Monday, May 15, 2017

Penelope Down East: a review of a gentle sailing book

Penelope Down East: Cruising Adventures in an Engineless Catboat Along the World's Most Beautiful CoastPenelope Down East: Cruising Adventures in an Engineless Catboat Along the World's Most Beautiful Coast by W. R. Cheney
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This isn't your ripping yarn of nautical struggles, near starvation or wild adventure- it is much gentler than that. Cheney has a modest boat of lovely proportions and these are collected essays from his cruises around some of America's most notable sailing destinations. His cat boat 'Penelope' has no motor and this determines his comings and goings as he responds to the weather, choosing this way over that on a whim, or more correctly, on the hope of a puff. It is the craft of this very thing that sets him apart from most of the people with whom he shares the water. He takes great pride in the skills required to forego automatic propulsion, and he is open and honest in recording his lapses and his very minor humiliations, but equally frank in revealing that little devil (present in many sailors) who simply can't resist the opportunity to show a bigger, flashier boat the charms of Penelope's stern from an increasing distance.

I don't think I learned much about Maine as an outsider, although many of the names are familiar in lore and in the names of various famous boat designs. The charts provided were very small, but in any case I wasn't hoping for a geography lesson, just to read of the daily tasks and minor challenges faced alone in these waters, and to glean something of the sensation and the emotional quality of his wanderings. These are the things that cause you to put the book aside for a moment and just feel it all with him.

This isn't a story, or even an adventure. It is a contemplation of all that is beautiful and solid and craftsmanlike in sailing simply and skilfully, and giving yourself the best chance of really appreciating the water and it's edges before these places are all developed into blandness.
I will put this copy in our boat, to be dipped into when the moment seems right. After the first reading, any chapter will take me somewhere.

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Sunday, May 14, 2017

You wanna play?

Well adoption day for Ziggy looms. She was the girl in this post.
The naughtiest of all our fosters. The most likely to steal the toilet paper. The one most inclined to chew the corner of the table, or steal my boots, sweater or dressing gown when I step into the shower. Her favourite teddy has had a leg amputated because the injuries were so severe....when bored she will chew firewood. She has more chutzpah and energy than any three of your regular greyhounds. She is as tall as Sooty, but acts like a two year old....because she is two. She will become someone's pet instead of a foster dog and yet I feel no sense of doom and loss as I normally do. I don't find myself self-talking about it being about her needs, not ours. I don't try to concentrate on the new owners as being the logical caretakers of her this time. Because we are adopting her ourselves. She has bonded with Julia irreparably. Peas in a pod.

Above, soon after being told she will stay with us, Ziggy allowed a certain amount of peaceful bliss to calm her down. I swear she feels more secure already- she is just so affectionate.

On a different note, above is some Eucalyptus species wood that I have horded since the 1980's waiting for the right job. I am making a panel to sit above a vanity unit for a bathroom, and it seemed a good idea to use these pieces in combination for the job (yes it is a homage to a seascape). It is in the process of being oiled with good old-fashioned Linseed oil. I have to say (as if you are interested!) that using this oil always reminds me of my mother's father who bought me my first cricket bat and instructed me how to oil it. I oiled that bat almost to death just for the love of grandpa and the love of Linseed Oil...Incidentally, this is the only Aussie hardwood board that I've ever had which exhibits a sort of birds-eye figure. I know it happens, but this is my only piece. I've had plenty of Canadian and US birds-eye maple though.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Metung old gaffers 2011

Chris Furey recently shared some old photos from one of the 2011 series of Metung Old gaffer races, and I thought I'd show them here, since Beachcomber was a participant. I feel a bit guilty that she hasn't competed recently, but her skipper nowadays struggles to find any interest in anything called a race, preferring less competitive pleasures. The guilt associated with this is  because the spectacle of the old timers jousting on the water is a spectator sport of merit....maybe one day I'll rediscover my adolescent competitiveness sufficiently to put aside my doubts about grown people trying to go faster than other grown-ups. For some reason I often overthink things that most people take as being perfectly reasonable.

Anyway there are some lovely boats here and you will see that the race was sailed in very light conditions. 

