Sunday, September 26, 2021

Avoiding the bigger/more expensive death spiral...

On, "So It Goes" we have  a 400-amp hour battery bank made up of lead acid golf cart batteries with 350-watts of solar panels being the prime charging input. I should also note that I have two 50-watt panels that I have not included as they currently need repair (so much for lifetime warranties) that I have not got around to fixing yet and the jury is still out on whether or not I can actually fix them.

I mention this because, like most cruising boats, "So It Goes" could use a kiss more power generation and storage. Now, the current group-think mindset where power is concerned is to simply throw out the existing system and replace it with new state-of-the-art components. Which would entail..

  • Throwing out batteries that have at least two years of remaining life.
  • Buying new batteries/charger of the Lithium sort.
  • Buying new solar panels.

Now, I'll be the first person to admit that new batteries and solar panels have some real advantages. for starters, as solar tech continues to improve the size to power ratio, it would enable me to have more charging watts with a smaller footprint which is a big advantage in deploying panels on a 50-year old 34-foot boat. New batteries with a bit more capacity would be no bad thing and, while I'm impressed with the claims of Lithium performance, I can't quite get past the fact that I have to replace every six-months the lithium battery that powers the computer I'm currently typing this on. 

The fact is that replacing the current system would, at best, be a small improvement to the overall system that actually works pretty well. As it stands and as lithium, as a system, is still in flux with several alternative systems waiting in the wings I think waiting a bit since prices seem to be coming down on both solar and batteries are concerned makes some sense.

So, how do we improve the system in the meantime?

More on that soonish...

Friday, September 10, 2021

On that "Just use less" mantra...

Way back when, Jimmy Carter pointed out that it might make sense to turn your thermostat down a few degrees and wear a sweater as a means to save on fossil fuels.

Which, as it happens, was a very simple and elegant answer to a difficult problem of the then current oil shortage.

Just use less.

Of course, Americans as a group wanted nothing to do with such a solution and the political output of the whole "Wear a sweater" was, at best, negative and just the sort of political grist that found Ronald Reagan as the next President of the US of A.

Which has exactly what to do with cruising and VolksCruisers?

Well, for me at least, Jimmy Carter's advice to use less, struck a chord with me and has been one of my favorite mantras where most things are concerned. Which, admittedly, does not fly well in the face of the current consumerist mindset of most folks on boats where the answer to most questions is to go bigger and spend large.

For example, the other day I was reading about a boat's new electrical system which was powerful enough to run a a village. When I costed out the huge solar array, 16K genset and gargantuan bank of lithium batteries, I came up with a sum that I could cruise lavishly on for the next few decades. Now, while I admittedly found the cost to be appalling, my main reaction to the electrical system was that it was over-complicated and had so many potential failure points that could seriously ruin their day/week/year that it was just a power failure waiting to happen.

Apparently, the reason behind the huge electrical upgrade was they'd kept bolting on more and more appliances/systems to the mix. Since they felt the need to expand and since they were adding power they might as well add on some more electron guzzling systems while they were at it which resulted in a death spiral as far as common sense was concerned.

Just maybe, at some point they could have just said to themselves...

"It's a boat so maybe we should simplify things a little and not set it up like a house on the grid. Yeah, maybe we could use a bit less."

Right now, adding a heater to "So It Goes" is currently on my "I really should do this" project list and it's easy to be seduced to the dark side of just throw money at it consumerism. While I'll admit that a central heating system is appealing but, then again, it's expensive as well as requiring an uptick in electrical consumption.Which would require another solar panel (or two) and a bigger battery bank and since we only have a 34-foot boat becomes somewhat problematic in the grand theme of things.

On the other hand, a small used solid fuel heater is fairly cheap as are a couple of sweaters and a I've already got some good sleeping bags for those extra chilly nights. So it would seem that I'll be taking President Carter's advice as it makes the most sense.

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Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Almost ready to get started...

Over the last five years or so I've regularly watched a YouTube channel of a guy who's bought a boat and embarked in a restoration.

On one hand it's been very entertaining as the guy in question makes good shows and does a better than most exposition of how to do stuff. While on the other hand it was interesting as he tended to make a lot of mistakes and was pretty forthright in letting you know about them.

What has been less enjoyable is the ongoing mission creep his restoration has gone through and as his popularity and income have increased the way it's become something of a consumerish cornucopia of installing the best and most expensive stuff he can find.

Which, I'll admit, is just fine where he's concerned and of course he has the right to spend as much money as he can afford doing his boat the way he wants to. But, for me, the problem is that they don't call youtubers "influencers" for nothing and it sends a message that the answer to most all issues where boats are concerned is more stuff more money. 

But, That's not how we roll here.

Since I've mentioned that I'm about to start building another self-steering gear I've received no shortage of emails telling me that folks are looking forward to some in-depth coverage of how I'm doing it. Then again, there's been quite a few folks telling me I'm an idiot because you need to spend over $5K to get a decent self-steering gear and that you get what you pay for and I expect you all know how much the "You get what you pay for" thing really gets up my nose.

I now have almost all of the materials needed for the Self-steering build and it looks like the total out-of-pocket expenses will not exceed $350-dollars. The good news is, at worst, it will be as good as an Auto-helm self-steering gear ($5250) and, more than likely, will work considerably better.

So, more on the self-steering ASAP...

Monday, August 23, 2021

It's almost boat show time...

This is about the time of year I perk up and pay attention to the various and sundry pre-boatshow press releases as there are usually some interesting bits of information on where boat design is going.

Take this new boat from Dufour...

It's the smallest boat in the Dufour line which in itself is interesting but the inflatable transom thingy certainly caught my attention.

Whatever it is it is most certainly a bit out of the box and most certainly bears looking into.

By the way, I'm well aware that a new Dufour, no matter how small, is not going to be a potential VolksCruiser until it's at least ten years older and on the used market. So, why the hell am I interested now?

Mostly mostly it's all about new ideas. Boat shows are full of interesting features and (dare I say it?) cunning plans. Some wind up being pretty useless or dumb but a few are real improvements and a minute number become real game changers.

Offhand, I don't think the inflatable transom thingy is a game changer but it is an out-of-the-box idea that could easily be reverse engineered, DIY'd, and retrofitted to a VolksCruiserish boat. 

Which for me makes boat shows and the press releases leading up to them a wonderful source of ready to be purloined ideas that just might make a big difference in the performance or livability of your old classic plastic design.

Need I say more?

Saturday, August 7, 2021

Why I'm building the B&B self-steering design...

The idea of self-steering is, for all practical purposes, a pretty simple concept and most all self-steering systems reflect that. Or at least the good ones do.

The problem with the idea of home building a self-steering gear, for most people at least, is that they tend to have a certain amount of mechanical parts which tend to be just a little bit fiddly to construct and sourcing various fiddly parts is more than just a little problematic.

Some time ago, I designed a self-steering gear that, with the exception of the auxiliary rudder and trim tab, consisted of off-the-shelf items made by a single company which made sourcing the "fiddly" bits simple, cheap, and required zero machining or welding. The downside of the design was that as soon as I started to sell plans for the self-steering the company that made the fiddly bits was absorbed by another company who's first decision was to discontinue sales of the parts in my design. Bummer.

