Thursday, December 20, 2018

Maybe the best VolksCruising channel on the web...

Sailorama is a great YouTube channel of the unapologetic cruising on a budget ilk and if you're leaning towards doing the VolkCruiser Fandango you should really be following them.


For example...


Lots of good stuff and content with the added advantage of a definite lack of the "Look at me we're wonderful and oh so cute" vibe.

Ya think?

Monday, December 10, 2018

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Small boats, small problems and just do it...

Of late I've been hearing the old Pardey mantra of “Go small, go simple, go now” a lot recently and, surprisingly, in a somewhat contentious manner.

That such a simple bit of reasoning can become contentious I find just a bit bothersome...

So, let's break it down.

Go small

Sure, I get the fact that most folks when day dreaming about sailing off into the sunset tend to look at things through rose-colored glasses so see themselves in a sizable "yacht" with all mod cons, mucho bling to impress the neighbors, and an (apparently) unlimited source of income. Why not... daydreams are never about reality but all about wishes. My daydream boat of choice is a seventy-foot sharpie schooner in a world without tRump, where there is universal health care for all, wars do not exist, and I'm a better guitar player than Eric Clapton. Need I say more?

A good small boat, which these days is anything below forty-feet, is less expensive than a good big boat and the smaller the boat the less expensive it gets. Just simple math. 

Some more simple math is that a good smaller boat is going to be less expensive to maintain and run than a good bigger boat.

Of course, cost is not the most important factor albeit the most talked about and the really important thing is seaworthiness. Small boats get a pretty bad rap on the seaworthiness subject though, in my opinion, a completely undeserved one. A good small boat is as safe or safer than a good big boat. Anyone touting the advantages of big vs small on the safety front needs to rethink their old physics notes from college. Bigger does not equate with stronger or safer as a general rule.

One more thing on the whole small/big thing...

Most everyone talking about boat size is using the wrong yardstick and displacement makes a lot more sense when comparing boats. For instance, L&L's Seraffyn at 24' 7" displaces five tons which is just a kiss more than our CAL 34.

Lastly, it's important to keep in mind that a smaller boat is going to be easier to sail and able to sail or anchor in places larger boats may have issues.

Go simple

There is a lot to be said for simple systems but the important points from where I sit is that simple systems are inherently safer and more trouble free than complicated systems and when (not if) something needs fixing they are easier and less expensive to fix. The bottom line is more complication equals more possible points of failure

Go now

Apparently there are any number of ways one can translate "go now" but I really doubt that L&L intended it to mean for folks to sail off unprepared into the sunset in unseaworthy boats but rather that life is short and if you want to do something it makes all kinds of sense to learn to sail and get to doing it ASAP in a boat that won't kill you.

Over the years I've come to the conclusion that procrastination and waiting for everything to be perfect are the two greatest killers of dreams (followed closely by listening to what "everyone says") known to man. So the whole "go now" vibe just might be the most important part of the equation.

The thing is, I've never been a "fan" of L&L and my opinion is that they're just like everybody else in that they get stuff right some of the time, get stuff wrong some of the time, and just like all of us are clueless more than they'd care to admit. That said, they are right more than they're wrong in most things relating to boats and it's important to keep in mind they were way ahead of the curve in terms of making cruising both a lifestyle and a means of making a living doing it.

Which is why I tend to recommend their books with the proviso that one needs to keep in mind that there is not one true path and that's a goodly thing so always apply a certain level skepticism and common sense whatever the source.

Friday, July 20, 2018

On the subject of how most people think about cruising...

Over at one of my favorite blogs there's an excellent post on the cost of living aboard and cruising that everyone should take the time to read and digest.

Especially if you're considering the whole VolksCruiser thing.

More on the subject and my thoughts in the not-too-distant future.

You're still here?

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Sure you can...

The other day someone told me it was impossible to cruise comfortably on a boat less than 30 feet or less. Well, all I can say is, I'm sure it might be impossible for him but not for me.

For instance, we lived and cruised full time on our first Loose Moose 25'6" with a 7'6" beam) for four years in Europe...

As it happens the Jessie Cooper design by Phil Bolger still falls into the favorite boat I've owned slot for a variety of reasons.

But, yeah you can live and cruise on a 26-foot boat without giving up comfort or safety as long as you're sensible.

So, it is doable.

Here's another design I wouldn't mind cruising in the same size bracket the L' ETROIT MOUSQUETAIRE by Gilles Montaubin which packs an incredible amount of comfortable living and storage space into a 25' 11" X 8' 4" Envelope.


