Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Vagaries of the Sea

The appearance of the sea is for ever changing, since it is affected by particular light settings, moment by moment, and because of the variable effects of wind and tide. William Turner, England’s greatest seascape painter, depicted the vagaries of the sea from its most placid, as in 'The Fighting Temeraire', to its most tempestuous, as in 'The Shipwreck'.
Those who sail the seas know through experience that a variety of visual stimuli upon the water is not just brought about by the effects of innumerable permutations of wind, rain, snow, hail, cloud, mist or fog, but by many types of vessels that ply the sea in the course of their business, whether for profit or pleasure. Such changing scenes have been the reward of mariners since primitive man first ventured out to sea in dugout canoes or papyrus rafts, perhaps to fish or travel afar in search of new lands.
Over the centuries man’s industry, intelligence and technological achievements have enabled him to build a huge variety of vessels, some for peaceful purposes, and others for military use, but their presence has affected the mood and character of the mariner's scene.
In John Masefield's poem, 'Cargoes', we find descriptions of three trading vessels from different eras.
QUINQUIREME of Nineveh from distant Ophir,
Rowing home to haven in sunny Palestine,
With a cargo of ivory,
And apes and peacocks,
Sandalwood, cedarwood, and sweet white wine.
Stately Spanish galleon coming from the Isthmus,
Dipping through the Tropics by the palm-green shores,
With a cargo of diamonds,
Emeralds, amythysts,
Topazes, and cinnamon, and gold moidores.

Dirty British coaster with a salt-caked smoke stack,
Butting through the Channel in the mad March days,
With a cargo of Tyne coal,
Road-rails, pig-lead,
Firewood, iron-ware, and cheap tin trays.

Paintings by William Turner. The Fighting Temeraire. The Shipwreck.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Christmas Eve

I found this poem floating around in cyber space; therefore I gather it’s there for all sailors at this time of year, especially the very young who know that Father Christmas really exists. If you want proof, then you must read C. S. Lewis’s ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’, one of ‘The Chronicles of Nania’, or if you can’t make the effort, then see a ‘documentary’ currently showing at most cinemas.

Christmas Eve

T'was the night before Christmas, I swung on the
With snowflakes a'landing, asleep with my book
When up on the deck I heard footsteps and stuff
"I've been boarded!" I thought, and I tried to be

Then down the companionway hatch came a dude
He was dressed like a nut and I thought, "I'm so
But he laughed and he hummed as he surveyed my
So I figured he must be the resident drunk

His eyes were lit up like a junkie on speed
But he gave me a whole bunch of stuff that I need
Like rum and cigars and new charts and a dinghy
And some kind of fancy electrical thingy

I knew it was stolen but I wasn't telling
I just hoped he was giving and wasn't just selling
And I poured him a grog which he downed with a
Then I poured one for me (Lord I needed a drink!)

Then he staggered above to the dark snowy night
As I peeked I beheld an incredible sight
Eight tiny dolphins and a beautiful sleigh
And the dude hopped aboard and prepared to make

The dolphins were ready to power the sled
But the guy raised a genny and mains'l instead
With a burp and a chuckle he gathered the breeze
And called to the dolphins, now swimming with ease

"Hey Stalker and FEMA and Cancer and Nixon!
Or Stinky and Pepper Spray, Mason, and Dixon!
Or whatever your names are, you cute little
Here's to every last sailor, my best Christmas

As he sailed away leaving a wobbly wake
I hoped he had not many stops left to make
He got close to shore and he soon was aground
But the dolphins proceeded to pull him around

And I heard him exclaim as he sailed out of sight
Happy Christmas to all... and to all a goodnight"

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Yachtsman’s Christmas Tree

The Westerly Yacht Owners Association has a popular meeting at East Cowes Marina on the first Saturday of December. I am reliably informed that these frostbite rallies have been well attended for the past 22 years with the crews of 20 or more yachts coming together for the festivities. There’s a judging of Christmas decorations, including Christmas trees, resulting in rewards for those who have arranged the most attractive and creative displays.

This is far removed from years gone by when a few hardy yachtsmen extended the sailing season into the month of December. Such stalwarts may have hoisted an undecorated fir tree to the top of their yacht’s mast as a sign they were aboard celebrating Christmas; but where and when did the tradition come about?

What we do know is that schooners and barges in the age of sail were used to bring a variety of evergreen trees from northern Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula annually in November to ports in the south for local merchants to sell to the public. No doubt the captains of these ships hoisted trees to the tops of masts to advertise the nature of their cargo.

There is a legend that Martin Luther was the first to display a lighted Christmas tree as a symbol of eternal life generated by the Light of the World, Jesus Christ. Scholars provide evidence that the first decorated Christmas trees originated in Germany, back in 1521, in the region of Alsace. In 1605 a resident of Strasburg wrote that at Christmas, fir trees decorated with coloured papers, apples, wafers, golden foil and sweets were sometimes set up in the parlours of local houses.

In Germany around the middle of the seventeenth century decorated Christmas trees grew in popularity and the idea spread to America at the beginning of the eighteenth century when Germans immigrated to Pennsylvania, but it wasn’t until 1837 when Helen of Mecklenburg had a tree in Paris that it became fashionable in France. In 1841 Prince Albert decorated a tree at Windsor Castle.

There is doubt regarding the symbolism of a decorated Christmas tree, but some Christians may have likened it to ‘new birth’ and eternal life in Jesus Christ; whereas others may have thought of the tree as a symbol of the Paradise tree of life, and therefore decorated their trees with apples, representing the forbidden fruit eaten by Adam and Eve.

Today Christmas trees are exceedingly popular with Christians and non-Christians alike, but those who do not regard themselves as Christians simply use them as attractive decorations or consider them a necessity for maintaining a tradition, even being prepared to pay as much as £20.00 for a tree without roots!

More and more yachtsmen are extending their sailing season to include being afloat at Christmas. Perhaps we shall see their yachts being decorated with lights and trees in the fashion of Westerly Yacht owners at their annual December get-together.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

‘Little Jim’

I have no idea how Alastair Law came to name his Paradox micro-sailboat, ‘Little Jim’, but there is a poem by E.Farmer with the name as a title for his poem.

The cottage was a thatch'd one,
The outside old and mean,
Yet everything within that cot
Was wondrous neat and clean.

The night was dark and stormy,
The wind was howling wild;
A patient mother knelt beside
The death bed of her child.

A little worn-out creature,
His once bright eyes grown dim;
It was a collier's only child,
They called him Little Jim.

And, oh! to see the briny tears
Fast hurrying down her cheeks,
As she offer'd up a prayer in thought,
She was afraid to speak.

Lest she might waken one she loved
Far better than her life;
For there was all a mother's love
In that poor collier's wife.

With hands uplifted, see, she kneels,
Beside the sufferer's bed;
And prays that He will spare her boy,
And take herself instead.

She gets her answer from the child,
Soft fell these words from him,
'Mother, the angels do so smile,
And beckon Little Jim.

I have no pain, dear mother, now,
But oh! I am so dry;
Just moisten poor Jim's lips again,
And mother, don't you cry.

With gentle, trembling haste she held
The tea-cup to his lips;
He smiled to thank her, as he took
Three tiny little sips.

'Tell father when he comes from work,
I said "good-night" to him;
And, mother, now I'11 go to sleep,
Alas, poor Little Jim.

She saw that he was dying -
The child she loved so dear
Had uttered the last words that she
Might ever hope to hear.

The cottage door was opened
The collier's step is heard,
The father and the mother meet,
Yet neither speak a word.

He knew that all was over,
He knew his child was dead;
He took the candle in his hand,
And walked towards the bed.

His quivering lips gave token
Of the grief he'd fain conceal;
And see his wife has joined him -
The stricken couple kneel.

With hearts bowed down with sadness
They humbly ask of Him,
In heaven, once more to meet again.
Their own poor Little Jim.

This is a very sad story that could well have been based on fact, before being transformed into fiction, but to my mind there is little to connect it to the name of a boat, but this particular boat of Al’s has become an object of study for me. I’ve made two visits to his place of residence to examine ‘Little Jim’. She’s very unusual in design, in that she has chine runners instead of a keel for minimizing leeway. She was designed by Matt Layden as a very small coastal cruising yacht, eminently suitable for shallow waters.

My interest in ‘Little Jim’ came about when I conceived the idea of building my own Paradox sailboat. Only yesterday I saw Al’s gem of a boat a second time and I made use of the opportunity to photograph some of the more complicated parts as aids memoirs to help me when building my own boat.

I am grateful for his help and encouragement.

Friday, December 02, 2005


As you’ve probably gathered, John Masefield is a favourite poet of mine, especially as several of his ballads are about the sea and ships. I don’t think he could ever have imagined the changes that would take place with the English landscape over the past 38 years since his death, particularly the congestion of our roads. In his time he preferred the sea by far and here is his poem ‘Roadways’ that illustrates this point:
ONE road leads to London,
One road leads to Wales,
My road leads me seawards
To the white dipping sails.
One road leads to the river,
And it goes singing slow;
My road leads to shipping,
Where the bronzed sailors go.
Leads me, lures me, calls me
To salt green tossing sea;
A road without earth's road-dust
Is the right road for me.
A wet road heaving, shining,
And wild with seagull's cries,
A mad salt sea-wind blowing
The salt spray in my eyes.
My road calls me, lures me
West, east, south, and north;
Most roads lead men homewards,
My road leads me forth.
To add more miles to the tally
Of grey miles left behind,
In quest of that one beauty
God put me here to find.
John Masefield

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Longing for the Open Water

Ellen MacArthur’s next project will be a personal crusade to save the Albatross. ( She has an affinity with this majestic bird of the oceans, and from December, for two months, she will be accompanying biologist, Sally Poncet, on her annual bird life survey on South Georgia. That’s a fine way for this creative and youthful ‘Dame’ to spend Christmas, never being far from the sea and the breeding colony of the endangered albatross.

