The End

In part due to a heavy interface and the need to be online while editing, I'm leaving Blogger.com. I will not take down the content, though. Any links which you have made or might make in the future will remain valid. I simply will no longer post updates here.

The new blog runs on BlazeBlogger, a set of perl scripts that run on my local computer to create pages and posts out of static HTML (sorry, no commenting) which I can then upload to my webhost. There are several advantages to this arrangement for me which I won't delve into here.

The new blog will have, also, a new URL at blog.paraplegicracehorse.net. If you subscribe to updates from this site, there is a page at the new site with new subscription links for you.


Self-Rescue Dinghy Pondering

I've spent a good part of my day, today, searching out dinghy/tender/lifeboat options. Why? Because I can; and because it is something which interests me, and because it is of interest to the boating public at large. There is a large amount of discussion amongst cruisers about dinghies, somewhat less about self-rescue boats/rafts and less, still, about dinghies AS self-rescue boats.

Common threads on dinghies include how to secure them to the boat both for theft-prevention and storage during passage, launch and retrieval, and desired feature set (capacity, weight, propulsion methods). Of course, there is the never-ending debate of hard-shell vs. rubber inflatable (RIB). The general consensus is that it should carry four to six persons, be easily launched and retrieved, able to be rowed or sailed, able to mount an outboard, easily repaired when punctured, low-cost and rugged. That's a pretty demanding list on its own. To my thinking, all of these criteria are only met by a hard-shell dinghy (ever try to row a RIB? how about sail one?). Yet, the RIB is far and away the most popular choice, today.

The discussion of self-rescue craft, on the other hand, centers around crew capacity, survival stocks and tools (signaling, food, water, etc), meeting SOLAS and/or USCG requirements, self-inflation reliability, complaints about inspection expenses and, sometimes, storage location and methods. Mostly, it seems, there are gripes about the expense of repacking them after inspection. Almost never is there a mention of ability to move and navigate under it's own, or the crew's, power.

In the ages of sail, steam and early days of diesel, your dinghy/tender was also your lifeboat. There was no expectation of rescue by a third party (no long-range signaling devices such as radio, EPIRBs and SARTs; and very few vessels fast enough to reach you in a matter of hours) unless you were really close to a populated coastline with a lifesaving corps (fishing ports, naval facilities). You dinghy had to be weatherly, stable, have capacity for food and water stores and able to be rowed or sailed for a long distance. In other words, your dinghy/tender had to allow you to self-rescue.

Apparently, there have been three designers who think these old-fashioned self-rescue ideas are good and still valid, even today. Steven Callahan (survivor of a 76 day ordeal in a life raft - read his book Adrift: Seventy-six Days Lost at Sea) (I earn a few pennies if you buy from this link.) has designed and prototyped what he calls the FRIB. It is not yet available (if ever) and there are no construction plans for the DIY boater. There's the Portland Pudgy, which is commercially available, now, but has no construction plans for the DIY boater. John Holtrop sells DIY plans for his  Wave Dancer Life Dory. All three are hard-shell craft. All three are able to be driven by oar or sail, thereby making possible (if not necessarily likely) rescue without additional aid. FRIB and Portland Pudgy include built-in floatation compartments and are, theoretically, unsinkable. Wave Dancer could be built with floatation. Any of the three can attach to a drogue to keep it lined up to wind and waves, vastly increasing their stability at sea, especially in poor weather.

FRIB is not available. Portland Pudgy is expensive and considered too heavy for use as a small tender by many. Pudgy meets SOLAS/USCG regs as a four-person rescue boat. FRIB will likely meet those regs as a three-to-four person rescue boat. Wave Dancer is unlikely to ever meet those regs because of inspection and other issues; in other words - no agency is likely to certify it to meet safety gear requirements, no matter how well built it is.

Price. Wave Dancer can be built for less than US$600. FRIB is unavailable. Pudgies start at US$2500 (bare boat, no safety stuff or sails). A typical eight-to-ten foot hard shell dinghy costs US$1000 (+/- 200) and about that much again for a sail package (if available). Some have inflatable tubes available allowing it be configured for use as a lifeboat, in theory. Four-person self-inflating, SOLAS/USCG approved, life rafts start at about US$1000, pluse storage valise, plus annual expenses of recertification and repacking. Four-person RIBs start at near US$1000 and very few have accessories for turning them into capable row/sail craft, let alone adding other self-rescue capabilities and safety features.