Since then, I've pretty much advised folks interested in building their own self-steering gear to do what I do and just build a clone of the Auto-Helm gear as it is dead simple, has a minimum of "fiddly" bits, fairly cheap to build and works very well on just about any boat.

A little over a year ago one of my favorite sources of dinghy plans, B&B, mentioned that they were currently working on a DIY self-steering gear and, looking at the available information at the time, I said to myself that it's pretty much a clone of the Auto-Helm but noticed one big difference...

The B&B rudder was not mounted to the transom but to a "rudder post" that allowed the rudder to kick up in the event of hitting something. Better yet, the rudder post also lets you raise the rudder out of the water if you needed to motor in reverse (an issue for auxiliary rudder systems) or just stow the self-steering gear upside down above the transom when not needed. A small but truly brilliant improvement.

Now, I'll admit, my first thought was to simply build my normal Auto-Helm clone and just purloin the rudder post idea but, since the plans were only $50 bucks and in my view the rudder post idea was easily worth more than that, I decided to just buy the plans.

Now that I've actually received the plans I'm glad I did because they are excellent as well as incredibly detailed and pretty much tyro proof. Obviously B&B has sold tons of dinghy plans and in the process they've learned  how to design plans that are easy to build. The plans are actually more than enough to build the gear but they also include a "Builders Guide" which goes that little bit further to answer any possible questions one might have in the how or why things go together.

At the moment they have three sizes of Windvane self-steering gears, the Rover, Nomad, and Wayfarer which are size appropriate to fit most any boat you might have. In our case we're going with the Wayfarer...

So, that's the self-steering I'm about to start building and hope to get into it in the next week or so, "H" season willing. There are three potential storms heading our way as I write this.

Friday, August 6, 2021

Almost time to get to doing...

A quick update on the self-steering project. I now have all the various bits on island with the excepting of the needful wood which is just a dinghy row away.

So, hopefully, in the next few days I'll be getting the wood for the project along with a few sheets of plywood for a new dinghy build and be able to sort out the actual cost.

More about the actual self-steering design tomorrow...

Monday, July 26, 2021

Getting ready to build a new self-steering gear...

So, yeah, about that new self-steering gear...

Right now I'm in the process of getting all the bits together to assemble a kit to build the it and the various pieces not readily available on a tropical island paradise are, mostly, currently winging their way to my PO box.

Putting together a "kit" before starting just about any boat project in my opinion is a must because when I do a project I like to do it full on and as non-stop as possible. Having all the needful bits in hand means you don't have to waste time running momentum killing errands.

Another advantage of putting together a kit for your project is that it forces you to get familiar with how it all goes together before you actually get to doing the actual work. Building projects in your head is a great way to see where problems may crop up and sort out workarounds and improvements to the mix. For instance, one part of the design bothered me because I don't enjoy tapping stainless steel rod and while going over the plans again and again while looking at suppliers catalogs I had a serendipitous moment where I came across an easy replacement method to get way from tapping rod which also makes the windvane simpler, offers easier adjustment, and saves some money in the process.

Lastly, done right, putting a kit together tends to save a significant amount of money while allowing a better quality of components. Just buying the various fasteners for the project off island saves me close to a couple hundred dollars compared to the silly pricing of stainless screws and bolts.right now I'm looking at a budget of around $350 for the complete self-steering gear but, when the gear is complete I'll be publishing all the various costs so we'll see how my current estimate holds up once the actual gear is complete.

Next up on the subject is why a chose this particular self-steering gear to build...

Saturday, July 17, 2021

on creative frugality and some coming changes...

There's a cooking channel that I really enjoy by Joshua Weissman and one his features are recipes where he does some established dish adding "But Better" or "But Cheaper" to the mix. It's entertaining and I've yet to come across an episode of his that did not have me wanting to get in the kitchen and get to doing.

For example...

Which has exactly "what the hell to do with VolkCruisers and frugal cruising?" you might ask.

What most people don't get is the whole idea here at VolksCruiser is to make the cruising experience more accessible to those with less disposable income or savings to do it with. I too often get emails to the site saying it's easy to sail and cruise cheap and all you have to do is to simply lower your standards and get into dirtbag camping mode which, to be honest, I find all sorts of insulting.

The fact is there's really very few reasons not to be comfortable cruising these days or, for that matter, thriving on a sustainable budget as opposed to being tarred with the dirtbag moniker as not quite hip or affluent enough to play with the "cool" kids.

Which brings us back to the whole "But Cheaper" and "But Better" additions that Joshua Weissman brought to my attention and morphed into a better way to think about VolksCruisers and frugal cruising...

It's all about doing it better and cheaper!

With an emphasis on doing it better.

Maybe a whole lot better.

So, with a nod to Mr Weissman, I'll be adding a series of articles to the mix of a "But Better" or "But Cheaper" nature and we'll show you examples of how not to just survive but thrive as we get into some serious creative frugality territory.

Since I'm just about to build a new self-steering gear I'll get started with how to put together a better windvane steering system but cheaper.

More soon come...

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Monday, July 5, 2021

regarding a very long voyage in a pretty small boat...

I read recently how Keith Leitzke has returned from another cruise to nowhere in particular and it got me thinking about a few things...

The first being how that Bill Lapworth's CAL 20 is still a great minimal cruising design in spite of the fact that it was never really designed to be one.

While I'm sure the Cal 20 would not be everyone's choice for a long sea voyage apparently Keith Leitzke thought it was just the thing for a four month or longer blue water voyage.

The fact that the Cal  20 has more than proven its blue water bona-fides with numerous trans-pacific voyages to its credit just goes to show that seaworthiness is not dependent on cost or size.

Of course, doing extreme blue water voyages in small boats means that one has to get creative to the Nth degree where space and loading is concerned. Seriously, just how do you store four months or more of provisions, water, and other needful gear?

Just thinking about how to store 120 gallons of water on a Cal 20, for starters, kinda makes my brain hurt! Throw in the provisions of even the most stoic menu for four+ months and you're talking about some genius creative use of space...

Well that or getting into TARDIS territory.

The important thing to keep in mind is that, obviously, it's been done so it's possible and knowing something is possible means all you have to do is figure it out because impossible is no longer an option.

Just sayin'

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Monday, June 28, 2021

A few quick thoughts...

A YouTube channel I have a love/hate relationship with has a Bluetooth enabled toilet and I just can't quite get my head around why one might actually need such a thing. 

As it happens, I do have some Bluetooth headphones which I purchased because I wanted to be able to listen to music while working on boat projects but never use them because the signal drops out all the time and that really gets up my nose where listening to music is concerned.

But still, one wonders what sort of advantage a Bluetooth toilet has and WTF they actually cost.

That said, however misguided having to be connected to one's toilet via Bluetooth might be, it is preferable to some of the sailing channels which are starting to look a lot like infomercials instead of videos about cruising as one I recently viewed mentions the name of a certain purveyor of sewing machines, fabrics, and assorted notions so many times that the only words that comes to mind is "Set it and forget it!".

But wait, there's more! 

Well actually there isn't but the whole Ronco style of over-commercialization and  pandering is so far removed from the whole VolksCruiserish "Just find a good boat, fix it up, and sail off into the sunset on a sustainable budget" vibe most of the cruisers I admire adopt just depresses me.

Monday, June 14, 2021

The upside of DIY...

The other day a reader dropped me a line where the subject of DIY came up and he pointed out that, unlike me, he could afford to hire folks to do work for him and if you had to DIY you might want to consider something other than yachting as a lifestyle decision...

