Monthly: October 2010

31 Oct


Building the Sea Eagles, David Nichols


Pandion, David’s prototype

the lines for the 14.5

Chapter 5, Setting up the Strongback and Bulkheads

Caapter 6 Planking the Hull

Chapter 12 The Big Turnover

Chapter 24 The Sails

Chapter 25 Odds and Ends

all material courtesy David Nichols

Back in April I had written about David Nichols new creation, a pair of Sea Eagles. The design had been featured in the Small Craft Advisor, and really caught my eye. David is not selling plans of the boat in the traditional way, but is rather offering the plans as part and parcel of a construction guide. A meticously detailed guide it is, too. I’ve offered a few pages from the book here to give you an idea. This work is so thorough and well photographed that I think people with only the desire, determination and some basic woodworking skills should be able to complete the project. The price of the book is a fraction of what most designers charge for plans. Published by Breakaway Books (see David’s other books there as well) and is available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Borders and many other booksellers.

From David’s introduction:
…Most of us dream about sailing off into the sunset to wander the oceans of the world, but for me that just isn’t practical. For that matter, it isn’t practical for most of us. What I do find practical is a small, simple beach cruiser that I can in a variety of waters both big and small. A boat large enough to provide some creature comforts but not so big that her size limits where I can take the boat. The boats in this book fill that bill.
Both Sea Eagles do have some creature comforts. In the cockpits, the seats are wide for pleasant sleeping and both are easily rigged for a cozy cockpit tent or sunshade. The 16.5 has a small cuddy with comfortable quarter berth for sleeping when the weather is frosty and both boats have plenty of storage space below decks. It’ possible to carry enough gear below decks for lavish beach living and still have the cockpit clean and uncluttered. And both boats carry a portable head, an important consideration for many.
Also, I want boats that are forgiving and I designed the Sea Eagles to be forgiving. You’ll find both boats stable to at least 90 degree of heel and the cockpits are self bailing. The heavy bottom and generous fixed ballast in the keel help to bring them back in case of a knockdown. Her tandem centerboards keep her balanced on all points of sail and well mannered in a following sea.
Good manners and a forgiving nature are crucial, but I think that a sailboat that is easily launched from a trailer is important as well. Boat slips are expensive and becoming increasingly hard to find. A boat that lives on a trailer doesn’t need a slip and has virtually unlimited cruising ground. Sea Eagle’s free-standing masts and simple traditional sails mean the time spent getting ready to launch is short and their shallow draft makes them as easy to launch as a power boat.

In addition I want a boat that is relatively simple to build. And because these boats go together with a modified stitch-and-glue building technique using epoxy, they are less complex and labor intensive to build than more traditional methods.
So that is what you’ll find with the boats in this book. Both Sea Eagles are boats the are simple and easily handled, boats you can take on big adventures or small adventures, and boats that you will not easily outgrow.
You will also find that this book is writtenas if you had little or no boatbuilding experience. My goal was to make the book turn-key. That is, show you not only how to build the boat but make the sails and most everything you need to get the boat out on the water.

The book is so well documented that I believe it could be used as a construction guide for other boats built with this technique. Check into it. David’s business is Arrowhead Boats.

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31 Oct


Eben Goff coast_pole .2


‘coast / pole’ took place during two trips to the North Olympic Coast in Washington State; the first during winter of 2002 and the second in spring of 2003. Driftwood poles were collected locally and carried to specific stretches of coast where, after the day’s first high tide began to recede, the poles were set vertically into sand or rocks along the tide line. The pole configurations took shape in response to their surrounding topography. The quantity of poles used in these arrangements ranged between 25 and 100. All constructions washed away with in 24hours. At the outset of this project, a self portrait photograph was taken wearing a hand-made mirror mask and a fishing net that had washed up on the beach.

Eben Goff

Alchemical Vessel

Point of Arches

caption text for coast / pole 4

coast / pole 4

caption text for coast/pole 1-4

coast / pole 1

coast / pole 1

coast / pole 3

coast / pole 2

coast / pole 2, washed out to sea

All material courtesy Eben Goff

A little time back i posted an artwork, ‘coast_poles’ by Eben Goff, and at that time I promised some further reading of the piece after giving my readers some time to puzzle out the work for yourselves, to make your own discoveries, find your own opinions.

As promised, here is my email to my friend Lisa (which I also mailed to Eben), in which I give my best understanding of Eben Goff’s piece, and his reply to what my guesses were about his work, which really constitutes an explication from Eben on this enchanting artwork .

