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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, 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.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Pop Up Tents

Commercial Pop Up TentsFrom springwire... toss in the air to unfurl

Live in the sunshine
Swim the sea
Drink the wild air
-- Emerson

Pop-Up Tents

Most of the barge/scow hulls in the world have wide open decks, with hatches as needed. Why? Cheap and flexible.

Most of the yachts in the world have fixed, trunk cabins as superstructure with fixed, furnished interiors. Why? Um. Well... at a guess? Tradition? Laziness? We're all wannabee ocean crossers? Harder to say.

Trunk cabins and furniture break up the open spaces and limit our options. True, they don't have to be set up at the end of a long day. Or in the rain. Or in the dark. In our boats, we've always chosen this style, but only after a good deal of waffling.

Of course, a mix is always an option. Just because we're designing box barges doesn't mean we have to stay in the box!  An aft trunk cabin, say, with the whole forward deck flush and extensible is entirely possible.

So let's take a look at open deck, flexi-space architecture, extended by pop-up tents. Here, I'll present three types I find especially attractive.

Hatch Cover Tent

This approach, shown on my T24x4,6,8 SANDBOX design, simply tilts the midships hatch up, then puts a custom fabric shell over it. The flap, shown, ties to the gallows to provide a vestibule of sorts.

The idea is to work with existing hatches, using the covers as structure for the fabric shell, and the hatch coamings as landingss for it. One could cant the hatch cover, as shown, split it in two for side walls, or raise it at both ends for a more horizontal roof.

Supporting struts for the hatch require a little ingenuity, but nothing others haven't solved for us, time and again.

Pram Style Tents
This one from check 'em out!

Pram style tents have hoops that go to a common point, and rotate around that point. They can be fully or partially erected for anywhere from stowed flat to full coverage.

Hoops don't have to be round, as shown here... they can be more or less squared off to clear rectangular hatches when stowed (with maybe a little arc on the upper edge for rain shedding).

These have been used on boats very successfully for small hatch openings (JESTER pram hoods by 'Blondie' Hasler and Scott McCleod), and for large, open spaces (TIKI tents by James Wharram).

Advantages are quick and easy set-up, many intermediate positions and fold-flat for low windage.

Lightweight Emergency Shelter
by Patrick Wharram
This third approach is by Patrick Wharram (no known relation to James Wharram). It's superficially similar to the pram approach, but the lower hoops do not go to a common point. This allows a longer run than is possible with the pram.

Alongside a hatch, a pair of tracks can guide slides at the bottom of the hoop Vees. This can be extruded aluminum or DIY wood T- or C- track. Like the pram style tent, this can be erected fully or partially, depending on conditions. Again, hoops can be squared off if desired.

Framed Structures on WATERPOD
Note fabric biminies and domes on framed structures

Here we see a fairly complex set of frames that spread fabrics along over the decks of WATERPOD. These can range from very simple to very complex (the actual build sports a geodesic dome!).

Frames can be multi-purposed to provide security for the crew, mount solar panels and other gear, even support rigging. Fabric can be stretched over set frames in different ways, depending on conditions.

Here's another example... a fishing boat from Lago Maggiore, Italy:


So lots of options, not to mention just setting up a regular old tent on the flat deck.

Pop up tents can be tailored to the weather... open and airy in the heat. Cozy and insulated in the cold and wet. They may be aided and abetted by pop up or inflatable furniture - chairs, loveseats, tables, bunks and shelving - all deployed and arranged for the needs of the day.

Flexible spaces for changing needs.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Ambiguous Uncertainty. Adaptability. Stillness in Transition.

Ambiguous Uncertainty. 
Stillness in Transition.
-- Chinese qualities associated with SLACKTIDE

Greetings, Friends... I apologize for my abrupt disappearance! Two deceased computers and a minimal internet access point pretty much put the world on read-only status.

We have substantially completed WAYWARD ex T32x8 LUNA, and are now sailed to our winter caretaking gig in Baranof Warmsprings Bay. Her split junk rig is a prototype, which checked out this summer... we'll be building final sails this winter.

However, there's been a substantial change in our lives.

We've taken on a new cruising partner, Casey Phillips. For various reasons, neither his boat (S/V BRISK) nor ours are suitable for the three of us, so we'll likely be building again in a way that can accommodate our new 'footprint'. Quick and dirty, this time, but with better on-board internet access and geared for older age cruising. Down the road.

