The Previous Owner

It seems universal that everyone complains about what the previous owner did.  In forums you see it posted as the “PO”, abbreviated because it is used so often that everyone knows what it is.  You also see “SPO” for “stupid previous owner”.

It occurs to me that this is sort of like complaining about how stupid tourists are, we all assume that when we are the tourist that our questions are intelligent and that we aren’t taking up space that the locals would prefer was left as open air.  At some point we all become the stupid previous owner.  I know that when I was restoring Leda that I made some jokes about the stuff that had been done to Leda ahead of me.  Most of them unkind.  I know that should anyone follow in my footsteps that there will be stuff that they wonder about.  Most likely when I am referred to it will be the “SFPO”.

It isn’t because I use a lot of crappy band aid solutions.  It is because the task becomes large enough that there is no possible way for a single person to complete it in their lifetime.  Couple that with the stuff you do that is well intended, maybe even well researched, that just doesn’t work the way you had hoped.  Or more likely didn’t have the longevity you had desired.  Somebody is going to find something you did and wonder why you thought it was a good idea.  The best I can offer is that I always try to do a job as though I am going to be the guy fixing it the next time around.  And still sometimes I fail.  When I do become that guy who is fixing the stuff I did before, I wonder why I did it the way I did.  Trying to make things permanent often just makes it worse.

But that isn’t what I came here to talk about today.  I came to talk about generational responsibility.  I was a young teen when the youth movement of the 60s became the youth movement of the 70s.  We blamed the older generation for a lot of stuff.  You know, the “greatest generation”, who had fought and endured the Second World War and then came home to build huge economies and better lives.  They raised kids who were the best educated generation the world had ever seen.  And we turned on them.  They were for the most part not pleased.

Well the Baby-Boomers had their chance to change the world.  We fought for civil rights.  We fought for women’s rights.  It seemed we were on the right course.  We also decried the greed of corporatism and got involved in protecting the environment.  Then in a few short years we took that good education and we got good jobs and became exactly everything we told the previous generation we hated them for.  Only we were worse.  We had greater numbers, and we knew everything.  By the time that Ronald Reagan was in his second term Baby-Boomers had hit their peak earning years.  The mottos “Greed is good” and “He who dies with the most toys wins” were deeply entrenched in the culture.  Storage units sprang up across the land so that we could store all the crap we bought.   If you are a Baby-Boomer reading this and it pisses you off, good!  It’s true.  We bought BMWs and big houses and raised kids that can’t be let outside to play.  

And now those kids are the ones who are trying to change things and will be talking about the “stupid previous owners”.  Frankly, we deserve it.  But then it will become their turn.  They will be taking apart some equipment on their boat and find massive corrosion from dissimilar metals used to make the contraption and wonder how anyone could have been so stupid as to not use the right materials.  They will discover that the reason the refer never worked right was because the insulation in the bulkhead was missing, or the wire was undersized.  Or maybe they will blow an oil line they thought would last forever because it was rated to 4000 PSI.  They will find this and know that the knowledge of how to do it right was available and wonder how it got missed.  They will know that the mess could have been avoided if one had paid closer attention.   And they will know that they are the ones who did the work and marvel at how it could possibly be. 

I think about my policy of doing projects on the boat as though I will be the next guy to have to work on it.  I wonder if I have behaved the same with my generational responsibility.  Have we?

Time and Tide…

I’ve often wondered whether people who do not live near the sea actually understand the saying “Tide and time wait for no man”.  I’d finally gotten a paint job on the motor and was working on getting paint on the various bolt on items when it occurred to me that I needed a higher tide than normal to float the motor back out to the boat.  I’ve been doing this for years, so one would think I would have been looking at it all along.  But I hadn’t.  I’ve been obsessing over various aspects of getting this job done but hadn’t actually looked at the tide table.  It was last Thursday morning when it dawned on me that we had been having a series of big tides and that I should take a look.  To my dismay, Friday morning at 4:00 A.M. (as in the very next morning) was the last tide for weeks that would work for getting the motor off the deck of my house.

You see, I have a hoist with a boom off a piling on my deck.  The deck is about ten feet above the beach and it takes a pretty good high tide to have water under the hoist area.  In this case I needed enough water to cover the beach so that I might get my inflatable dinghy under it and still have it float when I put somewhere around 450 pounds in it.

