Of Mooncursers and other Spun yarns

Of Mooncursers and other Spun yarns
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Saturday, December 30, 2006

Wolftrap to the Center of the World and Beyond: Read oldest posts first.

Woftrap in a sling: Note the fins on the rudder,very efective. You will see that the rig was changed,now sporting a schooner rig. Note how deep the chine is under the water line. My mistake, she is carrying about a thousand lbs. too much ballast.
Though very fast she would have been faster with less ballast. I had fears that if rolled over she might not right.

A nearby boat builder suggested I talk to Phil Bolger to design the boat. I had never heard of him. He said talk to him, he will understand what you want and what you like and I will guarantee you will be satisfied. All this while we stood looking at, Black Skimmer, which I liked from some angles and hated from others. From the side she looked great from the bow and stern I thought she was God awful ugly. I had seen and sailed on some local sharpies as a kid in Baltimore but none had square sides. I just couldn't look on a square sided boat with any enthusiasm. In my mind you bent a plank around the length of a boat and because it was leaning outward it curved to form the sheer. How could you have sheer with perpendicular sides. Just seemed to me unnatural. The person I was with was Mike O'brian the now editor I believe of Wooden Boat magazine. Mike was building small open boats along about then. At the time I thought his messing with small open boats was a complete waste of time. Like so many things this too has done a complete turn around in my mind. It's a funny thing the whole world has always been way ahead of me.

In those days I had not read a lot of boat building or design books. My experience was pretty much limited to sailing and repairing rot, painting, scraping, and hand stitching old sails. Most lines on my boats were spliced and never thrown away until they looked like squirrels tails. I made baggy winkles out of the remains because I couldn't bring myself to throw them away.

I called Mr.Bolger and talked to him. I was really impressed by our conversation though he didn't agree with me on all my idea's where the kind of boat I needed to build was concerned in order to have what I want and still be able to sell it. He said he had an idea for a boat like I wanted but it would be hard to do in 26 ft. I agreed to 28ft. He convinced me to go with a cat yawl rig as a trial rig. I was given an overwhelming amount of reasons why it would be a better rig, not to mention that the schooner rig was out of fashion and would be hard to sell and he felt that windward ability for a manufactured boat was needed as a selling point. We decided on a cat yawl rig with sprites. She was to have a raised deck with a side profile somewhat in the manner of, Moccasin. Which was a boat I admired but a shape not easily built from aluminum plate.

Sprites were and idea that took a little getting used to. I was in favor of gaff rigged sails. My boat was getting farther and farther away from what I had envisioned and I was beginning to have serious doubts about what kind of design I was going to wind up with. At that point I was about to give up on Mr. Bolger feeling that we were not talking about the same boat at all.

He sent me a couple cartoons of Woftrap and I was really intrigued.

My partners liked what they were hearing from my conversations so I wrote a check and sent it to Mr. Bolger to make up a set of sketches so we could see what he was talking about. I think the sketches were to cost $300 and to be deducted from a total of $1000 if we decided to go with his design.

There was a lot of speculation as to what sort of boat she would look like.

Finally one morning a set of drawings arrived along with a letter. Mr. Bolger's letters are a work of art in themselves. We passed it around the shop and everybody in the place read it. The secretary had to run off a bunch of copies for the fellows in the shop. Reading his letter, my thoughts went to Joshia Slocum there was a kind of similarity to the cadence and rhythm with a bit of a feel of an earlier time and a definite reverence for the modern. Phil Bolger knows how to set the hook I thought.

I reached in the envelope and pulled out the drawings, my hands were actually shaking. I was shocked at her looks I didn't like her much. Her stern was too high, her rudder was funny looking, the off center mizzen almost floored me and to my eye the rig was funny looking.

I called my partners into my office to take a look and they were disappointed. We sat talking reading the letter and studying the drawings. That evening we wound up setting in my office until after midnight. The conversation was more and more in terms of well I like this or that or some other thing. The reason for the odd shape of the rudder became apparent when we realized the tiller came through the top of the transom and being a tiller that could rotate from side to side in order to have it on which ever side the helmsman was on thus eliminating any need for a hiking stick made sense. The mizzen was off center so that the forward mast could be folded back and the mizzen folded forward. The handrails in place of life lines along the forward deck at first looked odd but had began to grow on me as I realized the could be set on or leaned against to steady oneself. And they were big enough in diameter that they would not cut you in half if you fell from one side of the boat to the other. They were also strong. And they did have a traditional look about them. We had all grown more accustomed to the look of the rig but worried that she would not go to windward on one tack with a sprite pushed into the shape of the sail.

