Saturday, November 19, 2011

November sail

Trouble the Sailor Dog on watch.
I was hoping Saturday would provide a break in the storms that hammered the coast this week and I got my wish. The rain and winds abated leaving filtered sunshine and a light breeze in their wake.

Devils Lake is only a few minutes from my house. It's a beautiful lake and I had it all to myself, unlike during the summer. The north wind was light but steady, giving me a chance to further explore Ravn's windward ability. With the proper amount of luff tension she goes to windward just fine thank you. No racing dingy, but she will make progress to windward.

She's well behaved on other points of sail as well. Ghosting down wind, Trouble the Sailor Dog and I got close to  a large flock of ducks who were using the lake as a rest stop before flying farther south.

Made the dock without touching the oars.
As the sun set I headed for the dock. The wind all but died as I passed a point to windward and Ravn ghosted alongside the dock.

Trouble and I stepped off with no fuss or muss to an audience of none but waterfowl. Where are the people when you do something slick?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Salmon River messabout

 A fellow Coot from California stopped on his way to the Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival to experience a row on the Salmon River.

Rick rowing his Walkabout.

Rick Thompson brought his beautifully-made Walkabout, a boat designed for rowing by John Wellsford. Wellsford was a featured speaker at the festival this year, which inspired many boat owners with Wellford designs to show up with their boats to what is one of the oldest wooden boat shows in the nation.

Rick and his wife took their time wending their way up the coast from their home near San Francisco to Port Townsend, Wash. He emailed me and said he wanted to experience rowing one of Oregon's coastal rivers. The Salmon did not disappoint.
My wife enjoying the fine weather with Trouble, our dog.
The weather was beautiful - sunny and calm - and the tide that afternoon was mellow with only a three-foot exchange. My wife, who is skeptical of boating trips on the Salmon River from years of experiencing wind-tunnel conditions there, took a stocking cap and coat and, amazing to her, didn't need them.

Rick rowing out to take a close look at the bar.
The water was clear (in contrast to what Rick was used to rowing on the Sacramento River delta) and the wildlife was abundant. Shore birds and water birds of all kinds greeted us and harbor seals followed our boats like curious puppies. A large herd of Roosevelt elk grazed in an open patch above us on Cascade Head. It was a sight we almost missed because we were so busy admiring the two beautiful boats pulled up on the deserted beach.

Six-foot ocean waves kept us in the river and on the beach for the most part, but Rick ventured a little too close to the breaking bar and a wave climbed over his stern and into his cockpit. His Walkabout handled it well and he was able to sponge out the water between strokes on the quiet row back to the boat launch.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Ravn is the People's Choice

Bob, Clair, Doryman and me rowing.
 The seventh annual Toledo Wooden Boat Show in August was a fun event for several reasons: it marked the one-year anniversary since launching Ravn, it was the first time rowing Ravn with four rowers and Ravn won the People's Choice award.

 Doryman is one of the mainsprings of this event and keeps very busy before, during and after the show. One of his most pleasant duties this year was playing host to Bob and Claire McDonald, a wonderful couple from Spokane who recently donated their Teak Lady sloop to the Port of Toledo. Now the port has a matched set.

Doryman and I discuss seating before the row.
 During dinner Saturday night Bob and Claire, who are at the aft end of their mid 80s, recounted their adventures rowing nearly every morning on the Spokane River. Bob said he wished he could row at the festival. This matched up with one of my wishes -- rowing Ravn with four rowers. Sunday morning both wishes came true.

Mary, Doryman's lovely wife, put together a great video of Ravn with four rowers. Many thanks to Mary, who also took the pictures in this post. I had my camera with me, but I didn't use it much.
The major award.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Return to Hope

Ravn with Mount Rainier in the background.
In July, my family mounted an expedition to Hope Island, a small island not far from Olympia, Washington. It was a fulfillment of a dream that kept me going during the long months I was building Ravn. I would imagine my family on a sparkling summer day, sailing on a gentle breeze to this storybook island to picnic and enjoy her beauty. The reality turned out even better than the dream.

