Monday, June 05, 2006


Boys Trip 2006 041
Originally uploaded by OzzyC.
Though this experiment met with one mishap after another, it's one that I wouldn't have missed for the world. Despite the fact that we spent two hours repairing our craft for every hour of sailing (or some semblence thereof) -- kind of like owning an Italian sportscar -- it's something I'd do again. This trip was a blast... or should I say "gust?"

Half Mast

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Originally uploaded by OzzyC.
The final insult was a break that we couldn't overcome. The mast broke. Greg fashioned the mast out of a 16 foot aluminum flagpole. Though it was stressed far beyond anything it was engineered for, it held up for two days under strong winds. In the end though, mother nature's force was too much for the mast, and it snapped in the middle. The ironic part is that we were sailing for shore.

Greg wanted one last day of experimentation and sailing, and I wasn't about to let him go out in the boat alone... we'd both end up stranded that way. He'd be stuck in the water, and I'd be stuck on the island. So we shoved off one last time and tried to tack upwind, to no avail. We pulled the sail down, and as Greg frantically attempted repairs, the wind pushed us slowly downwind from our campsite. We were approximately a quarter mile downwind, when I announced that it was time to bring our experiment to a close.

I suggested using the wind to our advantage by bringing the sail up one last time and harnessing the wind's power to at least get us to shore, allowing us to paddle back up to our campsite in the island's wind shadow, thus fighting the wind less.

We hoisted the sail, flew for five feet or so, and heard that final **SNAP**. We looked up just in time to see the sail and mast tumbling. It was the final defeat in our experiment.

Broken Mast Support

Boys Trip 2006 001
Originally uploaded by OzzyC.
Take a little too much wind, add a makeshift watercraft, and throw in a couple of inexperienced sailors... what do you get? A recipe for a disastrously humorous adventure.

Our next malfunction was a broken mast support. The mast support consisted of a wooden dowel, a couple of turnbuckles for adjustibility, and more hose clamps and bolts to hold the supports in place.

One particularly strong gust of wind ripped the turnbuckle from the dowel. We repaired the break with glue, but ended up going with another mast support made from a tree branch, lashed in place with ropes and ratchet straps.

Rudder Problems

Boys Trip 2006 079
Originally uploaded by OzzyC.
The next problem we encountered was a rudder problem. We used a canoe paddle as the rudder, which was bolted to the catamaran frame using something that Greg fashioned. This mount broke, and we ended up having to ratchet strap the canoe paddle to the frame. Once this was done, the rudder didn't function quite as efficiently, so I periodically resorted to using two canoe paddles to achieve my objective.

Repaired Leeboard

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Originally uploaded by OzzyC.
After repairing the leeboard, we again tested our craft for seaworthiness. As you can see in this picture, the repair was fashioned out of a steel brace, hose clamps and a log provided by mother nature. Greg sunk a lag bolt in to the log. We tested things out, and the repair held, but there was yet another problem. By repairing the leeboard in this fashion, the board didn't sit as deeply in the water, effectively eliminating a portion of our ability to tack. We were able to tack one way against the wind, but not the other.

As you can imagine, this necessitated another long arduous paddle back to shore. Fortunately, we were picked up by a pair of boaters who towed our crippled craft back to our campsite for still more repairs.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Engineering Problems A-Plenty

Boys Trip 2006 066
Originally uploaded by OzzyC.
As I mentioned yesterday, our first trip was completely uneventful. This is mainly because there was just enough wind to get us from the landing to our campsite, so we cruised to the island, set up camp, ate, and hoped for more wind the following day. Our wish was fulfilled.

After a hearty breakfast of beer and eggs, Greg and I were anxious to continue our experiment and to test our skill as sailors. We did a quick sail in the water immediately next to our camp site, and were soon satisfied that our boat and our skills were solid enough to venture further into the open water.

Being novice sailors, it took us a little bit of time and experimentation to learn the ropes, but we took great pleasure in the new experience... until we heart that first **CRACK**. I don't remember whether it was caused by shallow water, or by actual stress, but our leeboard mount broke. As this picture shows, the leeboard itself held up to the stress, but the frame wasn't quite as strong, flexible, or whatever.

Despite our hobbled watercraft, we were able to limp back to our campsite, which was upwind from us when the malfunction occurred, and fortunately Greg brought plenty of material for repairs. He pulled the leeboard mount and had soon fashioned a repair of glue and screws. On the downside, we had to wait for the glue to cure, so our sailing was finished for the day.

Stay tuned for our continued misadventures.

Friday, June 02, 2006

How We Did It

Boys Trip 2006 055
Originally uploaded by OzzyC.
Our construction process was precise yet simple. Engineer-boy took the measurements and did the conversion mainly with things he already had laying around his garage... plywood, 2x4s, wooden dowels, ratchet straps, hose clamps, lag bolts and so forth. About the only parts he needed to buy were the flagpole that we used for the mast, and the tarp that he cut to the shape of a sail.

When we got to the reservoir, we spent the first two hours or so assembling the catamaran. By the time we finished the construction, got to camp, set up the tent and ate, it was time to go to bed. Additionally, the maiden voyage from the landing to the island occurred on a day with almost no wind. We were able to make our way to the island, but it was slow going. Our real test would have to wait for another day.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Look What We Did to Our Nice Canoes

Boys Trip 2006 035
Originally uploaded by OzzyC.
Per our tradition, we took our boys' trip over Memorial Day weekend. For several years we have been travelling staying in Nicolette Forest in northease Wisconsin, for a few days of whitewater kayaking. This year, we decided to get back to our roots and do some canoeing. Greg and I took things a step further, and rigged up the Nice Canoes we built a couple of years ago as a makeshift catamaran. Greg, being engineer-boy, calculated the dimensions, measured the sail, and determined where to put the various parts. It worked surprisingly well -- for one day. The boat was structurally sound, but anything that directly related to the sailing aspect was woefully under-engineered. Stay tuned for the complete story... it's quite a ride.