Not the first time I've heard that opinion and, I expect, most folks of the VolkCruiserish ilk will hear it as well.

What the reader in question doesn't quite get is that the advantages of doing work on your boat and its systems yourself has a great number of advantages which improve the sailing and cruising experience and the fact that it also allows you to save money in the process is just an added perk which is no bad thing.

Sadly, too many of the marine trades are not just over-priced but also woefully short on the needed skills that they charge you for. I've seen too many projects and repairs done by various contractors that not only did not fix the needful repairs but wound up creating more damage and problems that would be left for someone else to fix.  

An advantages of doing your own work is that you actually know how things are put together on your boat and that gives you the skill set to fix it when or if it needs to be sorted out. Sure there's a learning curve but it's a fairly easy one as almost all boat related work is just minimum wage level stuff mixed with common sense.

No rocket science involved.

Being able to handle maintenance and repairs is both empowering and adds greatly to the overall safety of the boat and its crew. Which, from where I sit, are the two most important reasons to get your DIY groove on.

Lastly, doing work that fixes things is mostly enjoyable and satisfying. Of course, not everyone enjoys all boat work and I'll be the first to admit I really do not like working on internal combustion engines as it's a UGH job as far as I'm concerned, Still, in spite of the UGH nature of working on engines, I find it especially satisfying when I'm able to fix one.

I'll also add that saving money is a game I really enjoy and the perks of doing my own work adds up to a considerable chunk of change in the process which makes DIY that much more enjoyable. Then again, some folks don't mind paying $4.99 for a  twenty-five cent machine screw and take pride in throwing around how much they paid for stuff as a badge of honor. Not sure where you stand on such things but the whole Boat Buck mentality seems somewhat questionable at best.

Oh yeah, on the whole yacht thing... I don't own a yacht, don't want to own a yacht, and cringe whenever I hear a boat described as a yacht or a person sailing it a yachtsman. So I'm not exactly the sort of person who would ever consider yachting as a lifestyle.

Saturday, June 5, 2021

A blast from the past on junk rig...

A Freedom cat ketch adapted to junk rig

 I wrote this back in 2008 on Boat Bits but it seems to have held up for the most part...

I suppose the minute you say lug rig that everyone assumes you are talking about the "Junk" rig which is certainly a type of lug rig but somewhat outside the mainstream we might just get the whole junk rig thing out of the way and as good as any place to start.

Colvin...Hasler...Van Loan..Mcleod important names for Lug nuts as all were big proponents of the junk rig in the early days and for a host of very good reasons you would be safe to follow their lead...The Junk rig certainly makes a lot of sense for a lot of people who sail.

The big thing about the junk rig is of course it is a docile rig... Stress free if you will...Its an easy rig to sail (but a very easy rig to sail badly and it is important to know the difference between the two) and there is a rather steep learning curve if you actually want to get the performance possible with the rig. Make no mistake this is not a Bermudan rig and if you try to sail it like one you will find that it will behave just like all of its detractors say it will...BADLY.

Its also a cheap rig and DIY safe on all levels so building it from mast to sails is well within even the most ham fisted tyros reach! Sounds perfect for folks like me...and did I mention CHEAP?

Of course you hear a lot of bad stuff about junk rigs and almost all of it from people who have never sailed a junk rig and many who have never even seen a junk rig sailing...This is not an unimportant fact when you consider that 95% of the information you receive via word of mouth on things junk is in fact pretty bogus. Luckily we have access to a lot of excellent information from those who really know what they speak of...

Which brings us back to the names Colvin, Hasler, Mcleod, and Van Loan who all were nice enough to sit down and write excellent books on the subject so we would not have to figure it out all by ourselves.

Thomas Colvin has written a slew of books on sailing, cruising and building boats and anything he says you can pretty much take to the bank. Not a man who feels the need to follow the herd or bend to market pressure he is very much the real deal and unlike so many Naval Architects has actually built boats, lived aboard and cruised which in my book puts him way at the front of the herd and when he says something you can take it for granted that it's based on real experience. Sadly Tom Colvin is no longer with us and a lot of his books are now out of print but I believe are available used if you put in the effort to find them. A visit to Abe's books might be in order to chase down a copy of "Sailmaking: Making Chinese and other sails : Sailing Chinese Junks and Junk-rigged vessels" .

McLeod / Hasler wrote the most excellent "Practical Junk Rig" which is a thing of beauty almost a Coffee Table book on the subject and again written by a couple of guys who walk the talk and a tome that is needful to anyone considering or sailing the junk rig.

My favorite though is the very simple, Tract like and easily understood "The Chinese Sailing Rig - Design and Build Your Own Junk Rig" by Eric Van Loan which is short and very much to the point. Just what you need if you have a CAL 28 ( or whatever) and decide you want to design and build a junk rig for it that will WORK!

While the Van Loan book is my favorite (I do love simple!) and would be my choice if I were limited to one source, to be honest if you are going to do the Junk rig thing right you really need all three as they together pretty much contain all available information in book form on the rig and it is all needful information.

I should add at this point that there is the excellent Junk Rig Association which which is the best source of cutting edge development in what is trending in junk rig development.

While not really about the junk rig Annie Hills book "Voyaging on a Small Income" just might be the best book to read and get you started on the Junk express as it has a lot of Junk content and gives you a very good view of what sailing with a Junk Rig is all about...Annie Hill shows just what can be done with a simple Benford designed plywood boat called Badger and a junk rig on a budget. If you ever need a good example to throw in the face of someone who is going on about junk rigs being not a viable option just bring out the Badger card ...Works every time!

Monday, May 31, 2021

one sail to rule them all...

There are a lot of fans of the junk rig who, being fans and all are true believers when it comes to their preference of rigs. The junk rig is superior to all other rigs or in common parlance the junk rig is "the shit".

Me? Well I certainly think that the junk rig is a good rig but, where sailing is concerned, there really is no one rig that is the best in the general scheme of things. There are lots of rigs and they all have their strengths and weaknesses and while one rig or another might be "best" in a given situation for someone in particular, I hesitate to call any rig the best in the general sense.

But, as it happens, in the particular situation where someone is considering a rig for frugal cruising on a small (let's say thirty-feet or under) sailboat the junk does have a lot to recommend it.

  1. It's an inexpensive rig if done right.
  2. You don't need a lot of interior space devoted to sails,
  3. It's a docile rig
  4. The rig is very DIYable.
  5. It's very easy to reef.

For folks of the VolksCruiser persuasion sailing small boats the main points are that it's inexpensive, can be built/maintained easily, and you don't lose precious interior volume for a full set of sails. 

So yeah, it is an excellent rig for a VolksCruiser.

The question is whether or not it is excellent enough to replace a preexisting rig is something of a conundrum but, more about that in the next post.

Monday, May 17, 2021

An interview with Sailing Blowin' in the Wind...

I've gotten to the point that when someone writes me and says to check out a new YouTube channel I pretty much prepare for the worst. So, when a friend dropped me a line a while back and said I should really check out "Sailing Blowin' in the Wind" I wasn't exactly filled with enthusiasm. Face it, most of what passes for Sailing & Cruising content more than proves that Sturgeon's Law was actually overly optimistic.

