Friday, April 11, 2014

El Toro Trailer, Updated

You probably don't remember but a while back, I did a posting on kayak trailers that could be towed behind a bicycle.  The tow bar on that one broke.  The fundamental problem on that one was that it was made out of a fairly skinny piece of redwood that just wasn't strong enough.  This time I used oak.  Oak is stronger but the bar sticking out from the trailer is still about 8 foot long and so it flexes quite a bit.  When you're pedaling, the rhythmic motion of the pedaling sets up a back and forth oscillation of the trailer which is not only annoying but also slows down progress.
There it is with an El Toro loaded up for a test run. The length of the tow bar might seem extreme, but it has to be long enough to tow 20 foot (7m) kayaks.
I knew how to fix the oscillation problem which is by adding some cross braces in the form of a triangle, the universal stable polygon. But due to lack of ambition, I never got around to it.  But since the tow bar broke and I had all the tools out to replace it, it was time to add the bracing as well.  Mission Accomplished! as George Bush would say.
And the view from the rear.  The El Toro, an invention of the Richmond Yacht Club is 8 foot long and 4 foot wide.
Tow bar triangulated with two side braces for lateral stability.
And the link from the tow bar to the bicycle.  I should shorten that. Next time.

Desert Storm Tan Repaint

Over the last few years I have been painting the skins of my skin on frame boats with polyurethane varnish.  The varnish has UV blockers in it that protect the synthetic boat fabric from degradation by the UV.  The fabric I use is either nylon and of  late, mostly polyester.  Both get degraded by UV more or less equally.  Degradation means the fiber loses its flexibility and strength and crumbles into dust.  This is not a good thing in a boat skin and so it must be prevented.
In the past, I would try to touch up the varnish.  That worked for a little while but new polyurethane does not adhere well to old polyurethane.  The touch up varnish when exposed to sunlight for about a year starts to peel off.
Here's the original latex painted boat,  exposed to full sun for over two years already with no visible damage to the paint.
The solution as it turned out is latex paint.  Latex paint sticks to degraded polyurethane varnish and it effectively blocks UV radiation and it also is more flexible than polyurethane and does not crack.  Coincidentally, the polymer used in latex paint is acrylic, same stuff that they make UV resistant fabric like Sunbrella out of. You might ask, why not just cover the boats in sunbrella.  Good question.  I suspect it has to do with the price of sunbrella.  And you still have to paint the stuff to make it waterproof.
Here's the King Island kayak about to get a coat of tan paint.  Note the previously yellowish varnish starting to turn a chalky white, a clear sign that is near the end of its life.
The paint I was using was free give-away stuff left over from repainting about an acre's worth of commercial buildings in the neighborhood.  The commercial buildings have not peeled and neither have my boats.  Only drawback to this paint is its color, an unattractive sort of Desert Storm Tan.  Oh well, I also have four gallons of Gulf of Tonkin Gray.
And here is one of my baidarkas with a new coat of Desert Storm Tan or maybe it should be called, Afghanis-Tan or would you prefer Afghanistan-Tan
In any case, I painted about 4 boats yesterday.  Six left to go.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Basic Technology by Michael Wolf

Michael Wolf is a photographer working out of Hong Kong and possibly other cities.  A while back I ran into his photos of what he called "Bastard Chairs."  I would have picked a more flattering term, but bastard chairs is probably what most people would regard them as.  In any case, these chairs are what you get when people who are not professional chair makers improvise on chair repair.  They are in a sense, folk technology.  Go to the link to see more examples.
Housing is another area where folk technology proliferates.  And Michael Wolf has done photographs of that as well in a photo group called The box men of Shinkuju Station.
How does this relate to skin on frame kayak technology?  Well, given a need, people will invent a way to make do with what they have.  That is the essence of most primitive technology.  In our own very compartmentalized world where everything has to be done by experts we are usually isolated from folk technology and instead overwhelmed by what we commonly think of high technology.  But inject poverty and take away the money that it takes to fund the expert technologists, voila, up pops folk technology like mushrooms after a rain.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Eastern Arctic-Like Kayak, Performance Report

