Sunday, July 17, 2016

After her first 5 outings...

I think it's worth offering a few reflections based on our first few outings.

First off, as many have noted before me, there is nothing quite like the excitement and sense of pride in launching and sailing a boat the one has made with ones own hands. To the extent practically possible, I made EVERYTHING on this boat. Every single bit of it was made by me. That gives me a great sense of accomplishment. There are few things in my life that I can look back on with as much of a sense of unbridled pride.

Even my skeptical wife shows her excitement on launch day.
Puffin is not perfect, but then again, nothing in my life is. But she fulfills her purpose wonderfully. All the blemishes and imperfections simply vanish when you see her tied up to a dock, heeling over on a broad reach. She elicits admiring glances and comments wherever we go. Yesterday, my wife and I knocked around the inner harbor of Milwaukee on a day that was custom-tailored for sailing. It was great fun to have these huge 30' and 40', high-tech racing sailboats steer closer just to get a closer view of this little dinghy.

9 coats of spar varnish make for a shiny transom. Rudder checks and tiller are not yet complete at this point.

Reflecting on the project itself: when I undertook this commitment, I blithely thought I could knock it out in 5 or 6 months. I had no appreciation for the amount of work it would take to build a boat from scratch. I had almost no tools and fewer skills. I learned a tremendous amount...mostly from internet contact with other builders. I honestly don't think I could have done this without YouTube, and the host of other internet resources that are available.

Lovely wooden blocks courtesy of Joel Bergen. These are made with lignum vitae sheaves, oiled elm cheeks, hand bent stainless steel straps, and brass pinning. These became one of my favorite things to make. In fact, I just keep making them, because they're fun. I have more blocks in my garage than I will ever use!

How does Puffin sail? Give her 10-15kt breezes and this boat is fantastic. I'm still getting used to her ways, and every outing leaves me happier. She is very dry and very stable. I'm still working out how best to tack this boat. I've missed stays a few times, and wondering if it may be on account of mainsail twist on the gaff yard?? 

One of my favorite things is the hinged mainmast which allows me to rig/de-rig the boat in 10 minutes.

Stable and balanced? Puffin is self steering! I'm not a "small" guy. In this picture I'm standing on the seat. Although we didn't get a picture of it, I was up on top of the foredeck by the mainmast and felt very comfortable. 
Yesterday we were out on Lake Michigan in 2-3 seas with whitecaps and we caught a little bit of spray off the bow, but were perfectly dry otherwise. Honestly, I don't find the cockpit layout to be very comfortable for more than one or two people. But this may have more to do with how I have laid out the rigging.

The gaff yawl rig has a lot of strings to pull. I think it looks great. I think it sails just fine. But there's a LOT going on in the cockpit:

- Throat halyard
- Peak halyard
- Main sheet
- Port jib sheet
- St'bd jib sheet
- Jib furler
- Mizzen halyard
- Mizzen sheet
- Centerboard pennant
- Rudder uphaul
- Rudder downhaul
- Lazyjack/topping lift.
- Boom vang (not yet added).

That's a lot to single-hand. And because she's just a small boat, adding crew means slightly more confusion. In retrospect, I might have opted for a simpler rig. 

So what have I modified since launch day?

1) I hinged the tiller. The way my tiller sits on the rudder, without a hinge, I couldn't get the rudder hard over because the tiller would bump into the coamings. A simple hinge, like the one Barrett Faneuf made solved the problem.

2) Mizzen rigging. I swapped out my mizzen sprit boom for a simple boom on a homemade gooseneck. For some reason, I could not figure out how to make a snotter give me the sail shape I wanted for the mizzen.

3) Electric motor. I originally carved a pair of oars, but found that this boat is not well-suited for efficient oar propulsion. Based on where I placed the oar locks, and my lack of a proper seat, and the fact that she's pretty beamy, meant that I had heavy 9.5' oars that were difficult to manage and worse to store onboard. I sucked it up and bought one of Minn Kota's new EO electric outboard motors and put it on one of Duckworks' transom mount engine brackets.  I'm much happier with this arrangement, although it offends the purist in me. Now I can move to and from the dock and cruise through mooring fields at a comfy 5 kts. Supposedly, my 24v system will give 9 hours per charge. I haven't put that to the test. 

4) Mainsail luff lacing. My hinged main mast means every time I raise the main, my lacing would get tangled or snagged on the hinge bolt. I replaced the lacing with polyprop/velcro webbing "mast hoops". 

5) Lazy jacks. It seems like a lazy jacks on a small boat like this would be overkill. But given her gaff rig, without them it's almost impossible to lower the sail without having a disaster in the cockpit. I rigged a simple set of home-made jacks that also double as a topping lift. 

