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Archive for January, 2014

My past few weeks have been pretty awesome all things considered. I got to work on a 1917 Crosby Catboat that was recently donated to the Wind and Oar Boat school, and the group of us working on it enjoyed making fun of the “repair” work done by one of the previous owners. It turns out one of the previous owners REALLY likes Bondo. As we stripped away paint, bondo, and fiberglass, we enjoyed the moments where what was underneath got revealed. At times we could call out “looks like original wood!” and at times it was “good god, the bondo is 1/2″ thick with a manky piece of plywood underneath!” Either way, the camaraderie was good, and despite the cold weather it was good fun.

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I have also started teaching 3 of the 4 classes I’ll be teaching with the Wind and Oar Boat School for the next few months, which was great. To prepare for one I had to create a prototype and kits for 20 scale models of the Bevin’s Skiff, which I thoroughly enjoyed. New classes are always an interesting challenge. You don’t know the students, and the format is a bit different than I’m used to. For those reasons and others, the start of these classes had me feel a bit insecure as first, but in that way that makes me want to work harder at what I can to improve how the classes are run. That feels pretty good. In one of the classes, the students will be building a Penobscot 13, designed by Arch Davis. Those of us with the school have been very impressed with the quality of his plans and instructions as well as how quickly he responds to questions. It looks like we have a fantastic group of students in that class and I am excited to see that boat in particular go together.

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The thing that hasn’t been so cool is that my heal has been slow to heal.  Last Friday I had my 4 week follow up appointment, and the doctor told me to continue using crutches for 9 more days till my next follow up. That appointment is scheduled for this coming Monday, but its been difficult for me to spend the past 5 weeks unable to go kayaking, sailing, hiking, skiing or biking. Its been difficult to even get much woodworking done, and its been keeping me from putting as much effort as I would like into a variety of projects I have going on. Progress on the Shearwater has stagnated, and I have whales that I wanted to finish weeks ago that I still need to create pieces for. To maintain sanity, I’ve come up with some smaller projects I can work on with my foot up or while seated.

After a day trip to the coast during which I did a bit of sketching at Ecola State park, I did the following watercolor, and I kinda like how it turned out. I also did a nice sketch of the St Johns bridge last weekend, but I severely botched the watercoloring on it. I won’t be sharing that one. Oh well, I suppose when you are learning something new, you have to embrace the fact that you will make mistakes.

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I also began my own ditty bag apprenticeship, mostly using the instructions in The Sailmakers Apprentice. Why not? I’d learn a bit about sewing, and some day after I have the use of both feet again, I will eventually have my small sailboat. When that is the case, the skills developed might even become relevant? Either way, it would keep my hands busy for a while. So I walked myself into a fabric store, bought a yard of 12oz Canvas, and set myself to work. As something to do when I can’t get out in my boats, I have found the project surprisingly satisfying though I think I might have also just raised myself into higher echelon of nerdyness. Well, so be it. It would appear that I am well on my way to having a ridiculously overbuilt and salty looking bag, and that amuses me. With a bit of luck, I will be off crutches by midday Monday, and I will be able to get back out on the water as well as getting back to work on a variety of projects. Wish me luck.

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On Friday I was sentenced to another week on crutches, and over the weekend Liz spent a bit more time in the hospital. What a pair we make! So it would appear that the slow start to the year continues. To make the best of the time I am continuing to spend with my foot up, I decided to follow in the distinguished footsteps of Harold Payson, and to build myself a rowboat. It’s about 9 inches long and I built it in bed.

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Its a model of the Bevin’s skiff, which the Alexandria Seaport Foundation had designed for their Building to Teach Program. I built this model in preparation for the work I will do with the Wind and Oar Boat School, which utilizes this design and also model building for some of their classes. Though trade skills may appear to be the the focus of programs like this, I’m excited to see how much of an emphasis math gets, and in particular how math instruction can be embedded in projects and in ways that can be so much more meaningful for many students.

Its been interesting for me, as I have begun preparing to teach with the Wind and Oar Boat School, to watch out for just how much math and geometry is embedded in the boat building and woodworking I do. While I lofted the Shearwater, much of the work was plotting points on a plane. I constantly use fractions when reading a ruler, and frequently find myself dividing fractions by two to find the middle of pieces of wood so I can find an accurate mid point of pieces of wood. At times when working on my whale sculptures I have used algebra, trigonometry, and used ratios and proportions. For those of you out there who build boats, work on your boats, or who enjoy other forms of woodworking, I’d challenge you to keep track of the number of mathematical concepts you use next time you are building something. Watch for the details, and I think you might be surprised with what you find.

