Mark Wallace's Black Skiff

Friday, September 30, 2016

CATCH: Rowing Drake in Casco Bay

In February of this year, we included a post on rough water rowing, featuring  Dale McKinnon from an article in Small Boats Monthly. And then in September, we presented Clint Chase’s Drake.  Following is an excerpt from Clint’s blog on rough water rowing Drake in Casco Bay, Maine.
“Rowing in open water like this scares the hell out of me. When I sit there, in the swell, looking out, the butterflies flutter inside, making it more challenging to assess the situation and peruse the mental checklist of precautions. Weather window, ferry traffic, tidal currents, my energy level, time of day, schedule back on land, amount of food in the dry bag, do I have all the gear I need, what is plan B, plan C..."
“But I am learning that these butterflies are annoying but good; they keep me alive and ultimately confident. Once I am out there in open water, and I am feeling strong, confident in the boat, and having a blast, I relax and therefore row better. In my open water boat, Drake, I can cover about 4 nm per hour and that is an average. Time slips away and life is good. Christmas has been wonderful, and the weather cold, and now I begin to plan big rows for next year. I am training for long distance rows and hope to make a 20-mile row somewhat routine. Halfway Rock, located below the 'Not' in "Not for Navigational Use" (see his blog article for the exact location) is uncannily "halfway" between the Eastern and western points that define Casco Bay. It is an exposed rocky isle with a lighthouse. Landing there will be difficult, so when I row there next summer, it will be my longest pull yet, at least 25 miles total, depending on the exact route.”
Overview of Casco Bay, Maine

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Sven Yrvind

Sven Yrvind is a small boat designer, builder, sailor and writer…And a most fascinating individual.

Yrvind being received by the Queen and King of Sweden

Some quotes…

June 15 2014, under “boat ideal”, in a post titled “A Sermon”, he wrote:
“I started searching in earnest for the ideal little cruiser in the autumn of 1962. … In those days it was an odd thing to live on a small boat, but I had my reasons. Dyslexia had prevented me from getting a formal education and during my compulsory military service it soon became evident that my bosses and me had different ideas about how war should be conducted. I ended up in a maximum-security prison. I was cocky and did not behave. To punish me they added one more day of imprisonment for each day I misbehaved.” 
Later in the ‘sermon’, he wrote:
“A realistic alternative to this boring consumerism is to build a small well-conceived cruiser and head out to sea. There out on the big, blue, wet, deep, endless, living ocean, far from land and bureaucrats, there is little to worry about; there you can find peace and a life mentally similar to that of our ancestors.”
May 17, 2008, under “present project”:
“After decades of studying, designing, building and sailing small, ocean-going boats I have evolved a safe, functional design. Here is a brief description of Yrvind ½, my next boat in that series, embarrassingly named after myself. 
Her basic dimensions are length 4.8 meter, or 15 feet 9 inches, beam 1.3 meter or 4 feet 4 inches, draft 0.22 meter or 9 inches. Her intended displacement fully loaded will hopefully be 800 kilos or 1760 pounds. 
In designing her I have had invaluable help from Matt Layden. I hope to sail her down the Atlantic, east in the southern ocean to visit a friend Per in Melbourne.” 
“Weatherliness, especially when sailing slowly against strong winds and breaking waves, is also very much a question of having a large lateral area. Matt Layden’s chine runner configuration, incorporated into Yrvind ½, uses the boat’s vertical hull sides as lateral area. These can therefore be very much bigger than if she was an ordinary keel-boat.”
In early 2015, he stopped working on his “Around in Ten” boat… note that no-one showed up at the ‘start’ of the race.

Yrvind started work on his next ‘ideal’ boat, called “Ex Lex”, which is documented in posts under “present project” starting in April 2015 to the most recent post. (Design specs are similar to those he proposed May 17, 2008, as noted above, but extended to 5.76m (18’ 11”).

These posts are filled with ingenious solutions to building problems he encountered. For example… in the post of May 30, 2016 under “present project”, there is a short video of Sven demonstrating a prototype of his “yolo” based on a Japanese design.

March 26, 2016 under “present project”:
“The joy of cooking does not exclude the joy of eating.
The joy of boatbuilding does not exclude the joy of sailing.”
This site is worth perusing for insights on designing and building small boats, as well as cruising those same boats over thousands of miles of ocean.

Friday, September 23, 2016

CATCH: Fly Out - Row Back

Earlier in September this year, we posted Row Out – Bike Back about combining rowing and biking. One of our readers in Poland told us how a friend of his combined rowing with flying.

He loaded a Michalak Robote onto his car and unloaded it about 40 km (25 miles) south of Warsaw on the Wisla River.