For many of us less ambitious sailors, but, like her, passionate lovers of the sea, our boats are laid up for winter and we pine for the open water and sea salt spray. Perhaps we can take some consolation by reading John Masefield’s poem, ‘A Wanderer’s Song’?

A WIND'S in the heart of me, a fire's in my heels,
I am tired of brick and stone and rumbling wagon-wheels;
I hunger for the sea's edge, the limit of the land,
Where the wild old Atlantic is shouting on the sand.
Oh I'll be going, leaving the noises of the street,
To where a lifting foresail-foot is yanking at the sheet;
To a windy, tossing anchorage where yawls and ketches ride,
Oh I'l be going, going, until I meet the tide.
And first I'll hear the sea-wind, the mewing of the gulls,
The clucking, sucking of the sea about the rusty hulls,
The songs at the capstan at the hooker warping out,
And then the heart of me'll know I'm there or thereabout.
Oh I am sick of brick and stone, the heart of me is sick,
For windy green, unquiet sea, the realm of Moby Dick;
And I'll be going, going, from the roaring of the wheels,
For a wind's in the heart of me, a fire's in my heels.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Bolt Together Boat

Bolt Together Boat

There’s been sparse activity on this blog, because I’ve been busy with those things that ‘need’ doing; one of them has been assembling new furniture in the Ikea range. It occurred to me, while joining parts of the furniture, that it would be possible to create a small kit boat that could be assembled by unskilled people, using the same principle.

The boat would be bolted or screwed together with a number of cleverly designed components, similar to those used in the furniture, but two main problems would need to be addressed: watertightness integrity and structural strength, such that the boat would be able to survive rigorous use, or even misuse, both ashore and afloat. Watertightness could be achieved by rubber seals and gaskets, and strength by the use of appropriate materials – providing the designer basis his boat on the principles of sound engineering.

There would be several advantages of such a kit boat; for example, almost anyone could ‘assemble’ this boat that could be manufactured for a mass market. Distribution and carriage would not be a problem, because the components of each boat could be packed in several small containers, each being light enough for one person to carry. This would also make it easy for transportation to distant lands where the boat could be assembled, for immediate use.

Here, I’ve set out a proposition for an enterprising person who could earn a great fortune by designing, testing and manufacturing the ‘Bolt Together Boat’. If that person is you, please contact me when you have made your fortune and reward me accordingly. Many thanks. Bill.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

“The Wreck of the Hesperus”

There’s no chance for a foolish skipper and his crew when he ignores the wisdom of the wise.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, “The Wreck of the Hesperus”, illustrates this very point with the story of a proud and incompetent sea captain who takes his most precious possession to sea with him.
Here’s a lesson for all who go to sea in ships – let us heed the bard’s dire warning not to overestimate our own ability, or the seaworthiness of our ship, nor to underestimate the forces of nature, particularly the fearsome power of a winter gale.
It was the schooner Hesperus,
That sailed the wintery sea;
And the skipper had taken his little daughter,
To bear him company.

Blue were her eyes as the fairy flax,
Her cheeks like the dawn of day,
And her bosom white as the hawthorn buds,
That ope in the month of May.

The Skipper he stood beside the helm,
His pipe was in his mouth,
And he watched how the veering flaw did blow
The smoke now West, now South.

Then up and spake an old Sailor,
Had sailed the Spanish Main,
"I pray thee, put into yonder port,
for I fear a hurricane.

"Last night the moon had a golden ring,
And to-night no moon we see!"
The skipper, he blew whiff from his pipe,
And a scornful laugh laughed he.

Colder and louder blew the wind,
A gale from the Northeast,
The snow fell hissing in the brine,
And the billows frothed like yeast.

Down came the storm, and smote amain
The vessel in its strength;
She shuddered and paused, like a frighted steed,
Then leaped her cable's length.

"Come hither! come hither! my little daughter,
And do not tremble so;
For I can weather the roughest gale
That ever wind did blow."

He wrapped her warm in his seaman's coat
Against the stinging blast;
He cut a rope from a broken spar,
And bound her to the mast.

"O father! I hear the church bells ring,
Oh, say, what may it be?"
"Tis a fog-bell on a rock bound coast!" --
And he steered for the open sea.

"O father! I hear the sound of guns;
Oh, say, what may it be?"
Some ship in distress, that cannot live
In such an angry sea!"

"O father! I see a gleaming light.
Oh say, what may it be?"
But the father answered never a word,
A frozen corpse was he.

Lashed to the helm, all stiff and stark,
With his face turned to the skies,
The lantern gleamed through the gleaming snow
On his fixed and glassy eyes.

Then the maiden clasped her hands and prayed
That saved she might be;
And she thought of Christ, who stilled the wave,
On the Lake of Galilee.

And fast through the midnight dark and drear,
Through the whistling sleet and snow,
Like a sheeted ghost, the vessel swept
Tow'rds the reef of Norman's Woe.

And ever the fitful gusts between
A sound came from the land;
It was the sound of the trampling surf,
On the rocks and hard sea-sand.

The breakers were right beneath her bows,
She drifted a dreary wreck,
And a whooping billow swept the crew
Like icicles from her deck.

She struck where the white and fleecy waves
Looked soft as carded wool,
But the cruel rocks, they gored her side
Like the horns of an angry bull.

Her rattling shrouds, all sheathed in ice,
With the masts went by the board;
Like a vessel of glass, she stove and sank,
Ho! ho! the breakers roared!

At daybreak, on the bleak sea-beach,
A fisherman stood aghast,
To see the form of a maiden fair,
Lashed close to a drifting mast.

The salt sea was frozen on her breast,
The salt tears in her eyes;
And he saw her hair, like the brown sea-weed,
On the billows fall and rise.

Such was the wreck of the Hesperus,
In the midnight and the snow!
Christ save us all from a death like this,
On the reef of Norman's Woe!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Hibernation for Paradox

In our particular part of England for the past few days the weather has been fine, being dominated with a high pressure system, but that has meant freezing conditions, especially at night. As most of my boat building takes place in the open, I’ve placed it on hold and taken the opportunity to catch up on some interior decoration of the home. Unless one’s place of residence is periodically maintained, it deteriorates, reducing the value of the property; therefore I’m pleased to assume the role of painter and decorator – at least until the spring of next year when, hopefully there will be some pleasant sunshine, sufficient to raise the temperature above 15 degrees Celsius for the efficient working of epoxy adhesive.

As we approach the Festive Season of Goodwill and the commemoration of the birth of Christ there’s always much to occupy ones time, and no doubt hours and days will pass quickly. In view of the situation it’s highly unlikely I’ll manage much boat building during the coming months, but within the next couple of days I’ll try to upload some pictures of my mast and rudder to my Paradox web site: .

With thoughts of Christmas; how about this poem by Robert Louis Stevenson:
"Christmas at Sea"
The sheets were frozen hard, and they cut the naked hand;
The decks were like a slide, where a seamen scarce could stand;
The wind was a nor'wester, blowing squally off the sea;
And cliffs and spouting breakers were the only things a-lee.

They heard the surf a-roaring before the break of day;
But 'twas only with the peep of light we saw how ill we lay.
We tumbled every hand on deck instanter, with a shout,
And we gave her the maintops'l, and stood by to go about.

All day we tacked and tacked between the South Head and the North;
All day we hauled the frozen sheets, and got no further forth;
All day as cold as charity, in bitter pain and dread,
For very life and nature we tacked from head to head.

We gave the South a wider berth, for there the tide-race roared;
But every tack we made we brought the North Head close aboard:
So's we saw the cliffs and houses, and the breakers running high,
And the coastguard in his garden, with his glass against his eye.

The frost was on the village roofs as white as ocean foam;
The good red fires were burning bright in every 'long-shore home;
The windows sparkled clear, and the chimneys volleyed out;
And I vow we sniffed the victuals as the vessel went about.

The bells upon the church were rung with a mighty jovial cheer;
For it's just that I should tell you how (of all days in the year)
This day of our adversity was blessed Christmas morn,
And the house above the coastguard's was the house where I was born.

O well I saw the pleasant room, the pleasant faces there,
My mother's silver spectacles, my father's silver hair;
And well I saw the firelight, like a flight of homely elves,
Go dancing round the china-plates that stand upon the shelves.

And well I knew the talk they had, the talk that was of me,
Of the shadow on the household and the son that went to sea;
And O the wicked fool I seemed, in every kind of way,
To be here and hauling frozen ropes on blessed Christmas Day.

They lit the high sea-light, and the dark began to fall.
"All hands to loose topgallant sails," I heard the captain call.
"By the Lord, she'll never stand it," our first mate Jackson, cried.
..."It's the one way or the other, Mr. Jackson," he replied.

She staggered to her bearings, but the sails were new and good,
And the ship smelt up to windward just as though she understood.
As the winter's day was ending, in the entry of the night,
We cleared the weary headland, and passed below the light.

And they heaved a might breath, every soul on board but me,
As they saw her nose again pointing handsome out to sea;
But all that I could think of, in the darkness and the cold,
Was just that I was leaving home and my folks were growing old.

Monday, November 14, 2005

"The Lifeboat"

"The Lifeboat"
By George R. Sims

Been out in the lifeboat often? Ay, ay, sir, oft enough.
When it's rougher than this? Lor' bless you! this ain't what we calls rough!
It's when there's a gale a-blowin', and the waves run in and break
On the shore with a roar like thunder and the white cliffs seem to shake;
When the sea is a hell of waters, and the bravest holds his breath
As he hears the cry for the lifeboat -- his summons maybe to death --
That's when we call it rough, sir; but, if we can get her afloat,
There's always enough brave fellows ready to man the boat.
You've heard of the Royal Helen, the ship as was wrecked last year?
Yon be the rock she struck on -- the boat as went out be here;
The night as she struck was reckoned the worst as ever we had,
And this is a coast in winter where the weather be awful bad.
The beach here was strewed with wreckage, and to tell you the truth, sir, then
Was the only time as ever we'd a bother to get the men.
The single chaps was willin', and six on 'em volunteered,
But most on us here is married, and the wives that night was skeered.

