All posts by Gwendal

Caledonia Yawl project: Labour day long weekend, sailing back across the Salish Sea (part 3)

As you can imagine, once you’ve crossed the straight of Georgia and it went so well there is both a sense of accomplishment and trepidation as now I have to do it one more time. Even though I’ve done it dozens of times on different sailboats of various sizes from 21′ to 130′ this 19.5′ Caledonia yawl is by far the smallest one. Without a keel and with only oars and a 1276Wh battery the prospect of making it across in a reasonable time does make me a little anxious.

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The evening before looked like this and so with a forecast of light to moderate north westerlies building in the late afternoon, I felt somewhat confident of the prospect of a good crossing.

The boat was anchored in Brownie bay with a big low tide at 8am which I knew would dry out the boat and so we would be able to carry out all our stuff directly from the group camp site to the boat and not have to bring the boar around to the marine park dock.

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We then waited for the tide to float the boat and with only a few inches of water we were able to walk it out to deeper waters at 11am while our families set off to catch the BC Ferry from Departure bay to Horseshoe bay. I had a new crew for the sail home with my friend Patrice and my brother-in-law Lucas. We set off with a solid 10-12 knot NW breeze and lots of sunscreen with zinc oxide.

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The boat was a bit lighter than on the way back and for an hour we were making great time averaging just over five knots.

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But soon as we went past entrance island and it’s beautiful lighthouse we saw that the light part of the forecast was really going to take over. We started to motor-sail to keep the boat moving at at least 3 knots and set up the solar panels to recharge the battery as we went along. This worked quite well as we moved them around to stay in the sun.

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The MPPT charger is a bit hard to read as it’s refresh rate seems to match the shutter speed of the digital camera but you can see it was stepping up an input of 19.2V to 48V for an input of 1.8 Amps. This was with just two panels out. We then managed to find a spot for a third 50W panel on deck. My plan is eventually to have all the panels lay flat on an inflatable paddle board that I tow behind the boat so that all four 50W panels can get shade-free sunlight with minimal resistance from the paddle board.

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Nevertheless with 25 nautical miles to go and very little wind, it was still a question if the 1276Wh battery would take us far enough to catch a breeze or we would be left rowing at the end of the crossing. We kept optimizing the motor output to keep it around 250W-300W which seems to move the boat easily over 3knots and then would feather it back if we caught a little bit of breeze.

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As we approached the shipping lane to the NW of Point Grey we caught the thermal sea breeze that helped to pull us towards English bay. There were a few moments of doing some time on distance calculations to figure out what the best course was as we had to navigate one freighter and one tug with barge while crossing the shipping lanes. I was very happy to have a handheld VHF radio and a full sized Davis collapsible radar reflector hauled up on a flag pole to the top of the mizzen mast. Which hopefully made this little wood dinghy much more visible on the water.

As the sun set the sea breeze started to slacken and we eeked out every last ray of sunshine to charge the battery by holding the panels up to near vertical until there was no free energy left to harvest.

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After 9 hours on the water with most of it motoring it was amazing how relaxed and comfortable the crossing had been. The electric motor was so quiet that we did not feel like it had been a tiring day at all.

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That said, the motor readout was letting us know that at the current rate we had just 40 minutes of run-time left and there was still over three miles to go from the bell buoy at the entrance to Burrard Inlet.

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It was fun to have a visit from the Jericho Sailing Centre’s rescue boat as they did their evening sweep of the bay. We switched on the portable running lights and let them know we would be alright making it back to the club under our own steam.

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A beautiful twilight lingered long enough for us to enjoy the return to familiar waters.

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As we got within sight of the Jericho Sailing Centre we had just 20 minutes of run-time on the battery left. It felt like such a fun accomplishment to stretch the capacity for the 1276Wh battery to more than 7 hours of run-time to do this 30 nautical mile crossing.

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Luckily the centre has great lights in the compound which made taking all the gear out and putting the boat to bed a relatively easy task.

Caledonia Yawl project: Labour Day weekend (Part 2)

For the next four days we did little day trips around Protection Island and out to Kanaka Bay on Saysutchun.

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The boat stayed comfortably at anchor in Brownie bay at the north east end of the camping area on nice sand between two sandstone rock groins. The tides were nice and big and so the boat would lay on the sand each morning for a few hours. This is how I was able to go and walk out to the anchor and see exactly how it lay. It is fishermans with folding flukes which allows it to pack up into a nice small package aboard. I also have a Fortress FX-7 4lbs anchor but I find it much more involved to take apart and so my tendency is to keep it as the backup as it is quite cumbersome on a small boat when it is put together. I’ve been eyeing the Mantus M2 8lbs anchor as it looks to be quick to take apart and would stow away nicely. It is just a little expensive and not that easy to source in Canada.

