Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Sunny Fall Outing

As winter is upon us and flurries fill Pennsylvania skies, my heart was warmed by a recent email from my friend Paul whose sailing companion had captured some pictures of my little C-Lute having a sunny fall adventure.

Here she is, ready to catch the breeze...

...moving right along.

Even though I want to sail C-Lute most of the time, I always want to take the oars along because I love to snuggle up into little coves and inlets where the water gets thin, the air bends light and squirrely and bird-watching becomes fascinating.

I figured out a convenient way to store the oars out of the way whilst sailing. 

You'll notice that the oar locks are sitting in the front rowing station (sockets). They are folded one blade on top of the other at the bow and rest on the forward transom where they are secured with a bungee. This arrangement works very well while sailing. You can sit anywhere in the boat without the oars getting in the way.

This method works very well with the balanced lug. The mast does not have any shrouds or forestay and it is easy to drop the canvas and roll up together with yard and boom.

You could then row immediately. However, I also like to lift the mast out and lay it so that the top end of it is secured at the bow with the self-same bungee.

It is possible to lay mast on one side and the sail, boom and yard on the other in such a way that they do not interfere with rowing.

The gunter rig would obviously preclude such maneuver while at sea.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

An Autumn Outing

An Autumn Post Card from Moraine State Park:

On Oct 30 the forecast called for temps in the upper 40's. Well, truth be told - and I was there for first-hand reporting - the mercury never reached 40F.  However, the fog caused by cold air above much warmer water, created an eerie almost spooky atmosphere.

Though many leaves were still tenaciously hanging on - the end of fall snapped through my bones.. My feet froze but I loved being there - especially aboard C-Lute.

Obviously, had I expected 30's, I could have brought another layer...  But then again, had I expected 30's I most probably would not have gone to Moraine for the sail in the first place and...

...would have missed a magical Moraine moment.

I never thought of the rowing option quite in this way but when I got too cold, I dropped the sail for a  while and rowed... for sure the physical exercise warmed me up and before too long, I was ready to hoist the lug rig once more.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

What's next?

That's right.

What to do after you have finished a boat project?

Even as I awaited the overdue arrival of my Passage Maker kit from CLC late last year, I found myself continuing to peruse the catalog of beautiful other boat designs available from Chesapeake Light Craft.

Have I been bitten by the boat-building bug? You bet!

So when I attended the CLC-sponsored OkoumeFest this past spring, one of my main objectives was to take a look at various kayak options, try them out and determine what my next winter project would be.

I was looking for a project that would build on my stitch and glue experience yet set a few new challenges. The various hybrid options in the kayak designs seemed to be an excellent step up since the strip-planking of the deck is a more intricate building technique.

Paul Plowright's winning Shearwater 17
I had already set my eyes on the 17' hybrid version of the Shearwater design. The kayak has great lines and looks fabulous. It also seem to offer the right mix of stability and performance that I thought would be best for me.

In fact, upon arrival at the OkoumeFest, various builders had brought their hybrid Shearwaters and I was just floored by the beautiful, personal designs.

Several test paddles on Shearwaters reinforced that this was a superb craft that was great fun to paddle and would suit me well.

Testing the Petrel
Dan Thaler's kayak:  Best in Show
I tested a variety of other extremely elegant designs including the 17' Petrel.

What a powerful kayak?!

I was pretty much set on the Shearwater. But then something unexpected happened. I sat in a very narrow and long boat called Night Heron, designed by Nick Schade (who actually designed many of the kayaks that are available as kits through CLC.)

At any rate, at 18 feet of length and with a mere 20" beam, this boat offers an altogether different paddle experience. When I first got into the snug cockpit I was a bit nervous because I thought that this design would simply be too demanding for me.

Click here for slide show of the CLC Night Heron.

After a couple of laps I became more confident and comfortable with the feel and control of the boat. Paddling this sleek, powerful machine was a total thrill! What can I say? I was smitten! Big Time. Sitting in this boat reminded me of the time when I was shopping for a new concert guitar (a classical guitar) and I played the instrument (made by Nicholas Ioannou) where - as soon as I played the first few chords - I knew that THIS WAS IT.

