Muscongus Bay, early. Photo credit: Shemaya Laurel
*** May 5, 2022: Great Auk departs Joy Bay, southbound.
*** June 1: Arrive Connecticut River, anchoring in North Cove.
*** July 7: Arrive Joy Bay, home once again.
Suzanne worked out the number of days away: 64. In an interesting bit of synchronicity, this year I am 64 years old.
That was a big trip! The farthest point south was Sag Harbor, New York, which is out by the Hamptons on Long Island, where I had lovely visits with my friend JG and we made plans for more sailing.
JG at Haven’s Beach, Sag Harbor. Photo credit: Shemaya Laurel
Sag Harbor was one of the original destinations. The even bigger heart calling was the Connecticut River, and sailing up to Deep River, which felt like going home. The hills were right, and the trees, and the sun and the shape of the clouds, and the bits of gentle fog in the rain.
Connecticut River. Photo credit: Shemaya Laurel
It had been seven years since I sailed away, moving to Maine. And I love Maine, with its rocks and wild wind, and evergreens everywhere. But the Connecticut River feels like home. I didn’t grow up there, but close enough, and then lived for so many years right by its shores a little further north.
In Deep River I made a new friend, years ago. On the day we first launched Auklet, learning the yawl rig in opposing wind and river current, losing steering. Make sure that the mizzen sail is free, or you’re not going to be able to turn. Opposing wind and current pinning the boat, headed straight across the river for the shore, and that big steel sloop on its pilings. We didn’t hit it, anchoring just in time, but things got complicated. This led to meeting Warren Elliott, who was none too pleased at that first moment. And we became such good friends.
Apologies for the fuzzy picture – it was just dawn, as I was leaving, and only looks this bright thanks to adjusting afterwards. But you can still see Warren’s boat… Photo credit (such as it is): Shemaya Laurel
Warren was going to be 93 years old on May 23, and my mission in leaving Gouldsboro so early in the month, in the spring cold before leaves were even out on the trees, was to get there to see him. If not by his birthday, close. I didn’t say anything, ahead of time, because I was afraid I wouldn’t succeed – like last year, when I had set out but got only as far as Pemaquid. I didn’t want to call again to say it wasn’t going to happen. But I should have picked up the phone anyway.
Warren in the garden shed that he built, from wood that he milled… just like their whole house. Photo credit: Suzanne Jean
When things felt more assured I left a message, on May 23, singing happy birthday into Warren’s answering machine. This was from the water, having left Rockport, Mass. early in the morning, bound for Provincetown, which in a combination of losing both the wind and the tide became unattainable and led to sailing through the night, straight for the entrance to the Cape Cod Canal. But before night fell, there was that song, and I told him in the message that I thought I really would get there this time. I called again a few days later, leaving another message, and getting closer bit by bit.
Sunset about 7 miles off of Provincetown. I had already run through one battery bank for the motors by this point, and now the tide was running out of Cape Cod Bay. The breeze was forecast to come back around midnight, from a perfect direction for heading directly to the canal. Given all of this, it made sense to stay out. Best part: whales! There were several backs and spouts, a bit before this photo was taken, and then for a little while after dark, the sound of them breathing, and the scent of that bit of fish-breath. It was quite lovely to have the company. Photo credit: Shemaya Laurel
Ever so sadly, I missed Warren by a month. His wife, and my friend, Margo, called back with the sad news that he had passed away at the beginning of May, two days before I left home. We came so close to one more visit, after those long intervening years.
Sometimes being on the water is where I do my grieving. The ocean and the broad rivers sturdy enough to contain all those tears, and enough space to wail into the open skies.
Margo kindly invited me to come and stay at their dock, and I waited to see how my travels might go. In the end we had a beautiful visit, in my accustomed spot at Warren’s float.
Margo and Shemaya, having such good visits. Photo credit: Sandy Ward
This had become the place where we fitted out each year after putting Auklet in the water at the nearby ramp in Deep River, and was often where I returned, to pull the boat out of the water in the fall. Equaria, the big steel sloop that Warren had built himself, was still right there.
Equaria, and the riverboat Becky Thatcher in the background. Photo credit: Shemaya Laurel
Warren was a steelworker, in his younger days. He told stories about building a giant steel tower on an island in the Aleutians – I think he said it was 1000 feet tall. He said the height never bothered him. So welding the boat together was right up his alley, and once it was built it led to meeting Margo, and the two of them having wonderful trips sailing off to the Caribbean.
Warren and Margo out for a sail with me on Auklet in 2015. Photo credit: Shemaya Laurel
Coming home is like that. The sweetness of familiar shores, and as one gets older, the presence of those who are no longer here, holding their memories so close.
And now I am back in Maine, in this new home that has actually started to feel that way. I missed it when I was gone, and was surprised to find that the low sandy shores of southern New England felt foreign, from the water. Although I did get used to swimming in comfort, and to so many fewer rocks with which to play dodge’ems, in the swirling current. But now the evergreens feel like they make everything right, and the lobster boats are a welcome change from go-fast churners of a million wakes.
Besides that, people in Maine appreciate this boat. I had become accustomed to the lovely conversations, folks enjoying both Great Auk‘s oddball configuration and bright colors. These friendly encounters were rare in southern New England, where yacht clubs are a lot more common than fishing villages. A sailing houseboat felt out of place and not necessarily welcome, unlike in Maine where Great Auk is more of an attraction, and the frequent interest and appreciation feel extra welcoming in unfamiliar harbors.
Great Auk in Northwest Creek, near Sag Harbor, New York. One person was charmed by this boat, and she took this photo and sent it to JG. We thought we were about to have a word from the authorities, and it turned out to be not only not the authorities, but an admirer! Photo credit: Dee McQuire Renos
The trip overall was wonderful. Now and then it was a bit much, but then something nice would happen, and everything would feel right again. I am ecstatic about having been able to do it, and the boat having shown itself so capable. There were some repair issues, all to do with steering in one way or another, and there is more to address on that – it’s a heavy boat, with an enormous rudder, and the strain of roiled up seas can be substantial.
This was Cape Cod Bay, in the morning as we approached the canal entrance; the seas had actually come down a bit by the time there was enough light for a photo. The breeze filled in just fine in the middle of the night, making it easy to cover the 20 miles by early next morning. Bonus, all the nighttime fishing boats went away once the waves started building! But it was hard on the rudder connection. Photo credit: Shemaya Laurel
We’ll be addressing the rudder issue, and the boat will be better for it. In the meantime, the temporary repairs held up, and here we are home.
You would think that the original white lashings – a la Wharram catamarans – might’ve been the problem, but they weren’t. Much has been learned about more appropriate fastener arrangements, as well as wood type for that transom post (purpleheart, I have since been told, is the wood we should have used). Not having gotten bolts or wood quite right, under all that strain the lowest part of the transom post broke away, passing substantial strain on to the next set of lashings above. John York, friend of a friend in Cataumet, MA, came up with, and installed, the repair approach shown, after we went through various ideas and puzzles with the goal of a quick and effective temporary fix, that would get me and the boat safely home. Thanks to Jon Bower for introducing me to the Cataumet family! Photo credits: Shemaya Laurel
The lashing repair arrangement provided quite a bit of additional support to the broken piece, but there was still substantial movement side to side in waves, which was worrisome. When I was sailing the Bolger Glasshouse Chebacco Auklet a number of years ago I had the opportunity to visit with Susanne Altenburger, of Phil Bolger and Friends, and when I was back in the Gloucester area I stopped in to say hello, staying overnight in her adjacent cove. The next morning, rushing to beat the tide, Susanne kindly took a look at the situation and came up with the idea for these nifty and simple braces. In a couple of trips to her workshop she put together everything needed and screwed them onto the boat. Miraculous. Photo credit: Shemaya Laurel
One more bit of adjustment took place in Portsmouth, thanks to Luke Tanner. Luke not only brought his tools, but also food supplies, water, ice, and the most delicious cheeseburger and French fries that I had on the entire trip! By the time I left those southern shores, both the boat and I were in good order. Photo credit: Shemaya Laurel
My endless thanks go to the folks who helped with those repairs: most especially John York in Cataumet, MA; Susanne Altenburger in Gloucester, MA; and Luke Tanner, who made the trip to Portsmouth, NH to help out. The boat got home thanks to their kindnesses, as well as to the folks who made those connections possible. And further thanks to everybody along the way who made this trip such a joy. How appropriate, to come back to Joy Bay!