The amount of work that can be done with a rising tide is incredible.  I mean, just imagine, it can float entire ships, so the limit to what we can move with it is really a matter of how much flotation we can arrange.  Over the years I’ve moved all sorts of stuff.  But lessons on displacement are hardly needed I’m sure for anyone who has wandered in here for a look.  Over the years our beach has raised quite a lot, a couple of feet over thirty years.  Which sometimes causes me some alarm when I plan a job like this and realize that my brain is still using 1990 data.  The beach is rising from Glacial Rebound.  The same phenomenon that created the land-bridge to Asia somewhere in the dim past.  Until I learned about glacial rebound, also known as isostatic rebound, I always thought that the migration from Asia to North America was via ice, but it wasn’t.  The ice sheet had receded and the Bering Sea floor had rebounded.  Maybe as much as 500-feet.  Amazing really.  Or so the theory goes.  Regardless, our beach needs a higher tide now than it did thirty years ago, no matter what the cause.

Our motor hanging over the beach awaiting the tide and dinghy

  I have to admit that I wasn’t all that happy to be getting up at 3:00 in the morning.  As it turns out, it was a spectacularly beautiful morning.  It just happened to be summer solstice, so at that time of the day we had the remnants of the sunset, or the start of the sunrise hovering over the mountains to the north.  The pink glow still showing the brighter stars.  The nearly full moon was hanging high in the sky and making it’s way west.  Once I had dragged myself out of bed I was plenty happy to be there.  It did take a cup of coffee to help with my attitude. 

Ready to go

 When you visit a dinghy dock in marinas around the world, you can always pick out the dinghies from wooden boats.  Sometimes you can tell which boat they are from just by the color of the paint splattered on them.  Mine is no different, only now it has smudges of motor oil from moving my motor to the beach.  

I rowed out to the boat and used the boom and mainsheet to hoist the motor into the cockpit.  I rigged a couple of guys off the boom so I could control the swing.  All simple tools.  It amazes me how many people I know who own sailboats but think that they need a dock crane to do this kind of work.  I realized while rigging all this up that I was in heaven.  I was at perhaps the most contented moment in my life.  I love that kind of work.  No I didn’t take photos.  There really isn’t that much too it and I was busy.  I didn’t want to stop for a photo op.  Once the motor was swung over the cockpit it was lowered on to the bench and secured in place so that I could go back to bed to resume work later.  I was back in bed by 5:07 A.M..  Not bad for a morning’s work.

Upon returning to the boat the motor was slid forward of the binnacle.  A platform was erected forward of the binnacle to position the motor at the top of a plank that acted as a ramp into the galley.  I had Ginny lend a hand, an act on my part that caused her to be proud.  Not of herself, of me, as I am notoriously poor at asking.  But a second set of hands was pretty important for this part.  Gravity would carry the motor down the plank, so it wasn’t a matter of needed strength, what we needed to do was control the descent.   We hooked the main sheet to the back of the motor so that Ginny could use a winch as a brake and had the mechanical advantage of the tackle and we just eased it down the ramp.  Ginny paying out line and me guiding it down.   

So there it is.  Back on board.  I am doing some work on the reduction gear to make sure it doesn’t leak oil and it will go back out to the boat.  I will bolt on the flywheel and reduction gear and get it lowered back into place.  The bilge has been thoroughly cleaned.  My shop vac will never be the same again.  I decided to keep the screen below the motor as opposed to making a new tray to go under it.  The tray has some nice benefits over the screen but I can see through the screen.  One never knows when seeing into the bilge will be an advantage.  This was enough of an excuse for me to be lazy and not start construction on a tray. 

I’m still not sure what I might do about the cabin sole.  I’d like to reconstruct these hatches.  But it might wait.  Which means it might not happen at all.  That’s how it goes here once a project goes on the list of things to do.  There is still lots to do to get the motor back into position and fired up.  With any luck we will be back in business soon.  Of course, I’m only a couple of months behind on my other chores!

And Now It’s June

Just a quick update here.  I’ve been busy but work is moving slowly.  I sourced a crankshaft for our motor and have the motor mostly reassembled.  I’ve been trying to decide how far I can put it together on shore and still get it into place on board the boat.  I’m approaching that limit as I put the head back on yesterday.  Or more likely I have slightly exceeded that limit but am going to deal with it anyway. 

One of the goals while having the motor out is to get a good paint job on it.  This is proving to be a bit trickier than I had anticipated as if everything is bolted on there is a lot that can’t be reached with a rattle can.  Painting it before everything is bolted on requires a certain amount of messing around so that paint doesn’t end up were you don’t want it.  I’ve chosen white.  Ask me in a few years whether or not that was wise.  But I wanted something bright that would make the engine space (in the bilge) less dark.  It isn’t a decor issue.  It’s a matter of being able to see what I’m working on.

