Sunday, October 15, 2017

Sailing in Extreme Weather

There have been some extreme weather systems around the coast of South Africa in the past week or two. The weather around this very inhospitable coast, from Cape of Good Hope (aka Cape of Storms) through to Richards Bay, teaches the locals to be very hardy sailors who are able to handle their boats in sometimes wild conditions. This is justifiably one of the three Great Capes of the world and many circum-navigators tell of their passages through these waters being the most scary periods of their voyaging.

The first storm was from a deep depression and cold front that had come in from deep down in the South Atlantic. It hit the Cape Town area and produced very intense gales and heavy rain, unfortunately not enough to break the long-lasting drought that currently plagues the Western Cape.

The other storm was from a cut-off low in the Indian Ocean off Durban, 1000 miles from the first storm. It produced gales that broke numerous large ships free in the port, with a large container ship lying broadside across the entrance channel. It also wrecked the marinas in the yacht basin, with some yachts sinking on their moorings.

Two boats of our design sailed through these two storms. Both were in the hands of very capable skippers. Survival of any boat and crew in extreme conditions is through the partnership between a capable boat and an equally capable crew. Put the most seaworthy boat in the hands of an inexperienced or irresponsible skipper and that good boat may be doomed. On the other hand, a capable and experienced skipper has the best chance of bringing an inadequate vessel through tough conditions.

The yacht in the first storm was the steel Dix 38 Pilot "Bryana", on delivery by Jeremy Bagshaw. Jeremy and wife Anita own the bigger sister Dix 43 Pilot "Jerrycan" and have sailed many thousands of miles in her in the Indian Ocean. Jeremy has written of his experience in this storm on his blog entry titled Some Thoughts on Big Weather.
Dix 38 Pilot "Bryana" in much calmer waters.
The yacht in the storm off Durban  was the fibreglass Shearwater 39 "Ocean Spirit". Her owner, Neville Bransby, was out sailing on her in that storm by choice, single-handed. He wanted to prove himself and his boat in storm conditions. He did that effectively, losing only his anemometer in the process, when it blew off the masthead. Meanwhile, the catamaran moored right next to his normal berth sank on its moorings. You can read of it in a blog post authored by Richard Crockett, titled A Case of Sound Seamanship.
Shearwater 39 "Ocean Spirit" racing between Durban and Port Elizabeth in less extreme conditions.
All of us who go to sea in small boats have to accept the strong chance that sooner or later we will be caught by extreme weather. That chance goes up with every mile that we sail. If we sail trans-ocean or long coastal passages with safe havens separated by miles of rocky coast then we have to know how to handle our boats to come safely through whatever it is that is being thrown at us by Mother Nature in a foul mood. We cannot learn how to handle these conditions only by reading how in books and magazine articles while snug in a soft armchair next to a winter fire. We have to experience these things to know what we need to do to safeguard boat and crew, to have confidence in the abilities of ourselves and our boats.

I don't mean that you must go sailing in the meanest weather that can come your way, I mean that you must not only sail on those idyllic days when it is all sunshine and cocktails on flat seas. Those conditions teach us nothing, unless we are novices just getting into sailing. If you have plans to sail across oceans or offshore coastal then you really have a need to go sailing in 35 knots, to know that your reefing systems work in strong winds, that you know how to set your storm jib and storm tri-sail, that your jackstays allow free movement from bow to stern while always tethered in your safety harness, that you know what your boat likes if you have to heave-to or lie ahull, how it will behave, how fast it will drift or at what speed and direction it will sail under different sail combinations.

There are so many things to be learned by doing this, things that will stay logged in your brain as experience rather than knowledge, to be called into use with confidence when needed.

Lets go sailing but lets also be safe.

To see more about our designs, go to out main website or our mobile website.


Sunday, September 24, 2017

New Agent & Kit Supplier in Australia

We have a new agent in Australia. In future we will be represented by Ron Jesche of Stainless Boatworks in Adelaide, South Australia. Ron is an accomplished boatbuilder, working to a high standard. He is currently building a Cape Henry 21 for his own use.