Our women ain't chicken-hearted when it comes to savin' lives,
But death that night looked certain -- and our wives be only wives:
Their lot ain't bright at the best,sir; but here, when the man lies dead,
'Taint only a husband missin', it's the children's daily bread;
So our women began to whimper and beg o' the chaps to stay --
I only heard on it after, for that night I was kept away.
I was up at my cottage, yonder, where the wife lay nigh her end,
She'd been ailin' all the winter, and nothing 'ud make her mend.

The doctor had given her up, sir, and I knelt by her side and prayed,
With my eyes as red as a babby's, that Death's hand might yet be stayed.
I heerd the wild wind howlin', and I looked on the wasted form,
And though of the awful shipwreck as had come in the ragin' storm;
The wreck of my little homestead -- the wreck of my dear old wife,
Who'd sailed with me forty years, sir, o'er the troublous waves of life,
And I looked at the eyes so sunken, as had been my harbour lights,
To tell of the sweet home haven in the wildest, darkest nights.

She knew she was sinkin' quickly -- she knew as her end was nigh,
But she never spoke o' the troubles as I knew on her heart must lie,
For we'd had one great big sorrow with Jack, our only son --
He'd got into trouble in London as lots o' lads ha' done;
Then he'd bolted his masters told us -- he was allus what folks call wild.
From the day as I told his mother, her dear face never smiled.
We heerd no more about him, we never knew where he went,
And his mother pined and sickened for the message he never sent.

I had my work to think of; but she had her grief to nurse,
So it eat away at her heartstrings, and her health grew worse and worse.
And the night as the Royal Helen went down on yonder sands,
I sat and watched her dyin', holdin' her wasted hands
. She moved in her doze a little, then her eyes were opened wide,
And she seemed to be seekin' somethin', as she looked from side to side;
Then half to herself she whispered, "Where's Jack, to say good-bye?
It's hard not to see my darlin', and kiss him afore I die."

I was stoopin' to kiss and soothe her, while the tears ran down my cheek,
And my lips were shaped to whisper the words I couldn't speak,
When the door of the room burst open, and my mates were there outside
With the news that the boat was launchin'. "You're wanted!" their leader cried.
"You've never refused to go, John; you'll put these cowards right.
There's a dozen of lives maybe, John, as lie in our hands tonight!"
'Twas old Ben Brown, the captain; he'd laughed at the women's doubt.
We'd always been first on the beach, sir, when the boat was goin' out.

I didn't move, but I pointed to the white face on the bed --
"I can't go, mate," I murmured; "in an hour she may be dead.
I cannot go and leave her to die in the night alone."
As I spoke Ben raised his lantern, and the light on my wife was thrown;
And I saw her eyes fixed strangely with a pleading look on me,
While a tremblin' finger pointed through the door to the ragin' sea.
Then she beckoned me near, and whispered, "Go, and God's will be done!
For every lad on that ship, John, is some poor mother's son."

Her head was full of the boy, sir -- she was thinking, maybe, some day
For lack of a hand to help him his life might be cast away.
"Go, John, and the Lord watch o'er you! and spare me to see the light,
And bring you safe," she whispered, "out of the storm tonight."
Then I turned and kissed her softly, and tried to hide my tears,
And my mates outside,when the saw me, set up three hearty cheers;
But I rubbed my eyes wi' my knuckles, and turned to old Ben and said,
"I'll see her again, maybe, lad, when the sea give up its dead.":

We launched the boat in the tempest, though death was the goal in view
And never a one but doubted if the craft could live it through;
But our boat she stood in bravely, and, weary and wet and weak,
We drew in hail of the vessel we had dared so much to seek
. But just as we come upon her she gave a fearful roll,
And went down in the seethin' whirlpool with every livin' soul!
We rowed for the spot, and shouted, for all around was dark --
But only the wild wind answered the cries from our plungin' bark.

I was strainin' my eyes and watchin', when I thought I heard a cry,
And I saw past our bows a somethin' on the crest of a wave dashed by;
I stretched out my hand to seize it. I dragged it aboard, and then
I stumbled, and struck my forrud, and fell like a log on Ben.
I remember a hum of voices, and then I knowed no more
Till I came to my senses here, sir -- here, in my home ashore.
My forrud was tightly bandaged, and I lay on my little bed --
I'd slipped, so they told me arter, and a rulluck had struck my head.

Then my mates came in and whispered; they'd heard I was comin' round.
At first I could scarcely hear 'em. it seemed like a buzzin' sound;
But as my head got clearer, and accustomed to hear 'em speak,
I knew as I'd lain like that, sir, for many a long, long, week.
I guessed what the lads was hidin', for their poor old shipmate's sake.
So I lifts my head from the pillow, and I says to old Ben, "Look here!
I'm able to bear it now, lad -- tell me, and never fear."

Not one on 'em ever answered, but presently Ben goes out,
And the others slinks away like, and I say, "What's this about?
Why can't they tell me plainly as the poor old wife is dead?"
Then I fell again on the pillows, and I hid my achin' head;
I lay like that for a minute, till I heard a voice cry "John!"
And I thought it must be a vision as my weak eyes gazed upon;
For there by the bedside, standin' up and well was my wife.
And who do ye think was with her? Why Jack, as large as life.

It was him as I'd saved from drownin' the night as the lifeboat wentv To the wreck of the Royal Helen; 'twas that as the vision meant.
They'd brought us ashore together, he'd knelt by his mother's bed,
And the sudden joy had raised her like a miracle from the dead;
And mother and son together had nursed me back to life,
And my old eyes woke from darkness to look on my son and wife.
Jack? He's our right hand now, sir; 'twas Providence pulled him through --
He's allus the first aboard her when the lifeboat wants a crew.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

The Jumblies

You'll never stop the foolish from taking unnecessary risks, or the ignorant from stepping out in their own wisdom. Brave men who man our lifeboats give testimony to many an incident when ignorant and stupid people, both old and young, have set forth on the open sea in woefully unseaworthy vessels without a knowledge of what the sea demands, even on the calmest of days. They are wise in their own eyes; sure in their own confidence and uncaring as to the consequences of their actions, both for themselves and others, but in Edward Lear's poem, “The Jumblies”, the crew of the Sieve had unbelievably good luck, and although all the odds were stacked against them, their rash adventure miraculously turned out for the better; they arrived home the richer for their experiences, and hopefully they had gained some wisdom.

“The Jumblies”

They went to sea in a Sieve, they did,
In a Sieve they went to sea:
In spite of all their friends could say,
On a winter's morn, on a stormy day,
In a Sieve they went to sea!
And when the Sieve turned round and round,
And every one cried, "You'll all be drowned!"
They called aloud, "Our Sieve ain't big,
But we don't care a button! we don't care a fig!
In a Sieve we'll go to sea!"
Far and few, far and few,
Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
And they went to sea in a Sieve.

They sailed away in a Sieve, they did,
In a Sieve they sailed so fast,
With only a beautiful pea-green veil
Tied with a riband by way of a sail,
To a small tobacco-pipe mast;
And every one said, who saw them go,
"Oh won't they be soon upset, you know!
For the sky is dark, and the voyage is long,
And happen what may, it's extremely wrong
In a Sieve to sail so fast!"
Far and few, far and few,
Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
And they went to sea in a Sieve.

The water it soon came in, it did,
The water it soon came in;
So to keep them dry, they wrapped their feet
In a pinky paper all folded neat,
And they fastened it down with a pin.
And they passed the night in a crockery-jar,
And each of them said, "How wise we are!
Though the sky be dark, and the voyage be long,
Yet we never can think we were rash or wrong,
While round in our Sieve we spin!"
Far and few, far and few,
Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
And they went to sea in a Sieve.

And all night long they sailed away;
And when the sun went down
They whistled and warbled a moony song
To the echoing sound of a coppery gong,
In the shade of the mountains brown.
"O Timballoo! How happy we are,
When we live in a sieve and a crockery-jar,
And all night long in the moonlight pale,
We sail away with a pea-green sail,
In the shade of the mountains brown!"
Far and few, far and few,
Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
And they went to sea in a Sieve.

They sailed to the Western Sea, they did,
To a land all covered with trees,
And they bought an Owl, and a useful Cart,
And a pound of Rice, and a Cranberry Tart,
And a hive of silvery Bees.
And they bought a Pig, and some green Jackdaws,
And a lovely Monkey with lollipop paws,
And forty bottles of Ring-Bo-Ree,
And no end of Stilton Cheese.
Far and few, far and few,
Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
And they went to sea in a Sieve.

And in twenty years they all came back,
In twenty years or more,
And every one said, "How tall they've grown!
For they've been to the Lakes, and the Torrible Zone,
And the hills of the Chankly Bore;"
And they drank their health, and gave them a feast
Of dumplings made of beautiful yeast;
And everyone said, "If we only live,
We too will go to sea in a Sieve,
To the hills of the Chankly Bore!"
Far and few, far and few,
Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
And they went to sea in a Sieve.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

To the Sea in Ships

I found this today in Psalm 107, starting at the 23rd verse:

23 Those who go down to the sea in ships,
Who do business on great waters,
24 They see the works of the LORD,
And His wonders in the deep.
25 For He commands and raises the stormy wind,
Which lifts up the waves of the sea.
26 They mount up to the heavens,
They go down again to the depths;
Their soul melts because of trouble.
27 They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man,
And are at their wits’ end.
28 Then they cry out to the LORD in their trouble,
And He brings them out of their distresses.
29 He calms the storm,
So that its waves are still.
30 Then they are glad because they are quiet;
So He guides them to their desired haven.
31 Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness,
And for His wonderful works to the children of men!
32 Let them exalt Him also in the assembly of the people,
And praise Him in the company of the elders.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Lack of Progress

Since coating the rudder and stock with epoxy I’ve not been able to work on them again, due to more important matters and unfavourable weather; it’s either been too cold or too wet. On the weather front for the next few days, things are looking equally bleak, but there’s a lot more to life than building boats. People and their needs take priority, and following that, comes property and possessions. Bring out the violins when I say I come last in all of all of these, but that is a privilege some may find hard to understand. The Good Book says those who will be last shall be first*, and that paradox like many is true, as I can vouch from personal experience.