All the usual spring chores on the boat are sort of in limbo.  We have about twenty hours of daylight this time of year and we have been experiencing good weather, but these days I’m only good for a fraction of the available light.  Between drinking coffee in the morning and drinking wine in the evening there is a fairly small part of the day for actually getting any work done!  I spent most of the day today replacing the studs for the exhaust manifold.  Of course they were buggered up and frozen into the head.  One of the four came out without breaking.  So some of the typical fooling around.

I still need to decide if I am remodeling the engine space with a drip pan before I put the engine back in.  I do still need to build a new hatch for the forward deck.  

Meanwhile we are enjoying the summer weather!  

The Hunt

I sometimes worry about my priorities.  At times it seems the hunt is more important than the goal.  Accept the current situation with the Perkins diesel from our boat as evidence.  I say “from” as it has been removed.  A lot of cursing and dismantling went into the project as not only did I need to take enough stuff apart to get the thing out from under the galley, I also had to take it apart far enough that I could actually move it.  I got it moved to the house where I discovered through further disassembly that I need a new crankshaft.  

So the real goal is to get a new crank.  However in the process of hunting for one I discovered a number of engines in various states (both states of repair and states of the union) across the country that might have crankshafts that are useable, but certainly have lots of spare parts.  Which is inviting to own when your engine is 50 years old.  I also found a crankshaft from a reputable dealer who will guarantee it is usable and ready to install for about a thousand dollars.  Which all things considered is not that bad.  I would still need to buy some parts, such a new connecting rod as when we damaged the crank we also damaged the bearing surface of one rod.   I need gaskets sets and so forth.  I calculated I could buy the parts needed for about 1350 dollars and be on my way to getting this put back together.

But no!  I’m thinking that whatever it is that makes me want to own a 70-year old boat, also makes me want to save these old engines.  So here I am negotiating with people for their cast off old Perkins engines so that I might end up with a pile of good used parts.  It most likely will not save any money on the present project, but could pay good dividends down the road should I need injectors, lines or pumps.  

Yes, I’m wondering about it too.  But to quote Popeye, “I yam what I yam”. 

I wonder how many of these things end up going into the bin because people asked too much money for them.  Eventually they get tired of storing it and they cast them out.  Which is really sad.  The best recycling program is to not send this stuff to the crusher but instead to put it back into a working engine.  Across the land there are storage units crammed full of stuff that people are paying to store.  At the rates charged it often doesn’t take long before the rent paid is more than the value of the stuff stored there.  Which most people view as making that stuff more valuable!

I have a friend here in Juneau who is having some trouble with the engine in his boat.  He is planning to repower.  It will likely cost near twenty thousand dollars by the time he is done.  I shudder at the thought.  I can’t see spending that much money on the project when I know for a fact it will not increase the resale value of my boat.  Or his.  For that kind of outlay I can rebuild a stack of old motors.  But then we have already established that my priorities are not quite normal.  Well, that and I am notoriously cheap.  Before I buy anything I ask myself if I can make it for less!  

So this is where we are.  Still trying to round up parts.  I’ve decided to relax over the engine being out of the boat and dedicate the summer to working on the boat.  I have a number of projects that will be easier to accomplish if I accept up front that I am not going sailing or adventuring.  I’ve already mentioned that I have the forward hatch removed from the boat and need to build a new one.  I need to get started on that.  Of course the space I use for rebuilding engines is also the space for doing woodwork and sawdust inside the engine is a good thing to avoid.  So there are some conflicts.

I also want to strip the paint off both sheer planks and refasten them.  The boat is copper riveted but the sheer planks could not be riveted because of the clamp running down the inside of the hull.  So they were put on with screws.  It’s time to refasten them and calk those seams.  While I am at it, I should check the fasteners on the plank ends at the transom as there is some indication there of some movement.  I have spots on the deck that I am having some trouble with the epoxy-glass sheathing.  On and on. 

It’s funny how the list goes.  Now that I have the engine torn out, I am thinking about building a drip tray to put under the engine.  Right now there is a plastic molded net that is intended to catch tools and parts when dropped.  It would be better if it were a tray that was slanted to one side to aid tools in rolling to a location that they can be reached and it would be better as well for putting sorbent pads under the engine.  In theory if oil or fuel ran to the low side, a rolled sorbent pad would collect it as opposed to spreading them out flat as I do now.  The fact that the existing structure is open still allows drips through.  It seemed like a good idea at the time.  It has saved many sockets from ending up in the deepest part of the bilge but for trapping oil, not so much.  That and I laid it in flat.  Over the years the center has sagged a bit and the tools tend to migrate to center where it is near impossible to get them.  