I hauled Ravn on her trailer the 200 miles from my home to Olympia where most of my children, grandchildren and my wife live. Ravn is very easy to tow behind my little pickup and I hardly noticed she was there. Other people on the highway noticed her, however, and I received several thumbs up from other motorists. Trailering the boat added about 15 minutes to the four-hour trip and upped my gas consumption by about a third. But it was worth it.

About 20 years ago Washington State purchased the 106-acre Hope Island and turned it into a state park. I worked for The Olympian newspaper at the time and wrote a series of articles about the island. My family and I visited the island several times when we had our big sailboat Lobo. The island has a special place in the heart and history of my family.
The natives paddled their traditional craft made of fiberglass walrus hides.

We launched from Boston Harbor, which is just a few miles north of Olympia. My wife, daughter, her two kids and I were in Ravn. My oldest son, his daughter and his girlfriend rented kayaks at the marina making it a grand fleet.

My daughter also loves rowing.
The trip to the island took a little over an hour with my daughter and I rowing most of the way until a light breeze took us the rest of the way to the island. We saw seals, harbor porpoise and many huge jellyfish on the way.

We nosed up onto a deserted, rocky beach and I held the bow while everyone clamored over the foredeck an onto the beach, all without getting their feet wet. I was proud of that achievement, but it didn't last long; the kids were soon wet up to their knees and beyond.

I wasn't watching the tide and Ravn dried out.
The tides in this part of the world have about a 10-foot range. With all the picnicking, exploring and visiting I was not paying attention to the boat. I finally glanced over at her and found the tide left her high and dry. I had to drag her over barnacle-encrusted stones the size of my fist to get her afloat again. At about 650 pounds, she's a lot to move by yourself, but not too difficult.

My grandson watching for harbor porpoises.
The sail back to Boston Harbor was a pure joy. The wind was a little fluky at first, but soon filled in and Ravn moved easily along while the kids played. My granddaughter found a sponge and busied herself cleaning the boat. It was short on cleaning value, but long indeed on entertainment value. Once she tired of that, she joined her brother on the foredeck to watch for seals and jellyfish. I remembered that as I was building the deck two winters ago I envisioned just such a scene and it made a perfect day even better.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Sailing at last!

My wife and I had Wednesday off and it wasn't raining, so we took Ravn for her inaugural sail. It was great!

She (the boat) behaved like a lady, moving smartly under her small standing lug sail.

I know what all you sailors are asking: "Does she go to windward?" The answer is, I think so. The wind was 10 to 15 knots but the hills and valleys caused it to clock around 180 degrees in 100 yards, so by the time we made it through a tack, the wind was from a completely different direction. I also didn't have a downhaul rigged until about the last 20 minutes of the sail. I think once I get her tuned, she will go to windward, after a fashion, just as Atkin said.

She really shines on a reach and a run.

Yes, it was that cold, but still a great sail.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Depoe Bay Wooden Boat Show

Last weekend the little coastal village of Depoe Bay, Oregon, put on it's annual Wooden Boat Show. Ravn was one of the attractions.

A Pacific storm blew through the day before with gale-force winds and constant rain. Here on the Oregon coast the only real rain storm is horizontal rain. Saturday dawned calm, cool and cloudy but the forecast was for no rain and it held through the weekend.

Depoe Bay claims to be the world's smallest harbor and I've never seen a smaller one, so maybe it's true. It's secure: protected from wind and wave by huge basalt cliffs with a small entrance called the Hole in the Wall.

I was hoping to take Ravn on her inaugural sail before the show to work the bugs out, but the Pacific storm prevented that. With the confined space, fluky winds, strange tidal currents and an audience, I decided to postpone that event. This week, for sure!

I didn't take many pictures. For a good slide show and a video of events at the show go to my friend Doryman's blog.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Rudder and tiller

Since I changed the keel on Mr. Atkin's design I needed to change the rudder too. I did try and keep the area about the same, which makes for a big rudder. It also significantly increases the draft, but only when under sail.

I made the rudder from a beautiful piece of mahogany that was 23 inches wide. It was a gift from my carving teacher after I helped her move. I kept cutting on the shape until it looked about right. Then I rounded the leading edge and feathered the trailing edge.

