Monthly: May 2011

20 May

1 Comment

the Whaleboat


Artwork from the logbook of the ship Iris while on its voyage from 1843-1847. The painting depicts a sperm whale upending one of the whaleboats chasing it.

Courtesy Girl on a Whaleship

This detailed painting of the killing of a whale by a whaleboat crew was done on the inside cover of a logbook. The logbook covers two voyages; the ship Alexander Barclay, 1837-1840 and Charles W. Morgan, 1841-1842.

Courtesy Girl on a Whaleship

Diagram ({{Information |Description={{en|1=Side and interior plan of whale-boat equipped with apparatus of capture, &c. Noted on the drawing as Plate 192. sec 5 v ii pp241, 252. not clear why the file name says fig 193.}} |Source=NOAA Photolibrary Image ID: figb01)

Courtesy NOAA

Azorean whaleboat racing

C0urtesy Azorean Whaleboats

The Queen’s Ranger’s whaleboat after its trip from Crown Point to Fort Ticonderoga
(courtesy David Michlovitz)

Courtesy Fort Ticonderoga Brigade

The past–a district Missionary’s whaleboat

In early days the work of the “Southern Cross” was supplemented by the district missionaries in their whaleboats, but in recent year these have been replaced by launches and schooners

Courtesy Anglican History Oceania 1849-1949

from ‘Into the Deep’, a documentary by Ric Burns
The history of the American whaling industry from its 17th-century origins in drift and shore whaling off the coast of New England and Cape Cod, through the golden age of deep ocean whaling, and on to its demise in the decades following the American Civil War.
Find here, and here.

I just happened to catch the airing of this documentary on PBS, I rarely watch TV so it was extremely fortuitous. I was deeply moved and impressed by this work.
Ric Burns is without doubt a most discerning and articulate documentry filmaker. I recommend this film highly. It focuses acutely on the wreck of the Essex, an American whaleship and more generally on American whaling. The wreck of the Essex is reputed to be one of the inspirations for Moby Dick, and the documentary focuses quite a bit on Melville’s celebrated work. Do not miss this!

Courtesy Ric Burns, PBS, and Mystic Seaport

Aquatic Mammals
Caption: Darting Harpoon into Sperm Whale
Image Date 1926
Subject Whaleboats
Sperm whale
Image Source Author Cook, John A.
Image Source Title Pursuing the Whale : a Quarter-Century of Whaling in the Arctic
Pub. Info. Boston, MA : Houghton Mifflin Company, 1926
Page No./Plate No. Facing page 8
Digital collection Freshwater and Marine Image Bank
Repository Most materials are located in the University of Washington Libraries. Images were scanned by staff of the UW Fisheries-Oceanography Library
Copyright Materials in the Freshwater and Marine Image Bank are in the public domain. No copyright permissions are needed. Acknowledgement of the Freshwater and Marine Image Bank as a source for borrowed images is requested.
Ordering Information The University of Washington Libraries does not provide reproductions of this image. This record contains a citation for this image. If you want to use the scanned image, acknowledgement of the Freshwater and Marine Image Bank as a source for borrowed images is requested.
Type Image

University of Washington Libraries

A whaleboat chasing its prey

Courtesy Girl on a Whaleship

From the introduction to ‘ The Whaleboat A study of Design, Construction and Use from 1850 to 1970 by Willits D. Ansel, published by the Mystic Seaport Museum:

The term “whaleboat” properly describes boats used for hunting whales, lthough it has also been applied to other boats having similar features, generally sharp ends. Whaleboats ere used by the thousands aboard American whaleships in the middle of the nineteenth century and, in lesser numbers, aboard the vessels of toher nations and at shore stations around the world. The whaleboat was a double ended, light, open boat with a length at that time of between twenty-seven and thirty-one feet and a beam of slightly more than one-fifth the length. It was pulled by oars and sailed. It was a fine sea boat, not only adapted to its function but also handsome. Though there were variations in size, lines, and construction, the general characteristics were well defined.
The whaleboat was once the most widespread of all small craft. In the late 1800s it was known in the Pacific in such widely separated places as Easter Island, Tasmania, the Bonin Islands and the Aleutians. In the Atlantic, it appeared in the north off Greenland, in the Azores, the Grenadines, and south to Tristan da Cunha and still farther south to Antarctica. In the Indian Ocean it was seen in the Mozambique Channel, Kerguelen Island and Cocos. It was used in the Arctic Ocean at Herschel Island on one side and Spitsbergen on the other. Whaleboats were seen in the most remote places in the sea.
The last voyage of a whaleship that carried whaleboats was in the 1920s. At a few far scattered places the boats continued to be used for shore whaling, as at Tong and Norfolk Island in the Pacific and at Bequia and the Portuguese Islands in the Atlantic. Two whaleboats are still maintained at Bequia and whaling on Pico and Madeira.* In 1969 there was whaling at Fiji. Elsewhere on remote islands the type survived for carrying cargo and passengers.
In the United States, where the whaleboat was carried to its final stage of development and where the boats were build by the thousands, very few remain outside of museums, although an undermined number survive in Alaska.
Much has been written in praise of whaleboats:
Their shape “ensures great swiftness as well as qualities of an excellent seaboat.” 1
The boats were dry and rode “as gracefully as an albatross…for lightness and form, for carrying capacity compared with its weight and sea-going qualities, for speed andfacility of movement at the word of command, for theplacing of menat the best advantage in the exercise of their power, by the nicest adaptation of the varying length of the oar to its position in the boat, and lastly, for a simpicity of construction which renders repairs practicable on ships, the whaleboat is simply as perfect as the combined skill” of generations of boatbuilders could make it. 2

As surf boats the whaleboats were “without rival, better than a lifeboat which is a compromise because it has to carry a larger number of people…The whaleboat was the best seaboat that man could devise with no limits to size, weight, or model. “3 A whaleboat type, locally called a longboat, was adapted on Tristan da Cunha around 1886, after fifteen men were lost in a lifeboat. The longboat coxswains conider their light, canvas covered boats fine surf boats. 4
Howard Chapelle cites the whaleboat’s reputation for good performance under oars and sail under all conditions.5 Others noted their maneuverability and speed and, last but not least, the cheapness of their construction.
Such praise was deserved. However, the whaleboat was the product of compromises, and was excelled in some functions by specialized boats. There were faster pulling boats, such a certain ones used in nineteenth-century smuggling in southern England, and certainly some lifesaving boats were safer in surf or a breaking sea. In terms of all-around performance, however, the whaleboat rated very high.

1. Charles M. Scammon, The Maritime Mammels of the Northewest coast of North America and the Whale Fishery, rev. ed. (Riverside: Manessier Publishing Co., 1969), p.224.

2. William Davis, Nimrods of the Sea, rev. ed. (North Quincy: The Christopher Publishing House, 1972), pp157-58.

3. Clifford W. Ashley, The Yankee Whaler, (Garden City: Halcyon House, 1942), p.59.

4. Notes on the Tristan da Cunha boats were provided by the island’s administrator, J. I. H. Fleming, in 1973.

5. Howard I. Chapelle, The National Watercraft Collection, (Washington, D.C., Goverment Printing Office. 1960), p. 262

* Whaling was banned in the Azores in either 1986 or 1987, even though other small groups of shore based whaling, such as the Inuit and the Bequian whalers were allowed to continue as their whaling is considered ‘indigenous’. It’s my belief that the Azoreans should also be allowed to take whales based on their long standing practice. (ed.)

While not meant to condone the wholesale industrial slaughter of whales by, in particular, Japan and Norway, I do feel the history and development of the whaleboat a legitimate area of inquiry.

Currently I am writing a weblog about the construction of two whaleboats being built to fit out the restoration of the Charles W Morgan underway at Mystic Seaport. The boats are being built to historic standards at both the Indepen

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18 May


A Bull’s Eye goes to the Bar


A Bull’s Eye goes to the Bar

After several trips to kayak and sail in Tomales Bay, Jerry Higgins finally worked up enough courage to sail his Bull’s Eye, Lia, across the bar. He reports that, “Next time, we’ll do it when there’s more water and wind.”

