Post 100! A Solution To Open Boat Shelter

 Two years ago, almost to the day, my daughter suggested that I “blog” my then current building of a cedar strip kayak called the Outer Island. I didn’t give it much thought other than I didn’t want my efforts here to die on the vine from a lack of ideas or happenings to report. Thus far, we’ve found a few things to yammer about. It all has become an interesting and entertaining adventure … well, at least for one person, me.

 And so, I give you post #100, a milestone of sorts, though merely bush league in achievement for many. All in all, it has been enjoyable to share “the process” of messing with these boats.
So, let’s have at it.

 Open boat sailing, while minimal, does require some basic necessities, food and shelter being primary. Especially, if one is to extend one’s cruising grounds. However, as simple as putting a tent or awning could be on such boats, you would not believe the countless solutions out there. Some are quite clever, but most are Rube Goldberg contraptions giving no thought to the frequent, and at times, surprise blow ups on the Chesapeake Bay, or elsewhere for that matter. The proverbial middle of the night fire drill is never welcomed. Sure, you could pitch a tent ashore. In fact, sometimes that may be more prudent. Yet, to anchor one’s boat in a secluded cove can deliver a special satisfaction and comfort if properly done. Camping ashore can leave you wondering if your probable trespass will be discovered. Snakes, or worse, could add to the on shore fun too.

Study model
Initial sketching

 So, a tent for UNA seems necessary. Starting with the KISS principle and with my model in hand we fashioned a few scenarios at small scale. A list of desired design features came to mind:

  1. Quick and easy set up.
  2. Compact for storing.
  3. Room for 2 persons albeit cozy in size.
  4. Reduced windage for a calmer ride in the event of a blow.
  5. Ready access to the anchor rode.
  6. Double as an awning when shade is welcomed at anchor.
 Our first attempt took the fly from our shore tent and fixed that across the cockpit. It was a close fit, but just shy of overlapping the gunwale. Covering only a portion of the cockpit, it had too much windage IMHO. (Some info previously shown discussed here).

Rain fly applied.

 A more obvious option strung a ridge line between the masts for throwing over a tarp. This one was studied quite a bit, but it too gave more windage than I desired and no matter how hard I strung the ridge it still sagged appreciably thereby hindering interior volume where needed. 

 A third scenario employed house wrap and bowed battens temporarily to make a roomy “cave,” but setting it all up looked to be a pain and while you could use tent poles instead, the pieces seemed too many. Limited storage of “stuff” on a small boat really makes itself evident. Several cruises are still needed to pare down what’s already lugged along.

Crew under bowed tent.

 A final alternative used the light main mast in a lowered position serving as a ridge beam.  If the weather really got howling, you don’t want the mast up anyway. Though the mast may help dampen  rolling, a lowered centerboard will suffice to do the same. Another quick mock-up showed particular promise. Drafting the solution helped with a cloth order of Sur Last. This is a lighter alternative from Sunbrella and is less expensive to boot. The material has served well in the building of UNA’s sail bags and spar covers. While not quite as water repellent as Sunbrella, Sur Last did pass a soaking test from the garden hose.

Tyvek and mast ridge pole with the happy crew.

As a better illustration, here is a drafted version:

 Additional canvass or insect netting panels may be added fore and aft at a later time if needed. Otherwise, a nice wedge is formed for easy weathercocking. This will have benefits for ventilation as well as riding a blow.

the “weathervane” mock-up.

view from aft.

“escape” corner pulled back.

 Now the project is near completion. We’ve good slope to shed rain, ample height for relaxing and cooking in the aft cockpit. The studying took quite some time, but the build actually went rather quickly.

 Some tugging here and there will yank the wrinkles out. The lower edges are secured by Velcro straps through footman loops mounted under the gunwale. No knots! It is hard to see in these pics, but there is a “D” ring sewn in the middle of the ridge if for some reason leaving the main mast up is required. 

Straps every 2′. Four per side.

Velcro strap close up
stainless footmans loop.

 The footman loops are 2′ on center and may double as attachment points for a boat cover down the road. For now, UNA sleeps in a garage.

 The heal of the mast wears a small neoprene sock to prevent scaring of the deck. The tent ridge is 1″ tubular nylon webbing with a loop to drop over the stem (again, no knots).

mast sock and ridge webbing loop.