After I finalized the shape and attached the two cheek pieces, I decided to add a little carving to memorialize the skill my carving teacher passed on to me. I found the scroll and leaf shape amongst a much more complicated Viking-era carving. It seemed a perfect complement to the graceful shape of the rudder head.

The rudder is pretty quick to rig, with the rudder hardware from Duck Trap Woodworking. I thought it might be difficult to do at the dock, but it is, in fact, easier than while the boat is on dry land. The buoyancy of the rudder helps. You can hold it with one hand and drop the pin in with the other.

The push-pull style tiller and reach arm are made from ash. The reach arm has a through tenon that goes in a mortise in the rudder head and is held in place with a wedge in a mortise of the reach arm. The wedge has a marline keeper on it, but I made an extra wedge just in case. The reach arm is seized to the tiller with more marline, which I tarred with Stockholm tar. The tiller is about four inches longer (74 inches) than in the plan. I figured I could cut it down if the extra length isn't needed.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Sail ho!

I hoisted sail today for the first time on Ravn. I did it while she was still on the trailer; a true dry run.

The spars and running rigging are done, except for a few final touches. Eventually I'll get some proper three-braid rope for the sheet and halyard, but the old stuff from my box o' rope will do for now.

I moved the shrouds and forestay below the halyard shive and I think that was a good decision. Nothing looks like it will bind up as long as the Jack Tar hoisting the main doesn't two-block it.

As I was building Ravn I considered all kinds of changes to the rig: upping the scantlings of the mast and going with an unstayed, ballanced lug was one I seriously considered. But then I was lucky enough to score a sail from another Valgerda, so I decided to follow Mr. Atkin's plan exactly.

Were I to order or make a sail I would have been temped to make it larger and out of tanbark cloth. In a way I'm glad those decisions were taken away. She looks real good to me just the way she is.

Now I need to get a rudder made so I can see how that beautiful rig performs.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Questions from Victor and an Offer to Followers

Here's a shot of Ravn's bow before I turned her over. Notice the hollow entry and flare in the bow. When I was lofting the O station I almost messed this up. But I caught the mistake in time.

I started to answer a question from a reader and got a little long, so I decided to make a post of it. Victor writes:

I am seriously considering building a Valgerda. I think this boat is one of the most beautiful and authentic looking faerings around, (apart from the traditionally built ones of course!). Unfortunately building one (traditionally) with solid lumber is not an option for me.

I am a bit apprehensive about all that lofting. Which reminds me, both you and Rick Nardone mention an error with Mr Atkin's offsets , can you elaborate on this please? Did you find that the offsets given were relatively close after fairing the lines?

Is this boat "a handful" to row?


Dear Victor,

I hope you do build a Valgerda. They are wonderful boats and rowing one is almost a religous experience.

While I don't consider myself an expert rower, I have rowed a lot of different boats and Ravn is far and away my favorite. She is a big boat, but far from being a handful to row, she is very well behaved. One person can row her with no problem. She tracks like she's on rails and has the good sense to punch through the small waves and ride over the big ones. I built her so she could cross the shallow river bars we have on the Oregon coast and she does that like a pro.

She does not handle like a light, flat-bottomed boat -- don't expect to do a 360 in her length -- but you also won't get dumped off a breaking wave and broach like happened to me in my little dory.

Both Rick Nardone and I built the keel different from the plans. My keel is 6 1/2-inches deep, which makes my boat draw about 12 inches. Rick's is about four inches, with a total draft of about 10 inches. The keel Mr. Atkin drew is more than 18 inches, which would pose a problem launching and recovering her from a trailer. I find Ravn to be very handy in that respect. She isn't much more difficult to launch and recover than my little 13-foot, 150-pound Chamberlain dory.

Now about the lofting: Rick said the lofting was easy and a good project for a beginner. He's a professional boat builder and knows what he's doing. This is the first and only boat I've ever lofted so it was a bit of a challenge for me, but only because I'm not good at all with numbers. I found Mr. Atkin's table of offsets to be right on the money as far as I could tell.

The mistake I made was by not following exactly the lofting of the 0 and 12 station (the first and last ones). It didn't look right to me because it tucked in more than I thought it should so I modified it. Once I set up the stations I saw my mistake and corrected it with no harm done. Had I not fixed the mistake, Ravn wouldn't have the beautiful hollow entry she has.

