Archive for the ‘boating’ Category

Summer 2016

November 16, 2016

Well Labor Day has come and gone and so has Halloween, we pulled the fleet out of the water and started winter layup in September,  a little early this year so we could continue renovations on the cottage that the two tortoiseshell cats own.

First a word about sailing this summer; wind.

The summer of 2015 was a light air summer, as a result we got very good at setting and striking topsails. By contrast, this year we only set topsails twice all summer. We joined four other Friendships, a Marconi sloop and a lobster yacht for a two week cruise in July and never needed diesel, and never even topped up the main tank from our reserve tanks. It was a fantastic cruise with good company, good cheer, and great sailing.


Sailing in the company of Friendships.

Not only was there wind but also we were incredibly lucky in that we had predominantly fair winds. We had one rough day of high winds and big seas getting into Southwest Harbor on MDI. And there were two days on our cruise when the winds blew 25-30 kts, and not from a favorable direction, but we spent those two days tucked up snugly in a hurricane hole, hiking, reading, and relaxing, and those days proved to be among the most relaxing of the trip.


Moonrise in a hurricane hole.

We spent the last few days of our cruise in Rockland at the annual Friendship Sloop Homecoming and gathering.


Friendship sloops in Rockland 2016

We had a great time gathering with other Friendship sloop owners and fans in Rockland.


At the dock in Rockland, I don’t know why John is staying on the dock…

While we were in Rockland we also had a chance to take some of our extended family sailing. There were so many of them they had to come sailing in shifts.


Sailing with family…do I look worried?

After returning from our cruise we had another six weeks of weekend cruises, some of them extended weekend cruises, and great sailing.

The winds were so consistent and fair, that we did not get out to sail our tender, Fee-Fi nearly as often as last year since we never wanted to miss a chance to take out the Friendship.But even there, when the time came to pull Fee-Fi out of the water, we managed to sail to the take-out ramp in two long tacks, which was a delight since it is usually an hour of hard rowing.

Our lives have been so very full this last year or so that at times we wonder if it makes sense for us to dedicate so much of our time and energy to our wooden classic, but we saw so many beautiful boats, and old and new friends on the water and our summer was so rich an fulfilling that we mostly feel fortunate and grateful for what we have and what we are able to share.


New steering for the launch

August 5, 2014

We have been pretty happy with our Iain Oughtred designed launch, but now that we have sailed her for a couple of seasons we are trying to refine the few things we don’t like, or did not get right on the first go-round. One of those things was the tiller.

Initially I opted for a very traditional tiller. I liked the simplicity of the design and the classic look. However, what we found is that the traditional tiller had some traditional limitations due to how we use the boat. One has to do with sailing; if you are sailing the boat you need to push the tiller very far to port or starboard when tacking. This requires that the helmsman move his or her body all over the place just to tack the boat. This becomes even more problematic if you are single-handing because the excessive movement aft lifts the bow out of the water making the boat less able to windward.

The other issue has to do with taking passengers. The boat will comfortably hold five adults, except that anyone sitting aft has to deal with the sweep of the tiller and the dance of the helmsman.

None of this is totally unexpected, but it has become more annoying than we were prepared for.

What we ended up doing was to go back to the design source. 

Iain Oughtred has another design, the Caledonia Yawl, similar in size to the Penny Fee, with a push-pull tiller arrangement that frankly did not look that great to me on paper. However, I ran into a video of the tiller set up on Off Center Harbor and was totally swayed. I conceded (at least to my self) that it would not look as elegant and simple as the original tiller we had, but to my surprise, I found that the new design, while less classic, has a simple functionality that is also quite elegant.

Another advantage to the new system is that we made the tiller longer than the original so that if you are taking the boat out for a sail by yourself you can sit more forward, almost in the center of the boat which makes the boat balance beter.

It takes some getting used to and the instinct from long time sailors is still to move the tiller from side to side instead of fore and aft, but after taking it for a spin under sail and oar, I find that it is a really neat solution to our previous problems.

We had to come up with a way to lash the tiller when we leave the boat at the float, and that has not been a perfect solution, but we are working on it and that is a small wrinkle to work on.