 The mast’s after end hangs from the mizzen mast by a secondary halyard run through a SS ring secured by a loop of Dyneema. Once the ridge webbing and edges are secured, raising the high end of the mast tightens the whole affair.

A secondary halyard from mizzen mast raises ridge pole.
A soft Dyneema loop and SS ring make for the second halyard.

Lastly, a light 1/8″ Dacron line was threaded through a sleeve in the bottom edge to snug the skirt in. Wind and/or rain should not get through here.

Snugged canvass edge with light continuous line.

 With a furled mizzen, most of the windage is held aft. UNA should ride well with this setup. The necessity for any end panels will be evaluated in field later. No doubt a removable shroud forward may be added later. The window shown in the drafted elevation might also be nice. In the field testing is needed now. How long until Spring arrives?

 The whole shebang bundles nicely. We’ll sew a sack for storage later too.

tent bundled.

And there you have it, number 100 in the bag. Thanks for following along.


Like many “fine art” museums the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts has its share of “scrambled car parts” and “spilled paint” (I try to be discriminating). Some might accuse me of having a blind (or blinded?) eye for such things. Fine. However, I can tolerate those inexplicable pieces any day of the week if viewed with my lovely daughter. After a good breakfast at the Original McCleans together, we had a brisk winter stroll over to the VMFA. With some interest in building another kayak, I took interest in the Native American exhibit. I was surprised to see a few people we recognized:



As always, it is good to see old friends. Even better, I wasn’t expecting what we found in the adjoining exhibit:

UNA’s grandmama!

For obvious reasons, this painting appeals to me. While not a yawl, the boat in the foreground is a double-ender, and one with fine lines. It is a portion of a larger 1848 painting by Fitz Henry Lane called “View of Gloucester Harbor”. How wonderful an atmosphere the artist conveys here.

Some things are timeless and worthy of being called “art”. My fondness and appreciation for UNA takes another bound.

Gifts and Biscuits

With the onset of the cold weather, we’ve been working toward better equipping UNA for cruising. Top on that list is the boat tent, more on that later. I think we have that one solved to satisfaction.

Gifts from friends and Santa delivered a few key items to make overnights more comfortable.
One is a Neoair Therm-a-rest Camp Mattress. A good video review is here. I’ve the size large which fits very well in the floor of the boat and packs in a small provided sack. Well-made.

Second I’ll confess was a gift to self. Complimenting the pad, a North Face Aleutian 50 degree bag. I have to give Steve Early credit for pointing this one out.
This bag will be perfect for late Spring and early Fall. When slipped inside my existing bag it will extend the sailing season. This is a quality product too.
A final gift, though it has very practical application, I’ll place under the “entertainment” category. It is a portable radio, the Tecsun PL-660It possesses AM/FM/LW/Air Shortwave World Band Radio with Single Side Band. We should be able to find something to listen to. Sailing while catching a good game is on the list.
So, what about the biscuits? I’ve been starting to collect menu items. I like breakfast and weather permitting, I’ll open the galley box, set up the stove, and cracks some eggs. Add some drop biscuits and you’ve some sustaining horsepower until evening.

Just add butter!

Plate used as lid.

New galley box stove.

One day, someday, it will be warm enough for a field test. We’ll be ready.

Galley In A Box

Had hoped to sneak in a sail yesterday, but winds were gusting to 38 mph. Chickened out. Today there is no wind. Hopefully there will be some nice days soon.

The last boat camp trip may have spoiled us. Meals cooked at camp on our small butane stove top opened up a whole new menu. Though the gimballed cup stove still has a place under way, taking every meal in a 20 oz cup might get old fast.  Chris Cunningham at Small Boats Monthly had a box for his galley kit. John Hartman on WFB had his boxes. So, after studying those and many camp cook boxes out there I decided to design my own.