There’s no need for me to panic, as weeks and months lie ahead before I expect to have my Paradox sailboat finished and on the water. All this is within God’s providence; thererore I can relax and build a little at a time whenever occasions arrive. In between times I can dream of sailing adventures yet to come, perhaps cruising the many creeks and estuaries of the east coast of England or sailing afield on new waters accessed by use of a road trailer.

* Matthew 20:16

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Rudder Again

Today a weather record for the warmest day in October for London and the south east was broken. Taking advantage of the situation I applied the last layer of epoxy to the rudder and stock before attempting to join them tomorrow or the next day with a bolt and nut so that they can articulate.

I’ll probably set some copper tubing in both the stock and rudder to act as channels for the bolt so that the rudder and stock can articulate freely. I’ll make a small hole in the aft edge of the rudder, about half way between the top and bottom for attaching a line that will run between the groove on the upper semi-circular curve of the rudder to a cleat on the tiller for lifting or lowering the rudder. Eventually the rudder and stock will be painted in the same colour as the hull.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

The Mast 9

Surprise, surprise ……… I thought I had applied the last coat of epoxy to the upper part of the mast, but when I examined it yesterday afternoon I discovered solidified drip marks on the underneath side that had occurred during the curing stage. I also found that the epoxy had dripped to the lower side of the sheave slot, which meant there was too tight a fit for the sheave; therefore I had to file away the drip marks and recoat the area with what I hope will be the final layer of epoxy. It really looks quite smart and I’m pleased with the result.

This afternoon I fitted the main halyard sheave, but I had to be really careful when drilling the hole for the spindle, making sure it was at right angles to the slot. I did this a little bit at a time while constantly checking it was correct by using a Douglas Protractor.

I made the spindle from a stainless steel bolt that was marginally thinner than the hole through the sheave. First I removed the head and cut a slot suitable for a scredriver; then I sawed off some of the thread to make the spindle extacly the right length to fit within the thickness of the mast top. There had to be sufficient length either side of the sheave to provide adequate bearing surfaces for the expected loading when hauling up the sail and spars, and for when tightening the luff of the sail. Matt's plan neatly supplies all the information but the measurements are tight, leaving little room for error.

Instead of buying a Windex for the masthead I bought a Hawk wind indicator that has a better mounting device than that of the Windex, but I think the standard of materials used in producing the Hawk are of a lesser quality although they are perfectly adequate for the task in hand. When I next find the opportunity I’ll have a go at fixing the indicator to the masthead by means of its bracket. I particularly like the ease with which it can be mounted and demounted within a fraction of a second.

Friday, October 21, 2005

The Mast 8

In deference to my wife, I removed the mast from the hall that links our front door with the kitchen. For the last week it has resided in a recumbent position on chocks of wood with plastic bin bags between it and the carpet.

Today I applied the final coat of epoxy over the fibreglass that encapsulates the upper 300 millimetres of the mast. This was necessary to protect areas that had been opened to the elements during the finishing process when I smoothed them with a file, but instead of taking the mast into the house I built a tarp frame around it in the garage to keep it warm by the use of an electric fan heater. All being well, the epoxy should harden fairly quickly in this temporary greenhouse.

Most of the afternoon was taken up with time set aside for buying the metal parts required for my Paradox micro-sailboat. I bought the rudder bolt, the tiller bolts, the lower gudgeon bolts, the mast sheave, the bolts for retaining the hatch slider and the lag bolt for the yuloh. The latter will have to be modified by welding and grinding. I also bought the panel headed screws for attaching the Perspex windows, the brass piano hinges with screws to match for fixing the tops of the under-floor storage lockers and the small gauge copper pipes for both of the water tanks’ breathing tubes.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

The Mast 7

Building a Paradox micro-sailboat requires many applications of epoxy, because almost everything that needs joining is welded together with it. This medium takes a minimum of 24 hours to cure, and longer if loads are to be placed upon it.

While building the mast there been four occasions when I’ve used epoxy; initially when making the mast itself, and yesterday and today when I encapsulated the upper end of the spar with fibreglass. After I’ve tidied up today’s work I’ll need to apply one or two more coats of epoxy to make sure everything is well sealed against the elements.

Because of the nature of Paradox’s structure, many small items have to be fashioned, then joined together with epoxy, which means short periods of time can be utilized; therefore she’s an ideal boat building project for those who can only spare an hour or so, one or two days a week. On the other hand, the person who is fortunate enough to be able to spend longer periods working on her can break each day into sessions for building different parts of the boat; for example, he could make a bulkhead complete with cleats and floors in the morning, and while the epoxy is setting he could work on the boom or the rudder in the afternoon. By keeping several items on the go, the full-time builder can be fully occupied.

Rain is forecast for tomorrow, but I’ll try tidying the fibreglass I did today by smoothing any irregularities and applying epoxy. In a couple of days, when it has hardened, I’ll fit the sheave; meanwhile I’ll be able to start building the boom, complete with its reefing system comprising a drum and support rods.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The Mast 6

The mast has taken on its final shape, apart from the area around the base, which will provide some latitude when it comes to matching the mast to the support socket.

Yesterday I made the final touches to the mast with a plane and sandpaper, bringing about a rather pleasing result. I was surprised at the slenderness of the upper part of the spar, but that’s exactly where economy of weight is needed, along with flexibility for dissipating sudden loading in gusty conditions.

Today I enlarged the slot for the sheave in readiness for applying four coats of 6 oz fibreglass. Just before the dew began to fall I managed to epoxy two coats of fibreglass around the top 300 millimetres of the mast, according to Matt’s design.

After trying to buy a sheave 12 millimetres by 30 millimetres without success, I recycled one I found in my bosun’s spares box, but I must obtain a suitable stainless steel spindle for fitting it after the final layers of fibreglass have hardened.

While out shopping for the sheave I looked at a couple of Windex models, but neither seemed suitable for Paradox, because one did not have a suitable mounting base and the other required fitting to a masthead aerial for a VHF set. Incidentally, I’ll use a hand held, mobile VHF.

The forecast is not too brilliant for tomorrow; therefore I am doubtful I’ll be able to apply the remaining fibreglass until suitable conditions prevail.

Monday, October 17, 2005

The Mast 5

I made good progress with the mast today by fitting an all round white masthead light and its flex. I also glued the front piece between the two side pieces. At the time of drafting this, the mast occupies the corridor between the front door and the kitchen, where it can be kept warm while the epoxy hardens.

Jobs yet to be done are the rounding of all four corners along the sides; fixing the conduit for a small section of the flex bypassing the sheave slot; encasing the upper section of the mast in fibreglass, including the sides of the sheave slot; installing the sheave; fitting a burgee halyard with its cleat; attaching a leather band to prevent wear from the boom, and coating the mast with Deks Ole or paint. I may add a Windex at the masthead.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

The Mast 4

Yesterday I did a bit more shaping of the mast, and cut the slot for the main halyard sheave.

I’ll build the all round masthead light into the very top of the mast and I’ll lead the flex through a conduit bypassing the area of the sheave to a point below the upper plug, where it will enter the mast’s hollow section. From there it’ll be tacked in place to prevent it tapping the mast when the boat is moved by wave action. The flex will pass through a watertight hole near the base of the mast; then be attached to a plug for connecting it to the ship’s battery.

When the light has been built into the mast I’ll glue the front section in place before finally giving the mast its designed profile.

Rather than using varnish or paint on the mast, I’ll most probably apply Deks Ole. This will be easier to maintain than varnish, while looking just as attractive.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The Mast 3

A couple of days ago I fiddled around with the front piece of the mast to make it fit snugly within the side pieces. Since then I’ve not done any more to it, because I had to sort out in my mind how best to install the white all-round masthead light and its flex.

After reading replies to my questions on the subject from subscribers of the Paradox Builders Yahoo! Group, I’ve come to the conclusion I’ll need to make the flex bypass the area near to the main halyard sheave, and a suitable way of doing it is to use an external channel or conduit through which to lead the flex in this delicate area near the top of the mast.

From the lower end of the conduit the flex will enter the hollow interior of the mast and be held in place with something like insulation pipe lagging, to prevent it banging the sides of the mast when the boat is under way and at anchor. Near the bottom of the mast the wire will be joined to an electrical socket inserted in the wall of the mast; thus, a plug attached to a flex from the battery can be plugged into the socket to supply the necessary power.

As the electrical current will be controlled by a light sensor there will be no need to have a switch for turning it on and off.

Today it has been raining; therefore I have preferred not to continue shaping and assembling the mast, because the confines of the garage are too restrictive. Depending on the forthcoming weather, I’ll go ahead with the electrical installation and finish gluing the mast. When the epoxy has hardened I’ll need to do the finishing touches to the woodwork, prior to applying several coats of Deks Ole.

Friday, October 07, 2005

The Mast 2

Instead of inserting the end plugs into the top and bottom of the mast, I decided it would be better to glue them into position when fixing the side panels to the bottom piece.

After spending an hour or so refining the shape of the front and back pieces, I glued the side panels to the back piece. Since the back of the mast was dead straight it was easy to line up the side panels with the back piece.

All this was done in the kitchen, where I placed the pieces on the upright backs of some chairs that had been covered with plastic bin bags. After protecting the floor with newspaper, I applied epoxy to all surfaces to be joined; then I thickened the remaining epoxy, by adding colloidal silica, before over-coating the same surfaces with the thickened epoxy. Clamping the side panels to the bottom piece was a messy operation, because some of the epoxy squelched out as I tightened the clamps, but I made a point of not tightening the clamps too hard to avoid starvation of epoxy between surfaces.

An advantage of doing the job in the kitchen was the warmer temperature, which made it easier to mix and apply the epoxy. Outside it was a little too cold and the air was somewhat damp.

