Chebacco News 31

Chebacco News 31 – October 2000


The Big Trip!


Bill Samson, Jamie Orr and Les Orr

Jamie Orr writes:

Hello Bill

The big adventure is over now, we’re all back home, and life is settling back into the normal routines. I thought I’d try and record our (Wayward Lass and crew’s) trip for Chebacco News, with my impressions of how the boatperformed.

This was a watershed event, the first trip in Wayward Lass. This was her fourth time in the water, and the second time the sails were up. It’s about 35 miles from the most Southeastern point of Victoria to Point Wilson, near Port Townsend. Adding another 3 miles to the Boat Haven in Port Townsend, and a bit more to Fleming Beach where we launched, and we probably covered some 85 miles in total, crossing and recrossing the Strait of Juan de Fuca between Vancouver Island and Washington State.

We got away from the launching ramp at 9 am on the 7th. When we left, the weather was overcast, with light to moderate westerly winds. There was a small craft warning at the (western) entrance to the Strait, but conditionswere okay at the eastern end. The forecast was for stronger wind from the south by late afternoon. I hoped we could sail southeast at first, then east along the Washington coast when the wind shifted. We started out on a direct course for Point Wilson, along the Victoria shore until we felt confident that everything was working properly, then changed to a more southerly course to cross the strait, and be able to take advantage of the expected wind change. However, the wind dropped fairly soon, and when it came back it was right on our nose. The sails came down and we got down to some serious motoring.

Visibility wasn’t too great, maybe 3 or 4 miles at this time, but we felt we could find our way with chart and compass – we also had a Garmin II GPS that a friend insisted on lending us, although neither Dad nor I felt comfortable relying completely on that as we hadn’t done much with it. We had 1 to 2 foot waves most of the time. With the fog and overcast sky, it felt chilly until we opened the thermos and had something to eat. (I’m a believer in keeping the furnace fuelled.)

After an hour or two we could see the land well enough to identify Dungeness Spit, which sticks out into the strait from the US side, and turned onto an easterly course for Point Wilson, or at least where the chart and compass said it ought to be. After a while more we identified Protection Island at the mouths of Sequim and Discovery Bays. It took a long time to bring it nearer, but eventually we were level with it, and had definitely identified Point Wilson ahead. About here we tried sailing again, but the wind was just too much from the east to make our course. Since the forecast was for strong southerly winds, and we wanted to get in early enough to find a berth and have a quiet night, we went back to motoring again.

At Point Wilson the wind and tide were both against us, and the GPS, which had reported some 4.5 knots most of the way, dropped until it was only 1 knot right opposite the point. The wind by this time was getting close to the predicted 20 knots, I think. Once around the corner, we hugged the shore to Point Hudson, 2 miles on. Port Townsend is built on Point Hudson, so once there, we had more or less arrived. Around that corner and another mile and we were at the Port Townsend Boat Haven, a big marina well sheltered by a long breakwater. We called US Customs, who were extremely helpful and patient with the rookie skipper, and were assigned permanent vessel identification and PIN numbers, along with a clearance number for this visit. The trip over took 8 hours from dock to dock.

We got the tarp over the boom, and mopped up the cockpit – between the spray and the rain, things were pretty wet. With the tarp up we were quite comfortable, but I was glad we had the cuddy to keep our gear dry. It also provided some shelter under weigh, keeping spray in the cockpit to a minimum.


Wayward Lass at the dock in Port Townsend

I’ve included the pictures that Chuck Merrell took in Port Townsend and e-mailed to me. I haven’t got any others at this time. The blue tarp shows up nicely, and that’s me on the boat. There are a lot of strings hanging everywhere because I haven’t entirely worked out the best way to attach all the sails and blocks. I’m trying to keep it all low-tech, but things will be evolving as we learn. I’m pleased to say the sails, also made by yours truly, seem to have the right shape.

