Saturday, March 17, 2018

Portraits of a very old girl- Beachcomber 2018

After new topside paint late last year and new standing and running riggings, some new soles and internal paint in the previous year, Beachcomber was better than I'd ever seen her when she turned out for the Paynesville Classic. She sails beautifully and with very good manners, although in light airs I really must remember to loosen the topping lift a bit, so as not to interfere with the main sail shape. When the wind stiffens it is no longer a problem, and in light airs I always feel so relaxed I spend more time listening to the bow wave noises and basking in the feeling of it all that I loose interest in the finer points of trim.

These first four pics are in very high resolution and were taken by a professional photographer, Andrew Franks. The others are by other photographers who shared on Facebook. She scrubs up quite well for a lady with an age over 160, I think.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

2018 Paynesville Classic -another collection of photos

Again, pics from a variety of photographers, shared with thanks. I'm hoping more still will turn up from the parade of sail which was a stunning event to be involved in.

speed boat struggling to outpace Beachcomber the gaffer at mach 2

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Paynesville Classic Boat Rally 2018 Day One

Paynesville Classic Boat Rally 2018 - Andrew Franks Photography from Andrew Franks on Vimeo.

The Paynesville Classic attracted more than 250 boats of many types and was attended by a huge, hungry and very appreciative crowd. We had static displays on the hard, exhibition tents, the Lady Nelson tall ship, fleets off classic cruisers steeped in local tourist history, and a wonderful fleet of Gippsland type fishing boats, many with multi-generational family histories here. Historic sailing craft, small dinghies, speed boats and work boats- a feast for the eyes. There was also a classic fishing boat race event and a scratch-build boat from plywood competition.

The video above does a great job of summarising (very quickly) the range of craft on display and in the water on the first day. This first day included a sail past by all water-borne entries. The grand parade of sail happened on the second day and I hope to have some good pics to share of that soon.

The event grew out of the very hard work by Peter Medling in the first instance. He has driven the now world-wide interest in the event through his energy and unfailing enthusiasm. It has been truly remarkable work. The huge team of volunteers were again outstanding in their cheer and helpfulness. As a participator with a long bowsprit we certainly relaxed in the comfort of knowing that managing a docking in a busy crowd would always be managed calmly and without fuss by one of the helpers who so magically appeared when needed. This warmth and cheer reflects so well on the local community.

Most of these pics have been freely shared on Facebook, and I include shots by various photographers with thanks.

even the dolphins joined in

the Tin Shed - a local floating institution provided a movable stage for music and commentary

Friday, March 2, 2018

pottering to Paynesville for a classic boat rally.

Lake King can be lazy and languid, horizons can forget to turn up to the scene and despite the put-put of the diesel it's hard not to absorb some of the calm.

Over the next few days we will be just one of more than 200 boats from all over and it will be hectic. But for now, this is nice.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

a tall ship in the lakes

One of the highlights of my coming week will be the Paynesville Classic Boat Rally, and the biggest entrant is Lady Nelson, a replica of the first boat to chart Bass Strait. She has come from Hobart, her home port. A history of the original boat (in brief) and other interesting background can be found by following this link

Docked at Metung for a well-earned break

photo Sallyanne Barclay. The water at the bar.

coming over the bar and into the channel under motor

The night before the entrance, marking time and waiting for permission to enter. The course was then into the Lake system and up to Metung

Raising sail on the way from Metung to Paynesville

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

packets of community

Imagine a time before the internet, before TV even. No mobiles, no digitals, no videos, and not every one had a radio.

Over the years as I restored old violins for people or bought old instruments to restore and sell, I somehow accumulated a bag full of old strings and fittings and rosins from ancient violin cases and never had the heart to throw them out.

Nor did I have a plan as to what I'd do with them. I find them very beautiful, these little treasures bought with Pounds, Shillings and Pence, kept as spares in violin cases as preparation for an emergency change of strings. These are packages that crinkle and make special proprietary noises when they are opened, with evocative images on the front promising tone, atmosphere and quality sometimes stamped with a traditional wax seal.

Some of these were bought and sold in the 19th Century. In Australia these were often the entertainment ammunition for families and communities, often played by men, especially if women had access to a piano. I can't imagine how many times I was shown 'Grand Pa's violin' when the case was opened.