Armed with the fact that I could always just turn off the computer if things became too dire, I followed the link and watched the first episode fully expecting it to be just another "Look at us we're wonderful" selfie-fest.

Nope, it was different. It was actually interesting and far from being the same old same. Better yet, I actually enjoyed it. OK, I'll admit to being a hard audience where film and video is concerned especially where sailing, boat building, and cruising content are concerned, but the main thing is that Sailing Blowin' in the Wind actually caught my interest and eighteen episode later I'm still watching. Need I say more?

I won't go into what actually transpires on the Sailing Blowin' in the Wind channel because you'll do better watching it it from the start. So I'll just say that Anna Key and Tom Break live on a 28-foot sailboat without an engine with their two boys, Roo and Zibby, and their two girls, Mia and Xani.

Obviously not the same old same cruising story. 


Now let's get to the interview...

Why not get to the important stuff first and deal with the elephant in the room. So, just how many ukuleles or musical instruments do you have aboard Blowin' in the Wind?

We've been caught red-handed—we’re already going to start sounding like very bad minimalists! Until this summer we had four soprano ukuleles, one each for the three older kids and one for Anna. Since then, we've been gifted a concert ukulele and a "guitalele," which is a six-stringed instrument rather like a very small guitar. We also bought some bongo drums, and Anna has hopes of acquiring a small steel-tongue drum and a baritone ukulele down the road, maybe after some of the kids are grown and take some of their instruments with them. (;  It's getting a little out of control here, but the music has become a bigger part of our life than we expected, especially since it has become such a vital part of our video-making.

Six people on a 28-foot boat?

It's a lot of people in a small space, but in our defense there were berths for six adults when we moved aboard. When we got started looking for boats, we listened to what people around us were saying and kept our eyes out for something in that 35-40' range, but we quickly realized that those larger boats rarely had more beds: there was just more space (a bigger galley or nav station) and a bigger price tag. We ultimately decided that the extra amenities weren't worth the extra cost (costs that would keep adding dollars per foot every time we pulled onto a dock, got the bottom cleaned, etc.)

As we circled back around to what we really cared about—nimbleness and ability to be single-handed, affordability, and sturdiness—it became very clear that we would do much better with a smaller boat than a bigger one. And even if it meant being close together, we could actually be together instead of leaning on a full-time job for years to pay off the boat. When we stepped onto Blowin' in the Wind, we thought she was a 30, not a 28—the designer made great use of every foot, and we fell in love with her right away.

I get that. Having built and cruised various boats which don't pass the "group think" of what a cruising boat is supposed to be, the whole "You're going to cruise in that?" gets old real fast. Obviously you're not just doing a different boat, you're also doing things differently to make Blowin' in the Wind more livable and cruise-worthy. How is that going?

Some things are going great and some things are a struggle. The interior space that we opened up when we took out the engine is fantastic. It's created a great flow of space and the kids have lots of places that they can hide and play and make messes and create elaborate battles or creations with the few toys we have on board. And since we closed up all of the thru-hulls, Anna has been able to sleep through the night without ever waking up with dreams that the boat is sinking. We don't really miss fancy things like the water heater, electric water pumps, or the other gadgets that we've gotten rid of because those are just things that we  don't have to be stressed anymore about not knowing how to fix.

Most of the changes we've made have caused very little extra hassle. It's taken some time to get used to the rhythm of managing the composting head and of taking the sink buckets out to dump them instead of using the standard pump-out system and draining water through the thru-hulls, but we don't mind that work and have adapted to it really well. And the daily maintenance work replaces the big repairs in which you're knee deep in leaky head hoses, which it's easy to overlook when things are working. In general, every time we take out a system and replace it with a simpler version, life gets a little bit harder but a little bit better. Those little additions of time do add up, and when we press toward some of our more extreme goals, like producing no trash, things can get overwhelming. But for the most part things are going remarkably well. We're becoming increasingly comfortable in our increasingly unique boat.

How's the yuloh working out?

The yuloh, and lack of engine generally, has been one of the biggest challenges. On our shakedown journey everything was going swimmingly until we got caught in a surprising current, lost sail power, and couldn't get the yuloh out fast enough to get around a tight corner. That shook us somewhat, and has led us to re-think some things. My home-made yuloh is very heavy, so we're going to try a smaller sculling oar that's easier to deploy but that can still push us, and we're going to trade out the wheel for a tiller so that there's less congestion in the aft area of the cockpit, and we'll see where we are at that point. Lots of people are telling us that we should attach an outboard or at least have one for the dinghy to tow us through tight spots. We're considering that option going forward, though I really would prefer to keep things as simple as possible so that I don't have something (that I can't fix) break at just the moment I'm counting on it.

Nothing improves one's sailing skills more than simply not having an engine. Do you have a drifter?

That's right. And I would add that nothing improves your awareness of your environment, either. When you're relying on an engine, it's really easy to be blissfully unaware of what the tides and currents are doing, and what the weather might do should you get delayed, and while it ends up being no problem for most people most of the time, I'm glad for the need to be aware. It's making me a better sailor already—though I'm starting from being a total novice, so that's not saying much. No, we don't have a drifter, but our boat does very well under our 150% genoa, even in very light winds.

That said, in the meantime, you might want to consider kedging as another needful tool in your engineless quiver.

Kedging was ultimately how we got off the dock we got caught on during our shakedown, and it's a really critical tool for us. We keep a light "lunch anchor" on hand in the cockpit as a brake and I've got a second heavy anchor there as well so that they're ready to hand if we need them.

You've mentioned the Pardeys but do you have any other influences in your quest for a simpler nautical lifestyle? Annie Hill, Jerome Fitzgerald for instance?

We hadn’t heard of Annie Hill or Jerome Fitzgerald, but thanks for the tip! As for other influences, we're big idea people, and so a lot of what we bring to sailing comes from thinkers of the past, folks like Diogenes, Simone Weil, St. Francis of Assisi. One really critical nautical influence is a family that calls themselves the Coconuts, who have been sailing an engineless sailboat with four kids for years now. Drake Paragon made a lovely 5-part documentary about them, and they've been a great encouragement to us largely because they've show that sailing with a family and without an engine is possible. We figure that if they can make it across the Atlantic, we should be able to make it to the Caribbean.

Another practical influence for us is Helen and Scott Nearing, authors of The Good Life, who bought a farm and committed themselves to working only half days half of the year supporting themselves so that they would have time to read, think and write. We really respect the way that they were able to make that a priority and stick to it. A big reason we sought out this life, and that we try to keep it simple, is to carve out time in our days for artistic work and for contemplation (both for us and for our kids). I don't think that we can underestimate the damage that lack of that kind of time is doing to our society, generally, and so it's a priority for us and something we want to protect for our whole family.

How would you define your current cruising plans?

Equivocally. Tom's just back from a trip to the Bahamas where he got some open water experience and some sailing time in around the islands, and we're all really excited to get moving in some direction, but we're not exactly sure what direction that's going to be at the moment. Hurricane season is creeping up on us, and while we have some desire to make tracks for the Luperon in the Dominican Republic before the worst of hurricane season hits, that's seeming like a long journey on a short timeframe right now. So we'll either make the leap, hide out in Florida somewhere, or head north until next season.

