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Anke and I are building our next boat, and writing about it at Access to the net comes and goes, so I'll be writing in fits and spurts.

Please feel free to browse the archives, leave comments where you will and write, and I'll respond as I can.

Fair winds!

Dave and Anke
triloboats swirl gmail daughter com

Friday, March 2, 2018

Hope Ain't a Tactic

Catfishin' Clip from the movie, Deepwater Horizon

Wish in one hand; s**t in the other; see which fills up first.
-- Folk Wisdom

Fishin' for Trouble; Hope Ain't a Tactic

The movie Deepwater Horizon depicts the events and poor decisions preceding and exacerbating one of the outsized, normal accidents of our age.

In this clip Mark Wahlberg, playing Chief Electronics Engineer Mike Williams, presents the seemingly obvious:

If you go fishing for trouble, you'd better gear up.

To embark upon dangerous pursuits, it helps to arm ourselves with knowledge, tools, skills and practice, practice, practice. Err on the side of caution. Get our heads in the game.

All too often, hope is mistaken for a tactic.

We plunge ahead, counting on fair weather. On our reflexes. On our instincts. Our guts. Our ability to wing it. On rescue. We imagine that these will pull us through. Often enough they do. But now and then things go south in a hurry.

And we're caught out.

Recently, I heard blind risk described as putting a paper bag over one's head with a bucolic scene painted on the inside. Running through that imagined or wished-for landscape is bound to end poorly.

We can't rule out risk, and really, we don't even look to minimize it. After all, most of the worthwhile pursuits in life are inherently risky. Risk is something we accept as the price of living large.

But stupid risk. Blind risk. The kind of risk that predictably cuts short the pursuit of happiness...

I mean, c'mon!

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Leaning on Love

Lovers in Old City
by Vitogoni

Lean on me
When you're not strong
And I'll be your friend
I'll help you carry on
For it won't be long
Till I'm gonna need
somebody to lean on.

-- Lean on Me by Bill Withers

Leaning on Love

One time, we got into some bad water. Under the belt, this time, rather than the keel.

We were visiting Anke's family in Germany in our early years together. Family had work or school, weekdays, so we took to bikes and toured far and wide. October in the Old Country. Camping and eating cold (fires are frowned upon).

In one beautiful stretch near the Swiss border, we'd gone through our water. We were in a Naturschutzgebiet; a nature preserve, and for once, no civic water supply. But we were following a small, pristine looking river upstream, that ran through woodlands. Our map showed it originated in hills within the preserve, exiting its boundries at a point well downstream.

Anke was parched, and decided to drink.

I hemmed and hawed a bit... Germany is settled pretty much cheek on jowl. This preserve, while locally a big deal, looked to my Alaskan eyes like a stonethrow in each direction.

But what's good for my goose... I took a few sips, and it was wonderful.

Next morning, we continued upstream, thinking we might take a look to see what produced so much water from such a small watershed (can you see it coming?). We rounded the shoulder of a hill. The river should have, too, heading up a small valley. Instead it went the other way, toward the boundary of the preserve, and we soon found ourselves pedaling among cows and sheep. You know... upstream cows and sheep.


We monitored our bowels all day, while slowly cycling higher in elevation. No problems... must have dodged that bullet! At the end of the day, we had a long coast down to the Rhein, with the Alps towering above us in full, evening roses and blues... alpenglow in all its glory.

We stopped in a town and asked about a camping spot. A very nice woman offered for us to stay at her campground, which had just closed to paying customers for the off-season. Still had power and running water!

Well... it caught Anke that night. Both ends with me trying to position a blanket between.

Next morning, I was still feeling okay. Since there was power, I had an idea... how 'bout I cycle in and buy an immersion heater (a little, electric coil you dip in a cup or pot to heat it) and some soup packets?

Right. Good plan. But my German was still not much better than a monkey's, and Anke's English, while plenty for conversation, didn't cover an immersion heater. Took us a couple hours of charades and 20 questions and little drawings before she finally exclaimed, "Ach ja! Ein Tauchsieder!"

Right. Tauchsieder. Dip-Boiler. Not an easy word to pronounce. Took me another half hour to learn it.

So I'm feeling a little... fluid by now. I wobble into town, and, depending heavily on the kindness of strangers, locate a shop with a window full - I kid you not - of dip-boilers in all sizes. Turns out they're fairly common in Europe.

Well, I make it back before installing myself  on a throne (bathrooms luckily still open). We sip soup and mint tea for three days, which runs through us like a river, as it were.