For those fortunate enough, the piano was the axis around which many country communities gelled, the background to singing, dancing, romances and gossip, political discussions and rivalry. Sometimes this was a church-based thing, but often just families and neighbours, and the violins came to where the piano lived. Although  also important in city communities, it was arguably less so, given greater access to entertainment in the towns and on the other hand, the nature of rural work and the distances involved in getting together.

Friday, January 26, 2018

The trouble with perfection

One of the members of my workshop group was having the usual difficulties with some small and fine joinery, and her initial question was regarding the difficulties of accurate measurement, but the underlying issue was more searching.

She wanted to talk about the level of accuracy that she could be happy with, and she raised the issue of perfection. I had to start by saying that I don't embrace the search for perfection. I don't think that functional accuracy need be saddled with a striving for a flawless ideal, when inspired and energetic repetition is more likely to bring a quality that is much fresher, human and 'alive'.

We could spend ten years slaving to make a thing perfect or we could make dozens of things in the same period and in doing so we move our skills and our intuitive grasp of craft forward so much more. I'm not saying that big projects are a waste, because big projects are generally collections of little projects. Sometimes though, we need to look at the big goals rather than the problems which are in our faces. For me, making something is more about learning to make than it is about the product, at least if I'm to do more than simply manufacturing.

This attitude is hard to explain and I'm certainly not advocating shortcuts or shoddy workmanship. A really lovely piece of work will often appear easy, effortless and coherent.

If we start a piece thinking that it will only be good in the absence of mistakes we ignore the positive qualities that give rise to that beauty.

A curve, a shape or a cut can be a sweep of the hand that may reveal confidence and energy. This is what I aspire to, and the approach is intuitive rather than logical. And it takes lots of practice to make this kind of progress.

Someone in a hurry to achieve this would do well to use cheap materials as practice platforms for a specific skill, continuing to repeat the process until work can be done with less thinking and more feeling, more confidence and less anxiety about getting it right.

After all, this is precisely what musicians have to do to sound fluid and beautiful. The hands need to be taught how to act without conscious thought to a certain degree, through repetition. This frees the senses to concentrate on more specific perceptions.

Perfection is really akin to Plato's  pet concept in which he argues that our worldly existence can be likened to a shadow cast on the walls of a cave and seen by someone who has never been able to look at the real world outside. If they have only seen the shadows then the shadows seem real, so how can they possibly imagine the 'real' world? That person's shadows are our reality, and Plato wanted us to imagine the ideal world beyond our 'cave' walls. He would argue that everything and everyone has an ideal form and structure (and behaviour?) and we live and create to approach those ideals.

Despite what I've said about perfection for me as a goal in work, I do fit into the idealist mold with regard to life and design- I always feel we can do  things better if we are honest and thoughtful, and when designing something I'm always interested in finding the 'essential' forms and removing the complications that obscure them. Functional modernism is an expression of that.

The design for these small planes was very much a conscious attempt to  find an ideal form.

All of this thinking about idealism in design caused me to search out these old drawings from forty years ago in 1978. I wanted to make a methane digester to produce gas for cooking or powering a generator, particularly one that might be useful in agriculture to improve the compost value of animal waste, and to generate gas for domestic or farm use.

At the time there were interesting methane plants in India and China (hotter places, generally), but they were often messy and cumbersome designs that were labour intensive to build and use. That taste for the ideal caused me to try for a more rational design that might be manufactured in stackable modules.

Needless to say this idealistic boy in his 20's had neither the resources nor the money to do anything much with the idea, but I was fascinated with what we then called 'appropriate technology'. I noticed recently there is finally a company producing good manufactured small scale digesters- with the benefit of modern plastics, manufacturing methods and crowd funding. (I'm tempted to buy one)

From 1978, my design for a batch-fed, solar heated Methane digester, manufacturable in concrete. There are other sheets which compute inputs, outputs, volumes and carbon to nitrogen ratios.

thermo-syphoned solar heated water was integrated into the design to maintain an optimum digesting temperature in temperate or cool climates/seasons

On sloping sites the design allowed 'stacking', maintaining the optimum solar angle for that lattitude

I had a concrete company keen to manufacture a prototype, but I had no funds to develop the concept further.