I’m also wondering about changing the hatches over the engine while I have the galley floor all torn out.  The existing ones don’t deaden the sound all that well.  By the time I am done I will probably have remodeled the galley.  Maybe I can finally get rid of that orange formica!

These are the adventures that the summer holds.  Its all fine.  I had hoped to be sailing to Puget Sound.  But then again, sometimes its just as good to be busy.  Oh, and I should add that if you have an old Perkins 4-cylinder sitting around, don’t hesitate to get in touch!  More to report later.

Photos From March 31, 2019

If I’d known that Kerry Howard was going to be taking photos of us, I might have gotten out the main.  This was the day that we lost our engine.  I was spending a fair amount of time below with my head in the bilge, so we were sailing under jib alone to make things easy for Ginny to steer.  Well that, and easier for me to be upside down in the bilge!

Sailing in Alaska is beautiful!  We get so used to looking at the scenery here that I have to admit that I was a bit shocked when I saw the photos.  Those mountains should be full of snow, but aren’t.  But that’s beside the point.  They look great in the background.

April Fool’s Day, 01.04.2019

April Fool’s Day, or April Fools’ Day if the plural is intended.  But since I am talking about myself, it is singular.  Traditionally a day for hoaxes and jokes to suck in the gullible, this year, it has marked me with a “kick me” sign on my derriere.   

We have been experiencing a beautiful spring with lots of sunny weather.  It gets chilly at night, dipping near freezing but the days are warm and the whole town has been in a rush to get everything going for spring.  I’m no different and as a result Leda is back in front of the house in Tee Harbor a month earlier than planned.  It hasn’t been without a price.

I spent the last few weeks going over the motor on the boat.  I rebuilt the raw water pump.  Pulled off the starter for inspection and servicing.  I made some changes in the plumbing for the cooling system that allow better access to the sides of the motor.  I went through the fuel system and replaced seals and made a few changes.  I encounter a number of problems with making all of this work and not a few headaches, some cut and bleeding knuckles and over used my quota of swear words.  It is after all a boat!  What I was most proud of was making an oil pressure manifold that is connected to the engine oil port with brake line so that all of my sensors and gauges are in a spot where I can access them.  I needed a new buzzer for my oil alarm and ordered one.  It will be delivered today.

The harbor here charges by the month, so staying into April was going to cost me for moorage that I didn’t need.  So, the plan developed to take advantage of the nice weather and move the boat to Tee Harbor on the last day of March.  We motored out of Auke Bay and due to last minute preparations on the boat it was rather late in the day.  We were debating as to whether or not to sail or just motor and get the job done.  

It was about the time that we cleared Auke Bay and started into Favorite Channel that we lost oil pressure.  Since I had not waited until today, there was no buzzer on the oil pressure to alert us and I was instead alerted when I could hear the lifters rattling on the cam.  The motor was shut down immediately.  

I discovered a burst oil line to the remote oil filter.  About the same effect as a burst aorta.  Immediate loss of pressure and flow.  I did an emergency repair on the line but sadly the motor now has a knock and vibration that is not normal nor is it something that we can recover from without tearing the motor down.  

It’s a Perkins 4.107.  A great little motor and worth saving.  I think.  I hope.  This changes the plans for spring and summer.  I need to work this project into the line-up of spring projects and see what happens next.  I won’t really know more until after a good inspection.  

It’s very depressing to have this occur after spending a couple of weeks going over the motor.  I will have a better look at the oil line and see if I can determine a cause of the failure but replacing those oil lines would have been a good thing to add to my list of updates.  It’s easy to say that now.  When things like this happen, I always feel like it is my failure to have predicted and prevented it.  Well it is, isn’t it?  It’s ironic that my oil alarm buzzer arrives in the mail today.  It is set up to go off if the pressure drops to 15-pounds.  It might have been enough time to save the motor.  Probably would have been.  So often we learn lessons that we didn’t need.  I already knew that an alarm that went off before zero pressure was reached was a good idea.  

On the bright side, I will have a chance to refresh the entire motor.  The bilge is a mess.  So I will get to clean that up as well.  I’m still planning to write up the lessons learned and the things I’ve discovered after 20-years of having the boat out sailing.  I’m not sure yet of what the final lessons are from this experience.  It usually takes a while to figure that out.