Now I need to get back to work on the new sail. I am convinced that moving the center of effort aft, even a foot will create less drag in the rudder tacking and may gain us a few more degrees closer to the wind. We shall see.


August 21, 2013

Although it has been a very full summer, we have been getting the occasional quiet moment. Last weekend we got in some wonderful sailing on our Friendship sloop.

A quick look at some light air sailing…the varnish looks very good in these shots.

We were sailing along when a small motor boat came along and started to take some pictures of us. The woman who will willingly get up in the middle of the night and stand anchor watch, flagged them down and got a lift so she could take some pictures of our boat, something we almost never get to do because we are sailing the boat.

I will repeat, very light air sailing, but still a lovely sight with all her kites set.

Summer 2013

August 5, 2013

Where has the time gone?

In the last post, way back in April I was explaining how we had refinished the gaff for our Friendship sloop.

Finished Gaff

Well we got that done, and then went on to do the annual scraping, sanding, and painting and varnishing.

Spring Painting

While this was going on I tracked down and bought a used trailer for the Penny Fee and refurbished that. We had been using the spar trailer to move the Penny Fee, but it is rally too small and was stressing both the trailer and the boat.

Next I installed a pump in the Penny Fee so that when we return to the boat after a week of rain we don’t have to bail.

Finally we got to launch the fleet in mid-June.

We got in two short weekend cruises before things got into full swing. The weather on one of those weekends was simply fog. Although we did get out we ended up sailing the Penny Fee more than the sloop. The other weekend, the one following the 4th of July was ridiculously hot, but it was not without its moments. We did some sailing and some swimming off the boat and while cooling off we watched large power boat run right up on a well charted ledge in broad daylight right in front of the US Coast Guard station. We could not believe our eyes, but at least we were not bored.


In mid-July we headed out to spend some serious time on the water. First we drove to Southwest Harbor, Maine to crew in the Friendship sloop rendezvous there.

Start of the Southwest Harbor race

Great time, lots of fun people and beautiful boats.

Friendship Sloops in Southwest Harbor

Southwest Harbor Race

More from Southwest Harbor


Eden at Southwest Harbor

Next, on to Boothbay to pick up our boat and head to Rockland for the annual Friendship sloop gathering there. We had some fantastic sailing getting there, but once there it was just too hot.

Us running downwind to Rockland. At this point the camera broke and we were only able to take pictures without a viewfinder or screen.

Then off to spend a night in Rockport, Maine, followed by a lovely sail down East Penobscot Bay surrounded by ten schooners and a ketch, followed by several days on the Eggemoggin Reach before heading west again.

Hegira in Pulpit Harbor

All in all a fun cruise but exhausting, and now we are back to our jobs and trying to catch up.

The Fleet Is In

September 28, 2012

After what seems like the busiest summer yet, our fleet is home again and we are starting the chores to get all of our boats ready for winter. This includes fresh bottom paint, winterizing the diesel on the Friendship Sloop, cleaning and stowing sails, cushions, pillows, and mattresses, packing up the galley, and most importantly making lists of repairs that need to be done over the winter.

Typically, once the boats are bedded down for winter, they are allowed to rest for at least a couple of months while we focus on the autumn chores  at the cottage,  and then the winter holidays. Come January and February, though, I know I will start thinking about winter boat projects that need to be done before spring-cleaning and painting begins in earnest. Having made a list in the fall saves time and helps push the process along.

When we built the shed it seemed huge—much larger than it needed to be—and I remember wondering if we had not gotten a bit carried away. Now, twelve years later, part of the autumnal ritual of putting the boats to bed is the process of figuring out how to get everything into the building and still leave enough room to move around.

I know I will enjoy puttering on projects in the boat shed over the next six months, almost as much as I enjoy being on the water. And there is something very satisfying about putting all the bits and pieces away, making sure everything is tagged or labeled, sometimes adding a shelf or box somewhere in the shed so that another piece of gear can have a better place to winter over. Like stacking firewood, the process of putting things away, brings a sense of order to what is usually a frantic end-of-season rush, and a knowledge that I will benefit later from the work I do now.

For the moment though I am taking a deep breath and savoring the fact that the boats ate all back safe and sound in the boat shed.

