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Archive for November, 2013

Wow, it has been too long since I’ve offered up an update, and many good things have occurred in the past two(!) months.

I have gotten started on the Shearwater, though to be fair progress has been slow. One bit of advice I recieved prior to beginning was that although the plans come with full sized patterns for most pieces, the patterns were not necessarily as accurate as one might like, so I went ahead and lofted it full sized on my basement floor.

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With all my distractions, the only other step I have completed is laminating the first of the three frames. If you look closely, you can see the galvanized steel straping with handles on either end that I used as backing straps to support the outside of the curves while bending the pieces of wood into place. I came up with this solution because I was worried the fir I was laminating was more brittle and stiff than I could safely bend otherwise. One way or another though, bending this piece went quite smoothly with the assistance of my lovely girlfriend.

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Perhaps my chief distraction from boatbuilding has been the whales that I’ve been working on. After finishing the first one in September, I have since completed a second which is shown below. The first two are currently up for sale and hung in a local store called Boy’s Fort. A few days after taking them in, I wandered back to see where in the store they had decided to display them. I found them hanging, one behind the other, as if they were swimming together. They were suspended below some duct work that clearly must have had vibrations traveling through it, because their pectoral fins were bouncing quickly up and down. I think the proprietors might have been nervous about what I would think of this, but I thought it was hilarious. Whether you are interested in seeing the whales or not, I recommend wandering into the shop. Its got a fun mix of art and various products made by local artists and crafts people. Its located at 9th and Morrison in downtown Portland.

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After finishing the second, I adjusted the building jig and set about building the third. That one is currently just a few days from completion. For the third one, I have the tail dropped low. Its going to be a very different shape than the previous ones, but I am excited to see what subtle curves emerge. In many ways, for me building these whales centers around an exploration of curves, both subtle and dramatic, that can be expressed through this particular method of construction. My favorite lines are the most subtle ones, though. The curves that only emerge after you have looked at them a while and find yourself seeing something new when you look at them from a certain angle.

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In other news I have have been getting to know some of the folks at the Wind and Oar Boat School to see how I can get involved. With a bit of luck I may have some exciting news to share in the coming weeks, but in the mean time I thought I would share two pictures from sailing with them last Friday on the Willamette. I went sailing with their director Peter Crim, a board member named Norm, one of their instructors named Josh and a member of a partner organization named Worksystems Inc. We took out the Francois Vivier designed Ebihen 16 built by students last summer, with a few last details completed over the past few weeks. Its a lovely boat, 16 feet in length on deck with an impressively long bowsprit , and a remarkable amount of space in its cockpit for such a small boat

We put it through its paces. Afterwards we found out that the wind had been blowing an average of 28.5 mph with gusts towards 34 mph, though earlier we had also experienced relative calms. Among other things, we marveled at how much the bowsprit could flex. What was more difficult to see while we were on the boat was the flex of the mast. We sailed it at various times with 3, 4 or 5 people on board and both with and without water ballast. For most of the sail Peter was at the helm, and I distinctly remember glancing back a few times when we had gotten really heeled over and seeing a big ol’ grin spread across his face. We did manage to break a two pieces, including one side of the gaff jaws and we popped the joint between a riser and one of the frames. Nothing that can’t be fixed pretty quickly, and at least from my standpoint a thoroughly worthwhile shake down run. It was a great start to the weekend.

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Later in the weekend I had the pleasure of getting out on the water in another beautiful boat, the Row Bird, with Bruce from over at Terrapin Tales. I was excited to get out on the water with him in his beautiful boat for a sail, but as you can see from the picture below, the wind did not last! Instead we enjoyed a row on a beautiful late fall afternoon. For those of you who know me, you won’t be surprised that although I haven’t spent a lot of time doing it, I enjoy rowing.

One thing that sticks out for me about the afternoon was looking at the sketches he shared with me that he had done of the new pedestrian and light rail bridge that is being built between the Ross Island Bridge and the Marquam Bridge here in Portland. If you look at his blog you will find that he shares his sketches from time to time. The ones he pointed me to were a sketch of the bridge he did recently and another he did about a year ago of the same bridge in progress. It was great to look back at his own record of a project I have traveled past by kayak so many times. Looking at them got me thinking. Though I always have a sketchbook going, they are typically utilized primarily for drawing out ideas for things I would like to build or odds and ends like that. It has become rare that I draw my surroundings, but what better way to spend part of a quiet afternoon on the water, when the light has settled over the landscape in some particular way, than by taking out a sketchbook and some combination of pencils, pens and watercolors? He pointed me towards a website that served as a sort of inspiration for his own sketching, which I later spent some time checking out, called Urban SketchersThis isn’t an activity my current boats feel particularly well suited to, but as I pick away at my current build, it seems like one more way to look forward to using the boat I am producing. I like Bruce’s philosophy towards getting out on the water, and if you haven’t looked at his blog before, I recommend it. 

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