Beyond the short term we really want to sail the Caribbean. We want to spend good chunks of time in both Spanish and French speaking countries to get language intensives for the whole family. It's kind of amazing just how much of world history winds its way through those islands—how many cultures have met, clashed, and melded in wildly different ways from island to island, so we're excited to explore the islands and learn from them about different ways to live. Anna especially has desires to visit Chile and the boys want to surf in Hawaii, and I would love to hike the Camino de Santiago in Europe. Those points on the map seem really far away right now, but who knows what the future will bring.

Do you have a target budget?

Our target is the federal poverty level for our family, which in 2020 was $35,610, or just about $3000 a month. That's pretty attainable for us while underway, in general. It's actually pretty important to us to be able to live at the poverty line. We want to use as few resources as possible, and not spending money is the easiest way to do that. Beyond that, though, the poverty line ought to be an attainable goal for everyone, and I think we would feel bad living a lifestyle that isn't, at least in principle, open to everyone.

The target is of course a target, and we've had varying degrees of success hitting it. Some of the things that have gotten in the way are boat-related things: boat work is expensive and can crash a budget pretty quickly. Tom worked a full-time job for a couple of years that increased our income and allowed us to do work on the boat that would have been a stretch on the poverty-line budget.  

Since then, Tom left the full-time job and we continue to work the budget from both ends: trying to reduce our spending to get it under the poverty line, and to increase our income to get it over the poverty line. We're getting closer, but we're not yet "in the black," and therefore continue to switch between travel and focus on our artistic work and periods when we do work to re-fill the "cruising kitty."

Any ideas or cunning plans you're currently working on?

Well, we’re artists, so we’re full of ideas. We both really love an aphorism by the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, “What good is a book that doesn’t lead you beyond all books?” So we’re trying to make a YouTube channel that leads us beyond all YouTube channels, that might even lead us…outside. It’s our most cunning plan yet. We are, however, still in need of a cunning plan to get out of the next inlet…

Friday, May 14, 2021

An interesting video and a coming attraction...

Another excellent video by Blowin' in the Wind...


As it happens we'll be having an interview here on VolksCruiser Monday with the Blowin' in the Wind folk so you might want to drop in on Monday and check it out.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Something special for those "Shrimpy" fans...

There is a great article in Voiles et Voiliers on Shane Acton and Shrimpy. Really worth the read even if you have to use Google translate to do it.

Need I say more?

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

a boat with a lot of resources...

Checking Craigslist this morning I saw there was a Pearson Triton being sold off at a marina in the San Francisco Bay area for $750. You might say it caught my attention. 


It's a great design, Dan Spurr used the Triton as his main example of how to fix up a small boat for cruising in his "Spurrs BoatBook Upgrading the Cruising Sailboat"which amounts to a great how to do it guide.

James Baldwin circumnavigated his Triton twice and now is an awesome resource on how to make small boats better and a great resource on all things Triton with an excellent website and a wonderful YouTube channel.

The going price for a good to excellent Triton seems to be between $10K to $28K so a fixer upper for $750 that's floating right side up and appears to be in OK condition is certainly a good candidate to check out.

What I particularly find attractive about the idea of refitting and cruising a Triton is that all of the brain work has already been done for you. Between Spurr's book, James Baldwin's books , articles and videos you pretty much have the answer to any issue you'd encounter in the project.

For example take a look at one of the Triton refits on Baldwin's Atom Voyager channel;

I'll be honest and say that if the Craigslist ad was down here I'd be there with money in hand as fast as I could get there as it would be a great boat to fix up and resell for a profit...

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Sunday, April 25, 2021

Another book you really should read...

I mentioned this book by Keith Carver a couple of years ago but "Sailboat Cowboys Flipping Sail Post-Sandy: The Art of Buying, Repairing and Selling Storm-Damaged Sailboats" is still an excellent read on the subject of buying boats cheap, fixing them up, and selling them for a profit.

As it happens I just read it again this morning and it still holds up well and the advice contained within is still spot on.

Better yet, it's a great book to use as proof of concept when someone is telling you a cheap fixer-upper is nothing but a money pit and your dreams will all in tears. 

Just tell them to go read "Sailboat Cowboys Flipping Sail Post-Sandy: The Art of Buying, Repairing and Selling Storm-Damaged Sailboats" and let you get back to working on your DIY refit.


Friday, April 23, 2021

and in the "Are we ready to look at that Ericson yet?" department...

So you've done your research, sorted out that an Ericson 26 would be an appropriate small cruising boat you could live with, and within your budget. Hell, you even built a dinghy to prove to yourself you were not a tyro, had the mindset and needful skills to fix up the Ericson, and you're ready to go look at the sucker cash-in-hand but your buddy and everyone on that forum tells you you need to get a surveyor.

Here's the thing...

One, you don't need a surveyor and two, the boat's already sold.

A good surveyor might make sense if you're paying big bucks for a boat but not so much if you're talking about a fixer-upper that costs less than the surveyors fee. For a VolksCruiser you're better off doing your own survey.

Don Casey has a decent book on the subject that you might want to check out as it makes a good outline of the things you need to look at.

When I look at a boat I'm mostly concerned with the hull, deck, and rig. Everything else I'd rip out and rebuild the interior and systems from scratch as it's faster and cheaper than trying to work around or make sense with what previous owners have done to the boat. The other advantage of starting fresh is that you set up things in a way that makes sense.

When you do your self-survey make sure to take lots of pictures/videos and take note or narrate the survey so if you need to talk to someone about the boats issues they have as much information as possible to base their advice on. Some time ago a reader sent me a ton of photos on a Bolger design he was considering and it was easy for me to offer advice and the sad conclusion that it would be a big mistake to consider the project.

But why bother as the boat is already sold. Right?

The thing is, good deals on boats don't ever last long. Show me a boat that has been sitting with a For Sale sign for a year and I'll know it's selling for way too much. On the other hand, boats that are priced to move, move quickly.

Which is why, when looking for your VolksCruiser, you really need to be ready...

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

On that big hole in the water you throw money into...

OK, I get it. "Everyone" says that if you buy a fixer-upper sailboat with the goal of turning it into a cruising boat it will all end in tears. Some will tell you that you'll wind up with nothing but an expensive disaster that you'll have to pay someone to dispose of it in some landfill.

I could go on but I expect you've already heard it all before and it's boring...

What I will do is point out that the disaster or failure scenarios of this sort have a lot to do with people who have made stupid mistakes in choosing their projects, have little in the way of an intelligent plan for the needful work involved in the enterprise, and a poor skill set where boat building and repair are concerned. Which is another way of saying that if the boat refit project failed it's because the person doing it screwed up big time.

Every once in awhile I'll point out what I think is a possible project boat like the Ericson 26 so we'll use that as our crash test dummy. Which brings us to the question of whether or not an Ericson 26 is a good choice as a cruising boat for you?

So, you'll need to put away the rose colored glasses to do some research and a bit of math. Seriously if you don't properly research the project and work out the costs you're in clusterfuck territory. For starters you really need to research the market for the Ericson 26. 

  • What does an Ericson 26 in great shape cost?
  • What does an OK Ericson 26 cost?
  • Does the Ericson 26 have an inbuilt issues which will need to be repaired and cost you money (FYI ALL production boats have some issue(s) or other that will need attention so find out what it is)?
  • Can you afford an Ericson 26?

With me so far? Most boat projects fail simply because someone did not ask and get real answers to those four simple questions. Let's say you've answered the previous questions, got your answers and think it's time to move to the next level which requires a few more questions.

