Port Dalhousie, Lake Ontario, September 2011

Port Dalhousie, Lake Ontario, September 2011

Thursday, August 8, 2013

the making of "Bob the Boat"

The whole idea of “Bob the Boat” came about for a number of reasons. 

The first was that when we bought our 28 ft Sirius sailboat, I put out a request amongst friends and family, for a good name to call her.  We didn’t get any useful or appropriate names (other than “Passing Wind” but my wife objected to that for some reason), but my daughter thought we should call it Bob.  No way I would ever call my boat Bob, but I did confess that it would be a great name for a dinghy. 

The second reason was that we were planning a trip to the Thousand Islands and for that we needed a dinghy. As we didn’t have a dinghy, I obviously had to get one.

Finally, I had a pram type rowboat when I was a kid and spent hours upon hours rowing that boat all over the Northwest Arm in Halifax. I loved that little boat and was drawn towards having a similar type boat to compliment my fleet (my other boats are canoes) for nostalgic reasons.

Given, that I like to think of myself as handy with tools and wood and such (I have built 2 canoes), I figured I would build our dinghy rather than fork over more $$ and set about looking for a decent design.  I settled on the Prameke at this site http://www.bateau.com/proddetail.php?prod=PK78 and ordered the plans.

Next step was to pick up some plywood and get started!  According to the directions that came with the plans, I could build the thing in a weekend.  Each step was broken down into the time it would take…like 2 hours to lay out all the lines and cut the panels.  Nothing to it.  Except the garage was freezing, transposing the lines was complicated and had to be redone a couple of times when I found an error…and it took me two Saturdays to get all the panels cut!  I discovered that the company selling the plans was not only overly optimistic about the time it would take, but on the amount of materials like epoxy (but more on that later).

Putting the panels together wasn’t easy either.  The boat has big curves in it and the plywood was reluctant to bend that far (and there is a lot of spring to plywood resulting in the boat “exploding” a couple of times as I tried to piece it together with cable ties and propped up with old copies of National Geographic (I just knew they would come in handy sometime!).

Now that the boat was not in danger of exploding anymore, I had to wait for warmer temperatures to start the epoxy work.  Of course, it was a cold spring and couldn’t get at that until May.  Launch date was early July, so I figured I still had lots of time. 

It took way more epoxy that the plans indicated!  It seemed for a month, I was always running out of epoxy half way into critical jobs and going back to the store for more. Consequently the epoxy job was not nearly a neat as I would have hoped…but it worked and would just take way more sanding that I had planned. 

A rule of thumb around boats though that I ignored, is to move slowly and thoughtfully.  I had cut two strips of 3/16 and two strips of ¼ ply to make the gunwales. In my haste one evening I glued the gunwales on and left, only to discover the next day that I had glued the two 3/16 strips together on one side, and the two ¼ inch strips together on the other side!  Epoxying a third strip of ¼ in on the thin side got me pretty close.

Now for the sanding.  And I sanded and sanded and sanded.  And still it was lumpy and potchy.  I didn’t have any more epoxy (as usual), so picked up some auto body filler that seems to work well and filled up most of the really bad voids.  By now though, I had one week to finish Bob so I was getting desperate! 

Finally, enough was enough, and it would have to do.  I had to get Bob painted and ready for our trip. First coat of primer went on and it didn’t look to bad.  I had some white marine paint which covered the outside of the hull quite nicely and two coats later the outside was done.  I now have 4 days left and the weather called for thunderstorms on all of those days.  Not a problem if I was still working in the garage but I had taken it down to the boatyard to work on it outside at the sanding stage.  Between thunderstorms and by flipping the boat over after each coat on the inside I managed to finish painting the inside by Thursday night.  We were leaving first thing Saturday morning.

