Friday, August 19, 2016

_______________________ THE CANOE YAWL (2) _____________________

The ironic thing about canoe yawls is that strictly speaking these wonderful little boats are not always yawls. Technically many are actually ketches because the mizzen mast is in front of the rudder head. Neither are they always canoes. Although the hull is double ended like a canoe the more evolved types are never paddled like a canoe, rather they are rowed with long sweeps. It gets even more complicated considering that many canoe yawls, although double ended, do not have the celebrated 'true' drawn out 'canoe stern', their sterns being more like that of the Colin Archer type. So the appellation 'Canoe Yawl' is a broad reference to a 'type' - both the early yawl rigged canoes that were also paddled and the bigger boats that evolved over many years in the UK of which a modern example is shown in the above photograph.

This particular canoe yawl (above) is the beautiful little 18 foot Nutmeg designed and built in the UK by David Moss. She is a modern build of the type and includes all the elements that make these little boats so enticing and pleasing to look at.

A brief history of the evolution of the canoe yawl which is inextricably linked to the Humber Yawl Club of the late 19th Century will be the topic of subsequent blog post.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

_______________________ THE CANOE YAWL _____________________

Shipmates, today my long awaited copy of Richard Powells new book 'The Canoe Yawl' arrived trailing two mysteries in its canoe stern wake. The first is a postal mystery. Published by Lodestar Books 71 Boveney Road London, printed in Spain, it arrived in my letterbox with a big green Swedish Post Tulldeklaration (Customs Declaration) CN22 sticker and 'Posten Sverige' stamp from Malmo, Sweden - Go figure that! These are the wondrous mysteries that engage the mind of this retiree - don't laugh shipmates, your time will come, your time will come.

'The Canoe Yawl' is a fine companion to another older Lodestar Books publication - John Leathers, 'Albert Strange; Yacht Designer and Artist'. Needless to say I am voraciously devouring my new books contents. It's from its early pages that I have learnt that a third version of John MacGregors 'Rob Roy' canoe circa 1897 survives to this day as part of the National Small Boat Collection in the UK at the National Maritime Museum Cornwall, at Falmouth. I didn't know that. (The Voyage Alone in the Yawl Rob Roy - 1865).

The second mystery relates to the photograph on the cover of 'The Canoe Yawl' . It is a mystery more easily felt if you have the book on your knee when you look at it, but you can get some inkling by looking at the above photograph. There is an immediacy about some old photographs despite their age or sepia tint. It feels as if the photo was taken yesterday. As I gaze at the light glistening off the water on the windward side of this little yawl designed by the gifted Albert Strange, time seems to dissolve. Yet the photograph of the little yawl 'Birdie' was taken in 1897.

John Leathers book (above) and John Powells book 'The Canoe Yawl' were built in similar boatyards. They both explore the voyaging exploits and yacht designing talents of the Canoe Yawls forefathers. Both books contain numerous designs and photographs surrounded by tantalizing text of the type that will keep those possessed by canoe yawl madness enthralled and shouting across the ocean for yet another book.

Friday, August 12, 2016

___________________ SORTING THE WORKBENCH (3) ___________________

The workbench has finally been sorted. The larger renovated 'Record No 52' vise has been secured in place and the previous small vise relocated on the end of the workbench where it will be handy for holding things that require cutting.

In its original wobbly form (and without a vise) this bench saw out its time as a handy workbench when I was renovating the Starling dinghy. You don't need big expensive kit to do things.

Like most things that you want to endure they need to be placed on a sure footing. Raising the table and placing it on some chunky wooden bearers and hefty solid feet was the first stage.

The second stage was cladding and a couple of shelves. This stiffened up the structure immensely.
I am pleased with the work bench renovation and now have a good solid work station to wile away my time on various projects of a nautical nature.

Spending time on something you love helps the mind to concentrate on only one thing at a time, its a 'mindfulness' exercise of sorts. It is meditative, absorbing and turns off the deluge of chatter that characterizes the 'monkey mind' that plagues our waking existence.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

___________________ SORTING THE WORKBENCH (2) ___________________

The renovations on my outside workbench are pretty much completed. The addition of extra timber strengthening, cladding and shelving has added greatly to the weight of the bench and made it hefty and stable. I am sure it won't creep across the carport when I am hammering away on something in the vise as it has done in the past.

The current vise on the workbench is too small and light to cope with the sort of work I will be using the workbench for. So I am cleaning, painting and restoring an old spare vise that I have had stored away for just this occasion.

