Friday, February 26, 2010

And there were no survivors...


...but I'll wait until after work.

Thursday, February 25, 2010


Yesterday's Wordless Wednesday post is a picture of...


At work, we have a landscaping company that takes care of the parking lot. They use a lot of salt. When I went out to my car on Monday, this huge chunk was near my car. A little excessive, no? Our tarmac surface is very often white because they use so much of it.

I have this mental picture - a snowflake is falling gently from the sky, enjoying it's trip towards the ground. It then notices our parking lot and begins screaming only to be annihilated in a puff of steam as it hits the parking lot.

This seems to be true as I have yet to see snow build up on our parking lot.


I must store this away as a mental note : While clearing yesterday's precipitation I discovered that a Husqvarna 8.5 horsepower snowblower *can* pump water.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tech Tip Tuesday

This past weekend was boat-building mayhem in class - that's the best way to describe it. We have boats in all stages of build - one canoe is ready for trim, another ready to be 'glassed on the inside, the kayak's deck is ready for 'glass and we're finishing up stems and putting on the first strips on all the other canoes.

There are many ways to build a cedar strip canoe. You can buy kits of pre-cut cedar strips and forms, set up your strongback and start building. Or, you can do it like we do and start from scratch. I will admit that starting from "scratch" as we do is a bit intimidating for new builders and takes a bit longer, but when my students have completed a canoe, they have an intimate understanding of the process and I'm convinced that with a few questions and some effort that they could build a canoe on their own.

The other thing is that we take extra time to make the canoes unique. Each one is an expression of the builder's individual tastes - and I encourage this as it makes the boat special to that person.

This can be frustrating to beginners as there is a fair amount of prep work before you actually start stripping the canoe. I try to break things down into small, but achievable goals to give people a sense of accomplishment:
  • Strip cutting and molding
  • Feature strips
  • Pattern copying and strongback set-up
  • Stem lamination and shaping
  • Fairing and sanding
  • Fiberglassing
  • Trim & Varinsh
All in all, I think that the builders find that it is worth it in the end. Here's a work in progress to show the beauty - note the Peruvian Walnut stems, the Walnut and Basswood feature strip and Western Red Cedar hull taking shape. I also think that they're beautiful in all stages of the building process!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

The Spirit of Haida Gwaii, The Jade Canoe, by Bill Reid

Bonus points if you can tell where it is without a search engine.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tech Tip Tuesday

One thing that is often glossed over in books on canoe building is the actual stripping process. There are many things that will change how easily a strip-built boat goes together. These include the following:
  • Hull Length
  • Hull Shape
  • Strip Thickness
  • Strip Width
  • Strip's Grain Direction
  • Wood Type
All things being equal, a longer canoe is typically easier to strip. This is because the bending and twisting of the strip is much gentler as it takes place over a longer length.

Each different boat design has a different shape and these different boat shapes can be drastically different in terms of the contours of the hull. For example, Mac McCarthy's Wee Lassie and Wee Lassie 2 designs are 11' and 13' respectively, but I find the Wee Lassie a bit easier to strip than the Wee Lassie 2, even thought it is longer because of the shape of the hulls.

Strip Thickness - the thicker the strip, the more difficult it is to bend.

Strip Width - the wider the strip, the more difficult to twist and certainly more difficult to flex in this long axis- and the more likely it is to break.

Grain direction is key - you're looking for your strips to have vertical grain on the face. If you have flat grain on the face, it can peel as you flex it. Inconsistent grain direction along the length of the strip can cause "hard spots" which can lead to difficult stripping.

Wood type can be an issue as well. We typically strip our hulls with Western Red Cedar and it is fairly rigid and brittle stuff. If I could get enough good, long lengths of Atlantic White or Northern White Cedar, it would bend a bit more easily than the Western Red. Port Orford Cedar, on top of being more heavy than any of the above, would be stiffer as well. I did have a student strip a canoe in Sassafrass which we found to be fairly stiff stuff and difficult to get it to take the hull contours that the Western Read mated to relatively easily.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Valentine's Day

DW got me a very lovely card for Valentine's day and made a lovely batch of raspberry/chocolate chip muffins for all of the family. Later that day, I was forwarded an email with a link to the e-card below:

You have to understand that DW and I are both Macintosh Computer fans. I can't say that we're obsessive about it, but I do like my iBook and iPod Touch. If this makes us geeks, so be it.

I guess I'd better be glad that Steve Jobs doesn't make the iCook or the iDishwasher. I'd be out on my ear.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

You have to appreciate the Olympic Spirit.

While the opening of the Vancouver winter games have been marred by the very sad death of Georgian slider Nodar Kumaritashvili in a training accident, you have to appreciate the spirit of the Canadian hosts.

As part of the Olympic torch's progress to Vancouver, the flame was carried by canoe. Keep in mind that these are winter games.

Kudos, Canada.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Says it all about today...

Just been one of those days.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

Canadian Museum of Civilization in Hull, Qu├ębec

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Amazing Foks at Portland Yacht Services

One thing that many people don't know about the Maine Boatbuilder's Show is the Portland Flower Show is held in the same space. Phin Sprague's crew cleans out the boats in winter storage in preparation for the show and the Flower Show is set up. After that weekend's show, they clean the shop out again and set up the Boatbuilder's Show for the following weekend. Keep in mind that what you see here is only a very small portion of this sprawling multi-story facility. Time lapse of the whole process below:

Wow. Just. Wow.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Cabin Fever

I get asked a lot about why we build boats from the fall through until late spring. Where I live, we have a "hard water" season where you really can't paddle. If you're an active outdoor person, this can be a hard time of year for you - particularly if the groundhog has just let you know that there will be 6 more weeks of winter. If you don't ski, snowshoe, ice-fish or go winter camping, cabin fever can become a bit problem.

To counteract this, you have to switch to some absorbing indoor activities. Reading is always high on the list, but as a paddler, the highlights include building boats and maintaining them. really, it's much more selfish than that - we want to be paddling the boats building during our regular paddling season, not building them. Anyway, as a paddler, you've got to have some "indoor" boating things to keep you going to keep from going stir-crazy.

Another great activity this time of year is dreaming about where you're going to paddle. Growing up, my Scout troop used this time of year to plot and plan our trips. We would pore over topographic maps and guidebooks of the ares where we were thinking of going. We would plan menus and start to accumulate gear. We'd repair old gear, waterproofing tents and varnishing paddles.