Friday night, I was busy, getting the sailboat ready and at 9 PM went over to get Bob.  I plunked Bob in the water and to my delight, Bob floated and even floated level!  I installed the oarlocks and rowed over to our sailboat.  I still had not really resolved what I would use for a rubrail, so had picked up some pipe insulation which I installed over the gunwales on a temporary basis.  A stupid idea because it wouldn’t cover the corners (which is the part that would inevitably bump into our sailboat at dock) and after one good session bumping against the dock in a strong wind proceeded to rapidly fall apart.  As it turns out, I had the bright idea later on to use an old docking line screwed to the gunwale and this works beautifully!  Looks very nautical as well.

Regardless, I finished at about 10 pm and Bob was bobbing nicely at our stern ready to go!

We left at 6 am the next morning and I was delighted with how Bob towed.  Straight as an arrow and the bigger the waves the happier he was!  Bob literally just skipped over anything put in his way without taking on a drop of water!  In fact, at one point we had a 40 ft motor cruiser blast past us at 30 knots and only 20 ft away (idiot).  The curling wake didn’t faze Bob at all!  Being quite light and having only a small percentage of the hull displacing water, it has no impact on our cruising speed or the performance of our sailboat at all.

During our trip, Bob took on a personality all of his own and became personified in our many references to our dinghy.  One evening, we rowed over to a friend’s boat for cocktails. I had left the oars in the oarlocks with the blades of the paddles sticking out over each side.  After a while, we noticed that Bob had snuggled up to their dinghy and was wapping him with the paddle everytime a wave hit them.  I pulled Bob back and put the offending paddle away and Bob returned to his original place next to our friends dinghy.  20 minutes later, we looked up and Bob had switched sides and was wapping our friend’s dinghy from the other side!  We speculated that it was jealousy over our friend’s dinghy having a 5 hp motor. 

Bob is on the dinghy rack now and while he may not be the prettiest dinghy out there, there is no doubt that he has the most personality!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

YouTube upload

So I got  trying to be creative the other night and put together a slide show of our sailing trips this summer and uploaded to YouTube.  Lets see if I can make this link work!

sailing pics

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Trip to 50 Point

50 Point is a great destination in western Lake Ontario.  It is actually a part of a conservation authority, but has a wonderful marina with a restaurant that is not bad.  Great walking trails, fishing pond, and beaches makes it really popular for cruisers with kids!  We sailed over in strong winds but on a beam reach which made for some great speeds!  It is a bit weird as you can’t see the entrance to the marina/park until you get quite close and the masts are obscured by trees, so it seems like you are sailing towards the shore on a suicide mission.  Get into the channel though, and our immediate response was “wow”!  Spent a lovely evening exploring and headed back the next day without a hint of wind.  About 5 miles out, we just stopped and went for a wonderful swim in what seemed like the middle of Lake Ontario.  The winds started to finally pick up and off we went for a great sail home. 

The County

Our next trip entailed 2 weeks exploring Prince Edward County, otherwise known by locals as “the county”.  It was quite literally, the best vacation we have ever had.  We got a late start due to T Storms AND the fact that a foot pedal water pump broke the night before and was leaking all over the floor.  Again, the repair was a little more complicated than it should have been as the new models have a reverse water flow direction that required another trip to the store to get an extra foot of hose! 

Murray Canal
Our first night was spent in Whitby and then off to Cobourg the next day for a few nights to visit family etc. (plus we love Cobourg).  As I recall, we had really nice winds (10-12 knots) for most of that.  Departing Cobourg, we sailed past Colborne which is where Ruth’s Dad lives high up on a hill with a great view of the lake.  As we sailed into view, Ruth was on her cell phone with him asking “can you see us yet?”.  Finally he spotted us and asked Ruth if we saw him.  Given that we were about 5 miles out it seemed a silly question until we saw a brilliant flash from the top of his hill…he was flashing us with a mirror!  Only Ruth’s Dad would think to do something like that!

you said the bridge was 95 ft right?
Lake on the Mountain
We had a lovely sail into Brighton and decided to do the Murray Canal the next morning.  After our dinner another boat came in and tied up just in front of us.  They had a real challenge docking and given the ideal conditions either meant fatigue or inexperience. I asked them where they were headed and they stated Nova Scotia.  Wow!  I was impressed.  They planned to leave the boat there for the winter and then sail across the Atlantic to Scotland the next year.  Ok, even more impressed, until he pulled out the charts and asked me if I thought they could get through the inland route north of the county (which was the route that most boats take rather than deal with the very exposed south shore).  I assured him of this but in the course of the discussion found out that they did not understand the green/red buoy system (they are reversed in this route when heading east).  I did my best to explain this to them but wasn’t convinced that they got it.  I heard the next day about a boat an hour or two behind us getting grounded in the Bay of Quinte (where you really HAVE to pay attention to them or it means trouble).  I am seriously guessing that it was them – and I really hope that decided against Nova Scotia this year!