We did sail home after all.  It was not as much fun as it might have been.  We managed to dock the boat under sail, which is a good accomplishment but was not celebrated much.  We were tired, hungry and sad over this latest development.  Today is April Fool’s Day.  But this is not a joke!Edit

Wooden It Be Loverly?

I was once labeled as a “tree hugger”.  Which is pretty funny to me considering I have a wooden boat!  I love wood.  I’ve always been drawn to wood and water.  While I admit that fiberglass makes a good boat hull, it does not resonate with whatever it is that makes me me.  

Now you would think that being called a tree hugger wouldn’t be a bad thing for someone who likes wood.  And its not.  It’s true that I love trees and don’t cut them down without a lot of consideration.  But “tree hugger” gets used as a derogatory term for environmentalists.  I’ve got nothing against protecting the environment or protecting trees.  I approve of having lots of both.  But to own a wooden boat, you have to approve of cutting down trees.  Otherwise you don’t have any timber for building.  And you then use a lot of poisons and potions to keep the wood from rotting, so really, it isn’t exactly an environmentally friendly activity.  You basically do everything possible to stop nature from taking its course with your wooden boat.

But tree huggers get blamed for denying people the right to work.  It’s clearly a pejorative.  Its odd that environmentalists get a bad rap.  When I was a young boy the rivers in the Great Lakes region caught fire repeatedly.  It was when the Cuyahoga  River caught fire in 1969 that it also ignited a fire storm of public protest.  I don’t know anybody who thinks that burning water is a good thing, so the environmental movement must be good for something.  Although I’ve heard that some of those rivers were good for cleaning the growth off your boat.  So I guess that might be the silver lining of that smokey cloud.  Anyway that burning river started what became known as the environmental movement in the United States.  Clean water and clean air became a priority.  It had it’s impact on all industries, including logging.  Whether or not the “movement” overstepped it’s need and bounds is not the focus of my commentary here and is better saved for arguments at the pub.  It’s birth was from necessity.

Anyway, I was accused of being a tree hugger.  Not kindly.  The event came to pass at a party at a friend’s house.  There was a keg of beer and a lot of people who volunteered to help drink it.  To get to the party one had to navigate a fairly long drive, downhill to the house.  The drive passed near the base of a large spruce tree that apparently caused a number of party goers some nerves, as it is the nature of such trees to attack cars that pass too closely. 

The party had moved outside and a lot of participants where gathered around the offending tree, someone brought out a chainsaw.  The plan being to drop this tree before it could cause any more trouble.  This was not just a big tree.  It was (and still is) a Sitka spruce tree.  Spruce is the strongest wood by weight on the planet.  It is lightweight, so as an example it isn’t stronger than oak for the same dimension.  It is stronger that a piece of oak of the same weight.  Which is why it makes such good spars for both boats and airplanes.  When these trees grow slowly over hundreds of years they are subjected to continual cyclic loading from the wind and for all I know from the rotation of the planet.  They form a perfect structure for any lightweight system that needs to resist cyclic fatigue.  Lightweight, strong and relatively stiff.  They also happen to be excellent for guitar faces and piano sounding boards.

The particular tree under consideration was about three feet in diameter, maybe as much as 40-inches.  It was completely straight, perfectly round in cross-section and had no limbs for at least 30-feet so the base of the tree would be clear lumber.  It was perhaps the most beautiful tree I had ever seen.  Not the biggest spruce I’d ever seen, but it was obviously full of straight-grained, knot-free wood.  The fact that it was next to a road made it all the more desirable from the standpoint of timber because it was accessible.

I live in a temperate rain forest.  It is full of trees.  It’s called the Tongass National Forest.  It is the largest national forest in the United States.  It is nearly 17-million acres of which nearly 10-million is forested.  I don’t have figures on what the spruce population of this forest is, but spruce is abundant.  I can tell you this for certain, as a guy who walks through the forest noticing trees that one might make spars from, spar trees are rare despite the abundance of spruce trees.  To compound the problem, as the climate changes the younger trees do not develop in the same manner as the old trees.  This is not a comment about global warming, it’s just a fact that the ice that once covered this region has been melting for a long time.  Trees that grew here when temperatures where lower due to the higher mass of ice grew at a slower pace.

