Archive for April, 2014

Sunny spring days

This has been the sort of weekend that helps to put things back in perspective, and which gets me thinking about what is really important in life.

Yesterday morning, I was wandering around the Saturday farmers market at Portland State University with my younger brother and my mom, enjoying the people watching, enjoying time with my family, enjoying the weather, and not really looking for anything in particular when my phone rang. I looked at who it was, picked it up and let me friend Bruce know that I couldn’t talk for long, but that I wanted to at least say hello and see what was up. He was calling to invite me sailing, to which I of course said yes, even though I had been planning to spend much of the day in my basement working on the Shearwater.

After getting home from the market, I called him back, we nailed down a time and place, and ended up spending a lovely afternoon sailing on the Willamette in Row Bird while his son rowed in his Adirondack Guide Boat. I spent some time rowing, and a good bit of time on the main sheet and tiller. We tacked our way down the river towards downtown in the flukey; sometimes strong and sometimes weak winds. Made it far enough to get a good look at the new light rail and pedestrian bridge that is going in before turning around and heading back towards the put in. At this point Bruce had been steering us around the swirling winds near the Ross Island Bridge, but he asked me to take over with the helm and main sheet while he took some pictures. Sailing downwind while perched on his rear deck  the large lug sail blocked my view, so I sat down on his floorboards in a partially reclined position with his push-pull tiller draped over my shoulder, and was held lightly by the thumb and forefinger of my left hand which rested on my knee. I proceeded to steer with slight inputs from my wrist while my hand continued to rest  on my knee. It was relaxing and the boat behaved wonderfully. The sunny 70 degree weather could not have been better, and what better way to spend it than on the water with a friend in a beautiful boat. It felt like some sort of day dream, and left me that much more excited to having my own boat to share with friends on a moments notice. On the way back we passed the Ebihen 16 built by the Wind and Oar Boat School last summer, being sailed by my boss Peter Crim, along with the owner and a host of others. Its a lovely boat to see on the water, and we sailed by to say hello.

This morning, Liz and I set out on what would be the longest bike ride she had ever been on. Despite being a dedicated bike commuter, she had never gone for a single ride of even 20 miles, and she had set doing a ride of at least that length as one of her goals for the year. With another sunny early spring day with weather getting up to about 70 degrees, we decided it was a good day to check that goal off the list. I might have been scheming from the start to extend the length of the ride towards at least 25 miles, which I knew she could do but no scheming was necessary. She is strong, and we settled into a solid rhythm (she might have initially set a pace that had me intimidated before I asked if she minded backing off a touch), and at 10 miles she was feeling good, so we rode all the way to a lovely park in Gresham for a relaxed picnic lunch. We ended up riding about 32 miles.


This afternoon, after enjoying an iced cup of coffee outside in the shade while doing a bit of research related to a boat building question I had, I finally set myself to work on my boat. After a busy week teaching with the Wind and Oar Boat School, where my responsibilities have increased (more on that later),  I still hadn’t finished beveling the garboards. I finished beveling the planks, and cut the port side gains.

Somewhere in the afternoon I finished reading Why We Make Things, and Why It Matters; The Education of a Craftsman by Peter Korn, which I enjoyed and recommend. I reflected on my own need to be creative and how I share that with others.

I made a quick dinner, and ate it sitting on my porch looking down at my street with a hard cider to wash it down. I watched and listened to the wind through the trees which were illuminated by the late afternoon light. It was impossible not to reflect on how glad I am for the way life is going at the moment. Last week was challenging but deeply rewarding at work, the weekend involved time spent with good people and being physically active. Bruce has started organizing a sail and oar trip starting in Astoria and ending in Portland for the end of the summer that I am looking forward to. Though my boat may not be progressing particularly quickly, progress is being made and it won’t be too long till it hits the water. After dinner I noted that at 8:15 it was still light out and that there are more than two months left till the solstice. I went back downstairs and finished cutting the starboard gains.

