Making the Mast Spars

This step looks impressive and is impressive from the casual observer, but really it’s not that complicated.  Just take your time and follow the right sequencing.

And then when something goes wrong…take a deep breath and figure out how to fix it.  Boat building is really about problem solving, like life and relationships in our life.  The key is in learning how to fix it.

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Practice on scraps to get the Bird’s Mouth cut adjusted correctly.  Notice the top cut is too long and the bottom cut is a tad too short (you can see the sliver of wood left in the bottom of the V in you look carefully).

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The cut length is good, but the angle needs to be narrowed a bit.  I narrowed the cut from 45 deg. to 44 deg.  and it fit perfectly.

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Did I mention obstacles?  This spar broke right over a knot in the wood.  I’m grateful it broke now as opposed to later in the build.  I hardly noticed the knot, but while flexing the spars, I heard the wood begin to break.  This sound lead me to the problem.  With a little pressure it gave way.

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And, my replacement Spruce stock contained a split right down the center of the board.  Now what?  Head scratching…

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So, I had to open up my own bag of tricks.  With the left over broken pieces in my hands, I decided to scarf them to produce a full length stave.  Now it’s long enough and I’ve used up the left overs.

Once cured, I’ll taper the staves to spec and get ready for epoxy.

It Begins Again…Well, Maybe

After thinking long and hard about building another Scamp, I’ve decided to take the first step.

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But, why build another Scamp?

Simply stated, I can’t find another small sailboat I like better.  Scamp has so much going for it.  I want to see if I can improve from my first build.

Are you just going to build it and then get disgruntled and sell it like last time?

I sure hope not.  My goal is to build another boat and then spend time getting to know her and teaching my kids to sail.  I really want to hold this one.

Why not just buy VG Doug Fir for the spars?

Sitka Spruce is approximately 15% lighter than Doug Fir and not much money.  In fact the difference between buying 38 board feet of Doug Fir and Sitka was less than $60.  With this small price differential, Spruce becomes the clear winner.  I want the mast as light as I can get it.  Yet, I’m not tempted by carbon fiber, I like wood.

So does this mean I’m committing to build another Scamp?

Not exactly.  I’m much more comfortable stating I’m committing to building the spars.  I’ll take it that far and see how I feel.  I’ve lost interest before in projects and found them laying around the corner of the wood shop, so I’m taking this opportunity one step at a time.  I’ll build the spars and if that goes well, I’ll consider moving toward the foils.  I’m all about baby steps and small commitments.  Remember, “by small and simple things are great things brought to pass”.

How will I build my spars differently from last time?

  1. 15% lighter, according to internet wood species data.
  2. More hand planing of the mast.  Last time I left it quite chunky  This time I will remove more material, rendering the mast even lighter.
  3. I’ll use a line to secure the block at the top of the mast as opposed to hard attachment, like Jason did with Argo.
  4. I plan to orient the mast block on the aft side of the mast for better halyard alignment (still playing with this).
  5. I’ll take the time to add leather wraps to all contact points.
  6. I’ll slightly oversize the boom (vertically).
  7. I’ll white tip all spar ends for a more historic look.

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Parting shot…like my new hair cut?

This is my dad, who I love very much.  He is 79 years old and can still out work me.  We made the SLC trip together to pick up the spruce.  We had a lot of time to discuss building ideas.  He’s a great designer and engineer.  It’s a huge blessing to have him in my life.  Now let’s fire up the planer and make some wood chips.

Dreaming of Another Scamp

As I sit in my den, looking out toward the South on a cold Idaho blustery February afternoon, my thoughts are with a boat called Scamp.  I thought you already built and sold a Scamp, my mind says.  Well, yes that’s true…but we’re just being honest and yes, my thoughts are with yet another Scamp.  Why another one…I did that once.  Well, I guess because I want another one and long to go sailing again.  But, wasn’t it sort of a pain in the butt?  Yes.  Wasn’t it frustrating to show up at the lake and have too much or too little wind?  Yes.  Wasn’t it frustrating to sort out all the lines and unwrap the lazy jacks from my neck?  Yes.  So, why do it?  Because there is just something about sailing that I can’t seem to shake.  It’s more poetry that perfection, more rhythm that efficiency, more authentic than artificial.  It’s like stepping back in time 2000 years.  A boat you build from your own hand, sail with the wind and howl at the moon.  Who doesn’t want to do that?  I do.  Life is too planned, too stiff, too certain, too predictable.  Let’s have some adventure!  Let’s build another boat.

