Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Age of Russia

Here's a cool boat that hauled out next door a few days ago. Age of Russia is a familiar sight in Richardson's Bay, where it is usually anchored, well offshore, due to its thirteen plus foot draft.

1992 ACC cruising conversion

Richardson Bay, Sausalito

The port of hail is "Leningrad, USSR", which could confuse someone as neither Leningrad or the USSR still exist. The short history of the vessel is that nascent St. Petersburg yacht club built it in hopes of competing in the 1992 America's Cup, shipping it to San Diego in one of those giant Antonov cargo planes in 1991. Well, the Soviet Union collapsed, they never had the money, and in spite of an injection of cash from an American sponsor (Stolichnaya "Russian" Vodka), the boat was never assembled and languished in San Diego for many years. Another group then trucked it up to Vancouver, BC where, after doing some work, it was abandoned again.

Proud owner

Tyone (above) then bought it, built the cabin, installed an engine, etc. He's put up a website about the boat and his experience owning it. Apparently, people often coming zooming up alongside and yell at him in Russian, which Tyone does not speak. Before he messes with the keel, he should probably learn enough to say, "It's my Dad's boat...I don't speak Russian!".

I can see there is a great temptation to buying an old race boat and converting it to cruising,'s a temptation that (IMHO) should be resisted.

Over 13' of draft

A gigantic, steel mermaid fin

Well, that's just a bitter, jealous, old man ranting. Because whatever Tyone's doing, he's doing something right 'cause he's got a cute GF...although, maybe she's just a painter at Bay Ship.

BS&Y painter in protective clothing

Zdravstvuĭte, tovarishch! YA iz Sankt-Peterburga. YA hochu piva. Mogu li ya kosnutʹsya vashyeĭ zhenoĭ?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Five ply challenge

A few years ago, Joel Welter had the bright idea for a developmental class of sailboats with a low barrier to entry. By low he imagined boats that could be built in seventy hours and cost less than 300 bucks...he did it! Joel and his coworker, Brooks Dees, came up with the "5 Ply Challenge". Last night at the Northern California SNAME section meeting the first (and, to date, the only) contestants showed their stuff.

Joel and his lake scow yawl Les Affames de Porc

Brooks with his FJ variant 64 Valient

Niko and the Cal student team aboard the unnamed proa

Here's a link to the class rules, but the main feature is that "All parts of the vessel’s hull, foils, and cross members (for multi hulls) must be made from no more than 5 sheets of 4’ x 8’ x ¼” thick plywood". Interesting idea (followed by the emoticon for a studiously blank expression combined with raised eyebrows).

Very fun meeting, although there were no takers for the offer of rides as the possibility of total immersion seemed too great. There was a little suppressed tension during dinner as Niko's proa disappeared down the busy Estuary with no running lights ("They prohibited by Class").

As a connoisseur of events of this type, I'll give full marks to Niko for innovation and speed potential...hampered by control issues. Joel clearly won the cheapskate award (and the honors attendant to it)...his floation was bags of trash lashed to the gunwales. Brooks apparently is the overall sailing champion. He (pussy) did not put 64 Valient in the water last night, so we had no way of verifying it. And although there was no evidence of rule evasion, I suspect he must have cheated.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


I had to post a comment about an article I read in the Chronicle this morning. My complaint? The idea that Plastiki is "made" out of plastic bottles or is "recyclable" is deliberate disinformation and self promotion.

The vessel has an engineered, composite structure built from laminated foam board. The core structure is made with a standard foam (used to make fridges, surfboards, boats) with a manufactured Polyethylene Terephthalate fabric glued and vacuum bagged to it. The voids in the structure are filled with high quality PET bottles...that's it.

Take a look at this picture:
Does that main look like it's made from plastic bottles? Or how 'bout the one below? The spars, rigging and equipment are regular sailing yacht stuff -- I suppose it can all be "recycled" at a swap meet...

Furthermore, the comparison to Kon-Tiki expedition is false. I don't know if Thor Heyderdahl really proved anything either, but it really was an expedition into the void. Kon-Tiki was a sodden, balsa raft that drifted miserably to leeward, carrying 200 coconuts for food and their water in bamboo containers. With aluminum spars, kevlar sails, aramid rigging, GPS, radar, sat-phones and an engineered watertight hull, Plastiki is a modern (although structurally inefficient) sailing yacht.

De Rothschild is a tall, handsome, self promoting rich guy...I've got nothing against him. But did they actually prove anything? Will their endeavor prevent people from buying soda in plastic bottles? Did they use less energy, or is it more recyclable than a homemade plywood catamaran? Is the "expedition" worth wasting the electrons it takes to publish this comment? (answer -- no).