When you examine a piece of spruce you notice that its grain is long, and straight.  It has light coloration, nearly white with fine tan colored pinstripes.  Those pinstripes are the winter wood.  It is denser than the light summer wood.  In trees that grow during warmer winters that winter wood is more abundant which results in wider pinstripes.  Usually the light summer wood is wider as well.  Overall this is a less desirable piece if strength and fatigue resistance is a major concern.  You want to find a tree that has about 25-growth rings to the inch with the darker winter wood nothing more than a faint line that you can barely see.  The grain needs to run parallel to the length of the board after it is cut, so a straight tree is needed to start and someone who knows how to cut it needs to be involved.  It’s true that trees are a renewable resource if your intended purpose can utilize trees that are 60 or 100 years old with growth rings that number 8 or 10 to the inch.   It’s the trees that only grown an inch in 25 years that need 300 years to be two feet in diameter that aren’t renewable.  If we went away and left the forest alone for 500 years we might not get these trees back unless we could replicate the climate that produced them in the first place.

And here, standing next to my friend’s driveway is just such a tree with a bunch of drunks proposing to cut it down for firewood.  I proposed that the tree could serve a much better purpose than firewood.  Spruce is actually a pretty lousy species for firewood as it doesn’t have a lot of BTU’s compared to something denser.  Granted it can be very nice to split when it is knot-free and has nice straight grain, which is exactly the reason not to turn those bits into firewood.  At my proposal of utilizing the tree for a better purpose it was suggested that some of it could be turned into a bench or maybe a picnic table. 

This was when I earned my label.  I stepped in and said something like, “You’ll make that tree into a picnic table over my dead body”.  I went on to explain that it was a noble enough tree that there should be a plan in place for the timber before it was taken down.  That in my view it was like losing one’s virginity, you only got to do it once.  Why piss it away?  This was a poor choice of words considering the crowd.  I was in danger of being lynched.  Luckily the limbs on the tree where too high to get a rope over. 

It is ironic that I have a spruce table in my house.  It’s 8-feet in length, 3-feet wide and made from three planks three inches thick.  It’s commonly referred to as a “harvest table” because of its size and robust construction.  It was the dining table for a family who built a lumber mill in Juneau at a place called Sunny Point circa 1930.  It’s a beautiful old table, made from clear Sitka spruce.  But it isn’t spar grade timber.  The grain is not straight and it only has about 12 rings per inch.  It came from a tree near the beach that grew quicker because of the warming effect of the sea and it did not grow symmetrical because of better light on the side nearer the beach.  Trees that grow spar grade spruce need to grow in protected groves that allow for them to be very straight.  They need to have grown in a dense enough pack to prevent a lot of limbs on the lower trunk.  They need to get uniform light so that they grow symmetrically and they need to do all of this slowly.  The conditions are fairly rare and probably never going to happen again unless we get another ice age.  In which case count me out for sticking around to harvest one. 

I’ve traveled around Southeast Alaska and can count on one hand the number of times I have walked through sections of forest filled with these kind of trees.  The forest canopy is far overhead with almost no undergrowth (unheard of in much of this forest).  When it rains almost none of it reaches the ground because the canopy is so dense.  The ground is covered with spruce needles and moss in a carpet that is soft and quiet.  The experience is such that I am glad some of the ancient forest exists.  But let’s be clear here.  I coveted the tree that is the subject of this narrative because I could visualize what was inside it and I wanted it for myself, or at least someone else who would utilize the timber for something for which it was suited.  I don’t mind using the resource.  What I rage against is wasting it!

People look around at the forest here and think we have more trees than we know what to do with.  As time goes on, fewer and fewer people have a need for quality wood, which just amplifies how ignorant people are of how rare spar grade trees are.  Since most of the Tongass National Forest is without roads, finding one you can get to and get to a lumber mill is even harder.  In my view, cutting one down and not making a spar out of it is a sin against nature.

Sadly most people view wood as an inferior material.  The fact that the skills needed to work with it are easily obtained and the tools are relatively simple doesn’t seem to have much impact on the perception of a society that places more value on immediate gratification and a supply of cheap consumer goods.  The truth is the average person doesn’t understand the difference between one piece of wood and another.  In reference to spars, most people would tell you that aluminum is superior because it doesn’t rot.  Aluminum has it’s own set of problems, but the biggest factor in aluminum spars becoming the standard is that it can be mass produced.  Well that and those spar grade trees are getting hard to find. 