Why not Long Steps?  It would be easier to row, easier to self steer and it looks really cool.  Long Steps is undoubtably a really neat boat, but I feel it’s too long and too complicated for me.  I have a small lake 1/2 mile from my house where I plan to do most of my sea trials.  It’s only 1 mile around the lake, hence very small.  Yet, at this small little insignificant lake, I could learn a lot about sailing and a Scamp would fit perfectly on this small lake.  Rigging time would be less than a Long Steps and frankly, I just don’t want to allocate the time to build and take the room to store Long Steps.  Remember, I now have a Skiff America 20 residing in my garage.

Yes, I really want the simplest, easiest, most seaworthy competent little sailboat known to man.  All these requests point directly at a Scamp.  It’ll be complicated enough, trust me.

I’ve already indicated on this blog what I would do differently next time.  No sense in reiterating that again here.  Let’s just keep it a dreamy feeling at this point.  Nothing concrete or etched in stone, just a desire to build another neat little sailboat.

My wife asked me to wait for 1-2 years before building another boat, but I learned there’s wiggle room.  What does that mean…wiggle room?  Well, she also said, last weekend, after a great dinner and date, that I could spend my allowance on anything I wanted.  Allowances are non negotiable, unrestricted funds.  So, if by chance, I wanted to build a mast out of Sitka Spruce, the funds are there and waiting.  Wow…that’s sort of exciting.  To build another mast.  And, this time out of Sitka Spruce.

The real question now is, would I rather build another Scamp or get a small teardrop trailer to pull on jeep rides through the mountains?  Remember, I live in Idaho.   Both items won’t fit in my garage.  So, it’ll come down to one or the other.

If I commit to attend annual Scamp rallies and see new sights with a Scamp, the Scamp would probably win out.  A boat can take you to amazing places and as my motto says,
“Never Stop Exploring”

Why not build one with me?  I’ll blog about each and every step.  You build one at your house, I’ll build one at mine.  Then some day we’ll sail together.  Randy, are you in?  

Yard Keeper Idea

I noticed when raising the sail on Shackleton, there seemed to be a lot of internal resistance in the halyard.  I think this resistance was coming from the halyard loop I tied around the mast to tend the yard.  In thinking through this setup, I’ve come up with another idea that might have merit.

Take a look at the drawing below:

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Might this work to:

  1. Tend the yard by keeping it close to the mast, especially when reefed?
  2. Keep the halyard running freely up the mast, lowering line resistance?
  3. Keep the yard/sail freely coming down the mast when reefing or lowering?
  4. Tend a loose halyard from blowing away from the mast when attaching to the yard

It’s just an idea, but one that may prove helpful.  What do you think?  This could be built by laminating two layers of 3/4″ plywood together and rounding all the edges.  Whatever is needed for required strength.  

Wood Choice for Spars

When I built Shackleton, I used VG Doug Fir for all the spars.  If I build another Scamp, I’m considering splurging for Sitka Spruce.  At double the cost, you might wonder why anyone would choose Sitka Spruce, at least I did.  Is it just tradition or are there beneficial characteristics to using Spruce over Doug Fir?  And, are these benefits real or perceived?

Here’s what I’ve learned:  Both woods are light, strong and very suitable for spar application.  However, Sitka Spruce is 18% lighter than VG Doug Fir per unit volume. Is this significant?  Consider this:  If your mast weighs 20 lb. while using VG Doug Fir, that same mast would weigh 16.4 lb. if you used Sitka Spruce.  To me this is very significant.  Anytime you can reduce weight aloft, you should, especially on a sailboat.  Think of the lever arm extending up into the sky that the mast represents.  A little weight at the top end will have significant effect due to it’s height and leverage.  The lighter weight benefit becomes even more significant if you make the yard out of Spruce, after all, it’s higher than the mast.

The lighter weight will also make stepping the mast easier, and raising the sail.

For these reasons, I’m leaning toward Sitka Spruce.  Another note on VG Doug Fir:  I had trouble routing VG Doug Fir on my last build.  The wood splintered badly and the tendency to splinter seemed unavoidable.  In searching the internet, I found this is a very real problem unique to VG Doug Fir.  My experience mirrored those found on wood working forums.

So, there you have it:  VG Doug Fir at $4.80/ft or Sitka Spruce at $7.93/ft?  I’m going Sitka all the way.