Recently when I was sorting my small workshop I also sorted the workshop vise. I cleaned, greased and repainted it and it is now fit for many more years of use. The vise I am renovating here is the same model and size as this newly restored workshop vise and will look exactly the same when cleaned up and bolted in place on the outside workbench.

The question now is - do I paint the newly renovated outside workbench or leave it au naturel ?

Monday, August 8, 2016

___________________ LAST OF THE WINTER SERIES ___________________

Yesterday the last of the winter centerboard racing series was held at One Tree Point Yacht club, about three quarters of an hours drive from Whangarei on the southern side of Whangarei harbour.
The OTPYC is one of the nicest on the shores of Whangarei harbour being close to the water on a narrow headland with approximately 220 degree views of the harbour.

The weather was cold and a bit rugged at 20 knots with continual squalls approaching 25 - 30 knots making the upwind hiking taxing on my old legs but the downwind rides wild and exhilarating.
Most of the courses in this series have been  windwind - leeward races only but yesterdays races contained a triangle. So the course was: Start - windward - triangle - windward - leeward - windward - finish. I like the triangle part of the course because the boat is broad leading and planing very fast - the problem is that a fast and efficient passing of the buoy requires a gybe, which is a precarious manoeuvre especially in high winds.

In the above selfie I have just changed into dry clothes after coming ashore. I have two big lumps on my head having been belted from gybing booms. I also have a cut hand after a spectacular capsize in the last race (how it got cut I don't know).

Luckily for this very cold skipper my brother Tony was at hand with a steaming cup of tea, having driven out in his camper van to watch the racing. He had passed the time watching the races and getting regular updates on the Olympics on his TV (hence the satellite dish) - I hope our Kiwi sailors in Brazil do better in their respective races than I did on the cold winter waters of Whangarei harbour.

The Starling dinghy I am racing has a recommended weight range of 50kg - 70kg and I am 90kgs + This fact has made me rethink the sort of dinghy I want to race in the coming years. I think I need a bigger centerboarder, one that I can safely gybe without having to wear a crash helmet. The NZ Zephyr class is looking most attractive at the moment. Despite my love of OK dinghies which has always been my preferred bigger boat option I have noticed some of the older OK skippers sailing out of Whakatere Yacht Club in Auckland wearing protective helmets - I know why. The NZ Zephyrs boom is quite high and would easily clears my head in a crash gybe - so maybe this boat is an option worth investigating.

NZ Zephyr Class Centerboard Dinghy

The Des Townson designed NZ Zephyr class yacht is a bigger (round bilge rather than hard chine) version of my Townson Starling dinghy. There is a strong class association with many of the skippers older sailors getting back into sailing. These boats are much sort after and pretty expensive.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

____________________ SORTING THE WORKBENCH ____________________

The top photograph is of my outdoors workbench which has been modified from its first use as a general purpose outside table ( Here it is in its original condition on the left in the lower photograph).

I first modified the table by fitting a small vise. But I found the bench far too low and awkward to use. Despite this I have actually done a power of work on it at the low height of 67cm ( 2 foot 2 1/2 inches).

The height of the workbench in my small workshop is 94 cm ( 3 foot 1 inch). I was going to raise the outdoor workbench to this height but I then remembered a chapter I had read in L. Francis Herreshoffs' book The Compleat Cruiser (Note the American spelling of 'Complete'!). In Chapter 2 Herreshoff provides a nice diagram of an amateur workshop and discusses many things including bench heights.....

"............. I used to do the planing of planks on the long bench, which is 35 inches high, like most benches, but you can certainly plane easier on a table 29 1/2 inches high. It is the general custom to have the top of the vise right at the height of a man's elbow, believing that one can file straighter and evener at this height, but I prefer a vise one or two inches lower than this because the work itself is generally held above the vise".

By simply using timber I had in hand I have compromised between the height of my small workshop bench and Herroshoffs recommendations and obtained a good working height that fits my own body height and way of working.

So the comparisons now break down like this:

Workshop bench height = 37 inches  (94 cm)
Original unmodified outdoor table height = 26.5 inches (67cm)
New outdoor workbench height = 32.5 inches (82.5 cm)
Herreshoffs recommendation = 29.5 inches (74.93 cm)

This issue of heights may seem to some to be a trivial thing but I can assure you that if you are putting in hours at a time at a workbench then it's imperative that you make sure that the working height is comfortable.
Further modifications will be to provide some diagonal bracing at either end of the table to make the whole outfit as rigid as possible and the addition of some plywood shelves to hold tools and lengths of wood etc.