6) I'm making a travel cover. Because I leave the boat almost completely rigged (except the mizzen), there's a lot of lines flopping around 

Mods for this winter:  

1) I need to reinforce the transom in the motor mount area. I hadn't planned on having a motor hanging off the back, so the 9mm transom ply feels like it's got a little too much flex. 

2) I need to reconfigure my trailer to better suit the shape of the hull and give more over-the-road support. 

3) I need to put a bicyble inner-tube "gasket" on the bottom of the hull where the centerboard slot is. I think this would keep water from splashing into the hull from the opening of the centerboard case. 

4) I need to rethink the cam cleats. I'm not happy with them. A simple horn cleat I think is more secure and easier. 

5) I need to re-visit how I've rigged my mainsheet. Right now, it's just in the way a lot of the time.

6) Add boom vang.

Launching day...

Two and a half years after beginning the project, the launch day arrived. Puffin was named and launched on June 5 on Lake Nagawicka, 30 miles west of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 

The day couldn't have been more beautiful. 75 degrees F., blue sky, a few puffy clouds, and steady winds 10-15. Nagawicka was chosen for a few reasons: First, and foremost, it's a generally shallow lake, so if we encountered any problems and Puffin sank, we'd be able to recover her relatively easily. Second, at 1,200 acres, it's a big enough lake to take Puffin for a decent spin around the block. Third, it's close to where we used to live, and so a few friends who watched her being built from day one would be able to participate on the big day. Last, I've spent many hours boating on this lake, so I know it and the launches pretty well.

Here's Puffin on her trailer, snugged down (as best we could) for the short drive over to Nagawicka. 
Different view.

She floats!! Ignoring the sails being all ahoo, I was mostly concerned that she sat nicely on her waterlines, which in fact she does. 

Daughter Jane was the first person aboard. All grins and two thumbs up. No better praise for a proud dad.
A small blessing, a brief presentation of Puffin to the gods, beseeching their protection, and a splash of prosecco (no Champagne at hand!) over the bow. 

For the first outing, we had no auxiliary power, so a friend gave us a tow out to the middle of the lake from his powerboat. We needed to practice getting the sails out.

Raising the Gaff main. 

All sails set, and off we go!

Catch up on the build...

OK. So new house out of the way. New shop finally set up. Winter come and gone. Spring (cold and soggy) behind us. Smack dab in the middle of summer. What's been happening with the boat??

I'm going to blast through this with a few pix and comments and jump to the conclusion because...

PUFFIN IS FINISHED!! finished as any wooden boat ever will be. There's still stuff to do and I'm sure I will make modifications to what I've done so far once I get to sailing her. But...the hull is built, the rig has been rug, and she is ready to go get wet! did we get from my last substantial post, to where we are today? OK.

So I had just finished installing the decks. Then I got side tracked by making Joel Bergen's lovely wooden blocks. And then I got further side-tracked by learning how to splice rope. All of that was just a diversion from facing the fact that I would eventually have to put the dreaded coamings on. It turned out to be not so bad.
I figured this would be messy work, so I covered the insides with plastic to avoid gooping them up. Using jury-rigged clamping system to ensure that the transom coaming fit nicely into the correct angle and curve. Talk about a complicated little piece of wood! Two different curves cut on the X-Y axes, and a bend and cant angle on the Z axis. A lot of head-scratching for the boy who got D's in math at school.

I used a combination of 9mm ply and laminations of 3mm ply for the half-circle at the front end of the cockpit. I've kept my coamings deliberately low. I wanted a bit of a back rest in the cockpit, but mostly just a splash-guard to keep deck water on the deck and not in the boat. 

Here you can see the final shaping of the transom coaming to match the curvature of the transom. 

Testing out the positioning of the oar locks. 
 I decided to try my hand at carving a name board for Puffin. I spend some time on the road for my job, so I figured this could be something I could do while traveling. I feel sorry for the housekeeping person that had to clean up the pile of wood chips and dust I left behind at the Marriott Courtyard in La Crosse!

Blank basswood board on the Courtyard bed coverlet! 😝
Name sketched out 

Bas Relief carving. Lots more work to go on this piece. It's as far as I've gotten...

Almost done now. In keeping with the "Puffin" moniker, the outer hull is painted black and white. The rub rails are finished bright. I chose Grand Banks Beige for the deck and coaming. I think it looks very traditional and elegant.

A few finishing details and we're almost ready for launch. 

Carved brazilian cherry horn cleats are a nice contrast to the deck.

Leathering of the various moving/chafing bits. Here is the mainmast partner on the foredeck. Note octagonal shape and bronze boat nails. Way back, I decided to keep the lower mainmast octagonal and then round it as it approaches the mast hinge. Unnecessary, but a nice little detail.

Port side jib sheet comes through the coaming into a cam cleat. Oar locks mounted. Laid decks oiled with teak oil...even though it's really just white oak.

General view of the inside of the boat. I think it looks nice with the bright white paint, oiled decks and beige coamings.