I won't even begin to get into the large number of classic plastic production boats except to say there is a plethora of excellent boats in the sub 30-foot range going for stupidly cheap prices.

Just saying.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Everything most folks need in a 26-foot package...

I've always liked the Ecume de Mer...

It's a lot of boat in a 26-foot envelope.

Don't believe me? Check it out.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

in the "relative cost of burgers" department...

The other day someone pointed me to a couple of Craig's List self-steering gears to illustrate the argument that it was impossible to sort out a cruising boat on a frugal budget.

One of the gears was a Hydrovane for $4K and the other was a Monitor for  $3.8K... Which, I suppose, means that if you find two expensive wind vanes that proves all vanes are expensive?

So, I got on Craig's List and spent ten minutes searching and found an Aires for $450, a Navik for $895, and an ATOMS for a kiss under $600. All of the gears appeared to be in very good to excellent condition. Such good condition in the case of the apparently pristine ATOMS that I was very tempted to call the owner and ask how much he would charge to ship it down the Caribbean because the ATOMS is a truly great windvane and, in my opinion, much better design than either the Hydrovane or Monitor.

Still, as it only costs me about $300 all up to build a vane it would not exactly be the frugal thing to do...

Think of it all like a hamburger. You could go to some super hip bespoke cafe and spend a hundred bucks on a burger, then again you could to someplace that makes great burgers for $12, and, lest we forget, you  can always buy the fixings for a super burger to grill at home for a whole lot less.

The fact is you can almost always make do with something up to the required task on a given budget if you just bother to do your homework and apply the need/want/utility test.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Hazy details...

A very long time ago PBO had a short article on building a hatch for a sailboat based on the Maurice Griffiths double coaming design. It was good albeit sparse on details but included all of the information one actually needed to build the hatch. I cut this picture out of the magazine and added it to my files...

The next month in the letters section of PBO I was surprised that there was a negative review of the article as being worthless since it did not include dimensions and a few other details that were, apparently, outside the ability of the reviewer to figure out.

Over the years I've come across a surprising number of folks building and repairing boats that seem to exhibit a pronounced lack of , for want of a better word, imagination. Then again, some might just call it laziness.

For me the above drawing of the hatch construction is really all one needs. It shows how it goes together and I don't have any issues with the fact that it does not tell me what glue to use, the type of hinges needed, or the thickness and type of wood used.

The fact of the matter is most details for the hatch are going to depend on the size of your boat, the size of the hatch, and what sort of materials you have available. Telling you that the hatch should be built of 7/8" stock is just going to cause you all sorts of problems if you don't have 7/8" stock available and, I suspect, that your local lumber yard will only have 3/4" stock anyway.

Of course, you could do what a guy I know did and order some teak from a shop a couple of thousand miles away, have it milled to a precise dimension of your choosing, and then shipped at ludicrous expense to where you are which will result in very nice but way-too-expensive hatches for the likes of us of a VolksCruiserish nature.

Sure details count but you really only need two things for a successful boat project and that's the general concept of how it goes together and, most importantly, the fact that the concept of the project actually works.

In the case of the Griffiths hatch it goes together like the drawing and thousands of hatches to this general design have been built and they work...

All you need to know.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Sunday, May 20, 2018

$2.99 you need to spend...

A couple of days ago I saw there was a book on Kindle that looked like it might be interesting...

This one in fact.

At $2.99 it was something of a no-brainer so I downloaded a copy to my Kindle and read it in a couple of hours.

It's an easy enjoyable read and contains a lot of information that flies in the face of what a lot of people say. Stuff, as it happens, that actually needs to be said.

Whether you want to flip boats or not is unimportant as the real meat of the issue is simply how to approach boat work and get the boat up-and-sailing in a timely, affordable, and seaworthy manner.

In short a whole lotta good advice for just under $3.

That said, surveyors and boat brokers will really hate the book. Of course, from where I sit that's just the cherry on top.

Do I really have to say more?

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Doing the VolksCruiser two-step...

I'm currently in the midst of a variety of projects which, if I were not a cheapseats VolksCruiserish sort of fellow, would cost an arm and a leg to sort out...

One project is pretty simple: replacing the hand rails on the coach roof to make space for our new nesting dinghy. The old ones are somewhat past their sell-by date. Off-the-shelf teak replacements would cost on the order of $50 a pop and of somewhat diminished scantlings that hardly inspire confidence, had me looking at stainless steel hand rails which were silly expensive.

