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February 2007
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April 2007

Brian Schulz in Hawaii

If you haven't had a chance to read it yet, I highly recommend reading through the journal Brian Schulz put together of his solo expedition around the Big Island in an "SC-I" a skin-on-frame version of the Mariner Kayaks Coaster.  Not only does he build the kayak during the first few days of his trip (complete with shark repellant stripes), he then paddles it under incredible conditions, "guerilla camping" along the coast.  Has a surprise ending too.


Circumnavigation: Blake Island

Blake3Blake1Blake2Another dry sunny day!  This was one of those trips where my first choice island didn't work out (I missed the ferry) so I had to quickly come up with an alternative.  Blake Island is a popular destination for overnight trips for kayak and sailing clubs because it is easily reached from both Seattle and the Kitsap Pennisula and has several campsites.  It also features Tillicum Village, which regularly hosts a traditional salmon bake in a longhouse and Native American dancing.

Sailing the Knockabout

Cwb325_4Cwb325_3Cwb325_2Cwb325_5Cwb325_1Finally got to go sailing today at the Center for Wooden Boats, on a beautiful, sunny dry day.  Now that I'm starting to think about building the interior of the Pooduck I find the CWB a fantastic resource.  For instance, I'm interested in changing the seating configuration of my boat from the original plans, and it's wonderful to be able to see up close a number of different wooden boats (museum pieces, really) and get an idea of how they are built. 

Someone said the wind was blowing steady at 12 and gusting to 20 (mph) at the north end of the lake, so they closed the livery again to people wanting to rent sailboats.  Luckily I was with my friend/instructor Ricardo, so he was able to take me and three others out in the Blanchard Jr. Knockabout.  By the way the term "knockabout" refers to a sloop with a simplified rig and no bowsprit.  We took turns at the helm.  I was a little uneasy dealing with all the gusts heeling us over, but by the end I was getting the hang of it.  What a fun ride! 

Local Kayak Accident

My father mentioned this to me yesterday so I had to search the news archives to find it.  The Coast Guard just happened to find this guy while on a routine patrol and fish him out after he was in the water for an hour:

[From the Coast Guard Announcement]


SEATTLE - The Coast Guard pulled a Fort Lewis Army Sergeant from the waters of Puget Sound tonight after discovering him drifting approximately one half mile from Port Orchard.

Members of Marine Safety and Security Team 91101, based here, noticed the soldier floating in his lifejacket while on a routine patrol at approximately 6:08 p.m.  He reported he was thrown from his kayak when it was swamped by a wave.  He had been in the water approximately one hour before being found.  The kayak could not be located and is presumed to have sunk.

The sergeant was treated for hypothermia and the Coast Guard notified the Kitsap County Sheriff to arrange for a transfer of the patient to an awaiting ambulance at the Bremerton ferry dock.  He was then transported to Harrison Medical Center in Bremerton.

Wearing a lifejacket greatly improves a person's chances of survival in the event of an accident on the water and being spotted by rescuers.

Circumnavigation: The Prison Isle

Mcneil4Mcneil2Mcneil5Mcneil6Mcneil1In 1867 Mc Neil Island became the site of the territorial jail, which became a federal penitentiary in 1870.  The penitentiary took advantage of the island’s isolation from the mainland by swift tidal currents and cold water.  In 1980 the federal government closed the penitentiary down because its buildings were out of date and the facility was too costly to operate, but Washington State took over the site for its own penal system. It has the distinction of being the only prison in the U. S. that began as a territorial prison, became a federal penitentiary, and finally a state prison.  It is also the last prison in America located on a small remote island.

About three-quarters of the island is managed as a wildlife preserve.  Still Harbor is the last remaining seal breeding ground south of Whidbey Island and is the home to a colony of about 200 harbor seals.


PlankedJust a warning: it might look nearly finished but there is still a lot of work to do.  Even before I can turn her over to start building the interior I have to install the outer stem, take out the temporary screws, fill all the little holes, and sand the exterior.  Once the interior is completed (gunwales, breasthook, quarterknees, thwarts, maststep, air chambers, floorboards, and centerboard trunk) I have to turn her over again to install the keel/skeg.  Then there's the rudder, tiller, centerboard, hardware, painting/varnishing, spars and rigging... Come to think of it, I've probably just begun!

