This is one part of the project for which there is surprisingly little guidance from Ian Oughtred in the plans or in his book on Clinker Plywood Boat Building. It would be great to have specific guidance on the length of oar and some design options with the plans that are tailored to the boat. Apparently some of his other designs might have that.
I started looking around at different plans out there. Pete Culler, Francois Vivier, John C. Harris (WB #240), Peter Helland Hansen and Wesley Reddick all of which have different sized and shaped blades in particular. I also used the Shaw and Tenney oar length fromula (Divide the span by 2, and then add 2 to this number, Multiply the loom length by 25, and then divide that number by 7. The result is the proper oar length in inches. Round up or down to the closest 6″ increment) and John C. Harris’s calculation ((Beam + Freeboard)+9)x1.34 and have come to the conclusion that I need 11.5′ long oars… whoa that is long.
I also consulted the Wooden Boat forum and found that Caledonia Yawl owners seem to have oars between 9.5′ and 11′ long and there is little consensus on what is the sweet spot. I’ve also really liked the solution offered by Harry Bryan to create a scarf that allows you to disassemble the oars into tow pieces (WB #229).
So my choice is to make 11.5′ oars out of sitka spruce that will have a scarf to disassemble. I can always shorten them if I find it to be too long. If I have the energy I may also make a second set of 9.5′ long oars that would fit on the floor boards on either side of the centreboard between the bulkheads. I figure it is always good to have a backup and 9.5′ might still be quite usable.
I’ve also been inspired by the Small Boats Monthly post on making oar risers for stand-up rowing.
As part of the camp cruising brief for this project a negotiation with my wife introduced the necessity of having an auxiliary propulsion. Oars alone just were not accepted.
So to that end I purchased an ePropultion electric outboard with a 1275 W 45V lithium ion battery. On our maiden voyage through Howe Sound last year we quickly saw that 2-3 hours was pretty useful but recharging takes 4-5 hours and it was not easily found in marine camp sites. So in the interest of creating more sustainable autonomy I started looking into solar panels. With help of my friend Justin at Grin Technologies, I’m I was able to come up with a 200W panel being a good fit. The battery could be fully charged in six hours and if charging at the same time as running would effectively double the range.
The idea is to create a solar platform on my inflatable paddle board and tow it behind the boat when running in calm weather. It will guarantee shade free space which is hard to do on the boat with the sails up. Another option is to create a boom canopy that can hold them which is more suited to when the boat is at anchor.
On a cloudy day with two pairs of 50W panels wired in parallel and then in series, it registered 46V and 0.1 Amps. I’ll try again with some real sunshine to charge the battery from the MPPT. The proof of concept is exciting.
The nice thing is choosing the smaller semi-flexible 50W panels means I can store them aboard relatively easily and they will fit either lengthwise or width-wise on the paddleboard. All the MC4 connectors are waterproof and the panels are sealed so they should survive mild splashing if I regularly rince them off after a trip.
Five days after the launch of An Aod Oolichan my Caledonia Yawl designed by Ian Oughtred, I was ready to take the family out on a multi-day camp cruising adventure. We packed most of our camping gear into waterproof bags and I went and found a flexible soft cooler that will fit nicely in the boat and not scratch up the paint.
Set up on the first cruise took a little longer than expected and we headed off at 4pm on Friday from the Jericho Sailing Centre with a nice 8-10 knot westerly. In overcast skies and forecast for rain mid-day on Saturday.
We got to the shipping lane with a falling breeze and still 10 miles to Halkett Bay. So in the interest of safety we started up the new electric outboard to motor-sail (ePropulsion Spirit 1.0) which is about the equivalent of a 2-3hp petrol motor.
We arrived after sunset into a dark Halkett bay and tied up to the dinghy dock. (An Aod Oolichan is technically a dinghy). The camp sites are in a fairly wooded area of the park up behind the dock. We set up the tent quickly in the dark and made quick work of dinner with one-pot dehydrated Bim Bim Bap meal. To call it bim bim bap was a stretch but after a long day we were happy to have warm food.
The next morning we tried to set off early to beat the rain and get across to Plumper cove and set up camp there before the big rain.
It was a lot of fun to have a nice building SE breeze pushing us ahead of the rainwall.
Unfortunately the rain beat us to Plumper Cove
But the powers of a bag of chips to keep the spirits up should not be underestimated.
The wind did not abate with the rain. We found that as we were turning the corner of Keats island to Plumper Cove. By the time we got to the turn to the cove we were doing 6.5 knots and the breeze was up to 15-16 knots. I had all the canvas up and knew that when on a run the apparent does not feel as much. I did not want to gybe in these freshening conditions. So as we came up to Plumper cove we rounded up into the wind and simply dropped the main sail. Then tacked and came in calmly into the cove under jib and mizzen. Although it might have been a little early to introduce a high wind manoeuvre to my crew, their two weeks of summer sailing camp came in handy and they were able to assist without any problems.
