Thursday, October 29, 2009


As I alluded to in my last post, I've changed my 'regular' job. I say 'regular' job because it is my where the majority of my earnings come from and what I trained for in college. I really have two jobs - the one that I go to during the week and teaching canoe building on the weekend. Basically, I am a mechanical engineer and would be known in the trade as a packaging engineer. For the past 14 years, I was specifying, designing and overseeing the manufacturing of opto-mechanical/electro-optical systems. I must say it was a very interesting job and I am very grateful to my previous employer for the opportunities that I've had to do interesting things. There was never a dull moment. However, I was outgrowing the job that I was doing and it was time for me to move on.

I finished up the period of notice at my previous employer on Tuesday and immediately started my new job on Wednesday.

At my new job, I am still working as a packaging engineer, but I'm not packaging optical systems anymore. I can't really explain it in detail, but suffice it to say that it's a lot more technical than my last job and a lot more intense in some regards. I don't know if you are old enough to recall the old Memorex tape ad at the top of this post, but it is a good analogy to starting a new job like the one I've begun. Suffice it to say that I'm the guy in the chair and the job is coming out of the speaker.

As anyone who starts a new job, I have lots to learn, but believe that I also have lots to offer my new employer. I'm well versed with the tools that I will be using to do my job. (Even though I am still waiting for some of the tools that I need and trying to decide which tools will help me do my job better and faster...) I have actually already started the re-design of an existing product, which amazes me a bit, but the only way to get good at what you are doing is to do it. My greatest satisfaction is that I can actually see my progress in only two days on the new job!

Monday, October 26, 2009

A bit of change...

With the change of season, I'm also going to be having some other changes in my life. My morning drive will be changing and over the past few weeks I've been taking some pictures to remind me of some of the sights that I've enjoyed over these many years.

I hope you've enjoyed them as much as I have.

Friday, October 23, 2009

A Few More Blogs

I'm obviously not the only blogger out there, and certainly not the only one doing small boats as a topic. One of my favorite sites was one I was introduced to through the gentleman who put it together over at the WoodenBoat Forum. The man in question was David J. Fleming III, aka "Tugboat Dave" and "O&O West Coast". Mr. Fleming was a kind and modest gentleman who shared his wealth of wisdom and experience with woodworking and traditional wooden boat building and repair with others. His website, Welcome to Sag Harbour is a treasure-trove of boatbuilding wisdom from a tradition that is not what it once was. Sadly, Mr. Fleming passed away last year and I have no idea how much longer his website will be around. I strongly urge you to take a look around his site while it's still there.

Another great blog that I'm really remiss in not sharing sooner is 70.8%. This blog is written by "mostly armchair sailor" Thomas Armstrong and "70.8%" is a reference to the amount of the Earth's surface that is covered with water. The blog postings are relatively infrequent, perhaps about 6-10 a month. What he lacks in posting quantity, he makes up for with subject depth which is quite excellent. In particular, I'd like to point out Thomas' post on the Mid-Atlantic Small Craft Festival and his excellent pictures of the subject.

If you really enjoyed the pictures from 70.8% of the Mid-Atlantic Small Craft Festival, I'd encourage you to check out this thread at the WoodenBoat Forum!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Tech Tip Tuesday

Planning ahead to get a design where the parts all blend well is sometimes hard to do with my students. Most have not seen what is possible when building a strip canoe in terms of wood types and designs. I try to bring books into the first class to point them in the direction of resources that will show both interesting and unique designs.

Before they get started with building a boat, I encourage them to draw a sketch - even if it is a very rough sketch, showing what the feature strip might look like, what colors or wood types they would like. I also encourage them to pick good woods that blend or contrast nicely, woods with interesting figure or grain and woods of appropriate hardness for the part of the boat it will be used on. There is really a lot to consider even on a small boat with regard to the stems, gunnels, seat, thwart and decks.

While the books and on-line resources are great, there is sometimes no getting around looking at finished boats. That's why I encourage my students to go look at boats at places like the Maine Boatbuilder's Show, The WoodenbBoat Show and the John Gardner Small Craft Workshop. They are outstanding opportunities for a student to see what is possible and to dream a little bit about what they might like.

So sketch, plan and dream and have some pieces of scrap around so you can think about color and grain as you plan your next boat!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Best News Article Title

From the Oakland Tribune:

Animals rights activists

dog Michael Vick

My $0.02?

Be kind to animals.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


Opening up the barn where we store the boats this past Saturday, we were greeted with this frosty sight. It's getting to that time of year where we have to put the canoes away on the Sunday morning after class. The reason is the adhesives we're using. Wood glue (depending on your manufacturer's recommendations) needs to be at least 50 degrees Fahrenheit to cure properly. Epoxy also needs to be warm enough to properly as well. Again, the type of epoxy and the hardener speed will allow for different curing speeds and minimum temperatures.

