Monday, July 9, 2018

Starting to Build a Rig

Now that we are settled in and the four-foot grass is mostly mowed down etc, the next thing to do is to start putting a rig on Corncake. We started by cutting out 2x4s into 1.5” strips for battens, then extra half inch thick strips to add to the other side of the polytarp sail as retaining battens. My theory was that if the retaining battens were firmly bound to the main batten, as well as fastened so that they were not free to move against each other in shear, they would have most of the strength of 2” thick battens. This very well may be too light scantlings and prove unsatisfactory. Time will tell.

We stained them a handsome red with some left over stain. If it looks blotchy and somebody says my stain job looks like a four-year-old did it, I can heartily agree.

Here you see yard on the right, with battens and the noodle-like retaining battens on the left

 With all the wood bits made, it was time to lay out the sail on a 15x30 white polytarp. The material isn't ideal, but I get the feeling this is not the final sail for Corncake, and if she sees enough use for the sun to bother it, that good for us! 

 Arne Kvernland drew this sail for me, for which I am very grateful. 

 Here you see the general idea. I slid the main batten under the sail, then lined up the fabric on top, laid on the skinny batten, and screwed through all with the supposedly high-quailty coated deck screws that resist corrosion bla bla bla. We'll see. 

I love a man with knobbly knees!

Then I tied double constrictor knots on nylon seine twine, poking through the sail cloth to bind the battens powerfully together.  I tied marlinspike hitches onto two spikes, stepping on one (on a wooden pad) and hauling on the other. I think this compresses the two together really nice, judging from the way the twine mashes the wood as it tightened. I only broke the twine once, whipping the living crap out of my right hand. 

When the parts are assembled, I find the result rather smart looking, if I do say so myself.  If anyone has an opinion about this, please let fly. My only doubt is when the retaining batten is on the weather side of the sail and it gets really windy. Will it hold up? 

When it was all done, I took the boat out to the yard and hauled up the naked sail, which immediately assumed its natural cocked position.  The sail weighed 70 lbs and the 3 part halyard allowed the kids to haul the sail up most of the way themselves. I would have no problem going four parts, but the friction would make the sail hard to get down, I think. 

Here the sail is restrained aft by a tack parrell. Lots of work remains to be done. Setting up batten parrells, proper topping lifts, and other running rigging. 

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Full Circle

  After almost eight months out of the country we are back in town. Here's a recap of what we've been up to.

Outside Nanasca Hostel in Nazca, Peru

We tried out the backpacker's life in Peru. As you can see, its hard to pack light with two small kids. 

We tried to do as much couchsurfing as we could. 

Outside the city of Ica

 I absolutely fell in love with the desert.  The mountains were nice, too, but we didn't do any really intrepid backpacking there.

Uros Floating Islands
 We took one of those motor launch tours of lake Titicaca.  Here we stopped on the well known floating islands made of totora reeds.

They also use the reeds to make boats such as this real boat...

and this fake one, which they use to carry tourists from island to island. I believe they stuff them with soda bottles, so the ancient ones wouldn't have floated so nice. It was fun.  Very tourist-oriented, but still fun. they row these things pretty well between two. 

Here I am taking my trick at the oar.

We finally made it to my wife's home country of Uruguay, where we spent over six months.

Suzuki Maruti Alto 800
 We bought a car.

We explored the wide open spaces of Uruguay. It really is a wonderful place to explore. 

We did some car camping.

And installed ourselves on her family's orange farm.

We even got to do some sailing on a friend's boat on El Lago de Salto Grande.
It was six of the best months of my life. 

Now we are back home, getting settled, and getting ready for the next phase of life. Stay tuned for news about CORNCAKE and her sailing rig...

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Cold Storage

I haven't talked much about our lives outside the project so far, but here goes...  We have quit our jobs with the school system so that we may spend part of a year in my wife's home city of Salto, Uruguay in the bosom of her family.  The kids will develop those important bonds with their grandparents, finally learn the language (we should have taught them), and get to know the other half of their cultural roots.

  In the mean time, being unemployed has been the sweetest bliss you can imagine.  Euphoria, rapture, supreme elyssium!

There are some loose ends to tie up, though. For example, storing this boat out of the elements.

  Sure, I could just put the boat in the workshop, but then I wouldn't have a workshop anymore. I just had my dad to saw up some 2x6's and I cut the metal roof back a bit and scabbed them on to the existing rafters.

  The boat itself made a really nice scaffolding to stand on while I set the rafters and nailed on the purlin boards.

  Camila, of course, had to make her own building beside my building.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Post-Eclipse Report

 Shipwreck on the Pond

 Well, after floating around on her anchor for three weeks, the obvious thing happened:  The rode twisted up.  It unlayed so bad that the eye splice in the end came undone and it was gone!   I came up the hill one day and found the boat against the bank.    