 

 

Voyaging Storage Strategies

Since we’re on this subject, I couldn’t help but bust out another scenario and discussion.

First the criteria:  Supplies for 2 sailors on a 5 day voyage.

I’m thinking my storage criteria for a second Scamp build would be to accommodate a weeks worth of provisions.  Anything longer than that would be a one off with possible resupply along the way.  With that in mind, how much storage would this require?  How much water would this require?  I believe the Texas 200, or any outdoor pursuit recommends 1/2 gallon/person/day.  Let’s use these numbers as we plan our one week voyage.  The math comes out to 5-7 gallons of fresh water…which really isn’t that big a deal.  In fact, when Preston and I sailed off Port Townsend we did just this.  We strapped a 5 gallon jug up under the veranda.  We never came close to using all the water, but it felt good knowing we had plenty.

Clothing for a 5 day voyage wouldn’t take much room.  Food a little more, but not bad.

What I’m getting at is this:

Might one have ample storage capacity by:

  1. using the front bow area for clothing, sleeping bags, pads and tent
  2. using the lazarette for anchors, line, beach rollers, block and tackle and wet clothing
  3. using 2 dry bags under the veranda (one lashed to each side) for clothing and food
  4. using  a 5 gallon jug of water strapped to the center line under the veranda
  5. using two 6″ round hatches installed in the front face of the seats (under the veranda) for first aid kit, flares, emergency items, radio, camera gear and cook kit

If this is sufficient, one would not need to cut any holes (other than small ventilation ports) into the seats or the sole of the boat.  Am I crazy or on to something?  I’d have to think this through over a period of time, cuz often I get carried away to excess with any good new idea.

Hatch Musings

These comments pertain mostly to a Scamp but could be applicable to other designs as well.

Here’s the deal:

Scamp offers a ton of storage, literally.  It is possible to install anywhere from 10-15 hatches in various places on this competent little micro cruiser.

Now for my question:

Since we can install hatches everywhere on Scamp, does this mean we should

Here in resides the problem.  Each and every time you cut a hole in your boat you compromise safety.  You compromise the boats integrity.  Sort of like someone telling little white lies until they get out of control and become a chronic lier, steeler or murder.  Well, that was a bit extreme, but you get the point.  It’s very easy to go Hatch Happy on a Scamp and I believe I’ve been guilty of this heinous crime.

If you think about it, the number one reason for storage compartments isn’t actually storage.  No, the number one reason for storage compartments is buoyancy.  And, if cutting holes jeopardizes buoyancy, why are we doing it?

We’re doing it for storage, dummy!  If we didn’t need storage, we wouldn’t have any holes in our boats.  OK, how much storage do we actually need?  The answer to this question depends on how we plan to use our boat.  And, once we’ve determined how much storage we actually need, let’s agree to just install this number of hatches.  No more, no less.   Now we would have a boat with sufficient amounts of storage for our needs without overly compromising the integrity of the boat with hatch overgrowth.

If I build another Scamp I’ll have a minimal number of storage hatches and probably none in the seats.  Well, almost none in the seats.  I would install 2 hatches in the vertical front face of the seats under the veranda.  At least this is my current level of thinking.

Remember also, that a dry bag secured under the veranda could easily hold a weeks worth of clothing and provisions.

Scamp is a very sea worthy micro cruiser if we don’t scandalize its sea worthiness by going hatch happy.  My confidence level in my own Scamp will be much higher if I minimize hatches and make them water tight.

In summary:

Water can’t get into your buoyancy chambers if you don’t cut a hole and allow access.  This seems overly simple, but might be profoundly true.  Read almost any boating disaster, it probably began with water intrusion.  

 

Long Steps Anyone?

Those of you on the fence regarding building a Scamp may want to wait, watch and learn about Long Steps.  The boat is a definite contender for those wanting a small capable sailboat like Scamp.  My current position regarding another build is just that…wait, watch and learn.  In the end, I’ll probably build either a Scamp or Long Steps but this is not something I want to rush.  It takes a long time to build a boat and I want my next build to be a long term keeper.  Whereas I’ve already built a Scamp, I’m actually quite enamored with the possibilities of Long Steps.