I finally did it. Finished the EA kayak with some deviations from the traditional norm, painted it and headed out to the water to see how it paddled.
There it is by the side of the water.  Launch imminent as soon as I get in and start paddling.  Weight is between 50 and 60 pounds I'm guessing.  Length is just short of 18 feet about 16 of which are in the water. Beam is somewhere around 27 inches. Two paddles are resting on the boat.  One Greenland style, 88 inches long and the other, an Aleut style with a 3 inch wide blade at 120 inches long, yes, that's right, ten feet long.
The big question was what sort of speed a flat bottomed boat could be paddled.
I had my GPS with me.  At the start of the test while I was still fresh, I managed to get the boat up to 5.6 mph. Cruising speed seemed to be between 3 and 4 mph. I did my usual two mile circuit once around Ballena Island. Wind was variable, maybe up to 15 mph and wind blown waves were about 1 foot max.  So not much of a rough weather test.
Overall, the boat seems to move about adequately.  Turning with the flat bottom is easy.  The boat responds quickly.  I thought that staying on track might be a problem but it turned out not to be.  The boat had no particular tendency to turn into or out of the wind and it had adequate length so it wasn't yawing right and left with each stroke.  Paddling both down and upwind was possible without any undue steering effort required. So all in all, the boat performed well.  I would still like to take it out on a rough day when waves are more like two feet, like a normal summer afternoon on the bay.
I ended up using the 120 inch paddle for most of the trip since it seemed to be a better match to the boat than the 88 inch paddle which required more effort to reach the water.
Overall, I felt that I needed more experience with the boat.  The initial outing left me feeling that its weight and speed was such that I need to discover some more positive attributes for the boat or it would not get much use. 
Speed is of course an ill defined measure.  What matters is efficiency.  Overall, the width and flat bottom of the boat are a combination that require a good deal more effort to make the boat go than just about any other kayak style that I have built.  If I were to build another version of this boat, I would probably decrease overall width and increase flare to the sides from the 10 degree flare that I put into this model. Increased flare would decrease the width of the bottom. I probably would also go with bent ribs to reduce weight of the boat and have some V in the bottom.  With lighter weight and less resistance  to movement this style of boat would be adequate for recreational use.
As I mentioned earlier, the boat also needs some rough water testing to see how the flat bottom handles going over waves.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Eastern Arctic-like Kayak - closing comments

Time to bring the EA kayak building project back to life, on this blog anyway.  Time to make some comments on the building experience, a time when the building is done but the boat hasn't been in the water yet and provided feedback on its suitability as a water craft.  I could have waited another few days to comment on the completion, but I'm thinking that once I try the boat out, I will become preoccupied with how the boat handles and forget all about what I learned from building it.
Part of what building an actual boat is all about is internalizing its structure in three dimensions.  Plans are flat representations of a boat and typically don't show any more than a top and a side view and some cross sections.  But the flow of the form of a boat in three dimensions is a lot more complex than the plans show and to get a feel for the form, you actually have to build the boat.  Once you have the feel, you gain the understanding of how that form interacts with the water and determines performance.
In any case, if you did some careful reading of the title of this posting, you may have noticed that called it Eastern Arctic-like Kayak.  What I mean by that is that when I laid out the shape of the kayak in the horizontal and vertical planes I improvised, that is, I didn't follow a particular plan but rather adapted length and beam to fit the wood that I had available.  I came close to building something that could be called Eastern Arctic, but not quite dead on.  Let's look at some photos.
Here's a picture of the frame just before the skin went on.  If you let your eye follow the right gunwale line you will notice that it has some bumps in it.  I think in general EA kayaks had a smoother sheer line.