I'm not dissing anyone who sails across an ocean, but hero? I don't think so. In contrast, here's the Junk Raft:
I think they actually did something...not sure what, but I'm pretty sure it's more than what De Rothschild did with Plastiki. Check out the junk raft:

Monday, April 26, 2010

Cangarda makes it to Ellay

Cangarda got its COI on Friday and left SF Bay early in the am on the 24th. I'm happy to report that the vessel and all souls made it safely to LA. Here's a report, in its entirety, I just got from the owner:

" The first voyage of the restored Cangarda.
The restoration of Cangarda, the last American Edwardian steam yacht, 1901, has been ongoing for five years. At 126 feet on deck but only a seventeen foot she is a long and skinny boat. Built as a cruising yacht she was expected to be fast for her day and with a flashy look. It has been great to undertake this restoration. The team led by Jeff Rutherford have done a great jog on the construction. Tony Guild was the master of getting a Certificate of Inspection from the Coast Guard. Now it was time for the first open ocean voyage of Cangarda. The plan was to sail from San Francisco to Los Angeles, only four hundred mile voyage but enough to test Cangarda.

Friday at 8:00 am I arrived at the Coast Guard Headquarters in Alameda California. Presence was requested to be present at the signing of the Certificate Of Inspection by the Commander of the operation for the Sector. Quite an event. A full presentation before probably a hundred CG personal, pictures et al.! For three days previous to this the Coast Guard had been completing the inspection of Cangarda. This included the inspection of the CO2 fire suppression system for the engine room, indeed a great thing to have for this vessel, as well as all the other safety equipment. The detail to safety elements was immense. The next day was a test and verification of the system that controls the boiler and burner management. In essence this was like taking your laptop and testing each module on the backplane of the PC to ensure that it communicated accurately to the next. This was a full days effort and highly intense. The third day was sea trials which included the normal testing of the different steering systems (including the tiller) but also demonstrating the use of each of the dinghies and launch. The end included a testing of the pressure relief valves and other items. All along the way you never know if the inspectors will come up with something else they want or if they will ever be satisfied. Finally it was done. After two years of effort to clear our system with the Coast Guard (which was built so well that we did not have to change any systems except one component of the Ethernet equipment) we were to be granted the COI just as they would issue to a thousand foot ship.

Friday evening the crew assembled for a dinner. We were to depart for Los Angeles. One never sails on Friday and we intended to sail with a favorable flood tide at 2:00 am. I went into my cabin to sleep asking to be awakened when we crossed under the Golden Gate. At 4:00 the electrician came in to pick up his tools and leave. Last minute work. The first delay. Steam came up and we left the dock at 6:00 and on our way.

Outside the seas were running a nine foot swell with two to three foot wind waves. A north westerly was to blow of some ten to twenty knots by prediction. Not too bad. We planned to go right out into the sea and sail in the middle of all this to test Cangarda in the sea with consideration of roll on the boiler. The tide was flooding hard with the beginning of the ebb on the south shore so we stayed to the right. Out on the horizon one could see the seas rolling. When we were out into the seas the boat performed very well. She slides down the waves. The stabilizers make it all tolerable and while we had alarms on the drum level we had no trips (the water in the steam drum of a boiler is critical to be at a minimum level or the fire is terminated).

We sailed along through the morning until about one in the afternoon when suddenly the burners both tripped. For obscure reasons we had air in the oil lines making a foam. The burners would not stay lit. Cangarda was dead in the water, no steam. wallering beam to the nine foot seas. Finally, after rolling in the beam seas, we decided to quit the automated system and light the burners in manual and force the air out of the system so we could relight in the automated state later. We performed the task needed to achieve this and indeed we were able to light the system off and run for several hours. However finally the air/fuel mixtures made operation of the burners impossible and we decided to go back to automated firing where the mixture of air and oil are worked carefully by the computers.

But the light off did not go smoothly. We were off Santa Cruse about twenty miles, again wallering in the seas that were building as the afternoon wind was building. A series of misseps kept us from getting a good light off until we realized that a specific trip switch that we had opened when we did the manual firing had not been released. With that misstep rectified we were able to relight and again the burners operated smoothly and we stared again about six in the evening. The only item is that we had been blown all the way past Monterey.

The boat did well in the beam seas. There were a few seas that did come aboard but in a minor way. There were a couple of seas (probably doubles of some eighteen feet) that some of the crew said could have put green water on the deck but did not. In the engine room the roll was not too severe but we are near the pivot line there. The wind had built to thirty five to forty knots. Finally we were glad to be back steaming and again riding down these swells, dipping the bowsprit into the waves and then surfing down. Nothing broken, all safe but a few seasick. The team did a great job sticking to the task until we had worked the last kink out of out problem. It is good to know that the element was not the fundamental control system. Just saltheads not having full command of the highly complex automation system of Cangarda.