Friday, May 5, 2017

nobbling the last of the ugly spots

A handy storage pocket and a bit of lining on both sides of the hull complete the visual simplification of the Bandicoot's cockpit. Below, these less than artful stringers have been magicked away. Uneven or poorly textured surfaces, lines and shadows create a visual 'clutter'- without being necessarily particularly noticeable. This visual noise makes it more difficult to appreciate a nice space.

At the moment I'm resisting the temptation to add wooden trim, just keeping it simple, at least until the cushions are delivered.

I'm not tempted to line the canopy because I actually like looking at the structure, and it would be needless added weight.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

a simply awful day

Sometimes the most well-intentioned comments make me feel totally un-heard, and my feelings completely dismissed.

I was sitting in the back of our wagon, holding Fleur's little head in my hands and stroking her while the vet arranged the injection that would put her to sleep- permanently.. Something was said about her sweet nature, and I added that she was a particularly loving and giving sort of dog, an innocent who asked so little of the world. The vet then said that yes Greyhounds were wonderful, generous animals and he too was very fond of them.

But I wasn't talking of them, I was talking of her. By generalising my comment to the whole breed he totally missed the point of my comment and quite accidentally made me feel ignored. The most important feelings and interactions and emotions take place between individuals. This was a particular dog- one of many that we have cared for- and she had her own story, her own gifts and I was reflecting on her wonderful living and death as an individual, not as a greyhound.

So often we are tempted to generalise about breeds, races, classes, nationalities and religions, but on an individual level it is possible to find commonality and empathy with any sentient being from any general group. I fear that this is one of the particular dangers of social media, where we communicate and reinforce generalised notions about 'others' with those of a like mind. Even with goodwill this can only lead to platitudes, and without goodwill it will lead to pre-judging according to group.

Above, Ziggy is curious, but empathic about Fleur as she recovers from a seizure.

I wrote about Fleur about a month ago in this post. She nearly made it, but what makes it very hard is that between her fits and seizures she was happy and absolutely perfect as a companion or pet. But to keep her alive would be to make her suffer, and sooner or later one of her seizures would happen when she was alone and she would suffer a great deal, wandering around after the fit, banging into things and falling, and being afraid. We had two massive fits to-day and had to ask for veterinary advice of the toughest  kind.

Over the six and a half weeks that we had her she came alive in so many ways. In her interactions, her trust, her health and interest in life she made huge progress. To-day when we buried her she was shining and glossy and beautiful. When she was well she was confident and astoundingly athletic and humble and loving. But the fits were simply awful. The damage to her heart and her brain from the acidosis, combined with her anxiety from her previous life and perhaps a genetic pre-disposition have all meant that her system was always going to fall victim to the seizures. I hope that we gave her the best 46 days of her twenty-four months. I feel angry at the circumstances that led to her waste.

Sorry if this is an overly emotive post, but this was a dog in which I invested heavily, emotionally. And she was worth it.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

A Big Pulitzer Prize Winner

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & ClayThe Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The book has heft and it comes with big expectations too, because it was a Pulitzer Prize winner.
My first impressions were of very wordy, dense and descriptive passages packed with ideas and delivered by a very competent wordsmith. The scope of the author's imaginings is vast and fast and very suited to the times portrayed. It is the Big American Novel about the Big American Twentieth Century Project- dealing with opportunity, deprivation, motivation and immigration. Also of magic and art and popular culture, Depression, and sexuality. Behind all this fizzes the issue of not being in a war as well as finally being in a war- and then moving on.

Clever writing, great character development and good pace weren't enough to engage me fully on an emotional level though, and I'm more than ready for a new read.

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Monday, April 24, 2017

it's the process that rings my bells

Well I hope you can forgive the low graphic quality of the drawings shown below. You see that the final draft didn't even make it to ink....just a pencil drawing smudged and reworked over weeks until I found what I was looking for, to overlay upon the original lines. There were many other drawings, but ultimately I decided to take a few shapes that worked for me and emphasise them, while at the same time doing the simplest things possible to de-emphasise some of the shapes that annoyed me.

So for the moment, it is down to the details (and I was never a details kind of person) and the second coats of top paint on several edges and surfaces, and a fuel gauge that persist in defying me, and waiting for the upholsterer, and painting the cockpit floor, and other stories....