I did switch back and forth between the Shearwater and the Night Heron several more times and my initial infatuation with the Night Heron was reinforced with each test ride.

Detail of the wood grain at transition from loom to blade
I ordered the hybrid Night Heron kit. It arrived recently. I'll probably start in October if I can bear to wait that long. For now I have been reading up on strip-planking kayaks (Nick Schade has written two books on the subject) as well as the instruction booklet.

Then there is the important task of drawing up a deck design. I suspect that I will be able to do a better job once I have a full understanding of all the implications in construction of any particular design. I have three different types of cedar strips to work with - light, medium and dark.

The tip of my paddle is reinforced with a mix of epoxy and wood-flour
In the meantime I have been priming the wood-working pump by building a Greenland paddle.

I found a fabulous 2 by 4 of immaculate Western Red Cedar at a nearby lumber shop. Amazing stuff!

Eric Schade Demonstration at CLC
The inspiration to building this type of paddle came from one of the workshops offered at the above-mentioned OkoumeFest.

Nick Schade's brother Eric gave a demonstration.

In addition, very detailed information on making such a paddle is available online.

If you start with good wood, the paddle becomes an elegant thing of beauty.

Paddling with the Greenland paddle feels very different from the modern power paddles.

It'll be fun to learn using it to best advantage.

I'll be reporting on building the Night Heron on my new blog.

Monday, June 20, 2011

A Fine Day

On a recent Sunday, my wife Iris came along to sail for the day.

She is generally very supportive of her husband's sailing passion but otherwise does not share in the fascination with wind, water and what-not.

However, she does make an annual appearance at Moraine State Park and I am always anxious to ensure that it be a successful experience.

In the past, we have actually had some wonderful outings on the JN18 with perfect conditions, not too scary but sufficiently thrilling.

On this occasion, C-Lute offered an altogether new experience.

The temperature was balmy perfection and the sun peaked out to shine on small ripples across the water. So C-Lute set off - happily gurgling her way onto the lake toward a little island nestled near Pleasant Bay.

I had previously thought how the PMD with lug rig would be a perfect little learn-to-sail boat. It does not get more basic than the tiller plus the main sheet attached to a single lug sail with a long streaming pennant which tells you immediately whether or not the sail is trimmed correctly. You don't even have to understand the finer points of apparent wind.

Iris, do you want to take the helm?

Yes, she did! - Great! 

So there, a perfect day, indeed, on C-Lute: the Love of my Life sailing my Labor of Love - Ah!  a winning combination.

After a delectable lunch, I dropped the mast and tested the forward rowing station while Iris was sunning herself on the back seat.

I was delighted with the easy swoosh: the hull was perfectly balanced and rowed itself with greater ease than I would have expected. 

Later the winds freshened up a bit and I quickly stepped the mast and hoisted the sail for a fine finale back to Watts Bay.

Monday, May 23, 2011


This spring has been oh so wet and chilly. There have been very few days without any rain. Finally, this past weekend, Saturday was entirely dry. Yeah!

Light and variable winds are not exactly the preferred mode for this sailor but who is complaining?! It was such a pretty day!

Garth was ready to launch  Goldberry with her new rig. It proved to be a wonderful opportunity to get some excellent shots of the boat that inspired the creation of C-Lute. You might say that Goldberry was C-Lute's Godmother. So there, two tan-bark luggers lounging in Watts Bay! What a lovely sight!

Goldberry's new Lug sail and Mizzen were custom-made by Washington, PA-based Tom Bell, a highly-skilled and experienced sail-maker.

A number of years ago, Bell Sails made a beautiful miter-cut cruising chute for my SJ-21. Tom Bell also made C-Lute's  sleeve for the sail, boom and yard.

With three sets of reef-points, Garth will be able to take Goldberry out in hair-raising conditions...

... and though I love heavy air, one thing is certain, when he does tuck in that third reef, my lil C-Lute will not be allowed to go out to play.