Great Auk arriving home after 64 days. Photo credit: Suzanne Jean
The JRA interview that Kevin Cardiff did with me this past fall got a little buried in the previous post. Also, because of the video format of the interview it wasn’t possible to include the credits for each photo individually. So here’s this. Thanks to all who shared the lovely pictures they took! Perhaps it’s also fun to see those photos sitting still.
Many thanks to Suzanne Jean for the video at the end of the interview, with the Peep Hen Serenity moving out into the Bay under yuloh power.
Additional thanks to West Cove Boat Yard, of Sorrento, Maine, for building Great Auk.
In closing, I would like to again thank Kevin Cardiff for all the work he put into this interview. Although I sent him a number of the photos shown here, in the process of putting together this collection of pictures I realized just how many photos he found on his own before we even started. It was an interesting exercise tracking them all down to include here! Of course I could have simply asked him, I’m sure, but I didn’t want to be a bother, and the process of locating them all was both a wonderful review of these past years, and a testament to the thoroughness with which Kevin approached this project. Thank you Kevin, for inviting me to do this interview, for making it such a pleasure, and for producing such a lovely record.
And thanks again to all the photographers, who so kindly agreed to this use of their work.
Hi folks… It’s been much too long. There was a lot of fun with Great Auk this year, including after that early summer trip from the last post. With luck, at a bare minimum there will be some postcard-style entries coming up, with a few photos and small stories. Sailing went on well into the fall, and at the end of October I took the boat around to Frenchman Bay, spent two separate gales in a couple of different sheltered spots, and then on November 1 the boat came out of the water in Sorrento, where it was built. Some work got done on it at the boatyard, and a few weeks later Great Auk went into the new shelter – which was our other summer/fall project – at the top of the driveway.
After the boat was snug, I was invited to do an interview about Great Auk, and some about Auklet, with Kevin Cardiff of the Junk Rig Association. What a pleasure that was. Our conversation happened over zoom, after which Kevin did a marvelous job of pulling out the most interesting bits, which he put together with some photos into this video. Enjoy!
Endless thanks to all – Kevin for the JRA video, and everybody who participated in the giant shelter project, as well as Mike Connors, who was in the truck backing the boat into that tight space.
* Note: the shelter project took place during that heavenly Covid-lull this past fall. With just about everybody fully vaccinated, it was such a pleasure to be outdoors, working together, without masks!
The bad news is that I have completely abandoned keeping logs. On the brighter side, photos remain both doable and engaging. So the departure date for this trip could be pieced together. It was a Thursday, at the end of May, and I was off for a little over three weeks. This was the sendoff from Gouldsboro Bay, with Chubba, Bonnie and friends.
Initially I had thoughts of sailing to southern New England, and ridiculous amounts of food and water were stowed. But departure was a couple of weeks later than hoped because of how much time it took to complete all the 12 V wiring and autopilot installation. By a week after we were on our way (myself and Great Auk) the weather pattern was getting ready to change over to summer, with consistently south and west winds.
In the end, we went as far as the harbor in the Pemaquid River, on the west side of Pemaquid Point, around the backside of that big peninsula that is about halfway between Penobscot Bay and Portland. This was a good run, including some nice explorations of Muscongus Bay. Muscongus is the next big indentation in the coast west of Penobscot Bay, filled with interesting islands. I hadn’t been around that southwest corner of Penobscot Bay since the big move to Maine, over five years ago. It was nice to bust out a little bit.
Some adventures were had, over the course of those three weeks, particularly related to sailing in somewhat more demanding conditions in order to take advantage of that early east wind. The boat is more capable than one would think from looking at its flat bottom and straight across barge bow. In a good breeze, down or across the wind, Great Auk likes to sail between 4 and 4 1/2 knots. The boat will go 5, but things start to feel strained, on both rigging and steering, and it makes more sense to reef (or reef more) and take the pressure off.
One morning, after several days of erroneous weather reports that forecast bigger wind which did not materialize, I chose a route that would’ve been perfectly reasonable in milder conditions than the ones that developed. I should not know that the boat is capable of what we did – in theory one would keep oneself out of that kind of situation – but it has been very relaxing to have this benchmark, now that it’s done. Taking smaller waves in this boat no longer fazes me in the least!
There were of course many peaceful harbors on this trip, as well as lovely visits with my Aunt Patsy and various friends, and some very sweet days of sailing. An especial standout was Louds Island in Muscongus Bay. This island has a drying harbor on the east side, and I had the good fortune to pass nearby at just the right time to get a good look at it at low tide, and then when the water came back to go in for the night. Bonus, while waiting for the tide the boat got to go down on a sand bar outside the harbor! Drying out on a sand bar was actually one of my goals for this expedition, and I had no idea that I would get to do it this soon. Because of this boat’s flat bottom, it’s perfect for settling down on tideflats. Downeast is almost entirely mud, wherever the water is peaceful enough to do this, which is not terribly satisfying for stepping off the boat when it’s aground. Sand is a completely other matter, and spending time on wide, protected sandflats was one of my motivations for wanting to sail to southern New England. Although I didn’t get there (this time), I did get to have my fun stepping off the boat onto this really nice bar. It made me incredibly happy.
On this trip there was also quite a bit of night sailing. This was to catch the favorable wind and tide, but happened to coincide with that I enjoy being out in the night quite a lot. Further, so close to the solstice, one can go to sleep early, wake up at about 2 AM and set out in the dark, and by 3:30 AM the light is already starting to show in the eastern sky.
During the day there was a good bit of motoring, with that hefty 48 V Torqeedo. I do very little motoring at night, as it’s challenging to dodge the lobster pot buoys, which can get hung up in the motor. Under sail, the boat can just run right over them without problems. The boat really could use the second motor on the back – which I haven’t yet done – for good steering control in gusty changing wind when under power. But apart from that complication, the motor arrangement worked out amazingly well. The solar panels all over the top of the cabin make a real difference in range, even when the motor is drawing more electricity than the panels are producing. The solar charging extends the run time for a given battery bank considerably, and if one travels slowly on a sunny day – say about 2 knots on flat water – the charging will keep pace with the draw from the motor, making the run time unlimited. Routinely, dodging that south wind, we would start early before the breeze came up and motor for two or three hours to jump to the next harbor upwind, sometimes driving pretty hard into the breeze as it started to fill in for the day. The batteries replenished easily once the motor was not being used, and the entire trip was done without using any shore power at all, maintaining both 48 V battery banks, recharged to full capacity within a day of even quite demanding motor runs. Cloudy days charge more slowly, but still take care of business.
This is a Torqeedo 4.0 outboard, 48 V, running off of one or the other of two battery banks, each made of 4 (four) 12 volt 100 amp hour AGM batteries, connected in series to make the 48 V. The solar panels for the motor are 4 (four) 12 volt Xantrex 165 Watt flexible panels attached with adhesive to the top of the cabin. Interestingly, Xantrex technical support said that it would be fine to wire these in series, to make the output for 48 volt batteries – and it has been. But the instructions that came with the panels said that they should not be combined in that way. Regardless, it has worked out fine.
The charge controller is a “Victron BlueSolar MPPT 150/45-Tr” with which I’ve been hugely happy. It talks to the smartphone, and shows off how hard the solar panels have been working, including with a very informative history tab. So far, on a day with excellent sunshine and lots of motor use, the maximum energy produced has been shown as 4 kW, which works out to roughly 80 amp hours for that one day. Not bad!
Piecing together the plan for that system was an enormous job. I am not receiving anything for mentioning the manufacturers, and am including the information above only in hopes of helping others along the way.
