The Longest Short Journey

The old girl made her first trip under power in many years on Sunday evening. She is now sitting on the river channel on the outside of the dock, waiting for her haulout later today.


This was the most nerve-wracking journey the boat will ever make. It’s always a bit stressful driving a new boat for the fist time, because each boat handles differently with different hull profiles, propeller sizes, and rudder sizes and angles. Add to the mix that the throttle and gear controls are unlike any boat I’ve skippered in the past 25 years and there is a new level of stress. At least there’s plenty of water, right?


Wrong. The above picture at high tide is very deceiving. Most of the water you see between the boat and the shore is only a foot deep. The Carlyle draws almost six feet of water, and we have to squeeze into a narrow channel basically scraping alongside the boat house. One wrong move, and we could get stuck in the mud and the boat would roll over when the tide goes out. Many boats have been lost this way. Here’s a shot of how narrow the deep enough water is to sneak around the boat house:


Doesn’t look as wide now does it? A couple more pictures with more water:



So we had to wait for high tide which gave us barely enough water to turn the boat around. My friends Dan and his son Daniel from the F/V Pheonix III came and helped get the boat turned around and Dan joined me for the first short boat trip. He spotted us as we ran the narrow channel to get out past the boat house and helped get tied up in the current. We went about an hour before high tide so if we did run aground we had some more water coming in to lift us off. All went well. The old motor chugs away and the boat moves some serious water. She had excellent rudder response. The controls will definitely take some getting used to – instead of moving a lever forward or reverse to change gears, it’s three turns of the big wheel clockwise for forward, three turns counter-clockwise for reverse. And good luck if you forget which turn you are in. Did I mention the throttle? The lever is backwards, you shove it forward for less throttle and back towards you for more. And there is about a 3 second delay in the old engine rpms…

Here’s a picture of the controls from before we bought the boat. The big wheel on top is the transmission control, the assembly with the vertical shifter on the right is the throttle. To kill the engine, just shove it forward until you run out of fuel. Shoving it forward is exactly what you would do on 99% of boats if you need emergency throttle – more power. And this engine doesn’t restart with the touch of a button. So it takes some real thinking to get used to these controls.


Daniel took some pictures from the dock – when he sends them over I will post them. Now we wait for the haul out at slack water, scheduled for 09:30 this morning.



Anchors and Chain

The emergency brake of any ship is its anchor. And on a pre-WWII boat with a huge engine that can only be started with a little engine, it becomes even more important. The anchor winch was until recently fitted with 22 fathoms (132 feet) of chain followed by 22 fathoms of steel cable.

I opted to reuse the existing chain and back it with line instead of steel cable. Cable is used in parts of British Columbia and Alaska where there are jagged rocky bottoms. For here and Puget Sound chain and line are more common as are sand or mud bottom anchorages.

The chain is what really keeps the boat in place, and keeps the anchor from slipping. I always opt for a fathom of heavier chain from the anchor to the anchor winch, as additional insurance. First on the winch is the anchor line. I picked up a coil of line from a friend for a screaming good deal, you can see it here next to the old greased and rusty steel cable:


I spread the line out on the dock and measured it – 44 fathoms, or 264 feet. Then the bitter end needs to be tied to the anchor winch:


Since I haven’t run the hydraulic hoses back through the deck, I needed to spool the line on by hand. I immediately regretted not having completed the hydraulics before doing this part. But after an hour the line was on.


The next part I didn’t really get any pictures of, because it was so messy. To move the anchor winch all the chain was dropped to the chain locker in the forepeak. The chain was really rusty, so I had to drag it out through the deck hatch (which knocked quite a bit of rust off). I then laid it out on a tarp on the front deck and sprayed it with a cold-galvanizing finish. Then all the links were turned over and the other side galvanized. Then as I hand fed the chain onto the winch the links were spray galvanized a third time. Hopefully this will protect that chain a little longer. In the end, 22 fathoms of chain were in place with the new fathom of larger chain between the winch and the anchor:


Finally I added a cover to try to slow down the rusting process. Eventually I’ll have a canvas cover for the whole winch fabricated.



Stepping the Mast

Last weekend we raised the mast. The mast that came with the boat was a small affair made of two chunks of wood bolted together. It was gathering dust in the shipwright’s workshop, but it did have a real gem – it was topped with a fairly new (and fairly expensive) LED anchor light. The anchor light is a white 360 degree light that sits on the very top of the mast and is to be lit when you are anchored up.

The new mast is a repurposed mast from a salmon troller called the Saga Wind. It was sitting around at the welder’s shop for several years, Uncle Patrick had it and was going to use it on the Kay. It wasn’t quite big enough for his boat, so he had a new one built. He offered the Saga mast up for the Carlyle and I had Welder Dan (Dan Lais Equipment Surgery) in Eddyville make some modifications.

The chief quality of the new mast is that it is built of old-growth aluminum.

First we installed the base that Dan built.


Then I carefully raised the mast and held it in place with temporary lines. This was a near disaster several times over. I had a couple of long aluminum poles at home that I turned into the “A” frames to give the mast more stability.


These are held to the cabin roof with stainless brackets.


I must have had those brackets for years and years. I found them in the shop and they were marked for will-call pickup.


It’s been three years since Angus died. I still miss him every day. He would have loved this boat. Here he is resting in the sun on the foredeck of the Henrietta W.