I’d asked previously around the web about VHF radios and navigation lights. Before we went off, I bought a handheld VHF that will accept either rechargeable nicad or throwaway alkaline batteries, and a set of lights that operate off a single D cell each. I’m not sure how far the lights can be seen, but the choice in battery powered lights is limited. The VHF was almost entirely used for weather reports. So far I’m happy with my choices.
Alan Woodbury met us at the marina and gave us some local knowledge about restaurants and Port Townsend in general. After some fish and chips, Dad and I crawled into the cuddy for the night. We are both 6 feet and close to 200 lbs each, but found we could both sleep comfortably in the cuddy, using air mattresses. At the bow end, the mattresses turn up at one corner, but we put our feet at that end so it didn’t matter.
We spent the 8th walking the floats at the Festival, saw dozens of beautiful boats from big schooners to tiny canoes. We said Hi to Craig O’Donnell, on hand with the CLC folks, and took in talks by Brion Toss, rigger, and Carol Hasse, sailmaker. Both excellent. Craig dropped by for a quick chat just before we turned in. Unfortunately Jim Slakov didn’t make it down as planned with Kelani Rose – I understand he injured his back. Hope you’re better now, Jim – looking forward to seeing you another time.
On the 9th, Dad thought he’d stay at the Boat Haven while I went back to the show to meet all the Bolgerphiles at 10 am. We had a good turnout, and after talking for a while we all went to the coffee shop and talked some more. Thanks to Alan for the cinnamon buns! After that the group split up to see the exhibits. Alan and I tried to hear Carol Hasse on sailmaking, but were at the back of a large crowd, so crept out after a short time. Alan wanted to see some more boats, but I’d seen them all the day before, so I thought I’d go back to the Boat Haven for a while. I mentioned this to James McMullen, who’d said he wanted a look at Wayward Lass, and he wangled a ride down there in Ginger, a beautiful electric cruiser created by her owner, whose name I can’t quite remember – I think it was Dan, but the last name is gone.
When we arrived, we stepped into a regular Bolger seminar. Between Ginger and Wayward Lass we had our own mini boat show. More talk, then things thinned out a bit and that was the end of the Festival for us. Dinner that night was Dad and I, with Bill Samson and Alan Woodbury – more fish and chips. Bill went off with Alan to sleep at his place, and Dad and I hit the cuddy again.
Next morning we were up before dawn to get an early start. Alan brought Bill down at 5:30 (did I mention Bill was to sail back to Victoria with us?) in a fairly heavy rain. Luckily it stopped again, and we got away at 6:15, motoring between all the boats anchored off the shore. The early start was partly to take advantage of lighter winds in the morning (expected to be on our nose again) and partly to let me try out my tiny navigation lights (they worked just fine.)
We got a considerable boost from the ebb flowing past Point Wilson, the GPS reported 7 knots over the ground, or about 2 ½ knots of tide. This stayed with us for quite a distance into the strait.
After an hour or so, we put up the sails. We couldn’t hold our course to Victoria, but the wind was great and we had a good sail, enough for everyone to take the tiller for a spell. But the wind strengthened to the point where I thought we’d try a reef, and there I had a problem. The sails are only lashed on, without proper provision for tying in reefs. My lashing didn’t give the foot enough tension, and I haven’t got reef points in the sail, only the cringles at luff and leech. I was told by a professional sailmaker that points were not necessary in a sail this size, but he must have been thinking of a sail with a really efficient outhaul for the leech cringle. The sail was like a big bag with the reef – no way would it sail properly close hauled, so it came down and we went back to motoring.
We could see the southern San Juan Islands, and had a lively discussion about what was where. We also saw a buoy in mid-strait, which triggered more discussion. (It was fairly poor visibility again) Based on the buoy, we felt we were just a bit north of our course, probably due to having to point north of it to use the sails. The GPS batteries had died on us, and I couldn’t find the spares (they weren’t on board) but it revived enough to confirm our position, which was nice. Just as well we weren’t relying on it, though.
Shortly after, visibility improved and Victoria appeared. Since it had been foggy going as well, we had no idea just when to expect to see it, and couldn’t believe at first that it was there already. However, when it took another 3 hours to actually reach it, we believed. We went into Victoria Harbour to clear Customs (by phone) and announce Bill’s arrival in Canada. Canada Customs were just as easy to deal with as their US counterparts, although they only gave us one number. A last short trip back to our launch ramp, and that was that. The return took only 6 ½ hours.
Wayward Lass behaved excellently. I am pleased as anything with her performance over the Strait. She handled the wind and waves with complete aplomb – the motion was smoother under sail, but even motoring I thought she did very well. Being as light as it is, the hull leaps around a bit, but always felt stable and safe, and wasn’t stopped by the 3 foot waves on the way home. Performance at the dock was equally good, although without a tarp it might be another story with more than one aboard. The motor is a 5 horse Honda short shaft with a 3 gallon remote tank – this combination is heavy, and I thought the stern was down a bit when the engine was running. When sailing, though, it wasn’t as low, so maybe I can adjust the motor angle and improve things. We didn’t know how much fuel we’d burn, so carried an extra 6 gallons. We found that we used under 2 gallons each way (imperial gallons – it was just about 2 US gallons.) The sail set quite well, as mentioned, but I’ve got to fiddle with the attachment to the spars. I’ve also got to put in those reef points.
We carried all the prescribed equipment, plus the GPS and VHF. I think I’ll buy my own Garmin GPS next year, for the extra security it gives. Even not knowing how to use all its features, we found it helpful – the most important information, your position, comes up on its own – all you do is turn it on.
The Bolgerphiles that I met in Port Townsend were Chuck Merrell, Bill Samson, Alan Woodbury, John Kohnen, Larry Barker, Jim Chamberlain, Gary Foxall, Craig O’ Donnell, Randy Wheating, Jerome MacIlvanie and James McMullen. Apologies to any missed or misspelled. I had a great weekend and plan to do it all again next year. (If I can swing it, I may go back in November for a sailmaking/repair seminar at Carol Hasse’s loft.)