My guess

“Lisa, I didn’t realize I was a navisphile, never heard that word, great word!
I think the look of the photos results from a couple of manipulations. First I’m guessing they were shot slightly off focus, with settings to reduce rather than emphasize contrast. If you notice these images are all identified as xerox, and such a post shoot manipulation would allow further degradation of the images. On the other hand, they may have simply been made with a pinhole or other primitive camera and transferred to xerox for a little more softening. I would guess also that he has used a somewhat inferior paper to enhance the effect. I’d guess he’s aiming to recreate the feel of an even earlier period, the very early days of photography and the first ethnographic photos of aboriginals in the ‘wild’. Many tribespeople objected to being photographed, as they felt it was a way of capturing their soul. Certainly he has captured a bit of the spookines of the earliest photos of the ‘other’, which is strongly transmitted by the photos of early explorers and ethnographers.

From my reading of Ebens explication or introduction to the piece, it seems the driftwood poles serve two purposes, first to emphasize the contour on the land, whether straight or other, and second to demonstrate the action of the tides, a sort of Rorschach of the tides in a before and after way, because maybe this is more emphatic than high water/low water photos. Going a little deeper, I think the inclusion of the otherworldly shaman (spookiness again) is quite a clue, and indicates we are on spritual ground here. I would suggest ceremonial (possibly ritual) recognition , even evocation, of the spirit of the tides. Akin to the Shinto recognition of Kami. The tides bring and the tides take away, a force to be celebrated, reckoned with, and appeased. Remember that the poles were all driftwood, brought by the sea and the current and the tide, elemental and strong forces of nature. I would guess the geographic coordinates serve as a reminder that we are very much viewing the piece through Western eyes and culture. The work only demonstrates, but does not really allow us entrance into the shaman’s ability to enter the ‘otherworld’. It does point us in that direction, starting with our makers (latitude and longitude), but encourages us to make a deeper connection with the natural, and the unseen world.

What do you think?

Thanks for your questions, they allowed my to think this work through in a way I hadn’t previously done.I just felt it was important and had merit, but without trying to explain it to you I would not have gone into it so deeply. This has taught me something, that the way for me to understand art I feel is important is to attempt to explain it to a knowledgeable and receptive friend. Of course it’s all speculation, but I will send this to Eben to get his take, rather than just ask him questions.”

Eben’s Reply

“Thomas, Thanks for getting in touch with me again. I’m back now from summer travels and can do justice to your inquiry. Your observations about my Coast_pole piece are sensitive and on point. I very much appreciate the sincerity of your read on my work.

For you, for me, and for your curious friend there’s a lot to unpack about Coast_pole. While I made it some years ago, it has always felt fresh to me; it’s one of the rare works that has never lost its relevance.

After I made the pole constructions I was had only black and white photographs and some journal entries I’d written while camping out during the construction of the works. I thought for a long time about how I could re-present this piece. I wanted to emph asized the act of looking in or through, as in a window, and to communicate these acts that had taken place at a specific ‘elsewhere’, seen by no one, and immediately washed away. I messed around with the material for years, as paintings, as prints, and once as a stage performance/sculpture made with my talented choreographer friend, Hana van der Kolk that we showed at Dixon Place in NYC.

The resolution that eventually came about was actually quite simple: On one particular evening I pulled out the Coast_pole folders of photos and Xeroxes look at them again with fresh eyes, and what I saw this time around was in fact a complete work. The messy pile of papers that had accumulated from my various efforts to translate the experience was all the work I needed; it was like a second performance. So I selected images from whatever I had. And that’s what you see now on net.

Regarding how the images came to have their ‘patina’, well, out on that wild coast it was often raining, and drops got on the camera lense, maybe wind blew sea spray onto the glass, and other times my hands were cold or I was rushing before the light disappeared and ended up with blurry photographs. In selecting the photos used to represent the works, I was attracted to those images conveyed some atmosphere of the place, where you could feel the weather. But just b&w photos, (enlarged, framed, etc.) did not seem to be enough, I craved more material depth from the images to give them a physical reality that corresponded to roughness of the poles in the waves and rocks. The photocopy’s scan streaks and degraded resolution, along with the wear of paper folds and dog-eared corners from shuffling around the couple studios I had over those years, had accumulated as exactly the kind of tactility I was looking for. Plus the pages of text had been written on my beloved old Remington 5, a typewriter made in the late 1930’s.

It all yielded a kind of found-object essence and captured the compelling qualities of an artifact: the archaic, the original, the handmade, the natural, the specific, the lost, the found, the used, the irreplaceable, knowledge.

The documents were certainly modeled on the visual qualities of old ethnographic portfolios. And the reductive, factual character of the text descriptions, with their latitude and longitude coordinates, is not far from the objective manner of writing developed by the sciences. At the time I don’t think I was fully self-aware of how I was appropriating this style, but I knew that I was attracted to the enchanted, mysterious air we ascribe to things from a past age. Early ethnographic photos are very charged images- in part because of the rich quality of old photographic prints and second, because they were often taken at a time and place on the cusp of great change as a result of contact with European culture or industrial technology or both.