First I wanted it as compact as possible while keeping all the galley necessaries inside it. The final box ended with these specs:

  • 18″L x 12″D x 10″H
  • 8mm okoume plywood sides and interior oak rails.
  • oak cleat/handles
  • neoprene rubber feet
  • removable platform/ storage divider
  • interior paint matches UNA’s hull
closed box

Box was shellacked for color and varnished to protect it. Rope tie-downs keep the lid on.

handles with cleated lid
“Rubber” feet protect the boat and offer an anti-skid box. Cleats will help secure box in the boat too.
opened box with stores


divider/platform removed for wind screen
stove in place


The box is sturdy enough to serve as a seat in camp. A pot, some mugs, a few utensils, and spices need to be added, but all that should fit easily. Joined with a cooler, canned and dry goods, and we are ready for the next trip.
Now on to figuring out the tent scenario …

The Promise of a Voyage

We are resolved to take the first overnight sail this coming weekend. Expectation is as high as a Christmas morn (maybe bigger). Sailing this past weekend was a mixed bag. Day one had no wind and rain, but pleasant temps. Day two offered a steady breeze and sunshine,  as perfect a day as you could ask for. Heck, as the saying goes … even bad days can be made right in a boat and that’s where we were.

Last Sunday’s sunrise.

So, there are some things to do or make right before shoving off this weekend’s shake down. There are also some items needing attention that I’ve delayed. One was taken care of a while ago: I’ve modified a gimballed butane stove. The fabrication is from aluminum tubes and bar. It was designed to fit a Coleman SS camp cup (24 oz). The burner came from a cannibalized $1 eBay purchase. I’ve yet to add the strap that will secure it to the thwart in similar fashion to the compass arrangement, but I will.

Gimballed stove.

The biggest item to solve, and it remains so, is the tent/awning. I’ve done quite a bit of sketching and after today’s experiments, I’m still not settled on the solution.

Tent outline in green.

Cross section with ghost of person.
My initial take was to have an aerodynamic wedge of a tent by using a ridge line between masts. I need to see if leaving the masts up at anchor is best. My instinct tells me this will dampen the boat’s rolling effect. If not, the main mast could be a ridge pole. A straight tent, while simple, does limit the volume. One idea I have uses wood battens that hang vertically in section from a ridge line and acts as an awning. Once the battens are horizontal and bowed, they would form a “Conestoga” tent. The whole could all be rolled up and lashed under the side seat when not in use.
Batten details.

However, to make a quick answer for this weekend, I pulled out the rain flies from a couple 2 man tents we have and one fit rather nicely. It is just shy of reaching the gunwales, but could serve well for now and offer a good template for a final version.
Added rain fly.

Just shy of reaching the gunwales.
A fit for this guy.
Aside from life jackets, we are now focused on the FOOD. Hearty grub will have to come from a 24 oz. galley. Looking forward to this voyage immensely. Will report back later-

Compass Points, a Stitch In Time.

As the heat of the summer here dissipates, I have begun to focus on a few small projects to make sailing easier. One made the tiller push stick to tiller arm connection more rigid. I wasn’t happy with the rope connection. Perhaps I’ll post that solution later. Another task involved splicing anchor rode to chain for my 11# Lewmar claw (Bruce design) and a lighter 6# aluminum Danforth style anchor that will be kept in the aft lazarette for back up. Both have 10′ of chain spliced to quality 3/8″ twisted nylon.

The recent task I am most satisfied with is a mount for the compass my father gave me as a “well done” congratulatory gift. It is a Ritchie Tactical compass which is the perfect size for Una and much appreciated.

Ritchie Tactical Compass

Wanting to be able to use the compass with my kayaks. It had to be removeable. Positioning the compass where it could be left in place and offer good viewing from port and starboard didn’t prove possible. Centered on the thwart is ideal for sailing, but not for rowing. I considered mounting the bezel on a thin board held down with wing nuts or dogs. That proved too elaborate. A simpler and I believe more satisfactory answer was to trace the compass base on mini cell foam, cut out a puck using my small band saw ( I finally found a suitable use for it) and contact cement the foam to the base. A small 1″ wide channel was let into the foam for a tubular strap to pass through. Plastic buckles hold the works in place.

Pieces. Bezel detaches.

Puck glued in place.

Strapped under thwart. Very secure.

Once strapped down the mini cell grips the thwart. While not rigid, the whole rig sits tight and is relatively fixed. I’m looking forward to an in-the-water test.