Anyway, that’s how we got around: sometimes sailing, when the wind was blessedly workable (no significant upwind sailing in this barge houseboat), often motor sailing, and rarely motoring with the sail not even raised. One of the advantages of having put so much time and effort into sailing motorless over these last years is that I was able to gauge situations of limited wind, judging how long it would take to do what I was hoping to do, as far as destinations and timing, if entirely under sail. Those runs entirely under sail can be exhausting, and the comparison to what was possible using the motor was striking. I have rather sheepishly been telling numerous friends and acquaintances that I’ve become “motor woman.” But at least there are no fossil fuels involved!
Eventually it became clear that it was time to turn around, and let go of the big southerly goal. Every single day in the extended 10 day forecast promised south and southwest winds, with the pattern likely to continue. Also, I felt that my health was not as up to snuff as I would have liked, for venturing so far from home. Sometimes being on the boat has been truly magical, with my well-being improving the longer I stayed. This time, it was instead going the other way. Too many crazy nights, and long days, and apparent limits to the stamina I had upon which to draw.
Suzanne came to meet me in Pemaquid Harbor, to help with doing an adjustment on the autopilot motor position, which had been shifted on the day with those big waves. We had not foreseen a couple of tools, and bolts, that would be needed to really complete this repair in a lasting way, and at a three hour drive from home, I was already well beyond how far Suzanne wanted to travel to meet me, though she generously made that trek, with both tools and supplies. All of the various issues converged, and after Suzanne had gone home, I decided to make Pemaquid my turnaround point.
In hindsight, that was an excellent call. There wasn’t another decent batch of easterly wind for close to a month, and it didn’t last – we are solidly into the summer weather pattern. And there was fun to be had along the way, heading back east.
Not being in a rush anymore, I went all the way up to the head of Penobscot Bay, had some lovely visits with sailor friends, and then ventured up the Penobscot River to Bangor, some 25 river miles inland. (In the chart shown earlier, Bangor is a bit further north, outside the frame where the Penobscot River runs off the top edge of the chart.) This diversion was partly for the adventure, but mostly to get to do more visiting, with friends made over this past year and a half via zoom, as we have worked together to address the woeful state of US politics during these last few years. Some adventure was had on the river, which should have its own post. The lovely visits made it all worth it.
Then I ran for home. It’s amazing what the motor makes possible. By motor sailing when the breeze was in those light times, which previously, in other boats, involved tremendous amounts of floating around, Great Auk and I got a good head start on the miles. Once the wind would really fill in for the day we would blast along entirely under sail. We left from East Hampden, a mile or so south of Bangor, at 3:30 AM, just as the tide started to run out. With the assist of that marvelous current in the river – outbound tide plus the river’s natural flow – we had covered the 23 miles to where the river opens into Penobscot Bay by about nine in the morning.
Once out of the river, as there was so much of the day left to go, and another couple of hours of workable tide to make the turn that one really must get to before the incoming tide starts running strongly north, we hustled south, and indeed got around the corner of Cape Rosier before everything turned. This set things up for riding the flood tide further toward home, and by the end of the day we were putting the anchor down in Mackerel Cove on Swan’s Island, some 50+ miles from where we had begun that morning. In a barge houseboat! The design really has been showing itself surprisingly capable.
The next day would have been ideal for sailing home the rest of the way, on a good 10 to 15 southwest wind, but it would have been another long day, and rest was in order. The day off was delightful, in such a pretty spot.
The morning after that the tide was not right until about 10 AM, so there was no need for a crazy-early start. There was also not a tremendous amount of wind. We got underway using the same approach from the other day, motor-sailing during the morning light breeze to get a bit of a head start, and running all under sail once the wind filled in. (I still cringe to admit this part about the motor, particularly on this blog where I know that some confirmed motorless sailors are reading about this unfortunate conversion.)
By evening we had covered another 33 miles, and were back in Joy Bay, anchored for the night and ready to go in to our float with the early morning high tide. This was none too soon, as there does seem to be a more significant health thing going on, rather than the regular run of long-term issues that can be accommodated one way or another. And it’s nice to be home!
Now I’ve been back for a few weeks, regaining some strength, and having decided that manual hauling of a heavy primary anchor and chain has become a serious impediment to my solo boat fun, as well as to the range of crew possibilities. Great Auk is in the process of acquiring an electric windlass. Installation is not simple, but is progressing. That will get its own post.
In the meantime, it was a great trip to start off the summer. The starry and moonlit night sailing was exceptional, and the boat has shown itself to be a sturdy traveler. Being just early July, and with excellent sailing possible through September, we are hoping for a good bit more.
Here’s a Peep Hen story, and a development from this event that took over 10 years to show results.
In something like 2008, Rachel Gimbel and I were sailing my Peep, Serenity, down the Connecticut River from Hartford to Long Island sound. In the section just before Essex, Connecticut, we had a day with a strong northerly wind, at least 20 knots, and gusting higher. The sail was double reefed, and partly scandalized, with the yard let down to about horizontal to dump more wind, which was coming from almost directly astern. That last sail adjustment made things truly manageable, and we were blasting along, covering a mile on the chart every 10 minutes; this put us at 6 knots, probably with a little help from the current. That’s really fast, for a 14′, chunky boat! And heavily loaded for a substantial trip.
Right around when we were going to pass the entrance to Hamburg Cove, a large power cruiser came up from behind, off our starboard quarter. We thought “oh geez, crazy traffic,” which is not terribly uncommon on the Connecticut River. But the power cruiser, at shouting distance in the strong wind, started matching our speed, moving together side-by-side with enough space to not be too scary. A man on the cruiser shouted over to us “I designed that boat.” And then introduced himself – Reuben Trane! That was hugely exciting, which I hollered back to him enthusiastically. He and his companion took pictures, though I’ve never seen them. It must’ve been a sight, with the Peep blasting along like that in the whitecaps.
Reuben then explained that the boat he was on was his new project. It had a substantial cabin, with the top covered with solar panels, which were powering the boat. I later looked it up on the Internet, and it made a major impression on me. It was way out of my price range, and fancier than my general taste, but I really loved that spacious deck, and the cabintop covered with enough solar panels to make the boat go. The only thing missing was sailing capability to go with it.
That image stayed in mind ever since, and a few years ago when I decided to do something about a different boat (there’s a fleet, including the Peep Hen and a 20 foot Bolger Chebacco) I had my chance. I had done a lot of crazy cruising in the Chebacco, and some stints of several weeks at a time in the Peep, and I thought I might be done sailing. That idea lasted until I realized that what I really wanted was to be comfortable at the same time as being afloat. A sail was crucial, but so was something more like a houseboat layout with a spacious cabin and a bunch of open deck, and, for a change, a sturdy motor. I wanted that motor to be electric, and solar, for the quiet, the ease, and the environmental benefits as well as the independence from fuel docks and marina electricity.
Reuben Trane’s power cruiser had two out of those three wish-list characteristics, just missing the sail. Sailing barges could put it all together, and that’s what developed. The result looks nothing like Reuben’s big power cruiser, but the new boat (24′ x 8′ and built out of plywood) has the spaciousness, the solar panels all over the top of the cabin, and the electric motor, that had all stayed in mind for so long since that day on the river.
Thank you, Reuben – that momentary meeting on the Connecticut is really what led to this. And your courage to design “unique” looking boats like the Peep Hen opened up my thinking on getting one’s eye accustomed to outside-the-box approaches that serve the desired uses of a boat. This (along with later help from Phil Bolger’s work) set me up to also embrace Dave Zeiger’s sailing barge Triloboats design, and the combination has brought about Great Auk. The result is giving me great joy.
It’s been much too long since you all have had proper news from this corner of Maine. Here’s a rather lengthy report; you can scroll through for pictures for the capsule version…
The boat went into the water on April 14, put in at our local boat ramp and driven to our float with a borrowed gasoline outboard. GREAT AUK was delivered by the boatyard folks, because Maine was just going into the first coronavirus lockdown. They launched it at the ramp:
Then they motored up the bay on the high tide, right to our float. Two of the boatyard folks drove from the ramp to the house by car and went down to the float to catch lines, while Suzanne and I watched from a good spot on the bank up above the shore. Coronavirus was not so well understood then, and we were taking very good care about nobody touching anything that somebody else not in their “pod” might have recently handled.