I’d like to add my own thanks to Jamie for his kind invitation to accompany him and Les back to Victoria, and also to Alan Woodbury for his hospitality.


Some of the Bolgerphiles at Port Townsend – It was great to meet you all!

Hollow spars

Fraser Howell recently built a hollow (birds mouth) mast for his Chebacco “Itchy and Scratchy”. One day while he was out sailing, the mast failed just above the partners! He sent me this pic of the mast:


He reports that it seemed to flatten slightly, just before it broke. He says there were no solid parts inside the mast – so that the halyards could run inside. Maybe they might have prevented it? Anybody else out there using a hollow mast of this type? We’d love to hear from you. On the subject of masts, Gil Fitzhugh is building a birds-mouth-type hollow mast for his Chebacco. When I mentioned to him that Fraser had met with this trouble, he suggests:

The objectives are 1. Strengthen the mast in way of the pressure point generated by the mast partners; 2. don’t create a hard spot somewhere else that will break; 3. salvage the birdsmouth strips I made at vast cost in time and money; 4. don’t add more weight than necessary; 5. given that building this boat has pushed me to the brink of certifiable insanity, don’t come up with a solution so complex that it pushes me over the edge. Here’s what I’ve done.


Image42If I could add a strip of shaded cross-section to each birds mouth strip before I roll the whole shebang up into an octagon, I’d have a much thicker cross section. There’d still be a hole in the middle for halyards, wires for a masthead light or whatever.

So I made 8 strips that look like this:

Image43I basically made them on the bandsaw . A table saw would have worked, but not as easily I think. Hand tools would have worked, but would have violated Objective 5 above. The width of the strip at the top isn’t critical, but depends on the thickness of the stock from which you cut the strips. If the stock is so thick that the top becomes a razor edge, you no longer have a hollow mast at that point.

Cutting order: 1. Make strips 2 feet long by a wide by however thick the wood is.

2. Make the diagonal cuts, but don’t go all the way through. The still-attached tails are good guides, clamping surfaces etc.

  1. Bevel both sides.

Glue the strips in place. Then cut away the shaded areas in the above drawing and clean up the Image44

surface with a few swipes of a hand plane. When gluing, clean up as much squeezeout as possible. these are mating surfaces, and what you neglect to clean up sooner will be a bitch to clean up later.

All this assumes that you cut your birdsmouths with rocket-science precision. I didn’t. Some of mine are a tad thicker on one side than the other. If you use this idea to create eight auxiliary thickening strips all exactly the same, your mast won’t work. (Guess how I learned this fundamental truth?) Not to worry. Label (number) your birdsmouth strips, so you predetermine which one is going to mate with which. Then determine the width of each auxiliary strip so it will fit properly. Sounds hairy. Isn’t. I did the whole thing in a couple of hours and made my auxiliary strips in a couple more. After everything’s glued up and the excess epoxy cut away, you test fit each pair of strips before the final glue-up. If it’s tight, whack it with a chisel or rabbet plane a couple of times. It really will work.

When the mast is done and rounded I’ll do two special wraps with glass cloth, in opposite directions, in way of the partners. My son, the engineer, tells me this will add strength.

We won’t know whether this works until we’re out in a howling gale and the mast doesn’t break. I prefer to avoid the howling gale.

Speaking of howling gales . . .

Phil Bolger was interested in my report in Chebacco News #30 about being caught out in a blow. He suggests:

Next time you’re caught out in a breeze (not necessarily that strong!) it’d be interesting to see what she will do under mizzen alone. I haven’t tried this in a Chebacco, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she could make good at least a beam reach, under good control.

I haven’t had a chance to try this out, yet, and Sylvester is now tucked up in my drive for the winter. Nevertheless, I’ll try it out next season, and would be interested to hear how any of the rest of you fare under similar circumstances.

And finally

Many thanks to those of you who wrote to me and sent photos. No more room this time. Maybe next . . .?

Bill Samson can be contacted on :

Chebacco News is at

Snail mail to Bill Samson, 88 Grove Road, Broughty Ferry, Dundee DD5 1LB, Scotland.

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