Goldberry is a Iain Oughtred-designed, high-class displacement vessel, a "Ness Yawl" - which means business, y'all.

Let's say that she'll handle a blow and take on some serious seas.

One of the first outings - before the leaves emerged

By comparison, the Passagemaker Dinghy seems more like a toy. Of course, that would not be fair at all.  The PMD was designed for an entirely different purpose.  

Goldberry and C-Lute both are wooden boats that have tan-bark lug sails and - each in their own way - have a rather old-fashioned, salty look. But that is where the similarity ends.

Goldberry is a classic boat made by a master craftsman.  

C-Lute is a first-timers attempt at wood-work.

Ghosting along - ready for some serious air!
The fact that it turned out looking rather nice gives credit to John Harris and CLC for creating a wonderful kit that can be built by anyone able to read and follow the instructions.

In light air, the PMD does surprisingly well. As light as she is, it takes only a wisp of  zephyr to get her going.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Out to C

Pardon a bit of shallow humor but this blogger is out to sea...

on C-Lute  ~~~_/)~~

Also, this here don't look like no "C" to me!  More like an "L" for little lake. So there!

On C-Lute this little lake sure seems quite a bit bigger than on my other weapon of choice (see below)

At some point, I hope to get a picture or two (or video) of  the Passagemaker Dinghy in action.

For now, at least you get to see a bit of my stitching handiwork on the boom and part of the the down-haul and snuffer configuration.

Truth be told, it was not exactly the kind of day that the weather frog was all excited about either.

All the same, there was enough wind (at times) to test out the small modifications and adjustments I had been working on.

I replaced the block with becket at the traveler with a block, becket and cam cleat. That turned out to be a major - albeit not inexpensive - improvement!

I hope to take her out a couple of more times before I transport C-Lute to the OkoumeFest 2011 which CLC sponsors once a year as an annual Rendezvous of CLC boat builders. It'll be a great opportunity to actually take C-Lute "out to sea" as well as to evaluate which kayak exactly I should plan to build next winter.

Pic not of me but of the guy who convinced me to install the trap.
For now, I need to do a final coat of satin on the outside of the top strake.

I had planned it all along and now that I have the name plate, I'll be able to do it.

In the meantime, whilst waiting for the varnish to cure, I am hanging out on the new trapeze wire that I set up on my Johnson-18.

Generally I sail the JN-18 with my trusted crew. However, single-handing my JN-18 from the trap is a total blast.

Not a bad place to be!!!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Getting to know her

Today was a sailor's gift.

Temperatures reached 82 at the lake and winds started between 5 - 10 then soon provided a steady 10 with gusts to 15. A few hours later it was all white-caps for extended periods.

Did I mention that I headed up to Moraine State Park? Who would have guessed?

The little video clip of a nice broad reach as she is purring along quite nicely, don't you think?

You might say that I had an opportunity to take my little skiff  through her paces.

I am accustomed to boats whose bows slices the waves. This one goes up a hill and down a hill.

I am accustomed to boats that jump on a plane when they reach a certain speed. This boat seems to be planing before it even starts... albeit a "lightness of being" sort of plane.

Since the PMD has an exceedingly short water line, I suspect that under a number of circumstances, the boat might be faster with a second crew aboard since it would obviously lengthen the water line and thereby the hull speed.

So far, I have only single handed the boat.

Initially I expected more boat speed by simply heeling the boat since that would also lengthen its line on the water. However, from my limited experience so far, I did not find this to work the way I'd expect. The boat tracks better when sailed flat. Surely, the skegg has something to do with that result.

My preliminary conclusion:
The PMD offers a comfortable and relatively dry ride, even when "the sheep come out to graze".  I have no doubt that on most points of sail the gunter rig with jib will out-sail the lug-rig. Downwind is an altogether different story. On a broad reach and run, the balanced lug-rig soars.

If after a bit of sailing fun you wish to do a little rowing, you drop the spars, roll up the sail with spars and then pull out the mast and lay right on top of the sails, or the other side. Then you can row without the mast rocking

C-Lute is a lovely boat.