The leaves have begun to change colors, the equinox has come and gone, the boats are in the shed: autumn is here.

New Boat Part 21

July 16, 2012

This will be a long post because while I have been writing and chronicling what has been going on in the boat shops, I have not been good about putting up posts. so now it is catch up time. First we needed to focus on the Friendship Sloop, getting her ready for the season. Then launching and rigging her and even getting in an occasional weekend cruise.

Friendship ready to move, picture taken early in June

Transport day June 10th

Then we had a little time to re-focus on the Penny Fee, we got to do some of the fun jobs. The rope fender, floorboards, rudder, and oars. I would have liked to have slowed down and tried to savor these jobs more, but then we never would have gotten the boat in the water this season.

The rope fender:

As described in an earlier post, we designed the outwale of the gunwale to have a groove or gutter running the length of the boat so that the rope that we are going to use as a fender will lie evenly along the edge of the boat. The fender is attached to the boat with stainless steel screws. The installation is fairly simple, the idea is to place a screw within the twist of the rope so that only the innermost strand is pierced by the screw and secures the rope to the outside of the gunwale. We started at the transom and worked along to the bow, around to the other side of the vessel and back to the transom again. At least that was the plan.

I had bought 36 feet of 1 1/8” rope, which should have been enough to do the job easily. I back spliced an end with almost no waste and started to attach the rope. I got most of the way down the starboard side and noticed that it looked like there was not enough rope. An optical illusion, I thought. To be safe, I felt I had better double check, I checked and found that there was not enough rope. Then I measured the rope and found that it was not 36 feet long, but 32. Oops.

Some desperate calls to Hamilton Marine, and we determined that whatever I had bought was a closeout and not a standard rope. Since they could not match it, the only plan was to replace it. They offered to do so free of charge and a new length of rope was on the way. The new rope arrived in 48 hours, and I have to say that the customer service at Hamilton Marine was excellent. I had found that to be true in the past, but when things go wrong it is always nice to find someone who is going to go out of the way to help you out. Anyway, removing the fender we had already installed took a lot of time and then the screw holes had to be filled. Still, in all the new rope went on fast (under two hours) and looks great.

Rope fender in place


We started the oars back in March, but we simply did not have a great deal of time to work on them until recently. All we did was to glue up spruce blanks that were oversized oars. Then we simply shaved the first one down until it was the shape and weight that we wanted. Once we did this it was only a question of whittling down the second oar to match the first.

One oar shaped and the other still in the rough

Matched pair

The oars are quite long (9 foot 6 inches), we decided to leave the loom of the oar above the oarlock position square in section to act as a bit of a counterbalance to the long outboard section of the oar. The oars will be painted to minimize the amount of maintenance that they will need each year. Varnish looks great, but is more of a challenge to maintain on oars.

Oars painted and waiting for their leathers


This is an area of the boat that we wanted to keep simple. 1”x4” pine boards were a relatively inexpensive option, we have been cutting and shaping them so that they lie on top of the floor-timbers and are fastened to cross-pieces of 5/4” pine with bronze screws, countersunk and bunged. The floorboards will get no sealer and will be allowed to weather naturally. The end result should meet our needs, were quick to assemble, and require little or no maintenance.


The centerboard pin:

A very important piece that sometimes gets overlooked in the rush to launch is the centerboard pin. In our case a piece of 3/8” bronze cut so that it is short. In other words, it is recessed about 3/8” from each side. This leaves plenty of pin to do the work, but it also leaves a space to squirt caulking goop. The goop is covered by a rubber gasket, and that is capped with a bronze plate that is held in place with four screws.

The hole for the pin, with the pin in place, the rubber gasket (red), and the bronze cap-plate

The goop has been squirted into the end of the hole with a caulking gun

Bronze cap in place

The Rudder:

The plans for the boat came with two options for the rudder. One was a traditional wooden rudder, and the other was for a kick-up rudder made of wooden parts. Unfortunately for us, neither of these designs will exactly meet our needs. We do need a kick up rudder, but we need something that will need less maintenance than the one provided in the blueprints. That design is also a bit more complicated than I would like, and requires some hardware that I was not sure I could find in the limited time I had before launching. So I set about pulling together a kick up rudder design of my own, one I could put together with some off-the-shelf hardware, and one where the lower section of the rudder (the kick up part) is made from a single plate of 1/4″ aluminum.

