cruising

All posts tagged cruising

One year already since I let my domain name expire. I was lucky to get it back. A lot of things changed of course, not all for the best. My health isn’t very good right now. I am not quite sure what is going on, but it isn’t good. I started thinking about my build projects, the Fafnir sailboat and the Hornet gyrocopter. I love building stuff, but let’s face it, it takes an aweful lot of time. So I was browsing the sailboat ads last year, just out of boredom one day, and thought that I might just be able to afford a small boat, one already built that I wouldn’t have to wait three years to sail. Because who knows…

I hate not finishing projects mind you, but sometimes better things come along and you need to let go. I sold the gyro project. The Fafnir jig and keelson are still under my car port, and I have the floor board, a bulkhead, stringers and other pieces of wood which were going to be used in the construction. If anyone is interested, let me know. I might get back to boat building in a few years, but I had to look for a boat I could use now, or at least, soon.

It wasn’t going to be easy because my requirements were pretty specific. The boat had to be able to cross an ocean in relative safety. For me, that meant a somewhat heavy displacement hull, full keel, and double-ender if possible. So I kept on browsing.. I saw a Pacific Seacraft 25 at a good price, but it was in California. I had a Southern Cross 31 surveyed in St. Petersbug, but unfortunately the deck was soaked with water and the cabin had been attacked by a wannabe electrician with a one-inch hole cutter.

Then there was one ad for a Morris Frances 26. I hadn’t heard of that model before, but knew the designer’s reputation, Chuck Paine. And a reputable boat it certainly is. It is said that at least one has circumnavigated. The boat was named “Carol Anne” but had changed names before from “Rachael” and “Fancy.” Now she is “Dagny.” When I saw it the deck had just a coat of grey primer. The inside was fine, except for three small rot spots. The single cylinder Volvo Penta 2001 model ran fine. We took it on a short trial with the owner, the surveyor and my friend Patrick.

Awesome lines! There is no standing headroom, and that is a problem for me being 6’2″ (188cm). Have a look at the inside before I started any work:

Then the deck needed attention. I started by sanding it lightly, with the help of my friend Shane, then applied one coat of epoxy to seal the plywood. Then, my friend Brooke and I applied two coats of Pettit white EasyPoxy paint; the one-part kind. It was also a good time to glue solar panels on deck. I chose Aurinco because they seemed to be getting good reviews and are assembled in the United States. They aren’t cheap but can be walked on. I now have two 26W panels and two 18W. Solar charge controllers are two Genasun 4A models.

The deck once painted was very slippery so I bought some KiwiGrip, which is an awesome product and very easy to apply.

I’ll spare you the minute details of little projects that went into making the boat ready to sail. Let’s just say that I intended to leave for a long cruise in April, and we are now in mid August. It still isn’t finished, but the light is visible at the end of the tunnel. My friend Christine painted the name on the stern last month.

There is still quite a bit of painting to be done on the inside, a few square feet of KiwiGrip to apply, a couple small spots of rot left, and unfortunately the companionway hatch is warping, so that will be another project. The rudder is at my house, being 40% repainted at this time. But really, aside from a few electrical details and finishing touches, it is almost ready.

So, where am I going? Well, the Bahamas for a start, since it is only forty miles from the East Coast. Then South to the Turk and Caicos, then who knows.. The Panama Canal, French Polynesia? I am dreaming here, but let’s just say I will go as far as I feel comfortable and safe at the time.. It might end-up being a few miles from my dock, or around the world, I have no idea. I certainly hope to leave in October at the latest. You can follow the preparations, and hopefully the trip at SVDagny.com.

Numerous people have helped me work on the boat, given me rides, advise, gear and encouragements. I can’t thank them enough. I must mention, in no special order, Patrick, Ted, Christine, Brooke, Michael, Shane, Ed, Phil, Dave, and I am horrified right now about forgetting anyone. I even had to refuse help at times. You guys don’t even understand how much it means to me. I have been living here for more than twenty one years now, and leaving for an undetermined lenght of time, leaving my best friends behind is going to be very hard. If I get to leave… So many things can go wrong. The last straight line before the finish is always the longest and most treacherous, so I am crossing my fingers…

Building a sailboat may seem like a daunting task, but like any big project, if you keep at it, you eventually finish. People build houses, airplanes, barns, cars, you name it, they build it in their backyard. You used to be able to buy a sturdy boat ready to cross oceans. Early fiberglass boats were thick and strong because nobody knew how epoxy and fiberglass would age. Wooden boats have been built since the beginning of time, their construction has been mastered long ago. Stell hulls are seldom seen on pleasure vessels, but eveybody else use them, and for good reasons. I set myself to build a steel 32Ft. double-ended ketch a few years ago. Why not buy a production boat you may ask, well, they just don’t make them “like that” anymore. If I just wanted to sail in the intercoastal, any boat would do fine. Hell, if it sunk, I could swim to shore.. Modern Ocean cruising boats are hard to find. If I had the money I would probably get a Hans Christian 33 or 38. I like double-ended boats. Those have a canoe stern (pointy back). This type of hull was used on rescue boats in Nothern Europe. So, my thinking is that if you have one, you may not need to be rescued in the first place.. I spent countless hours on the internet researching the best blue water cruisers, strong boats that can take a beating and cross large oceans. I even bought drawings for the Tahitiana design, and took a three month welding class for that purpose (steel boat). Incidentally, I found such a boat for sale in Ft. Lauderdale and bought it; I am in the process of restoring it right now. It won’t be my last boat, I consider it to be a learning tool. I narrowed building material to two, steel and wood. The reason for this is because both are easy to fix anywhere and require only simple tools and skills. Welding isn’t hard to learn and machines are affordable. Both are strong and widely available. Steel is the strongest and my favorite. Aluminum is too expensive and harder to weld. Fiberglass is messy, I just don’t like it. It is too easy to mess-up epoxy with the wrong mix or curing temperature; bubbles can form, blisters later, just not my kind of material. With steel or wood, there are no surprises. Rust you may ask? With modern coatings it itsn’t a concern anymore. The result of my research is a short list of capable boats ranging from 15ft. to 50ft. that one or two people can build themselves to experience what is probably the last real freedom on this earth.