CwbCwb2This was going to be a my sailing week but unfortunately the weather has been nasty and I have no crew.  I went down to the Center for Wooden Boats to get "checked out" on their sailboats.  When I got there the wind had picked up, it started to hail, and they closed the livery.  Apparently they close it at around 12 knots -- no big deal in a kayak, but I guess those little boats are only good between Force 2 and 3! 

I ended up spending the afternoon lazily browsing through old issues of Wooden Boat magazine in the CWB library.  I finally found the issue with Brian Schulz's cover article about cruising the Sea of Cortez for two weeks in a 18 ft skin-on-frame version of the Joel White Shearwater with a lug rig.  Amazing!

Learn to Sail in a Weekend

Well, I took a “Learn to Sail in a Weekend” course at Puget Sound Sailing Institute and earned my American Sailing Association Basic Keelboat Certification -- woo hoo! Sorry, no pictures.  It was a freakin’ ugly boat anyway.  You know what I mean  – fiberglass!

The course was a lot like taking driver's ed in high school.  Remember sitting in the back seat during the lesson while the girl next to you fell asleep with her legs splayed apart (was she really asleep or offering an invitation?)  When the sun came out I could have fallen asleep myself as the others practiced jibes.  Unlike kayaking, there is not a lot of physical activity involved.  By the way, my most memorable moment in driver’s ed was accidentally turning off the road and hitting the curb as the windshield washer and wiper inexplicably turned on. 

I’m very good at taking tests, especially the ones where you have to fill in the little ovals with a Number 2 pencil.  The practical exam was a lot like taking ACLS: the trick is to give all your commands on the water with conviction, and state what you are doing so the examiner knows what you are thinking.  The whole point of getting this certification is that now I can charter a little sailboat through Puget Sound Sailing for daytrips.

My fellow students this weekend included a couple planning to retire and cruise the Caribbean and a retired woman who failed the test last October.  Her husband bought a sailboat last year, without ever having sailed before!

One thing I noticed is that the other students kept looking up at the masthead fly to determine what point of sail they were on and where the wind was coming from and this tended to confuse them.  I was tempted to say, "Stop looking up there!"   Just feel the wind on your face and you can tell where the wind is coming from.  It's easy!

Also it seems like half of learning to sail is learning the language, and some of them didn’t quite get it:

“So we're on a starboard attack, and they’re on a port attack, so we have the right of way.”

“We were on a close-haul, but now we’re in the no-fly-zone

How did military terminology suddenly infiltrate sailing language anyway?  Someone obviously has been spending way too much time watching the Fox News Network!

Looks like a boat!

The sun came out today and it felt like spring.  Getting in my car to drive home from work I had to turn the air conditioner on (briefly)!  I coundn't resist getting out to play in the water for just a little while.  People are returning to the beach. 

Midstrake2Midstrake1Midstrake3Just a few building notes today.  After installing the middle strake, I've finally gotten to the "looks like a boat" stage.  Planking is actually pretty easy.  I'm impressed now how well all the pieces fit together.   I cut the panels a little oversized, to take into account small variations in building the strongback, but it really wasn't necessary.  If I had cut them exactly according to the plans, everything would have fit together perfectly.  The last panel (the sheer strake) will be even easier to install, so it's all downhill from here (I vaguely remember saying that before sometime last year).  The best thing so far about this build: not having to work with fiberglass!

I'm looking forward to rolling her over and working on the interior, which is more like building furniture. 

The dark screw heads are the drywall screws that are use to temporarily clamp the laps together while the epoxy cures.  After 24 hours, while the epoxy is still a little soft, I'll remove the screws and scrape away any excess epoxy.

Planking: Now the Fun Begins!

BackboneMy skiff manual says that this is where the fun begins.  Actually, all boatbuilding is fun, isn't it? It's just that some parts are more fun than others.  For instance, I really don't think I would mind if someone else offered to do all the sanding...

The backbone is on (inner stem, bottom panel, and transom).  I first dryfit the 3/4in thick bottom panel around the forms and screwed it onto the midships frame, inner stem and transom with permanent silicon bronze screws.  Then I unscrewed and removed it so I could spread thickened epoxy on the mating surfaces of the inner stem, midships frame, and transom, then screwed it back in place again.  I added some temporary drywall screws to keep the panel on the forms. 

