Friday, November 9, 2018

What I don’t know…

I recently asked a “What if…” question on the John Welsford Small Craft Designs FB page:

“What if… I wanted to sail my Pathfinder across Lake Michigan… (70-ish straight-line miles)… sometime in July…?”

That question generated a good discussion, the consensus of which was: uncertainty of the weather will be the biggest issue. But there are many other issues to consider.

Planning an open water crossing involves many elements of small boat sailing that just are not contemplated when setting off for a pleasant day sail. While researching gear, studying weather patterns, talking with veterans of sailing across Lake Michigan and asking lots of questions - particularly on the John Welsford Small Craft Design FB page - I’m realizing I don’t know how much I don’t know…

Almost a week ago I asked for suggestions and comments for handheld VHF radios. That prompted a good discussion with several radios suggested/recommended, some comments re issues with some models. And of course, several models had fans and detractors… Another result was discussion of compact car emergency jump start units as possible solutions to recharging/powering handheld electronic devices.

I spent nearly a week researching 11 handheld VHF radios, creating a spreadsheet comparing the features, and figuring out how to share the spreadsheet. That spreadsheet is now in the Files section of the John Welsford Small Craft Design page on Face Book.

There will be more questions… because I don’t know how much I don’t know.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Turn the Page...

...and it is November.

September and October were spent in physical therapy getting my right knee functional. It is that (functional enough to not need a walker or cane; functional enough to drive; functional enough to get back into my workshop and begin a few simple projects) but there is more to be done - particularly before my next knee replacement in December.

September and October were also spent thinking and preparing lists of improvements, tasks, chores and ideas to get Gardens ready for next summer. That list keeps getting longer - and I thought Gardens was ‘done!’ I’m getting the sense (which I really didn’t appreciate with my GIS) that additions, refinements, and adjustments are just a part of the joy of owning a wooden boat like the Pathfinder. That is not a criticism of the design. It is a reflection of my lack of experience and short-sightedness… Some items on the list are ‘buy’ (GPS, compass, VHF radio, etc.), some are ‘make’ (cook box, birds-mouth mizzen mast, halyard bag, paint, etc.) and some are 'buy & make' (cockpit tent, etc).



My plan is to do what I can before mid-December, update and add to the list through February and begin serious work on Gardens in March - aiming for a mid-April or early May relaunch.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Perishable Skills

English blacksmith Alec Steele used the phrase “perishable skills” in a recent YouTube video to describe the decline of a skill level after not using that skill for a few months. He also applied the concept to patience - as in, rushing a task and having to fix the resulting error. Patience needs to be exercised, just as a muscle needs to be exercised, and practiced to be a useful tool in one's skill set.

So, while it means the same as “use it or lose it,” “perishable skills” is, to me, a more elegant description of the phenomenon.

Now, five weeks out from surgery, I am growing inpatient - I want to get back to Gardens to tidy things up, put some things right that need it, and work on the ‘improvements’ I’ve identified since that one sailing weekend almost two months ago. But, since I am not physically able to get to work in my shop, I must exercise patience while resting soft tissue…

I am also growing inpatient for next year's sailing season. There are a number of events I am looking forward to attending: a planned messabout (including a Scamp Camp, small boat skills training, hand tool demonstrations, and boatbuilding skills) featuring John Welsford designed boats in Sheboygan, WI; a sailing weekend in Les Cheneaux Islands in Michigan's Upper Penninsula; the Sunfish Dinghy Challenge in Virginia; the Mid Atlantic Small Boat Festival in Maryland; the the Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival in Washington; day sailing local lakes and other events as they come up!

The knee is improving - just not as quickly as I'd like.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Good News… Bad News…

The good news: Tuesday’s total right knee replacement surgery (scheduled for quite some time) should, in the long run, make me more agile and better suited for small boat sailing and bicycle riding.

The bad news: The rest of the year is lost to all but rehabilitating my new knee and prepping for replacing the left knee in December.

