Thursday, November 23, 2017

Meditation and Transformation

It's quiet here today. I just returned from a walk with the dog. She's the offspring of a spirited Border Collie, bred with a Blue Healer. She doesn't care much for calendars or clocks, and lives from moment to moment, the all too infrequent romp in the woods. I strive to be more like her.
Heather left long before daybreak, to work at the bakery, serving the gluttonous masses. In silent meditation, I've decided to fast in contemplation. I live in a country so preposterously prosperous that being thankful for good fortune seems hypocritical.
The rain comes down in buckets, as we say, out in the boatyard, and though I spend most days out there working in all weather, it seemed appropriate to set the tools aside for awhile. In a bit, I'll go out and bail an old carvel-planked boat that is kept open to the weather, to keep her planks swollen and tight. Her other, more protected sisters will be patted down and reassured their lives will not always be spent on the hard. My neighbors see this ritual as tedious, but I do not - it is a meditation for a sailor between voyages. It is said the professional sailors of old yearned for the sea the day they returned home. I once knew an old fisherman who, while in port, would visit his boat everyday and sit at the helm, reading and listening to the marine broadcasts. I can relate.

Remember Mistral, the big live-aboard/cruising dory that inspired the moniker on the header? She is still around, though an apparent permanent resident of the backyard boatyard. We hauled her from the water a couple years ago to make the journey from the Oregon coast to my new domicile in Port Townsend. Why didn't I sail her here on her own bottom? You ask a good question. The best answer I can offer, is, a trip northbound on the Pacific coast of the US is strenuous, since a vessel must climb uphill, against prevailing weather and tide. I've done it a few times - and failed, too. It's not a voyage to be taken lightly.

A vessel must be redundantly reliable for an open ocean passage.
Mistral suffers a limitation due to poor design and it's nobody's fault but mine. (Oh how hard it is to say that...). I gave a lot of thought to accommodations, structure and sail rig, but just let the cockpit and steering happen on it's own.

Over the years (how quickly they pass), I have struggled with different steering options, going from a simple tiller, to a wheel, and when that failed, back to a tiller. The hard truth is, on a double-ended vessel, the cockpit can be pitifully tight.

So, deciding to finally do something other than going from one haphazard solution to another, Mistral's surgery has begun. First, I've taken a hardtop bimini from an older boat and covered the helm seat. Next, I sawed the old transom off. You heard me right. The languid angle of a dory transom is simply too low for a stern mounted rudder. In a tack, the rudder lifts to the surface of the water, losing purchase and the unfortunate vessel stalls. If the dory doesn't have enough weigh, it is soon in irons. I could have designed a balanced rudder, but am disinclined toward underwater holes in my boats. So now, Mistral's stern is more vertical. I really love the diminutive V shaped transom of a traditional dory, so this was a hard choice. The change is not severe, in an attempt to keep that aesthetic.

To add more seating for the helmsman, I've taken liberties suggestive of traditional Asian sampans. Since I usually sit up on a very skinny shear rail while under sail, I've added a platform, up under the bimini, which my friend Martin calls the poop deck.

I apologize for the poor quality of these photos. Like I said earlier, the winter monsoons have arrived, which means, if I'm to get any time in the boatyard, I must work under a tent.

 Meditation and transformation to keep a sailor sane, while ashore.
Photo courtesy of Mathew Atkin

Monday, October 16, 2017

Building Kayaks on the Oregon Coast

I hear the sad strings of fall all around. In the Pacific Northwest, once the rains come, there seems no end for months. Folks despair. But I love the fall months, the soft edges, brilliant colors, chilly mornings, diffused light. Even the sometimes violent weather makes me feel alive.

There is no better place for a weather-watcher like myself than the coast of Oregon. Every minute brings a new drama. Call me strange, but I'm never happier than in the teeth of a gale.

Last week was pure heaven for me, as we spent our fall "vacation" building kayaks in the historic US Coast Guard Lifeboat Station, in Garibaldi, Oregon, US. There was weather aplenty, as nature unfolded in all her seasonal glory. Around here, this season brings the salmon back from their ocean journey to spawn in home waters, which of course brings out the fishermen. Talk about a hearty breed.

I'm no fisherman. Don't get me wrong, I love seafood. But I'm a single-handing sailor and there is plenty to do on a sailboat, so very little time for fishing. And when I'm not sailing, I build boats, something my fishing friends are grateful for, to the point I really don't need to fish for myself. But, I digress........