He then drove back to Warsaw, assembled his powered paraglider, flew to the boat and rowed back to Warsaw.

The Paraglider flying to the Robote along the Wisla River in Poland
After landing in a nearby field, he carried the Paraglider back to the boat...
...loaded it and rowed back to Warsaw.

Thanks, Wojtek, for the photos and your friend's adventure!

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Cooking Stoves

If you are going to cook on your oar cruiser, you need a stove. In this post, we’ll show you a sample of possible stoves you could use… ranging in price and utility.
Cautionary note: Fire and boats are not a good mix. “Caution” is the key…
Caution in how you fuel the stove…
Caution in how the stove is held in position…
Caution in how the ‘filled’ pot is held in position. ..
Caution in how you handle the hot pot and where you place it...
Caution regarding leaked Propane gas (which can lead to explosions).

Stove Stability

Rick Thompson, in his custom Welsford Walkabout uses  a “Jetboil” (see below) on a thick piece of plywood (forming a ‘kitchen table’) with a hole that matches the diameter of the fuel tank. This keeps the stove from sliding and tipping, but does not solve the problem of keeping the pot from moving.

Rick Thompson's "Kitchen table" Holder for his Jetboil Stove 

Christine DeMerchant in her excellent site, shows a gimbaled stove that solves both problems of holding the ‘stove’ and the ‘pot’.  I was not able to find any commercial nor home-built version of a gimbal, such as this, that could be used to hold a ‘camp’ stove level in a pitching and rocking boat.

A Gimbaled Stove and Integrated Pot Holder

Colin Angus, in his Adventure Handbook suggests setting up the stove at the center of the boat in order to minimize pitch and roll caused by wakes and waves.


What ‘Alcohol’ to use in an Alcohol Stove?

The Adventure in Stoving site has very specific recommendations about what alcohol to use in stoves; here’s a copy of the summary of the article (in order by highest to lowest recommendation):
"1.  Lab grade absolute ethanol (200 proof) or high proof liquor (190 proof).  High heat content per gram (relative to methanol), relatively clean burning, and generally non toxic, but check the MSDS on lab grade absolute ethanol which may contain benzene which is toxic.  A good choice for warmer weather. 
2.  "Green" denatured alcohol in the US or methylated spirits (ethanol with methanol used as a denaturing agent) outside the US.  Methylated spirits is often called "meths" or "metho".  Good heat content, relatively clean burning, fairly non-toxic depending on the amount and type of the denaturing agent.  In the US, always check the MSDS.  A good choice for warmer weather. 
3.  Methanol, for example yellow HEET.  Decent heat content, very clean burning, but definitely toxic in terms of fumes and skin absorption.  Reasonably safe if used with care.  A good choice for colder weather. 
4.  You can use Isopropanol, for example red HEET (Iso-HEET), but it is not really suitable as a stove fuel because it's generally a sooty mess when it burns.  Highest heat content, but dirty burning, and definitely toxic.  Not recommended."

“Penny” Stoves (Alcohol)

Probably the least expensive option for a cooking stove is to build your own “penny” stove. They are used by many back packers because of their light weight, low cost and readily available fuel.

Typically, there is no control of the burner heat… it’s either all or nothing. It’s also important to have a way to “turn off” the stove other than letting the alcohol burn off. The most common way is to have a can that is larger than the stove that is placed upside-down over the still burning stove and starves it for air.

Do a search on the internet for “penny stoves” and you’ll find many, many variations.  Here’s just one:
A Penny Stove


Trangia (Alcohol or Propane gas)

Trangia, a Swedish company, offers a series of three stove sets for 1, 1-2 and 3-4 people fueled by either gas or alcohol. These are complete sets which include pots, stove, windshield… with many alternatives as to which pots/pans are included.

The alcohol burner available on all sets can boil a liter (1.1 qt.) of water in 10 minutes, while the propane burner (not available on the smallest set) can boil 1 liter of water in 3-5 minutes.

These are very high quality sets which receive very high ratings by customers.

Available at Amazon

Trangia Stove Set


Primus EtaPower EF Stove (Propane gas)

The Sea Kayak Photo site recommends the “Primus EtaPower EF” integrated stove set in their review. It is available, for example, at Amazon.

The stove set consists of a burner/base, windscreen, pot, lid/frying pan, handle and insulated carrying case. The fuel tank is attached to the burner by a hose, which enables the burner with a full pot to be more stable than if the fuel tank is integrated with the burner. When packed, it is 8.7” (22cm) diameter and 5” (12.5cm) high.

The stove can boil 1 liter (1.1 qt) of water in 3 minutes. According to the “Sea Kayak Photos” review, this stove is “amazingly frugal with gas”.