We got a nice spot at the dock and unloaded all the camping equipment in a bit of a deluge.
My Hennessy hammock hexagonal rain fly tarps are a dream in these situations. They come with light high-strength cord tucked into little pockets at each corner making setting up the tarp in the rain a fair bit faster and easier. We quickly had one set up for the picnic table and another to cover the tent. We also set up another smaller rectangular syltarp over a hammock I picked up on Ecuador made of an old fishing net which we used to hang all our wet weather gear.
Plumper cove is a well maintained marine park with it’s own little library.
On Sunday the clouds parted and we set off for a day trip to Gibsons. It was an opportunity to connect with friends who had recently moved there and recharge the battery for the electric outboard that we had depleted on the first let to Halkett bay.
Upon our return to Plumper cove we were rewarded with a beautiful sunset.
And a chance for a summer family photo
… and the end of the fire ban. So an unexpected campfire.
Monday was a return to full sun. We set out early at 10:30am with a 20 NM return trip to Vancouver ahead of us around the south end of Bowen Island.
We had a beautiful breeze through the Pasley island group. But as we reached cape Roger Curtis the wind started to get very light.
For the next few hours my crew dozed as we motor-sailed along the coast of Bowen Island and watched Point Grey and the buildings downtown slowly emerge in the horizon.
It seems like the gunnels are like a favourite place to hang out.
After eight hours we arrived at the Jericho Sailing Centre with a strong flood pushing us.
Overall I was super pleased that all that time building and thinking about each aspect of the boat meant that the transition to sailing was relatively natural. There are still many little things to tweak in the rigging (make lazyjacks) and the way we stow gear onboard. I was also pleased that we did encounter some challenging conditions that pushed us to adapt and work together as a family. It was a very successful first voyage aboard An Aod Oolichan and I look forward to returning to sailing around Atl’Ka7tsem / Howe Sound which on September 15th was designated a UNESCO Biosphere reserve. How fortunate I feel to have such a unique geography and biosphere right in my back-ocean.
After the launch on Sunday I spent a couple days working through the final rigging for the mainsail and getting a few more small daysails in to test the setup properly.
It was a real pleasure to have all the blocks I made fitted and feel like the proportions I chose were appropriate.
It all came together nicely for the maiden shakedown daysail on Wednesday.
Everything went quite well except that the centreboard was quite tight in the centreboard well when I tried to lower it. It would appear that the extra layers of paint on top of the graphite epoxy finish might have been a little superfluous and causing me grief.
So I removed the thwart to get the centreboard out the next day and saw exactly where it was a touch too wide.
knowing that these parts are well hidden and have lots of epoxy coats. I sanded down the paint and re-installed it in the centreboard well.
I’m now ready for the planned first voyage out to go camping in Howe Sound on Friday with the family.
What a race to the finish line it was yesterday. I knew things would not be perfect and that my list of to dos was too long to have everything done. But I needed to set a day to splash the boat. I was madly leathering the spars and splicing the eyes for the stays.
And bit by bit people started to stop by and I am grateful for the support and the help I received yesterday. The builder is always really sitting on so much support that allows them to do what they love.
I put a coin at the base of the mast that happen to be a 2021 pressed Canadian dime of the Bluenose. Which I think is an appropriate choice.
I ran out of time to rig the main and mizzen sails. But it was really amazing to see the masts up and the jib rigged.
I then took the boat down to the main ramp of the Jericho Sailing Centre and did a little naming ceremony. The boat is called “An aod oolichan” which is a mix of Breton and Chinook languages meaning “The coast oolichan” which to me connects two places and cultures that are important to me. The main fishery in my village in Brittany is the sardine which is a small oily fish that the oolichan kind of evokes for me as an important part of the sea. My boat is not big and so naming it with the name of a diminutive fish seemed appropriate. I also think it will be a coastal boat and so adding the Breton An aod connects it to the coast. It was also the name of my grandmother’s house in Brittany.
Then it was time to splash down and do a little sail under jib alone.
It all went really well and my first passengers were pleased. In 8 knots of wind the boat got up to 2.8 knots under jib alone which bodes well. The centreboard cap plate leaked a tiny bit at the base and the centreboard was a little stiff. So I have little work to figure out how to make that smooth. But overall she floated on her lines and the launch was a success.
I made the remaining thumb cleats, jam cleats and fairleads needed just in time to be varnished along with the spars.
I also rounded out the base of all of them that would be attached to a spar, so that they are seated well.
