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January 2007
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March 2007

A Few More Pieces

FrameandformsStrongbackdetailDon't you hate it when it seems like everything you own starts breaking down at once?  I feel like I'm constantly fighting rot, corrosion, wear-and-tear, senescence.  The replacement Uniden Voyager VHF radio I received as a free replacement for the last Voyager that broke while under warranty won't work anymore after I got it wet.  I think it's a battery problem.  Those buttons on my camera still don't work. I really should get the leaky socks replaced on my drysuit.  The latex cuffs are starting to look pretty ratty too.  My hybrid car is broken. Something is draining the battery overnight so I need to jump start it every morning.  This has been a problem on and off over the last six months.  So far no one can figure out what's wrong, even after changing the starter battery and what they told me was a faulty relay.  But I'm absolutely sure it all started when they installed the latest software update!  I think I'll start looking for something I can run on biodiesel.

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I haven't had a lot to post lately but I thought I'd at least show what little progress I've made on my Joel White Pooduck Skiff.  I think all of last week I was either busy with work, trying to get my taxes prepared, or just rolling around out at the beach without actually going anywhere.  The weather has usually been rotten anyway.  Nothing interesting to say about rolling either, except that I've started practicing while wearing a PFD.  Every once in a while someone will ask on the forum if wearing a PFD makes it easier or harder to roll.  I've decided that it makes forward recovery norsaq rolls easier, and even layback rolls easier as long as the thickness of the PFD doesn't impair your layback.

I thought I would at least have the backbone of the boat finished by the end of the month.  I'm not quite there, but I still have a few more days.  Now that the strongback is up, there is so little room that I'm crawling on my hands and knees to use the floor space under the strongback while working with the plans and patterns.


1)  View of the strongback from the stern, with forms and midship frame installed.  The midship frame is sanded down smooth, since it will be more difficult to sand down once it is epoxied onto the planks.

2)  Strongback detail

3)  Transom.  The edges are beveled at different angles to join with the planks.

4)  Nail heads used to mark the edges of the inner stem on the laminated inner stem blank.

5)  The laminated outer stem, carved to fit the full-size pattern.




Pacific Horizons Trailer with Dubside

It seems like there are new sea kayaking clips being published on Google and YouTube every day.  Have you been keeping up?  I found this this morning -- a trailer for the movie Pacific Horizons: Paddling the Northwest Coast, a film by Bryan Smith/Reel Water Productions which features Dubside.  It has some excellent shots of Dubside training in the pond at Corey Freedman's Skin Boat School in Anacortes. It includes a brief shot of the behind the neck sculling roll, and Tom Sharp reveals that Dubside is 48 years old (last year?)  It has always been an inspiration to me, and a relief to know that I have quite a few years left to practice to get that good!


PlywoodpanelsStrongbackcenterLasercenterFormsplumbFormsWell, the Pooduck Skiff coming along gradually.  I cut out all the plywood panels and now it' starting to look a little like a kit with all the pieces waiting to be assembled. 

I think building the strongback is one of those unsatisfying steps in boatbuilding because you end up spending a lot of time and effort putting together a big structure that is not actually part of the boat.  Making sure that everything is plumb, level and square can be very frustrating but is critical.  It starts with selecting straight wood, then measuring everything precisely and drawing a centerline.  This time I used an inexpensive laser level in addition to a couple spirit levels.  The laser made it easy to draw a straight line without snapping a chalk line. Once the strongback is level I fixed it to the plywood floor with drywall screws.  It shouldn't be easily knocked out of shape just by bumping into it.  After the strongback was completed I attached the station forms. 

My sails arrived today -- a dacron mainsail and jib in "egyptian cream".  Woo hoo!

Squaxin Island Circumnavigation

Thanks to the astronauts, it’s now acceptable and even fashionable for active, driven professionals to wear diapers.  Important people just can’t be bothered with unimportant tasks, like taking lunch and bathroom breaks.  It’s like Bill Gates never washing his hair – there is just so much stuff to accomplish and not enough time in the day!  On a critical mission not a minute can be spared.  It requires intense concentration and absolute attention to the job.  And face it - we all would like to have a little extra edge over the competition, and some of us will take all the help we can get! 

