Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tech Tip Tuesday

Local adaptations are common in boat design. Here is one example from North Wales:

The local sailboats have twin bilge keels to let the boat sit upright on the relatively muddy bottom when the tide goes out. In this area, the tides appear to be fairly large - on the order of 6-7 meters and this works well here.

Further south in Cornwall where the bottom is a bit more rocky and the surf is a bit rougher, the bows are high with swept sheer and the working boats would be hauled up - sometimes on cribbing like the one below - on the shore above the high-tide line.

The same is true of canoes. Traditional birchbark canoes and their modern incarnations follow this rule. In the areas where the Native Americans harvested wild rice, the canoes were generally wide and flat-bottomed with specialized gunnel lines. In other areas where white-water river travel was common, more robust boats with large amounts of rocker were common. In other places large transport canoes were more useful.

In Northern Maine, the modern canoes favored by guides on Grand lake are 19-24' long square-stern canoes which can be powered by a fairly large outboard motor, are stable fishing platforms and can haul out a deer or the better part of a moose without difficulty. There is even some discussion that the hull length was an adaptation to deal with the distance between waves on the large lakes.

So, when looking around at what boat shape you might like to build, take a look around at the local canoes that more experienced paddlers find useful in your area. Still, take this with a grain of salt as your purposes may be different form their purposes and you want your boat's form to fit your function. They're more than likely well adapted for local conditions. Another excellent resource is Ted Moores book Canoecraft. It offers a much more clear and concise description of the reasoning behind canoe shapes and function than I can offer here in blog format.

Pick the adaptation that works for you!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Bunch of Rocks

The next day we departed from my London and headed west. We had basically two things planned for the day. One was a visit here. (or as DS referred to it, "a bunch of rocks".)

Along the way we stopped for lunch at a nice pub called The Bath Arms in Crockerton. First, I need to mention that we generally don't just drop in on the first pub that we find when we travel in the UK. We carry the bible, but in hardcopy:

DW got a new copy for us as the most recent one we'd had was a 2004 edition and it is well updated from year-to-year. If you like good food and drink and might be looking for a nice room to boot, this is the book to have. Very recently, it has become available online. I suppose that if I had a nice smartphone in the UK, I'd have used the guide online, but this was not the case. If you harbor any illusions of traveling in the UK and eating and drinking in the pubs you must have a copy of this book.

After a fantastic meal of massive proportion - I had the Sticky Beef and a pint of ale served with braised red cabbage and onion, mashed potatoes and broccoli, we headed out to find our hotel in Bath. (It was such a memorable meal that DW even deigned to take a picture of it!)

After about 30 minutes of (somewhat desperate) searching, we finally found our hotel for the evening - the Travelodge Waterside (Waterside = along the Avon Canal). Not fancy, but fine for our purposes. After we got settled in our room, we decided that we'd walk into town and see what we could see. It was late in the afternoon and we wondered what we might find to be open. We needn't have worried. We found Bath Abbey open and took a quick look around. Certainly a beautiful building, no?

One of the things that the Abbey is famous for is it's facade - there are Jacob's Ladders on the front of the building with souls climbing to Heaven as well as falling to Hell and being tormented by demons as they fall. My photo doesn't do it justice:

We then walked up through town past the Queen's Square and obelisk to the Circus and over to the Cresent. Most of present day bath seems to consist of Victorian Era buildings of fairly new construction, but this belies the true age of the place - it was a Celtic settlement and then a thriving Roman one.

The Circus

The Crescent

The Circus was a round development of houses around a circular park and the Crescent was a semi-circular development which overlooked the Avon River valley and the hills beyond - the view was spectacular.

Signs of this early Roman work are plainly evident at the Roman baths which were the heart of the city since about 43 AD. We took the audio-guided tour of the baths and finally finished up at nearly 9:00 PM. To be honest, I can't do justice to the place - you need to visit or read up about it. It is incredible. When you realize that the original lead lining of the pools is still intact after all this time and that the system of plumbing and drains that was built by the Romans is still functioning!

The Main Bath

Roman Lead Pipe

The Sacred Spring and Windows of the Pump Room, Above

The original baths included a vaulted roof made from masonry and coated with cement and probably painted white. There was also an adjacent Temple and healing center which have been unearthed under the modern city's streets since my last visit. The bath was originally clear but because of the contamination from air and rain-borne algae has turned green. The so-called Sacred Spring was at least known since Celtic times and this pool of warm water must have been viewed as a gift from the Gods.

Our tour finish time was a bit too late for a meal at the Pump Room that we had planned. Fortunately for us, we weren't very hungry and Ben & Jerry's was open for some late night ice cream cones and a quick drink at the bar in the Travelodge before bed.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A 36 Hour Day

The first day of our vacation found us getting up at about 8:00 AM on Saturday morning and doing rather mundane things to prepare for our departure including cleaning out the fridge, heading to the dump and picking up a rental car to drive to the airport. Finally leaving after lunch, we headed to the airport and were winging our way across the Atlantic just after 6:00 PM. As I typically do, I try to sleep on the plane, but never seem to be able to - just a series of small cat-naps. DS and DD were entranced by the 747's in-flight entertainment system and continuous flow of food and drink brought by the crew.

