A Big Chunk of Bronze

For a while now, I’ve had an eye out, and ear to the ground, for a manual bronze windlass to replace the great, but unfortunately somewhat worn, windlass currently on SKYE. The old one is perfect, in theory, but the gears have some wear and pitting, plus the chain gypsy is very worn, to the point that the chain no long strips cleanly off the wheel, but tends to jam and then be popped off noisily by the chain stripper. Also, it’s long out of production, and what replacement parts are available are expensive. A new chain gypsy would run around $350, for example.

So, as I occasionally do, I visited craigslist and typed in a few things I’m looking for, “bronze windlass”, among them, and unlike all the previous attempts, this time there was one for sale: looked like new, never been used, and a mere three hour drive away, ha. And the seller was someone I know, coincidentally… Alan, who sails a Falmouth Cutter 22 named Sookie.

So, aside for a missing part (currently being fabricated by Port Townsend Foundry), it was in new condition and a heck of deal. (Thanks again, Alan!) When the part is finished, I’ll install the windlass where the old one was. Fortunately, the bolt hole alignment is workable.

Although the best known of this type is probably the one which was made by ABI (who are now defunct), the ABI one was reportedly a copy of the windlass which is still manufactured by the RC Plath company. This one has no markings anywhere than I can find, and could be the product of the third company often mentioned along with ABI and RC Plath: Maritime Bronze, who are also apparently out of business. Pretty well made, regardless.

The only unknown is whether I’ll decide to maintain its shine with frequent polishing, or just let it oxidize in peace. We shall see.

I couldn’t keep myself from polishing it up at least once:

Summer Sailing

A couple of recent photos of SKYE and yours truly out sailing. Or at least waiting for a bit of wind to do some sailing.

(Photo courtesy of Dave Knowlton)

(Photo courtesy of Joy Johnson)

The breeze finally filled in for a while, and we (8 boats) had a nice race out to Boston Harbor. Four boats barely made it across the finish line before the air stopped moving and the turning tide started taking the rest of us in the wrong direction. But a nice day on the water was had by all.

In Praise of Cetol

I know a lot of folks denounce the stuff, but I can say now from experience, that it is, in my opinion, pretty damn cool. I refinished my mainsheet blocks exactly one year ago, and they’ve been out in the sun, rain, hail, cold, heat and more sun… and look as nice and shiny as the day I put on the last coat of clear. The varnishes I’ve tried do not begin to fare as well. Skye’s mast, also Cetol’ed, is equally nice after 12 months.


Sailing To McMicken Island

Last weekend I sailed SKYE to a local state park about 16nm away. Saturday it was all either downwind or on a broad reach… great sailing. Hit over 6 knots with just the main and staysail for a bit. Too much fun.

The occasion was one of the South Sound Sailing Society‘s cruises, and three other boats showed up and each tied up to a state park mooring buoy. Four boats, four buoys, which worked out well. Even had a great potluck dinner on one boat Saturday evening.

The weather was a bit variable, with some rain and wind squalls periodically passing by, but there was also a fair bit of sun, and Sunday morning was very calm and nice.

I sailed part way back, but decided that several hours of single-handed tacking seemed a bit much, so reluctantly started the noisy outboard for the balance of the trip.

Here’s a few photos, and a video:

Downwind (almost), wing and wing.

Approaching McMicken Island.

Scott and Connie on Traveler have quite an interesting blog.

Passed by some friends on s/v Soundhaven on the way past Boston Harbor. Pretty boat, even if it is plastic. 🙂

Wooden Boat Festival 2016

Don’t know why it’s taken me so long to post photos from my recent trip up to the Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival, but here they is anyway.

The festival was great, got to visit with lots of friends, old and new. The “sail by” on Sunday was perfect, light winds blowing off the shore, sunshine and the excellent company of two friends from the marina in Olympia, Noreen and Riley.

I might talk myself into attending next year. 🙂

At anchor in Gig Harbor.

Motoring up Colvos Passage. No wind.

But some nice sunshine every now and then.

Played leap frog with this cool tugboat.

The rest of the journey to Port Townsend was rainy, cold and generally not very photo-worthy. This is early morning at anchor off PT on Thursday, when the weather began to improve quite a bit.

SKYE was positioned a bit better than last time, with access from the dock, over the stern.

Four bowsprits attached to four very cool boats kept me from sneaking out for a sail. 🙂


The other SKYE at the festival. Very cool William Garden design.





Quite a variety of boats, big and small!

Even some furry friends were interested in all the neat boats.

I’ll try to add some photos of the sail-by if I can track them down.