Ron's current boat "Lioness" was his own build, to a custom pilothouse design. He saw a similar boat at the Wooden Boat Festival in Tasmania, which put him on the path that ended with him building "Lioness" for himself and wife "Carole".
"Lioness" on the hard recently for maintenance.
Nicely finished pilothouse of "Lioness".
Stainless Boatworks is able to sell plans for any of our range of designs, which will be printed and shipped by our office here in USA. They can also supply CNC kits for our plywood designs.
Ron Jesche's Cape Henry 21 build, fairing and deck in progress.
Interior of Ron's Cape Henry 21, showing nice detailing.
Ron does nice work. He has built the Cape Henry 21 from scratch. That has given him good knowledge of how our designs work, as well as the experience of building one of our designs. That makes him well-suited to represent our designs in Australia. Whether you want to build from plans or a kit, Ron can supply.

Also, if you want one of these boats and don't have the time or inclination to build it, maybe Ron will build one for you if you speak to him very nicely.

We look forward to a long and mutually satisfying relationship with Ron Jesche.

To see more about our boat designs, go to our main website or our mobile website.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Another Argie 15 Build in Russia

Our designs have been built in 90 countries, including well over 300 boats across the length and breadth of Russia, even in the middle of Siberia. They span most of our design range, from the little plywood Dixi Dinghy yacht tender through to the steel Dix 57 world cruiser. Nearly half of those boats are to our ever-popular Argie 15 design.

The most recent launch of an Argie 15 was by amateur builder Ilia Bogdanov, who lives in Khadarovsk in Far Eastern Russia, 760km north of Vladivostok. Ilia is a cardiovascular surgeon in his day-time job and built his Argie 15 in his spare time. Compared with the very delicate and intricate work of repairing a patient's heart, building a wooden boat must be a big change of scale.

Ilia has built a good boat of nice quality, in sometimes unpleasant conditions, certainly far from optimal. Seeing what Ilia has accomplished, with the help of a friend, should be an inspiration to boatbuilders in other faraway places, where finding suitable materials and build location can be a major challenge. It shows how fortunate we are if we are able to build our boats in a moderate climate or a heated/cooled/dry workshop and with a wide choice available to us of plywoods, epoxies, hardware etc to craft into a beautiful and safe vessel.

I see criticism sometimes of materials and methods used by builders in other countries but those resourceful builders have to hunt out the best materials that they can find to go into their boats. Those materials may not be as workable or as aesthetically pleasing as what more fortunate builders may choose but they are available and they do what is needed by the builder.

I will let Ilia's photos and my captions tell the story of his build, an achievement of which he can be proud.
Ilia's workshop was his garage, 2nd from left. It has water in it when the snow melts or when it rains.
Ilia started with a kit, bought from Peter Tatarinov, our Russian kit supplier in Irkutsk, Siberia. The water on the slab is snow melt.
Ilia unpacking his Argie 15 kit.
Hull completed, seat framing going in.
Scuppered gunwales with a difference, the slots are on the outside rather than the inside. 
Ilia filled the side seat compartments with foam flotation.
Home-made access covers using the details on the drawings.
Ilia and his children ready to use their new Argie 15.


Running under power from the 6hp outboard.

And here Ilia is racing in a mixed yacht club fleet on the Amur River.
Congratulations Ilia on your project.

To see more of this and out other designs, go to our main website or our mobile website.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Wooden Boat Festival, Port Townsend

The Wooden Boat Festival in Port Townsend WA ended a week ago. Two days of off-and-on light drizzle washed the smoke from the wild fires out of the air and Sunday turned into a gorgeous day with lots of visitors. There were three boat of our design on display.

