Caledonia Yawl Project: winter tinkering

My plan had been to un-shed the boat last October and get working on the spars through the winter. However just as I had a boat lifting party set up to carry it onto a trailer and down to the sailing centre the COVID protocols changed and in keeping with the prudence asked of us I delayed this to the spring when hopefully we will have some relaxations. Here in BC that is looking less like early spring and more like late spring now.

In my last post I shared how I’m getting all the rigging materials and systems ready in anticipation of the masts being completed. To that end I’ve also decided to try my hand at making a hybrid modern rope (dyneema) stropped blocks. I was inspired by the Robert Shetterly’s beautiful illustrations in Brion Toss’ “The Rigger’s apprentice” drawing on page 22 of the book.


I though why not do this but just a little smaller and lighter with modern ropes for a large dinghy like the Caledonia Yawl? My ambition is to do two fiddle blocks for the main sheet, a block for the jib halyard and possibly two blocks for the jib sheet leads and a block for the mizzen sheet.


My first activity was to make copper thimbles using 3/4″ copper pipe cut down to 15mm widths and then heated up with a blow torch and two ball peen hammers. Which I adapted from the blog post by Shady Island pirates

This technique using three successive sizes of ball bearings also looks great, it appears to be better to create a more even curve to the flare of the thimble:

So far it is going reasonably well.


I’ve also found a set of brass rods to use as the pivot for the delrin sheaves.


I then glued up the blocks out of 12mm thick reclaimed cherry wood I’ve been milling from pieced of a trunk I collected in the neighbourhood a few years ago.


Then drilling the 5/16 th hole for the axle.


Then cut and round out the edges of the blocks


And finally round over the edges with a 1/4 round router bit.


The final steps will be to further shape the blocks to allow the rope strop to be seated properly as well as removing a little more wood to make the block as light as possible.


I’m hopeful that once completed with the strop and thimble and all oiled up they will look really sharp and give the boat an even saltier look that is true to the hybrid nature of an epoxy plywood construction that blends the old and new of wooden boat building.