It's hard to think back now that in December I had only started to sand the bare wooden strakes.

Friday, April 8, 2011

What's in a name?

Okay, the question has been raised by many. I finally must divulge the name of what may be the obvious choice to the attentive reader of this blog.

However, before I invoke her name for the first time, a few words of affirmation are in order:

When I first decided on this design, I immediately said to myself ...I'll build her and she'll be called "in a nutshell". Hence the title of the blog. And a nutshell she is. However, I soon came to realize that other similar designs were in fact called "Nutshell" and thus this possible name seemed just too obvious.

So, Nutshell became strictly the "working title" and I hoped that her proper name would reveal itself in the process of building her.

When it became clear to me why I had chosen this perhaps less likely candidate over several of the other beautiful hybrid sailing/rowing designs offered by CLC as a kit, I resolved that the musical theme needed to be invoked by the name since I was, after all, building a "floating lute". Silly me!

My son Isaac suggested a name that I loved: No strings attached.

Upon further contemplation it seemed however simply incorrect since a sailing vessel does, in fact, have a few strings attached. Though they are not called so, try plucking the taut double-purchase downhaul on the boom (attached to the deck) and you'll get some resonance or two (to be sure) if not exactly a chord. So, strings are attached. Sorry Isaac!
Any lover of Renaissance or Baroque music will be familiar with wooden recorders being tuned generally either in C or F. Well, even though lutes generally have various tunings (to the best of my knowledge "C" not being one of them) my particular lute appears to be tuned most definitely in "C".

So, there you are: Her name shall be C-Lute lute musing in the tune of seas.

And I understand that she is promising to strike up a few alluring sounds for anyone who sails her.

Ta-taaaah !!!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Boat floats

Moraine State Park
April 7, 2011
She's not sinking... my boat floats.

Okay, I'm not exactly surprised. In fact, I fully expected that result. Even so, after these past four months of regular ship-wrighting, it was gratifying to witness a positive outcome.

It had been several weekends of horrendous weather in these parts combined with the effects of a serious cold which conspired to delay the much awaited test launch.

Today, finally, on the tail end of my cold but with a brief opening in the weather window, I hooked up the trailer after a shortened day at work and headed up to Moraine State Park.

My first stop was at the Park Office in order to purchase a launch permit. Let's not risk the Park Warden confiscating my little lug-rig on its first day at sea, shall we?

Temps at 58 with cotton-ball skies and winds between 5-7 knots, it turned out to be an ideal first outing for this little pram-pup.

I wanted this first day to be private without audience and outside of a gazillion water foul, I found myself unobserved, able to mess leisurely with all the details of getting ready and figuring out

what to put where

and attach how etc.

Of course, on the down side, no action pictures of boat and skipper under away. That's for another time.

The launch was a cinch!

The wheel hubs did not even have to touch the water. I slightly lifted the bow and that cause the skegg of the boat to slide off the trailer rear roller... and off she swooshed into the water.

The rounded shape of the hull (without human ballast on it) makes it appear as though it's only skimming the water like a swallow briefly dipping into the waves in flight.

After raising the lug sail, inserting the dagger board and securing the oars, I pushed off. True, not much wind is needed to make her move. However, movement is all relative, isn't it? On one hand, she heeled nicely on easy puffs and conveyed the lovely sense of speed. Yet, after ten minutes of sailing on the same beat, I find that our little lake has gotten a whole lot bigger when sailed in the little nutshell.

Of course, as I freely admitted in the opening post of this blog, I am accustomed to hi-speed action on my Johnson-18 which readily jumps on a plane and under asymmetrical spinnaker broad reaches easily clocks close to 20 knots. I have no doubt that even a Sunfish would sail rings around the pram - and most certainly Garth's Goldberry.

As I develop a more intimate knowledge of the sailing characteristics of this design and the balanced lug-rig, I will talk shop in more detail. In the meantime, let it be said that I simply love the way it feels sailing the boat. The gurgles of the wavelets against the lap-strake hull are music to my ears. And - I love the simplicity of the lug-rig.