The Didi Cruise-Mini "Segue" has been at the Festival many times. Her owners, David and Nancy Blessing, have become good friends of mine over the past few years and hosted me in their beautiful home in Port Ludlow. Their boat was built by the Northwest School of Wooden Boat Building in Port Hadlock. The Festival gave me the opportunity to view some of the beautiful boats built by the school and also on display. I also spent a few pleasant hours in the company of Executive Director Betsy Davis and some of the many people who make this school a valuable resource of the boating community. The school may be available to build our smaller designs, up to about 21ft, but the bigger boats would not fit into the requirements of their programs.
Didi Cruise-Mini "Segue".
The Cape Henry 21 "Slough Coot" is owned by Michael and Jody Baccellieri of Portland OR. Their boat attracted an endless stream of visitors to visit aboard and talk about her. Michael and Jody had spent the previous 2 weeks cruising the beautiful islands and anchorages of Puget Sound and were very happy to chat about their capable little vessel.
Michael and Jody aboard their Cape Henry 21 "Slough Coot".
The Didi Mini Mk3 "Voodoo Child" was built by amateur Mark Paterson in Vancouver BC, to an extremely high standard that rivals the best produced by many professional boatyards. Visitors who talked to me after being aboard "Voodoo Child" all spoke of the incredible standard of finish and the many features that Mark built into his boat. She is very well-equipped, including carbon mast, boom and sprit. We took her out to sail in the Friday race, unfortunately into the worst possible conditions for a Mini 650 to show her paces. We had a boat, designed for windy downwind racing and trans-ocean passage-making, in a sometimes windless around-the-cans race where contrary current was at times faster than boat speed. I will have to sail on her another time to experience her speed in her own conditions.
Didi Mini Mk3 "Voodoo Child".
I had flown to the Pacific Northwest via Portland so that I could visit friends in that area. One was the owner of a Lotus Europa similar to my own, to help him to sort out some problems. That done, we took it for a spin on Vancouver WA roads, giving me even more appreciation for my own car, which I had resurrected from a lifeless wreck over a 5-year rebuild. Just a few more jobs to do to complete the total body-off restoration. People wonder when I walk up to this tiny car how a tall guy like me can fit into a car with the roof below waist level. The saying is that you don't get into a Lotus, you put it on like a pair of trousers, one leg at a time. 😊
The roof of my Lotus comes only to the bottom of the windows of my wife's Chev Sonic compact.  Seen here with my Ford Windstar and son-in-law's jacked SUV for contrast with my "toy" car.
To see our full range of boat designs, go to our main website or our mobile website.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Happenings with Radius Chine Plywood Projects

My agent in Italy, Leo Giammanco of Nautikit, sent me photos a few days ago of a new Didi 40cr. Many of these boats in the Didi 38/40/40cr series have been or are being built in Mediterranean countries, including 6 in Italy. This one is named "Mia" and was built by Stefano Consolini. She was launched at the Marina di Ravenna, east of Bologna on the Adriatic Sea.

Stefano appears to have done a really nice job of creating "Mia". He has built her as a nicely-detailed comfortable cruiser with 18mm skin and concentration on strength, rather than lightness and performance. Stefano started the project in 2006 and worked as a lifeguard to finance the build.
"Mia" gets wet for the first time.
Nicely finished as a fast cruiser.
Meanwhile, in Russia, Vitaly Ghazarayan of Krasnodar has stepped the rig on his Didi 34, with the help of a group of friends. They did this without a crane, showing that with a good dose of resourcefulness, amateur builders can do almost anything. Those of us who launch where yacht club cranes and derricks are readily available, wouldn't dream of doing this.

This series of photos shows the process that they used.

Moving the mast into position.
The lift starts, using a pole fastened to the cabin roof as a spreader to gain mechanical advantage.
Up she goes, nearly there.
Securely in place, sorting out backstay, halliards, electronics etc.
To see more of these and our other designs, go to our main website or our mobile website.



Monday, July 31, 2017

Wooden Boat Festival, Port Townsend

That season is coming around again, time for the Wooden Boat Festival in the beautiful little Pacific Northwest town of Port Townsend, WA. This is the 41st edition of one of the most popular wooden boat events in the world, with hundreds of wooden boats on show and dozens of presentations on a wide range of subjects of interest to boating people. Dates are 8th to 10th September 2017. The festival website is not yet fully functional but that will come soon.