Then Jon, being impressively strong, put the outboard on his shoulder and hiked it up the path to their vehicles, and they all drove off.
Over the next days, projects commenced. The electric motor cables and steering linkages were connected, and the boat became capable of going out to the mooring unassisted. The mooring was switched over to its summer ball and pennant, ready for a boat. MARIGOLD, the little Portland Pudgy, went in the water so we could get back to shore, with GREAT AUK left safely riding in the channel for storms.
All of this was none too soon, as April is early to put a boat in the water here in Maine. The ice was long gone (this year) but the spring gales were not. Over the next few weeks we had THREE gales, one that actually had a storm warning and blew at about 50 knots, steady, just offshore from here. One time, when the wind was only supposed to be up to about 20 to 25, we let the boat stay at the float. That one came in from the south, getting up to more like 30, and the somewhat sketchy anchoring arrangement for the float (big enough mushroom anchor, but not enough mud) dragged. It’s just as well this happened at night – one couldn’t have done a thing about it, and it would have been horrifying to watch.
As it was, in the morning the storm was over and the tide was out. Boat and float had shifted about 10 feet north, just enough for the boat to settle on top of the jumble of good-sized rocks to the side of its regular berth on the mud (the float came down comfortably where the boat ordinarily belongs). Fortunately I do NOT have good photos of what that looked like. All I can say is, thank heavens for the copper sheathing on the bottom of the boat.
Then things needed to be put right again. We tied lines, waited for the water, moved the boat and float back to where they had started (easy now that they were floating again, and the wind gone), waited for the water to go down, rearranged the chains that hold the float, connecting them to circles of chain around massive rocks, and watched as the water came back to see if we had gotten the tensions right.
Got some more chains over the next two days, added them to more rocks, and eventually breathed a big sigh of relief, feeling much more confident that we would not be seeing the boat perched in that terrible position again, we very much hope.
Things improved from there, but it was a big project; then we started on some of the others.
Tiller steering is extremely difficult with this boat, and was going to be logistically complicated any way around. Wheels (plural) at two steering stations was the approach that would solve a lot of problems, from visibility forward, to comfort and ease, as well as adding mechanical advantage to make the steering easier. The steering project should have its own post… It might eventually, but suffice it to say that this involved steering shafts, sprockets, chain, cables, and sheaves, above and below deck, all lined up just right, and with very, very strong attachments. Plus a big bronze piece called a quadrant that had to be attached to the rudder, through the transom. It’s been an education. The folks from the boatyard kindly came over and helped with the hardest parts, while Suzanne and I did the pieces we could. It took months. But it was worth it.
Along the way we also reinforced the tabernacle supports, both at the partners and the step. The partners and step were built according to our original mast/tabernacle plan, which was improvised, because a mast is not part of the original SHANTY Triloboat. This plan was done with some input from Triloboats designer Dave Zeiger, who has put masts and tabernacles on other Triloboat designs. But seeing the results in person, and thinking further about strains on the freestanding mast, I felt that some extra reinforcement was in order. Dave concurred, somewhat emphatically for somebody who is ordinarily so laid back. Now with the additional support in place, that tabernacle shouldn’t be shifting anywhere.
Eventually we also started rigging. The mainsail from AUKLET is just big enough for this boat, and has been pressed into service. This sail will eventually be returned to AUKLET, and another one made for this boat, but it’s perfect for initial testing. By the middle of August all was ready to go, and on a day with very light wind we followed the tide out of Joy Bay. Dave and Jeannie McDermott saw us go, from their cottage on the east side of the bay.
And then Dave did the beautiful drawing at the top of this post.
Chubba and Bonnie came out in their skiff, once we were out into Gouldsboro Bay.
The wind died completely, and we had a lovely visit, riding the light current south, talking, and Bonnie taking great pictures.
Just after Bonnie and Chubba headed off, a bit of a breeze came up, and we got to see the boat really sail. Miraculously, it worked. It steered, it balanced on the wind, and when it came time to try tacking I was perfectly delighted to find that putting the wheel over resulted in the boat coming about. I think that was the most suspenseful moment of this entire endeavor, seeing if tacking would work. And it did!
As it turns out, the boat will even sail into the wind a little bit, given reasonably flat water and just a little bit of favorable current. GREAT AUK is designed as a motorsailor, expected to rely on the electric outboard for going upwind. But we made progress down the bay, in a number of tacks into the breeze that had come up from the south, before turning for a nice run back toward home.
With attention to planning for moving with both current and wind, it’s surprising how much can be done with this boat without turning on the motor at all. On that first day, we motored away from the float to get out from the shore – about 200 yards – and then shut it off. The motor didn’t go on again until we came back to the mooring, just southeast of Stevens Point, to wait for the tide. I turned just a little late when we tried to pick the mooring up under sail, with the current running in. This led to employing “crass mechanical measures” as Bill Cheney puts it; otherwise we would have made it, and the motor would not have been started again until docking. (I wasn’t inspired to try docking under sail on the first day, with so little experience of how this unusual hull handles.) That was all pretty exciting for a first outing under sail, including the excursion out of Joy Bay, and a couple of miles down Gouldsboro Bay to Point Francis and back.
While we were getting the rigging in order, I had also been arranging the cabin for sleeping and general living. With the boat going up and down on the mud right at the float it was easy to gradually get things set up, and then to try sleeping aboard. It was a major treat, even before going anywhere at all, to have such a comfortable place to be, right by the shore. This is what I had envisioned, going into this project: a nice spot out of the wind, dry when it rains, and flat when the tide goes out, right there down the path from the house. With a view. It was worth all the effort, just for that.
Even better, then I went sailing. After that first sea trial under sail it was clear that the boat would work for going places too. As a test, I headed off down Gouldsboro Bay and around Dyer Point, out by the Sally Islands, to go into Dyer Bay, which is the next long skinny water to the east. Amazingly, after all this time since we moved here I had never gone all the way up Dyer Bay, even though it is really just around the corner. This was a lovely opportunity to explore, and to get in touch with folks I had recently met who live up that way. Quite a bit of fun was had, including some good sailing in both very light and somewhat stronger breezes.
Anchoring, or rather, retrieving the anchor, was a bit tricky. The boat has two bowsprits with rollers at the front for anchor handling. In any bit of breeze, whenever the boat swings to one side or the other as the anchor is being pulled in, the rope and chain want to jump off their roller. It’s also a good bit of work to hold a line under that kind of strain, without an easy rest along the way; that big cabin really catches the wind, and pulls quite a bit in even a mild breeze. A chain stopper, which would also serve as a guide to keep the rode from jumping off its roller, was in order.
The simple kind of chain stopper from the boat store wasn’t going to work, because of the angles involved when pulling in the rode by hand, or when using the big winch on the side of the tabernacle. Annie Hill generously shared a whole series of photos of her arrangement that solves this problem, which helped with understanding just what was needed.
Making a chain stopper like Annie’s would involve custom welding and metalwork, to adapt an off-the-shelf anchor roller. That prospect was daunting to arrange, especially on short notice so there would be time to go sailing before the season got too late. We decided to put together an interim version mostly out of wood. This we could do right away, thanks to some help from Chipper and his band saw, and a collection of bolts that were easy to get. I already had a small metal slotted flap, which I took from a commercially available chain stopper that hadn’t worked out; attaching this small plate to a larger piece of wood did the trick as far as grabbing the chain. A picture is better for explaining:
The result is quite sturdy, and just needs a couple of additional bits of thin metal to protect the wood from wearing away when the chain drags in from an angle. In fact, the whole thing has been working so well that I’m in no hurry to replace it.
Once the chain stopper was in order, the boat really became a free bird. Supplies were loaded on – food and water – and I started making longer trips.