It’s reasonable that several professions will find plenty of use for the same high tech adult diapers the astronauts use.  Surgeons and anesthesiologists come to mind (for those really long operations); truck, taxi, and bus drivers and pilots (obviously); slaughterhouse workers (refer to the book Fast Food Nation); video gamers (the ones that fall over dead into their bowl of ramen after playing World of Warcraft for 50 hours straight), and, of course, sea kayakers!  Think about it: in the middle of that long crossing, when the wind picks up and the waves start coming at your quarter, you’re going to be working hard to brace and keep going straight.  What if you really gotta go?  There is no way you are going to pop your sprayskirt and dig out whatever urinary device or pee bottle you might have brought along.  Good thing you put on that diaper under your drysuit!  Now if you were wearing a wetsuit, you have the option of just letting go into your suit.  I can imagine what that might feel like in a drysuit though – yuck!

I think there is definitely an untapped market here.  But they have got to come up with a better term than “diaper”. 

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Squaxin1Squaxin2Today’s trip: the Squaxin Island circumnavigation.  Squaxin Island is four-and-a-half miles long and half a mile wide.  It was set aside for the Indians of five tribes by the Medicine Creek Treaty of 1854. 

"The island was one of three areas where South Puget Sound Indians were confined in order to give white settlers clear access to more desirable lands, an arrangement that ultimately precipitated the tragic Indian War of 1855." - from South Puget Sound: Afoot and Afloat

"During the Indian War of 1856-57, the island was used to confine hundreds of Indians suspected of warlike activities… Squaxin Island had no drinking water and was practically untenable.  Water had to be imported by canoe. By 1862, only about 50 people resided there. Other members of the tribe moved away for jobs in logging camps and in hop and berry fields." - from

Today Squaxin is uninhabited.  I didn’t get a lot of pictures because I filled up my memory card and my camera wouldn’t let me erase anything – corrosion must be setting in.   The last picture I took was of this abandoned fiberglass runabout missing its outboard motor.  Anyway, the shoreline is typical South Puget Sound: clean gravel beaches, fallen fir and madrona, barnacle-encrusted pilings, and orange, white and purple starfish everywhere – you’ve heard it before!  For the record, I also paddled around Hope Island just to the south west of Squaxin.  I did see the very interesting rotting corpse of a large wooden boat trapped under the abandoned dock on Squaxin.  Just the ribs and a bit of the bow were left, and the engine right in the middle of it all.

Pool Session with Dubside and the Big Stick

Pool1Pool2I did a lot less rolling during this last pool session with Dubside.  I spent most of the time spotting my friend Dick as he worked through the standard Greenland roll in his Pygmy Arctic Tern.  Yeah, it was definitely "spotting" -- I certainly wouldn't call it "instructing".  It seemed like there were quite a few people there just being introduced to Greenland Style.  As you can see, some even chose to bring their Euroblades.

Dubside and Tom spent most of the time standing in the pool giving personal instruction.  They had planned to have these pool sessions every month, but there has been enough interest that now they are having them every two weeks.  They only ask for $10 to help pay for the pool rental fee.  The schedule is listed on Dubside's website.  If you are local and interested in stopping by sometime, ask to be put on their emailing list.  Just don't forget to bring some beer and chips or whatever for the potluck afterwards.

The pool session was the first time I got to try out my Big Stick, a 30 inch norsaq.  I guess I should call it a rolling stick rather than a norsaq, because it's embarassingly long and can't function as a harpoon throwing board. By the way, did you know that there is no limit specified for norsaq length in the Greenland National Kayaking Championship?  I made it to practice the forward recovery rolls, norsamik masikkut and norsamik kingukkut. With the Big Stick I can slow down my roll and rely less on power, but it's still very mechanical and inconsistent.  I'm going to need a whole lot more practice.


Ketron Island Circumnavigation

BoatlaunchConditions today: wind calm.  High tides and dense fog.  A good day to explore the intricate inlets of the Nisqually River delta, I thought.  But when I arrived at the park I was going to use as my launch site I discovered it closed and the gate locked.  I suspect there must be a few downed trees in there that still haven’t been cleaned up from the past storms.  So I had my lunch in the car and changed plans.

I drove north, exited the freeway and passed an antiwar rally on the bridge near Fort Lewis.  By the way, Actor Sean Penn is in town to protest the Watada court martial -- I probably passed right by him!  I ended up in Steilacoom and found a squalid little boat ramp by the ferry terminal, literally underneath the train tracks.