Here's a shot of the boat frame. Bow down.  As you can see, the plan view is more like a Greenland hull than an Eastern Arctic.  Part of the problem with working by eye in a tight space.  Should have dragged the frame outside at deck setup time for a better view and probably would have noticed that the back end should have been wider.  I suspect the boat will behave ok, just with a narrower stern won't have as much carrying capacity.  And anybody who knows anything will feel compelled to tell me that I didn't make the back wide enough.  Yeah, I know.
View from the side with the skin on.  The nose is unorthodox, a little taller than traditional.  Looks more like a northwest pacific canoe bow.  Also the sheer line is a tad extreme.  We'll see how that works out.
Meanwhile, the cockpit turned out more or less standard, maybe a few inches longer than traditional.  Soon this boat will have some paint and then hit the water.  Till then I'm holding off on any predictions re performance.  I am most curious to see how the flat bottom will feel and how much stability vs. speed tradeoff there is in such a flat bottom.  Stay tuned.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

A Four-Egg Omelette

Technology brings us many wonderful gizmos and makes life as we are living it possible.  But as somebody once noted, "You can't make an omelette without breaking some eggs," the omelette being modern civilization and the eggs, well for lack of a better term, the natural world around us.
It just occurred to me after  my latest post on radiation ascended into the CLOUD, Google Division, that when we make omelettes, we like to crack more than one egg.  Take the Pacific Ocean.  That's a four egg omelette. Let me enumerate the four ways to crack these eggs.
Overfishing - that's probably the oldest method of messing up the Pacific
The Plastic Gyres - dump plastic in the ocean, let it decompose and choke marine life with it.
Acidification - that scheme came to my consciousness about the same time as the Plastic Gyres. We generate CO2.  CO2 dissolves in the ocean and creates a mild acid and the acid dissolves the calcium carbonate that marine creatures need to make their bones out of.
Radioactive material - The amount that has been dumped into the Pacific is probably less harmful than acidification or overfishing, but who knows, we're not done dumping yet.


You may or may not have heard about Fukushima, Japan where a few years ago a large earthquake and the giant wave that resulted from it badly damaged a number of nuclear reactors at an electric generating station adjacent to the Pacific Ocean.

When the reactors were first damaged, they released a bunch of radioactive material into the air.  Prevailing winds being what they are, they carried the radioactive material from east to west and deposited some of it westward of Japan.  Supposedly the material reached the west coast of the North American continent in about 3 days and as far as I can tell kept on moving in an easterly direction where it deposited more of this radioactive material.  Eventually, I suppose, the radioactive material all drops to the ground and into the water.  By now, not much of it is still blowing around.

 But aside from the initial material released into the air, there is an ongoing release of radioactive water being dumped into the ocean at Fukushima where currents disperse it and bring it to the west coast of North America. The radioactive water is radioactive because it is being used to cool various radioactive materials at the Fukushima generator site.  The radioactive water is being dumped into the ocean not as an act of maliciousness, but because so much of it is needed to keep the radioactive materials from melting that there is no place to store it - hence it is dumped into the ocean. Not cooling the radioactive materials would supposedly cause them to blow themselves into the atmosphere which would be worse than the slower dispersal caused by dumping the cooling water into the ocean.
Like all things technological, this was carefully thought out.
The radioactive material brought to us by the ocean currents takes longer than transport by air.  Supposedly 2014, that is, this year is when the first of it arrives on the shores of North America.  And thanks to ongoing dumping of radioactive cooling water at Fukushima the plume of radioactive water is getting refreshed with radiation on an ongoing basis.
Meanwhile, various life forms in the ocean ingest the radioactive material.  Fish do, mollusks do, seaweed does. Anything living in the ocean and swimming through the plume of radioactive water generated at Fukushima picks up radioactive materials.

What is not clear is how harmful the radiation is.

One opinion - from the movie Repo Man quoted here.