There was more... The part about the scary man who initially led Anke to the campsite owner (me 'guarding' the bikes as Anke disappears into a dark alley with this rough looking guy as night comes on). The owner who let us stay on as long as we liked, drove down to offer blankets and home made apple schnapps (both declined, but with great appreciation... bless you, Frau Wolfgang, wherever you are!).

When it was more or less over, we dared our first venture through town on foot. Arm in arm, leaning each on the other,we scouted each next facility before leaving the last.

We remember this as one romantic interlude among the many.

It's something, facing a storm in the gathering dusk with safe harbor still ahead, to know one is not alone. To know that our strength and courage are aligned. To know that our fear and weakness will be heard and backed up. To reach for a hand in the darkness...

To lean on love.


The little town where this all went down is called Stuehlingen ('shtool-eeng-gen [hard g like get]). It became a verb in our couple-speak; We steuhlingen our way through a difficult period with lots of love and alternating, mutual support.

Since writing this, we took in Casey, our new partner. As you might imagine, this required some deep adjustments for Anke and me. We stuelingened our way through them and kept our feet, sailing on closer than ever.

Happy Valentine's Day to you, too!

Monday, January 22, 2018

Tumble Hitch: A Useful Knot for Rowing Out an Anchor

                                               This side takes load...                    Pull to spill...
                                               Make fast to tender                        Lead near to hand
Tumble HitchFrom

The wooden dowel represents the anchor's shank

Seek the wisdom that will untie your knot.
-- Rumi

Tumble Hitch: A Useful Knot for Rowing Out an Anchor

Rowing out an anchor in a gale or more of wind is serious business.

After considerable experimentation, the method we settled on is as follows:
  • One of us takes position at the bow, one in the tender.
  • The anchor and chain are transferred to the tender.
  • Line is paid out from the boat as the tender works to position.
  • The line is made fast at the boat (by signal or pre-arrangement).
  • Chain is paid out from the dory by hard rowing against the fixed line.
  • At the perfect moment, the anchor is thrown from the tender.
  • Anchor is set from the boat.
Sounds simple, right?

Well... we find that sitting toward the tender's bow depresses it to lower windage, while the stern lifts high and acts as a riding sail for easier rowing into the wind (avoids blowing off, beam on).

Tossing the anchor and last bit of chain over, clear of oars, locks, one's own feet and the gunnel is no mean feat. It can hang up in a number of ways that all fail more or less dangerously.

Enter the Tumble Hitch - a variant of the Highwayman's Hitch.

The latter was said to have been used by thieves who tied their horses with this easy-to-tie, quick-release hitch for a fast get-away. Only problem is that it's not very stable and can capsize and release prematurely. The Tumble Hitch was devised in 2004 by Dan Lehman as a more stable solution.

What's unusual about both hitches is that, where others take one or more round turns around whatever they're hitched to, these open like a hand releasing. For anchoring purposes, that means a clean, anti-fouling release without unraveling any round turns.

The Tumble Hitch doesn't slip quite as readily as the Highwayman's... consider a smoother finished, braided line similar to the one shown. Laid and 'textured' lines have enough friction to require one or more harder pulls to release.

So here's the drill...
  • Make fast to the tender, slightly aft of center, with the line end that holds strain. 
  • Tie the hitch around the anchor just behind the flukes, let hang a foot or two below the tender's bottom.
  • Lead the spill end up and slack to a point handy to the oars(wo)man
  • Row on out to position.
  • Pull the slip end to release.
We haven't tried this yet, in any harsh weather. But initial tryouts are promising.

Definitely feels safer!


Here are some animated tutorials for the Tumble Hitch:

Friday, January 12, 2018

TriloBoat DIY: Owner Designed and Built

CERES by Erik Andrus

If it looks like a boat, it will pretty much behave like one.
-- Harold "Dynamite" Payson

TriloBoat DIY: Owner Designed and Built

The beauty of the TriloBoat approach is that pretty much anyone can design a decent boat, armed with nothing more than common sense, graph paper and a pencil. After that, pretty much anyone can build one.

That being said, it takes a dream, determination and resources - both internal and external - to pull it off.

The beauty of doing it all yourself is that you know every twist and turn of the decisions and compromises that led you to a vessel which exactly suits you. Or at least represents your own, best shot at it. In making it so, we become expert in our own vessel. Learn for the next round.

In this post, I'm featuring three Owner/Designers who started entirely from scratch to shape and finish their own creations. All three projects are linked in the right-hand side-bar... if you haven't been following them, I'd sure recommend looking through their archives!