I also made a copper 6 gauge wire lock for the boomkin brace.
It rained for a couple days so I moved all the varnishing inside and kept the fan running to help the drying process.
I’ve also been holding on to pre-1996 pennies that have a high copper content for precisely this use. It is kind of fun to put in some centennial pennies somewhere were they will continue to be admired.
Then onto making rope strops for the blocs while I wait for the varnish to dry.
This was a super satisfying moment to see this come together into fully functional blocks. This fiddle block with two eyes was the most complex of them all.
The dyneema is easy to work with and is so stiff that getting everything snug and tight was relatively easy.
I have home made, blocks for the main, jib and mizzen as well as the jib halyard.
Today is the eve of my self imposed launch deadline. So I also started doing all the leathering on the spars.
Tomorrow will be a full day preparing for the launch at the Jericho Sailing Centre. My hope is to be ready by 4pm. I still have to splice the eyes for the halyards, the gaff span and leather the mizzen and boomkin. Then I think the last job will be lashing the sails on and running all the halyards and sheets.
Progress, progress, progress… it still feels too slow but at the same time it is nice to see things I thought about in advance come into play.
I had the 6 gauge copper wire for several months and it is quite satisfying to see it work nicely with the home made roves.
I also did the final shaping of the inside of the jaws with a half round file. In hindsight it would have been better to cut out a semi circle from the but of the spar before gluing and advancing the wedges a little too. But although it took a little more work I think it looks fine.
I finally applied the first coat of Epifanes clear varnish mixed with 50% brushing thinner so that it penetrates into the wood as much as possible.
It is such a satisfying feeling to finally stop sanding and apply the finish to the wood. I did realize that I had not completed all the little thumb cleats that need to be added to the spars and will need to be varnished. So I started on that this afternoon. I’ll keep at it tomorrow morning so that the next coats also cover the cleats as well.
The boom and the yard come second only to the birds-mouth mast in complexity. The jaws required some attention to detail.
The process of going from a square piece of glued up wood to a tapered cylinder is now becoming familiar. But there are still individual particularities to each piece as you have to read the wood and each facet might require planing in a different direction to avoid grain pull out.
I started to decorate the place with the draw-knife cuttings which are so much fun when they are the full length of the spar.
Careful mapping of the facets when you get from 16 sided to 32 sided is worthwhile. I found that marking the 32 edges then helped me keep track of where I was when I cut it down to 64 sides. On the yard that ends up being just one or two passes with the planer set very fine. It is in my mind the trickiest part of the process.
After sanding the yard with 36, 60, 80, 100 and 120 grit sandpaper I was onto the boom. The time spent making this spar gauge based on Harry Bryan’s design in Wooden Boat magazine 277 was worth it but it was kind of bittersweet to think this was one of the last times I’d use it for awhile. (note: I still might use it to make the oars)
The jaws require a transition from round to square which is an extra challenge when shaping the spar. In the end once marked it is relatively easy to do.
I still have some of the reclaimed Honduran mahogany that was pulled out of home demolitions by a renovation contractor who was retiring and selling off their stockpile of old window and door frames. I now wish I’d bought more for future projects. But for this project I have enough.
As per Ian Oughtred’s plans he specifies the jaws should be 22mm thick and made of two pieces. I added a 5mm marine ply to the mahogany to get to 25mm and it will do well to reduce the chances of splitting along the grain on this curved piece.
I’m also attempting to make some copper rivets according to the September 2015 Small Boats Monthly article by Christopher Cunningham for the yard and boom jaws. I was able to order #6 gauge copper wire and I’m using some leftover 1/2″ copper pipe for the roves.
The last ridge going from 8 sided to 16 sided on the boom. The last spar!
Marking the ridges from 32 to 64 sides on the boom and then shaving them down.
Gluing the jaws layup with the wedges so that I can do some further shaping before gluing them to the yard and the boom.
Gluing the boom jaw pieces together.
Then shaping the pieces into something that looks relatively nice. I used the Japanese rasp, the block plane, the spoke shave, the belt sander and the random orbital sander to get it into it’s desired shape.
The boom and yard jaws dry fitted.
… and then all glued up. Tomorrow I’ll do the final shaping on the yard and boom and some sanding of the epoxy. All the spars will get sanded down to 150 grit tomorrow and all set up for varnishing. I’ve also got a bunch of little fittings to make that will need to be screwed onto the spars. Most are just little thumb blocks, but I also have to make the jib fairleads. I’m getting close to being able to rig it all up.
The race to be done for my vacation is still on. But I’ve resigned myself to the reality that the first week of my vacation will be spar making and rigging the boat. The finishing line is in sight, but there is still so much to do.