Going to the local lumber yard I bought enough clear pressure-treated yellow pine 1" x 3" stock to build new hand rails for $10 and change. Add in some epoxy (maybe $5 worth at the price/volume level I'm in) and a couple of hours or so of sweat equity and I've got a new set of robust hand rails that will do the job far better than anything available retail for around $7.50 a pop.

So yeah, hand rails are just one item on the list of boat things one tends to throw money at but it is a pretty good example of the process of not spending more than needful on boat stuff otherwise known as the VolksCruiser two-step. Let's go back and look at the details...

First, we do a Need/Want. Do I really need to replace the hand rails?

Yes, they were always too light duty for the job and years of being in the tropics have taken their toll. They were teak which is a not very good wood for hand rails as it is neither as rot resistant as believed to be nor very strong.

Second, we do some research to see what's available as a replacement and costs only to find what's available is either too expensive, too light duty, or both for the intended purpose (namely keeping aboard the boat when all hell breaks loose). So, going the DIY route is actually the only thing that makes sense.

Building hand rails is as simple a project as you can find. My method of choice is to laminate two pieces of pre-cut one by stock together, clean up and round over the resulting hand rails with a router, and then lay on three coats of epoxy to prepare them for painting. Dead simple and fast.

Now I'm sure I'll get some questions about the pressure treated pine (often referred to as "Miami Teak") so to answer those questions I'll just say pressure-treated pine is much more resistant to rot than teak in general. It's stronger and coated with epoxy, it is even more rot resistant and strong. On the fact that we're painting the hand rails, it's because the paint will protect the epoxy coating from UV and exterior varnishing is more something you'd find on a "Y-A-C-H-T" and is the antithesis to the VolksCruiserish thought process.

Yeah, right... rules.

Rule #1: Don't replace it if you don't need to.

Rule #2: Don't replace it if you can fix it.

Rule #3: If you have to fix something or replace it, DIY it whenever possible but do your research first so you know what you're doing.

Rule #4: Keep in mind that a lot of common knowledge (teak being a good example) is just plain wrong. Do your own due diligence and be wary of your sources.

Yep, simplistic as all get out but, if you mostly follow those suggestions, you'll save a very large chunk of money and improve your boat in the process. More importantly it gets you out of the "Just throw money at it" mindset.

The fact of the matter is that the process is not so much to save money as it is about doing the right thing for your boat. Providing we've done our research correctly, we're actually saving a lot of money as a bonus.

Friday, May 11, 2018

What everyone seems to do...

Have you noticed how many YouTube channels there are about people downsizing, buying a boat, fixing it up, and sailing off into the paradise of Patreon fueled bliss?

If not, you really should check them out because they are very educational for the most part.

One of the things you'll notice is there seem to be certain rites of passage that everyone goes through and rules of sorts that, like it or not, apply to the whole "Buying a boat, fixing it up, and sailing off into the sunset" gig...

Rule #1

Whatever boat you buy or how much you spend will require lots of work and money to fix up.

Rule #2

Everyone underestimates the amount of work and money needed.

Rule #3

Nothing involved in the process is rocket science and can be accomplished by just about anyone.

Rule #4

Everyone makes mistakes (though some make more than others).

Rule #5

Most people on boat projects don't do enough research/homework of the right sort.

Sure, I know, rules are never concrete things in this life but they do exist even if it's just to give us a hint of what may lie in store for us. Forewarned is forearmed so to speak. 

That said, rules often send the wrong message as the big picture does not always reflect a specific projects specific details. Especially if you're embarking on a VolksCruiserish project.

Yeah, VolksCruiserish rules are going to be a little bit different.

More about that on Sunday.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Not for everyone...

In the last couple of weeks I've noticed a lot of hurricane related boats and gear coming on to the market down here and like Rod Stewart reminded us way back when...

In the case of the Westsail pictured it's beat up, forlorn, and a whole lot of work to make it right but there's life in the old girl yet. That said, it is not the sort of project that is suitable for most folk and for most folk it would be the project from hell.

Of course, most folks don't read VolksCruiser or, for that matter, have a clue.

As for my take on such a project it's doable for a lot less time and money than you might expect. Though, admittedly, just the sort of enterprise that would test one's mettle, sanity, and perseverance.

Like I said, not for everyone...

But, just maybe, a good discussion point.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

in the "Take a bit of care" department...


This week I read of two separate incidents where someone was killed in a boatyard while working on a boat. Not actually a rare occurrence as it happens.

Think about that for a moment.