  • Is the Ericson 26 a boat that I'll be able to cruise comfortably on without major changes?
  • Do I have access to an affordable location in close proximity to work on the boat?
  • Am I willing to put some effort into learning the needful skills to refit the boat?

Some of you may have noticed that none of these questions involve the actual fixer upper in question. My advice is to always do your homework before not after viewing a possible project as the more you know about the boat the better your advantage you'll have when you actually look at it. 

In fact I'd recommend, before you go boat project shopping, that you build a dinghy as a proof of concept that your abilities are up to the task. My advice for most folks is to build the Bolger Nymph from Dynamite Payson's "Build the New Instant Boats" As it's a great dinghy, does not take a lot of outlay in materials, and pretty much shows you if you have the needful skills and mindset or not to take on a much bigger project like the Ericson. No pressure but if it takes you more than 24-hours of labor to build a Nymph rowing version you might want to forget the idea of anything larger than a dinghy refit projects.

Just saying.

We'll get into how we handle looking at a fixer-upper in the next bit...

Sunday, April 11, 2021

a couple of good $400ish deals...

So, here's a couple of interesting project boats someone might be interested in...

For starters there's a Crealock designed Ericson 26 selling for $400 bucks up in the no man's land between Port Townsend and Anacortes. The Crealock design is, in my opinion, a better boat than the Pacific Seacraft Dana. The beauty of a fixer-upper 26-foot boat is that even if the boat is in dire straights a full refit is not going to cost much more than $3K with a reasonable amount of sweat equity.

I've also noticed that there seem to be a few Bill Tripp Columbia 26's that need fixing up in the $400-500 dollar range that seem to pop up on a regular basis. So you might want to add "Columbia 26" to your Search Tempest list.

Either design is well worth checking out and more than able to take you most anywhere you'd care to go.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Eleven factors that come together to make a VolksCruiser...

I'm often asked just what a VolksCruiser actually is in terms of solid definition and, for the most part, my answers to that particular question tend to be somewhat vague. It's akin to Justice Stewart's famous quote on what pornography is...

"We know it when we see it"

Which is pretty much how I've approached what a VolksCruiser actually is in that I know one when I see one. Or to be more precise, I recognize a variety of factors that come together to make a boat a VolksCruiser, such as:

  • Under forty feet in length
  • Simple user repairable systems
  • Minimal carbon footprint
  • Well equipped to anchor
  • A boat that costs no more than $1000 a foot in cruising mode
  • A boat that can be sustainable on a given budget

Which, it would seem, also describes a whole lot of cruising boats. The catalyst of what actually makes a boat into a VolksCruiser is really the mindset of the person cruising the boat. Who will exhibit a variety of needful traits, for example:

  • Creative frugality
  • Sensible maintenance strategies
  • Critical thinking
  • A keen sense of situational awareness
  • An elevated understanding of value as related to budget
Throw all those various factors together and you're in VolksCruiser territory.

Obviously, "less than $1000 a foot" is a pretty wide range of boats and the whole VolksCruiser vibe centers around the "Less is more" thought process so that the actual cost of a VolksCruiser in cruising mode really should be significantly less.

Next up on the subject we'll be talking about the reality of how a VolksCruiser budget might work...


Sunday, April 4, 2021

On keeping up/coexisting with the Joneses...

It's been pointed out to me on many occasions that the whole concept of VolksCruisers puts some folks at a real disadvantage in the social context of cruising. Many have even suggested/demanded that I should come up with some, shall we say "cunning", ways to make a VolksCruiser more socially acceptable.


I can only go by what has been my personal experience but I've never seen any real issues experienced by folks on smaller than average sustainable cruising boats. Sure, within the cruising community, there's no shortage of cliques, posses, and assholes that you might find yourself in an anchorage with but they don't seem to have a thing against folks of the VolksCruiser persuasion.

Some time ago I had a very enlightening dialog with someone who wondered why so many low budget cruisers seemed to shun various social invitations to hang out with them at potlucks and dinners ashore.When I pointed out that the folks she was inviting may not have been on the same sort of budget that they were on she thought about it for a bit and then said...

"I just thought they didn't like us."

Face it, if there is one universal trait that all humans share is that we're, to some extent or another, insecure. Being invited to a group function where you don't know anyone can be stressful and if you throw in the fact that by doing so it might disrupt your budget in a big way the easiest way to deal with it is simply to find an excuse not to go.

Of course, the person giving the invitation may take the decline of the invitation personally which can lead to something akin to friction. Which has zero to do with what sort of boat you might have but it does have a lot to do with general human interaction.

Most people on bigger and more expensive cruising boats tend to be a bit tone-deaf where money is concerned and often assume everyone tends to be on their level. I've often had advice that I should add "inexpensive" gear to my boat which is far from inexpensive. In fact, just a couple of days ago, a reader of Boat Bits wanted my opinion of the Colligo ELHF and was surprised when I pointed out that it looked excellent but was way beyond what I'm willing to pay for but that a less expensive DIY clone is very much on my project list.

Which also might be a good time to point out  that a lot of upscale cruisers are living way beyond their means but hiding the fact because, being a bit insecure like all of us, tend to hide their budget concerns as they're afraid that people will think less of them.

On the subjects of cliques and posses being a problem for VolksCruisers you have to realize that it's not about VolksCruisers, at all and cliques and posses are, by their very nature, unwelcoming to all outsiders.

The bottom line is really that everyone is too worried about what everyone else thinks of them to be anti-VolksCruiser in any kind of systematic way.

On the other hand, where the marine trades are concerned, it is a whole different kettle of rotten fish which we'll talk about later in the week...

Friday, March 26, 2021

Throwing a couple more 26-foot boats into the mix...

So, while I really like the Lyle Hess designed Balboa 26 I'll be the first to admit that at 3600 pounds of displacement it's not quite up to the requirements of long distance voyaging.

Now, this Lyle Hess design is a whole different kettle of fish...

It's the 26-foot Falmouth Cutter which has a beam of about 9 1/2 feet and a displacement of six tons.

Fact is, you might be interested in learning that the ballast alone of this design weighs more than an entire Balboa 26.

With that sort of displacement you can load it to the gills and pretty much go anywhere you need or want to. The downside, is a hip heavy displacement boat of this sort is going to be a lot more expensive than the Balboa 26 and, more than likely, more than someone looking for a VolksCruiser can afford.

Lucky for us there are a lot of boats in the middle ground that might do the trick.

Another of my favorite designs is the Columbia 26 MK 2 which has enough displacement (5900 pounds) to actually carry more in the way of water, provisions, and gear than in the Balboa 26. In terms of budget the Columbia costs about the same as the Balboa.

The downside, for me at least, is that the Columbia has a draft of 4' 4" and if shoal draft is a factor that's a possible issue.

There are a LOT of good 26-foot designs out there and the trick is to pay more attention to the displacement and beam than the length. Beam and displacement have a lot more impact on payload and livability than length does.

I always try and compare boats based on their displacement whether it's about the actual design or when comparing prices to sort out what sort of a deal a given boat represents.

Which is a roundabout way of saying that, just maybe, you shouldn't be looking at boats that are 26-feet long but instead looking at boats with a displacement of between four and six thousand pounds.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

On the subject of the new norm in cruising boats...