Over the weekend I made up a list of things that I liked and things I disliked. The dislikes were now few.

On Monday we all got together and decided we weren't crazy about the rig but that we would try it. There was no doubt by now as to whether we were going to build her or not. We were!

There was some thing still wrong with her looks but none of us could figure out what. Finally I said she is to high sided or slab sided or something like that. They all agreed and we stood looking at her drawing blown up and thumbtacked to the wall.

The old black smith leaned his head around the corner of the door and said. “She don't look right cause she ain't never gonna git built.”

“What the hell you mean Elliot? Where gonna build her,” the company president Bob said with a fare amount of force.

“ No Ya ain't, cause she aint got no chine and ya can't build a boat like her with out no chine.” was Elliott's acid reply.

Well he was right. I picked up a pencil and drew in an imperfect chine about where I thought it ought to go. There it was she was a really handsome hull her high sidedness was gone and she now looked three dimensional and be sides that the gental curve running along her side was quite beautiful.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Boat Building Machine Shop: Read oldest posts first

We did aerospace work and a fair amount of work for the local waterman. We had what was probably one of the last all around blacksmith shops. Our blacksmith started making oyster tongs in the spring and early in the fall they began to sell. All were sold before spring the next year. We made on order patent Tongs for clamming and oystering, as well as oyster drudges. The clam and oyster tongs were operated by winches run off the power take off of the main drive engine. The power came into an automobile rear end where the drive shaft had been on the car. We used a car wheel brake and master cylinder to stop one side of the differential. A differential being what it is, when you stop one side the other side turns one direction when you release the brake the other side runs the other way. One way lifts the tongs by way of a gin pole and the other way lowers them. Pretty clever these waterman. Some of the sons from Tangier island and Smith Island are working out there on the Chesapeake Bay today with college degrees. They left for the cities couldn't stand being away from the water and returned and most before age 30. A few left high paying jobs for satisfaction.

We worked for Nasa doing wind tunnel models, strain test samples and models of the shuttle. They were made of hardenable stainless and were about 3 inches wing tip to wing tip. They were tested at 9000 miles per hour in a wind tunnel.

All of this was coming to an end, so for the navy we began making steam turbine rotors and blades along with bearings for turbines and even ships propeller shafts. This rather boring work kept the machine shop busy but left the welding shop with nothing much to do.

Half kidding manner, so I could grin and back out if everyone said something like your nuts. I was at the same time dead serious and hoping some would say that's a good Idea. Feeling a little sheepish, I said, “ Don't laugh you guys but, LET'S BUILD A BOAT”. My two partners busted out laughing, followed by the guys in the shop. They all knew where I was coming from. We had a bad habit of building toys in our spare time so I knew none would be greatly surprised. So in defense of myself I said,” Just hold on and hear me out.” I explained what I wanted to build for my self and how if I liked the boat surly there must be one or two people a year in the world who would also like it and buy one. If I or nobody else liked it we could always sell it at cost and find another project. With a minimum of success we could build two boats a year, not Exactly a booming business but enough to keep the welding shop busy.

It was agreed to by all. To my amazement there was not one single desenter. Amazing, I thought!

We were a shop of model makers who were bored sick with making production runs of thousands of parts. The morale picked up right away. Conversations turned to boats and building them. I began to find magazines and books in the shop on boats and boat building.

I drew a chalk sketch on a concrete slab in our stock yard. It was crude and somewhere near full size. My partners and everyone else thought it too small. They all had kids. So we bumped the size up to 26ft.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Wolftrap to the Center of the World and Beyond: Read oldest post first

The sailboat Woftrap was built by Mars Machine works in Virginia as a project to keep the welding shop busy in off times.

Here she sits at the Dock of Gene Ruark's Marina in Deltaville Va. waiting for sails from Rod Hayes at Gloucester Point. Va. Spring 1979 Above she is sailing off Stingray Pt. Chesapeake Bay.

