Sunday, May 31, 2009

Hauling Boats

There are several oft-forgotten expenses when you have a canoe or kayak. They include little things like, oh, paddles, life jackets, wet/dry suits, and the biggie - racks. I don't own a large vehicle and transporting boats becomes a bit of a challenge sometimes. (I'll explain in a bit.)

Another thing to remember is that as the driver of the car, you are responsible to see that the load you carry is tied down securely and will not fly off the car. Besides, if you've built the canoe and it comes off the car, some serious depression is in the offing.

First, don't make the assumption that I'm endorsing a particular brand of rack, because I'm not. My brother has had Thule and been very pleased with them. I've had Yakima and been pleased with those. I'm sure if I'd bought Thule brand products, I'd be fine with that. There are plenty of good rack products out there - look for the most flexible (in terms of fitting different vehicles), durable and cost-effectve solution for your pocketbook. I've also seen some really neat home-made racks too - there are lots of options.

After having had a commercial rack since 1991, I have come to realize that in some respects they can be relatively inexpensive over time. I purchased a set of Yakima Q-Towers, 48" wide bars, locks and kayak cradles. They were originally purchased to fit on a Chevrolet Prizm. With a change of two of the Q-Clips and some re-adjustment, they fit a Pontiac Sunfire, and then with 2 other clips, a Volkswagen Passat. Last year, I sold the Passat and bought a Honda Civic. I was desperate for some new Q-Towers as the old ones were showing their age in a bit way from sun damage. The 48" bars finally became obsolete as a set of 58" bars were specified for the Honda. For the amount I used those bars and Q-Towers, they really don't owe me anything.

Here is a picture of the rack on the Honda with a new fairing to try to reduce drag and wind noise - keep in mind that the racks are 32" apart.

Once you have the basic rack, you need to have other goodies to put your boat on the rack. (...or bike, skis, etc. - you get the picture, right?) Personally, for my Wee Lassie canoe, I prefer foam blocks. I actually use them with the rack. As you can see, there are two holes in the blocks - a round-ish one and a wider one. I slide the round part over the bars of the rack and put the gunnels of the canoe in the other slots. When tied down tightly, the blocks behave like springs, keeping the tension on the straps holding the boat down. More importantly, the rack is slick and the blocks make it difficult to get the canoe to move fore and aft at all. It is possible to use just foam blocks on the roof of your car with a good set of tie down ropes - probably the cheapest way to move a canoe, but I've seen people badly dent and scratch the roof of their car by tying the boat down too tightly.

For my fiberglass sea kayak (Yeah, I've got one and no, I didn't build it!) I use the hull cradles. They have built in straps which hold the boat in place. I center the cockpit of the kayak in between the cradles and the straps hold just in front of and behind the cockpit keeping the boat from sliding forward or aft. I've never needed a bow line. It's a slick solution.

This next do-dad is a Hullraiser which allows you to stand a kayak or even a small canoe up on it's side. The cinch-straps came with the Hullraiser, but I use them for carrying my canoe on the rack. When trying to carry more than one boat, this is handy for making rack space. Keep in mind that you have a maximum weight capacity for the rack - mine is 125 pounds.

As I said earlier, the racks on my car are only 32" apart - kinda close together for a 18' canoe. For that problem, I made a home-made accessory out of some 2"x3" lumber, a few bolts a bit of foam and some U-Bolts to hold it onto the rack - works like a charm.

Whatever you choose - keep it safe, simple and reasonable.

Friday, May 29, 2009

How, why?

Not that it's a huge problem, but I'm still trying to figure out how I wound up with Arthur Dent's Tea Towel of Despair as a bath towel.

A bit more coverage would be nice.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The View from Here

Is just a little bit gray today. It made me think back longingly to the wonderful weather we had this past weekend.

This past weekend was Memorial Day. The weather was clear and warm with a nice breeze which was perfect for our plans. We always make it a point to attend the local parade to honor those who have served and those who have fallen defending the country. My DW did a nice post on it here. It's home-town Americana in a Norman Rockwell sort of way. We then invited my father to join us for a picnic lunch of sorts.

For me, one of the nice things about the day is that I get a day off and get to spend some time with the family and some time relaxing. My DW had invited some friends of DS and DD over to play for a few hours in the afternoon, so while they were playing together in the sprinkler, I decided with the nice weather and breeze that I'd get in a little hammock time. It was just a tad too breezy to go paddling, or I would have grabbed the boat and gone. (Well, OK - that and the fact that I've got to set up the new rack for the car...) I quite enjoyed the view:

I must admit, however, that I sometimes have a hard time relaxing. After some time spent just sitting and thinking about various things, I started to get down to that point where you're ready to consider naval lint and was noticing a few dead branches in my view. This led me down the path of thinking of those things in the yard that need doing. So, I got down out of the hammock and got some tools and started to do a bit of yard work.

When I finally assuaged the guilt of sitting doing little for a few minutes, I decided that I'd earned a bit more hammock time. As I arrived at the hammock, what did I see but this:

DD had co-opted the hammock from me and was relaxing in it with a book. Seems she knows how to relax. I guess I need to take a few lessons.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Monday, May 25, 2009

A sad day.

Philip C. Bolger was a very prolific and unconventional designer of boats. He and his wife Susanne Altenburger really turned the world of traditional boat design on it's head by asking the questions "why?" and "why not?" Creative, unconventional and both highly influential and controversial would all be good descriptions of the man's thought process and desings. I cannot even begin to imagine the number of boats that have been build from their designs. He designed over 600 boats, including the iconic Micro and Birdwatcher designs. The body of work that he created was both wide and deep and it is frankly difficult to pick any one design to represent his work.