Primus ETAPower EF Stove


MSR PocketRocket Stove (Propane gas)

The PocketRocket stove is very light, packs in a very small space, has excellent control of heat. The pot ‘stand’ (it’s not a pot ‘holder’) is serrated and helps to prevent the pot from slipping.

The unit is directly attached to various sizes of propane containers and this leads to stability problems which must be addressed when used in a boat.

Boil times are about 3-4 minutes for a liter (1.1 qt) of water. A wind shield would have to be provided except in a dead calm.

The PocketRocket is sold by, for example, LL Bean

PocketRocket Stove


Jetboil (Propane gas)

The Jetboil stove is designed primarily for heating water, and it does it very effectively… about 2 minutes for 16 oz. (.5 liter) of water. The model shown below uses a 1 liter container, surrounded by a Neoprene jacket. The burner has a built-in wind-screen, Piezo electric lighter, and burner temperature control.

A note about ALL Piezo electric lighters; they can fail to work in damp/wet conditions and in the cold. ALWAYS bring back up lighting capabilities such as waterproof matches and/or a cigarette lighter.

These units are available, for example, at LL Bean.

Jetboil Stove


Kelly Kettle (Any available fuel such as dried leaves, twigs, etc.)

The Kelly Kettle gets high marks from reviewers because of its use of readily available fuels… anything, as long as it burns. It quickly boils water in its integrated water jacket and can, at the same time, be used as a cook stove with pot or pan.

Two issues which make using in a small boat a (probable) “no-no”:

  1. Difficult to keep stable due to its height, especially with a pot/pan on top,
  2. Depending upon what fuel you use, smoke. (Imagine the reaction of nearby boats when they see smoke pouring out of your cockpit… not pretty.)

This ‘all the bells and whistles’ example  is available at Amazon.

If you intend to ‘shore’ camp, this is a very good solution.

Kelly Kettle Set


Let us know what stove you use. Would you buy it again? Why or why not?

Thursday, September 15, 2016

CATCH: Guinness Rowing Record

In another interesting blog (scroll to June 11), Helena Smalman-Smith wrote “On and on and on: How we set a new 24 hour distance rowing Guinness World Record” 

The post describes logistics involved in achieving a new Guinness World Rowing Record.

Preparation time for the record took 10 months. Leading up to, and on ‘record day’, 30 people were involved so that 8 women, including Helena, could set the official record in a quad scull. They rowed as two 4-person teams, 2 hours rowing and 2 hours rest.

The actual record, 44km (27.3 miles) better than the previous record, was set in June of 2016 rowing the “Kingston stretch of the Thames” River.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Clint Chase’s Drake as an Oar Cruiser

Drake, Clint Chase’s first, and one of his best looking, rowboats is 17’ 4” (5.3m) long, (15’ 3” [4.6m LWL]), 4’ 2” (1.25m) wide, 6” (0.15m) draft and 12½” (0.32m) depth amidships.

Clint Chase's Drake

The sail area of the downwind sail (“Squgsail”) is 60 square feet (5.6 square meters). The hull weighs approximately 110 lb (50Kg), made with 1/4” (6mm) Okume. She is available in both kit and plans only form.

Drake Perspective View

Drake has a full length shallow keel which enables her to be sailed on a beam reach… no centerboard nor leeboards necessary. The sail is truly auxiliary power to a pure rowing boat.

Drake Sailing Downwind

Though designed to be a fixed seat rower, the interior (see construction photo below) could be made to accommodate a sliding seat/rigger.

Interior during Construction

Clint designed her to “…take care of (the rower) in open water.” He has made many passages across Casco Bay in Maine which is notorious for rough conditions due to tides and winds.

Rowing in Whitecaps

Drake can certainly be used as an open oar cruiser, either sleeping on board (with one or two thwarts removable and sleeping platform added) or shore camping.  However, to make an ‘oar cruiser’ as defined in this blog, I would add skin-on-frame decking, a shelter and floorboards  to provide a sleeping platform.

As Clint states…
“Drake was certainly inspired by a number of boats by reputable designers. But I wanted to go leaner and faster than the other traditional fixed-seat rowboat plans showed and I had already learned that a great rowboat must also be lightweight.”
He’s accomplished his design requirements with a beautiful, fast boat that could be easily converted into a fully realized Oar Cruiser.

Tell us what you think in the Comments below…

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Row Out-Bike Back

The idea is that you bring you bike with you on your boat. Then use the bike to either get back to your car/trailer so you can retrieve the boat, or to put the boat on a bike/trailer and pedal to the next available navigable water.