Among those many boats will be three of our 21ft plywood sailboats, all different, which can be visited on the docks.
David Blessing's Didi Cruise-Mini "Segue". This is the detuned cruising version of our Didi Mini single-handed trans-Atlantic raceboat.
Michael Baccellieri's Cape Henry 21, "Slough Coot". She was built with some deviations from our design but the current owner is working to get her closer to the original drawings.
Mark Paterson's Didi Mini Mk3 "Voodoo Child". This is the full racing version of our Mini-Transat racer, with the newer hull shape and rig. 
I will also be taking part in the presentations. I will participate in the Designers' Forum, along with other boat designers, moderated by Jay Benford. This is from 12h00 to 13h00 on Friday 8th in the Cascade Room. Bring your boat design and construction questions to this session and observe how diverse the range of opinions and solutions can be among designers with different backgrounds and design styles. This is normally a very interesting gathering.

I will have my own session in the Cascade Room from 09h30 to 10h30 on Sunday 10th. My presentation is titled "Surviving a Capsize on the Ocean". Nobody can guarantee who will survive an ocean capsize but this presentation is aimed at making boaters aware of the many factors that are working together to reduce their chances of escaping alive from a capsized boat. Armed with that knowledge, they will be better prepared to choose the best options if they do ever have the misfortune of being inside or under an inverted boat.

To see our range of boat designs, go to our main website or our mobile website.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Two New Steel Boat Launchings

Steel boatbuilding has been in a slump for a decade or so, with not many new builds starting, either as professional projects or by amateur builders. It has even become very difficult to find any professional boatbuilders who are still working in steel, in many countries. Most of the steel boats currently being built are the work of amateur builders.

I think that this was due to a combination of causes, mostly related to the state of the world economy squeezing disposable income. Fewer people able to afford spending years cruising the oceans of the world has changed cruising dreams to smaller boats of their own for coastal or trailer-sailer cruising, or chartering bigger boats for a week or two at a time from others in the islands.

That may be changing though, we have recently seen an increasing interest in our more serious cruising designs, including those of steel. There still remains the problem of a dearth of professional yards that will build in steel but it does seem that the interest in steel boats may be returning.

The past few weeks have brought two new launches of steel sailboats to our Dix 43 Pilot design. These two were built many thousands of mile apart, in different hemispheres.

Ian Edwards built his boat in Caernarfon, Wales. A 10-year project, she is now in the water and ready to start cruising.
Ian Edwards built his boat in Caernarfon, Wales
Ian turning his hull using the spit-roast method.
Andre Siebert built his boat in Gauteng, South Africa, then had her trucked 1000 miles to Cape Town for launch. I have a few more photos of Andre's boat than Ian's, so apologies to Ian for showing more of Andre's boat.

Andre's boat about to hit the highway from Gauteng to the ocean.
Andre Siebert's launch of "Sea Bird" at Royal Cape Yacht Club, Cape Town.
Beautifully finished pilothouse of "Sea Bird".
"Sea Bird" with her rig stepped.
Congratulation to Ian and Andre for their impressive projects. We wish you happy cruising.

To see more of this and our other designs, go to our main website or our mobile website.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Argie 15 & DS15 at Wooden Boat Show

This past weekend was time for our annual road trip to Mystic Seaport in Connecticut, 500+ miles each way. We had our usual Paper Jet, slightly spruced up with a new coat of deck paint and non-skid. Normally we would take one boat on one trailer, an easy tow. This time we also needed to get the new Argie 15 to the show for Kevin Agee to exhibit in the I Built it Myself division of the show. So they had to both go on one trailer. The two boats made a neat package, more aerodynamic than the Argie 15 by itself.
Argie 15 and Paper Jet, the way we travelled to Mystic.
12 Hours aft of us on the road was Hunter Gall with his Didi Sport 15 (DS15) All three boats and our booth in the main tent were set up and ready for visitors Friday morning.
From left, Hunter Gall's DS15, Kevin Agee's Argie 15 and my Paper Jet.
This 26th edition of the Wooden Boat Show proved to be an exceptional one for us. The weather was good and the show was well attended, with a tremendous amount of interest in the two brand new boats. The high quality builds were rewarded with first place for Hunter and runner-up for Kevin in the "Owner-Built Sail" division of the competition. I extend my congratulations to both of them, their hard work and attention to detail really paid off.