If you don't let the glue or epoxy cure in warm enough temperatures, problems occur. The wood glue, if it freezes, turns bright white and the glue joints are weak. Glue in the bottle needs to be kept warm as well - while some glues will tolerate freezing and thawing, some will not and will "chalk up". Epoxy generally either will not cure or the cure will slow down. Epoxy curing is both temperature and mass sensitive - the more of both, the faster the cure.

Simply stated, we leave the boats in a "room temperature" environment overnight to make sure that the glues and epoxy have cured properly. After that, the boat can get as frosty as the one in the picture above.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

Photo taken at St. Michaels, MD - Mid-Atlantic Small Craft Festival.
Beautiful photo courtesy of Jonathan Drake.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Tech Tip Tuesday


Or so I hope.

As you know, we've been looking at ways to make a 15' long canoe and forms levitate. Well, OK - I'd like it to levitate, but physics and gravity have intervened. Here is what we have done so far to make things a bit lighter.

We cut out material from the plywood forms in areas where it wasn't necessary. We limited the amount of material we took off to try to keep from having thin sections that would warp. This is what one of the patterns looks like after being "lightened":

We weighed the pieces that we cut out of all of the patterns for this canoe. It amounted to 14.5 pounds of material that were removed. Quite a substantial savings!

We're also shifting from a strongback made from dimensional lumber to one made with a combination of sheet goods and small amounts of dimensional lumber. The picture below shows the sample beam that was made up earlier. I haven't weighed it yet, but by just picking it up, I know it is lighter than our older designs.

The picture below shows the beam from the bottom. It is a 1/2" thick plywood deck with 1/4" luan sides and 2x6" blocking. It is a remarkably rigid structure. The sides are glued and screwed to the plywood and blocking.

A quick view of the barn where the boats are all stored for the moment. It may look like a bit of chaos, but we know where everything is!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Fall Arrived

It seems we went from days in the 70's to frost at night and highs in the 50's with the blustery Fall wind in no time at all. This past weekend, we went to a local Fall Festival and had a wonderful time. My DW put up a great and detailed post here. I'll be a bit more brief about it but let you enjoy some of the sights of the season.

Harvest decorations in the town hall. This is a small sampling of those to be seen around the building and around the town.

I wish I could share the sounds. The whistling wind and the rattling of blowing leaves, the crisp "crunch" when you step on them.

The smells, too. The faint spice of woodsmoke in the air, fried dough with maple cream (one of my favorite guilty pleasures...)

The feel is unmistakable. A frigid bite in the air and then the feeling of warm sun on you as the clouds passed.

Yup. Looks like Fall is here to stay for a bit.

Thursday, October 8, 2009


Somali pirates attack French

military flagship

NAIROBI (AFP) – Somali pirates attempted to storm the French navy's 18,000 tonne flagship in the Indian Ocean after mistaking it for a cargo vessel, the French military said on Wednesday.

The crew of La Somme, a 160-metre (525-foot) command vessel and fuel tanker, easily saw off the brazen night-time assault by lightly armed fighters on two lightweight skiffs and captured five pirates, a spokesman said.

"The pirates, who because of the darkness took the French ship for a commercial vessel, were on board two vessels and opened fire with Kalashnikovs," Admiral Christophe Prazuck said in Paris.

La Somme is the French command vessel in the Indian Ocean, overseeing French air, sea and land forces fighting Somali pirates and hunting terrorists under the banner of the US-led Operation Enduring Freedom.

Officers on the ship have directed commando operations to free French hostages in the hands of Somali pirates.

The pirates tried to flee when they realised their mistake but were pursued by French forces who, after an hour-long chase, caught one of the skiffs, Prazuck said.

On it they found five men but no weapons, water or food as the pirates had apparently thrown all of the boat's contents overboard, the spokesman said.

A Western official at sea in the area, speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity, said that there had been an exchange of fire between the warship and the pirate launches.

"One of the skiffs managed to get away in the night because La Somme was busy with the first pirate boat," he said.

"Despite the arrival of other vessels, they haven't yet managed to find the second boat," he said, adding that many warships in the area were busy hunting another group which attacked a cargo ship off the Seychelles on Sunday.

The world's naval powers have deployed dozens of warships to the lawless waters off Somalia over the past year to curb attacks by pirates in one of the world's busiest maritime trade routes.

La Somme was operating 250 nautical miles (460 kilometres) off the Somali coast, on its way to resupply fuel to frigates patrolling shipping lanes as part of the European Union's Operation Atalanta anti-piracy mission.