The Offer
I found it was easier for me to make up my own table and translate the traditional feet-inches-and eighths into exactly what that looks like on a tape measure. I know, it's kindergarten stuff, but, like I said, I'm not a numbers guy. I have that as a doc. file and would be happy to sent it to any of those who follow this blog if they can prove they have already purchased the plans from Mrs. Atkin. The plans are a beautiful piece of art. If you are building this boat you need to have them. Besides, I wouldn't want to cheat Mrs. Atkin. At $50 the plans for Valgerda are a bargain. She is providing a great service making the Atkin plan catalog available to boat builders.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Tim Mooney's experience with Valgerda

There is a great post from the archives of the Wooden Boat Forum, Sept. 21, 2004, by Tim Mooney . He talks about the Valgerda that he built:

"Well, here's what I think. I built one of these Valgerda boats, and sailed it from Mystic to Annisquam, MA; up the coast of Maine and in the Great Lakes. I lived aboard for up to six weeks at a time and I think the boat is great. The rig is great. and the ballast is great. No you don't row this boat to windward. No you don't want to sail her unballasted (flotation is a good idea).
This is the driest small boat I've ever been on. I know why the Norwegians use the verb swims, as in "she swims well," to describe their craft; if you get wet sailing to windward in under 15 knots of wind in open water it is because of gross inattention misdirecting the tiller. Normally she seems to try to attack waves like she knows where she wants to go and the spray stays down low. The rig may not look like much to you, but sailing I liked it. I added 8" to both luff and leach and had two deep reefs; wouldn't change anything else. I wouldn't want a less high aspect sail, since I like getting to weather.

"Since there is a keel and the center thwart is not structural, I'd take it out, stick it in the back with the furled rig, the oar that wasn't holding up my tent and live with a big comfortable space. I could go on. I love this boat. I had the most fun of my life with her."

April 1, 2011
I did ask Mr. Mooney if I could post this before I actually posted it, no foolin'. The thing is, I didn't hear back from him for some weeks, so I went ahead and posted it anyway.

Lucky for me that I received the gracious email a couple of days ago: "No problem using my old forum post. I sometimes think of writing more about the boat. -- Tim Mooney"

I immediately wrote back thanking him and asking for more recollections of his Valgerda and photos. Here's hoping!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Other Valgerdas

Doryman's Valgerda at the Toledo Wooden Boat Show last August.

I correspond regularly with two other Valgerda owners - Doryman, who lives just down the coast, and Rick, who lives on the other coast - and I'd like to add to the list.

There must be more; the design has been around since 1952. John Kohnen snapped a few pictures of two different Valgerdas at recent Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festivals. I also saw one for sale on the East Coast a few years ago. It would be nice to have a list of builders, owners or former owners.

Heck, I'd even like to talk to folks who have just sailed or rowed one. Or even people who are thinking of building one.

I'd also like to talk to owners and builders of Kari 2, the Selway-Fisher faering of about the same size and style. I own a set of plans for this boat and almost built it, but the Atkin plan won out.

So, if you fit any of the above categories please let me know through the comment section of this blog. I would like this to be a place where we can share stories and ideas about this great design.

Rick's Valgerda

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Trouble on deck!

OK, it's not as bad as it sounds. Trouble is my 3-year-old Australian Shepard. Having her on the stern deck was an improvement from her running from port to starboard and back to port. Once she got up where she could survey the lake she settled right down.

I should have spent the day in the shop working on the spars and rigging, but you just don't get many days like this in January. The sun felt good and was too hot for anything more than a t-shirt.

Once I got back and washed down the boat, I fitted the mast. All is well, but I do need to enlarge the hole in the floor boards where the mast passes though. I needed to pull the boat out of the shop to do that anyway. Right?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Ravn's New (Old) Mast

Back in August I bought some nice old-growth fir for Ravn's mast with enough left over for a set of oars. I built the oars first and I'm glad I did. This is wonderful wood, don't get me wrong. It was air-dried for 10 years and is perfectly clear with tight growth rings. But the stuff is heavy. It will work fine as oars, once I shave them down a bit more to improve the balance, but it was just too heavy to make the mast.