I had thought to sail this boat with crew, but coronavirus threw a real wrench in that plan. Suzanne had kindly come for the first sea trial under sail, but a daysail down the Bay is pretty much the limit of her interest in the actual floating part of this project. So given that there is nobody else in our “pod,” solo it was. As it has turned out, this has been workable. I’m looking forward to an autopilot, which will make things a lot easier for longer trips, but the boat is surprisingly good at steering itself with the wheel locked, and it was generally doable to go a bit of a distance.
GREAT AUK is also surprisingly capable, much more so than I expected. While my original plan was to stick to protected bays and coves, with carefully timed forays in very settled weather to get around the points that divide those sheltered waters, the boat is happy to do more. It is heavily ballasted by the large battery banks for the electric motor, as well as by the rather thick copper plate sheathing on the bottom. The boat moves happily over waves, and will run downwind with a sense of real security, including when the breeze comes up.
Going across the wind as the waves get bigger does not inspire so much confidence. Not having a keel, if the boat did go over things would be very bad. All the weight on the flat bottom, and the buoyancy of the large cabin sides, would probably keep it from rolling over – but only if gear inside the cabin did not fall and break the windows on the downside of that roll. The prospect of that gives me fits, and gear tiedowns are an ongoing project.
So I have been carefully feeling my way, both adapting to the greater than expected capabilities of the boat, and finding the edges where its design as a houseboat/barge delineates the limits of what is prudent to undertake.
Interestingly, Dave Zeiger, the designer of the boat, who has been sailing flat bottomed barges for decades, pointed out that the bottom of the boat really wants to match the surface of the water. So if the boat is sailing across the waves, completely apart from any heeling due to the wind, the boat is adjusting its orientation to match the angled surface of those waves. This is much more pronounced than in a boat with a curved hull, which tends to respond more to the weight of its ballast, preferring to be a bit more upright. In a barge, if the waves are not dangerously steep – nowhere near enough to tip the boat past its point of secondary stability – and the sail is managed cautiously, then the angle on the waves is really not the boat trying to roll over; it’s just adapting to the surface of the water that it is on. I found this very, very reassuring, and have been gradually coming to trust the boat more, at the same time as keeping an eye to the limits of its overall stability.
Dave is, of course sensibly, stressing that I am sailing this boat well beyond its design specifications. While other Triloboat designs are intended to be capable in more demanding conditions, this one really is meant to be a houseboat. But I am intrigued by what appears to be possible.
Also contributing to my sense of security is an aspect of the design that I added, drawing on traditional boatbuilding in Asia. Below deck, this box barge hull is divided by solid bulkheads into 6 separate watertight compartments. These have been functioning as intended: if water gets into one (we are still working out hatch gasketing), the other compartments are unaffected. Once the hatches are all reliably sealed, the boat is not likely to sink, even if somehow covered with water. The cabin, cockpit, and foredeck are all above that watertight box, meaning that waves where they don’t belong would be messy if they washed through the cabin, but would not affect the boat’s floating. Likewise, if there were a hole or a leak in one of the compartments, the rest of the compartments would still be intact and watertight. The only catch has been the steering cables running below deck, which has added a bit of complication, but it’s still pretty good.
I would however really like the boat to stay right side up, and I’m paying careful attention as I learn the way GREAT AUK handles.
The other funny thing going on is that, as readers of this blog might remember, a while back I had decided that I might very well be done with sailing. Then the idea for this boat came along, for peaceful floating in gentle coves, which did still seem appealing. The project has taken a good three years, from its first ideas, and while I have done a bit of local sailing in the intervening time, mostly I had a big rest from knocking myself out going distances in boats. Typical of rest, somewhat more substantial forays are starting to look a little more interesting again, especially given the opportunity to be truly comfortable at the same time.
This year, I was gone on the boat for a total of about five weeks, in a series of shorter trips with time at home in between. The longest voyage was to Rockport, in Penobscot Bay, where I had the great fun of going to see my Aunt Patsy, as well as cousins and friends.
Adventures were had throughout those weeks afloat, including a good bit of night sailing to catch the favorable wind and tide. It was a pleasure.
The boat came out of the water on October 26th.
There’s been some additional work at West Cove: bronze angle is now on the chines, for extra protection from rocks, and the “leeboard retaining bars” have each been reinforced with a metal strip (not yet attached in this photo, but visible on the floor), as the oak alone showed a somewhat alarming amount of flex when on the upwind side with the leeboard down.
Now GREAT AUK is home on the trailer, in a pullout at the upper end of the driveway.
Solar panels went on the top of the cabin over the course of the fall; wiring is still in progress. Installation of an autopilot is also underway.
The winter cover went on this past week, so the boat is snug, ready for the weather.
Over these next months, when things are warm enough we’ll keep working on projects.
When anchoring, it’s important to know how much line, or chain, or combination of the two that you have out. The overall combination is called the “rode,” whatever you use. There are calculations for determining how much rode you should let out, based on the depth of the water, the height of the tide, and the height of the boat’s bow off the water; the term for that ratio is “scope.” I’m not going to go into that calculation here, but for those who would like a reference here is one, and many more can be found with a quick round of Internet searching. There is a little more about scope added on at the end of this post. https://www.boatus.com/expert-advice/expert-advice-archive/2019/january/how-to-calculate-anchor-scope
Once you know how much rode you ought to have out, there is the question of how your rode is marked, so you’ll know how much you have sent overboard.
There are colored plastic marking tapes sold at marine stores, which go into three strand anchor line quite well. But you can’t read them in the dark. They also don’t attach well to chain, and putting them into “8 plait” anchor line (one of the tradenames is Brait – nope, not receiving anything for that) does not seem friendly to the line, with possibilities for chafe. That’s the last thing you want to worry about, chafe at regular intervals in your anchor line. I switched over to 8 plait a few years ago because it doesn’t kink, as well as that it takes up a lot less space in its locker than three strand. I’m very happy with it, but the marking question became an issue, which led to the approach described here.
The old-time traditional way of marking anchor line involves different types and colors of fabric, and leather, in a specific sequence, which seems much too complicated, and also not good in the dark. So far as I know, nobody else besides me is doing the version described here, but maybe it will be helpful for those who are interested. I’d like to thank Dave Zeiger of Triloboats.com for his post about his approach to lead line marking, which inspired my thinking for the arrangement I settled on. Dave’s version, for his and Anke’s lead line in the deep waters of coastal Southeast Alaska, is found here: https://triloboats.blogspot.com/2012/03/our-lead-line-plumbing-depths.html
My version uses small knots and big knots: small ones represent 30 feet or 5 fathoms, and big ones stand for 90 feet or 15 fathoms. My charts all use feet, here on the New England coast, so that’s the unit I’ve learned to think in, and that’s what I’ll refer to from here on out. (Those who think in fathoms could easily switch it over.) A string is tied into the line every 30 feet, with knots in the string that correspond to the length of the line from the anchor.
I ordinarily use 60 feet of chain for the first part of the rode, so the chain is marked at 30 feet with colorful wire ties on a number of links, to make them easy to notice on the way by. Sixty feet is marked by the transition between chain and line, and then the strings start at 90 feet; all of these can be seen in the photo at the top of this post.
The kind of string that has worked well for this is tarred nylon seine twine, which I discovered thanks to the the author of The Complete Rigger’s Apprentice, Brion Toss, who talks about using it in many ways. Thanks to the Internet I was able to find it years ago, and now I use it in many ways also. It is sturdy, comes in multiple thicknesses, does not rot, and holds a knot without slipping. I’ve used it for lashing in many places on the various boats, where the seine twine is still going strong after years in the weather and many miles of use. (Not receiving anything for posting this link – it’s just here for readers’ convenience) https://www.memphisnet.net/product/2192/twine-tarred-seine
Here’s what the markers look like, tied and ready to be added to the line:
On three strand line, I think it’s worth looping the marker around one strand of the anchor line, and back through itself, and then weaving it over and then under the next two strands, so it is well-fastened. On 8 plait, I loop it around one pair of strands and back through itself, and then work it over and under a couple more times. With this weaving in mind, when you tie the markers it’s good to leave enough length for those extra tucks. It’s important to tuck the knot that forms the big loop, to avoid confusion.