Thank you for your interest in Triloboats and our lives on the water. I'll definitely be writing more this winter, and hope not to drop out like that again!

Fair winds,

Dave, Anke and Casey

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Good Knife, Bad Knife

Our Knives currently in service On Board and at the Work Site

Son, when ya gotcher bollocks snarled o' the mainsheets, 'tis no time to be fumblin' in yer pocket fer a knife!
-- Old Salt Advocating a Sheath Knife in Characteristically Declarative Form

Good Knife, Bad Knife

The Good Knife has been a boon to our species since the first flint was napped. A keen edge and stout blade have been the sailor's friend since the first line was spliced. To a boatwright, it's the first tool in hand and the last to be set aside.

Its edge is the stuff of legend... forged in the fires of Vulcan hisself, it must only be sharpened on stones quarried by the full moon, using potent unguents, trigonometries and incantations. It's virtue must be guarded against the coarseness of base matter and the corruption of oxidation. Purified and preserved, it may be drawn in the day of need to slay the Dragon.


Hyperbole aside, a Good Knife can mark, slice, part, shave and – in a pinch – perform minor surgery. Its virtues and minutia are compared and contrasted down to the least degree. It's design and creation are the hallmarks of art and mastery.

But the BAD Knife... who has sung its praises? What sailor hath come forth to speak on its behalf? Plenty with high standards come forth to diss it. Life's too short, and all that. Well, here once again, to give voice to the down-trodden...

Since my early days as a sea-faring wood-butcher, I've carried two knives on my belt. One is a Good Knife, and the other Bad.

The Bad Knife, as you might expect, handles the dirty work. You know... scraping paint, cleaning fouled screw threads, cutting cardboard patterns, excavating a fastener, paring wood of dubious provenance, cutting down to a metal backstop, working around glue, a cautious bit of prying, working where a bump or slip will send it to Davey Jone's... in short, 99% of the jobs around the water.

The Bad Knife is the jack-of-all-trades. Johnny-on-the-spot. The tool at hand that saves you that return trip up and out of the bilge, down a ladder to rummage through the toolbox for that specialized tool that claim to do a momentary job a mere fraction of a bit better. The Bad Knife sneers at all those sissified tools populating those glossy catalogues. Sniggers at that prissy Good Knife, come to that.

It's got to be cheap. One step up from disposable. If possible, bought in quantity. If you don't run through them, so much the better. If you do, a Zen/Amazon non-attachment is a fine thing (AmaZen?).

It needs to be able to take a reasonable edge without putting too much time into it. Zip, zap and git 'er did. If it takes more than five minutes to restore the edge, it's too hard, and treading on the Good Knife's territory. Forget about removing minor nicks and notches. If it has to be sharpened more than once a week (barring the occasional, kamikaze mission), it's too soft.

Or thereabouts... your call. Point is, its steel must be bad enough to abuse, but not so bad it's useless. Where those endpoints lie is up to you.

A thickish blade is fine, in theory, as we'll want to beat on it, often with a hammer or axe. But we're most of us sailing small boats, so we won't be parting giant hawsers. Unless we want to chop the mast down with our blade, a thin-ish one will do. A little less than 1/8th inch (3mm) has been plenty for all I've ever asked of them.

For the Bad Knife, I've personally come to like full-tang, drop-tip style, without handle cheeks and no serration. This type lies flat and unobtrusive as possible... easier to wear without hanging up on every durn thing, and to stow several cheek-on-jowl If it comes with a paracord wrap, I don't take it off, but if not, I don't add it. All things being equal, a simple handle is cheaper without the extra materials and labor costs.

Two blades of a single make can be used, one designated as Good, the other Bad. In this case, I'd err on the side of better steel. I can live with abusing a hard edge, but not with abuse from a soft one! Seriously, a dull blade is dangerous... we're looking for one that can stand up reasonably well to insult and injury.

Ironically, the humble sheath merits more mention than it generally receives.