I'm proud to have been a small part of each of these fine vessels. And pleased to have become friends with the fine folks behind them!


Erik Andrus is a farmer of organic rice on the Vermont shore of Lake Champlain. He had a vision of an engine-free cargo boat built and run by fellow farmers to carry organic produce down the Hudson to markets in New York City.

To that end, he designed and built CERES (images above and here) along the lines of a TAB (Triloboat Advanced Barge... profile and plan view curves very nearly match). The sprit yawl rig is traditional to Thames Barges. It is powerful, handy for short crew, can be quickly raised and lowered and the mains'l sprit doubles as a cargo boom.

CERES was built for a reasonable sum (around $20K, far less than estimates for the market equivalent for a commercial vessel). She served two successful seasons, with the Vermont Sail Freight Project (VSFP), whose profit margins handily paid for her construction.

Unfortunately, both CERES and the VSFP languish in the on-going search for that rare individual who can be skipper/entrepreneur/administrator.

Is that you? Contact VSFP, here.

Image result for ceres vermont sail


Image result for autarkia sail

AUTARKIA by Alan Jones

AUTARKIA is designed by Alan Jones and built with his wife, Lori. They plan to live aboard and cruise for extended periods on the waters of British Columbia.

Currently, they are detailing a very cozy interior, with luxurious room for two, and plenty for friends or family.

They're working toward a sailing rig that can be easily dropped for Fraser River bridges. One of the intriguing possibilities is Gundalow Rig, traditional on bargy hulls.

One of the things I enjoy about AUTARKIA is the number of simple, out-of-the-box solutions Alan comes up with. For example, his LED interior light mountings.

You can follow their project, here.

Image result for autarkia sail



CORNCRAKE by David Reece

CORNCRAKE was designed by David Reece and built by the whole family to serve as a camper cruiser in sheltered waters of the East Coast (sailing out of virginia).

Note the effective use of paper, rather than any sophisticated CAD drawing. Most of the vessel's shape is determined in the profile drawing (side view).

I was especially happy to watch the two young girls participate, handling their jobs with competence and good humor. After experience like this, they'll not ever fear to work toward a goal. They'll know the feel of tools in hand, and the confidence to use them.

CORNCRAKE is currently put up, ashore, awaiting the family's return from an extended stay with family in Uruguay. When they return, she'll likely get junk rigged to replace the temporary, triangular sail she sports, now.

I mean, does this boat and crew look like fun, or what???

You can follow their project, here.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

A DIY Portable Pram

Ken Simpson's CPB-1 Lightweight Folding Pram
Pic from Christine DeMerchant

I love to go a'wandering
Along the mountain track.
And as I go I love to sing,
My knapsack on my back.
- I'll spare you the Fol-de-roos!

A DIY Portable Pram

Many's the time we wish we could haul our dory up to a lake, but swoon at the prospect of lugging our dory uphill and over dale. Or wish for a second ride ashore. Or to float some firewood while we go exploring.

Ken Simpson, a retired engineer of some renown, has some solutions for us.

His site, Portable Boat Plans, offers a number of simple ways to get on the water quickly and have a lot of fun for little outlay. His designs tend toward the minimal, often sacrificing performance for economy and portability. But in the sizes he deals in, the sacrifice is small and the gains considerable.

His Lightweight Folding Prams, CPB-1 (free plans) and updated CPB-2016 (plans available for purchase), are of especial interest.

These two prams are built with coroplast, the corrugated plastic sheet material used for such things as political signs. It is relatively strong for its (light)weight, and, once the edges have been waterproofed, its corrugations trap air for positive buoyancy (it floats). Edges are waterproofed and joined with Scotch(TM) TOUGH (duct) Tape, making construction a snap. Minimal stiffening components are cobbled up from common hardware store items.

The result is a boat which weighs less than 20lbs and stows and carries like a portfolio!

Imagine a fleet of four of these, tucked away on board, ready to be used for kids and other company. As tow-boats for transporting a haul of groceries. As in, "Let's go climb to that mountain lake and paddle around!"

If we pull out all the stops, these might top out at around $100 each. By comparison, a packraft might cost around $600. 

That's a lot of bang for the buck!!

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Extending WAYWARD: Presurgical Notes

       T40x8                                                                        T32x8

Longer is better on this planet, Buddy!
-- Apologies to Tony Rice, who said 'Louder is better...'

Extending WAYWARD: Presurgical Notes

"Why don't we just lengthen WAYWARD?", my two sailing partners ask, "and add an aft cabin?"