…There are some unpublished photos of me wearing the fishing net and mask, standing beside a large glass television tube that had washed up on shore from who knows where…

But there was nothing very scientific about the acts of making the pole arrangements themselves. As you commented Thomas, bringing the mask with me out to the coast and staging that portrait of the costumed dancer or shaman-like character initiated a very spiritual aspect to the work I was doing. From its beginnings the project grew from a very intuitive and poetic spirit of searching, navigation, and discovery. In those years, I was living near the shipping yards in Seattle (my hometown). I was making paintings of the spaces under freeway bridges near the docks, also convenience store parking lots, warehouses, and the whole neighborhood was built on the land where, only a couple centuries earlier, the Duwamish Tribe had lived in their long houses and fished the harbor. I was struck by how rapidly and drastically things had changed. So, in the paintings I was layering elements of the primitive, the wild, and animal with the modern industrial landscapes, bringing these different ages together, and painting it all in very mysterious looking images. For what its worth, I also remember at that time reading Suzy Gablik’s book ‘The Reenchantment of Art’, in which she makes a very urgent call for artists to connect with the ecology, the mythic and archetypal.

Growing up in the northwest of North America, I moved through a lot of the relics of the local indigenous cultures material and artistic works. Totem poles, dancing masks, long houses… Haida, Tlignit, Tsimshian, Kwakiutl… Even the route to the coast that I usually drove passes through the Makah reservation, which has an incredible museum at Neah Bay full of artifacts from the famous Ozette archaeological dig. So these people and their visual culture are very real to me, even now while I live in Los Angeles. And furthermore, I had visited those beaches many times before hiking out to build the sculptures.

Coast_pole has another formal connection, which is to the Shinto ‘Tori’, the gates built to mark our movement between sacred and secular spaces. All my life I’ve been attracted to the Japanese aesthetic sensibility of spare and natural forms. When I was a teenager I visited the Itsukushima Shrine on Miyajima across the water from Hiroshima. From that visit I remember very clearly looking through that beautiful Tori Gate set in the tide flats, back across the water back in the direction of Hiroshima, with its haunting concrete building remnants from the atomic bomb explosion.

But to the point: I consider the poles as an extension of drawing. Sinking them upright into the earth is way of marking space. They mark geographic, terrestrial space (as opposed to the somewhat abstracted container of a sheet of paper or canvas). By placing the poles in lines relative to the shape of the coast I was making marks that had a specific relation to the place they were made. It was a series of durational gestures expressing my connection to that place. And it’s a mark in time, like music. The contemplation of space is equally a meditation on time. A pole construction, like an offering a meal for time, and the mortal standing next to the ocean, drawing a line through our mutable world.

It was something that felt absolutely right and necessary to me, and maybe that’s precisely the reason the piece has remained important to me. I listened to a courageous personal vision and followed it through: Making art as a mode of being in the world, a means of investigating my surroundings, making physical gestures that connect to or grow from my experience of the earth. This kind of ‘being’ refers not so much to our social matrix, but to an existential, romantic sense of being; one that finds personal bearings in the impersonal landscape of time, geology, nature, architecture… Now, having had a lot of other experiences with art and landscape, I see that Coast_pole has a very clear relationship to the romantic theme of ‘ruins’. In ruins human endeavor can be perceived as a product of nature, or perhaps even the inverse: it allows a product of nature to perceived as a human artifact. A quote from Kant speaks to this,

“Everything goes past like a river and the changing taste and the various shapes of men make the whole game uncertain and delusive. Where do I find fixed points in nature, which cannot be moved by man, and where I can indicate markers by the shore to which he ought to adhere?”

All of my artworks, both representational and abstract, sculpted and drawn, relate to material process in landscape. I feel Coast_pole express clearly my interest in dynamics of construction and erosion, duration and place, perception and navigation. Even in my more recent studio-based work I’m taking nature as guide, and our labors as part of it’s being, (though sometimes moving against its character). In thinking of the studio as a kind of river bed, I consider my decisions and efforts as a natural, human expenditure of energy, and as an artist I take great care in positioning specific material situations in order to record the traces of this constantly circulating gain and loss.”

So there it is. Please share your views via a comment.

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29 Oct


Things You Might Not Know About Our Site


A few things you might not know we offer at our website:

1. We have a wonderful FREE web classifieds page with maybe the best selection of small boats for sale anywhere.

2. We have a downloadable PDF INDEX that covers every article we’ve published in our first 10 years. Go to the homepage and click on the menu bar that says INDEX on the lower left of the page.