Sadly, boatyards (especially DIY yards) are notorious for being unsafe as they are a mix of toxic materials, dangerous conditions, unsafe working practices, and too many people working without a clue to possible outcomes of their actions.

Over the years I've been in boatyards where people have been poisoned, had masts fall on them, been electrocuted, had a boat fall on them, sawed off various body appendages, fallen off masts, been blinded, screwed or nailed a hand to a bulkhead/hull, impaled by flying pieces of metal/wood, been concussed, caught on fire, and gotten into fights that left them in intensive care. In too many of those accidents the people wound up dead.

Which is something you really might want to factor in if you're contemplating building or fixing up a boat/VolksCruiser. There's generally a safe and sane way to accomplish your goals and the alternative may just ruin your day or, possibly, the rest of your life.

Just saying...

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Regarding the word "CHEAP"...

Just this morning a reader of VolksCruiser wrote to tell me the problem with cheap boats is that they are more expensive in the long run and that,  just maybe, I should focus on boats of a higher quality more expensive caliber. Because, you know, you get what you pay for.

Oops, I just threw up in my mouth a bit.

First, lets look at what Merriam-Webster has to say in regard to the word "cheap"...

Definition of Cheap

a: charging or obtainable at a low price (a good cheap hotel - cheap tickets)
b: purchasable below the going price or the real value
c: depreciated in value (as by currency inflation)

a: of inferior quality or worth (tawdry, sleazy, cheap workmanship)
b: stingy (example: My uncle was too cheap to pay for dinner.)
c: contemptible because of lack of any fine, lofty, or redeeming qualities (feeling cheap: I felt cheap, full of shame and guilt)

gained or done with little effort (a cheap victory - talk is cheap)

of money (obtainable at a low rate of interest)

Like a lot of words "cheap" seems to have a variety of meanings attached to it but for me the primary meaning where boats are concerned I use cheap as being charging or obtainable at a low price.

Also in this mornings mailbag there was a friend pointing me to another CAL 34 for sale in San Francisco at what appears to be a very nice price of $12.5K.

I'll go on record and remind everyone that I think the CAL 34 is an excellent design which were built to a fairly high standard but not without their problematic issues. The fact that there are lots of fifty-year old CAL 34s still floating right side up and sailing speaks volumes in their favor.

Of course, it's pretty easy to say a 34-foot sailboat for $12.5K is cheap because it is and that's a goodly thing.

Right now, in my neck of the woods, there are a lot of "Hurricane" boats popping up for sale on a regular basis all of which proclaim to be cheap. Boats without rigs, boats with holes in them, boats that spent more than a little time underwater. Almost all of which are selling for a big chunk more than the CAL 34 in question and will cost lots of money and time to put right if possible.

So, there's "cheap" and then there's "cheap" which are not the same thing at all...

Choose wisely.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Friday, March 2, 2018

well, of course, there are always going to be some exceptions...

Truth is, I never feel very comfortable with the concept of rules and there's a line from a book I read in high school that has stuck with me even though I no longer remember the name of the book or author who wrote it...

"Rules and regulations are just stop signs on the roads I like to travel"

Words to live by or, at least, an apt line for a t-shirt. Maybe not an exact quote but I'm pretty sure it's close.

One of the reasons I'm attracted to the whole concept of VolksCruiserish mayhem has more than a lot to do with the fact that by its very nature flies in the face of what people say you can't do. Maybe it's just me but nothing whets my interest in doing something like someone telling me it can't be done.

Over on that hive of negativity, idiotic one-upmanship, and consumerist blather, there is a current thread about cheap boats which just makes me want to go out find a funky, free, derelict fixer upper to rehab just to prove it is doable and that the nay-sayers have their heads up their asses.

That said, the fact is that lots and lots of people have spent small fortunes trying to rehab old boats and wound up with nothing to show for it but heartbreak, tears, and an empty bank account. So, though I hate to admit that the nay-sayers have a point, I have to say that some of their arguments are valid.

It's just their conclusions that are wonky.

Which, sorta/kinda, brings us around to my saying the word... RULES.

In my mind I see rules as being somewhat flexible. Yield signs rather than Stop signs if you will. Yield and stop signs are not so much rules but warnings. My last post was/is really about warnings that in rehabbing an old, cheap boat you're on a road that is part and parcel going to take you deep into Robby the Robot territory...

Which is a place you need to consider your options seriously and look both ways before jumping in.