And one wonderful surprise! I discovered that the boat - perhaps aided by the tan-bark lug-sail - appears to provide an excellent camouflage cover for birding. Water foul was not alarmed at the sight of an approaching nutshell, bobbing along nearby. I had brought along my binoculars and spotted two pair of Northern Shovelers... not exactly that common to see in Moraine State Park. As I kept my lenses peeled on the closer pair, I failed to realize in my fascination that I was getting exceedingly close to a flock of about 200 double-crested Cormorants until a couple of them drifted into my view.

What a sight! Obviously, at one point, one Cormorant cawed to the other: this is getting too close for comfort... and started the mass movement, 200 large black birds, flying very low and close around me. Jaw-dropping view! I was in awe.

It was time to return and while winds had been sufficient to work the lug-rig, half-way back to the dock, I decided to drop canvas and try rowing. Around the dock there is generally little to no wind as was the case today or fluky puffs from all directions.

Dropping the lug rig is a piece of cake and you can easily stow it on the side out of the way. So, out come the oars and off you go ~~~ tracking rather beautifully.

The pram is a hybrid craft - neither a pure sailboat nor a pure rowboat. Instead, it is an all-around little ship to mess around in. It does both things quite nicely as long as you don't have false expectations.

I much enjoyed rowing my little vessel back to shore and happily declare the first outing a success.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Ready at Last - Sails Included

After some 200 hours of toiling for three months and seven days, March 20th was the day on which I finally pronounced my little ship to be seaworthy and good to go.

Phew! No spring fling this little winter project would be!

Also: I am happy to report that the ice on Lake Arthur has vanished. Instead, hundreds of Buffleheads and Mergansers are frolicking on the lake. A great opportunity to do some birding of early migrants, don't you think? This coming week does not look promising but I am keeping my fingers crossed for next weekend.

I had fiddled around with rigging the down-haul but now have a nice arrangement with a double purchase. I may set up a cam cleat on the mast step but that can wait.

It did take me quite a while to figure out an elegant method of attaching the sail to the boom and yard.

John Harris, the designer of the PMD (and owner of CLC), had suggested that these spars would probably be attached in a semi-permanent way much like the sail of a sunfish.

In response to my question, he suggested using the reefing knot where the two ends would be capped with a half-hitch thereby preventing the relatively loose knot to get undone. With an 1/8" line this obviously will work well,  and look pretty tidy.

However, after messing around with the lug sail and spars in my basement for some time, I found that it was impossible to flake the sail nicely with both spars attached.

I wanted therefore to be able to detach sail from yard relatively easily. This would allow me to flake the sail along the still-attached boom and then roll it around the yard for sail-kindly storage. With that objective in mind, the proposed knot would not be convenient. Eventually I came up with a solution that looks quite neat, can easily be undone and seemed practical.

I started with 20" pieces of 1/8" Dacron cord.

 After cutting the pieces, I dipped the ends in Liquid Rope Whipping.

I then folded the line in half and tied some whipping twine as though it were the end of a rope.

The result was a loop in the middle of the line which could be opened and closed by slipping the twine up and down like a quasi-zipper. 

The two ends were then threaded together through the noose...

...and knotted with a twin half hitch.

The Liquid Rope Whipping kept the two ends together quite nicely.

Voila! All that needed to be done now was to "zip up" and pull the double half-hitch toward the noose.

The resulting ring could now easily be opened and closed and slipped through the cringle in the sail and around the spar.

*  *  *

As it turns out, I really only need to open about five rings on the yard - after that, the yard simply slips out of the remaining cord rings.

In part I had complicated my task a bit since I stitched leather around the parts of boom and yard  which intersect with the mast of this balanced lug rig. More on that and other lug rig specific items in a future blog.