We arrived in London at about 6:00 AM local time and proceeded to work our way through immigration and customs before an interminable wait for a rental car and the drive to my BIL's house arriving around 8:30 AM. We were greeted with a light breakfast and the words, "We have a big day planned."

Oh. No nap?

It seems to be tradition in the family to keep guests awake on the day of arrival until a normal bed-time to get them on local time in the (faint) hopes that jet-lag will be overcome.

We piled back into the rental car and a brief look around Hampton Court Palace which is most famous for it's association with King Henry VIII and Cardinal Wolsey, from whom Henry acquired the place after Wolsey fell from favor. It is an impressive place:

Hampton Court is located in Richmond and the palace has ornate gilt gates which open onto the River Thames:

The River Thames is really remarkable - it is the second longest river in England and it is tidal as far upstream as Teddington Lock at Ham in West London. London is still a port (As evidenced by a crane and shipping containers we saw in Central London from the river later in our trip.) and experiences a tidal rise and fall of up to 7 meters. The river remains navigable from Lechlade in the Cotswolds all the way to the North Sea. It is a very busy river.

After our trip to the Palace, we had a nice lunch out - basically across the street and overlooking the river. DS's jet-lag and lack of sleep overcame him as he fell asleep while eating his hamburger!

We had a unique trip to a nearby place where train enthusiasts had built a model railway with small working steam, electric and diesel trains which were being run to give visitors rides - it was quite a set-up with working signals , bridges and stations! The large trains were maybe about 6 feet long and the small ones only about 2-3 feet, but they still hauled cars with about 8 passengers, the engineer and a conductor. Here's one of the coal-fired steam engines on a test bed - train and tender are about 4 feet long.

I was also reminded of how inviolable "tea-time" is. Here is a "conductor" sitting on the "caboose" of a moving train with what is probably a scalding cuppa:

While we were at the railway, my BIL called to see if he could make a reservation for a motorboat. We were lucky enough to be able to get one for an hour at the end of the day. The place we rented it was a combination marina/pub in Kingston and we made our way over. Arriving in the car park we were greeted with the sad sight of a punt pressed into service as a planter:

Things did begin to look up:

And while our boat was the red and white one in the background, we could have rented Em - a bright-finished river "party" barge of sorts - glassware and brass taps inclusive!

We set out along the river just as two tourist boats passed by. They were somewhat odd copies of what I would describe as faux stern and side-wheel boats that would look at home in the deep American South - perhaps on the Mississippi.

As I mentioned before, the river is a very busy place and we passed numerous boats, marinas, and a sailing club. Canal boats (pleasure cruisers...) were in evidence:

There were working-boats, barges and wrecks along the shores, as well.

People were out in all kinds of boats - power, paddle and oar:

While most of the boats were of fiberglass and steel construction, there were a smattering of traditional wooden boats - mostly rowboats. Still, I could get used to living along the river like this...

We got a nice view of Hampton Court's gates from the waterside as well as the myriad chimneys in the roofline!

Just past the bridge, we even got a nice view of the restaurant where we had eaten lunch earlier:

On our trip back downstream to the marina it was plain to see that people had shifted from tea-time to cocktail hour - there were quite a few gatherings with plates and glasses in the cockpits of the canal boats.

We returned for dinner at my BIL's and I amazed myself by staying up until nearly 9:30 PM. The fact that it is light until that hour certainly helped!

Monday, August 23, 2010


With questionable sanity, DW and I made the decision earlier this year that we'd take DS and DD to go and visit family in the UK. With some trepidation about Icelandic volcanoes and British Airways labor disputes, we booked the trip just the same. With all of those thoughts still hanging over our heads, we managed to have a great (relaxing?) trip. We spent lots of time visiting with family and friends and seeing the sights. We even managed to get in a few pub lunches along the way.

Still, no trip could be complete without some boaty things:
  • The day we arrived we had a trip in a rented motorboat on the Thames.
  • We saw some nice boat related things along the coast in North Wales.
  • A trip to the Liverpool Maritime Museum (Via the Mersey Ferry)
  • We had a ride on the Anderton Boat Lift.
  • A slightly sad visit was had to the Ellesmere Port Boat Museum...
  • Viking boats...
  • The second boat trip on the Thames - a high speed catamaran.
Over the next few days, I'll see if I can tempt you with some interesting sights!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Monday, August 16, 2010

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Friday, August 13, 2010

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Monday, August 9, 2010

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Friday, August 6, 2010

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Tuesday, August 3, 2010