That is to say, just add an extra 6 to 8ft cabin at the end of the hull.

I harrumph and blow. Hem and haw.

Well, the aft bottom curve would have to move aft, where it would really be too short on the new length. The labor-intensive, flush-deck cockpit would have to be removed for an aft cabin, and a new one built for the new mid-cockpit. Balances would be all wrong. The sail plan would have to be redesigned from the ground up.

I sputter and bluster.

In short, it seems durn hard to radically alter a fully integrated design. All the things that once worked together are thrown out of synergistic balance. The structural challenges are daunting.

Hmm. But...

Could we save the aft deck by cutting away below the upper line of the doubling plates, which then act as horizontal buttstraps for filler construction? If the aft cabin followed the old transom line, we could even keep the seats and corner posts, which would now butt up against the aft cabin face.


New construction - presumably a weaker attachment - would only be cantilevered 8ft vs 16ft... mechanical fasteners to back up glue. Rubrails and doubling plates span the join, and can augment structural tie-in and support.

I suppose that, if the aft curve had to be rebuilt anyway, a longer, easier (faster) curve can be built along the extra length. Of course, a fuller belly would help float the cabin and any extra gear we're likely to be accumulating with a third partner... more doodles to come.

And hey... if we duplicate the main at the mizzen location, a balanced cat-schooner or -ketch emerges, possibly abetted by a yawl driver dead aft. It looks not only balanced, but rather powerful.

Rudder and scull... well... the rudder gains leverage with greater distance from the CLR (Center of Lateral Resistance), so we could keep the lower blade. A taller upper would have to be made, but that's a simple piece. Probably steer a cabin-top tiller by wheel or whipstaff? The scull actually benefits from a lower fulcrum and correspondingly steeper angle.

The OCBs (Off-Center Boards) are already 'traveling'... we can merely set them a bit further aft to balance.

The final sails have yet to be built, anyway. All the investment in WAYWARD, inside and out, from the companionway bulkhead forward, would remain, with the cockpit deck, seat and hatches thrown in for 'free'.

And the clincher? We could pull this off with a fraction of the time, effort and $$ necessary for building a whole new boat.

It... Could... WORK!!!
(Gene Wilder in Young Frankenstein)

Extra Credit for Boat Geeks

This diagram shows the cut-lines... breaks indicate lines which will be hidden filler pieces will likely :
  • The aft bottom curve would be cut away and aft doublers removed (doublers add hull thickness below the long, low horizontal line) to vertical line under Pilot House. 
  • A horizontal cut is made below the top of the doubler line until it runs off the curve.
  • A fill piece is added, below that cut-line and carried aft to 8ft fwd of the new transom.
  • A triangular fill piece makes up above the lower filler (Payson butt above doubler?).
  • The aft cabin walls and transom are framed and built (Payson butts and mechanical to old transom?).
  • The new bottom curve is built.
  • Doublers are added, buttstrapping the pieces they cover.
  • Decks and details are added.
  • Rudder and other gear mounted.
  • Finish and go.

Not shown are rubrails and any other longitudinal stiffeners we may toss in for good measure. Will see how the glue and mechanical bonding 'feels' as we go. May augment with some tape n glue. Copper would be removed first and reinstalled last.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Winter Birds

By Shel Silverstien

Winter Birds

Autumn is a time of visible transition.

Verdant leaves funk or flame before skurriling to ground. Seawater clears, revealing empty aquatic volume where lately salmon swam and swarmed. Birds write their winged cuniforms across a lonelier sky.

People, too, flow southward in search of sun. Or, with a hint of irony, snow. Those on the water, especially, if not driven by some economic necessity, leave the long straights and stretches to we few weird-birds who haunt them at the dark of the year.

But we're in good company!

We have a special place in our hearts for the birds who stay on... ravens, crows and eagles, owls, loons, herons, kingfishers, duck of several species, juncos, thrushes, ousels, gulls and cormorants. Geese and swans make their appearances, too, often lingering long. There are little brown birds whose names I don't know, working the bush for seed and the tideline for buglings.

I take special pleasure in watching them revel in winter, right through its sterner moments. They wash and preen and fluff themselves against the cold, chattering and flirting it up. As if this were paradise. As if they were born and bred for it.

It's true that nature extends her cold claw this time of year, culling the exhausted, the inattentive, the unlucky or those whose genes bet the wrong way. Toes to the fire, I wonder at their thoughts through the long, boreal nights of rain and snow and darkness. But those who remain feed each day to keep the fires burning within their breasts.

And come spring again, their young hatch out into the waxing day.