"J. Frank Parnell: Ever been to Utah? Ra-di-a-tion. Yes, indeed. You hear the most outrageous lies about it. Half-baked goggle-box do-gooders telling everybody it's bad for you. Pernicious nonsense. Everybody could stand a hundred chest X-rays a year. They ought to have them, too. When they canceled the project it almost did me in. One day my mind was full to bursting. The next day - nothing. Swept away. But I'll show them. I had a lobotomy in the end.
Otto: Lobotomy? Isn't that for loonies?
Parnell: Not at all. Friend of mine had one. Designer of the neutron bomb. You ever hear of the neutron bomb? Destroys people - leaves buildings standing. Fits in a suitcase. It's so small, no one knows it's there until - BLAMMO. Eyes melt, skin explodes, everybody dead. So immoral, working on the thing can drive you mad. That's what happened to this friend of mine. So he had a lobotomy. Now he's well again."
Others are not so optimistic.
I am personally curious - so I bought a radiation detector and started measuring radiation on my own.  More on the results in another post.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Wood and Canvas Canoe Restoration - B.N. Morris History

I did some research on the internet and found out what kind of canoe I was restoring, a B.N. Morris canoe made in Veazie, Maine.  And there was a facebook page that had a bunch of stuff about these canoes.  I suspect there is a facebook page for just about everything.
Anyway, here's some of the stuff I found.
Friendly rivalry makes good sport.  Ha Ha, could have used that slogan for the Cold War.  Apparently, this image is off the 1919 Morris canoe catalog.  Note, then as now, women get stuck in the bow of the boat.  Unless of course two women take a canoe out.  My advice, get a solo canoe and always be in the stern, captain of your own destiny.
WHCA, the wooden canoe heritage association sells decals for the Morris.  No, Paddleing is not a mistake, that's how Morris spelled it back then.
And another logo in lovely art nouveau style.

Darn, I screwed up the blogger software and it won't add a caption - anyway, the photo above shows the customary "pigeon blood" stain used by Morris on the interior of his canoes.
And finally, colors for the exterior of the canoe.  I lean toward dark green myself, even though in the photo it looks more like black.  Come to think of it, black never caught on as a canoe color.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Wood and Canvas Canoe Restoration - started

Finally got the shop organized enough to get the canoe moved in.  Some internet sleuthing reveals that it is a B.N. Morris canoe.  Helps to know what it is since that narrows down searches for particulars.
Did some measuring too.  Beam is 32 inches at the gunwales.  Length is 17 feet. 
There it is, the B.N. Morris without a skin, sitting on top of the Vibe in front of the shop.
The white cedar sheathing has some gaps that need to be filled.
There it is in the shop ready for the next step.
The ends of the canoe are decked over.  Doesn't look like much, but takes up the first 32 inches of either end of the boat.
And here, inside the hull, assorted parts that were stripped off the hull.  Among other things, here are outwales, gunwale caps, stem pieces and plastic bags filled with bronze nails.  Some sanding and varnish will make this stuff look like new.

Eastern Arctic Kayak Construction - Ribs

Back to working on the EA kayak after more than a month's hiatus.
Today I tried notching and bending a stick for ribs, but there was so little wood connecting the segments that I gave up and decided to just do the ribs in three parts.  At the same time, I started refinishing an old wood and canvas canoe so I didn't finish the ribs but got far enough to work out how it will be.
Pictures follow.
View from the bow.  Set sides of the ribs are sitting in their mortises, ready to be trimmed to proper length.  On the ground, just to the left of the EA is a stitch and glue surf ski that somebody dropped there.  Don't know who.  I will have to call some of my friends to find out who it was.  Soon as I get caught up on building, I will go and try out that surf ski.
The first completed rib.  I just nailed the center section to the sides with bronze ring nails.  Seems to work.  The joint will be backed up with some stringers. Note the battens clamped to the sides of the rib sides to mark them for where they will be trimmed.
Side view of the stringer the top of which marks the elevation at which the rib sides will be trimmed.  Ribs are roughly 5/8 by 1/2 inches.
The view from inside in the direction of the stern.  Those ropes look so nautical.
Another shot down the center of the kayak. The first completed rib is visible.  Tomorrow, I trim the rest and cut and nail the remaining center sections in place.
And the ribs near the bow.  With any luck, this frame will be completed soon.