|Well, it's been a busy month, including a business trip to
Washington State where I was able to take the weekend off and go to the
Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival, meet David LeBlanc and texans Sandra
and Chuck Leinweber of Duckworks Magazine. It was great to catch up with
these people, and I was also very pleased to meet Jamie Orr with his Phil
Bolger design Chebacco boat, who was over from Vancouver Island, British
Columbia. So many stories to swap and only a couple of hours together - ah
well, next time! David is a contact made through the Boat Design Yahoo
group and, now that we know each other, a friend.
Sandra enjoying the show
Chuck, of course, is the editor and owner of Duckworks Magazine, my
plans agent and also I hope, a friend. A few hours together and an awful
lot of emails is not really a good base for really getting to know each
other, but when a passion for small boats is shared, as well as some
business interests, the potential is certainly there. I enjoyed the Boat
Show, and the chowder that the eating house served up at lunchtime.
Seafood Chowder is not common where I come from, but hopefully it will
become more readily available in the future (even if I have to make it
Boat shows we have a lot of: there are four each year within a
couple hours drive of where I live, but they show almost entirely
aluminium and plastic, which doesn't warm my heart at all. At Port
Townsend though, there was some plywood and a fair bit of epoxy, but a
remarkable number of copper rivets and even some trunnels! Solid wood in
both clinker and carvel, a few strip planked boats, converted fishermen
and some not converted still working for a living. Big hairy-chested
diesels and two boats along from what was, judging by the size of the
small ship and the 6inch diameter exhaust, a really big thumper; a 2-hp.
Honda four-stroke (my favourite outboard motor, so quiet and with no
It was for me a show of contrasts: a guy in a recumbent bicycle
powered side paddle wheel amphibious boat weaving through the sidewalk
crowd; a vast wall of black tarry planking with mooring lines as thick as
my wrist coming out through rust streaked fairleads; two delicately
graceful Nordic Folkboats, their lovely shapes accentuated by the sweep of
the clinker planking and their low cabins; the stocky diesel cruisers that
would be thoroughly at home anchored among the fishing fleet waiting out a
spell of bad weather in some far away harbour.
I enjoyed looking over Stephen Ladd's 12-foot long Squeak, I'd read
about him in Duckworks Magazine articles. Three years of voyaging in such
a tiny space seemed impossible until I saw the boat: she's a treasure so
well fitted to her use, and Stephen the same. Intense, focused and yet,
when I stopped and chatted, so relaxed. I've now read the book (thanks
Stephen) and can relate to the adventures. I look forward to reading more
of his writings and wish him well on future adventures .
Chesapeake Light Craft: John Harris' slender designs have always
intrigued me, graceful and elegant yet strong., these boats epitomise the
monocoque taped seam plywood approach that was impossible until the advent
of thermo setting resins (epoxy being the one we know best) and fibreglass
tape. A little ways along the sidewalk, there was a crew busy lashing up
the frame of a kayak that was very close to one of the original Eskimo
(Inuit) types. I am sure that if I got out my copy of Quajak (I think it
is spelled that way but my bookshelf is at home and I am not), I could
identify the type and the geographic location of it's origins. Although
nominally building for the same market slot, these people and Chesapeake
Light Craft are at totally opposite ends of the spectrum: more contrasts!
I talked to Sam Devlin: I've admired his work for a long time,
mulled over his articles on taped seam plywood construction and indeed
have used some of the ideas in my own work. We don't see much of his
design work here in New Zealand and it was a real pleasure to stand
alongside a trio of his cruising powerboats and marvel at just how well
the boats are suited to the Pacific Northwest and the great contrast of
heat and cold that the seasons bring there. I can imagine ploughing along
at eight or nine knots, warm and dry in the wheelhouse, while peering out
past the windscreen wipers looking for the point where I turn in to find
the jetty next to a friend's place.
Particularly nice was a little sailing scow to Sam's Lichen design.
A gaff rigged centre-boarder, just a little less than 20 ft on deck, this
is a really nice cruising yacht! Not conventional, but look at the history
of the working sailing scows in the USA as well as here in Kiwiland, where
they were instrumental in the establishment of industry and farming towns
throughout our north island. Scows had to carry large loads in shallow
waters, then make it down the coast in all weathers - abilities that are
ideal for an inshore cruiser!
There were experimental designs too. One, that I can picture in my
mind and cannot for the life of me recall the name of, was a sailing
sharpie type designed for an inflatable collar along the gunwale just like
the big outboard motor powered RIB's (Rigid Inflatable Boats). She is a
long and narrow centre-boarder intended for ocean voyaging. The concept is
really intriguing and I hope to hear how she gets on.
kayaks and big boats
Thinking over the experience as I sit in my office 7000 miles away
there are flashes, like mental photographs in my mind. I listened to the
chanties being sung in the beer tent, ate a "Naked Canadian" (it was a
hotdog without onions, but I can't see the connection), watched a big
schooner being shepherded out of the tiny harbour on a windy Sunday by a
fleet of busy outboard inflatables. They were pushing and pulling to keep
her straight and away from the moored boats in the confined space, working
together like our sheepdogs do to control her enormous weight and windage.
There were kayaks and rowing boats slipping along easily just off the
beach with the big boats out in the channel providing a backdrop.
There was the view right across to Canada, lunch in the restaurant
with David and sitting at a rustic picnic table attempting to discuss
business with Sandra and Chuck. Being startled by a stranger in the crowd
who addressed me by name, a stranger who turned out to be Jamie Orr.
Marvelling at the sharpness of the hand forged tools on offer at one
stand. I bought one of their small drawknives, it might just be the
sharpest thing I have ever touched wood with and I think it will become a
trusted friend in my workshop. (I've bought an 8000 grit water stone to
maintain that edge with!)
I didn't take enough photos! I loved the place, but wasn't game to try and
beat Brion Toss at the knot tying races; I envied an obvious beginner
trying a sliding seat boat for the very first time - wobbling along and
getting a good stroke in about every third try; I loved the little
woodstoves and their cosy heat (particularly attractive on the Sunday when
the weather tried to convince me that the area's reputation for cloud and
rain was justified!) and could have sat all day watching the people. It
was a long way to go to a boat show, it cost the thick end of a months
salary and two weeks away from the day job. Worth it? You bet!