Check this link for his report:

Lia on starboard tack – Photo by Don Person


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11 May


MotR: Clodia, Giacomo & Co. Cross the Channel


Clodia in Ramsgate prior to the crossing

Giacomo sailing out

crew Bruno rowing out of Ramsgate

Giacomo amidst the Channel

video and all photos courtesy Man on the River/Giacomo De Stefano

Our Man is back on the River, rather, this time on the sea. After a hiatus from his ambitious project, Giacomo De Stefano has triumphantly resumed his adventure after a bout with a rare and potentially deadly virus. High congratulations are in order. Giacomo and his crew Bruno Porto successfuly navigated the English channel in about 9 hours, sailing from Ramsgate Uk to Gravelines France aboard their 19′ Ian Oughtred designed Ness Yawl, Clodia.

Here is Giacomo’s report of the crossing:

“We did it!

Crossing the English Channel is something special:
To make it real we had to rely on many friends and on our best commitment and effort. Not to mention lots of luck.
I thought to all those people who lost their lives in these cold and troubled waters, even in the best weather conditions as we were so fortunate fo find yesterday.
Streams, sea beds,shallows, big ferries and commercial ships: A lot to worry about for a nutshell like Clodia.

We could never have done it without the help of Chalky, a sailor friend, who escorted us all the way from Ramsgate to Gravelines.

A support boat is required by maritime regulations to cross the Channel for a small boat, engine free, like our Ness Yawl.

This is the report of our day: We leave from Ramsgate at 6 o’clock after a rainy night that didn’t seem like a good omen. Chalky already offered us a good coffee.

We get out of the harbour by rowing, under a bright sun: In the meantime Paolo is filming us from the top of the pier.

To cross the shipping lanes at 90°, Chalky asks to tow us, because the wind is contrary and he wants to get to Gravelines before 4.30 p.m. for the high tide. We can’t turn his offer down, even if it doesn’t stick to our values: We could have easily made it without any help, but not following the regulamentary 90°.

We need to get out quickly from the routes of the big ships, that need many miles to stop, so we accept to get towed for what is strictly needed.

When the shipping lanes are at our back, the wind calms down. The green power of Bruno comes very handy and we row for a couple of nautical miles: Then, when we have to cope with an opposite stream of nearly 2.5 knot (faster than us!), the wind comes to our help at about 12-16 knot, keeping constant for the following hours.

We can now swiftly sail for hours: The day is beautiful and Clodia doesn’t seem to care much about the sea, running fast toward the French coast.
The last 12 miles are fantastic: We literally fly over the waves caused by streams and shallows, and by a stronger wind, reaching 6.3 knot speed.

We enter the canal of Grand Fort Philippe al 4 p.m. local time, after 9 hours and 35 nautical miles of navigation from Ramsgate. A little thrill: The gaff jumps over the peak of the mast, hit by a naughty wave. I quickly turn down the mainsail and leave the rope, avoiding any further trouble. Everything goes well, but it could have been very dangerous.

The access to the channel leading to Gravelines is a bit difficult, but we enter quite well, then we sail for the last 3 miles and dock in the wonderful Marine. Fantastic!

Gravelines welcomes us with all its peace and beauty. The fortress of Vauban is very nice.
We also discovered a 57 metres vessel, replica of the 18th century original, under construction: Impressive! Here you can find more info.

Thanks to all of you for support and help, we felt your presence every time. We dedicate a special thought to Roland, Silvio and Jacopo that should have been aboard with us.
Shortly, we’ll set sails to Saint Omer. A big hug.

Giacomo and Bruno”

You’ll find map of the crossing, more on the project, and full documentation with a link to the project Flickr site at Man on the River.

See previous posts on the adventure here.

Giacomo, it’s lovely to see your triumphant return, welcome back and my deepest congratulations on the successful crossing!


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07 May


Chris Kulczycki, Chesapeake Light Craft and Velo ORANGE: Boats and Bikes part two.


Chris and son Alec out in a folding kayak recently

Chesapeake Light Craft

Chris’ first CLC boat, built in his garage.