County sunset
After a wait for the Murray Canal to open (who would have thought that it was closed until 9 am) we had a great sail down to Picton where we spent a couple of wonderful days enjoying the town (except when Ruth wanted to go shopping), having great meals etc.  This was the only place Ruth wouldn’t dock.  We headed into the club fairway which was very, very  narrow and Ruth yelled “I am not doing this”!  I grabbed the wheel and got us in to the slip, but it was tight!  By the way, if you are ever down that way, Lake on the Mountain has an amazing restaurant.

Our next easy sail was down Aldolphus Reach and back up the other side to a place called Waupoos.  And we fell in love with Waupoos.  The water was so clean in the marina that you could swim off the boat and, in fact, I caught a beautiful bass right off our slip!  We spent 4 days in Waupoos day sailing and socializing with other sailors including a couple from our club that showed up.  Words cannot describe what a beautiful place it was.

Waupoos moose
We headed back and spent a night (for the first time for us), anchored in a bay behind Ram Island.  On the way we were reading about proper anchoring procedures which suggested having a system of hand signals so we wouldn’t end up yelling at each other.  Made really good sense but, of course, we didn’t do it with the inevitable result that we ended up yelling at each other while I was up front trying to set the anchor while Ruth was not understanding my verbal instructions because she couldn’t hear me and doing the opposite of what I needed.  We finally got the anchor set only to worry that we were too close to the island and needed to re set a little farther out.  We finally got settled in, forgave each other and had a lovely evening.  One minor issue though was that the anchor light wasn’t working properly, so I hoisted a 360 degree flashlight up on a halyard and that worked just fine until about 4 in the morning when the wind came up and it started clanking against the mast.  Ruth didn’t seem to think that it was appropriate that I was out on the deck at 4 in the morning stark naked and messing with halyards and such.  I didn’t care, I just wanted the damn clanking to stop!

Our next day was spent right in the teeth of 25-30 knot winds.  It didn’t matter which direction we were going, we had a headwind and ended up motoring all day.  We packed it in in Belleville just after lunch.  Huge winds and a temp of 37 degrees C made for an interesting day.

The following day, we headed west again and backtracked through the Murray Canal.  Part way though we started going slower and slower and the helm felt really weird, like we were having extreme weather helm.  My brain is thinking that something was seriously wrong with the engine or the rudder but we made it through the canal.  The boat in front of us immediately started backing up and huge clods of weeds started showing up at the surface.  Ah ha!  It was weeds churned up by yesterday’s winds!  I copied their moves, cleared all the weeds off our rudder and off we went with everything acting just like it should! Good lesson to learn.

We had an uneventful trip back stopping in Cobourg again for a while where we had to repair our genoa with some sail tape from a local marine store (time for a new one me thinks).  We planned to be home on the Saturday, 15 days after we set out, but as we approached the Scarborough bluffs, Ruth suggested that we pull in at the bluffs for one last night and get home Sunday.  We were both clearly just loving this trip and neither one of us anxious to leave the boat!!

Youngstown NY

Our first trip wasn’t until the Canada day weekend (July1). We sailed over from Toronto to Youngstown NY as a part of cruise with our club.  Sailed over in 20 knot winds and we were flying!  We opted to moor on a ball, which was the first time doing this and really enjoyed bobbing in the Niagara River. We toured the town, found the best ice cream shop and had the best view ever of the Canada Day fireworks at Niagara on the Lake. I had the chance to tour the local fort and ended up chatting about canoes with one of the tour guides.  After a while, in response to my questions and observations about a canoe on display he said “you must be Canadian”.  