Friday, April 21, 2017

lids, lockers and mucky painted fingers

Bandicoot has a very generous cabin and the rear cockpit roof makes a third space which is very useful, but my thinking has been to keep it as simple as possible. It is very wide but not huge in depth, so I decided to make a built in structure across the full width of the transom with a movable step which also has storage. This means that access, seating and storage are combined to leave as much uncluttered floor space as possible. When needed, this allows space for a couple of portable deck chairs.

We have decided to use a local business to supply upholstered cushions and 'sunbrella' fabric side and rear curtains, but because they are very good in what they do we will have to wait some months before the boat gets the benefit of their work. I love supporting local enthusiastic business, but I'm not very good at waiting. In the meantime I'm painting the rails and side decks and preparing grab handles for the new roof. The cabin roof and sides are also being repainted.....I can't believe how much painting I find myself doing, it really isn't something that I particularly enjoy. Incidentally, I'm using Sikkens Cetol Marine Varnish for the two step/storage lids because I've found it easy to retouch on Beachcomber's decks, and quite hardy. The surface isn't as glossy or beautiful as with a traditional varnish but it can be recoated easily without sanding and I've learned that ease of maintenance counts for a lot in wooden boats.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

a marriage of shapes

Who said 'the devil is in the detail' ? And who would have thought there would be so much interest in a blow by blow record of the goings-on of this boat? She doesn't even have a mast...Despite there being very few comments, these little blogs of Bandicoot's new lines and nuanced features are getting a surprising number of views. TV must be at a low ebb at the moment. So these pics are about the marriage of a cockpit roof with a cabin. Finding the lines that define. (I was never fond of the shapes at the back of the cabin)

A most unlikely pair of shapes to harmonise the line of the new roof with the angles of the cabin.

Below, the old edges visible through the fairing compound.

Meanwhile, between painting sessions I'm making a seat base/step/esky cover/storage box/table for 500 mm along the transom. 2 x 800 seats, 1x 800 decked surface. The decked bit is on a piano hinge which allows opening to access cool liquid and picnic foods...A proper multi-function gismo that hides a multitude of messes and provides a convenient step down into the boat from the rear (under the hatch). The seat bases cover acres of storage space. We will have to wait for the upholstery that will make the two side areas into decent seating. A bottom step with storage is also being hatched in the wings....

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

who needs emoticons?

Introducing Ziggy our newest foster dog. We took her into our car on her way back from the vet, having just been de-sexed. She was disoriented and worried, but a few quick tucks of the rug and the pillow by Julia and she was snug and feeling safe. These three pictures were taken within about five seconds (I think the last picture shown was the first taken), and I find them powerful in the range of emotions that can be read in her face in such a short period- without her moving anything but her eyes.

On arriving home she was met by Sooty (our dog) and Fleur (our other foster dog). Fleur has made incredible progress since my post about her when she arrived. After an initial flurry the other two dogs have pretty much left her alone to adjust and recover, and her job tonight is simply to learn something of our physical and emotional geography, our smells and to find enough trust to believe that she will be safe.

Friday, April 7, 2017

clearing the benches (gimme shelter)

When the day came that the roof was weatherproof enough, and the paint cured sufficiently, the usual self doubts arose about the difficulty of moving the roof, of whether it would fit- having been built remotely from the boat, whether it would make a difference to the comfort and shelter on the boat, and whether it would make the boat look worse rather than better.

 Julia and I and a great pair of friends carried the roof from the ute, along the bush track to the jetty and lifted it on just as I had hoped we would. It slipped straight onto the notches provided and the temporary posts clamped to the coaming made it pretty level at their prepared height.

Despite drawing various positions and angles for the posts, it has been easy to find the preferred alternatives by clamping timber as below. It remains now to fix everything down, and harmonise the edges and transitions so that the structure looks to be part of the boat, not just an afterthought. This will also involve re-forming the cabin rear side edges (to an angle that echoes the angle of the windscreen).

In the hot afternoon sun it was pleasant to sit under the new roof, the four of us having a quiet beer. 
It fits.