The search and rescue (SAR) assets of the developed world are spread pretty thin. Unless the vessel is within a few hundred miles of a SAR base, the crew are likely to be waiting days for rescue. In less developed areas, there may be no SAR assets in place at all. Crews are certainly on their own in mid-ocean. Steven Callahan was never more than 200 miles out of the shipping lanes, but he could not maneuver his life raft into them where he had some hope of recovery. If he had had a sail, he could have self-evacuated to a nearby island in about a week; somewhat longer if he'd had oars and a moderately efficient hull shape. Instead, he spent 76 days adrift and completely at the whim of wind and wave.

There are plenty of large, ridgid hull self-rescue craft, suitable for big ships with big crews. It is a wonder why the commercial fishing and yachting worlds have not demanded similar craft. Okay, Steven Callahan didn't have an EPIRB or SAR transponder; nor even a hand-held VHF radio. Certainly these would have decreased the time he awaited rescue. These electronic wonders are fantastic but electronics fail, batteries run down and even with these toys, tides and wind could move you out of rescue range.

It's past time for some competition in the self-rescue craft suitable for fishing boats and yachts market. The rules are here: http://www.uscg.mil/hq/cg5/cg5214/boatrb.asp. I'm both not qualified and without the resources to do it myself. Small-boat designers, that means you. Get on it.


A new home, work and wood

First, I moved back to Alaska. What can I say? I like it here and there are opportunities for me that aren't readily available in Washington. Unfortunately, I got back about a week too late to get one of the jobs I had my heart set on while I try for something in the oil field at Prudhoe Bay. Yes, this means I'm still unemployed and still sleeping on the charity couch. The local dry dock is expecting a big job in January and maybe I can get on as a laborer or something, then. Failing that, it looks as though I'll end up back in the taxi driver's seat or working at the gas station for a subsistence - at best - level wage.

I'd like to get myself a few beehives again in the spring. I'd also like to build a sail trainer boat. However, until I get a place to live on a less ephemeral basis, and some income above and beyond that needed to eat and have a warm bed, both are a nigh-impossible challenges. Undoubtedly, I'll find some summertime work which will allow me to have some money through the tourist season, but the thought of seasonal labor leaves a sour taste in my mouth.

I will build some hives this year, even if I have to wait for summer to do it and can't have bees 'til next year. I'm planning another couple of hives designed by Frenchman Emile Warré and probably a Bienenkiste. I'll have to see what happens before the spring arrives, though.

On boats, I'm waffling between a couple of cheap scow sailers - Gaving Atkin's Flying Mouse design or a PuddleDuck Racer. I'm also considering a skiff, which I might also/alternatively use as a sail trainer. Again with Gavin Atkin, his Julie Skiff looks promising, as does Michael Storer's Goat Island Skiff. I admit to being drawn to some designs from Jim Welsford and Paul Fisher, but I'm more likely to build one or more of these four boats.

I hope the new year finds you all healthy and in good spirits.


Travel and Hogswallup

Going Home

I've made the decision to return to Alaska. I'm hoping to be on a plane before mid-November, but I'm not going without a job awaiting me. I'm trying for rotational positions on the North Slope, so if anyone has any tips, hot leads or contacts I can name-drop, I'm appreciative. My professional background includes auto mechanics, taxicab driving, light facilities maintenance, aircraft refueling, weather reporting, extensive clerical experience and, of course, I have now built a wooden boat.

Hogswallup for Sale

Hogswallup, my Barton Skiff, is for sale and will come with everything - life jackets, flares, hand-tied rope fenders, crawfish traps and lines/buoys, fishing maps/charts, oars, motor - everything; even left-over glass tape and epoxy. I'm about US$3800 invested, all up, plus my construction time. I will entertain all reasonable offers (don't have to equal or exceed my investment, but must be large enough for me to take seriously). Sale conditions are as-is, where-is. The motor, today, 04 Oct, has about 12 hours on it. Unless sold, or leaving for work prior, I will continue to operate him as a commercial crawfisher until 31 Oct.