Sadly, it isn’t just spruce trees that are harder to find.  Good boat lumber is harder to source now than ever.  It’s good that the world is waking up to the idea that it is a limited resource, but it doesn’t make the job of keeping a vintage wooden boat on the water any easier.  It isn’t just wood.  As technology changes and building practices evolve there are a lot of things that were once common that are now hard to find.  Even yacht paint is becoming a niche market.  

Getting back to the party and the protected tree.   I hung around that evening until it was too dark to be cutting down trees.  By morning the desire had apparently died down as the tree is still there, some 20-years later.  I visited it recently because I was curious.  I doubt at this point in my life that I will be making a new spar for Leda.  Her old one is doing just fine.   But it was comforting to know the tree is still there.  Like visiting an old friend, I gave it a good hug for old time sake.

If You Build It, They Will Come

“If you build it, they will come.”  The quote was made famous by the movie Field of Dreams (1989).  The movie was based on the book Shoeless Joe by W.P. Kinsella, published in 1982.  If you are familiar with the movie (or the book) you know that the quote is from an unembodied voice that directs Kevin Costner to build a baseball diamond in his corn field so that Shoeless Joe Jackson might return from beyond to once again play ball.  The quote is actually “If you build it, he will come”.  But for some reason it has morphed into “they will come” because the character played by James Earl Jones uses it later to say “they will come” referring to the people who will come to watch the game.  Since “they” works better for most people when using the quote (including myself), it stuck.   Regardless, it is about an act of faith.

While I’ve enjoyed reading a number of books by Kinsella over the years, I can’t credit him with the origin of the quote.  It comes from the Bible story of Noah and the Ark.  Or some interpretations of it.  Certainly Mr. Kinsella’s interpretation of it.  I’m not accusing Mr. Kinsella of plagiarism.  While the Bible is copyrighted (a bit of a puzzle for me) it appears to be open game for using quotations (also a bit of a puzzle).  Regardless, the story of Noah building the Ark is a story about faith.  

In the years that I spent getting Leda back on the water, I always had faith that once I got her done that there would be people who would want to go sailing.  That if I built it, they would come.  I was stopped often in my work on the boat by someone walking in the harbor who would remark “I’d sure like to get out sailing on this boat.”  My standard reply was that I was saving space in the crew for people who picked up a paint brush.  The invitation to get to work usually chased them off.  As it turns out none of them ever came back.  So perhaps my attitude was a bit harsh despite the fact that I always offered it with a smile.  Maybe I should have told them to line up two by two.

But the truth is that I always thought that once I got Leda back on the water that she would be a big enough draw that people would want to go.  People still tell me they would like to go sailing on her.  I no longer threaten to turn them into labor slaves in trade for time on the boat.  It hasn’t worked in the past to bring aboard free labor or would-be sailors.  Instead I now offer to take them.  It has become a bit of a quest for me to have people experience what it is like to go sailing on a boat like Leda.  Not that many show up.  There are a number of reasons for this.  Part of it is that I live in an area that when the weather gets really nice that there often isn’t any wind.  To get a good rousing sail you need a bit of threatening weather.  People who have grown up using motors and going fishing as a reason to get out on the water tend to avoid these days.  There is also the misconception that we need 20-knots of wind to get the boat to move well.  In truth about 8-knots is perfect as the boat moves well and handles full sail easily but the conditions don’t require precision execution from the crew.  It is just fun. 

I tell people who show interest in going sailing that there are two ways to plan a day on the water.  The best is to drop everything when the conditions are perfect and just go.  Since this rarely works for people (it does for me, I often singlehand on some of the best sailing days), the other way to plan it is to schedule a day on the water and go no matter what the weather does.  This often produces less than desirable results.  People who do a lot of sailing know that you don’t always get the perfect ride.  It isn’t a whole lot different than going fishing.  No matter how good of a fisherman you might be, you still have to find fish to catch any.  So it is with sailing.  Experience helps to define when the conditions will be right, but there is nothing you can do to make them happen.   When Terry Hammond visited us in 2010 we motored out into Favorite Channel and sat around drinking beer and telling stories for a few hours before a breeze came up and offered us a good sail  We were patient and it paid off, but it doesn’t always work that way.  I was grateful for it that day to be sure.

Of course there is also the problem that people have their lives planned with a list of things they are supposed to be busy at.  I’m no different really, it’s just that on my list is “Go sailing” and just below it “Take time to goof off doing what you want”, which is often redundant.  For most of us, life has gotten so busy that we even have to schedule in goofing off.  And we are not very good these days at just goofing off.  Having a hole in the schedule to do something spontaneous is pretty much unheard of.  We spend all of our time working so we can buy toys and then when we get time away from working we feel like we need to interact with our toys.  Our stuff.  We have become slaves to it.  I’m no different.  I’ve spent my adult life taking care of a vintage wooden boat.  Wouldn’t it make sense that I would see it as a good way to spend my free time.  Otherwise, what was the point? 