One of the things I like about this particular arrangement of knots is that it works roughly even when one is tired and “stupid” from cold or too long a day, or whatever else. The first big knot is “about 100 feet,” two big knots and one little one are “200 and a little,” two big knots and two or three little knots are “200 and some,” or “200 and a lot,” and three big knots are about 300 feet.
The funny thing about this arrangement is that 90 feet can be represented by either 3 small knots or one big knot. The reason I do it this particular way is to keep that pattern that roughly follows the number of feet in hundreds. Fatigue and impaired thinking are nothing to mess around with, and it helps to have systems that work easily even when thinking has gone fuzzy.
I had never drawn this arrangement out on paper until pondering trying to explain it for my friend Janine, who is starting in on her new-to-her sailboat. But now I’m happy to have the printed key. I think I’m going to laminate a copy and post it by the anchor lines on Great Auk.
A couple of thoughts on scope:
Unlike the link that I posted above, almost everything one finds suggests that one should generally use a minimum of 7:1 scope for anchoring. But then you go out and anchor where there are other boats, and find that people look at you like you’re a crazy person, if they ask how much line you have out and you tell them the amount that correlates to 7:1. They are also affronted, because it means there’s not really enough space for them, when everybody swings around. People I’ve talked with who anchor routinely in very deep water use a lot less – sometimes as little as 2:1 or 3:1. That seems iffy to me, but things probably work differently when anchoring in something like 60 or 100 feet. And some folks in regular anchorages use those small amounts. Though dragging in regular anchorages is more common than it ought to be.
Further, it really matters what kind of anchor you use, when calculating needed scope, and this does not seem widely addressed. Danforth style anchors really do need 7:1 to bite in properly. At the other end of the spectrum, fisherman anchors, also called yachtsman – the kind that people put in tattoos – do fine with quite a bit less. And other anchor styles seem to fall somewhere in the middle. There is a really nice video about this, at the video subscription publication Off Center Harbor. I believe that you can see an abridged version of the video without subscribing:
Years ago, in writing back and forth with Dave Zeiger about his Triloboats designs, he used the above term, which sent me running for my dictionary. “Pulchritudinously challenged” was how he described his Triloboats designs; I thought it was just stunning of him to get right out in front of that touchy issue. The boats can be an acquired taste, visually, and it took some time for my eye to adjust. However, form follows function, and I am nothing if not smitten by good, capable function.
My new boat, GREAT AUK, is a variation on Dave’s SHANTY Triloboat design ( http://www.triloboats.com ). I made some adjustments, to suit my particular wish list. Mainly, the cabin is shortened, providing substantial outdoor deck space, and the entire deck, inside and out, is all on the same level. The giant tabernacle forward provides for low stress raising and lowering of the mast, which is raked forward for ease of sailing with its junk rig.
All of this, as far as I’m concerned, is funny-looking. I went crazy with the paint scheme partly just to have some fun, and partly because no matter how it was painted, there is no way this boat was going to blend into the background and be unnoticeable. Since one of my highest priorities is also avoiding getting run over by large traffic, bright colors provided for some additional safety too, following on the original theme.
Basically, this boat is a mobility-accessible party/houseboat, a bit more seaworthy than those nice flat-decked pontoon party boats, and capable of a certain amount of sailing. It’s arranged for its occupants to be able to get out of the weather, at the same time as enjoying all the beautiful scenery, having good visibility from inside when underway, and warming up on cool days in the northern sun.
Triloboats are designed for easy building, and for taking the bottom – going aground when the tide goes out – in comfort and safety. The copper sheathing means no bottom painting, and extra protection if one goes down on a bit of a rock where one was hoping for flat mud or sand. The straight sides are less complicated to build, and use construction materials more efficiently, than curvier shapes, with the trade-off being the loss of a certain amount of gracefulness of line.
As Dave said, it is indeed pulchritudinously challenged. But cute, in its own way, and functional enough to make up for all of it. In case anybody was wondering, and might have been afraid to bring up that touchy subject.
[Drawing: Christopher Lariviere]
All of this is of course now carrying on in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. Maine is on lockdown, with the roads gone eerily quiet and our usual nice visits with friends and neighbors shut down. So boats carry on. I was recently quite sick, and am better now – no official test, but it’s possible that it was the real thing. An antibody development opportunity. Wishing everybody, around the world, all the very, very best as we move through this time.
There are enough nice photos of GREAT AUK’s mast going up and down that the subject really warrants its own post. And it really has been a bit of a project, overall. Photo credit for all the above: Suzanne Jean
One of the design goals for this boat has been that the mast should be easy to raise and lower, without drama, or strain, and without having to rustle up extra-muscly help. This approach makes the mast consistent with the design goals for the boat overall: ease of use, ease of maintenance, and general comfort (not necessarily in that order). Thus we have that high tabernacle, which allows the mast to lie comfortably on the top of the cabin, with enough of the lower mast below the pivot to form a substantial lever that provides for simple winching, both up and down. (We had a couple of complications that led to that upper pin being so close to the edge; bronze reinforcing straps can be seen in the third photo below.) Photo credit: Christopher Lariviere Photo credit: West Cove Boat Yard shop cam Photo credit: West Cove Boat Yard shop cam
Passage under bridges, generally, and under the bridge on the north side of Mount Desert Island, specifically, have been particular inspirations for this setup. Ease of trailer launching and retrieval has also been high on the list. I’m happy to say that testing the system has been quite successful. There will be some complexity when it comes to managing the junk sail bundle during this operation, which we’ll figure out in the spring, but all is looking very hopeful.
Originally, this boat was going to have an aluminum flagpole mainmast. I had tried once in the past to find a way to get a carbon mast for AUKLET, but was unsuccessful – the spar company that I approached said they could do it, but after a lengthy two months of repeated phone calls and emails to check on progress toward an actual work order, they very apologetically said that they could not do it after all. The boat was too small, and they did not have an appropriate mandrel for building a round, tapered spar that would suit the situation. Time was pressing by that point, and AUKLET acquired an aluminum flagpole. This worked out, but stepping and unstepping were not entirely smooth.
This time, at the ideal serendipitous moment in our building process I ran across a notice about somebody who had just gotten a carbon mast for their relatively small junk rig cruising boat. The company that had built it was quite happy about this, and featured the project on their website. How perfect! They were not only familiar with the overall concept (different in various respects from western rig masts), but happy about it! I was on the phone with them within days, and we started working out the design questions. Thanks so much to Nate Williams at GMT Composites in Rhode Island. Their website is here: http://www.gmtcomposites.com (Nope, not receiving anything for posting this, or for any clicks – just eternally grateful!)
If I had known just how well the tabernacle and winch arrangement was going to work, I might have gone with the aluminum flagpole approach for GREAT AUK, in spite of the weight. The tabernacle structure and the worm gear could easily handle it. But at the time of decision-making, all of our struggles with the weight of AUKLET’s mainmast were high in mind. That mast is hard to put up and down, as well as being hard to move on and off the boat even after the mast is horizontal. Far too many times I have looked on with trepidation, as two strong people have dealt with the awkwardness of anything to do with moving that pole. It’s not even that heavy, as these things go, at about 80 pounds. But still, the whole process has not inspired confidence.
The mast for GREAT AUK would be 4 feet taller, and heavier, in aluminum. It’s also high on the boat, adding weight where you don’t want it on a flat-bottomed barge hull, with no keel to bring it back up if it goes over. Carbon masts don’t come cheap, but the trade-off in ease and peace of mind was substantial. And there was that serendipitous availability, at just the right moment.