The boat in the morning at anchor looking back towards the camping area of Saysutchun. Note that there is a no anchoring area that protects eel grass for half the channel between Saysutchun and Protection island. I’m anchored further out where there is mostly just sand and less eel grass.

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Each morning, I could not help but go out to take pictures of the boat at sunrise as it was such a nice light.

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This one really captures the feeling of a languishing summer morning.

I also took the time to recharge the ePropulsion battery with my solar panels. On the way over we had only motored a little to get out of English bay and then near the end to do the last few miles to the Saysutchun dock. So it only took a few hours to top off the battery.

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In the next part the voyage back to Vancouver.

Caledonia Yawl Project: Labour day weekend sailing to Saysutchun across the Salish Sea (part 1)

This long weekend trip was touch and go as I watched the weather window. The plan was to take the 19.5′ Caledonia Yawl An Aod Oolichan across Georgia Strait from Vancouver to Nanaimo a distance of 30 nautical miles with the whole distance in an open stretch of sea with quite a bit of fetch if the winds really pick up.

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Windy forecast for the departure day

After a little bit of light winds in English bay because the the land-shadow, true to the forecast the SE breeze did settle in all day at about 12-15 knots.

Once past Point Grey the wind was strong enough that as a precaution i put in one reef in the main and we cruised along comfortably at 5.5 knots and quickly saw the city fade into the horizon.

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Laden with food, camping gear and two of my siblings as crew we really felt the boat hold a steady movement.

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It was a warm day and the boat is quite dry, but there was still an occasional wave that came broadside and a good splash on the front quarter.

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By mid-day we were on a healthy broad reach, we’d shaken out the reef and were still doing good speed in the middle of the strait feeling good that we’d arrive in Saysutchun before sunset.

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The south easterly held all the way past entrance island to the norther tip of Galiano by the Malaspina galleries and then it started to shut down.

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Vancouver is now out of sight
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We started up the electric motor with Protection and Saysutchun islands in sight.

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Our welcome party (who had taken BC Ferries) was already there waiting at the campsite.

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Once unloaded I took it back out to anchor at Brownie Bay as we camped on the island for the next five days.

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Caledonia yawl project: figuring out the centerboard issue

Not everything works straight out of the box so to speak. Especially if you built the box… Since launching the centerboard has been getting harder and harder to move. Last year after launch I removed it and sanded off the paint on the sides to make it a bit thinner in the hope that it would be sufficient. But on our latest trip last weekend I found it would not go down and we tipped the boat over and although with the leverage of the tip of the centreboard I could slide it down, it was clear that there wasn’t enough space at the opening.

So I decided that I will remove the centerboard and tip the boat over to find a way of filing the centerboard slot a little wider.

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Sliding off trailer onto rollers

I tried to see if I could do it all on my own. So I figured it was possible with the beach rollers that are really effective.

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I then tipped it over ont a foam mat to protect the rail and used blocks to hold it up by the bilge stringer. This allowed me to work at eye level at the keel slot and will be a good system for the time I need to repaint the underside of the hull.

What I found, was that the centreboard well was fine, but it was at the keel wood that things got narrower and one side for some reason was toed in so it was not parallel with the centerboard well.

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I then used a Japanese shinto rasp to file down the section that toed in so that it was parallel with the centerboard well and provided ample room for the centerboard to slide down.

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I then sanded it and applied a layer of epoxy with a little graphite powder to seal it back up. It is a hard spot to get to so hopefully this repair will last a long time.

An Aod Oolichan: Year two setting sail

With a wet cool spring we have not yet done much sailing yet apart from a January sail when my mom came to visit.

We got up at 5am to be sure to have a spot to park the car and trailer at Porteau Cove on Canada Day and start our first camp cruising trip of 2022 in the newly named UNESCO Átl’ka7tsem/Howe Sound biosphere region.

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First trip with the car and boat on the trailer

Fortunately we arrived and a spot opened up just as we arrived and we were able to launch and park the car for the weekend.

9:30am at porteau cove launch
The ramp at Porteau Cove

It took us about an hour to load the boats and set up all the rigging. We were off at about 10:15am. Boy was it a good feeling to be on the water and know that everything worked. The car towed nicely, the boat tie-down held the boat well to the trailer, the oars worked and all the other little modification I did over the winter made the launching easier.