It seems to me that I shall be able to make the frames, cleats and floors in the garage prior assembling them in the kitchen, but before that, I need to finish the mast, with its light and internal flex; then the yard and boom. I’ll not be able to start the boom until a new piece of Douglas fir arrives from Robbins, because the piece they supplied was too thin by 7 millimetres, but all the other planed wood was excellent on all counts.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

The Mast

I’ve been able to find a few hours for working on the Douglas fir mast.

On Wednesday I shaped the front and back pieces, making them almost identical; except I made the front piece a bit longer than the back one, because when I assemble the mast, it will have to take the form of a curve, whereas the former piece will remain straight. I chamfered the inner surfaces to form a tapered top and to keep the mast hollow throughout which will reduce the weight and provide a channel for the wires leading to the masthead light.

Today I shaped the side pieces by using a hand saw and a Stanley block plane.

Tomorrow, if I can find enough epoxy, I may glue the side pieces to the back piece; then when possible I shall fit the front piece to the leading edge by gluing and clamping it between the side pieces. I shall use small, thin bits of plywood glued to the inner sides of the side pieces to prevent the front piece from falling between the sides when being glued and clamped to them.

When the masthead light and its wire have been installed and the epoxy has hardened, I’ll round of the outer corners of the mast by using a plane; this will be the time to make sure the cross-sections are correct according to measurements shown on the plan.

At the top and bottom of the mast I’ll insert plugs which will make it airtight, while also providing strength were needed, especially where the slot for the main halyard sheave will be offset at a 60 degree angle from the fore and aft line

Finally, I’ll sand the whole mast and coat it with Deks Ole, which is a wood preservative that soaks into the grain and is easier to maintain than varnish.

Friday, September 30, 2005

10 Little Pigs – what next?

I’ve now completed the initial batch of 10 lead ballast pigs, each weighing about 11.5 kilos; that leaves me with a choice as to what I should do next.

If only the weather would stabilize into a warm dry spell, I’d be able to have a go at the mast. The problem is that most of my building efforts have to be done outside on the driveway, because there just isn’t enough room in the garage as it’s set out at the moment. Even the wood and plywood for building the hull is taking up far too much space. Somehow, I’ll need to solve the storage deficiency so that I’ll be able to have room for making things in the garage during the winter.

Because my efforts have been on finishing the ‘10 little pigs’, I’ve not completed the rudder and stock, which both need to have their surfaces smoothed before being yoked together with a nut and bolt. I’ll not be fixing the tiller to the stock until I can be sure of the exact position by trying it out when the hull has been assembled.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Seventh Pig

I had a surprise while heating lead for the seventh pig, when a hole suddenly appeared in the much used saucepan and lead poured onto the concrete driveway leading to my garage. As usual I was using two heat sources: the gas ring and a blow torch, both of which I immediately turned off. This meant I had to buy another saucepan about the same diameter and depth as the broken one. The cheapest I could find that would do the job was just under £10.00! Most were in the region of £18.00.

As I was driving home from the shop where I bought the saucepan it dawned on me that it was made from aluminium, which, when under extreme temperature, can catch fire, as a warship in the Faulkland war did after being hit by a missile.

Nevertheless I went ahead and melted lead in the new saucepan and it showed no signs of bursting into flame, but I did take the precaution of heating it only on the gas ring.

The average weight of the ballast pigs is 11.5 kilos and with a minimum of 10, that’ll bring the fixed ballast to 115 kilos, 65 kilos less than the maximum permitted according the boat plans.

There are three more pigs yet to be made.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Sixth Pig etc

My prognostications about having to buy at least another two bread pans for moulds may prove pessimistic, as I've now made six lead ballast pigs with the original bread pan - even the saucepan is holding out, although its metal has somewhat fatigued.

By using two heat sources concurrently I've been able to bring the waiting time down for casting a pig to 50 minutes. To help speed up the process I created a shelter for the heating area with one of those wind brakes found on beaches, because the cooling effect of the wind can be significant.

Practice makes perfect - so the saying goes - and by repetition I've been able to improve my lead cutting technique when making small bits of it by using a pair of old garden shears. While standing before a bench I first cut strips from the flashing about 2 inches wide which I subsequently chop into pieces about an inch wide. As the lead melts in the saucepan I add pieces until there's enough to fill the mould.

After casting four more pigs, bringing the total to ten, I'll not make any more until I may need them for trimming the boat. Each pig has to be firmly secured to the floor of the boat in a specific position according to Matt's design – I'll be saying more about this when the time comes.

I'm uncertain what to tackle next after casting the tenth pig, because I shall be using epoxy which requires a reasonably warm temperature, say 15 degrees Celsius or more, and autumn is fast approaching bringing distinctly cooler weather. Of the smaller pieces remaining to build there are the mast, spars and the stem, but I've yet to finish the rudder and stock by applying a final coat of epoxy to bring about a smooth surface.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Third Pig

With the aid of a new burner powered by a 907 cartridge of Calor Gaz it only took an hour to melt and cast a pig of lead weighing about 12 kilos, but the bread pan in which the pig was made already shows signs of deterioration. It has two bumps which I inadvertently did when extricating the cold lead by the use of a wooden mallet. At this rate I’ll have to buy at least another two pans for casting seven more pigs for the completion of my initial batch of ten.

I’m learning slowly by my mistakes; therefore anyone intent on making lead ballast; please learn from my painful errors.

Take the time to weigh the lead which should be chopped into small pieces before casting the first pig. When the lead is fully molten and the dross floating on the top has been removed with a wooden spoon, make a mental note where the level of the lead is on the saucepan; that will enable you to make subsequent pigs all the same weight without the need to weigh the lead – simply keep adding lead until the correct level is reached, and use gloves to avoid contact with it, as lead is poisonous by absorption through the skin.

For thin lead such as the sheet type used for flashing tiles on roofs, cut it into small pieces with old garden shears, but for more solid lead like old plumbing pipes, saw them into manageable bits by means of a band saw with large teeth; note that saws with small teeth, such as hacksaws, are not a bit of good for the job because they clog up and jam. To help saw lead more easily lubricate the blade with ordinary oil.

Make sure your saucepan for melting the lead is not too large for the burner; otherwise the lead will remain cool on the sides of the pan where the heat cannot reach by conduction. I discovered this when I tried to melt lead in a large galvanized bucket. Also allow the first small quantity of lead to melt thoroughly before adding more lead. As the bulk of it becomes molten, more and more un-melted lead can progressively be added until the final amount is arrived at.

A saucepan with two handles is better than one having a single handle, because it is easier to control and lift when pouring the molten lead slowly into the mould. By the way, dig a hole in the ground the exact size and shape of the bread pan, so that it can be supported horizontally with no chance of spilling the liquefied lead.

Your lead will melt more quickly if the pan is covered with a lid which can also be used as a shield when adding more lead to protect your eyes from spattering. As an additional precaution, wear goggles.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Slow Progress

Yesterday I only managed to produce one lead ballast pig, but not after a struggle, because the wind and ambient temperature conspired together to prevent the lead melting; the main reason for ineffectual heating was the inadequate power source – in truth the Butane painter’s torch. Accordingly, today I bought a proper single burner from Camping and General that can be powered by either Butane or Propane.

Perhaps tomorrow I may be able to find time for making my third lead pig. I may also finish applying epoxy to the rudder and stock.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Rudder, Stock and Lead Pig

Apart from drilling the holes for the bolt holding the rudder in place and finishing them to prevent water ingress, I’ve almost completed the rudder and stock; only the final coat of thickened epoxy needs applying, but not before I’ve smoothed their surfaces by using fine sandpaper. Because each side of the rudder and stock have to be done separately, it’ll be another two days before they can be finished. Of course, the time will arrive when the whole of the boat’s exterior will need painting, including the rudder and stock; however that’s not likely to come about until next year, or perhaps 2007! It depends on how much time I can put aside for building her.

In line with my plan to make as many of the small items I can before assembling the hull, I cast the first pig of lead today. To begin with, I did not have much success in getting the lead to melt, because I used a galvanized bucket that was far too large for the Butane painter’s torch to heat up. I therefore resorted to using the saucepan in which I had heated the lead rudder weight; this was satisfactory, but I had to hold the rim of the saucepan with a mole grip in my left hand while I held the handle of the saucepan with my right hand as I carefully poured the molten lead into a bread pan; both hands were required because of the weight of the lead.

Taking Don Elliott’s advice, I had previously set the bread pan in the earth level with its brim to help absorb heat from the pan and to give it support. Don suggests that initially one should make eight of these pigs, but as my first one weighs 10 kilos, I think I should cast ten of them, bringing the total fixed ballast to 100 kilos; then if I should need more for trimming the boat, I’ll be able to do them at my leisure. Matt’s plans indicate there should be between 70 and 180 kilos of ballast.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Rudder and Stock Saga

After adding more tape around the edges of both the stock and rudder I gave them a day to harden; then I smoothed uneven surfaces with a course, flat file. In preparation for skimming the surfaces with thickened epoxy I lightly abraded them with the same file. Afterwards I used a squeegee to spread the epoxy so as to fill minute hollows between the weave and the weft of the woven roving. Where it was not possible to use the squeegee, such as the forward facing area of the stock, I used a paint brush to apply an even layer of thickened epoxy.

As this was the first time I’ve tried the technique I await with some apprehension the result when it has hardened. How much sanding will be needed to make surfaces really smooth, and how many more coats, if any, will be necessary to bring about a professional finish? That remains to be seen.

I can anticipate several days passing before both the stock and the rudder will be finished; that’s not because there’s a lot to be done, but because between each application of epoxy I have to wait at least 24 hours.

Such a process could well go in parallel with making other parts of the boat the same day, but demands on my time often do not permit it. Unless the weather is warm and fine, and I am able to spend more time on the project, I can see building my dream boat will take a fair while.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Rudder and Stock Again

When I started making the rudder and stock I did not realize how much work would be needed to complete them. Shaping them from plywood took long enough, and now I am sheathing them with one coat of 6 oz woven roving. I’ve used fibreglass tape to wrap around sharp edges.