It at times in my life I have devoted myself for periods of time to various physical pursuits such as training for an ultramarathon, to creative pursuits, or to studying and work like I did in grad school. Many of those pursuits have been isolating even though I really enjoy sharing things with other people, and many of those periods have felt unbalanced, unsustainable, and reflecting back there were times where I think I felt some underlying need to prove something. I’m not sure whether I was trying to prove something to myself or to others. Right now though, I feel like I’ve been working hard, but it feels different. It feels like all the energy I have been using comes from a different place, and it’s been deeply rewarding. Recently there was a picture posted on the Wind and Oar Boat School’s facebook page with me teaching a group of 5th graders about boat design, and seeing it I couldn’t help but laugh and smile. I’ve been fascinated by boat design since I was a kid, and I am finally finding ways to really share that.

I am not exaggerating at all when I say that the past two years have been the hardest emotionally of my life. At times I have felt trapped in a wide variety of ways, and like I had not done enough to follow my dreams. Over the past few weeks those feelings have started falling away. I am doing what I want, I feel like I’m having a positive impact, and it feels great.

Tomorrow morning I’ll pattern the next plank. Perhaps its just all the sun I’ve gotten this weekend, but I’m looking forward to seeing what the next several months will bring.





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With beveling done, and stock for the garboards scarfed, there was only one thing to do: Start patterning the first planks! I decided to use a variation of the method described by Ross Lillistone in the most recent Wooden Boat (Wooden Boat 237). The long battens were cut from a, 18 foot 1×3 of CVG fir, and their final dimensions were about 3/4″ by 3/8″. I clamped one along the keel, following its centerline for as far as it could without needing to put excessive force into it. I then clamped a second one with its outer edge following the first chine location on each frame, and through the lap locations specified on the stem and stern post. With the clamps in place, I started connecting them with small dimension pine and 1″ screws.

20140406-103147.jpgHere, the pattern is mostly finished, though additional pieces were added later to extend the triangles past the end of the boat.


With the pattern nearly finished, I needed help maneuvering the 16 foot by 4 foot sheet of plywood around, and blocking it off the ground to cut the first plank. I called up some friends, and was able to get some much needed assistance from Bruce over at Terrapin Tales, and from my friend Alex. We traced the pattern on the plywood so that the outside of the scarf would point towards the back of the boat, blocked it off the ground with scraps of 2×4, and cut it out. Here it is dryfit before being trimmed down to the lines. We flipped it over and tested it on the other side of the boat, and I was glad to find out that it seemed to fit well enough to trace and cut the second plank from the first one.


After cutting both planks, I planned the outboard edges of each plank down to the shape dictated by the pattern, but left the outer edge rough cut. I dryfit each plank individually, traced the center of the keel on the inside of the plank, and then planned the part overlapping the keel down to shape. During a final dryfit, I double checked that the plank did not go over the center line, and used my recently revived Stanley 78 to trim the few spots that did go over the centerline.


With that it was time to install the first two planks! It took a few days to find the time to do it ( It ended up taking considerably longer than expected, and we ended up being late for evening plans. Sorry Simeon), but on Saturday I was able to get the assistance of my lovely girlfriend Liz, and we got the first two planks glued on! All the screws I am using are temporary, and I used thin blocks under their heads to distribute pressure, and so I don’t dimple the surface of the plywood.




The following day I spent some time in odd positions under the boat cleaning up the few spots with excess epoxy outside of the joints. The spots would be easier to reach after the boat is flipped, but I wanted to hit everything before it gets any harder. Though our clean up of the joints was a bit rushed, I was pretty happy with how everything looked.


After cleaning up excess epoxy I began work on beveling the garboards for the next set of planks. because the frames are permanent, and the angle of the lap changes, the width of the bevel is not a constant angle. On the plans it seemed to vary between about 3/4″ and 1″, so I drew lines at those two distances from the edge to help guide me between frames, and set myself to work. As I continue beveling I may bend a batten around the next chine to help guide me.

Either way, it won’t be long before I am pulling the first pattern apart and can pattern the broad strakes! At that point I’ll need to consider whether I want to scarf planks together individually, or whether I’ll make up another 16 foot sheet. I’m also hoping the next planks will also come out under 16 feet long so that they can be made out of two pieces, but I’ll just have to wait and see. Either way, I’m having so much fun watching this thing come together! I’m hoping to have it in the water by May 17 for the Pull and Be Damned Messabout. It may be a bit optimistic, but I’m going to have to get spars going and figure out how I’m getting the sail made soon if I’m going to make it. Wish me luck!


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