Design showing rudder down

Design showing rudder up

The rudder design is still not what I would call simple, but the dinghy dock is only in about two feet of water at low tide, and we intend this boat to take us ashore on rocky Maine islands, so a kick up rudder is necessary. The top section of the rudder is glued up from three pieces of plywood, the middle piece is slightly thicker than the aluminum plate. This middle piece of plywood is cut in such a way that it not only provides space for the aluminum bottom plate to pivot, but it also provides stops for the up and down position of the lower section of rudder. The weight of the aluminum  section of the rudder will keep it in the down position unless it strikes a submerged object, then the lower section can kick up. A manual line and jamb-cleat on the trailing edge of the rudder allows for locking the lower section of the rudder into the “up” position for extended periods, like when the boat is beached.

Bottom part of rudder with cardboard template.The aluminum was cut with a saws-all and a metal cutting blade. Then hand filed.

Finished rudder in down position

The launch:

Before we trailered the boat to the coast I wanted to launch her here at our local pond where all of the boats we have built have been launched. On a lovely summer evening we sprinkled some hard cider over the bows, slipped her off the trailer, and went for a row. I was too busy checking to make sure there were no problems, but there were not, and as I slowly relaxed, I realized that this was a delightful boat. Stable, she caries her way well, although she does make noise with those laps and a little chop.

The first launch

The next evening we brought the boat over to the sea by trailer, and launched her again, this time in salt water.

Sitting in salt water

The new tender

We need to use her more before we have any real idea what her performance will be like. We will tow her with us to the Friendship Sloop Gathering in Rockland this week, and we will find out how well she tows, then I need to finish the mast, sprit, and sail. Can’t wait to get a sail on her.

If you would like to read all the posts related to this project together, go to the category at the right called “Penny Fee” and click on it. It will pull all the posts on the penny fee onto one page for you.

Summer Reading

July 5, 2012

If you are looking for a good read this summer, I can recommend an excellent memoir:  the RIME of the ANCIENT UNDERWITER (Hobblebush Books, 2012) is sailor Jim Salmon’s account of his 19 month circumnavigation aboard the barque Picton Castle.

Jim Salmon worked as an insurance underwriter for years before a family crisis created an opportunity for him to retire early and go to sea and fulfill a dream to to sail around the world. I have read more of my share of “how-I-sailed-the-world” tales, and was not prepared for such a refreshingly balanced take on an old theme. Jim does not waste much of the reader’s time with describing personality squabbles and the “he-said-she-said” nonsense that has become all too typical of books about expeditions. Instead Jim paints his shipmates from a respectful distance, adding color to the tale but allowing the reader to focus on the places visited and life aboard the ship. In fact, in many ways the barque Picton Castle is the real main character of the book.

The RIME of the ANCIENT UNDERWRITER  is a delightful combination of travel-log, memoir, and description of life aboard a traditional  square-rigged ship. If you are looking for a great summer read, look no further.

Summer Cruise in Maine

August 4, 2011

We just returned from a cruise on the Maine coast. The woman who will willingly get up in the middle of the night and stand an anchor watch, and I set out for a nine-day trip. Our excursions took us first from Boothbay Harbor to Rockland It took just under seven hours to make Rockland and we entered the harbor as the second day of Friendship sloop races was finishing up, a very pretty sight, and it was fun to come in with the tail end of the fleet and tie up. Our Friendship sloop, the Black Star was berthed just forward of Banshee, this years overall winner of the races, and Salatia and just inboard of Gaivota, the Vice-Commodore’s sloop; very good company. What followed was a delightful several hours of socializing with many, many old friends and a few new ones too.  Seventeen Friendships this year gathered on the docks at Rockland, we missed a few friends who had already come and gone, but there is always next year.