In practice it is not supposed to be possible to make woven roving bend around a sharp edge, but thin tape will sit quite well on a 90 degree turn, providing there is just a little convex curvature along the edge. Where there’s an absolutely sharp 90 degree turn at an edge, then I agree woven roving cannot be made to conform to adjacent surfaces.

One trick I have found useful is to wait ten or fifteen minutes after softening the tape or woven roving at the edges with epoxy, then make it comply with the form by pushing and prodding it with a brush. Even five hours after applying epoxy when it is dry to the touch, woven roving can be squeezed or pushed into place with ones fingers.

When all surfaces of the rudder and stock have been sheathed, I’ll need to wash them with a little detergent; then after they are dry, I’ll have to fill the small cavities that naturally occur within the woven roving. To do this I’ll use soft filler powder mixed with epoxy, applied with a squeegee.

Finally, I’ll attach the upper pintle, but that cannot be done until I am certain where to fix it, and that will not be possible until the transom is in place and the lower special gudgeon has been fixed to it.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Special Sander and Glassing the Rudder

In the building manual produced by Don Elliott for the Paradox there are instructions for making a sander from plywood; it uses 3 inch wide sandpaper from an electric belt sanding machine. I made my own according to Don’s design and it works well.

When the rudder and stock have been glassed and the woven roving has been filled and smoothed, I’ll use the sander to bring about a good finish before coating them with epoxy.

To see a picture of the sanding tool, please visit .

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Lead Weight & Special Tool

Yesterday I smoothed the lead in the rudder by using a course file and sandpaper; then I filled any irregularities with thickened epoxy. A photo of the finished weight will be posted to where I am keeping a visual record of how I am building my Paradox micro-sailboat.

Today I made one of Don Elliott’s special tools for building Paradox; it was a sanding board utilizing belt-sander strips. It’s made from half inch plywood 16.5 inches long and 3 inches wide. There are two stout handles at either end so that the user can enter into a rhythm when sanding flat surfaces such as the GRP sheathing and epoxy filler that encapsulates the hull and rudder. This tool can also be used for rounding edges prior to sheathing them.

Next week I’ll be able to test my skills at applying the GRP sheathing to the rudder and stock. I have bought a squeegee for distributing the epoxy evenly throughout the woven roving and for applying the epoxy filler. I have an angle grinder with a 60 grit sheet, which should be ideal for sanding any rough irregularities caused by poor application.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Lead Weight

I managed to cast the lead weight in the trailing edge of the rudder today.

Before casting the lead I had to cut out the shape from the profiled rudder according to the plan; then I screwed in 6 screws as retainers for the lead. I made a mould from a piece of oak plank and a strip of soft wood. The rudder was laid on its side and the mould was clamped under the cavity to form a reservoir for the lead. Where the trailing edge was rounded I filled the gaps between it and the mould with wooden wedges. Before pouring the molten lead I supported the blade so that the upper side was horizontal by using a spirit level.

The designer, Matt Layden, calculated I would need 3 kilos of lead, which proved to be accurate.

My lead was melted by the flame of a painter’s Butane torch placed under a saucepan which was supported on two bricks; the lead was ready to pour after 15 minutes.

Tomorrow I may be able to shape the lead to follow the blade’s profile and touch up any irregularities by using thickened epoxy.

That would bring me to the stage where I’d be able to sheath the blade and its stock with GRP in the form of 6 ounce woven roving and epoxy filler.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Rudder and Stock

Today I completed all the woodwork for the rudder and stock. I must cut out a section in the trailing edge of the rudder for the lead weight; then I’ll need to form a mould there made from wood before melting 3 kilos of lead to make the weight.

When the lead has cooled and has been smoothed to the correct profile, I’ll be able to apply fibreglass to protect the rudder from the elements; likewise the boat plans require me to cover the stock with fibreglass.

What to do next, I’m uncertain, but the weather and necessary duties during the next few days will determine the outcome.

Monday, September 05, 2005


After sanding the stock, complete with its boarding step, I cut out two pieces of 12 millimetre plywood according to the design for the rudder. These I bonded together with epoxy - this was done after I shaped the groove for the lifting line.

Tomorrow I may be able to give the rudder a classic foil section, but the upper part on the port side I’ll need to keep flat, to provide a better bearing surface against the stock.

When the rudder has been shaped in section I’ll cut out a notch on the trailing edge for casting 3 kilos of lead which will be held in place with screws.

In addition to working on the rudder I managed to draw out the forward side piece of the hull from the same plywood I used to make the rudder.

All, in all, I’m pleased with my progress, but from Thursday onwards the forecast is for rain until the weekend; therefore I need to do as much as I can tomorrow and the following day.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Rudder Stock

There’s a lot more work in building the rudder stock than I anticipated. Today I was able to spend a few hours making the boarding step, which will be bonded to the bottom of the stock on the port side.

I don’t anticipate swimming off the boat too often, and neither do I expect to fall in the water, because most of the time when afloat I should be in the cabin, but when launching off a shallow ramp or beach the boarding ladder should be most useful. The lower part of the stock may provide steerage when underway in very shallow water.

I tried to make the step as streamlined as possible without compromising strength. Its upper side is flat, except for the leading edge, but the underside has a classic foil section. The whole thing will be underwater and, like the rudder and the stock, it will be encapsulated in fibreglass cloth to prevent water ingress and to provide extra strength.

Tomorrow I may be able to finish shaping the rudder stock and attaching the step.

Friday, September 02, 2005


If you’ve been following this ‘blog’ you will know the current subject matter is about the building of a Paradox micro-sailboat. This is a highly specialized topic, but for those interested in the little boat, nothing could be more absorbing. Builders of Paradox share with one another at two Internet discussion groups: and . They compare building techniques, seek advice from those who have ‘been there before’, and report on their progress. Resources within the groups comprise photographs illustrating various aspects of the building process, notes on techniques and materials, and articles about the boat and her performance.

I started building my Paradox just under a month ago, and to date I have finished laminating all the beams, including the cabin and hatch beams. I’ve also made the tiller. Today, I’m working on the rudder stock, which is made from two pieces of 18 mm plywood. The purpose of the stock is to support the kick-up rudder. Like everything on this boat, her specification is much more than adequate; in fact, if there is a criticism of Matt Layden’s design, she is well over-built in terms of strength. For her overall length of 13’ 10” she is exceedingly heavy, but being a heavy displacement vessel also means she’s more comfortable to sail, although more ponderous than her lightweight counterparts.

At the base of the rudder stock there is a massive bronze rod acting as a pintle and at the upper end of the stock there is a traditional pintle, also made from bronze. Each of these are designed to fit gudgeons on the transom, but the lower one, instead of being cast in bronze will be made according to Matt’s design from chopped strand matt, woven roving and epoxy. Both the rudder and the stock will be encased in a layer of glass reinforced plastic (GRP). The GRP will not only increase the strength of the structure, but it will protect the plywood from the detrimental effects of the elements.

I cut the two pieces needed for making the rudder stock from a sheet of 18 mm marine plywood, and from the same sheet I also cut bulkhead number three. There’s sufficient left of the original piece of plywood to make the front end of the bottom of the boat.

After shaping and sanding the rudder stock pieces, I bonded them together with the bronze rod pintle embedded between them in two semicircular gullies, one in each cheek of the stock. By using gullies I avoided having to drill a straight hole through the stock to receive the pintle.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Beams etc 2

With the beams out of the way, I was able to concentrate on the tiller, which I finished this afternoon.

There was time to complete marking out bulkhead number 3, the two sections comprising the rudder stock and the forward end of the boat’s bottom - all on one sheet of 18 mm plywood. By using a cardboard template of the rudder stock I was able to fit one of the shapes into the space between the forward part of the boat’s bottom and bulkhead number 3. That meant only one of the shapes used for forming the stock has to have a triangular piece attached to the forward end; in turn that will be a stronger solution than the one devised by the designer.

I’ll need the other sheet of 18 mm plywood for the remainder of the boat’s bottom.’

I’m uncertain if I’ll be able to cut this very thick plywood with my jigsaw; furthermore, I’m a little dubious about being able to keep the cutting blade at right angles to the uppermost surface, but if I use a new blade I may get away with it. If the showers forecast for tomorrow are not too frequent, I’ll give it a go.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Beams etc

I’ve completed all the beams, except for any shaping at the time of installing them in the hull. The only laminating that remains to be done, apart from the stem post, is the tiller, and I may be able to do it tomorrow, as I made the jig and cut the strips of plywood today.

Things are progressing much faster than I anticipated, and I think the main reason for this has been the good weather.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Hatch Beams

The first of the hatch beams was cut and laminated today; I only have two more to make, then all the beams will be ready for fitting when the time comes. The cabin beams will need shaping to line up with the corner posts and angled to support the Perspex windows at the front and rear of the cabin.

This afternoon Classic Marine posted the bronze ring nails and other bits and pieces for the boat; they are due to arrive on Wednesday of next week, and wood from Robbins should also be delivered the same day. This coming Bank Holiday Monday has meant both deliveries will be delayed. As yet, the second-hand sail from Glen Maxwell in America has not arrived. He posted it on the 18th; therefore it has been 8 days in transit. Perhaps it’ll arrive tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Cabin Beams etc 2

There’s been heavy rain today, but I was able to laminate the fifth cabin beam; that’s the one above the stern cabin window; it has a stopper piece over which the hatch cover is lifted and dropped into position, to completely seal the cabin. A strip of flexible foam glued to the hatch cover will make the seal watertight. It’s a good job fresh air can enter the cabin through the ventilation system; otherwise the crew would eventually be starved of oxygen.

Now, I need only make three hatch beams to complete all the laminated beams - one will be at the front of the hatch; and two at the rear, one of them above the plywood forming the hatch top and the other below it.