Angus Boat

Back to the mast. The next job was to hook up stainless wire stays, instead of the temporary lines holding her up. Here’s the hookup at the front of the boat connected to the bow iron:


Once the mast was properly stayed, the heavy boom could be added. The boom came down from Canada on the BC Troller, now known as the Jessica A. The boom will eventually be rigged to lift our tender on and off the back deck trunk cabin roof, so we can row to town if we are anchored up somewhere.


Then it was time to add the masthead light. These lights are rated for 2 nautical miles. All of the navigation lights are from Aqua Signal and manufactured in Bremen, Germany.


To change a bulb, just undo the hand screw at the top and drop a bulb in…


The bulbs are $50.00 each. so I hope I won’t be changing them too often. There are cheap incandescent versions available, but I opted to use the LED versions which are rated for a huge amount of hours, and have about 1/30th the power draw. Power draw becomes very important on a boat.


The next step was to get some new VHF radio antennas up there. I stopped in the middle of this operation and went to the hardware store and bought a ladder. It’s not high enough to get to the top of the mast, but I can reach the antenna bases. I’m getting too old and fat to be hanging upside down from the crosstree trying to hang on and tighten nuts and bolts at the same time.

Eventually the antennas went up and even the anchor light on the very top. Not one tool was dropped into the bay during this operation, but some bad words were said…



Saturday at the Shipyard

Before we retell Saturday’s adventures, here’s a short video I made the other day just so I can hear the sweet sound of the 1939 Caterpillar running when I’m forced away from the boat by work or real life…

Man I love that sound! And I have a much lower chance of being blown to smithereens with the gas starting engine now that I’ve installed a blower fan right above it.


But on to Saturday…

The two early risers found ourselves awake at 0600, so I invited Caomi out for breakfast. She chose Pig and Pancake. With full bellies we drove the bay road to the shipyard at about 0700. She was fascinated to see the other boats. The Vixen is still tied up there:


And Henry’s boat just got a new coat of bottom paint. When I started fishing Henry had the Clara B II, which he had fished for over 20 years. He ran down to fish California and somebody hit his boat when he was drifting at night and it sank. Luckily the ocean was flat calm that night and Henry got in his kayak and was able to paddle up to the boat and reach in the wheelhouse windows and save some things before she went down. His new boat is bigger than the old Clara B II.


Well I have some new planks on the back of the boat, on the trunk cabin roof. They stick out about six feet onto the back deck.


When we got down to the boat, I headed forward to unlock the wheelhouse. Caomi headed aft, then she called out “Dad – I have a nosebleed!”. No problem, she often has nosebleeds and every now and again she goes to the doctor to get the silver nitrate treatment. Then – “Dad – I hurt my eye!” That got my attention. I turned and she came forward, holding her hand over her dripping nose. She had a huge scuff mark under her eye. It turns out she was heading aft, looking down into the water and turned left where there is usually a clear expanse of deck – bang! – and hits my new wood with her face. About ten minutes later the drama was over and she wanted to have her picture taken:



So we had the talk again about how you have to be careful on a boat, because you never know when a hatch could be open on the floor or something new could be sticking out. And I asked her to be nice to my expensive wood, and stop hitting it with her face. She really is a cheerful little deckhand, and she helped me handing tools and parts down while I repaired the main electrical panel.

We also finally got a coat of varnish on the new hinged hatch from the master stateroom to the back deck:


And the day slipped into a beautiful evening as I put the tools away and headed home…


Working on the hull

There are about half a dozen planks on each side of the boat that need to be replaced. All of these are above the waterline, and all of them are fairly new having been replaced in 2007-2009. They are one of the reasons I don’t trust fir for hull planks anymore. Here is a shot of the first area of concern, where the water drains off the decks on the port side:


Here I have removed the fasteners and cut a butt joint in the plank where the wood is still good. The multi-tool is just the right tool for this job. The unpainted wood is mahogany planking that was never bunged or painted and was left for years. It will get sanded and painted in the shipyard and be good as new.

Once the bad piece was removed, you could see the condition of the frames and shelf beams underneath. I was pleased that everything seemed pretty solid:


The next step was to mix up some chemo – a wood anti-fungal and preservative. Every piece of wood that was near any rotten wood will get a good dose of chemo. Celeste and I spent about an hour driving around town getting the ingredients. I had to smile because Dad and I have actually been to the mine where the borax is produced and have seen the life-sized bronze sculpture of the Twenty Mule Team.


The ingredients are mixed together and heated until the boric acid and borax are totally dissolved in the liquid. It is then applied with a paint brush or put in a garden sprayer for hard to reach spots. It doesn’t look very appetizing but the shipwrights swear by it, and I have used it for years.


So now we have cooked up some chemo and applied it to the newly exposed wood. Now it’s time to prepare the replacement planks. I brought three planks in from the driveway and took them to Reino’s shop at the shipyard. He has an industrial planer and we started making sawdust. The rough Norwegian timbers started turning into smooth planks 1 7/8 inches thick.




The wood is beautiful, and I’m really glad Dan and I made the trip up to Port Townsend to pick it up a few months ago. I cut off a 25 inch chunk to replace our first area of rot. The planks have to be beveled on all edges to accept cotton and seam compound. After spending half an hour shaping the piece, it finally would be persuaded to fit into place with a block and hammer. Then wood bungs were glued in over the #14×2.5″ fasteners.


After sanding down the bungs I think this wood will serve the boat well. Now I can only dream of seeing more new wood in the hull. This was the shortest repair – the longest is 19 feet long.


This wood is about half of the total planks needed – looks like a lot of work left to do…