FerryKetron1Ketron3Ketron2Five dollars to park.  I gave it directly to the parking lot manager, who happened to walk by.  He seemed a little concerned and wanted to make sure I lock my car.  He also said it wasn’t a good idea to park on the corner spot, because people can be a little careless as they drive through here, but since my car was small it would probably be OK.  Also, was I sure that no one would be tempted to take my kayak racks?  I guess he must have seen it all, working there, but he still seemed a little paranoid to me.  Later while on the water I realized that the ferries go to McNeil Island, the State “Corrections Center”, so who knows what kind of characters hang out at that parking lot?

Apparently in the 1850s Steilacoom used to be the fastest growing community on Puget Sound.  It was the home of a busy shipping industry and center of settlement for pioneers who wanted to live next to Forts Steilacoom and Nisqually.  But in 1873 Steilacoom was rejected for Tacoma as the terminus for the Northern Pacific Railroad, and businesses fled north.  When the railroad finally came to Steilacoom in 1912 it located its tracks along the shore, and in the process destroyed the waterfront homes and resorts, and separated the town from the beach.  With a few historic homes and buildings still standing today, it still has the feeling of the resort town it might have been.

I launched and paddled around the ferry terminal, headed south along the shore to a run-down marina, then crossed Cormorant Passage to Ketron Island. 

George Vancouver spent the night at Ketron Island.  In May and June of 1792 Vancouver explored and surveyed Puget Sound, which he named after one of the officers who did the surveying, Peter Puget.  His principal objective was:

the acquiring accurate information with respect to the nature and extent of any water communication which may tend in any considerable degree to facilitate an intercourse for the purpose of commerce between the North West Coast and the countries upon the opposite side of the Continent, which are inhabited or occupied by His Majesty’s subjects.

In other words, to find the Northwest Passage.

Except for a ferry terminal, most of the shoreline of Ketron is made up of steep, wooded cliffs.  From the water the island looks totally uninhabited.  Through the dark green water, I saw dozens of starfish on the rocky bottom.  With all signs of human activity on the mainland hidden by the fog, I imagined that I saw Ketron as it was when Vancouver saw it for the first time, until a glimpse of a chimney on the hill or big white chunk of beached Styrofoam jolted me out of my reverie.  The island is only half a mile from the mainland -- why did Vancouver choose it for a camp anyway?  My guess is to avoid any uncomfortable situations involving the mainland natives, like he experienced at Brown's Point.


Kayaking The San Juan Islands


Ah, the San Juan Islands!  Here is a neat video I found about kayaking with Shawna and Leon of Body Boat Blade International.   This video gives you a little glimpse of what taking a class with them is like -- trip planning at the chart table in the shop, messing around on Cascade Lake, and launching the fleet of Nigel Dennis kayaks off to explore the northern outer islands.  It was produced by one of Body Boat Blade's former partners, Bryan Smith, now a filmmaker with Reel Water Productions.

Case Inlet: Two Islands

JoemmaAs a destination for paddling, the South Sound does not enjoy a glamorous reputation like Deception Pass and the San Juan Islands.  For one thing, the water is usually pretty flat.  I've also heard the beaches described as "muddy".  There are no rocky shorelines.  It's unusual to see any whales here (although I 've seen them in Tacoma).  And from my own experience, during the summer it can feel like a small suburban lake, meaning the parks are crowded and on the water you need to be careful that you don't get run down by teenagers in power boats and Jet Skis. 

The best time to go is the winter.  Today Case Inlet was absolutely deserted.  It felt wild and remote.  I had Joemma State Park all to myself.   The barren gravel beaches looked like they had been swept clean by the recent winter storms.  I didn't see mud anywhere. 

HeronislandSeastarSeal_1SeagullsOpenseasonAnother thing about winter is that you've got to be prepared for fog.  Actually, that's true in the middle of summer too.  I ran in some thick fog on the drive through Key Peninsula -- good thing I  brought a chart and compass with me (I always keep a compass in my pfd).  The nice thing about a waterproof chart is that you can fold it up and just keep it on your deck -- no chart case needed.  It sure is a pain to dry it off when you get home though, so maybe I  will try to dig up that old case again. 

My route took me around Herron Island and McMicken Island State Park.  A colony of seals followed me on the west side of Herron.  I stopped on McMicken for a lazy lunch in the sun and noticed that the wind had veered  from NNE to SE.  What does that mean again? 

From Northwest Marine Weather: "Surface winds switching to the east or southeast: a weather disturbance is approaching.  Expect southwest to west winds with the passage of a front."

I think I could read those weather books a dozen times and still not be able to figure it out!Mcmickenisland