By the time I finish laminating these beams wood for the spars may arrive on my doorstep from Robbins. If that comes to pass, I’ll be able to build the spars, starting with the mast. After that, I could cut and assemble the rudder stock, the rudder and the tiller before starting the bulkheads, the stem, the transom and the vent box.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Cabin Beams etc

There's been more progress today. Number four cabin beam has been laminated and the other three have been cleaned up with the angle grinder. I can't do the final shaping to the cabin beams until they have been fixed to the cabin sides, which may not be until next summer when I hope the hull will have been built.

I've made tentative enquiries for a road trailer. Bramber Trailers seem to be interested, and they have asked for more details. Mersea Trailers no longer make boat trailers. Peak Trailers only supply parts, not the finished product. RM Trailers have yet to get back to me.

Classic Marine can supply all the ring nails I need, the bronze rod, a gudgeon and pintle and various bolts and nuts.

The earlier I can buy the components and equipment for the boat, the better, because over time the costs are sure to rise.

Because my Paradox is likely to be the last 'real' boat I shall own, I want her to be good; indeed, very good throughout; therefore I'm not going to penny-pinch. I'm simply looking for value for money and pleasure in building and using her. Already this is a rewarding experience.

For anyone contemplating a Paradox, don't enter into it lightly, because many man hours are needed for building her.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Cabin and Hatch Beams 2

Inevitably there have been days when I’ve not be able to do any work on my Paradox sailing cruiser; Thursday and Friday were such, but this afternoon I was able to laminate one of her cabin beams. These are of various widths and therefore they have to be made with some care. After laminating my second deck beam I cut the strips for three more, but most likely tomorrow I’ll not be able to make any progress, simply because there are more pressing things to do.

I’ve ordered the wood for completing the boat, including the spars, which I’ll probably build before starting the hull. I have to find space for storing the wood; perhaps I’ll need to make a rack attached to the garage ceiling in which to keep it.

The American, Glen Maxell, has sold me his old-style Paradox sail and I should receive it within the next few days. For $300 plus $41 carriage, that’s a bargain. It would have cost me considerably more to have a new sail sewn by a UK sail maker. Having the sail before making the gaff and boom is an advantage, because I can build them to suit the sail.

Glen has the mark two version of a Paradox sail, which has a higher aspect ratio, but the disadvantage is that it does not roll up tidily around the boom when stowed. I’m prepared to accept that the old-style sail is not quite so efficient to windward.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Cabin and Hatch Beams

Today I finished the last of the deck beams and made a jig for the cabin and hatch beams. Tomorrow I’ll have a go at cutting and laminating one of the cabin beams.

The vertical thickness of the beams which support the cabin roof are all 22 mm, but the forward one, supporting the front window, needs to made from a battens 52 mm in width, and the one at the rear of cabin requires battens that are 74 mm wide. Beam number two, supporting the deck under the front end of the hatch, must be made from battens 26 mm wide; whereas the beam above it (and the deck) should be 20 mm wide; but this latter beam has a capping piece on top that is 26 mm wide, giving a 6 mm overhang forwards. This overhang provides security for a foam weather strip used to stop water from entering the boat when the hatch is closed.

Making the deck and cabin beams will be trickier than building the deck beams, because the horizontal widths of the battens vary, and both the forward and aft battens are angled differently to support the Perspex windows.

Embarking on the production of the deck and hatch beams requires ‘faith’ in the designer’s drawings.

I feel sure most people would start building a Paradox sailing cruiser by cutting and assembling the hull; only after fixing the deck, would they build the cabin top, including the cabin roof and sliding hatch. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m attempting to make all the small items before starting the hull, so that I’ll have room in my garage for building them. Once the hull is assembled, there will only be about 2 feet either side for working, because the width of the garage is just over 8 feet and the beam of Paradox is slightly over 4 feet.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Laminating Deck Beams (9)

As from tomorrow morning, beam number 7 will be ready for grinding and sanding.

What to do next? I’m not sure – possibly the rudder and its stock or the cabin and hatch beams; for these I’ll need to make a jig similar to the one for the deck beams, but the shape of the curve will be taken from sheet number 10. There’s nothing to stop me building the roller drum mechanism with its tack strut; all in all, I’ve plenty to carry on with; I could even laminate the tiller.

As yet I do not have the timber for the spars, and I’m currently requesting quotes for most of the solid timber used in building a Paradox sailing cruiser. Soon I’ll have to acquire some scrap lead for making the pigs of ballast, 10 in all, each weighing around 40 lbs, bringing the total to 400 lbs. All of this will be needed, as I shall mostly use my Paradox for day sailing; therefore for much of her time under sail she will not be carrying stores to help bring her down to her designed waterline.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Laminating Deck Beams (8)

Three deck beams have been finished; one needs sanding; one is on the jig while the epoxy sets, and two more are ready for the epoxy stage - in three more days they could all be finished.

Although wasteful with the epoxy and plywood, I did as Don Elliott suggests, that’s to make all the deck beams the same length, ready for cutting to size when attaching them to the hull. It would be a fiddly business to cut them to length before placing them on the jig. As it is, each batten is almost identical to the others, and therefore they can be fitted where necessary according to the plans.

What’s the next small item I can make? Perhaps I could have a go at the stem or the rudder. I need to give it some thought, as I do not want to restrict my movement in the garage by assembling the hull too early, but there would be nothing to stop me cutting the bulkheads and preparing them with their cleats and floors.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Laminating Deck Beam (7)

I was able to start on the deck beams after lunch. The cleaning up process with the two unfinished beams was swift. By using the angle grinder I very quickly smoothed out the ‘wrinkles’ of hardened epoxy on both sides of the beams where it had oozed out from between the battens. Never having had the convenience of an angle grinder before, I was amazed how much dust it generated; without me realizing it, several items in the garage were soon covered with a film of white dust; therefore I learnt a lesson the hard way, and I resolved that future grinding would be done out of doors, if possible.

As I wanted to laminate the third beam, I had to meticulously remove the dust before I could start.

This time I found a better way of attaching the plastic bin liner to the jig, so that it was easier to bend the battens between the screw supports at each end and the curved side of the jig.

If there’s enough epoxy to laminate another beam tomorrow, I’ll try to do so before I’m required as a ‘chauffeur’ later in the day. Very seldom can I find time for working a full day on the boat, because other demands take priority. (Please take out your violins and play a lament.)

A fresh batch of epoxy should be delivered on Monday; unfortunately I was out this morning when it arrived from UK Resins, and the driver would not leave it without a signature.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Laminating Deck Beam (6)

As I suspected, there was little time today for work on the boat, but I did manage to laminate the second beam and start cleaning up the first one. For this sort of thing, the right tools can make all the difference; therefore I bought a disk sander that cuts into hardened epoxy like a knife through soft butter. To prevent dust getting into my lungs I bought a mask that covers my mouth and nose; it’s the sort with replaceable filters, but the trouble with this contraption is that my exhaled breath escapes upwards and fogs up my spectacles. I think I should invest in sound-deadening ear muffs, because the disk sander makes an ear-piercing noise.

Tomorrow will be another busy day, but I may find time for laminating the third deck beam and for finishing the others.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Laminating Deck Beams (5)

I managed to find time this morning to laminate the first deck beam; weather conditions were perfect, with plenty of sunshine and hardly any wind. The whole procedure took about 20 minutes.

I placed a large bin bag over the jig and taped it into place; then I applied slightly thickened epoxy to the battens by means of a cheap painter’s brush. There was no need to have a ‘gluing’ platform, because it was easy to spread the epoxy on each batten, one at a time; then bend it around the jig so that it was temporarily held in place by two large upright screws, one at each end. (My jig was laid flat on the work bench.) When all 8 battens were made level, I used 5 clamps to gently squeeze them until they fitted the jig exactly. I did not over-tighten the clamps, otherwise they would have been starved of epoxy. Finally I cleaned the old paintbrush with acetone and washing up liquid.

Tomorrow will be a busy day for me, but I hope I’ll be able to find time to make another beam. I originally thought it would be necessary to leave each beam on the jig for 48 hours, but it seems that most Paradox builders believe 24 hours is enough time for the epoxy to harden. Taking this as reliable information, means I’ll be able to produce the beams at twice the rate.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Laminating Deck Beams (4)

This morning I used a jigsaw to cut the battens for making all 7 deck beams for Paradox. Once I got the hang of it, keeping straight lines was not at all difficult, and afterwards it was a painless job to plane off any slight irregularities. I found that a bench saw for this procedure was not necessary, although it may have been quicker.

Clamping the battens around the jig was easier than I imagined, but tomorrow will be the acid test, when I apply the epoxy before clamping them together.

I had hoped to finish making my first batten today, but I had to down tools to take a person for a test sail in my Virgo Voyager. He seems to have a real interest in the boat and may make an offer for her. He brought a friend along with him, and they enjoyed the sail. Now, he wants his wife look over the boat; maybe she’ll like what she sees, but I’ll have to wait for his decision via the Broker. I wonder how much influence she will have on his deliberations. We’ll see.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Laminating Deck Beams (3)

Accuracy is the name of the game. Today I made the jig, or mould, for laminating all 7 deck beams of Paradox. On a piece of 16 mm Conti Board I first drew a vertical line intersected by a horizontal line; then along the horizontal line I marked off 12 x 10 mm sections to provide stations for measuring the curvature of the top of the beam. Sheet number 7 of the plan, detailing bulkhead number 2, indicates there are 6 of the above mentioned 10 mm sections either side of the central vertical line. Being careful with my measurements taken from the plan, I used a t-square and rule to mark specified points directly below each of the 10 mm sections to ascertain the shape of the uppermost surface the beam.

With the aid of a flexible batten and weights, I drew a line representing the curvature of the top of the beam; then I drew a series of tangents from the points used to determine the beam curvature. From these tangential points, I drew lines at right angles to the tangents to indicate where the lower edge of the beam would be. The length of these lines was 25 mm. It was important to draw this second curve as accurately as possible, because the shape of every beam will depend upon it.