Hunter's DS15 is a very interesting boat and really drew the crowds to talk about all of his details and innovations. It might be best described as stated by the head of the judging panel, who said that Hunter is like "the mad scientist of boating". I provided a clean and simple design, which Hunter used as a blank canvas onto which he applied almost every go-fast innovation that he could imagine. Of course it is his boat and the final result must make him happy and fire his passion for it.
Hunter's DS15, with red, white and blue colours achieved by staining the wood before applying the epoxy coatings.
The wet deck with open transom seemed to worry some visitors, mostly women. Surrounded by mostly traditional boats, they can't imagine boats sailing faster than the waves around them.
Hunter had intrigued the judges with his explanations of the theory of tacking daggerboards, his removable heart-shaped daggerboard foil and other add-ons, as well as the unique ways that he had executed some of the more mundane dinghy features. The judges encouraged visitors to chat with Hunter about all this and he had a ball with it. The boat has many 3D-printed items on it, including a carbon spinnaker chute that he had modeled in a 3D CAD program for printing.

Kevin's Argie 15 provided a big contrast, standing right next to the DS15. It is a big 3:1 dinghy that is outfitted for easy and efficient sailing with a minimum of fuss, able to get onto the water quickly and also to carry a family of adults and children in safety and comfort. Kevin built this boat to a standard that caused many to ask why a fiberglass boat was being seen on a show for wooden boats. The bright-finished woodwork of the boat is all two-tone in poplar and cedar, which set off the nicely painted hull and deck surfaces.
The pretty sheer and clean lines of the hull attracted many admirers to the Argie 15.
Spacious interior with minimal complication, as well as space for a bunch of people.
The Argie 15 may have originally been conceived as a 3:1 dinghy for basic family fun but it morphed later by adding seating all-round. This added 40-50lb to the weight but improved comfort big-time, also boosting safety by adding buoyancy if capsized or flooded. These are all features that attracted the lovers of simple boats.

The Paper Jet, Argie 15 and DS15 provided a nice contrast to each other, three very different boats from the same designer. Between the three boats and our display booth, Dehlia and I were kept very busy for most of the three-day show. I would like to thank both Kevin Agee and Hunter Gall for their efforts in building and showing their boats, also for their obvious pride in their own workmanship.

To see more of these and our other designs, go to our main website or our mobile website.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Wooden Boat Show at Mystic Seaport

The Wooden Boat Show happens the last weekend of June, at Mystic Seaport Museum in Connecticut. This has been the venue for the past decade, all of which we have participated in the show. This started with us exhibiting the prototype Paper Jet at the 2007 show, where she won the Innovation Award on the Concourse D'elegance. She was a lonely modern trapeze skiff in a sea of traditional boats.

This year the show will be 30th June through to 2nd July. We will have the Paper Jet there again but she will be accompanied by two of our other designs, both exhibited by their builders in the "I Built it Myself" part of the show.

The Argie 15 that Kevin Agee has been building the past few months will be there. I built the striped spars using birdsmouth details, from alternating strakes of poplar and cedar. I also completed the daggerboard and keel using the striped blanks that were laminated from the same two species by Kevin. We launched her on Sunday and I will be sailing her on the North Carolina Sounds at Cape Hatteras for the next few days. For the moment she has some rig pieces filched from the Paper Jet due to lack of time to make new but she will have all her own parts for the show.
"Argie" gets wet for the first time. Me at the stern, builder Kevin Agee at the bow.
The first sail, in very light breeze.
The Argie 15 is our most popular design but we haven't seen one on the Wooden Boat Show before. If you are in New England and have built an Argie 15, here is an opportunity to show your boat along with our new one.