I’ll be making lists and planning the refitting tasks identified during those four, all too short, days of sailing Gardens last month. I’m sure I’ll be asking a few questions over the next six months…

Note: Gardens’ cosmetics were not completed when we took her sailing. Our focus was to get her sailing this summer. Paint and trim are high on the list of next spring’s refitting.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Still in Awe

We've been home for almost a week following our trip to Michigan's UP to launch and sail Gardens of Fenwick.

Sailed three of the four days we were there (the second day was spent rearranging a bit of hardware and adjusting some rigging)... Conditions were just about perfect: Light air on Day 1, progressively stronger winds thru Day 4. Most photos of Gardens were taken on that first day, so there aren't any real action shots - but there are a few 'duffer' shots (slack downhaul, tight outhaul = big crease in the main). (

Gardens at the dock:
Sailing off the dock:
Light air, slack downhaul, tight outhaul:
Friday workday:
Toasting Gardens:
Me throughout the weekend:
My email to another Pathfinder builder best captures, I think, my reactions to Gardens, the Pathfinder design and John Welsford:

The Pathfinder is SO worth it! John Welsford is a genius!

I find it difficult to describe how it feels to sail a boat I have taken so long to get in the water. None of the ‘flaws’ I’ve fretted about matter. No one else saw them. The boat either didn’t notice them or shrugged them off.

Enjoy your build - but don’t dally: sailing a Pathfinder is so much more fun than building one!


I am still in awe!

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Mast Supports

A few days ago,I asked for - and received - suggestions about transporting (when towing the boat) spars.

Here is my roughed out solution for the main mast:

These will support the main. The mizzen mast and boom/sail/yard bundle will be stowed and secured in the boat.

Jan says the supports look like wind-up keys...

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Gardens' Out-of-Barn Experience

I was a bit nervous about putting Gardens back on her trailer yesterday. Several recent threads (including one of my own) about trailer set up had me a bit anxious. Things went better than expected, which doesn't happen all that much, and Gardens rested easy on her trailer late yesterday afternoon.

Around 5:30, I got the idea to take a short (really) drive just to see how things would go down the road. I mentioned this to Jan, who suggested I wait for the afternoon rush hour of folks heading home from work. Seemed like a good plan so, after those three vehicles (two pick-ups and an SUV) went by the house, I pulled out of the drive, went two miles down to a church parking lot, turned around and came home. Four miles isn't much but I felt much better for having made that little trek.

One minor incident happened when I put the rig back in the barn - I bumped into one of my sawhorses (which was really well out of the way) and broke the lens out of the driver's side light on the trailer (no sawhorses were damaged). After getting the boat & trailer in the barn, I was too tired to change out the light. I figured I could take a few minutes in the morning to take care of that. Right, a "few" was more like 90 minutes but I got it done.

Today was Gardens' test-launch. I needed to find out if the centerboard pin leaked at all - because that, to me, is the most likely candidate for a leak - and I've been nervous about it.

Jan went for sandwiches, drinks and other goodies for a post-launch picnic and I headed to Wabasis Lake (a bit west of Greenville, MI) with Gardens in tow. A very pleasant 16-mile drive to the lake was uneventful.

Not too busy at the ramp, which is a nice five-lanes with docks and lots of room in front of the ramp facility. Friends met us there to help and my sister and brother-in-law arrived to witness the event, too.

Finally put Gardens in the water without incident and, she FLOATS!!

No leaks of any kind anywhere. I really can't describe what a relief that was and is! Also very nice to hear a number of compliments from other boaters. After pulling Gardens' out of the lake, the six of us had a very nice picnic lunch which included a celebratory toast to Gardens.

No masts, sails, rigging or other gear today as the mission was to check for leaks. That, and I am still sorting out how to carry the masts and sails. However, I am glad we were not planning to sail today as the centerboard would not lower all the way and that would not have been good out on the lake. Our diagnosis is that the top foreward corner of the centerboard is not clearing the front on the case. We'll check again before pulling the board and reshaping that corner, but we believe that is the issue. And, no, I did not test fit the centerboard in the case early on in the build (like before installing the CB case in the boat).

As far as I'm concerned, today's out-of-barn experience was a huge success! When I got home, I took numerous photos to serve as reminders of what needs to be done (plenty!) to finish Gardens. The next time out will be the official launch and first sail!