Two examples:

Colin and Julie Angus

Colin and Julie rowed and biked 4350 miles (7000 k) from Scotland to Syria in two (Colin Angus designed) Expedition Rowboats. The bicycles were Montague Folding Bikes and the trailer from Tony's Trailers in Mill bay, B.C., both fit in the storage compartment in the Expedition Rowboat. Note that the compartment in the Expedition model will hold a standard road or mountain bike if the wheels and one pedal are removed.

Photos of the details: (Note that hundreds of photos of the trip are here.)

The Two Expedition Rowboats Colin and Julie Used
And Another View of the Boats
Storage of the Bike and Trailer
On the Road...

Rick Thompson

Rick built a custom John Welsford Walkabout, also described here, which he uses for his ‘row out-bike back’ trips.

Rick finds a day-trip of 20 miles is about right; 20 miles biking for 1.5 hours and rowing back, with the current, in 4-5 hours.

He likes to plan his trips on rivers that have a road or bike path alongside the river. He’s found that the Sacramento Delta (California) offers a number of ideal ‘row out-bike back’ trips.

Sacramento Delta Area

Typically, he maps the trip with a marina, waterfront restaurant, rowing club, etc. at either the start or finish so that the boat can be left secure while he bikes back to his car/trailer.

The sequence varies depending upon where he will be leaving the boat: If it’s at the start, he launches at the start and ties up – drives to the finish and parks – rides back to the start, loads the bike on the boat – and rows to the finish.  If the marina is at the finish, he launches, with the bike, and parks at the start – rows to the finish and ties up – bikes back to the start – drives to the finish for the boat..

The only modification to his Walkabout was to install a fork mount, such as this to the rear deck.

Rick's Walkabout with Bike
Another View

Tell us in the Comments below about your experience using a combination of land-based and water-based vehicles for traveling.

Friday, September 2, 2016

CATCH: Reboarding Revisited

As a follow-on to last Sunday’s post on getting back aboard,  John Welsford, in a private email conversation, provided additional insight on reboarding…
“When Howard Rice and I were designing the sling system for reboarding SCAMPs, which are very high sided, something that came up was that, particularly with small  sailing boats, boarding over the stern is not a good idea. 
What happens in that case, when the weather is bad enough to blow the boat over, it will be drifting fairly fast when righted, even if swamped.  In that case, if one swims around to the stern and hangs there in an attempt to climb over the transom the boat will turn downwind and the windage will cause it to move away from the person in the water.  Encumbered by lifejacket and heavy clothing the persons drag in the water is very high which makes it extremely difficult to hang onto the boat, and near impossible to climb in even with a ladder deployed. 
Hence the “sling", most small sailing boats tend to sit side on when left to their own devices, and we designed the sling so its possible to reboard from deep water over the lowest point of the sheer. 
Another point, when floating shoulder deep in rough water and hanging onto the boat it’s very difficult to reach up and unclip a ladder type device in order to deploy it, and the sling, when secured along  a side deck with knitting yarn or similar, is very easy to get down into action. It simply requires a reach up and a pull to break the yarn, pull it down and it’s in action. 
We’ve run a number of SCAMP sailing skills classes now which include capsize recovery practice, and find that even very obese and unfit people, with a little coaching, are able to reboard our school SCAMP using this method.  The stirrup was ok for fitter people, but even then three attempts in cold water and they were “done", so we’ve changed our recommendations for that, and the other boats we deal with.”
I asked John about reboarding long narrow hulls typical of oar cruisers, in which the boat blowing away is not as severe a problem. His response…
“[I’ve] tried reboarding] Seagull, and found that I could pull the rail down under the water surface, roll myself in and let the boat come back up, there was enough stability there to sit on the floor and bail, the boat gaining stability as I got the free surface effect under control. There is no way I could get back in over the transom. 
Oar cruisers are a problem, though, in that they’re skinny so don’t have much stability, low so they don’t have a lot of freeboard and very fine ended so there is not much ability to support a load out near the ends of the boat. 
[My solution is] to carry a pair of sausage fenders, big ones about 30 in x 8 in, strapped under the gunwale just forward of the rowing position.  That gives enough buoyancy to allow me in over the rail and keeps the boat stable enough for me to get her bailed out.”
Cabela sells fenders that are 10 by 30 inches (254mm by 762mm), weigh 7 lbs (3.2kg), inflated to 1.5 PSI.
Cabels's Fender

John continued…
“The float on an oar trick is a good one, but there needs to be preparation so the oar can be strapped securely across the boat, in that case a stirrup might work well.”
Three final points I want to emphasize:
  1. Test your reboarding method.
  2. Really...test your reboarding method.
  3. I'm not kidding about this...test your reboarding method.
My thanks to John for his willingness to share his experience.