And we are off across Howe Sound to a marine trail camp site

The glassy morning conditions meant that we were able to put the ePropulsion 1.0 to the test. Quiet and efficient we glided towards our destination until half way when the early signs of the southerly inflow started a light breeze that pushed us to our Howe Sound Marine trail site.

Solar charging finally works

I was finally able to set up the four 50W solar panels rigged in parallel to the MPPT charge controller providing an output of 170W at 48V to the battery. It was really exciting to see the system creating new autonomy allowing us to plan longer trips without needing to go into town to recharge. The trick is just finding good spots that will stay in the sun for several hours. The next step is to set up the panels on the paddle board and towing it behind us.

MPPT solar charge controller
The LED refresh rate makes it hard to photograph the output. This little device is amazing.

The Caledonia Yawl An Aod Oolichan at anchor with the anchor-buddy bungee system that allows for easy retrieval of the boat with a line to shore. I tied them both to the bow so that the mizzen would keep the boat pointed towards the wind and waves.

Anchored with and anchor buddy bungee system.

Our site had several tent pads and a clever composting toilet with a urine separating system that used a conveyor belt to move the solids back while the fluids drained forward. I wonder if this kind of system will become standard practice to replace pit outhouses that more easily contaminate soil and water tables in many camping areas.

The Howe Sound Marine Trail

Day 2 we did a day trip to another Howe Sound Marine Trail site to the south. We set off at noon and got the full force of the southerly inflow on a sunny day. In January I found that the centreboard had a hard time sliding down… which I chalked up to winter humidity levels, But this time again we found that it was still sticky. So I tipped the boat over and did a full check of the centreboard well. What I found is that the keel slot is a few millimetres narrower than the centreboard well. This means that we were not able to point upwind well and I was forced to use the electric motor for the upwind leg. next week I’ll have to take the centreboard out and tilt the boat over again to file down the keel slot a few mm and epoxy seal and repaint it.

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Heading south against the wind electric motorsailing.
An Aod Oolichan tipped over
Beach tilt to inspect the centreboard well from below.

Day 2 picnic spot with another good use of the anchor-buddy

Anchored with the anchorbuddy system

On Sunday we found the forecast of rain had moved forward by a few hours and the taking down of camp and sail home was done in the rain with a beautiful veil of clouds clinging to the mountains around Howe Sound.

Some of the things on my to do list coming out of this trip

  • Test using shorter oars maybe 9.5′ long. The 11.5′ long oars worked but might be a little long if there are any waves by providing little clearance. They also take up a lot of space onboard.
  • Open up the centreboard slot 2-3mm so that it does not get stuck even with some sand and grit that is very likely to find itself there after a beaching.
  • Look at finding a rubber, neoprene or vinyl material to create a centreboard gasket.
  • Make a hold down cross beam with eyelets for the tie-downs to attach to and hold the boat from bouncing on the trailer.
  • Paint the name on the boat
  • Make a boom strop to tie the boom vang to.

Overall a very successful trip start building the habit of regular outings.

Calendonia Yawl Project: making oars

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.

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Gluing up the pieces for the blade. (13cm x 120cm area)

I’ve also been inspired by the Small Boats Monthly post on making oar risers for stand-up rowing.

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Risers made with silicon bronze 1/2″ rod and brass 1/2″ inner diameter tube. The oarlocks of from Duck Trap boat building supply
Looking good on the boat for a test fit.
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Mapping out the blade shape
Cutting down the blade to a nice flat taper from the loom.
smoothing out the power plane marks with the belt sander
Gluing mahogany protective tips to the blades

Caledonia yawl project: Playing around with solar power

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

An Aod Oolichan: the first cruise

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.

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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.

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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.

Caledonia Yawl Project: Shakedown

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.

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Mizzen sheet block tied to boomkin

It was a real pleasure to have all the blocks I made fitted and feel like the proportions I chose were appropriate.

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mainsheet dyneema stropped fiddle blocks with cherry cheeks.

It all came together nicely for the maiden shakedown daysail on Wednesday.

under full sail

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.

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centreboard just a little 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.

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I’m now ready for the planned first voyage out to go camping in Howe Sound on Friday with the family.

Caledonia Yawl Project: Naming and Splashing the boat

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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photo credit: Anne Lama
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photo credit: Anne Lama

Then it was time to splash down and do a little sail under jib alone.

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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.

More photos from friends to come shortly.