Next I copied the curve onto another piece of Conti Board; then I used the same method as before to make yet another curve 45 mm below it. Using a jigsaw, I cut out the shape determined by both curves and the vertical sides between them; then I made an identical piece and joined them together with countersunk screws.

Before attaching them to the first cut-out, so as to exactly fit the profile of the underneath curvature of the represented deck beam, I made sure the upper curved surface was smooth and at right angles to its front facing surface. The combined thickness of both Conti Board cut-outs is 32 mm, which will provide an overlap of 7 mm for the support surface when the 25 mm plywood battens are being laminated.

Finally, I used epoxy and screws to join all 3 pieces together to form the jig for laminating my deck beams.

Tomorrow I’ll be able to make my first ‘typical’ deck beam. Matt Layden, the designer of Paradox, refers to this beam as being a ‘typical’ one, because all 7 deck beams are identical, except for the length of each, which is determined by its fore and aft station.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Laminating Deck Beams (2)

The prototype beam worked well; so today, I bought a sheet of 5 millimetre WBP plywood for making 56 x 25mm x 1220 mm strips, to laminate all 7 deck beams for Paradox, but first I must cut out and assemble the jig from 16 mm Conti Board. That’s more than strong enough to take the loads imposed upon it when the clamps are in place. I shall use two curved pieces of Conti Board bonded together, giving a combined thickness of 32 millimetres; this curved surface will be used to form the underneath sides of the beams. A third piece of Conti Board bonded to the other pieces will provide a backing surface for the forward side of each laminated beam. This third piece will be shaped with an identical curve, which will overlap the other curved surface by 45 mm. Its edge will be in line with the uppermost surface of each beam, when the clamps have been tightened after applying epoxy.

To accurately draw the guide lines with a carpenter’s pencil on the plywood for cutting the strips, I’ll use an 8 foot skirting board, which has a straight edge. Each beam will have a fore and aft dimension of 25 mm; therefore I’ll need to allow at least 2 mm between strips to compensate for loss while cutting the plywood with a jigsaw, and for finishing the sides of beams when the epoxy has set.

I’m looking forward to making the jig, but I’m not quite so sure that I’ll enjoy laminating the beams, each consisting of 5 x 1220 mm strips of plywood, which will mean applying slightly thickened epoxy to 8 of their sides. Bundling the strips together and bending them around the jig will be a tacky business, and I’ll need to be careful not to let the epoxy come into contact with the clamps. To prevent the beams sticking to the jig, I’ll protect it with thin plastic sheeting. Ideally I’ll need to leave each laminated beam clamped to the jig for a minimum of 48 hours; that means I may be able to make 3 beams a week; therefore they should all be finished in just over a fortnight. Hooray!

Friday, August 05, 2005

Laminating Deck Beams

This afternoon I did a trial run for making the deck beams.

I cut the test jig from an old kitchen work top. Firstly, I used the hand jigsaw to form a curve representing the upper side of the laminated beam; then I made an identical piece which I screwed to the first, so that it was 45 millimetres equidistant below it. The lower curve represented the bottom of the beam, and 45 millimetres below it I drew another identical curve and trimmed both pieces to match.

There was my jig ready for laminating the trial piece of deck beam, but before applying epoxy resin to the plywood strips, I first taped thin plastic sheeting to the jig to prevent epoxy from coming into contact with it. After using a brush to apply slightly thickened epoxy to both sides of the 4 by 24 millimetre plywood strips, except the upper side of the top batten and the lower side of the lower batten, I bent them around the jig and held them in place with clamps. I took the precaution of placing plastic covered pads between the clamp heads and the upper side of the beam to make sure they would not be bonded together by spilled epoxy.

Tomorrow, when the epoxy will have hardened, I shall remove the test deck beam from the jig and use a rotary grinder to smooth away any nodules of resin that may have squeezed out while the beam was under pressure from the clamps. Then I’ll use an electric sander and a sanding block to make all surfaces smooth.

In all, I used 11 strips of 4 millimetre plywood to build up the vertical thickness of the beam to 45 millimetres; the thickness of the epoxy accounted for the extra millimetre.

There will be lessons learned from the exercise - already I have discovered that when I cut strips from plywood I should allow at least a millimetre between them to compensate for the thickness of the jigsaw blade.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Paradox Building Sequence

In any related series of activities, the sequential order of doing them is likely to be crucial for success.

As I type this, the astronauts are about to repair some external damage on their spacecraft, with the purpose of making a safe re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere. You can imagine that the best brains at Mission Control have been working overtime to devise a sequential order for the procedure with the safety of the crew being paramount.

Less crucially, a boat builder needs to think through the order in which he will make and assemble the various parts of his boat.

Quite a few people have built Paradoxes, and as a result of their experiences, they have put together useful information on her construction. Alastair Law is one such person who has made available a super web site showing how he built his ‘Little Jim’. The address of Al’s site is .

Don Elliott has produced a building manual in PDF format, which gives tons of advice on how to build the little boat. For $14 you can obtain the files for this from Don at , alternatively you can write to him at, 711Wisconsin Ave, Box 202, Tomah, Wisconsin, 54660, USA. Being in PDF format, the diagrams and illustrative drawings are in super detail.
Needless to say, individual boat builders will arrange an order of sequence according to their situations; for example, I’m restricted by the size of my garage which is just large enough to have a finished boat within it, giving little room to spare - only 2 feet on either side; likewise at the bow and stern. That means it would be best for me to make all the small parts at the beginning, so as to give room for working on them under cover prior to making the larger items and assembling them.
In view of my situation, I’m likely to start with the deck beams, followed by the cabin and hatch beams. I could then build the spars, including the mast, the tiller and rudder. All of these should be done while the air temperature is warm enough for the epoxy. Next, the bulkheads could be cut out and assembled with their cleats, blocks and floors. When the spring of next year arrives, I should be in able to assemble the boat on a mobile platform which can be shunted in and out of the garage. Meanwhile, I’ll probably have the sail cut and sewn by a professional sail maker.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Plywood Arrived

If you’ve been following my log you’ll know I’ve been expecting the marine plywood to arrive for the Paradox micro-sailboat I plan to build. Well, it came this morning!

That brings about the beginning of a long enterprise. I do not expect to complete the boat quickly; it could be as long as two years or more before she’s finished; much will depend on the amount of time I can find for building her.

In all, there are 10 sheets of Robbins marine plywood; they were delived to Alec Jordan of Jordan Boats for him to make a kit version of Paradox, but as he was unable to produce a kit for technical reasons, he sent the plywood to me.

Sheet number 6 of Matt Layden’s plan for building Paradox shows the layout of the plywood components: the bottom of the boat, rudder case and bulkhead number 3 will be made from two sheets of 18 mm ply. Four 12 mm sheets will be used for the sides of the boat, bulkhead number 2, the rudder blade, the cabin sole, shelves and the transom. Three 9 mm sheets will be for the decking, bulkheads numbers 1 and 4, and for making storage bins. One 6 mm sheet is to be used for building the cabin roof, hatch cover and a ventilation baffle.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Boat Plans (2)

Have you ever looked at those diagrams that can be seen in two ways; either as a positive or a negative projection? The classic picture is of a curvaceous black vase within a black frame, silhouetted against a white background, but suddenly one is aware of two white shapes either side of the vase resembling faces in profile. With practice, one can manipulate the images within ones mind so as to see either the black vase or the two white faces in profile.

Some boat plans can be like that. At first, no sense or reason can be made of a drawing; then all of a sudden there it is, fully revealed in its positive form. The key to understanding plans is first to skim through them with the purpose of taking an overall view. If the waterline is marked on the lines drawing and there are views of the forward and aft sections with their waterlines shown, one can begin to appreciate the form of the vessel. Is she narrow, beamy, long or short? Does her bow have a chisel-like shape for cutting through the waves and is her transom shallow and wide, or is she deep-bodied with a continuous sweeping line from her bow to her transom-hung rudder?

For the enthusiast, there’s always an excitement on first ‘reading’ plans. Understanding her form is only the beginning; patient study of individual parts and their relationships within the boat is far more time consuming. Then one is faced with understanding the details of construction and the nature of various components, such as the rudder, mast, rigging and sails with their minutiae.

There are many methods of construction using various materials such as wood, plywood, GRP (glass reinforced plastic), sheet metal or concrete; that’s were a designer can be helpful by supplying a compete list of materials along with instructions which set out a sequence for building the boat.

Ideally, plans should be comprehensive, leaving no room for error or doubt in the builder’s mind, especially the amateur. Professionals, through their experience and knowledge can get by with minimal information, but even for them detailed drawings are better.

I’m currently studying Matt Layden’s plans for his micro-sailboat, ‘Paradox’. She’s an exciting little thing and I’m enchanted with her lines, although they are somewhat unorthodox. Within a few days I should be able to start building her.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Boat Building Expectations

How things can change within the time it takes for a twinkling of an eye! Yesterday I was excited about the prospect of receiving my Paradox kit - perhaps tomorrow - but early today I learnt my dreams for a kit will not be fulfilled. Sadly, Alec Jordan phoned me to say that despite the fact that he’s worked hard to find solutions for making all the parts of the kit fit, he has not succeeded. Therefore he will not be able to provide me with mine until the problems have been solved; which happy event will be unlikely in the near future.

Alec has not given up on his desire to manufacture a kit, but the design process for cutting the panels and various components needs more research to enable him to offer a foolproof, good quality product. Because I am unable to wait for a successful outcome, he will let me have the plywood he would have used for my kit; then I’ll start building my Paradox according to Matt’s original plans. By the way, Matt and Alec have collaborated together on this project, but to date technical hurdles have thrown a spanner in the works. Nevertheless, I thank them for all their efforts and hope that eventually they’ll find solutions for producing a kit.

Alec’s hopes have been dashed, especially as so much interest has been shown in a kit for the boat. He is saddened that those who have expressed their desire for a kit will not be able to have one soon, and information about this will be posted on the Jordan Boats web site.

Undaunted, I hope to start building my Paradox within a week or so, while the temperature of the summer air is warm enough for using epoxy.