There's a post over at Interesting Sailboats on whether the Pegasus 50 is the perfect fifty-foot long range voyage yacht or not. It's (like everything on his blog) well worth reading. I mention this as it would appear that fifty-feet is becoming the new norm for cruising boats and it says a lot about what cruising has become in 2021.

The problem for me is that the bigger more expensive boats just don't scratch any of my itches and in fifty-odd years of watching and using boats I've noted that the bigger boats tend to do less with more while smaller boats fall more into the do more with less mindset.

Part of the appeal, for me at least, of lower budget and smaller designs is that to make them work to their full potential you have to get creative. Maybe it's just me but I don't quite get the challenge vibe to be creative on a Million dollar boat.

Still, like I said it's a great post and you should read it because even dedicated VolksCruisers need to be aware and keep their situational awareness at full tilt boogie in these interesting times.

And, as long as we're talking about interesting times...

I'll mention that I've been thinking of doing a VolksCruiser Design Competition and would appreciate any input on the subject from readers in the comments.

Hopefully more info soon come.

Monday, March 22, 2021

A repost of something that should really be included here...

So, the other day, someone asked me what I thought of the Amel 60 which someone was touting as the perfect/ultimate cruising boat somewhere or other. I'll admit that it caused me to ponder a bit on a bunch of things to sort out an answer.

First of all, it took me a while to sort out why someone would bother to ask me, Mr Cheapseats, what my opinion was on a 1,650,000.00 Euro boat. My guess is since I can read French that, just maybe, I might actually know something about it past looking at pictures and saying "Ooh" and "Aah"...

As it happens, I actually quite like Amel boats as they're very well built, have a form follows function vibe that works, and I'll admit to having lusted greatly for an Amel Sharki when I could not even afford a beat up, way past its sell by date Sangria. Which, I suppose, makes me a great choice for expounding opinion on a boat I could never afford to a person who, I suspect, does not have 1,650,000.00 Euros laying around in disposable income.

So yeah, the Amel 60 is a very nice boat and it's got all the bells and whistles you'd expect in a sixty-foot million and a half Euro boat. That said, it's not a boat I'd choose to go cruising with.

Truth is, boats over a certain price point and size become a serious detriment to interfacing with the real world and lock you solidly within the ghetto of wealth and privilege. Not having either wealth or privilege it is just silly to waste anymore time on the subject.

As a counter point to such silliness, here's my all time favorite Citroen advertisement to cleanse the palate.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Different strokes for different folks...

So, here's a question...

"What sort of VolksCruiser do you actually want?"

Face it, everyone's different with disparate needs and situations which means one's VolkCruiser of choice may not be what others need or want. Which I suppose brings us to other questions we have to ask ourselves...

"How are you going to use your VolksCruiser?"

Want to sail around the world? Or are your ambitions more about just sailing around the Pacific Northwest? Maybe you're interested in sailing to the back of beyond or maybe you'd be content to just hang out somewhere nice and live aboard.

Different strokes (or should I say 'Boats'?) for different folks.

Which leaves us with quite a few categories. Off the top of my head I'd say we're talking about live-aboard, area cruising, coastal cruising, transocean cruising, circumnavigating, and expedition/adventure cruising. Obviously this is not all of the possible variants but it does cover the majority in broad strokes.

Here's a VolksCruiserish design by Lyle Hess that I really like...

The Balboa 26 is a very cool trailer sailor. It's shoal draft of a kiss less than two-feet with the board up allows you to get into places other boats can't. It's seaworthy, has a comfortable albeit spartan interior, and it performs a lot better than most folk would suspect.

The going price seems to average out at around a bit over $4000 or so which puts it into the VolkCruiser price range.

Like I said, I really like this design...

Then again, it's not really a boat I'd choose for a circumnavigation, transocean, or adventure voyaging. Sure the boat could cross oceans or circumnavigate but being small with limited displacement it become all kinds of problematic to carry the essentials like water and provisions you'll need for those sort of enterprises.

On the other hand, for coastal and area based cruising it would be a great boat. Its shoal draft would allow you to get into out of the way places and, in my experience the shoal draft will also save you a lot of money in terms of mooring and marina bills.

Better yet, if you desire a change of scenery you could always leave the Pacific Northwest and have the boat towed to the east coast, then coastal cruise your way down to the Caribbean if you felt the urge.

Coming up, we'll look at a another 26-foot boat more in the voyaging category.

Sunday, March 14, 2021

On the subject of sustainability...



  1. The ability to be sustained, supported, upheld, or confirmed. 
  2. Environmental Science: The quality of not being harmful to the environment or depleting natural resources, and thereby supporting long-term ecological balance: The committee is developing sustainability standards for products that use energy.
The other day I found myself trying to explain the idea of sustainable cruising to someone and found the process a lot more complicated than expected. It is really a very simple concept and not complicated at all. Basically, sustainable cruising is simply just living within our means.

Simple right?

In hindsight, I've come around to the idea that maybe it's not all that simple. As it happens, the majority of folks I know actually don't live within their means or, to be more precise, are so close to the edge that any unforeseen dip in their income puts them into unsustainable territory.

Worse, it's not just a large percentage of individuals living in an unsustainable manner but the cities, states, and countries that they live in are also not working in a sustainable fashion. Even the world we live in is being run in a way that, considering it has finite resources but an ever-increasing population and demand on those resources, works on the premise that we can somehow continue population and economic growth forever without adverse effect.

So, considering that most everyone on the planet is not living within their means, it sorta/kinda makes the whole concept of sustainability something of a foreign concept to a lot of folks and yes, Dear Reader, a lot of those folks are interested in boats and cruising.

Which, I guess, also has a lot to do with not everyone quite getting the whole VolksCruiser concept which is really just about getting a boat and cruising off into the sunset in a sustainable fashion.

Some more on the subject soon come...

Speaking of sustainability...

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Saturday, March 6, 2021

Some junk rig evolution of note...

The current JRA Newsletter (#85) has a very interesting article on building a junk sail by Paul McKay that has me thinking long and hard in terms of rigs for VolkCruisers.


For me, the concept of a VolksCruiser is really all about simplicity in all of its various forms. Lug rigs in general are simple to use, simple to rig, have simple hardware requirements, and only require a minimal sail inventory. Even better is that lug rigs can be doused or reefed easily and, being so simple, there is bugger all to go wrong. 

Throw in the fact that all of that simplicity makes lug rigs very inexpensive and DIY friendly and you've got a pretty compelling reason in favor of a lug rig.

Now, in general, I've favored balanced and dipping lug sails over junk rigs mostly because they're simpler (all those battens, lots of line, and various blocks/euphroes) and develop more power than junk rigs. However the evolution of junk rigs into cambered sails of late has made the modern junk rig more powerful than its flat panel counterpart and while still less powerful than a balanced or dipping lug the difference is less of a factor now.

So, here's the thing about the Origami Rig article in the JRA Newsletter that has me all excited...

The biggest problem people have in terms of sewing and building a sail is the simple fact that sewing up a 300-400 square foot sail of any kind is no simple task as you need lots of room and the logistics of sewing something that big is at best really really problematic to the max.

Which is why coming across an article on a different way to build a cambered split junk rig sail with a method that makes it both simple and can be used in a small space makes me sit up and pay attention. Not only would a sail made this way be easier to build but it would also be easier to maintain and repair.