It’s come to pass that all of my friends who enjoy boating or specifically sailing wanted to be captains of their own vessels.  Buying a boat is the biggest killer of spending free time with friends next to having children.  If you own your own boat, you want to go out on “your” boat! When I was a young adult none of us had any money.  Whoever scratched up enough money to have a boat had an instant crew.  We all spent lots of time together on the water.  But of course we all ended up buying our own boats and put an end to that!  Now of course we are all hitting retirement age and are set in our ways.  We have the ability to goof off but it takes all our time.  But it is still a good goal to get people out sailing.  Boats like Leda are vanishing.  We should cherish them while they last.  I’ll save further discussion on that for another time.

Getting back to the topic at hand, which is having faith and building things, I also had some faith that if I built this web site that people would come to it.  I’ve opted not to make room here for public comment.  I’ve seen too many nice web sites filled with spam and hate to invite public comment.  I do however hope that people who read any of the content here might be moved to get in touch.  I’m receptive to corrections or criticisms (about the web site or the boat!).  I would be happy to debate about preservation techniques used on these boats.  I’d be happy to offer advice to others, or just talk about boats in general.  I’ve never been very good at joining clubs or organizations.  My lifestyle of living semi-off-grid in Alaska should be indication enough of that affliction.  I do however have a commitment to community.

As stated elsewhere here, I may be reached by email at:  I’ve thought about adding a contact form to this web site.  However, in our modern world, one doesn’t do this without using a filter to keep out bots.  It seems that asking persons to actually write an email is a good filter.  To date it has been 100% effective, much like my offers of crew space to those who supply labor.   But I know there are others out there who have an interest in keeping these vintage vessels sailing.  I have faith.

The Mast – Part II

Most of the narrative about Leda’s restoration was completed by October of 2018.  I found photos of Leda’s finished mast after the New Year and finally got them posted.  It is just an effort to make the telling a bit more complete and this post is an alert for any readers who have not revisited that area but always wondered what happened!

The segment can be viewed by clicking here.  It can also be found by navigating the menu toward the bottom of the section on restoration.

Changes and Updates

Ever wonder why the U.S. lists the month first in numerical date format?  But then we haven’t gone metric either despite our monetary system being based on it.  Regardless, I’m going to use the more globally recognized day, month, year format.  We’ll see how long it takes to screw it up.

There is not a lot to report here right now.  It’s just time to get back to writing after taking some time off to recuperate from the initial push to get the web site published.  I did manage to work my way into a few corners but I guess the overall format works well enough.  I’ve not gotten much feedback, so it is entirely possible that it is incomprehensible and therefore no one has managed to navigate it.  In which case this entry will not be read either!

I have recently been in contact with Erika Grundmann regarding her web site   I came across this site while doing research regarding the history of the Trans-Tasman race.  It is a wonderful web site with a terrific story to tell.  I urge all persons, interested in vintage yachts or not to visit for a look around.  Erika was kind enough to point out a few editorial errors in my effort, specifically that I listed the wrong destination for the 1934 Trans-Tasman Race.  That entry has been corrected to reflect the correct route of Auckland to Melbourne.  

I’m sure there are other mistakes.  If you run across them please do let me know.

I’ve found some photos of the finished mast prior to stepping it in the spring of 1998.  I am working on that entry which will go into the restoration section once I am done editing it.  It will be found under “The Mast, part two“.  (All the clever names were taken.)

It’s a beautiful day here in Tee Harbor.  Bright sun and about 33 degrees.  We’ve had a run of nice weather (we are officially having a drought) and I’ve been getting some work done on the boat.  Mostly overdue maintenance items.  A new bilge switch, checking over all the cooling and fuel plumbing on the engine and refreshing it as needed, and a thorough cleaning of the engine and the bilge.  It’s good therapeutic work.  I’m heading off today to cut the forward hatch from the deck and seal that opening up with a piece of plywood.  That hatch has needed some attention for along time.  It makes sense to just take it off and decide whether or not it can be rehabilitated or whether I need to build a new one.  It is supposed to start snowing and/or raining by Saturday so I want the hole sealed from the weather.   It won’t get done by sitting here!  Have a good day.  More later.