Now it seems like forever ago, but about a month ago I did truck Una south to sail on the Lafayette River where I grew up in Norfolk, VA. With light 3-5 kt winds, she ghosted along one evening. What better way is there to enjoy a Friday night? Wonderful memories evoked countless nights of sailing as a teenager. Add to that, my father joined us for a sail back down the river that Sunday. Una gains looks and comments everywhere she goes. What a joy this boat has been and we’re just getting started! I can’t wait to get her back out soon. I’ve yet to sail in anything more than maybe 8 kts.
Sunset colors. Barely a breath.

Ghosting toward Granby Street Bridge.
Otherwise, I’ve been collecting gear for an upcoming overnighter. This list includes everything from food knives, tools, line and lights. Add to that list is an awning/tent I’ve designed and want to make. I had bought an old sewing machine last Fall thinking I’d build some sails, but I’m very glad I went with Doug Fowler’s craftsmanship. Very well cut and detailed. I highly recommend his work.
However, I still have the machine. It is a very well made “tank” and seems to bulldoze through sailcloth and denim without hesitation. It isn’t industrial, but built to last … a White model 2134 from the early ’60s I’m told. While I’ve tons to learn in its operation (it took me over 1.5 hours to understand how to thread the sucker), it made sewing the buckles on the compass strap was a breeze. I’ll tackle a ditty bag before the awning. In the meantime I’ve a couple light tents. I’ll throw one in the lazarette. Perhaps the tent fly will readily string between the masts. 
C’est tout.

A Dream Becomes A Delight

Approximately 560 man hours over a 10 month time frame ended this morning with a sail. And I didn’t miss any of the TV most people were watching.
What else can I say? Too much to tell, but a dream from boyhood and satisfaction from labor was realized on the Mattaponi River at West Point, VA. How can I report on this maiden voyage? There is so much to tell and then so much that simply can’t be relayed. Suffice it to say that Una floats like a feather, moves with grace, and slips along on a breath of air. She is, quite simply, a delight.

Iain Oughtred designed a superb little vessel. I took the better part of the morning rigging Una to confirm I had all the pieces. I dreamt I left the mast last night. Almost left the mizzen. Here are the beauty shots before travels, before I wacked her with the anchor after telling myself I couldn’t, and before she rubbed a pier. Now she is seasoned and ready for adventures.

Rigged for confirmation.



Rudder sheave pins still to be finalized.


Mizzen boom at clew.


Mizzen at tack/goose neck.









Ready to roll.

The trip to West Point was uneventful. I didn’t notice the trailer was following though I stopped twice on the interstate shoulder to satisfy myself that all was AOK.

At the ramp, the traffic was constant with boats coming and going. Re-rigging took maybe 20 minutes. I had to back the trailer until the brake lights were submerged. We’ll see how long they last. On Off Center Harbor Geeoff Kerr has his lights on a 2x strapped on top of the boat. That is more visible from the rear and keeps the lights out of the water. We’ll wait on that alteration.
So, I rowed out into the river, set the anchor (16# Bruce with 10′ chain), and raised the mizzen, sheeted it hard, and then raised the main. All was simple and worked like a charm until I worked the shear while raising the anchor. Now the boat is christened.
There wasn’t much wind. Hardly any most of the time, but puffs came and went to experience th boat’s potential. Since the main extends only 2/3 of the way aft in the cockpit you can stand up with the push stick and slide along. The stick was counter intuitive after years of dinghy sailing, but by the end of the sail it was almost second nature (until I swapped hands, but that will come too).
I’ve a laundry list of “improvements” for Una. Some are finicky. Others are necessary and known, but not deciphered until she hit the water. Perhaps I’ll elaborate at a later time … or not. I expect to be sailing a lot over the next few months into the Fall. What a boat! I’ll leave you with a few pics from the water. Adios-




What’s In A Name?

Boats can be very personal things. Some, of course, are utilitarian vehicles. A jon boat may perform with or without identity. (I do wonder if it might receive better care and attention if given a name.) Other boats are very much vessels for dreams and adventures. These become part of your life. Why else for eons have sailors referred to ships as “she”? 

So, after almost 11 months invested in this bateau, how can “she” go without a name? I half thought about reusing my recently sold Moth boat’s “Chica,” a short, cute, affectionate, and unassuming appellation for a sweet little boat. However, Chica was her own “person” and to reuse the name would betray memories with her. She was a lovely boat and part of her does in a sense live in this new boat. 

