Thursday, February 27, 2014

About that budget thang...

I see that the $500 a month cruising budget is still an ongoing talking point and well should it be...

Personally, I'm a big fan of the idea of having a budget and, in a world needful of some serious contraction, smaller real world budgets just make sense. But, the act of saying you're on a budget these days is something of a political and social faux pas and, apparently, some people feel threatened by folks living in a sustainable manner and tend to lash out. Something you might want to keep in mind.

Which brings us to a small conundrum...

The ability to get by in comfort on a smallish budget has a lot to do with information and if you can't easily talk about something like civilized grown-ups what do you do?

It used to be that in such publications as the SSCA newsletter people were very upfront about what things cost so you could get a pretty good idea how much a particular cruising area would actually cost when you get there. Now everyone uses non-terms like "affordable" and "reasonable" which don't actually give you any idea what something actually costs... Face it, what's affordable or reasonable to a person with a 1.5 million dollar boat and a trust fund might not be affordable at all to someone on a Westsail living on his/her retirement checks.

Forums are worse than useless as the information tends to be suspect in general. Plus, there's the whole one-upmanship thing to contend with, combined with the House (everybody lies) truism as well.

So, what's a poor boy supposed to do?

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

On why you might want a non-classic...

I like cheap boats...

Truth is, if I see two boats for sale, one a beat up old CAL or some such and a pristine Swan or Hallberg Rassy, I go right to the beater.

I suspect the reason behind it is the cheap fixer-upper gives me a sense of freedom...

My dad used to restore classic cars and the process of restoring a car to showroom condition is so full of constraints, rules, and general anal-retention to the max. Not what I'd call fun at all.

Me, I'm more of a chop and lower kind of guy...

That said, I know there are some boats you restore and other boats you can be as creative as the need calls for.

Which is one reason I like our CAL 34. It escaped being a "classic" and as such I can tear it apart and rebuild it to my heart's content till the cows come home. Of course, with the CAL 40, a stone cold classic I adore, I'd feel obliged to do everything in my power to keep it exactly the way Bill Lapworth envisioned it, right down to the late sixties decor and inspired use of Formica...



Friday, February 21, 2014

Well, you might get lucky...

I recently read an article on a blog about a pretty interesting inflatable with a sailing rig not too unlike the old Tinker Tramp in concept...


... but without the life raft elements. It caught my interest until I noticed that the article in question was of the sponsored sort and I realized that said boat would cost nearly $4000 or more (if you get a motor) by the time you got it to your boat.

Obviously way out of the price range of the average VolksCruiser budget...

Fact is most all good inflatables are too expensive and, as they need motors, they're never going to be first choice for a lot of us unless you find a good deal so DIY dinghies are pretty much the way to go.

That said, I still keep my  eye out for a Tinker Tramp bargain whenever I'm at a marine flea market...



Wednesday, February 19, 2014

like a ray of light on an overcast day...

I like multihulls...

The problem is in the cheap seats. There is very little available or suited to a person on a small budget. Multihulls are mostly impractical for the cruiser on a budget and, as no one seems to want to design for what would be a reasonably large niche, it does not look to getting any better anytime soon...

So, for the most part, cruisers on a budget are left with old used Pivers, Brown/Marples, and Wharrams which are not exactly cheap either.

But, here's a ray of light... Michael Schacht is working on a design of the volkscruiser sort instead of the usual bareboat fodder that is what most multihull design has become these days.



Not surprisingly it's a proa... and, be still my foolish heart, it has a balanced lug rig!

For a lot more information on a multihull cruiser that makes a lot of sense for budget-constrained folk, you can find it over at the ProaFile.

I'm pretty sure we'll be seeing a lot more from Michael on VolksCruiser in the near future...

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Another boat to keep an eye out for...

There's a Columbia 26 for sale locally and I row past it just about every other day...

The seller is currently asking too much, it's beat up, and will take (maybe) too much work to make it an economic project at its current asking price. That said, it's still one of the great small cruising boats anyone has ever produced.


Like a lot of great boats built for those on a budget, it never quite got the respect that more expensive or better hyped designs received.

For those on a budget that's no bad thing as it means if you happen to find one its more than likely a bargain. So, you might want to keep an eye out...

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

a different headspace...

Just about everything we do on boats is pretty simple so, every once in awhile, I find myself marveling at how difficult people make it or think it all is. It truly does boggle the mind...