I like to think that I saved my wife’s life that weekend.  The water was very enticing off the stern of our boat and Ruth decided to go for a swim.  At the last minute, I suggested tying a line to her wrist just in case the current swept her away.  She jumped off the boat and promptly started moving downstream at a good 3 or 4 knots!  She quite enjoyed my pulling her in.

Well, I haven’t been very good at updating my blog!

I am pleased to report that the prop repair held perfectly for the season and I was assured by the guy who redid the repair that it will hold for 20 years or more! So far so good and on haul-out, it is a solid as a rock.

We got the boat back from its final repair after launch, put on the mast, rigging and sails and were off sailing as much as we could!  Well, actually it wasn’t that fast as I had to install a depth sounder/fish finder first, given our depth sounder doesn’t work.  Another simple job of “popping it in”.  This simple procedure entailed a major wire fishing job for the transducer cable including taking apart the steering pedestal, overcoming my fear of all things electronic and electrical and sorting out a host of logistical issues. I will never forget the feeling of pushing the power button expecting either 1. Nothing, or 2. Sparks and smoke, to see a message pop up on the screen asking me to select English, French or Spanish!  Also, being relatively new to the boat I took some time to replace the fuel filter and impeller as I had no idea when they were last replaced and didn’t want them failing on one of our trips.

The first step though was some sailing lessons for my wife, Ruth.  A very competent sailor, Donna, from our club, agreed to mentor my wife, which, I felt, was a far better tack to take then me teaching her!  We were anxious for Ruth to be able to dock so I would be the one jumping down to the slip and managing the lines…but learning to take the helm to relieve me and execute MOB procedures was important too.  Donna was truly amazing.  So good in fact that the problem now is that Ruth loves the helm so much that I rarely get a turn at it!  Rather than screaming from a sharp heel, she is now yelling “yahoo”!  I recently docked our boat singlehanded and our dock neighbour stated “you did that almost as well as Ruth!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Not a fun launch - arggg

I am totally pissed.  A boot load of $$ to repair the P Strut, shaft and cutlass bearing.  It was done a few days before launch.  I worked like crazy on the hull, raising the water line, painting a new boot stripe and cleaning and polishing.  Went into the water on Saturday looking like a million bucks. 

 Launch went fine except the water was not pumping to cool the engine - solved that when I discovered the water pump belt was not on the pulley!  Put it on and it went just fine.  It was then that I noticed water trickling in from the fiberglass mound over the P strut repair.  Not good.  And now I am running down to the marina twice a day to pump out the bilge (don't have an electric one - just the old manual pump).

I called the mechanic who at first didn't believe me - but he finally showed up on Sunday and tried applying some water proof epoxy stuff that didn't work.  The only solution he said was to haul it out and redo the repair.  He made arrangements with a yard in Toronto (about 8 miles from here) to haul it out and asked me to take it over in the morning.  I reluctantly agreed and cleared my work schedule for the morning.  But tonight, I went down to double check things.  Did the usual bilge pump thing, checked the rate of flow (which was a small trickle) and then thought I would start the engine and test it out in gear (a friend was on hand to watch for anything changing at the site of the repair).  As soon as I put it in gear, he yelled at me to turn off the engine as the water increased from a trickle to a steady stream.  Thankfully, the water flow decreased when I turn of the engine.  I suspect the P Strut is still loose in there.

I phoned the mechanic and told him that there was no way in hell I was motoring to Toronto with the risk of a total failure midway.  He suggested that perhaps I could sail it over!!  So now I am in a battle with the mechanic to get it towed over ASAP and fixed once and for all!  Next time I do it myself!

Oh how I envy every one else having a stress free launch!

Just venting....

UPDATE:  the mechanic phoned and has arranged for a tow in the morning and has hired an expert to do the job right!  

UPDATE #2:  picked up the boat on Friday in Toronto and motored back to Mimico checking the repair every 15 minutes.  Not a drip - so far so good!!