Color me very impressed and thinking about designing a more hybrid junk rig that would incorporate my current staysail and jib for a junk cutter of sorts.

Anyway, it's an article you really should read and a great reason to join the JRA so you can get your hands on it.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

on the subject of free boats...

Every once in awhile I'll get on Search Tempest and type in the words "Free sailboat" just to see what happens...

For instance, in Florida, there's a San Juan 24 without a working motor, another guy with a bunch of Catalina 22's, and a Seidelmann 30 footer in need of some work all going for free.

Up in Maine there's  a wood 30-foot Casey Cutter that would make an interesting project and in Erie PA there's a Pearson 28.


Of course, I'm pretty sure that if I used a different search terms like "fixer upper sailboat" or "Project sailboat" I might find a few more but the main thing is that there always seems to be some OK boats going for free among the thousands of sailboats for sale on Craig's List. 

The real trick in finding a good boat for free or super cheap is to look around for boats that have issues for the current owner. Most of the best boats I've seen going for free are not actually in bad condition but are boats that are costing the owner money to sit in a yard or at a dock which are not getting used or boats that have a single issue (say a motor that doesn't work) where fixing it would cost the owner more than the boat would sell for and the boat is still costing the owner for it's storage or marina slip.

For the most part a boat without a working engine or a mast is pretty much unsellable and while you'll find a lot of boats for sale without rigs or motors you will find that almost all of them will still be for sale next year, the year after that and, well you get the idea.

The thing is, it really helps you to put yourself in the owners shoes and do the math to sort out whether the boat in question is a liability  to the point that giving it away actually makes financial sense or not. Of course, the other reason you need to do the math is to figure out whether the boat would become a financial liability for you or not.

A few more thought on the subject tomorrow...

Sunday, February 7, 2021

So, you want to build yourself a VolksCruiser...

As it happens, I really enjoy building boats.I find the whole process of boat construction both a creative outlet and deeply satisfying on an emotional level.

That being the case, I often recommend to a lot of folks that they might want to think twice before building a cruising boat because there's a steep learning curve. It takes a special mindset to build a good boat and not everyone has what it takes. 

Which is not to say I'm one of those sad people who hang out on forums telling folks that building your own boat is a project that only an idiot would attempt, it will take a decade or more to finish, and when the dust has settled you'll have spent more than a new boat would cost. My advice is more along the line that building your own boat is a great experience, which can save you some money, and be done in a timely manner providing you have your shit together sort.

Which leaves us with the perennial question...

Do you have your shit together? 

The truth is that this is a question I ask myself on a pretty regular basis. It's a go to mantra of sorts because, in my case at least, I need to keep track of what sort of condition my condition is in*.

The hardest part of building a boat has less to do with one's abilities to do dovetail joints or perfect scarfs and everything to do with keeping your shit together in the midst of a gazillion interlocking, yet contradictory tasks, which is otherwise known as project management.

Take a look at the folks around you and, I suspect, there are people who can manage a project and others who can't even manage to do even simple tasks without some involved drama. 

Another reason boat projects fail is that the builder can't follow the plan. One of the most common questions I hear about boat building is something like "I got the Bolger AS29 plans but think I'll substitute the rig from a Catalina 30 and maybe add an inboard diesel engine. What do you think?" sort. One of the things I love about building a boat is I get to follow a plan that makes sense which is a wonderful thing considering that managing a boat building project is often an exercise that makes wrangling cats seem simple.

The fact of the matter is the backbone of any successful boat build is the plan and the minute you start questioning the validity of the design chaos ensues. 

The last issue that is seriously problematic for the build is that not everyone is good at doing consistent productive labor. Take a look at one of my favorite Wharram designs the Tiki 30 which is really a nice little cruising design. According to Wharram, the design requires around nine-hundred hours of labor to complete which is an average as some folks take longer, some take less, some are part-time and some folks work full time. Now, anyone who actually works for a living has already figured out that nine-hundred hours is between 22-23 forty-hour work weeks. 

Building boats is just like working for a paycheck. It's all about the labor. When building the Wharram you don't get to count time spent looking at that big pile of plywood pondering which part you'll cut out first, daydreaming about how awesome it will be sailing the cat in the Caribbean, or redesigning the design so it looks more like a Gunboat. Nope, you only get to count the hours you actually worked that produced stuff.

Admittedly some people are not all that great at being their own taskmaster and that's OK as long as they realize that doing an hour here and a few hours there doesn't get a boat built in any kind of timely manner, if at all. On the other hand, if the builder is self-actualized and can put in productive eight-hour days, not only will he have a successful build but also be able to send "Having a wonderful time in Pago Pago" postcards to all of the naysayers who said that it's stupid to build a boat.

Like I said, building your own boat is not for everyone but for those who can, it rocks.

*H/T The First Edition.


Tuesday, February 2, 2021

More on affordable multihulls...

Multihulls are HIP and as a result multihulls demand a higher price and this includes used boats. Which, I suppose, is good news if you happen to be selling a catamaran but bad news if you want to buy one. In my opinion, multihull prices are mostly inflated and don't quite reflect their actual value.

Here's an example;

I've been following an Iroquois 30 catamaran built in 1969 that has been for sale for ages at $45K but recently came down to $35K. Maybe it's just me but I think that either price is way too high for a fifty-two year old boat. As the Iroquois has a displacement of 6560 pounds that's right around $6.86 a pound at $45K and $5.34 at $35K.

As it happens, "So It Goes" is a 1969 CAL 34 and I also tend to track what the model sells for and, by my addition, a 1969 Cal 34 costs between $5K in OK condition to $20K where the boat is pretty much pristine. So, by my figuring, the average price of a good to very good CAL 34 hovers around $14K. That said, with a displacement of 9500 pounds the CAL 34 is a lot more boat than the Iroquois but sells less at $1.48 per pound. 

The big question for me is whether or not the hipness factor of a 52 year old geriatric catamaran is worth the extra cost. The fact is if you were to base the value of the Iroquois on its displacement which, by rights it should be you'd be able to buy the Iroquois for around $2 a pound which would be along the lines of $13K which is very close to several other Iroquois cats I've seen over the last few years.

Most builders I know tend to budget a sailboat based on how much it weighs and not so much on what you can sell the boat for. Working out what a boat is worth in terms of weight/displacement is a great way to sort out what you should be willing to pay for a given multihull.

So, what's a person going to do if he/she want a multihull on a VolkCruiser budget?

Well for starters, I'd take a look at smaller designs like the Heavenly Twins, Iroquois, and Prout Sirocco because they're good boats and long enough in the tooth and in a less-than-hip size to have a few out there at reasonable prices.

If those boats are a bit small for your tastes you might check what you can find in the 30-35 foot niche but be warned that deals are very few and far between.

While I've not mentioned multhulls of the DIY sort I'll go on record and say that finding an inexpensive multihull in the under 40-foot niche is, more than likely going to be a DIY boat. The downside is that a lot of folks consider home-built boats inferior and, to be honest, there's a valid reason as the old adage of...

"You build your first boat for your worst enemy, the second for a friend, and the third for yourself."

... which has more than a passing resemblance to reality and, as a result, there are some truly heinous examples of boat butchery laying in wait with a "For Sale" sign laying in wait for the unwary.

More on the subject of home-built designs, what they should cost and building yourself in the near future...