I always liked the intercection between math and woodworking, and for me it was an important way to reinforce or give meaning to many of the concepts I was learning. I’m looking forward to helping students see the practical applications of the concepts they learn in math, and though it may sound cynical of me to say, to help provide it with meaning beyond their next test.

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And now for the requisite New Years post! Unfortunately, this post is not being written after a leisurely paddle on some calm waterway perfectly suited to the sort of reflection and contemplation this holiday seem to usher in. Nope, because last Friday I had a minor foot surgery and I am currently on crutches and spending entirely too much time in bed with my foot up, and entirely too little time in my shop or on the water. Thankfully I should be off the crutches again very soon, and though it may be off to a questionable start I’m imagining the year will only get better from here!

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So as I look forward toward this year, what specifically am I looking forward to? Here are a few of the highlights:

1)     Teaching for the Wind and Oar Boat School! Back in November I mentioned that I might have some exciting news to share, and thi is it! Towards the end of January I will start teaching a class with another instructor, and it looks like we will be building an Arch Davis Penobscot 14. We’ll be working with a group of high school students and pulling out the embedded math and science as we go while also teaching trade skills. Its pretty wild for me to see my bio and picture on their website. As far as I’m concerned its pretty much the perfect job and its going to be awesome!

2)     On January 12th Boy’s Fort will be having an open house while featuring my artwork! I’ve been hard at work building my whales, and given my current slow moving state, I may not get very much sleep in the week and a bit leading up to this event as I continue finishing some more of them, but this is going to be crazy! In the past woodworking has generally been a hobby for me with the occasional commission to build furniture. This is the first time that I have invested myself so deeply into such an artistic venture. Its going to be great to see them all displayed together, and I’m pretty excited about it.

3)     As soon as the last of this first series of whales is completed I get to start focusing more of my energy on building my Shearwater! I’ve got all the frames laminated and have been picking away at it bit by bit, but without a whole lot to show for it yet, but I’m looking forward to settling into more of a rhythm with it and seeing it take shape. With all the laminating of frames and such on the front end I knew it would take a while to see the shape take form, but by the end of the month, I plan to have some exciting updates to share.

4)     I’m looking forward to the time I’m going to spend on the water and the things I am going to see. Allow me to share an anecdote related to the sort of paddling I am particularly looking forward to:

A few weeks ago I got out with Bruce from Terrapin Tales again. We went out to a part of the Columbia I had not been on before and which I will purposefully be vague about. I was out in my skin-on-frame kayak, and he was out in his guide boat. Our first interesting encounter included two Sea Lions. We saw the first initially from a distance off our starboard beam. Then he started heading towards us. While we crossed the river, I found myself in the rather interesting position of having his progress narrated to me by Bruce who initially marveled at how big he was, and then conveyed that he was getting close. I was periodically glancing over my shoulder and the last time I saw the splash as it dove again, he was only about 15 feet behind us. Gonna admit, that made me a bit nervious, but it was also pretty cool.

Later during the same paddle we stopped on an island with a wide shoal extending towards the shipping lane. Even about 80M out the water was only about 4 feet deep, and because the water was moving slowly and the suspended sediment had dropped out you could see every ripply on the sandy bottom. He left the island a minute or two before me and was rowing slowly to let me catch up when he called out “Sturgeon!” As I paddled to catch up I initially saw two of them which were about 2 or 3 feet long. As I continued paddling, I soon had about two dozen on the bottom below me and after proceeding a little farther there were so many Sturgeon stacked on top of each other that I could barely see the sandy bottom even though it was only about 4 feet down. Fish from about 2 all the way up to several individuals that had to have been about 7 feet long. Just incredible. I had seen Sturgeon jump on just a few occasions but never been able to look down at them and see them clearly with the spots down their sides. I was completely blown away. I’m still working to learn more about why there would have been so many concentrated together like that, but here is one article that was sent to me afterwards describing their behavior. Really neat stuff. Who knew they were so social?

Oh, and I also had the chance to test row Bruce’s Guide Boat. Good lord, I want one.

Anyway, as I continue considering the new year I may formulate some proper resolutions. Perhaps they will even follow the SMART nmeumonic that Liz talks about from her own grad school experience ( Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound). Whether I do or not, right now I am enjoying the fact that after such a difficult year, I can see so much to look forward to.

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