GMT Composites was quite thorough in their design process, and it gave me the opportunity to learn more about mast design and boat stability tables, which involve a fairly technical calculation process from which I had previously shied away. AUKLET’s mainmast was originally wood, built as designed by Phil Bolger for that boat’s original gaff rig. But then before we launched AUKLET for the first time, we had a delamination nightmare. This led to swiping the aluminum mast from the Peep Hen, because it was available in the garage. The sail area for the Paradox rig that went onto AUKLET was smaller than that of the Peep Hen, so it seemed reasonable to do this. But that Peep Hen mast never inspired confidence. It flexed quite a bit, and just made you think it could break, looking at it under trying conditions. So when we did the junk rig, and needed a taller mast anyway, I got a flagpole that was 1 inch larger in diameter than the one from the Peep. It looked sturdy, and in use was never frightening, including in some quite demanding situations. I was confident in copying that for this new boat, especially since the plan was to use the very same junk mainsail from AUKLET. (Technically that was not quite comparable, or proper – AUKLET heels easily, reducing strain on the mast, while a big flat barge will be quite stiff, increasing mast strain for the same wind and the same sail area.)
The dimensions of that 4″ flagpole are what I gave to Nate at GMT. He then asked if we had the “righting moment” for this hull. Now that’s a can of worms! Triloboats designer Dave Zeiger was gone sailing, and not reachable at that time. It turns out that righting moment is actually not one figure, but properly a table of figures, calculated from possible different angles of heel (leaning to the side) for the boat.
As it happens, the owner of West Cove Boat Yard, Christopher Lariviere, is both a person with a mechanical engineering degree and CAD skills. He’s the one who has done the nice CAD drawings of the plans for GREAT AUK, for our build there at WCBY, and he used work that he had already put together to calculate this new set of figures.
Christopher wrote this wonderful explanation of these calculations, at the time we were working through this:
The righting moment is not a single number but is a function of heel. Just so you know this is how it is done:
1) First you figure out where the center of mass of the boat is (mostly where it is vertically). You do this by figuring out the mass of all the individual parts of the boat and their individual centers of mass. Then you calculate the mass weighted average height for sum of the components which is the vertical center of mass. My calculation (on a spreadsheet) shows a total weight of components of 4900 lbs and a center of mass of 24.4″ above the very bottom of the boat.
2) You then place the hull at a variety of angles of heel in the cad drawing and let it figure out how much of the hull will be submerged and where the center of buoyancy is located. The horizontal distance between the center of buoyancy and the center of mass is your righting arm. The righting arm length times the mass of the boat gives you the righting moment.
For example, let’s say the boat heels to port 10 degrees. This causes the hull on port to submerge into the water a bit and the hull on starboard to come up out of the water a bit. So the center of buoyancy moves to port. The center of buoyancy is pushing up. The center of mass is pushing down. The result is the the boat tries to right itself.
Now if the hull continues to heel to port further and further, eventually you reach a point where the center of mass moves past the center of buoyancy. When this happens the righting moment changes sign and the boat flips over. So as long as your righting moment is positive you are ok.
I set the hull at different angles of heel and found the numbers:
As you can see even with 55 degrees of heel, the boat is still stable. However you can also see that the righting moment is dropping quite quickly at 55 deg of heel so you don’t want to go much further!
Attached [shown below] is a cad image of the hull sitting at 55 degree of heel and the resulting center of bouyancy. The starboard side of the hull is sitting way out of the water! Scary but still stable.
~ Christopher Lariviere, from May, 2019 email (shared here with his permission)
Drawing: Christopher Lariviere
Scary indeed! Makes my stomach do flips, just looking at that…
Meanwhile, I had sent that righting moment table off to Nate at GMT Composites. His conclusion was that we needed a 4 inch diameter carbon mast, at minimum. A 5 inch diameter carbon mast would be truly stout, but a lot more costly; the 4 inch version just squeaked in, for satisfying the design numbers. Interestingly, it turned out that the 4 inch diameter aluminum mast would have been seriously below the proper specs.
Since then I have had the occasion to really go through the materials at the JRA (Junk Rig Association) website for calculating junk rig mast dimensions (links at bottom of post). I did this for another project with which I am helping, and it was illuminating to finally get a little more understanding of those figures. In fact, going by the JRA-sourced calculations (thank you Arne Kverneland), an aluminum mast for GREAT AUK would indeed be more appropriately 6 inches in diameter with a 1/8 inch wall thickness.
Sometimes serendipity comes in many forms. Not driven hard, I think that the aluminum mast I was originally considering might have been okay. But I’m very happy to have a mast that is actually sized according to some appropriate math. I’m also very happy to have a carbon mast that, at an amazing 22 pounds (!), is truly manageable for people with a wide range of strengths. Feeling sheepish about the extravagance, I did get it painted an innocuous color, in hopes of very few people noticing that it’s not more basic aluminum… Photo credit: Nate Williams
Installing this nice carbon mast came with its own challenges, mainly to do with the holes for the 1/2 inch steel rods that form the upper pivot and the lower locking pin. Both of these horizontal holes in the mast need to be lined up with matching holes on either side of the tabernacle, which is not so easy to work out.
With an aluminum mast, you could use an extra long bit, start with the hole in the tabernacle (being very careful that everything is square), and then drill through into the aluminum, out the other side of the aluminum, and through the other side of the tabernacle. Easy peasy, the path for the pin would be all lined up. But with carbon, the holes for those pins need to be specially reinforced, and they are built at the same time as the mast. Photo credit: Nate Williams
Drilling through the tabernacle and hoping for the best, as far as hitting those existing holes, was a scary thought, and much pondering and a bit of postponing was going on at the boatyard, in the face of this task. I had no good solution either – Theo, in Holyoke, had done some very clever alignment by sight when we changed masts on AUKLET, and had to match existing holes in the aluminum. But it was chancy, even though it worked, and she has an extraordinary eye.
Fortunately, one of the crew at West Cove came upon that drilling conversation and had a much better approach (also saying, “no, that line up and hope for the best is never going to work!”) But he had a tremendous low-stress way to take care of this, which I’m explaining in detail for anybody who might be presented with the same problem:
First you take two pieces of “G 10″ tubing, with 1/4″ thick walls. G 10 is a fancy fiber-reinforced plastic that takes well to epoxy and is very, very strong (it can be found at places like McMaster-Carr). You cut sections of that tubing that are the length of the thickness of each side of the tabernacle (about 3 inches in this case). The outside diameter of that G 10 tubing is 1 inch. Then you drill a hole in each side of the tabernacle that is noticeably bigger than 1 inch – at least 1-1/8”. This way, you can position the mast, put the (well-waxed) pin through the hole in the mast, put the G 10 tubes on either end of the pin, slide them into the oversized holes in the tabernacle sides, and then glue those G 10 tubes into position inside the tabernacle sides, filling the gaps with thickened epoxy. Brilliant! This way the G 10 pieces can set themselves at exactly the correct alignment for the pin, and then become a permanent part of the tabernacle. Once the hinge pin and tabernacle/G 10 holes are in position, with epoxy hardened, then the mast is raised and the same procedure happens for the locking pin. You might notice in the photo that epoxy was injected through smaller holes perpendicular to the G 10 tubes… Photo credit: Christopher Lariviere
This is a puzzle that has followed me for so many years, and I am delighted to know this new approach. Thank you Durwood (aka Keith Fage)!!!
As described in more detail in the previous post, the mast raises and lowers with a worm gear winch. It’s working like a charm, and the whole thing looks so sharp, all raised. Photo credit: Suzanne Jean
Over the winter we’ll be working out a cap for the top of the mast, and a set of Dyneema webbing loops for a masthead fitting, to hold the various rigging lines and blocks. This will be somewhat similar to the masthead webbing on MARIGOLD, the Portland Pudgy dinghy seen in previous posts. Annie Hill and Arne Kverneland, both of the JRA, but on opposite sides of the world, have successfully used webbing masthead fittings for boats of around 24 feet, which gives me confidence in the approach. It’s easier than getting a custom metal fitting fabricated, and also adds much less weight to the top of the mast.