A host of CLC demo boats

An early CLC kayak kit


Showroom and warehouse at the CLC under Chris’ tenure

Mill Creek kayak with a reef in

John’s Sharpie

Chris at the CLC showroom last weekend


Most cyclists don’t race, yet they ride uncomfortable racing bikes and try to go too fast and so miss much of the world around them. Our emphasis is on a more relaxed and comfortable style of riding, and on refined bikes that are comfortable on a century ride, an inn-to-inn tour, or even on a ramble down your favorite dirt road.

For many years some of the wonderful parts and accessories once produced by small firms in Europe for the cyclo-tourist and randonneur have been unavailable, or outrageously expensive. So I started Velo Orange to find and sell these remaining items, and to produce those that were no longer available.

Happy riding,
Founder & President (from the introduction to the Velo ORANGE website)

Chris with his VO Passhunter. VO no longer offers this frame, but I’m not sure why, seems an exceedingly nice design. See here an early post from Chris on Pass Hunting
and here the consideration for such a bike, which as eventually acted on.

VO Mixte, with VO showroom as backdrop

One of the VO frames, but I’m not sure which

Blue Randonneuse

The VO city bike

One of Chris’ favorites

VO randonneur front rack, quite handsome. Note the small red oval on the rim indicating Super Champion rims.

An array of quill stems, I am particularly interested in the center one

Fender production at the renowned Honjo in Japan. VO offers Honjo fenders as well as their own.

Chris Kulczycki is another rather interesting figure involved very deeply in both bikes and boats. Formerly an engineer, his genius is entrepreneurial. He has created out of whole cloth two rather successful companies, Cheapeake Light Craft, a supplier of wooden boat kits for homebuilders, and his latest venture, Velo Orange, a supplier of bicycle frames and components inspired by the glory days of the French Constructeur.

I have been aware of Chesapeake Light Craft for decades and met John C Harris, the current owner, last summer at the WoodenBoat show at Mystic Seaport, and had been trying to find the time to get to Annapolis for an interview and some photos.

Completely unrelated to that, I have recently been building a bicycle from the ground up. while doing research to find components for my new bike, I ran across Velo ORANGE and was pleasantly surprised to find them offering just the kind of components and accessories I needed to kit out my bicycle in the way I envisioned, and at reasonable prices. I was delighted and already purchased a crankset and other items from VO. I have been even more delighted to learn that the owner and creator of VO is also the originator of CLC! A flurry of emails ensued, culminating in this interview:

What was the genesis of CLC, how and why did that happen?

CLC was an accidental company. I was working in civil engineering, but had been moonlighting as a freelance writer for various boating and woodworking magazines. I wrote an article for Sea Kayaker Magazine about a kayak I’d designed and built for myself. And I offered plans for sale, thinking I might sell a dozen or so. The weekend the issue came out I was crewing on sailboat going from Chesapeake Bay to New England. I called my wife when we arrived and she said that 11 orders for plans arrived over the four days we were sailing. Maybe there was a real business in this?

A friend who had recently opened a small marine woodworking business in Annapolis offered to make kits for the kayaks. We outgrew his shop in 6 months. Another acquaintance had a larger shop and we outgrew that shop in about as many months.

John Harris, who had worked at that second shop, suggested that I hire him and simply open my own manufacturing facility. So I did. CLC grew and grew. Soon my wife quit her job to join the company and we hired several more employees.

Why the transition to Velo?

I sold CLC and we retired for about six years. I was, frankly, burned out. We traveled, sailed, cycle-toured and enjoyed time spent with our young son. Eventually I got a bit bored and decided to start a little company to sell some of the cycling components and accessories I liked, but were very hard to find in the USA. The plan was to have a little part-time business. I guess I got carried away because now, 5 year later, we have hundreds of our own products and sell to over 400 shops and custom builders in a dozen countries, as well as through our own e-store. We’ve outgrown our offices and warehouse twice and today have a staff of 11.

Any inspiration from Rivendell?

Not really. I knew that Rivendell existed and even considered getting a Riv frame once. But the fancy lugs, two-tone paint, tweedy aesthetic are just not my style. Most of the bikes I’ve owned have been French, or French-inspired like my Ebisu. So that’s the sort of bikes I was drawn to. The French custom builders, or constructeurs, developed the most comfortable and advanced randonneuring and light-touring bikes of all time, and that’s what inspires VO

Are you still sailing, paddling, riding?