We have had no events since this one problem. We are not off Santa Cruse Island (Ventura) and will be in Los Angeles tonight. All is well. It is nice and quiet sailing on a steam vessel. None of the roar of a internal combustion engine. Just like sailing. Cangarda performed well in difficult conditions. Nothing broke. We understand the complications that made for our five hour delay. This vessel deserves the respect of a good sea going boat.

Next challenge is getting to Maine.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Confusing presentation with substance

The dark side of yacht design is the desire to just make pretty pictures. I believe we would all like to make things of beauty...that applies even to engineers. Indeed, there have been beautiful bridges, automobiles, trains, buildings, commercial aircraft, and dams. Yachts, particularly large sailing yachts, are intended to be beautiful and to be admired. Unlike the previously mentioned objects, there generally lesser requirements for performance, safety or reliability. Nor is there any requirement that the designers be professionally licensed, or even show minimal compentency. Anyone can put up a shingle or website declaring himself to be a yacht designer. Here's an example from Lila-Lou Design House I found on Sailing Anarchy yesterday:

Skimming over the sea.

More skimming

Look, they even made a fully rendered video and posted it on Youtube. I know just how long it takes make a 3D model of a complex vessel, as well as how many hours of CPU time are sucked up rendering these images and making the video. Consequently, I have to give these guys extra credit for using their full allotment of electrons, as well as an overall "A" for presentation. However, I'm afraid I've had to give them "F" on both Substance, and Comprehension of Sailing Forces 101. Alas, where to start?

Arrangement of masts and keels

Perhaps I can start with the multiplicity of keels and masts...ah, screw it, it's hopeless, and I have other stuff to do. To be (more than) fair, I've emailed them and asked them to respond with their design rationale. My point is not to pick apart this particularly stupid design, but to comment on the confusion between style and substance that you often see in yacht design.

I imagine, from their website that they have some training as interior designers or architects; consequently, presentation is everything to them. One of the dangers of photorealistic rendering is that it confers plausibility to even the most outlandish concept. Okay, you may say, it's just harmless masturbation. However, there is always the possibility that they will be able to convince some poor feckless schmuck to actually build it.

10/30 update: Amazing the PR that these loons are putting out. Looks like they've acquired a handsome pitchman with some stripes on his sleeve:

In one of Sailing Anarchy's user forums they've already beat on this striped idiot. Check it out.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Cangarda and Cape James

Just back from the Cangarda (checking out the thrust bearing) and trying to avoid real work. Yes, Cangarda is still here and still stuck in regulatory limbo. I've got many emails enquiring after her including one with a nice link to the Fulford Place in Brockville, ON. (George Fulford owned Magedoma ex-Cangarda for many years).

Cangarda and Cape James

Beautiful, cloudless day at the Marina. (Ah...should go outside more and top up on Vitamin D!). Astern of Cangarda is Cape James, which is a cool little ship with an interesting history. This stout wooden (mostly Douglas fir) vessel was designed as a coastal freighter. Built in 1943 by the Martinolich Shipyard in Oakland (now closed for many years) and drafted into the US Army as the FP47 , it operated in the Western Pacific as a communication vessel during WWII. They say the rust spots in the hull that periodically appear are shrapnel (hmm...I don't believe it). For many years it has been a small passenger vessel operating in adventure tourism...which makes you wonder what they're doing in Richmond (actually adventurous in parts). They have a very nice website (although they guy labelled as Douglas MacArthur on board in WWII is really just some other white man in a hat) .

At Tri-Coastal, we try not to reinvent the wheel, unless it really needs it. Cangarda, unfortunately has been held back a little by unnecessary wheel re-invention.

Cangarda's original awning

Some ridge poles, some guy wires, a few clever fittings...the awning was protective, useful and simple to set and strike. It was a refinement of a design that probably went back to the Babylonians. I think you can tell how critical the awning was to the operation of the yacht by the number of historic drawings we have on the awning fittings. At least half of the Pusey and Jones drawings we got from Hagley Museum are of awning fittings.

Cangarda's new awning frame

I don't know what the heck they have in mind for the new awning, but then I didn't design it. The top looks like it will make a pretty good airfoil!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Pride of Baltimore

Seaforth Publishing is about (although they've been saying that for a year) to publish Sailing into the Past, which is about learning from replica vessels. Frankly, I don't believe we've learned that much; however, I did write the chapter on the ill fated Pride of Baltimore. I'm sure there are people who are much more qualified; unfortunately, they were all dead, demented or apparently wanted too much money. Hence, by default...
Pride at her zenith

Reaching down to Cruz Bay a few weeks before her end

Pride and its fatal end have been covered elsewhere. Tom Waldron wrote a book about the sinking. My chapter mostly covers the history of Baltimore Clippers in general and the construction and early days sailing it. I've already been remonstrated for one error in the chapter. I said that Pride never had a new, matched set of sails...obviously false as shown in these photos.