Building A Whisker Pole

SKYE already has a 12-foot pole, for the staysail, but needed an 18-foot one to match the “J” measurement from mast to end of the bowsprit, for use with the drifters or reacher. So I decided it was time to build one.

I already had a bunch of very clear and straight Douglas fir 1x2s, and although I briefly considered buying some Sitka spruce, I found that the few places where it’s still available have prices that made my eyes water. (Not that real Sitka spruce isn’t just about the best choice for spars, and would make for a lighter weight pole, but I think this Douglas fir one will work out pretty well. I hope. 🙂

So here’s a mostly complete series of the photos showing the construction.

First thing was to figure the stave dimensions. I used a 3D program I normally use for my paying job. This section view shows the middle, and end, sizes and the way the bird’s mouth staves interlock. I designed the pole to be about 3 inches diameter in the middle, tapering to about 1-3/4 inches at the ends. The 1x2s, being in reality about 5/8ths x 1-3/8ths, were the perfect size for the staves.

Since my Doug fir 1x2s were only 10 feet long, I cut scarf joints, using the above cobbled-together jig, to make pieces that were about 18 ft., 4 inches long. The parts of each stave were of various lengths so that the scarf joints would not all be at the same point on the pole — a couple in the middle, others at the 25% and 75% mark, and the remainder in between those.

The scarfing jig worked great… just clamp the 1×2 in place and run the circular saw along the guide (with the depth set just a hair more than enough to cut all the way through.)

I glued up the scarfs (with epoxy + high density filler) four staves at a time, using nails in a straight row for alignment and a few chunks of lead (taking a break from trim ballast duties) for clamping pressure.

One way to make sure the scarfs are aligned correctly length-wise is to make little tick marks when dry-fitting to provide a visual guide during glue-up.

After cleaning up the glue ‘squeeze-out’, and planing the scarfed areas smooth, I ran each 18+ ft. stave through the router table, using this bit from Lee Valley. I offset the bird’s mouth cut slightly, which saves a bit of material and makes the glued-up pole already 8-sided as is. Note that I had to leave a small flat area at the top of the long part of the “bird’s mouth”, which was required in order to have something solid to follow the outfeed fence on the router table.

To get the taper, I used a long batten to draw a smooth curve the length of each stave, making the stave about 1-1/4″ wide in the middle and about 3/4″ at the ends. Then I used the first stave as a pattern to mark the others. Quite a challenge cutting the tapers (with a small circular saw)… had to concentrate… follow the line, follow the line, follow the line…..

The Big Glue-Up.  Quite a day — mixed up about a quart and a half of epoxy (using slooow hardener, of course.)  I made some alignment cradles for the middle and ends, which were clamped to saw horses. Lined them up by sighting from the ends.

Turned out to not be the Chinese fire drill I was anticipating. I had first clamped all the staves, birds-mouth notch facing up, side-by-side, so I could just dump the epoxy on the bunch all at once, end-to-end, and spread it out with a big paint brush. Then each stave was placed into the cradles (each marked with a number so I put them in the right order) and they just kinda fell right into place.

Several dozen zip-ties later, it was all clamped up and ready for a 24-hour cure time. (It’s really important at this stage to use a putty knife to remove as much squeezed-out epoxy as possible; around the clamps and along each face. It’s hell trying to remove later after it turns to stone.)

Clamps off, remaining bits or epoxy planed off and each of the eight faces smoothed out.

After using a power plane, and then a hand plane, to take the pole from 8-sided, to 16-sided, to something like 32-sided, give or take, I used this section of a thick cardboard mailing tube, cut to the length of a sheet of sand paper, with the sandpaper glued inside with spray adhesive, to smooth the pole to a circular shape. Good exercise.

With the pole all rounded and smooth, it was time to inlet two flat faces on each end to fit the bronze end fittings. (From Toplicht.)

And after about of week of Cetol for the middle, and gloss white for the ends, it was finally all done, and in place on the front of the mast (above two photos.)

Mast And Butterfly Hatch

After a week’s delay, the mast was stepped, and it all went very well. Managed to avoid dropping a clevis pin overboard, which can be an expensive goof. Tested the new tricolor out and it appears that I wired it correctly, to my surprise. Nice to be a sailboat again — though I suppose I should put the sails back on before saying that.

I did, however, manage to mis-lead the jib halyard. This in spite of double-checking and triple-checking everything while it was on the ground. I’ll have to go aloft to fix that one.

Also, on a sunnier day, re-installed the refurbished butterfly hatch. There were a few places where the varnish had failed, so I removed all the hardware and bar rails, used a heat gun and sander to remove the old finish, and applied Cetol, like the mast. I think it turned out looking fairly good.