Here are a few potential disadvantages:  

  1. Weight.  I’ve been told it should come in about the same weight as Scamp, but we’ll need to wait and see.  If it gets much heavier, it may be too heavy to heave up onto a beach or harder to self rescue.
  2. Too complicated.  Trimming mast and mizzen would be new to me and might be overkill for general cruising.
  3. Storage.  At 18, 1/2′ this is not a small boat!  It won’t fit inconspicuously in your garage.  It will take significant room to build and to store.
  4. Build time.  This boat will take significantly longer to build than Scamp and require more patience, money, time and persistence.  I’m a little bit scared about this.  Just being honest.

Here are a few potential advantages:

  1. No need for break-down oars.  It appears full size oars would fit just fine inside the cockpit.  Easier to store, quicker to deploy and mechanically simpler.
  2. Lower center of gravity and lower center of effort by splitting and lowering the sail plane.
  3. Easier to heave to, by sheeting in the mizen.
  4. Easier to balance, by using main and mizzen.
  5. Larger veranda.  Easier to crawl inside to get warm.  This feature could be very important to a cold sailor.
  6. Lazarette already designed into the boat.  More storage and less water holding capacity.   Love this!
  7. More seating positions than Scamp (see John’s notes regarding a bean bag chair).
  8. Footwell already designed into the boat.
  9. Improved rowing characteristics by extending the water line.
  10. Improved rowing ergonomics by lowering the sides of the boat.
  11. Increased stability by increasing the waterline and water ballast capacity.
  12. Appears to have wider seats for improved comfort.
  13. The mast, boom and yards might just fit inside the cockpit/veranda area which would alleviate the need for boom gallows and mast crutch supports when transporting.

When you weigh it all out, there’s a lot to admire about this newly designed boat.  I plan to watch the prototype build and continue considering this as my next build.  Aren’t boats cool?  

If I Build Again

Now that Shackleton has been sold, I’ve been left to ponder over this wonderful little boat and consider its merits and weakness.  The reason I sold the boat originally was to make room for my Skiff America build, which is coming along nicely and almost done.  And, now that the Skiff is almost done, I find myself rethinking the Scamp design and longing for another small sailboat.

Would I be crazy to build another Scamp?  The thought of it makes me sort of cringe, but at times it makes me feel excited and energized.  If I did build another Scamp, what would I change?  Most of these ideas come from Howard Rice’s Southern Cross and even though Howard is quick to not encourage others to copy his design, there remains a lot of merit in many of his ideas, regardless of where one sails, at least in my mind.

So, here is a list of things I would change if I were to build again:

  1. I would add a lazarette to increase buoyancy and keep even more water out of the cockpit upon capsize.  Yes, Scamp is already incredible in this regard, but a lazarette would increase stern storage in an area that’s hardly usable otherwise.  Plus, and this is a big plus, have you seen how Howard uses the forward face of his lazarette as a back rest, with his feet resting in the footwell?  This appears to create a very comfortable place to rest, read or prepare a hot meal.  It also keeps your weight centered along the center line of the boat.  And, the creation of a lazarette would necessitate fewer filler boards when converting the benches to one large sleeping area for 2 people.  Once I grasped these concepts, the lazarette would be a must for me.
  2. I would narrow bulkhead 4:  1-preventing water (or as much water) from flooding the cuddy area upon capsize, 2-allowing more protection during a storm, by narrowing the veranda opening, 3-allowing for a vertical curtain to close off the veranda area to get a cold sailor completely out of the wind, 4- allowing a sailor to lean back against this bulkhead from the cockpit bench, looking aft and resting your feet on the bench.  Places to rest your back are at a premium on a small boat.  Between the lazarette and bulkhead 4, you could pick up two additional areas to rest your lower back.
  3. I would keep bulkhead 3 hatches high and close to the center line (snuggled right up under the roof and against the mast box.  This would keep the hatched above the water line during a capsize.
  4. I would take more time with seat hatches, making them myself following the Russell Brown design.  They would be waterproof, flush mounting and optimally shaped for better access.  Or, I might eliminate them altogether and instead go with minimal storage in exchange of more water tight buoyancy chambers.
  5. I would utilize water ballast, just because I haven’t tried this approach yet and it would make the boat lighter on the trailer.
  6. I would not incumber the aft sole area (bulkhead 6-7) with a floor hatch.  Howard taught Preston and I to stand while sailing and it felt really good.  When I added the aft sole hatch to this area, it got in the way of this premium standing location.
  7. I would keep all other hatches, including the water ballast hatch, to a minimum or eliminate them all together often utilizing 6″ round hatches for minimal intrusion and less weakening of the sole.
  8. I would add tie down areas under the veranda for dry bags to be held up against the sides, properly secured by 1″ webbing straps.  This would also reduce the floodable area within the boat, increase buoyancy and provide a soft area to lean against when napping.
  9. I would make the footwell smaller but full width.  This would allow a wide stance for ultimate low stability when sailing from this area.  I would also design it to accept filler boards.  Again, a tip from Howard’s design and others that have gone before.  The filler boards could also be used as a rowing thwart, a cook station, a mainsheet cleating area and as filler boards for the upper bench location.  How multi functional is that!  Isn’t this a big part of the fun?  It is to me!  I love the design thought that has gone into this little micro cruiser and it just seems to keep getting better and better in my mind.
  10. I would trim out the under deck areas to accept breakdown oars.  My last oar storage design wasn’t bad, but under the deck is even more out of the way and less likely to snag the mainsheet when sailing.
  11. I would add hike out seating over the cockpit skirting.  Not so much for hiking out, as to offer a great place to sit and swing my legs over the side when boarding and un-boarding.  It would also create yet another place to sit and rest otherwise sore muscles.  The more body positions you can design, the better able you are to rest tired muscles.  When I spent 36 continuous hours aboard Shackleton, I was amazed how stiff my muscles became.  More ways to change up your body positioning is very important.
  12. I would build integrated fender storage under the hike out seat platform.  This would keep wet fenders out of the boat, close at hand for instant deployment and provide yet additional buoyancy during a capsize.  It would be fun to see how this would effect a capsized Scamp.  I believe the idea may have some merit.  In fact, the design could allow one to sit directly on top of the fender for a soft cushy ride when hiking out.  They could pop out of their holder and hang down, allowing vertical adjustment when docking.
  13. I would spend the money for Gig Harbor carbon fiber break down oars to optimize the rowing experience.
  14. I would leave the motor off the boat to deliberately slow me down and create an authentic old world sailing experience.  If I’m in a hurry or want to see more country, I’ll take my Skiff America 20.
  15. I would design a tent similar to Howard’s low profile tent and/or design a boom tent for more shoulder room when sleeping 2 aboard.  My previous tent design felt claustrophobic, maybe stuck is a better word.  I couldn’t easily row or get on or off the boat once the side walls were zipped into position.  It took too long to deploy, was awkward to set up and take down and the entire ensemble was exposed on the deck when stored.  There’s a simpler design and Howard has led the way. 
  16. I would utilize a basic flat bed trailer.  The flat bed design would allow Scamp to rest relatively flat on it’s skegs.  A forward cross plank would keep the boat from shifting forward (by resting against the forward edge of the skegs).  The boat could simply be secured down by the front wench and each aft corner.  The flat bed would allow great access to your boat when loading and unloading by allowing you a platform on which to stand and walk around.  Flat bed trailers are also very abundant and affordable.
  17. I would store the mast, sail, yard and boom on a goal post bracket designed off one side of the trailer.  By securing and storing the spars and sail on one side of the trailer would allow me to reach all the spars from inside the cockpit of Scamp, by simply reaching over the side.  It would also keep the boat clean for easy cover installation and design.  The sail, yard and boom would be placed in one travel cover, while the mast would be placed in a separate travel cover.  This would be a fast, simple and effective way to trailer your boat with spars and sail.  I wouldn’t need to encumber the boat with spar hauling brackets.  I got tired of attaching and removing the brackets I previously designed.  My current thinking is the trailer should be designed to handle this job.
  18. I would extend the seat tops by 2″ each side for increased comfort.  The cockpit sole is wider than it needs to be.  By extending the seat tops 2″, one could significantly increase seating comfort.  This could be done be simply extending the seat tops with an extension piece.

Just a few of the things I would consider if I were to build another Scamp.  I would be all about trying to further simplify the systems while keeping it seaworthy and practical.  Simple keeps it safe and reliable.  Simple is repeatable, even when cold, tired or weary.  It just sort of works.  

I must say, just enumerating these ideas has caused me to seriously consider building yet another Scamp.  I have scoured small boat designs and cannot find another boat I would rather build.  All things considered, this is a very hard boat to beat.  Don’t tell Jennifer what I’m thinking or I may have to live aboard.  

Finally, I would love to hear any ideas you may have regarding your personal experiences with your Scamp.  How to make is simpler, safer or more comfortable.  After all, that’s how we all learn.  So, please share your comments below.