You can do just about anything you want to and, where boats are concerned, I've seen so many impossible projects happen successfully against staggering odds that I never ever say something can't be done.

Of course, I've also seen an equal or greater number of total disasters and failures. Almost always not  because the projects were impossible but simply that there was a general lack of critical thinking and an excess of rose-colored vision in the situational awareness zone.

Just because some folks have been successful is not a reason you will be too...

The fact that others have failed does not mean you will as well...

Every project is going to be unique and it's up to you to sort out your path to making it happen in a positive or negative outcome.

I'll repeat that...

It's up to you.

That's all you need to know.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

a few rules...

Three quick rules that I've found to be true regarding boats and boat restoration/rehabs.
  1. Any money you spend on improving your boat will not add resale value in terms of return down the line when you want to sell it.
  2. All boats have a reality value which seldom conforms to their asking price.
  3. Your personal labor on your boat (aka sweat equity) can increase the value of your boat but only up to but not more than its reality value.
Now, I'll be the first to admit that these rules tend to fly in the face of perceived wisdom but they all are based on simple math of the 1+1=2 sort and in 99% of the time seem to stand up.

More on the subject soonish...

Thursday, February 8, 2018

A little more on that CAL 34...

The initial emails on the last post tended to fall into to two categories. The first being  the "You're an idiot" sort and the second is "It just can't be done because you need to buy lots and lots of stuff!" zone.

For the moment, lets just address the "lots and lots of stuff" argument...

How much stuff do you really need?

The fact of the matter is that most boats for sale these days already have an impressive amount of gear aboard and the CAL 34 example appears to come with everything needful in terms of safety requirements, navigation instruments, and other needful gear. Granted, I'm sure something or other might require replacement or upgrading but there is a big difference of fixing what needs fixing and just going on a consumerist joyride because buying stuff is fun or you need to impress the neighbors.

The thing is we're talking volkscruiser here. What we are not talking about is taking an older classic plastic boat and turning it into a work of art, morphing it into something it is not, or turning folks green with envy. What we're doing is just making a good boat good a bit better and a workable platform for going to sea in an acceptable level of comfort and safety.

So, mostly, we only fix stuff that needs fixing and we only replace stuff when it can't be fixed. Which, from where I sit, seems to make all kinds of sense. It makes sense in terms of budget and it makes sense in the overall scheme of things because we live in a finite world and throwing away perfectly good stuff is all kinds of bad for the planet.

I'll be the first person to admit this is not a path for everyone and I certainly don't believe that for a second everyone should do the volkscruiser thing I'm simply saying it is doable if you want to do it. But... and there is always a but isn't there, if your path to happiness involves buying stuff the whole volkscruiser gig just ain't for you.

Worth thinking about...

Next up a couple of really simple things.

Friday, February 2, 2018

On the comparitive cost of yams...

Going shopping yesterday I could not help but notice that the cost of nearly everything continues to go up...

Onions a couple of months ago I was paying $.39 a pound were $.99 a pound...

Yams which I'm used to paying $0.69 a pound are now $1.79...

Scrag end stewing beef I would never ever even consider at $3.95 a pound is now selling for $6.95...

I think I can detect a trend.

On the other hand, boats still seem to be a whole lot more affordable than they used to be. take this 1969 CAL 34 for instance...

...with an asking price of $7K that works out to about $0.74 a pound.

Sure it is an old used boat but, judging from the photos and description, it appears to be floating right side up and is a very doable project that would take you wherever you care to go.

Of course, being that I own a 1969 CAL 34, I am somewhat partial to Bill Lapworth's excellent design but not unaware of its foibles so have a fairly good idea what would go into fixing it up for long term cruising and the hassle factor and costs involved.

Offhand, I'd expect that at a bare minimum, you'd want to replace the chain plates, rigging, deal with the mast support beam (if it has not already been replaced before), maybe replace the bulkhead associated with the mast, get a new (or newer) sail or two, add a self-steering gear, replace some things that don't work and fix a deck issue or three. You might also want to thrown on a coat of paint and antifoul as well. Which does sound like a lot but only really works out to a couple months of work and maybe $3-5K in outlay. Which adds up to a worst case scenario of $12K and about $1.27 a pound.

Which, I should point out, is a big chunk cheaper than the going rate of yams where I live.

All the fixes and improvements needful to put a CAL 34 back into cruising trim are fairly easy with no overly heavy lifting or rocket science involved. No need to pay people silly money to fix or change things and, as such, would be an accessible project for just about anyone with the right inclination.

More on the costs of fixing up such a beast next...