Post any other corrections, or email me.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Classic wooden yachts

Nathaniel Greene Herreshoff is, undoubtedly, the greatest American yacht designer and builder ever. Most notably "Captain Nat" Designed and built the five winning America's Cup yachts from 1893 to 1920. (He also built the winning cup yachts in 1930 and 1934 ...every winning America's Cup Yacht from 1893 to 1934 was built by Herreshoff). He was a fantastically prolific innovator, inventing the folding propeller, the two speed winch, cross cut sails, the modern catamaran, the streamlined bulb keel, and other devices and practices too numerous to list here.

What I admire most about Captain Nat is the way he handled relations with clients. In 1903, following the brilliant success of Ingomar, Kaiser Wilhelm (yes, that Kaiser Wilhelm, the supreme leader of the German Empire) contracted Herreshoff to build him a new racing schooner. When the model (Herreshoff designed hull forms using wooden models) was complete, the Wilhelm cabled Herreshoff and instructed him to make certain modifications to it. Herreshoff famously replied that he would build the vessel but could accept no design input--basically cancelling the contract with the Kaiser! (and thereby setting the gold standard for client management to which all yacht designer must aspire.) Anyhow, at the end of April, 1910, the Herreshoff schooner Westward crossed the Atlantic to take part in the Kiel Regatta, winning three out of four races, leaving a frustrated Kaiser Wilhelm II behind on his Meteor IV. (This was, of course, the true underlying cause of WWI).

His smaller yachts were also justly famous and are considered classics today with the old vessels patiently restored and new ones painstakingly built to his designs. Almost every issue of WoodenBoat magazine has an article about a Herreshoff restoration or new build. He was truly the "Wizard of Bristol", his designs were great and innovative, and the vessels were wickedly fast...for their era. Now, I don't relish a shit storm of angry responses on this, because NGH truly is like a god to me; however, design and technology have advanced since then.

I had this epiphany Wednesday night at the local SNAME meeting. Former TCM employee Brooks Dees was presenting his latest sport yacht design (I wrote about it previously), a GP-26. Part of the presentation was boat rides. I watched from the dock as Brooks backed out of the slip in front of the restaurant and proceeded to close reach up the Oakland Estuary at nine knots (in about 10 knots of true wind and with seven, somewhat overweight, naval architects on board). In minutes they were out of sight to windward. A moment later, a Buzzard's Bay 15 (much like this picture) dragged its classic wooden ass past us to leeward at a sedate two or three knots. The owner seemed content at the helm, wearing a Greek fisherman's cap.

Yachting in a Buzzard's Bay 15

Although the two boats are similar in size and intended use, they are separated by a hundred years of change. Now, not all change is good, and I'm sure that there are many traditionalists out there who (will rage on me as soon as I publish this)believe that one "can't improve on perfection". They would rather arrive sedately at three knots in a vessel of highly varnish wood than operate something made from carbon fibers.

I feel otherwise. Without parsing perfection, I suppose my argument is that sailing is always uncomfortable, so you might as well get it over with as fast as possible (which is why I windsurf). I don't know if Nat Herreshoff would necessarily agree with that, but I suspect (if he were alive today) he would be appalled that people still build, and claim to enjoy "racing" his 100+ year old designs.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Cangarda under way!

Cangarda under way! Coast Guard has given limited permission on the Bay for builder's trials. The steam yacht operated for Saturday and Sunday, going just outside the Golden Gate for a helicopter photo shoot.

Leaving Richmond Marina (Albany Hill in the background)

Helicopter aerial

A little bow trim

The crew is making progress with the vessel. The automation and boiler managment system are much more stable and seem to be working better. Previously, there were several problems with the steam plant. One of the big ones was maintaining the burner flame when turned down low. They've spent a tremendous amount of time adjusting the steam atomization, fuel pressure, etc. Now (from a distance), it seems to be working... for the first time both burners have operated at once.

Indeed, although Cangarda is working much better, there is still a great deal to do on the regulatory side before the USCG will let the vessel go to the East Coast. Stay tuned.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Cangarda at Bay Ship and Yacht

Cangarda was hauled last week for a bottom job (it has been almost two years since it was launched) and a repair of the shaft seal. Joel Welter, the chief naval architect at Bay Ship and Yacht, took this picture of it on their synchrolift.

The vessel is operating under automation now, and navigated around San Francisco Bay this weekend for about twelve hours. According to Steve Cobb, they reached 205 shaft rpms (~ 10 knots), which is about 80% of the theoretical maximum. So far, it looks like our propeller calculations were good (whew!)... the prop seems to perfectly matched to the vessel and the power plant. We won't be able to determine that for sure until we can conduct full sea trials.

The owner is quite anxious to move the vessel to the East Coast; however, there are still a few bugs to work out and regulatory barriers to hurdle. Stay tuned.