We sold our big boat a few years ago, though we still have a Dyer “Daysailer.” I only go paddling occasionally. I often enjoy cycling, particularly long leisurely rides in the countryside. And I’m flailing away at becoming a competent longboard surfer.

Your business trajectory brings to mind Yvon Chouinard. Any influence there?

My main sport from the age of 16 into my late 20s was climbing, rock, big wall, ice, alpine. So I first heard of Yvon as a climber, even met him a couple of times. I also used his pitons, nuts, ice axes, and other climbing gear. Even today at least half the clothes in my closet have Patagonia labels. So, yes, I’ve followed Great Pacific Iron Works and Patagonia for decades and been greatly influenced by them.

What are your feelings on the current CLC?

I like what they are doing. John Harris, the current owner, was the shop manager at CLC since the very beginning. He is a skilled builder, but more importantly a supremely talented designer. I like his new boats a lot and drop by the CLC shop every few weeks to see what’s new.

Whats next?

After two companies (three if you count VO Imports, our wholesale distribution company) I’d like to share some of the lessons I’ve learned with entrepreneurs in emerging economies. An organization like SCORE, but in developing countries, might be of use.

I really enjoy building companies and developing products, but running the day-to-day operations of a company is not something I find exciting. So I’ll eventually look into selling or merging VO with a bigger company. But for now we are still growing and having fun.

Orange seems very clean, spare and direct (to the point). How’d it get that way?

That is simply the style that we like. Our web designer, Kyle, deserves most of the credit for translating our desire for a simple, but elegant, aesthetic into HTML.

Do you randonnuer?

No, at least not in organized events. A few years ago we went touring in France and we realized that we most enjoyed riding no more than 50 miles or so a day. And we like to stop for a long lunch at a nice restaurant, and visit some of the art shops and harbors and vineyards we pass. It’s probably a sign of impending old age. So I stopped doing organized rides, save for the occasional local charity event.

What do you ride, sail, paddle?

I most often ride a custom VO Pass Hunter built by Ahren Rodgers, though I also have access to various VO prototype and production bikes. As for sailing, we have the Dyer “Daysailer”, but are considering buying another cruising boat. We also enjoy our two Klepper folding kayaks.

What did you learn during the CLC years that carried over to Velo Orange?

We learned that it was crucial to communicate with our customers and to be sure that information flows both ways. We learn a lot from the folks who use our products, often making improvements and developing new products based on their suggestions and observations. At VO this has become very easy with the blog.

Another valuable lesson is to hire the best employees; try to hire people that are smarter and more talented than you are.

And we learned to continually improve our products. It drives the factories that make our components batty, but almost every production run has some tiny improvement.

Whats your take on the symbiosis between cycling and sailing?

I’m not sure I know, but here are two observations. First, traveling relatively slowly in a pleasant environment is what I most enjoy, be it in a boat, on cross-country skis, on a bike, or on foot. That is the way that the countryside or the ocean are best appreciated.

A special part of cycling is the rhythmic effort, not only pedals spinning, but enjoying how your effort is in tune with the terrain. It’s also low-stress exercise that, with time, becomes almost like meditation. Cross country skiing and sliding-seat rowing are the only other sports where I experience this as fully. Sailing also has a certain rhythm, but it’s quite different.

VO and especially Grand Cru, and the CLC boats belie a sensitive, developed aesthetic. Where did that come from?

It’s important to study the masters that came before you. Study the best effort of great boat designers or bicycle designers and try to incorporate the lessons you learn. I don’t mean copying technical details, but rather trying to emulate the beauty in their designs. I’ve long believed that, all else being equal, the prettier boat will sail better. Perhaps it’s only because her crew appreciates her and tries harder. A similar lesson probably applies to bicycles.

At CLC and at VO we spend a lot of time, an awful lot of time, considering not only if something works as it should, but also if it looks right.

Thanks to Chris for this interview

Pertinent websites are:

Chesapeake Light Craft


and Chris’ Blog and Tweets @ Velo ORANGE

and a generous offering of photos via PicasaWeb

Stay tuned for an interview with John C Harris.

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