A pretty boat deserves a pretty name. Oughtred’s design has classic lines derived across centuries. Its ancestors sailed in waters from Norway to Denmark, Scotland to Ireland. This heritage prompted me to look for a Gaelic name. A simple name. A pretty name.

I began with “Oonagh” which is Scottish, Irish, or Gaelic. The spelling did not appear pretty and I was certain some would pronounce it “Oonagg”, not so lovely. Instead, I settled on the Latin variant, “Una” meaning “one, pure, holy”. Other meanings imply “unity and truth”. The Gaelic meaning even implies “hunger”. These deeper meanings may saddle the boat with too much. Of course people have to know them. I prefer the broader and more general meanings. 

Now I have a simple, pretty, and feminine boat. She’s very near completion. On the eve of her maiden, I give you …

Little remains to be done: One last trip to the hardware store remains for some stainless screws, the trailer has been fitted, and the interior parts are installed. We’re going sailing this week.

Bow shot.

Stern quarter.
Forward bulkhead and nestled oars blades.

Not the oarlock detail. Not wanting to lose them overboard or have them rattle while hanging on chains against the hull, I yanked the core out of some paracord and put on a wood bead as a stop. The cord is sewn on the oarlock and is just long enough to allow the oarlock to rest on the seat brace. We’ll see how it works. Another option is to place a leather pocket or strap under the seat edge.

Brass Bling and Splicing

Got the crew in the driveway the other morning to flip the hull. Devising a mattress of old tires and moving quilts to roll the boat made me just nervous enough. Dropping the project at this stage would not be good.

Adding brass.

Mounting the brass really puts a finished look to the boat. It will be removed for one last (third) coat of paint. I may add some varnish on the interior as the chance of dust settling on the surface is reduced.

Bow stem bending.
Transom gudgeon.


End to be tapered.
Bow eye.


Bow stem conformed.

Bends in the brass were achieved by brute force, a smooth faced hammer, a woodworker’s vice, and blocks of hardwood. There is simply many test fittings and a tad sanding on the stem to get a good fit. You must be careful not to bend on one of the screw holes. There the half oval will fold (Ah, experience).

I will file round and tapered the few ends that are exposed.

Got the mizzen boom jaw leathered. I could have stitched the protection on, but elected to use copper tacks.

Jaw leather.
Great scissors.

When I bought extra thick leather for the oars, I grabbed these super scissors. Cuts leather like paper. Always helps to have the right tool. I still wish for a bandsaw.

Lastly, did up a few splices: some 3 strand loops for boom and yard fittings, the double braid down haul, and anchor rode. Some are better than others. Later-


In a State of Varnish

Now there are no more pieces to fabricate. The last 2 knees have been installed, bunged, and shellac coated for varnish (and, of course, more varnish). Such is the state of the build. Paint is looking better and better as an alternative, but the additional coats of varnish just make the boat glow more. I’m shooting for 4-5 on everything for this go-round. It will be a short season, but I do plan on a good shake down into the Fall. I’ve had no intention of making a piece of furniture, but the floor boards have looked good stacked in the living room.

I’ve decided that many details simply can’t be resolved properly until the boat is sailed. One example is the working of the mainsheet. I question whether a 2 part system is adequate, but several sister boats use such. Not having miles of line in the cockpit is good, but is it adequate purchase as the breeze pipes up? This could aid in prompting a reef. We’ll see. So, I haven’t decided on a second block on the center case or a cleat.

A pair of knees ganged for rough belt sanding.


Plug cutting ash for knees and gunwales.

At this point, I’ve no insight or techniques to offer. My patience is being tried with all the finishing really. I’m ready to sail her. We’re almost there. A few more coats and we can flip, paint the bottom once more and install the rub strakes. So close …

Boomkin supported by screws on manning bench for varnishing.


Long shot. Floor boards resting.

Tinting the white interior paint with the hull green works to kill the brightness. I would rather have floors with an oiled finish, but I don’t think douglas fir is that wood. The local cypress was of poor quality and teak too dear at the moment.



Aft deck. Painted underside of hatch.

There you have it. Another coat on the spars and we can leather where appropriate. We’re getting there (maybe sooner than expected). Stay tuned!