StemandscrewsSiliconbronzeGarboardOne thing that I like about plywood is that, compared to strip building, it is really easy to get a fair curve, and you can build the hull quickly.  The problem is that bending it around the forms and stem can require a great deal of force.  My next kayak will definitely be plywood stitch-and-glue construction (I can't help thinking about my next boat building project already!)

After the epoxy cured I beveled the edges of the bottom panel to fit the garboard strake, the next panel from the bottom.  After a lot of planing and checking the bevel for fit, the garboard was dryfit into place with permanent silicon bronze screws into the inner stem, midships frame and transom.  I'll plane the garboard to size, then remove it and work on the other side before epoxying and screwing both panels permanently into place.

I counterbore or countersink the permanent screws.  It's easy and requires no special drill bits -- I just make a little hole with a 3/8th inch bit and drill through the center of that with a smaller bit for a pilot hole.  The screw heads will be hidden by wooden bungs (if counterbored) or thickened epoxy (if countersunk).  The bungs are just slices of a 3/8th inch hardwood dowel -- nothing special.  It's all going to be painted over anyway. 

Anderson Island Circumnavigation

Anderson1Anderson2Well, getting back to the Islands of Puget Sound Series… 

Today I circumnavigated Anderson Island.  The wind was calm.  The water was like a mirror.   The sun came out briefly.  I even put on some sunscreen! 

The only notable thing about Anderson Island I can think to mention is that there are no public beaches.  Pretty lame, huh?  Also, I think I saw the MV Steilacoom, the 71-year old ferry that the State recently sold on eBay for $49,500 to a guy in Las Vegas!  Apparently, he was the only bidder.  It's pretty amazing what deals you can find when shopping for old boats.  The ferry looked like it was in good shape too.

I really didn’t feel like paddling at all today.  I guess I was feeling lazy.  Sometime though the best antidote for that is to just get out there and do it.  Being outside, feeling the sun on your face and smelling the salty air can do wonders.  Just in case I got bored though I brought my iPod and stuck it inside my drysuit, and ran the ear buds out of the neck gasket.  It’s the first time I’ve done that before.  I don’t have a waterproof case for the iPod or marine ear buds, but there was no way I was going to capsize unintentionally today anyway. 

Anderson3Anderson4Anderson5I guess I used to find something offensive about bringing an iPod kayaking.  I have to say that it definitely adds another layer of dissociation between oneself and the environment.  For instance, there is less feedback from the noise of the paddle.  I used to not like to even wear gloves when I paddled because I couldn’t feel the paddle as well.  With the combination of gloves and an iPod I felt like I wasn’t all there -- I might as well have been watching myself while sitting at home at my computer!

How did we get this far?  I remember sitting in on a particular slide show at the West Coast Sea Kayak Symposium that featured a husband and wife team who talked about the sea kayak expeditions they took around BC and Alaska during the Seventies.  Of course, there wasn’t the variety of quality kayaking gear back then that they have today, so they were putting camping gear in plastic garbage bags and drying their own food (does anyone dry their own food anymore?).  What did they wear back then?  I think rubber bib waders and wool sweaters.  The point of their talk was that people have been sea kayaking for years without all the high-end gear or training available to them now, and that no one should be discouraged from getting out there if they don’t have all this stuff.  This guy even admitted that after over two decades of sea kayaking, he still didn’t know how to roll (this was followed by a collective gasp from the audience)!  Was the focus different back then?  Was it more about connecting with Nature and escaping a media-filled consumption-driven technological life for something more simple?  I don’t know – that was before my time and just about everything I know about it comes from reading The Starship and the Canoe! I am reminded of that iconic image of George Dyson in his skin-on-frame baidarka, exploring the Inside Passage of British Columbia, playing a flute made out of the same aluminum tubing his kayak was made out of.  I get the impression  that sea kayaking now is more gear- and performance-oriented and has started to cater to adrenaline junkies.  Of course, better equipment design and training have resulted in vast improvements in comfort and safety.  But I’m also sure that, given my GoreTex® drysuit, carbon fiber paddle, silver embedded Xstatic® socks, and iPod®, the media-filled consumption-driven technological lifestyle has won.