Two years ago, Mr. Bolger's work was recognized by WoodenBoat Magazine at a dinner held in his honor at the WoodenBoat show at Mystic Seaport.

Sadly, yesterday morning, Mr. Bolger decided that in the light of declining mental faculties that he would take his own life. His loss creates a hole in the boat-building world that will not likely be filled for a long, long time. Our condolences to his wife Susanne, family and friends.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

John Gardner Small Craft Workshop

Mystic Seaport is having their annual John Gardener Small Craft Workshop on the weekend of June 6th and 7th, 2009 at the Seaport. It is a wonderful opportunity to check out traditionally built small craft and to go on a row/sail/paddle down the Mystic River. This has been one of the highlights of small craft events on the East Coast and is a great opportunity.

Last year the event was cancelled and it would be a shame to see this go by the wayside for lack of participation. If you have an interest, be sure to register yourself (and your boat, if you're bringing it...) online at the Seaport's website.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Tech Tip Tuesday

Feature strips - again.

I just thought that this would be an interesting post. One of my former students is building another canoe. We ripped stock at his shop about a month ago and had a good time doing it. The feature strip that he has planned for his canoe is unique. I don't think I've seen one quite like it elsewhere. It's basically a sine wave of white cedar sandwiched between two pieces of Peruvian Walnut.

Impressive, no?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Alex Low : Trad Rad

Galena (AKA Cockle)

Alex Low is a talented and hard-working boatbuilder on Gabriola Island in British Columbia and has been spoiling the members of the WoodenBoat Forum by allowing us to follow along on his build of a replica of a J.R. Purdon cutter that is at Mystic Seaport - Cockle. This particular boat was known by several names including Galena and Fox. This boat is a particularly large daysailer at nearly 19' long, and a displacement of about 5400 pounds. Both his website and the thread at the WoodenBoat Forum have a spectacular set of pictures taking you through the build process.

Keep in mind that although they had done a great deal of groundwork in getting the lines for the boat, lofting and arranging for materials, the actual building process started back in November. I'm going to abbreviate the process significantly, but I urge you to follow the links above to see the progress of their work

The main keel members were cut from Douglas Fir. Below are a few pieces from out in the yard - and they are the small ones! The keel timber itself was especially impressive as was the framing saw they used to cut it!

The next shot is nice as it shows the well-lit workspace they are in as well as the molds (against the rear wall), lofting (on the floor) and the keel timbers rabbeted and assembled in an upright position. Note the notches for the ribs.

The ribs are all steamed Pacific Yew - a very tough, but flexible choice for this location.

I particularly like the next shot. It shows the stern timber and the ribs and complexity of the rabbet looking up over the transom. Truly beautiful workmanship!

Starting at the keel, they attached the garboard planks which were of Douglas Fir. The remainder of the planking is Western Red Cedar.

About a week ago, the whiskey plank went on. Alex posted this beautiful shot. I think he should be selling posters of this myself. The light is cool and the shape is awesome even if the hull isn't faired yet!

They have the goal of completing this boat to have it in Port Townsend, Washington in the fall. Personally, I think that they're going to reach that goal. Particularly if they are working this fast.

It's been hard work, but Alex and his friends have made it look easy and done a beautiful job on the build in the process!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Tech Tip Tuesday

You will probably think that I'm off my rocker today, but bear with me. (Pun intended.) This post really goes along with my earlier "P-rule" post. As you know from some of my other posts I am working on a new project - a skin on frame kayak. Perhaps because I am an engineer (and bear of little brain), I like to be able to think about my boatbuilding a bit trying to make the method work better or easier. This is particularly true of new projects whether it be a new design or build method. It's really important to sit and think through the process before beginning. In boatbuilding, the materials can be expensive and the processes relatively irreversable. You want to head off your mistakes before they happen.

While most boat building books refer to the "moaning chair", where you sit after the mistake has happened and put the tools down so you don't either a) do more damage or b) hurt yoursef, I am of the Pooh school of thot and vote for the "thotful spot". It's pre-emptive in nature. It should be a quiet, comfortable space where you can work undisturbed. Sit in your "thotful spot" with a "restorative beverage" (Thanks, Greg Rössel!) and some books, paper, plans or whatever helps you visualize what you are about to do. Work it through however it works best for you before you actually go and do the work. I find this method to be very helpful. If you find yourself at an impasse, don't let the "thotful spot" become the "moaning chair" - go and find another resource or ask someone who may know. It works a lot better!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Da Goof.

A friend, former co-worker, fellow enginerd and boat-building student has put up a good blog about work, family, home and hobbies. It's got some posts that seem to ring a bit close to home sometimes, but are particularly interesting. Today's post on his blog is about his work and is quite interesting. To describe what he does would be rather complicated. Suffice it to say that the picture above is of what they make. In simplistic terms, it is RADAR.

One of the major applications of this type of RADAR is weather monitoring. On Da Goof's site are some links to Weather Channel videos about how this equipment is used for tornado chasing!


Sunday, May 10, 2009

Thursday, May 7, 2009

A journey of a thousand miles...

Doesn't always begin with the first step. Sometimes it begins with the first paddle stroke.

Birch bark canoe builder Erik Simula has just started on a 1000 mile trip around Lake Superior that will follow the routes of some of the Voyageur who trapped and traded along the Arrowhead Route in Northern Minnesota.

You can follow Erik's progress on his blog.

Good luck, Erik!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Tech Tip Tuesday

Ok, it's only a teaser, but here are some images...

More to come...