*  *  *

Broad-reaching up my driveway - ready for some real action!
So now, all that is left to do is to secure the boat on the trailer for a safe and kindly ride. When I initially place the boat in its trailer bunks, I realized that the boat would tow with more stability, if the skegg would rest on the end roller. So now that this has been corrected, the boat sits firmly on the bunks without rocking.

Ready to launch!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Hatch Now - Launch Later

Even though visiting friends had admired the work in progress, I know that deep down they seriously doubted that I'd be able to transport the boat to the outside without tearing down a couple of walls.

Admittedly, as the parts came together the boat looked a lot larger than I had pictured. My friends' raised eye-brows caused me to remeasure the door way more than once.

But I had faith in the instructions which clearly stated the needed minimum dimensions of the exit in order to hatch this little duckling unscathed. Accordingly I should have room to spare.

The final coat was applied to the outside and though there are a couple of minor surface tasks any job here on out can be accomplished with the boat on the trailer.

So, this past Sunday I called up my friendly neighbor and neighborly friend John for a steel-nerved assist.

First we did a dry run and placed a floor mat where we needed to put down the boat in order to step down a small ledge.

Then we hoisted the boat out of its cocoon - cracked the shell, as it were - and slipped it through the door with an amazing amount of room to spare. Wow, that was easier than I thought. THANK YOU, Sir John!

Though the launching date is still some time away, the boat on its new trailer is starting to look rather shippy and salty, don't you think?

As soon as the vessel sat on its bunks, I grabbed the wooden mast to see if and how it fit in the mast step. After all, this was the first time I had sufficient air space to raise the mast. It's an excellent fit. I will craft a little wedge to ensure that the mast has no room to pump.

After I was done admiring the virgin state of my PMD and figuring when and how I would install the hardware, I returned to the sun room / workshop to clean up a bit.

Gosh - I almost felt a bit sad that the main work was finished now and that I would have to relinquish my little workshop to more mundane living.

Anyway, I'm not done yet and besides, soon there will be the fun of sailing or rowing it. I will wait for a reasonably warm day to hoist the sail and to install the horn cleats on the mast and some other arrangement to control the down haul. The kit did not come with anything in regard to the down-haul, so I'll have to draw upon my little sailing bag of tricks.

Next time a word about the lug rig.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Satin Doll

As I began to think about the final look of my boat, I thought on one hand of the almost museum-quality creations of many fellow PMD builders as evidenced on their blogs and on the PMD Forum. In fact, my own vessel started to look like that after the fourth coat of varnish.

On the other hand, I considered the practical aspect of sailing and found the high gloss appearance not practical for two reasons: (1) I would anticipate that on the first heavy weather day it would scuff and scratch and (2) I thought that the super-smooth gloss would be too slippery with the first splash of water.

I was not even aware of the possibility of a finish other than the high-gloss varnish until I saw this picture which I came across as I was trying to figure out how my lug-rig components was intended to work.

I called CLC and yes, they do have another varnish BUT it does not offer UV protection. Therefore, you have to apply a minimum of three coats of the hi-gloss varnish before you can put on this other stuff.

As most of you know from conversations with your favorite house painters, the opposite of glossy is matte - (and yes, there is the dreaded semi-gloss but never mind that one.)  Not so in varnish terminology. I guess, matte sounds perhaps a bit too dreary for your average shipwright, no?

So, after five coats of high-gloss Schooner varnish...

First coat of Satin - with day light

...I am now applying Interlux Goldspar Satin. This is the varnish which will provide the finished look of the bright work, i.e. the entire inside of the boat as well as the top plank of the outside. I am planning on two coats - with you-know-what in between coats.

The foils will also shine in satin but I am not sure yet whether the mast, yard and boom will receive the same treatment.

Satin coat with artificial light
Instead of a shiny reflection of the high-gloss varnish, I am aiming for the amber glow of Okume wood - from within.

Heck! With enough coats of high gloss varnish you can make almost anything look pretty and sparkly but the sumptuous satin draws the eye below the surface and will only work on something that is worth looking at.

Besides -

this seems to make for a better contrast with the shiny Hatteras White of the lower strakes and rudder head, don't you think?!