It's not like the information is not readily available either. Most everything you need is either on the web or any number of readily available books so that's hardly an excuse.

Take splicing for instance. A rather simple skill that everyone should have in their back pocket. If you don't know how to splice all you need to do is pick up a copy of Brion Toss's "The Complete Rigger's Apprentice" and you'll never again have to pay some guy $25 for ten minutes' work to put an eye in a halyard or a dockline. Better yet, reading the book will also give you the knowledge to troubleshoot and fix your rig and its associated systems when needful... Such a deal!

That said, it's not just about saving money it's really about empowerment and the confidence you need to make this whole cruising gig work. None of it's rocket science (though working on cantankerous outboards may seem like it at times) and being up-close-and-personal with all of your systems is a very satisfying place to be.



 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Where's Spock when you need him...

Logic is a funny thing...

Especially when it's connected with boats. For instance, a friend recently wrote about changing a gaff cat rigged boat into a junk schooner. His reasons for such a conversion were listed as the single sail was too big to be easily handled, possibly better balance of the schooner rig, and the ease of reefing the junk sails.

I sorta/kinda agree... It's logical in fact.

The problem is, it's logical in a sorta/kinda way.

Take the smaller sized sails of the schooner rig in place of the big gaff rig sail. If you were replacing it with a reasonable facsimile schooner rig it would work in your favor. However, if you were replacing it with two smaller junk sails you'd more than likely find yourself with two sails that each weigh as much or more as the bigger gaff cat sail. The big single sail would make it easier to handle and weigh less than two smaller sails. Me, being cheap and all, I tend to focus on the fact that you'll also wind up more than doubling the cost of your rig...

Which is not to say I don't really like the junk rig or think it makes all kinds of sense. It is a great rig. The problem comes in when you don't think a rig through to it's logical conclusion. Keep in mind that anything you do in terms of boat design/redesign is always going to be a compromise and have a downside somewhere in the mix. Most people's boat logic tend to exclude the compromise and downside part and include a lot of rose colored views.

Another issue is that the schooner rig is going to play havoc with the boats interior, result in some expensive modifications, and actually add to the boats complexity and make it more difficult to balance rather than easier... sadly without a gain in performance for your trouble and expense.

So, we're kind of left with the "junk rig is easier to reef" advantage but there are any number of ways to make the single big gaff easier to reef or alternative rigs that would cost less and work better in the situation...

So, what would logic dictate?

Anyone who knows me knows I really like the junk rig, though I do admit to thinking that the western balanced lug rig is way better on nearly every point (but, that's a conversation we can have later) and I think it makes all kinds of sense especially when you're starting with a boat that is a new build or requires a rig to be replaced.

Which sorta/kinda brings us around to the fifth rule of VolksCruisng...

                                          Don't fix it if it ain't broke.

Friday, February 7, 2014

How, apparently, I'm not alone in my feeling towards RIBs...

I recently was looking at dinghy designs and this designers blurb caught my eye because he called his boat the anti-RIB.

I like this guy!

The boat in question is called "OONAGH" and here's something from the study plans...
"In traditional boating circles, it is a long cherished tradition to rail against inflatables, and there are some good reasons.  Because rowing them to good effect is not possible, inflatables almost invariably wind up with an outboard on the transom.  Outboards produce several varieties of pollution – sound, air, water – and have a tendency to foster questionable skylarking by bored youngsters.   And recently, mankind has discovered that burning petroleum might just have another big drawback as well.

"The new generation of rigid bottom inflatables, or RIBs have some additional vices. They abandon what used to be the most powerful argument for inflatables – that they can be deflated and stored aboard for longer passages.  They feature deepish vee bottoms, which make rowing even more impossible, and only really show any advantage with the application of lots of petroleum.  When you try to use that horsepower, a RIB will first plow itself into a deep trough, then jump up onto a plane with unnerving rapidity – they have no sweet spot between the two.

"My hunch is that the rush to RIBs is driven by the fact that we baby boomers (the flower children who were going to bring us to the age of Aquarius, remember?) are losing our balance, muscle mass, joint mobility (and a bunch of other functions too embarrassing to mention), and are happy to have a dinghy that is as stable as a church, can be driven like a bumper car, and gives us an airtight excuse for not rowing.  Come on Flower Children, let's take back the high road!