Friendships in Rockland

The next day was the last of the Friendship sloop gathering. We woke late and spent most of the day visiting and trying to recover from the trip up. Dinner that night was the annual Friendship Sloop Awards dinner, which was very funny and full of good cheer. A wonderful sing along which defies description was lead by the crew of Eden.

The next morning we took on last minute provisions and cast off, following out Banshee, Gaivota and Hegira, who were bound for Cape Cod, and Phoenix who was headed east. Halfway across West Penobscot Bay, we were still not sure what our destination should be. We had all lowers and uppers set in light air and finally decided that the winds were directing us through the Fox Island Thorofare, so that is where we went. The thorofare is narrow and winding, and typically has a lot of boat traffic. It was a challenging sail, and one we were probably over-canvassed for, but we headed in anyway. By the time we were off North Haven proper I had struck the jib-topsail, and fifteen minutes later I was striking the main topsail too.  By the time we cleared the Eastern entrance to the thorofare we were moving more comfortably but it was getting on towards late afternoon, so we made for Seal Bay between Burnt and Hay Islands.

An exquisite night, quiet, and cool, fantastic sleeping weather and classic summer-in-Maine scenery, we did spend some time remembering the last time we were here with our lovely ships-wolf, Saxon, now gone, which added just a touch of sadness to an otherwise perfect evening.

The next morning we set out for Isle Au Haut under all sail. We had a delightful if languid sail across to the island, a special place for me since I first visited the island in 1974. I have been back many times since and we looked to make sure that the flag was not flying at the house of friends (no flag means no visitors) before heading by. I can remember my first stay at that house as a child after a long cruise on an Alden Caravel, and sitting on the porch overlooking the Isle Au Haut thorofare, a porch where the then owner had become somewhat legendary among cruising circles for hailing friends in passing boats and inviting them ashore for “hot water and cold Gin”.

We ducked behind Merchant and Harbor Islands in Merchants Row and ran into a 180 degree wind shift, which we decided was going to mean work, so instead we turned back north and west to McGlathery Island where we anchored and went ashore. While on McGlatherly we saw two friendships headed east through the Stonington thorofare, we decided they had to be Salatia and Eden heading home to MDI. McGlatherly is a lovely spot and we enjoyed stretching our legs, but we were still seeing a building south-easterly wind, which made me uncomfortable, so we motored around the corner to Camp Island for the night. We were in very good company since the schooner Nathanial Bowditch was already anchored there and the Lewis R. French came in as we did and anchored as well. We felt much more sheltered and ended up spending another quiet and restful night.

the Bowditch

Lewis R. French

In the morning there was overcast and winds still out of the south-east so we worked our way to windward into Jericho Bay and the entrance to the Eggemoggin Reach and spent most of the day running downwind along the reach under the mainsail with one reef and the jib-topsail. We were straining to see if the Concordia 41 owned by a friend was in Center Harbor as we passed, but were never sure if she was there or not. We saw another Friendship off Center Harbor, but she was too far away to identify.

Passing under the Deer Island Bridge is always exciting and as we passed through the western entrance to the Reach, the J&E Riggin was entering on an opposite tack. This was particularly exciting because the woman who will willingly get up in the middle of the night and stand an anchor watch worked on the schooner Riggin for four years in the 1980s.

We spent the night in Smith Cove off of Castine. We wanted a quiet night so we went quite far into Smith Cove where there was the most shelter, passing two schooners at the dock in Castine, the Bowdoin and the Grace O’Malley, and yet a third, Timberwind, also at anchor in Smith Cove. The training ship State of Maine was also at the docks of Maine Maritime Academy, quite hard to miss.

Another quiet night and in the morning a rough headwind up around Turtle Head at the northern end of Islesboro and then one long starboard tack almost twenty miles long to Owls Head where we picked up a mooring. Wonderful sailing. Owls Head can be an exposed anchorage, but the forecast was for westerly’s, which would give us good shelter. We rowed ashore to pay for the mooring and bought lobster and made preparations for classic Maine dinner. When we returned to the boat we were joined by yet another schooner, the Stephen Taber. We sat down to a delightful meal on a beautiful summer evening in Maine.

Stephen Taber

It does not get much better than this.