   We found the anchor eventually, by stretching a string across the pond and swimming  back and forth under it, dragging a magnet on a string.  Every pass, Ale would move the string over 6 inches and I would do it again. After about 4 feet and 20 passes, I found it, swam down to it, unearthed it, and pulled it up.  I have no pictures of this, unfortunately.  But lesson learned: If you are anchoring for a long time, use a swivel!

Spar Craft.

There were masts to make.

  I started by scarphing up some 2x stuff from the store for mast staves or, better said, laminations, since it is a lammed-up solid mast. I find a chainsaw a great tool for doing 90% of the beveling before I put the boards in my router jig.  I fancy sometimes that if I used thickened epoxy, I could dispense with the router jig altogether and just scarph with chainsaw alone.

  Here I've got all three lams scarphed up and ready to glue.  I have a groove down the middle to take copper pipe as both conduit for the masthead light.

 I put a T in it right below the mast pin for the wire to pass out of the mast while the conduit continues down the mast, ultimately being mashed flat to be bent around the back face of the mast to make contact with the grounding system in the boat.

I have been really bad about taking pictures, so I don't have anything else of the mast.  I didn't fully octogon it, I just sort of radiused the corners and sanded it.  The head, I left square and routed out a shoulder on it to take a square mast head fitting.  Much easier to weld up than to find pipe of the perfect size lying around.

I bent the tabs to 45degrees except  the one that was to take the main halyard, which I bent a little less.  Not that it probably matters.

 I decided on a mizzen mast about 14 feet above partners, 3" tapering to 1 1/2" at the tip.  This is a little beefier than it would be for a laced-on leg-o-mutton sail of this size in a smaller boat, but this boat ain't gonna be heeling much from the force against this sail.  It's just going to stand there and take it.

   Here you see the two long 2x4's I glued up for the mizzen.  Notice that bend???    Well, I was being called to dinner just as I was clamping them up and in my haste, I forgot to assure myself that the whole thing was resting flat and straight.   So, the result is an incorrigibly bent mast.

 My first impulse was to use it for something else and make a new one.   Then I thought,

  "Wait a minute...   Don't people bend masts on purpose???"

  So, I rounded it up...

And sanded it...

  And now I have a slightly bent mizzen mast.  My thinking is that if I cut the sail perfectly flat, or with very little draft indeed, the forward bend of the mast will induce some belly in there, so the mizzen can contribute a little driving power in its own right, then, when I want to use it as a steadying sail to reef,  or to fix something,  or to ride at anchor,  I can tighten the snotter  and take the bow out of the mast, flattening the sail.

  ***Opinion Solicitation****

  Please chime in with comments about whether this is a good idea, all of you folks who feel you know.  I am unsure of this.

   Here I have set up a big old genoa someone gave me as a solent lugsail.  I never got to use it on this trip, but it was free.

Off Center Board.

For this, I glued up staves of 2x stock.

I did some of the initial shaping with my favorite precision tool.

Not to brag or anything, but sometimes I think I could do a vasectomy on a mosquito with that thing.

  Then I take out the chainsaw marks with the hand plane.

  Here I've got a shoulder routed out and 1/4" plywood put into both sides (one side shown) to make a place for a stick to tie the raising line onto.

This is the finished product before glassing.

  And here it is glassed and painted.  I was out of black, so it's all yellow for now.    

 ***Another Opinion Solicitation****

   You can see here the how far down the fulcrum is from the top.  The proportion of board below the pivot point is about 3.6:1.   I was forced by my choice of window height to put the upper OCB guards as low as I have, resulting in this unfortunate-looking leverage picture.  I am not worried about when the board is on the leeward side, since it won't have to bend far before it rests on the chine. When it is on the windward side, however, the withdrawal forces acting on the pivot bolt which result from the press of 200 square feet of sail should be significant.  Add the dynamic forces of waves or the sudden tripping in a broach, and I find it troubling. I  am too uneducated about how to do the math and too inexperienced to judge this, so please-  Comment With Your Opinion!

Maiden Voyage

  We decided to make the eclipse weekend the maiden voyage.  Here we are putting into lake Hartwell at Big Water Marina.  You can see the mast lying politely in its little chocks.  

 Lake Hartwell is full of muddy little islands with the occasional sandy beach.  We had a blast just motoring around from place to place.  

Plenty of room to put stuff.

This is what the kids did 90% of the time.

Beautiful skies.

  It was extra hot.  We had to retreat further and further into the bush to get shade as the day went on. 

  This is a sand birthday cake.  We ate a lot of those.

We were blessedly spared the bugs, don't ask me why.  We could sleep with the cover completely off and not get bit.   Here is Ale reading to them in their hammocks.  I can't say we slept great.  There is still a lot of adjustments to make.   The noise the bow makes at anchor is something I knew to expect and I am able to be philosophical about.  We'll see in slightly bigger waves.  

