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


robert.ditterich said...

You've obviously lived with these issues long enough now to be as severe as is necessary. Time, distance, perspective, courage/frustration, action. I do hope that this reinvestment gives you a new joy in use. Look forward to seeing you comfortably wrapped around a very serviceable tiller.

doryman said...

Perhaps a disjointed narrative, been mulling over a lot of things lately. I've often said boat building is a metaphor for life. Thus said, my own life has been very different than I would have ever imagined, each turn more dissonant and enlightening than the last. Change is something I've come to expect. Hopefully, usually, in a positive direction.
I have a lot of investment in this boat - not so much cash as time and soul. It has never yet served it's intention, and may never, ever. But the dream of living full time on the water remains. Who knows what may happen next?

shipwright said...

So Michael, is this a sort of sawed off pinky stern I’m looking at? It would seem so. Any chance we might see her at Montague or Sucia any time soon?

doryman said...

Paul, Mistral has never been a true double-ender. I've included some "before" photos. It's always had a dory triangle shaped transom, but making the angle 10 degrees or so less dramatic makes it wider, and also steeper. You know what I mean. There are sailing dories out there that have almost vertical transoms, such as Benford's. In my mind, Jay's sailing dory is not quite a dory, but I suppose that's pedantic. This dory will never trade tacks with a Benford, that's a fact, but I've learned a thing or two about steering in the last twenty years, and this boat has been my teacher. The rudder will also be redesigned to give better purchase when the boat is heeled.
As for cruising with her, I'd love to and our friend Chuck has lobbied strenuously for that. The limiting factor here in PT is the extravagant cost of moorage. I could launch her for a trip or two but really can't afford to keep her in the water as she would prefer. On the other hand, sitting on a trailer, indefinitely, in my yard is a fate worse than death for any worthy vessel. My good friend Brandon tells me that over-night moorage in PT costs more than any he found on a cruise from Oregon to Mexico, then Hawaii and back. Obviously there is a management problem here in PT.

Galen said...

I bet you are going to love your new boat in that configuration. I will have to drop by and check it out and let the dogs play. Unfortunately I can't put our shop under a tarp to work on it in this season, so it's out in the rain for me. I am with you on the sad state of affairs in Port Townsend though. Access to the water is now for the rich. Trailering a boat is really the only option, and even the ramp fee is high.

doryman said...

Yes, Galen, you might remember what happened when I tried to leave a boat out on anchor. A proper mooring in a good option, done that before and it beats a marina, but getting a permit for a mooring is a challenge these days. You pretty much have to own waterfront property, too.
There's a cheaper marina on Hood Canal, but it's 40 miles from here. I moored in PT Ludlow last year, but it's a long drive too and even longer to get back here with the boat. This year we kept the little faering on the inside slips at Point Hudson, which worked out fine, but is not really an option for a big boat. I intend to launch Belle Starr in a couple months and will keep her on the inside, too. She's just about as big a boat as can fit back there in close quarters.
I almost stopped by your project last week and intend to someday soon. I know very well your predicament - I had my own construction company for twenty years and worked every day, all year 'round, rain or shine. I estimate that working in rain gear in the cold and the mud slows work down almost by half.
By all means, stop by any time, love to get any input you may have on this project.

Galen said...

We walked by this morning, but saw no lights on. Did not want to wake you. Plus it was dumping rain. Our shop took a 1 month delay because I hurt my back. But things are coming along now. Talk to you soon.

Anonymous said...

Well, when I started reading this, I thought for sure you'd turned Mistral into a bed and breakfast or something dreadful... Looking forward to seeing you and the boat in the spring...


doryman said...

Bruce, for sure that possibility has crossed my mind. A lot of people here have converted outbuildings into B&B's and rentals and because housing of any kind is a premium, they do very well. Can't bring myself to do it yet.