Here's a little something about the people and Company that Built Wolftrap. Bob Grow, was President and David Grow treasurer and I brought up the rear as Shop Foreman and Vice president.
Bob and David were the sons of a barn stormer and brought that tradition into the business. Bob was a stunt pilot, Commercial pilot, aircraft mechanic, motorcycle rider and one time successful bounty hunter. He was a sharp minded business man, a keen maker and spender of money. He was to some degree a womanizer and could talk the matches out of the hand of Lucifer. Bob married a little tiny women, Irene, who is pleasantly mouthy or not so pleasant if you find yourself on her wrong side. To the astonishment of us all she tamed him.
A perfect Company president I thought, and to my sadness he passed away a few years ago. David is a stunt pilot, a builder of airplanes and a rebuilder of many classic planes. In the shop he handle the paperwork of complex government contracts saw to the buying if materials and the shipping of product. David never got to big to go into the shop and do the dirty or nasty job if it was called for, he was dedicated. He and his beautiful wife Linda ran the business from the office. The shop was run a certain amount with the idea that we should make money to be able to play hard. We Did! My partners were in charge of Airplane and motorcycle play and I ran the boat play department.
The first part of my job was to figure out how to do the machine work and for me that was easy. It came natural with very little thought. The hard and biggest job for me was how to work forty or forty five people successfully. Myself being somewhat introverted I had to step out of my own personality to even begin to accomplish that task

I had recently sold my Crocker Gull class ketch and was without a boat. I was working long hours in the Machine shop where I was shop foreman and had tried to put boats out of my mind. That proved to be more in the nature of ignoring a tooth acke. After a short time finding myself weak, I gave in to images of fine little sailboats that wondered through my mind like cows in a pasture. I first eliminated the sailing ships then the sixty footers and the thirty footers and settled. I was finally thinking in terms of something about 23 ft for my wife and I . Our teen age children were way beyond the age of being willing to go sailing with mom and dad except maybe on Saturday morning for a couple of hours. I had in mind a boat suitable for us right up into our old age. I thought I was a lot older than I was. I was at fifty, a mere lad as I look back.

I was thinking in terms of a wooden boat, shallow draft with a little bit of windward ability with the board up. Hopefully powerful to windward with the board down. I liked the idea of a raised deck to get comfortable living space to be gone a year at a time. I liked the little Yanmar engine for power and I had a preference for a ketch or a schooner. I have always felt that a sloop just can't carry enough sail. If racing and lets face it, if two sailboats are going the same direction and in sight of each other they are racing. A two masted boat running or reaching can pop out a mizzen staysail and pick up a knot. Not enough? Set a flat spinnaker and you are really moving. Any amount of wind at all and you are sailing beyond hull speed. Because your off the wind you are hardly heeling and sailing in most cases with nearly a neutral helm. A main boom end well past the transom on a boomkin with a good long bowsprit for good directional stability. Low rig to keep healing easy and a couple of topsails for the July, August doldrums.

We felt that if we wanted to go back to Bermuda with a centerboard slot that went all the way up through the boat. We could replace it with a ballasted foil shaped keel that could be slipped up through the boat and pinned in place. In shallow water it would be unpinned so that the keel could push up through and even hoisted from the mast to get off the bottom. Of course the boat would have to be designed to do that. It would not be difficult to remove the keel and put the centerboard back in for sailing n the the Chesapeake bay.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Sailboats Fair and Fine : Read oldest posts first

For all you folks out there that have found themselves married to a sailboat I have to feel sorry for you and at the same time feel a certain amount of envy for the joy she must certainly bring to you. The hours spent in hard but pleasurable labor keeping her in a state of repair and polish are without a doubt worth it. Now there's a labor of love known mostly to sailboat sailors, kayakers, and canoe paddlers and everybody else that has a thing they care for. Unless maybe it's a rock. These kinds of people by way of their disdain for motors and most things technical plus their love of misery and beauty that nears that of falling in love, do somehow find happiness. By sailing or peddling or paddling in a cold rain with a strong sharp wind trying to cut into face, fingers and slipping up your sleeves to create a shiver that drives you to a quiet anchorage or maybe a tent on shore. It's to me the sip of hot coffee, warm food and the smell of fresh salt air that adds to the delight of a radio broadcast of a warm and breezy tomorrow.

After a cold and challenging day, a day to appreciate the eighty degree day when there is a light breeze a warm sun over cool waters. A day when the tiller or paddle seems to rest in and and just go along with the water, silent and soothing. This day that will be tomorrow. Hmm, seems I like anchoring and drinking coffee more than sailing. Maybe I like house boats?

On the Blog, Sailboats Fair and Fine, we talk and write of boat stuff. I'll show some pictures, at times a video. I hope I can be of help to some who may need a little help with boats of all kinds. With over sixty years of playing with boats both big and small I ought to be of at least some help to any who feel they need it.. If not, I'm sure I can send you to someone that can help you.
If you care a whit about sailboats or messing around in the Bahamas, Chesapeake bay, Florida keys, Inland waterway or even building boats join me here for the writing of the story, Wolftrap to the Center of the World and Beyond. This story will be puplished by a print on demand printer when it is complete.