I’ve tackled the main mast shaping going from 8 sided down to 16 sided, then 32 sided and 64 sided.
I used a used West Systems thickening powder container as a sanding backer and pulled out some sand paper left over from sanding my floors a couple years ago. I started with 36 grit to cut down the corners. Then 60 grit, and 100 grit sandpaper.
This was hard work and Vancouver this summer is going from one heat wave to another. Fortunately I went out an bought a large ventilation fan that I mounted to the rafters of the shed. This has worked wonders to help me keep cooler while I work up a serious sweat sanding.
I then cut the mast head to a smaller diameter with a router. This will create a nice saddle for the shrouds to loop onto the top of the mast.
I did most of the shaping with the Japanese rasp and finished with the random orbital sander.
I think the scalloped ends of the plug and birdsmouth look really cool.
Using this portable guide I drilled the ends of the mortise for the halyard sheaves.
The tricky part was drilling the hole for the axle at 90 degrees to the mortise.
I’ve also sanded the sprit boom and the boomkin and finished the ends on those.
Then onto the mizzen mast. Where I experimented with the difference of using the power planer.
And using the drawknife to cut down from a tapered square to the 8 sided shape.
My conclusion is that with the drawknife guides it is much easier to control and likely just as fast as the power planer. If kept sharp it is almost easier and certainly quieter and less messy overall. It is way easier to pick up the shavings than vacuum up all the sprayed chips sent out by the power planer. I found it gets me quite close to where I need and then I can just finish it off with the jack plane and the block plane.
The mizzen mast is now complete. I now have three days to complete the main boom and yard. Then I will lay everything out and varnish them with 6 coats.
This summer it is now a race to have the rigging done before we take our vacation in the second half of August. My intention is that we have the boat ready for some day trips and camp cruising. I’m setting a deadline for myself. So over the last month I’ve been regularly plugging away at the spars. I started with the most complex being getting the main mast glued up.
I cut the taper on each of the 8 staves which was tricky as they are small pieces and hard to keep square when vertical as the birdsmouth cut did not have two even ends to rest on.
I ended up resting them on their sides and planing them with the block plane at 90 degrees. it was easier to clamp and not too hard to keep things square.
The next step was to make the 8 sided top and bottom plugs for the mast. The top plug had to be long enough to cover the area needed for the halyard sheaves. So i made it 50 cm long as I will have the sheaves one on top of the other instead of side by side.
Dry fitting the top plug into the tapered mast. That was the more complex part of the exercise. Getting the inner diameter taper right. Fortunately this does not have to be perfect as a little space can be filled my thickened epoxy.
Mapping the taper of the the base plug of the mast I decided should be longer and go as high as to where the boom rests against the mast. Partly because I’m thinking of fixing the cleats for the halyards onto the mast and would like to have more material for the screws to grab onto.
Testing the diameter of the base plug with an off cut of the main mast staves. This piece was longer and the taper a little trickier to get right as it covered both a flat section and the reverse taper at the base.
Then I cut out a taper of material on the inside of the mast plug to ensure there are no hard edges that could impact the flex of the mast or create a breaking point.
Finally everything was ready for gluing. I decided to do this in two steps. gluing up the staves in two clamshells by taping two of the birdsmouth sides. This will allow me to then on the second step to glue in the plugs and the remaining two stave edges.
I put all six of the staves to be glued upright and slathered them in unthickend epoxy and then squeezed the microfiber thickened epoxy with a piping bag.
14″ Zap straps worked great to clamp it all together and a bag of 100 was way more than needed. But we have my friend’s two masts for his Penobscot 17 schooner rig to do later. I did use vice grip pliers to pull the zap straps tight. I found this really made a difference.
Once the epoxy cured overnight I was able to open up the clamshell and remove the clear packing tape I’d used. I did a little clean up of the squeeze out epoxy on the inside where the plugs would go using a heat gun and a small scraper.
But left things as the are for the rest of the mast. I also decided not to coat the inside with epoxy. my reasoning is that it might be worthwhile to let the wood breath on the inside. There should not be any water ingress or holes in the mast.
Then the final glue up of the main mast with both plugs well coated in thickened epoxy.
It was such a pleasure to get to this point and see this complex interlocking set of small pieces of wood come together into a solid monolith.
I will weigh this mast as in theory you save approximately 35-40% of the weight by building it this way. It is however a significantly longer process to make. Some advantages is that you can work form smaller stock and with a few scarfs not necessarily have to have full lengths that you need. Building a solid mast with two pieces glued to each other however would be much faster and for a boat this size with sitka spruce maybe not yet unmanagable as far as weight. I’d be a little more reticent if I had to work with douglas fir which is very strong but also heavier. I feel very fortunate to have had the time to source sitka spruce.
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