15 Ft.: The Macnaughton Farthing is a very small boat designed for one person. With a displacement of 2160Lbs. is is however pretty beefy for it’s length. I really like the junk rig, which greatly facilitates handling, if not performance. Remember, safety matters most here, not speed. The full foam flotation will increase safety when you can’t carry a life-raft. Here is the quote that sold me on the Macnaughton Farthing page: “Farthing is probably the least expensive way to achieve and maintain permanent global mobility.” That sounds like music to my ears. Macnaughton has other great designs, but the Farthing is the most intriguing one. I will buy those plans as soon as I can and keep them, if there was ever a time when I needed “global mobility.” As one sailor and writer said “Go small, go now!”

23 Ft.: Weston farmer’s Cherub is one of the smallest designs that can be built out of steel. It could probably take an experienced couple practically anywhere, and for very little money. Displacement is 5000Lbs. The reason I like stell so much is that your boat can be thrown on rocks, hit a floating log, whale, container, or another “plastic” boat with a good chance of coming out unscathed. 23 Ft. isn’t that small, considering that Serge Testa circumnavigated the world in a twelve foot boat.

25 Ft.: The Ganley Hitchhiker is a Colin Archer style double-ended boat, with a marconi or junk rig. Unfortunately, the site that was selling the plans is down (fairmetalboats.com). The designer, Denis Ganley was killed in an auto accident in 1997. His boat seems to be the perfect size for a budget conscious sailor who wants a boat large enough for extended cruising. I do not know if and where the Hitch-Hiker plans are available. If anyone knows, please post a message in the comments below.

32 Ft.: The Tahitiana is another Weston Farmer boat, and my personal choice at this time. I bought my plans from his son a few years ago. The boat is a redesign of Jack Hanna’s famous Tahiti Ketch. The design has a great reputation as an ocean-going vessel capable of surviving even the worst conditions. My boat is not a Tahitiana per say, but all dimentions are identical, except that it has one chine instead of two and was presumably built in 1950, way before the Tahitiana lines were published. I would appreciate any information on my boat…

After first restoration

After first restoration


Dagny needed a facelift...

Dagny needed a facelift...


I plan on using a junk rig on Dagny. The deck needs sandblasting. The cabin roof needs to be replaced and the interior redone. The engine runs but the starter was stolen and I am worried about some vibrations I noticed the last time I took her out. Probably the old prop unbalanced, I hope. Working on old boats is fun, but beware, it will cost you!

36 – 38 Ft.: I haven’t found the best design in this size range, suggestions are welcome!

43? Ft. Colvin Pinky Schooner and Gazelle. Is it a 42? I can’t find my copy of “Steel Boatbuilding” tonight, but Colvin in his book offers the plans of his beautiful schooner-rigged steel double-ender, for free! Well, you need to buy the book (see above). It can be built as a voyaging yacht or cargo ship. It is again a very safe design in bad weather. The Gazelle is another one of his designs based on a Chinese junk, with of course, a junk rig. It is of a relatively light displacement for it’s size, but because of it’s construction, would be at ease offshore:

The Colvin Gazelle

The Colvin Gazelle


Colvin is the authority on steel boat building in the United States. I once asked him if he could tell me what paint to use on my boat. To my surprise, he replied with a long email explaining what products and procedures to use to assure a long rust-free life for my boat. I followed it to the letter, and it worked perfectly! His book explains it all. I would never consider working on a steel boat without reading it. His larger junks are really appealing. If I was to ever build something in the 60-65ft. range I would choose a Colvin junk.

50 Ft.: This is my dream boat, if I ever make enough money to buy all that steel. The George Buehler Otter. This is a gigantic boat. 50Ft. is large enough for a family of four or five. The hull is plated with quarter-inch steel and displaces 44000Lbs. That thickness will stop most handgun bullets! I would need help to build one. The plates are heavy and my back would not permit me to handle them, or even participate in the lifting. I would love to weld-up such a monster however. George Buehler has a no-nonsense approach to boats I really like. I learned a lot from his book on backyard boat-building (see above). This would be my definite choice for a liveaboard vessel. A boat that size could feel like a luxury appartment with the right inside design, nice woods and all creature comforts. I would rather invest in such a project than build a house. You can’t leave with your house if things go bad where you live.. With a boat, you load the whole family and just go, no worries about your house, you’re leaving in it! no to mention waterfront living and no property taxes. Now, I just need to find a woman with an open mind..