Personally, I like to make one sheath to fit my standard Good Knife, Bad Knife and marlinespike. I like one sheathed inboard and riding a bit high; the other outboard and a bit lower... enough difference that I can pull my choice by feel alone. In-line works okay, too, with relatively slender blades. I like the marlinespike aft. All three snugly fit to expose only enough 'hook' to get a good finger grip on it. If one has handle cheeks, it goes outboard. If the handle has no hook at its handle end, I like to add one (don't care for lanyards which hang up).

I like to wear it just aft of my hip blade on the strong arm side. Not so far back I sit on it, but far enough that it doesn't get between me and my hip when I'm working on my side. This is more comfortable, and I can still access it from behind. A stiff belt and loop help keep it in place and from flopping.

In practice... I'm between custom sheaths at the prolonged moment, making do with the wretched contraptions contrapted by those who sell the knives. They're just tolerable enough to keep replacing them off any given day's priority. But that's no praise at all.

Any knife with a bad sheath is at best compromised; at worst dangerous.

* * * * *

A Few Bargain Knives

All the knives listed here are inexpensive. 'Gooder' knives can be had, but they cost enough that you would NOT want to lose one overboard. Remember, too... the harder the steel, the more time and trouble spent attaining and maintaining its edge in mixed use!

(Frost) Mora – From Mora Sweden, this line includes mostly Sloyd pattern knives (drop tip on a slender profile; good shape for carving and general) with a narrow, full-length tang. Made for carving, hunting and the fishing industry. Models with laminated blades are exceptional, with a very hard layer sandwiched between two softer layers. This takes a great edge... it is therefore somewhat brittle. The softer layers support the blade as a whole.

Mora knives were once dirt cheap... no longer, but still a bargain. The laminated blades, especially, put a top-of-the-line edge in our hands for cheap (about US$25 as I write). Blanks are often available, but can cost as much or more than the finished knife. Their sheaths vary, but I don't care for any they provide.

The laminated Mora in the leading picture is my Good Knife of choice..

Old Hickory and Ontario – These and similar are generally sold as kitchen knives, and some of their paring knives come in handy sizes with full tang. Larger styles can be treated as blanks to shape your own. Relatively inexpensive and made with high-carbon steel, they can handle most jobs with ease. No sheaths.

Opinel – A French shepherd's knife, these are inexpensive, locking folders (Anke likes them; they're a little bulky for my taste). High carbon steel for a good edge, but the lack of any tang leaves them a shade delicate.

Schrade OLD TIMER Barlow – This is a folding knife well-made to a pattern that combines a general purpose blade with a carving blade in a compact, pocket-friendly shape. It sells cheap enough (about US$15 as I write... cheaper at other vendors) that we get extras as first-knife gifts for children whose parents deem them ready. My only quibble is that they don't have locking blades (nor do any other Barlows I've seen).

For boat-work, it handles the fine end of things that a bigger knife finds clumsy.

US Custom Design SURVIVOR – Dedicated Bad Knife... easily takes an okay edge but won't hold it long. These run about US$7.00 and come in several styles including drop-point (shown) and tanto. The style shown carries a full-thickness back 2/3rds of its length... this takes more abuse than styes which taper the whole length. I file the sharp corners and - if I get around to it - I'll grind off those finger guards. But quite usable as is.

Tiny print declares them to be “hand forged in China”, but 'forged' is stretching it. Cheap Chinese goods can vary wildly in quality, but so far, the batch we got is just about right. Webbing sheath... works. but barely.

Knives of this sort abound, and I did some spelunking around before I found this brand. Nothing too special about them. But be aware that many of these cheap-o's tend to dull at the first swipe. If you find a make that has okay steel, it probably pays to stick with it until a tried-and-true replacement is found.

Good Knife Wanted – What I'd like to find is a moderately priced, laminated steel blade that was a near companion to the SURVIVOR pattern (shown above) and flat-blade style. I'd settle for decent steel with middling qualities, buy two, and use one for Good and the other Bad. If the set came with a marlinspike and a well-thought-out sheath... well... one can only dream.

Like so many things in life, DIY is usually the only way to get exactly what we want at a price we can afford.

Bonus Tip:

We often need to scrape away paint to glue this or that in place.

Fastest method I've found is to draw the contact outline. Use the knife point dragged at right angles to the blade, diagonally across the grain, closely spaced. Cross-hatch the other way. This disrupts the integrity of the paint/primer film. It can now be scraped or sliced away with relative ease.

Bad Knife, of course.