The other new boat is the prototype of the Didi Sport 15 (DS15) design, which was commissioned by Hunter Gall. Hunter has built her over a long period and has produced a very interesting boat in a red, white and blue colour theme. Hunter is Australian but now Naturalized American. The red/white/blue is a patriotic choice of colours and his hull has a small US flag laminated into the epoxy under the stern.
Red deck, blue hull and white trim

The DS15 has a very modern hull with a bit of retro-styling in the deck details.
The colours aren't sprayed paint, as most would expect, which would give opaque finishes. Instead, Hunter dyed the plywood surfaces to allow the grain to show through, then coated with clear epoxy finished with clearcote to add depth and UV protection. This is a radius chine plywood boat, so the rounded part of the hull is laminated from two layers of plywood strips. The strips of the outer layer were edge-matched so that the grain runs through, with very tight joints that are almost invisible The result is a very interesting boat. Come to the show to see her, inspiration from an amateur builder who has never built a boat before.

To see more of these and our other designs, visit our main website or our mobile website.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Argie 15 Nearing Completion

It has been a long time since my last post about our Argie 15 project. Work has been going on but big life events have taken away from the time needed to write blog posts. The main event was a change in the status of builder Kevin  Agee, now our son-in-law after marrying our daughter Michelle last month.
Newly-married, our daughter Michelle and new son-in-law Kevin Agee.
OK, time to get life back to normal. The Argie 15 is nearing completion and looks very different from when you last saw it. It took its first road trip, on my Paper Jet trailer. The destination was my own garage, for painting.
Ready for preparation for paint.
After turning the boat upside-down, final inspection, masking the rub-rails and other bright-finished surfaces, blowing off the dust with a leaf blower then cleaning with acetone, it was ready for spraying to start.
First coat was a high-build epoxy primer, to give an easily-sanded layer to form the foundation for a good finish.
Next came a white primer. This was needed to cover the grey epoxy, which can cause blotchy problems with finish coats.
When I sprayed my Lotus, I changed the colour from the original red to yellow. I sprayed the yellow over a grey primer and found that yellow paint has problems covering grey. What initially looked like good cover is a bit green and blotchy in low-light situations. The green tone is the grey primer showing through and the blotchiness is caused by variations in the yellow film thickness. I must spray another coat over the car to get a uniform yellow colour. Lesson learned, we added a coat of white primer to the paint schedule of the Argie 15 to ensure good cover.
A coat of high-build epoxy primer also went onto the vertical surfaces of the cockpit because these will be gloss white. The horizontal areas will be beige non-skid, so a perfectly smooth surface was not needed.
The transom was to be white, so that was sprayed first, then masked off with paper before spraying the rest of the hull.
Completed hull painting, with yellow hull and white transom
The varnished rub-rails laminated from cedar and poplar set off the hull nicely. The holes through the hull sides are to drain the leeward side seats if any spray comes aboard when sailing in lumpy and breezy conditions.
 The new boat made its first public appearance by doing bar service at the wedding. It worked as a giant cooler, holding beers and soft drinks on ice for the wedding guests.

The other work that has been going on is building the spars. I am doing that work, having decided to make wooden spars using the birdsmouth method. In keeping with the varnished woodwork on the hull, I have made the mast and boom from alternating strips of cedar and poplar. I won't go into the details of building the spars in this post but will do that in later posts on my Boatbuilding Tips Blog. The Argie 15 plans show the mast in two sections, so that the rig can be stowed inside the hull. I could have made the mast in one length by scarphing the strakes into long lengths but elected to stay with the two-part mast. This allowed me to work with lengths that fit more comfortably inside a single garage.
Gluing a mast section using the bidsmouth method.
Mast sections and boom shaped and being epoxy-coated. The one closest to the camera is the boom, the other two being the two sections of the mast. The long mast higher up in the garage is my Paper Jet mast, built by a similar method.
Launch day is approaching. The sails have been made and hardware will soon start going onto the deck and rig.

See more of this and our other designs on our main website or our mobile website.