It took us several more days to work our way back to Boothbay, we even did a side trip and motored though Friendship harbor where we saw the Friendship Gladiator on her mooring.  Further along after anchoring in Oars Island Cove we saw the Friendship Sarah Mead out for a sail in brisk winds.

Oars Island Cove. There was a time when I used to sometimes run the Snowgoose I.

We still had to negotiate fog and headwinds before returning to Boothbay, but it would not be cruising in Maine without headwinds and the “F” word.

On the way into Boothbay to pick up our mooring we saw two classic motor yachts headed out,

and two more Friendships the Mary Ann, which we had seen in Rockland was on a mooring in front of the yacht club, and Bay Lady, out for a sail with clients. It was a terrific end to a terrific cruise.

Pause For The Season

June 24, 2011

I thought I would break in on my series of posts on the “new boat” to relate that there has been a bunch of other stuff going on as well. I have been back in the engine room of our friendship sloop, and the reader of this blog will know that it is not my favorite place, however, when I did the renovations and the overhaul of our engine room last spring there were still one or two minor items that I wanted to address. Now they are done, I will fall back onto my regular engine maintenance schedule.

Back in the engine room.


The last month has been mostly about getting the friendship ready for the water and then launching her. Each year we do as much prep work for the season while the weather is cool and damp in the early spring, then hope for enough warm dry weather in the late spring to actually get paint and varnish on her. For me the bane of prep work is not sanding and scraping, but cleaning. Winter seems to leave everything coated with dust and dirt, and even though the boat is inside, we still have to deal with the occasional bird droppings on deck and on the hatches. Cleaning takes time and care, we need to wash surfaces carefully and dry surfaces even more carefully. I don’t want to introduce standing freshwater to any part of the boat. I think that the importance of careful cleaning at the beginning and the end of the season is an important key to a healthy wooden boat. I also think what defeats a lot of first time wooden boat owners is not the fact that a wooden boat needs a lot of attention, but rather the surprising discovery of just how much of that attention requires a large bucket of soapy water, and scrub-brush and swabs.

The romantic, if somewhat naive notion, is that working on a wooden boat is somehow all about working with exotic tools like adzes and caulking mauls, or that somehow tar will be involved. The reality is far more banal and always has been. My own experience with this has been that visitors see the boat in her shed, get excited, volunteer to help, and then are crestfallen when they are handed a scrub brush, sponge and a bucket of soapy water.

Cleaning aside, we managed to get the boat ready despite a late spring, she was given her four-year insurance survey, and launched last weekend. It felt strange this year because it is the first time in more than a decade that commissioning and launching was not supervised by the ship’s wolf (I hope I did it right).

Picture taken this week of our boat on the mooring. Friends took this picture with their phone.

Now that the boat is in the water, I should be able to get back to doing a little work on the Penny Fee. The operative word there is most likely “little”. We want to spend as much time on the friendship as we can, but there may be some time in the early mornings to swing by the boat shop and do a little work…

New Boat part 5

January 26, 2011

Despite how busy the late summer and fall were, we did get in several days to work on the new boat, the Penny Fee that we are building as a sailing launch to serve as tender for the Friendship Sloop.

All of the planks have been scarfed and glued, and are waiting to get twisted and bent into shape.

Next we set up the molds and set the keelson in place and started the shaping of the keelson as well as the transom. The keelson needs to be shaped so that the bottom surface presents a smooth curve that matches the twist of the plank. This is a little time consuming and it is important to get it correct. This step is the equivalent of cutting the rabbet in the keel of a boat that is built in a traditional manner. In either case it is a fussy step that is dictated more by the twist of the garboard plank than anything else.

molds, keelson, and stem

shaping the keelson

father and daughter shaping the keelson

So far there have been few surprises with the kit part of the boat. We did find an anomaly with plank number five where the clever holes and string method did not quite work out, but by that point we had enough experience laying out and aligning the parts of the planks to figure out how it was supposed to go together, and we did have to do some puzzling with mold #1 where it comes in contact with the keelson, otherwise, no problems.

The next step is setting the first garboard. Soon….

If you would like to read all the posts related to this project together, go to the category at the right called “Penny Fee” and click on it. It will pull all the posts on the penny fee onto one page for you.