Enter Doryman. Doryman, who writes the best small-craft blog on the web, only lives about 40 miles from my house and about 10 miles from where I work. He is a fellow Coot. Over the past couple of years he has turned from a virtual friend on the web to a real friend in real life.

Among his fleet of sailboats and pulling boats is a Valgerda. His boat, the Reinsdyr, was built in 1966 by Keeler Boat Building of Portland, Oregon, for the Weyerhaeuser family. If you live in the Northwest, you know Weyerhaeuser as a giant and successful forest products company. My guess is that the Weyerhaeuser family could buy just about any kind of boat they wanted and it pleases me to think that they chose the Valgerda design to purchase.

The boat is built to very high standards and is heavy, with three-eighth-inch plywood planking, decks on the sides bow and stern, rudder hardware that is stout enough for a 40-footer and, until recently, an inboard gas engine. When Doryman bought the boat the engine had been removed, but the boat is still quite a bit heavier than its designed weight of 600 pounds.

Until May 2010, John Kohnen, another Coot and keeper of the Atkin web site, owned the boat. John came with two other Coots to help me when I turned the boat over. I knew he had a Valgerda. One thing led to another and I bought Reinsdyr's sail a month or so after the boat turning.

Doryman purchased the boat from John. He worked hard to get it ready for the Toledo Wooden Boat Show and it really looked great! With fresh coats of paint and varnish you can see why the Weyerhaeuser family bought this little yacht.

During the Toledo show, both boats were tied up at the same dock offering a chance for people to compare the two now very different boats. Doryman ribbed me a little about taking the sail from "his" boat, but said that because his boat is so much heavier he wanted to increase the size of his sail.

He recently took delivery of a beautiful new sail made by a Eugene sail maker. At 119 square feet, his new sail is more than half again larger than the original. Needless to say the 14-foot mast on his Valgerda would not accommodate this cloud of canvas. Lucky me.

I went to Doryman's house bearing gifts and managed a trade. I think it wasn't so much the quality of my trade goods as the fact that Doryman wanted the mast to go to a good home. As he said, "the mast ought to go with the sail."

The mast is made to the exact dimensions from Atkin's plan. The only exception -- and it's a nice one -- is a finely-formed button at the truck. There's a beautiful bronze sheave for the halyard too. Doryman put a lot of work into the mast: scraping it to bare wood, filling a groove that held the wire for a masthead light and priming the whole thing with epoxy. Like everything Doryman does -- from writing his blog to building boats -- the workmanship was excellent.

A little epoxy got in the halyard slot freezing up the sheave, but I was able to work it free. The bottom 30 inches or so of the mast was left square, which won't work on Ravn. So I am in the process of rounding that section and I cut a tenon in in the bottom to fit my mast step.

This has reinvigorated my efforts to get Ravn sailing. Thanks Doryman!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

New Year's Row

Ravn and Paku waiting to be loaded onto trailers.

I know I'm a little slow on this post - like two weeks - but I need to write it so I can write the post I really want to write.

My wife and I had an enjoyable, but cold, row on New Year's Day. It was another drift down the Yaquina River. This time my wife didn't have to work so she was able to occupy the princess seat. In stead of a full codgery of Coots, only one other vessel accompanied us: Doryman and his wife, Mary, rowed their beautiful Culler skiff Paku.

Mary and my wife have many similar interests (yarn, knitting, violins and other stuff). Doryman and I often get together to "play boats" with his fleet of small craft. The Doryman has only about seven boats at the moment, but that number can and does change with alarming frequency. All his boats are made of wood and have either been extensively restored or built from scratch by Doryman. Some are even his own designs. If that weren't enough, he is also the current international president of the Traditional Small Craft Association.

In all, an interesting couple. Needless to say, we did a lot more talking than rowing. That was OK, however, because Doryman planned the outing so the ebb tide and the river's current gave us a two-knot, or better, push down the river. How could an outing like this get any better? Food and even more conversation, which is how we ended the day in a great little BBQ restaurant in Toledo. Thanks Mary and Doryman!