used her gently over the years and she always gets double-takes wherever we go.

I’m now in my seventies, and I have another Rabl boat, a mahogany strip planked Titmouse, which is on a trailer and will be cheaper and easier for me to maintain.”

(Annie is the author of ‘Skiff Song‘, a memoir about her search into the history of another boat, her 1939 vintage Australian 16-foot racing skiff, that took her on an amazing adventure down under. She has since donated the boat to Australia as a gift from the U.S., as it was the last of it’s vintage.)

Please email me if you have interest and I will forward your interest to Annie so that she can contact you.

You’ll find my email @ 70.8%

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23 Feb


Harry West Wight Potter And the Hunky Vampires Of Teenage Lust


People keep telling me I should quit my day job and write a book.  Or maybe they mean write a book, become a gazillionaire,  and then quit the day job. I have trouble keeping that all straight.  

Anyway, sometimes that idea sounds pretty appealing, but then I gaze  into the soulful and hungry eyes of my children, and think of how they’re already eating us out of house and home. If I quit my day job I had better have a lucrative contract lined up, or they’re going to hit me over the head with my laptop one day and barbecue me out in the backyard to fend off starvation.

Just kidding.  The kids are vegetarians.  More likely the neighborhood will be quickly stripped of all gardens, fruit trees, and decorative shrubbery before the chilluns eat Dad. But I’m not quite ready to quit the day job just yet.  For one thing, I have no idea what I’d write. An important rule of creative writing is that the author ought to actually know a thing or two about his subject– About all I know for sure about my favorite subject (not THAT favorite subject. Jeesh) is that it’s a miracle I haven’t managed to crash my boat into an IRS building or something.  The full extent of my nautical klutziness has yet to be revealed, but I’m sure I have at least a couple more years of silly blog posts to write before disgorging a Magnum Opus.  A book might be expecting too much, unless I can discover some captivating twist involving nose hairs and varnish, or something along those lines that Wooden Boat readers might enjoy.

We have a local author, a lady who wrote some book about vampires (named Eddie or something) who fly about doing supernatural vampire things and making out with nubile young women wearing corsets. The book (now a Major Motion Picture or two or five) is causing major hormone malfunctions all over this corner of the galaxy.  Obviously, the teenage-girl-and-bloodsucking-vampire angle is hot; I keep thinking that I need to write a book like that so I can buy 16 Lexuses for my cat. But I know very little about hunky vampires.  (And even less about nubile women in corsets, now that I think about it). What I need to do is work in some kind of sailing angle.  

I suggested to my teenage daughter that we should go up to the boat, where she would lounge around on the focs’le acting like Vampire Bait while I jotted  down ideas about how to work the angle into some spine-tingling nautical Nosferatu story worthy of being picked up by Hollywood:

The sailboat was on a broad reach across the still waters of Creepy Key, the full moon shimmering off the quicksilver like surface. Belladonna was chilled, but had nothing to cover her bountiful cleavage but a Type III PFD, which would not do at all when her forbidden vampire  love, Hector, managed to gnaw his way out of the chain locker. Belladonna sighed with irritation; Captain Dad was so unreasonable! “Father,” she said petulantly, “can we let Hector out now?  I promise I won’t let him play with my tiller tamer anymore”

“Dammit, nubile daughter, mind your heading!  The main is luffing! Sheet it in post haste. And no we will not let that demon spawn out of his prison until we land on Forbidden Isle and buy you some clothes! And did you finish your Language Arts homework like your mother told you to? Forsooth!”

I thought that was a pretty good beginning, but the glare I received from the daughter suggested otherwise.  And having her younger brother ask what “nubile” meant kind of put the kibosh on that train of thought.  

OK,  regroup. There’s that lady in the UK who was penniless when she wrote that book about a teenage wizard (and her children might have been eyeing her for supper, for all I know).  Now she has more money than God.  If I could work out some piggyback thing, I’d be golden– After all, my boat is a West Wight Potter, and Harry Potter is serious juju capable of generating barges full of money for old whats-her-face out in England.   Harry West Wight Potter– It’s perfect.  This time it was the twin boys who received the invitation to go on location for inspiration.  They were not sure about the offer:

#1 Son: Can we bring the Wii?
Future Gazillionaire Author Dad: Uh, I guess so. No, wait a second, there’s no power–
#2 Son: Will there be vampires at the boat?
FGAD: No. This is just a way to get inspired for the book.
#2 Son.  What book?
FGAD: A book I’m going to write and make all of us filthy rich.
#1 Son: I want to be a vampire.  That would be cool!
#2 Son: You can’t be a vampire. You’re a vegetarian.
#1 Son: You can too  be a vegetarian vampire!
#2 Son: Can Not!
#1 Son: Dad, can vampires be vegetarian?
FGAD: Uh… Go ask your mother.

So maybe the concept needs some more work. But at least I have a catchy title: Harry West Wight Potter And the Hunky Vampires Of Teenage Lust. In the Caribbean. Now with Werewolves

I think I’m on to something.  What do you think?

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