Those who know me and my passion for building boats may be surprised to hear it is not my favorite activity. Sailing is.
Thus, I found myself in a quandary last week, while we built five Pygmy Kayaks at Pier's End, in Garibaldi. The old Coast Guard Lifeguard Station is 750 feet out from shore, in deep water, so the view from every window is like that from a ship. I can hear you now -"poor old Doryman, he's stuck inside an amazing historical building, surrounded by immeasurable beauty, forced to build boats". There was some whining and wishing to be out sailing, for which I am not proud.
My crew were sympathetic, but unconcerned because they were having the time of their lives. All participants were volunteers, and only one of a dozen had ever built a boat before. We paired off to build five kayaks from kits. Kit building is not what I do, and while kits provide shortcuts, they also present their own challenges. Perhaps we'll explore that topic one day.
Pygmy kayak kits are not simple, and my condolences to those of you who have had to labor through their instruction manual. Fortunately our team had someone versed in Greek. I see my job, in mentoring a group of builders new to the trade, to play to individual strengths. The end goal for me is to build community, so the Garibaldi Cultural Heritage Initiative is a perfect fit. Building boats as a group is a metaphor for life. The true beauty of such an exercise is how people from all walks of life and philosophies find common cause and become fast friends.
The week was exhausting - I'm no spring chicken. So, glad to be home and resting, with memories of an experience I'll never forget. Special thanks and lots of love to all who participated. Garibaldi rocks!

Doryman burning the midnight oil. It's the instructor's responsibility that there are no loose ends.

Photos courtesy of my awesome friend, Heather Hicks.

Special thanks to Kristen Penner, organizer supreme.

More images from Kristen:

And, still yet more photos on Doryman's photo site...

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Pier's End


As mentioned previously, Doryman's upcoming community project is to mentor the good folks in Garibaldi, Oregon, US, while they build five Pygmy Pinguino Sport kayaks. If you live anywhere on the Oregon coast, you know how beautiful it can be.

The partners in the Garibaldi Cultural Initiative are supporting historic preservation in the Tillamook Bay region, while providing youth and the community meaningful, hands-on opportunities to learn about Oregon's beautiful coastal watersheds, estuaries and maritime heritage.

You can be involved in this kayak building project at no cost. The event is scheduled for the week of October 9th-14th, so please mark your calendars and show up anytime that week ready to roll up your sleeves. No woodworking or boatbuilding experience necessary. You will leave with memories to last a lifetime. The finished kayaks will remain for use by the public, courtesy of Pier's End - Garibaldi's historic United States Coast Guard Lifeboat Station reclamation project.

More information, directions and free registration can be found at SaveTheBoathouse. Hope to see old friends and new there.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Toledo Wooden Boat Show 2017

Family Boat Build, Solar Eclipse, Garibaldi Coast Guard.

What do these all have in common? Please stay tuned...

During the Toledo Wooden Boat Show this year, the popular Family Boat Build featured the Tango Stand-Up-Paddleboard.

We built three SUPs in four days, a new design for everyone involved. Anyone familiar with building wood airplanes would recognize the method - the boards even resemble a wing.

The builders ranged from a local shipwright and his niece, to a group of Job Corps teens, to the new Toledo City Manager, who confessed he had very little wood-working experience.

That's the challenge that makes this weekend project so much fun. Everyone walks away with a unique creation they can use with pride.

Definitely one of the highlights of Doryman's year.

The show was very intimate this year. Being one of the very first geological locations in the USA to experience the recent total eclipse of the sun, we all expected a deluge of tourists, but the Oregon coast was very quiet, considering the moment. You know I like it that way - quality over quantity is the Doryman way. By now, you've all heard eclipse stories. My only observation - it's very strange to see twilight approach, with the sun in the east.

And, oh yes... in the tiny coastal town of Garibaldi, Oregon, there is an old boathouse at the end of a long finger pier, which once housed a United States Coast Guard Lifeboat station. A local group has formed the Garibaldi Cultural Heritage Initiative, to preserve this historical maritime asset. How cool is that?

As it turns out, these fine folks have many ambitious plans to enliven the structure as an asset for the community, which currently include building five kayaks to be used by visitors and the community at large. Serendipity brought the Garibaldi Cultural Initiative to these pages, and Doryman is privileged to have been asked to mentor the build. To say this is an honor is an understatement. I made a quick stop in Garibaldi to see the site yesterday.
I'm very excited. What a week it's been.

Expect to hear more about the Garibaldi Cultural Initiative and Pier's End in the next couple months.