"Inflatable boats have some undeniable advantages.  First and probably foremost is their tremendous stability.  They also have wonderful built in fendering – no worries about coming alongside your perfect topsides when things are a little lumpy.  And when you get alongside, you can stand up on the inflated pontoons to get a boost for climbing aboard the mother ship.  OONAGH is my attempt to combine some of the best qualities of inflatables with the advantages of a traditional dinghy, and put it into a package that is a little less hostile to the planet."
The guy makes a lot of sense...


... and he draws a pretty boat as well.


Albeit the "OONAGH" is going to be too big/heavy for a VolksCruiser-size boat you might want to keep an eye on Mr Hylans work for a smaller or lighter version to show up. Or, you could just buy the plans and adapt them to a lighter stitch and glue, two-part dinghy... Stranger things have been known to happen.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

about the whole sailing thing...

Over at Simply Sailing Online there's a post that makes a lot of sense... You really should read it if you have not already.

I mention it because there are a lot of people who think that having stuff is what makes them safe. As opposed to something, shall we say, as mundane of being a competent sailor and having the sort of skill set that will, if needful, get you out of trouble when things go FUBAR.

Folks of the greater VolksCruiser persuasion have the advantage over our fellow sailors with deeper pockets because we're forced by budget constraints to be better sailors and do such unfashionable things as sailing to windward. It does not take a rocket scientist to realize that the more you sail the better you get...

The really cool thing about learning to sail better is it hardly costs anything and its fun. Sure, it's not considered hip in some quarters these days of folks-who-need-to-turn-on-their-motor-to-tack but it does have it's own simple satisfaction of being content in your skills set.

That's a great place to be.




Monday, February 3, 2014

On taking stuff for granted...

I take stuff for granted and, I suspect, so do you. Which can be problematic if you happen to live in interesting times...

For instance, just a few years back the simple act of hauling your boat for a week or so to do some work and bottom paint was simple. All you had to do was go to the local yard, pay the guy some money, and you could sand, fair, and paint to your hearts content while living aboard during the process. It might have cost more than you cared to spend but it was a non-problematic process.

Not so much anymore...

The yard we used to use no longer allows you to do any work on your own boat below the waterline so you have to hire the yard to sand, paint, do fiberglass, any mechanics involving the prop, shaft, or rudder. Obviously it's a yard we no longer use.

The local yard near me at the moment, will allow you to work on your boat without restrictions but they won't let you live on the boat while you're doing it. They require that any materials used (from sandpaper to bottom paint) be bought from their store at highly inflated prices so it's not an option either...

That's just two examples but as time goes on there are more and more yards and marinas who, in the quest for maximizing profits, are making life harder and harder for those cruising on a budget.

So, you can no longer take for granted that wherever you go you can simply work on your boat without having to jump through some serious hoopage.

Just something to keep in mind which brings us to the fourth rule of VolksCruising...
                                Never take anything for granted.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

So, what's the perfect VolksCruiser?

The most asked question to this blog is...
What's the perfect/best VolksCruiser?
So, here's the answer... It doesn't exist and it never will.

Sadly, words like "perfect" and "best" are more a selling point rather than a real thing and if you're going to be doing the VolksCruiser thing successfully, you'll have to lose the boat show hyperbole and buzzwords and replace them with a whole new set like...
Functional, efficient, durable, sustainable, repairable, hackable, affordable, useful, simple...
Obviously a different mindset and an alternative way of thinking about a sailboat these days.

The fact is that the designs and build of most production boats are actually pretty good or, at least, most problems are known and can be easily fixed. A Hunter will take you to the same places safely as a Westsail, Bristol Channel Cutter, Swan, or Beneteau. Sure Hunters have some issues, but so do Westsails, Bristol Channel Cutters, Swans, or Beneteaus.

All boats have issues, it's a given.

Of course, the advantage of older (spelled cheaper) boats is that all of those issues are known and, if they haven't been dealt with already, you can easily fix them and the knowledge on how to do it is easily sourced. Not so much with new boats because new boats have the added disadvantage of having issues that are also S-U-R-P-R-I-S-E-S. Just ask the crew of "Be Good Too" (a $395K+ Alpha 42) how much fun surprises can be when sailing further from shore than they can comfortably swim. Kinda makes that old flexihull Hunter sound kind of nice...