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Big Update

 I kind of got away from blogging for a while there, didn't I?  Someone told me that deadlines were essential and so I gave myself one:  July 4th.  So I have been going a little crazy getting the boat somewhat "ready" for a launching here in our own pond.  I had planned on a more ambitious launching by now.  I had hoped, anyway, that I would have been able to take the family out on some kind of cruise, albeit sans sailing rig, by the beginning of July.

   Well, it just ain't so.  To get it that ready, that soon, would have required me to be on solid, 10 hour days for the past month and a half, and I just have too much other stuff to do to help run an off-grid home with 2.5 children. So, it's a pond launching.  But first, some details you missed.....


We painted the decks, first with a product called "Restore 10x" which I happened to have laying around.  It is supposed to rejuvenate really old exterior wood.  It has plenty of sand in it, so I thought it would make a good non-skid.  Then, we went over that with a paint that Lowes sells for barns and fences, supposedly.  It's nearly flat and it's cheap, so I tried it.

The interior, we did with two different colors of exterior semi-gloss, blue and green. Lucia was my big painter. 

The topsides paint was a flat exterior yellow from Lowes.   Lucia really enjoyed that.  I didn't clean her up when she got bored and left. She went and hugged Agustina (who cares about her clothes) and I was in deep doo-doo.

So why the garish color combinations?   Well, I feel a boat like this is somewhat liberated from aesthetic considerations.  I mean,  a weird, boxy boat painted tastefully is still weird and boxy, so just be fun, I say:  YOLO!  (I can't believe I used that word)


I just used the extra cloth from the decks and sheathed around the chines and up to the top of the doubler plates.

It was hard getting it to lay smooth with the thickened epoxy and one side is definitely better than the other, but oh well.

 Then I took two 20' joints of 1 1/2" angle steel and put little runners on the chines (runners like santa has, not like Matt Layden's).

Once I ground off all the mill scale, I bedded them in with coal tar epoxy thickened with sanding dust. The kerfs I cut so the steel would take the curves squeezed out the pucky in a most satisfying way and I feel pretty good about the prospects for longevity.

Rails and Wales

With the decks painted, we could get those rails on.

I got Ale to do the tedious hand sanding inside the holes on the rails.

Camila loved popping out the little plugs you make with a plug cutter for the screw holes.


We put the windows on with Big Stretch.


  I had to put in new blocks to give me access to the bottom to paint it with coal tar epoxy. Then I had to drag out the old blocking system with the car.  Good thing I screwed it all together!


Once the bottom paint hardened up, I put some boards on an old pontoon boat trailer I bought for the purpose from the local tractor an equipment dealer.   I hung a 2 ton chain hoist from the ridge beam of the shed and cut a hole in the floor of the loft to let the hook down through.  Then I passed a strap under the boat just aft of where the curve starts and hoisted it up off the front blocks.

 Then my dad helped me back the trailer in under it.  He's an old truck driver and I suck at fancy backing.

  We backed it in until the back of the trailer made contact with the bottom.  Then we unhitched and used the trailer winch to pull the tongue up some and slide the trailer in more.

  Then we set the bow down on the trailer and pushed and winched, winched and pushed, inch by grunting inch, until it was all the way on.

Then we hooked the truck back up and the monster came out of its den.

That floppy, unfinished board you see is just a temporary one I put in there so it wouldn't be like bambi on the ice.

Thanks, Dad, I couldn't have done it without ya!

Launch Day 

We had some folks over for a bit of a party.  We had hot dogs, some champagne, a pound cake, etc.  Some friends came with their grandkids.

I ran my mouth for a minute, gave a votive offering of champagne to Lord Neptune, anointed the boat, thanked friends and family, and backed it in. 

  I had planned to make a triumphant victory lap around the pond with the boat full of whooping kids, filling the adults on the shore with awe and envy.  Instead, I demonstrated an exercise in anticlimax.  The motor, which had run like an honest-to-god sewing machine three weeks earlier in the shop, wouldn't run for more than ten seconds on launch day.   Oh well.  Jeff gave me a mighty push, which just got us in to the middle of the pond where I dropped anchor.  

The Name

 The name I chose for the boat came from a misunderstanding of the lyrics of this song: 

  I understood it to say CORN CAKE, which I found to be a wonderful name for a boat. The song is actually about a steamship called the CORNCRAKE, which is  a type of bird.  Oh well, it's still a good name and even if you do name it CORNCRAKE, everybody will hear CORNCAKE anyway. So, CORNCAKE it is!   

What now?

   I need a vacation from this project.  There is still plenty of work to be done, even to go on a rig-less cruise.  Little details that make life on a boat easy: properly secured potty, dedicated stowage for this and that, steps, etc.  If I were going to do all that, I would do nothing else all summer.  So... I'm going CAMPING!!!