Originally I was puzzling about how to fit a bracket for a tricolor navigation light at the top of the mast, in a way that would not conflict with the webbing loops. There was also the question of a bracket for a VHF antenna, looking toward the possibility of AIS (the electronics that helps you not get run over in fog), like on AUKLET. I’m still curious as to how Annie made that work on her cruising boat, without chafe issues between the webbing and the light bracket – if she used one.
As the pondering was going on, Suzanne helpfully pointed out that this boat really isn’t intended for big open water, where lights mounted on the cabin or deck can be obscured by large waves. This point about the intended use is quite true, so that took care of the lights question, and bypassed some significant effort and complication that would be involved in running those wires up the mast, at the same time as allowing for its raising and lowering. Navigation lights will be mounted on the cabin.
Then there’s the question of AIS, but this also has has a simpler answer. Powerboats, without masts, also use AIS. The antenna is different: tall, skinny, and flexible, intended to be mounted on the top of the cabin, with a hinge so it can lie flat when not needed, or for trailering. This setup will be easy, and with the cabin top already about 7 feet above the water it should be high enough to work just fine. So the mast can be completely uninvolved in wiring, which is a great relief. All wires from lights and possible AIS can run directly into the cabin, right near their eventual destination. It’s nice to get to cross a complication off the list before it even starts!
So that’s the full story on GREAT AUK’s mast. When spring comes we’ll put on the sail and have some fun seeing how it goes. In the meantime, we get to keep tinkering with the boat, which is being a pretty good time in itself.
Thanks to everybody who is involved in this project! What a great group.
The day after that last post, the boat went in the water again for another quick dip. We were planning to leave it in the water after its test, tied to the West Cove Boatyard pier for a week or two, but the weather forecast was going downhill. With 20 to 25 knot wind forecast out of the north – for three days – it did not seem like such a good idea. The worst of the wind was forecast for the holiday when nobody would be around to even check on things. It’s a well protected cove, but north wind is exactly the worst direction, so together the decision was made to get the boat back onto land that same day. But we sure did have fun! Photo credit: Suzanne Jean
The mast went up, the motor went down, and Christopher (West Cove Boatyard owner, and engineer), Kyle (who has done a lot of the recent building on the boat), and I set out for the slightly more open water to find a breeze. We didn’t plan to sail – no rigging yet – but wanted to see how the motor would perform now that it’s deeper in the water, and with the boat working against the wind. Photo credit: Suzanne Jean
Photo credit: Shemaya Laurel
I’m very happy to say that this sea trial was quite successful. Besides being lower in the water, the motor now has a cable turning system, so its angle can be adjusted from inside the cockpit. That’s really helpful for counteracting the motor being located so far off to the side of the transom. Interestingly, the ideal orientation of the motor changes quite a bit depending on the orientation of the boat to the wind. I suppose one could have predicted that – either way, it made the fussy engineering for the motor-turning arrangement feel quite worthwhile.
The other good news is that we were able to maintain full control of the boat even after we got out into a little bit of breeze. Moderately increasing the throttle took care of steering problems in the wind; with the motor so much deeper in the water than it was during our first test, we made plenty of headway – about 2.5 knots, without strain – so the rudder had a good grip. This was quite a change from the previous outing, when in a virtually identical breeze – approaching 10 knots, with a little bit of waves coming the long way up Frenchman Bay – we had to turn back because we couldn’t make enough headway through the water, and steering was not reliable against the wind and waves. Having repositioned the motor bracket so the propeller is further below the surface has made all the difference.
It did become clear during this trial that setting the boat up with two motors would make a lot more sense than the current arrangement. It has been suggested that an alternative would be to put the motor in the middle of the transom, and have two rudders instead, on either side. This approach would also address the motor offset issues.
However, the present rudder mounting has been quite a project. More on that in another post, but it has lacing instead of gudgeons and pintles, and we’ve gone through quite a process to get this something like right. It would be easier the second time, but you just hate to tear something off and redo what has been such a job. Besides that, two motors will help a lot with tight maneuvering in a crosswind or current, and motor redundancy is a nice thing, especially with a boat that, with all those broad surfaces above the water, is not going to be the most agile creature under sail.
The other Torqeedo issue is the problem of picking up weed on the propeller, and we got a good test of that also. The cove from which we set out has quite a bit of floating, unattached rockweed, and we did indeed have complications with propeller tangles. More tools were in order for dealing with this, and fortunately the boatyard has a barge on a mooring a little further out from shore. Rather than going back to the dock – and having to get in and back out through the weedy section again – Christopher suggested we could go to the barge, and there find a boat hook, a suitable knife, and some tape. Naturally, once we had gotten those things and Christopher had assembled them, we did not pick up another clump of weed for the entire rest of the outing. Photo credit: Shemaya Laurel
I really loved the way GREAT AUK’s square bow could go right up to the side of the work barge.
Those first two times of picking up rockweed clumps on our way out had meant that we had to stop entirely, raise the motor, and scramble to reach the propeller. Once the propeller picks up a significant clump of weed the motor is pretty much ineffective, so there’s no ignoring it. There was some hope that with the motor deeper in the water, and the rockweed floating, that the propeller would miraculously pass beneath without picking it up. Sadly this does not seem to be the case. On AUKLET, with its smaller Torqeedo clamped right onto the transom, clearing weed isn’t so hard. This new situation is going to require a different approach.
Fortunately, just in the last few weeks I was reminded again about folks who deal with stray lines in their sailboat propellers by having a serrated knife taped onto something like a broomstick – pretty much like what Christopher also thought to put together. They keep that tool always assembled, so it is handy when needed. With all of this fresh in mind, I am thinking it’s exactly the way to go for this Torqeedo weed issue. Then the inevitable tangles can be cut away maybe even without raising the motor, which would save a lot of effort. (It does make the case for sailing everywhere, which completely bypasses this problem.)
On this trip we also happened to have a nice push broom on board. Kyle stationed himself at the bow, broom in hand, as we went back into the cove that had so much weed. Between steering to miss the big clumps, and Kyle’s efforts, we got back to the dock without further problems. It was a lot of fun seeing that trick with the broom work – kind of like curling! Photo credit: Suzanne Jean
The other system we were testing with this trip had to do with the rudder. This rudder is “balanced,” meaning part of its area is forward of the axis of rotation for the rudder. When done just right, this balanced design takes strain off of the steering, so the person at the tiller or the wheel doesn’t have to work so hard. The crucial question is how much balance is enough, without being too much and causing other problems.
When we did the first test launch, it was quite striking how heavy the steering was. In discussing this with Dave Zeiger, the designer of Triloboats, I learned more about balance, and a simple approach to adjust the shape of the lower rudder so it can swing further forward. A small change in that pivot angle moves a significant amount of rudder area forward of the vertical hinge that the rudder turns on. The question is how much of the lower rudder hook to remove, keeping in mind that it’s better to take too little than too much. It’s so much easier to take away more later, than to put any of it back! Drawing: Christopher Lariviere
With all this in mind, in the intervening time between the first launch and this one, a 1 inch sliver was taken off the curve of the lower rudder. Epoxy was applied, to keep everything sealed, and we gave it a try.
I think that the steering is now a little easier than it was, but it’s still pretty heavy. So another sliver will be coming off, and it will be interesting to see how we do. Along with this rudder shape adjustment, the boat is also going to be getting wheel steering. The engineering for that is providing some puzzles, but we are working on it. In the meantime, we have the tiller, and we are gradually making progress toward really workable steering.
GREAT AUK is now snug on land, and everybody has gone off for the Thanksgiving holiday (and to watch the wind blow). We have made some headway on crucial information, and got to have loads of fun while we were at it. It was a real treat to be out on the water on November 26th – this is incredibly late in the season for recreational boats in downeast Maine. The day was warmish, in the 40s Fahrenheit, and with the sun, and that nice cabin, it was quite delightful. The possibilities are really opening up. Photo credit: Shemaya Laurel
GREAT AUK is a variation on the SHANTY T24x8 Triloboat design, by Dave Zeiger. For more information on Dave’s designs, see http://www.Triloboats.com
(Patsy, there you go!)