3. We offer an interactive version of our SCA Small Boat Seaworthiness Test. It’s the same test we use to determine scores in our boat review articles. FYI: for the sake of the review scoring we assume boat is outiffited with all safety gear and skipper is totally experienced.

4. We’ve just added a sample of our digital magazine on the main page (lower right) Feel free to click on it and play around. It offers some unique interactive features. More features to come! Thanks for your support. —Eds

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17 Oct


Philadelphia Wooden Boat Festival


My rather clumsy composite of the basin at ISM

coming around the corner, first view

This Chesapeake Light Craft Skerry was built by the kids in the Urban Boat Works project in Camden, NJ, just across the river. the project is run by and energetic and savvy young guy named Jesus Castro. Sorry, no website.

Had to run into the museum for a moment and could not resist this sandbagger model.

The original Silent Maid being stabilized for exhibition in the Workshop on the Water, the museums boatshop.

the Maids portentous bow

The fact that she is deemed beyond a full restoration occasioned the building of the new replica, also Silent Maid, which has just spent the summer cruising and racing all over the Northeast Seabord under the guidance of head boatbuilder John Brady, they had a great summer, read about it on the blog of the Catboat Silent Maid

Sparkling waters gave the day a certain incandescence

Lined up like sentinels were some of the museums living watercraft collection.

One of the cast is the recently refurbished sharpie Fish Stix, her upgrade completed this summer

The sailor on the left is Pete Peters in his Delaware ducker, Thomas Eakins, with Mike Wick in Pepita on the right. The Olympia is the backdrop.

Here’s another of the boats refurbished at the workshop this summer, Top Priority

Built by John Brady about 20 years ago, she just needed a facelift

and obviously got that

nice band provided entertainment, appropriately named Cabin Dog

Roger Pritchard sailing Wen Byars Urchin

Philadelphia’s tall ship Gazela, as close as she could get

Standard, cliched photo, but nice nonetheless

Align Rightvisitors swarm the Gazela

Here’s Gazela seen from the bow of Gwilin, Roger Pritchards H 28

Gwillan is immaculatley kept, a credit to Roger

Two nice rear ends (Gwillan, left and Little Key, right)

Little Key is the ships boat off the Kalmar Nyckel, these are all members of the Nyckel volunteer group,

Flying the Swedish colors. Kalmar Nyckel brought the first Swedish settlers to America, who established New Sweden, today Wilmington, DE

Old Town Canoe

Beautifully kept or restored or both,

See, it really is an Old Town. No idea who is owned by this canoe, but it sure is sweet.

Wen Byar and John Schwarzenbach….hangin’

John’s Comet, in need of a bit of tlc,

which she’s scheduled to receive by way of the youth program at the Workshop

The Philadelphia Ship Model Society is one of the oldest continuously active ship model clubs in the country. They have recently partnered with the ISM and showed up with a tour de force of both static and rc models.

Roger Pritchard in Wen Byars Urchin and Mike Wick in Pepita

Here’s Mike coming up to the dock

Obviously, he’s had a good sail

Bolger light schooner, newly minted, but with a long gestation period. This boat caught everyone’s eye.

Artists Proof is 30′ LOA and 25 LWL, though she doesn’t look it. Only 4.5 ft beam waterline. These little beauties are reputed to be very fast

Owner/builder Pete Hoeltje allows this schooner was ten years in the making. Started when Pete was living in Florida, the boat just splashed about a month ago. “Life got in the way” was Pete’s explanation. Designed by the legendary iconclast Phil Bolger, she looks to be an exquisite little craft. I am looking forward to a sail. Pete is the owner/operator of Big Pond Boatworks in Mahahawkin NJ. This week Pete is participating in the Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race. Normally the province of much larger boats, apparently this year there are several entries in the smallest category, which Artist’s Proof falls into.

all photos Thomas Armstrong

This year’s was the fourth Philadelphia Wooden Boat Show, hosted by the Independence Seaport Museum. The show is building a following and seeing more traffic every year. While it’s a little hampered by space for larger boats, the basin has plenty of room for small boats, and the location, with its proximity to center city Philadelphia on one side and the Delaware River on the other is urban spectacular. In sharp contrast to last years event which was overcast and drizzly, this years Fest was a dazzling clear fall day. This year also saw exhibits from the Philadelphia Ship Model Society and the Tuckerton Seaport. Philadelphia’s Tall Ship, Gazela was also present, tied up to the quay on the outside of the basin. Good winds on the Delaware made for some great sails I’m told, though I didn’t get out myself. No matter, it was a banner day and thoroughly enjoyable, a treat. Bring your boat next year and join us.

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