This was not the first time that Somali pirates have mistakenly attacked a French naval vessel. Several pirates were captured in May when they attempted to board a frigate in the area.

Somalia has had no proper government since it plunged into lawlessness after President Mohamed Siad Barre was overthrown in 1991.

The country is riven by factional fighting and pirate gangs operate freely from several ports along its Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden coasts.

According to the environmental watchdog Ecoterra International, at least 163 attacks have been carried out by Somali pirates since the start of 2009 alone, 47 of them successful hijackings.

Last year, more than 130 merchant ships were attacked, an increase of more than 200 percent on 2007, according to the International Maritime Bureau's Piracy Reporting Centre in Kuala Lumpur.

Pirates have in recent weeks resumed attacks with the end of the monsoon season. Last week Somali gunmen captured Spanish fishing boat The Alakrana with 36 crew members in the Indian Ocean.

The US Maritime Administration warned last month that the end of the monsoon season was likely to bring an increase in piracy off Somalia and urged shipping companies to be vigilant.

Calmer waters allow pirates, who often operate in small fibreglass skiffs towed out to sea by captured fishing vessels, to hijack freighters, trawlers and private yachts. Cruise vessels have also been attacked.

(Perhaps it's just me, but attacking a French Navy ship sounds like a really, REALLY bad idea.)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Unintentional Atkins Diet

This morning I get up feeling particularly groggy. The bathroom upstairs is occupied, so rather than have my morning shower first, I go downstairs and proceed to make myself some lunch.

Silverware? Check.
Yogurt? Check.
Soda? Check.
Apple? Check.
Lunch entree? Check.
Ice Pack? Check.

Zzzziiiippp! Done.

I bring my lunch bag and briefcase to the front door and head up for a shower.

Now that lunch-time has arisen at work, I take the container with my lunch in it to warm in the microwave in our cafeteria. Pop it in and hit start. I'm anticipating a nice lunch of rice with peppers, onions, tomatoes and fajita-seasoned chicken with a bit of cheese on top. MMMmm...

Er, what is this?


I've taken the two leftover pork chops from the grill the other night instead of my intended lunch. Atkins diet, here I come.

Wordless Wednesday

Monday, October 5, 2009

I couldn't give a rat's ...

Well, actually I can now. After spending the past winter trying to get rodents out of the house (see here and here), we suddenly have invited them in.

A couple who live down the street got a pair of gerbils for their sons. Unfortunately for them, the pair turned out to be a boy gerbil and a girl gerbil. Within short order, they had 13 gerbils. One day I was asked to come down and look at a canoe that they had to put a value on it. DD tagged along and went in to visit the gerbils and decided that we should "help them out" and take a few. I wasn't particularly enthusiastic about the idea and put it off. Granted, they were trying to give them away, but I couldn't really see us having them in the house. I'm not really much of a rodent fan - I'd rather have a more interactive pet (like a cat) and am more of a predator than prey kinda guy. DW is also not a fond fan of animals and wasn't willing to let me bring another cat in the house, so I mentioned the gerbils to her, but didn't think anything would come of it.

I was very surprised about a month and a half later when one of the couple was walking by the house as DW and I were working in the front yard. DW mentioned that we should ask if the gerbils were still available. (Huh?) Yes, they still had gerbils to give away and would we please take some? We said that yes, we'd take two. I went out later that day to a pet supply place for all the requisite rodent supplies and was frankly astonished at how expensive a pair of free gerbils could be. I put the supplies in the playroom and neither DS nor DD took any notice of them until the next morning.

When they finally noticed, they were very, very happy children. We picked the two gerbils up (Scampers, the light colored one and King, the gray one - actually father and son.) the next morning and settled them in.

The hardest part is making sure that the cage is kept clean and that the children are treating them well. It's a bit of a lesson in responsibility for them, but the lesson seems to be absorbed very, very slowly.

By the way - did I mention that gerbils are very fast? It make it very difficult to get a picture of them!


As soon as I posted this, the following targeted ad appeared on my monitor along with the comment that the post was successfully published. You can't say that Google Ads aren't topical, but I still don't think that my kids would appreciate it.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Mid-Atlantic Small Craft Festival

The Mid-Atlantic Small Craft Festival will be held this Saturday from 10:00 AM-5:00 PM at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels Maryland. This is a unique event as it is focused as it says on small craft - typically about 20' and under for paddle, sail and oar. There is also an emphasis on using these craft - they're not just for static display.

I've missed out on this for the past few years even though I've been in Maryland on the weekend of the festival. I really need to get down to this event.