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.
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