Of Oars and Tiller Extensions

I was going to skip this blog post, but decided maybe I ought to just do it. So, here I am typing away and putting up pictures. Yay?


These were done several weeks ago. Pardon the tardiness.

I started by ripping a ten-foot 2x4 (pine or spruce? I don't know.) into a pair of 1.5x1.5 sticks, plus a strip of scrap. I then decided I didn't need ten foot oars and cut two feet off the ends. I ripped 2x4 instead of buying 2x2 because the 2x4 cost 1/3 less than a pair of 2x2s of the same length.

The photo shows marks at the handle end, but I also marked the blade end of each shaft. I'm going to leave a block of square wood at the handle end of the loom to partially counterbalance the oars, which should make them a little easier to work with. At this length and weight of wood, it's probably not important, but I think it also is beautiful, so I did it.

A little action with the draw knife rounds out the handles, nicely.

The blade is roughly 24" long and six inches wide, made from scrap 3/8" ply. It's been a few weeks so I don't remember the exact numbers.

I cut the slot so the blade would hang out the end about eight inches.

Standard, water resistant wood glue. These are cheap oars and I'm not going to use good epoxy. When they break, come apart or get lost, I'll just make a replacement.

Shaping the loom. I love this draw knife. It removes wood well. I tapered the shaft along the blade. I left enough for some strength and probably removed about four ounces of weight. Again, not really a big deal on oars of this size, but I did it anyway.

Finished, almost. I still need to wrap them where they'll chafe in the locks, and varnish them. They have proven quite functional, though. Total length about 8.5 feet and, I think, maybe a foot too long for really fine rowing on this particular boat.

Total cost: $4, one hour of glue drying and two hours of light labor. That sure beats $50 apiece!

Tiller Extension

If you've been following my adventures with Hogswallup, you know he's got a trim problem. I'm trying to solve that by moving my weight forward, rather than add a bunch of ballast up front. In order to move forward, I need either remote steering or an extension to the tiller on the motor. I opted for a tiller extension because I could build it for less than $15, and the motor isn't easily converted to remote operation.

The major components of my tiller extension are a 24" section of 2"ID ABS pipe and an off-cut from my oars. I was originally going to use a scrap of 2x4 but when I was getting ready to rip it to size, I found the off-cuts which are already ripped to size and have the added benefit of being a few inches longer.

A slot was cut in the pipe so it could compress and squeeze the motor's tiller handle. This assures that I can work the throttle as well as steer.

This piece of scrap being glued onto each end of the stick is for shaping the handle to a) fit the pipe better, and b) add some contour to the hand-grip area so I can know where my throttle position is by the twist.

The finished handle and then the finished extension. The overall length is something near four feet. I didn't measure. Note the shape at the hand grip. That should easily let me feel where the throttle position is at. I joined the two pieces with 1 3/4" deck screws. The "bottom" of the pipe also has a series of holes drilled through to allow any errant water to drain out.

Total cost, including clamps: $12 and about two hours (including glue-drying time) light labor.

Here it is installed with exhaust clamps from the auto parts store. I set it up so that the "up" part of the hand grip is centered at 50% wide-open-throttle. In use, it's slightly too long for comfort while seated on the center thwart and slightly too short for comfort (and safety!) while standing in the forward foot well. I will probably chop three inches from it and use it from a seated position. I probably will also install a swiveling, padded seat on the center thwart. My long legs feel cramped on these seats and the hard wood bruises the tush.

I still need to figure out how to arrange the emergency shut-off lanyard to work from the extended tiller. If I run it through eyes up to the handle, every time I move away from the tiller, it will turn the boat. That's unacceptable. I really don't want to worry about whether a dangling bit of twine will tangle in something, so simply lengthening the lanyard really isn't a good solution, either. I'm open to suggestions.

Here's a shot of Hogswallup's improved wake. Moving me forward dropped the bow about six inches. He doesn't pound nearly so bad in lumpy water. The downside? I get completely soaked in spray! Need to figure out how and where to install some spray rails. Also, I can't throw the tiller "hard over" because I can't reach far enough; and it's now tricky to work the throttle, gears and steering in close quarters. With practice it will get easier, though.

I still wonder if a hydrofoil or thrust ring would make any useful improvement.