All I ask is a tall ship…

I must go down to the seas again
to the lonely sea and sky
And all I ask is a tall ship
and a star to steer her by
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song
and the white sail’s shaking
And a gray mist on the sea’s face,
and a gray dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again
for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call
That may not be denied
And all I ask is a windy day
with the white clouds flying
And the flung spray and the blown spume
and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again
to the vagrant gypsy life
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way
where the wind’s like a whetted knife
And all I ask is a merry yarn
from a laughing fellow-rover
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream
when the long trick’s over.

Sea Fever
By John Masefield

Mr. Masefield, I’m getting a bit squirrely myself. I think it’s in part because I’m getting so close to done. Today I finished the majority of the shaping of my mast, only to find the top 10-12″ of the beam had a split in the middle! After uttering a long string of words appropriate for a sailor, I glued and clamped it down. The hope is that it’ll hold strong. Worst case scenario: It splits, and I end up building a new one. (Or putting a hose clamp on it!)

Cleaned up a lot of the excess wood from the starboard airbox. It took a pass with the pull-saw to get the big stuff gone, then the block plane and surform tool. After being so productive, it seemed like a good time for ‘selfies’!

Dust mask? Check. Surform tool? Check. Sweet Vice City t-shirt? Check.  Yes, I rule.

Dust mask? Check. Surform tool? Check. Sweet Vice City t-shirt? Check.
Yes, I rule.

The block plane deserved recognition too…

Block plane and I totally getting photo-bombed by my mast hanging there.

Block plane and I totally getting photo-bombed by my mast hanging there.

A bunch of progress on the rudder! I liked this rudder Shorty had posted about here. It’s very similar to what my old Weekender 18′ had. Here’s a mock-up of the rudder and tiller.

It took a bit to find something to use as the bumper. After digging around the miscellaneous parts jars, the solution presented itself in the form of an old bicycle brake pad and a deadbolt latch plate. The plate was hammered into position, and screwed to the board. Then the brake was screwed to it. Moral of the story: Junk bins rule.

Using a piece of scrap as a tiller, it’s ready to be bolted on tomorrow (or Friday, whenever I get back to it), hooray!

Last but not least, the hull plate arrived. It seemed only right to support the Puddle Duck class. If buying a hull plate was a way to do that, I’d do it. I fired up the DYMO-MITE Tapewriter and made a fairly awesome hull plate.


One down, one to go.

Finally catching up on some photo updates tonight!

First: the rudder. Over the weekend I rigged up one of the most rickety melting stations ever using some garden patio blocks, a propane torch, and a steel soup can. In the future, I need a better set up and better quality lead or possibly better technique. (Anyone with experience in this: I welcome advice.)


It looks okay from a distance, but closer inspection shows the rough surface from the pour. I think there was some nasty slag, or maybe it wasn’t melted down all the way. (Again, anyone who can explain this, please do.)

Top pour.

Top pour.

Bottom side of the pour.

Bottom side of the pour.

So it needs work to make it smooth and ready for paint. Also, need to make the tiller/hiking stick and figure out the frame and mounting hardware for the rudder.

Next up: The leeboard! Aside from paint, it’s ready to go.
Reinforcements have been added to the starboard side of the hull.

Moar wood! Moar glue!

Moar wood! Moar glue!

The additional 1×2 in the middle, and the one directly under the chine will match up with the slots on the outside of the hull and the leeboard will slide into those. Most of tonight’s work was actually getting those cut and sanded down.

Added some stops to the top of the leeboard to prevent it from sliding down too far, as well as a handle.

I totally could have been a hand model.

I totally could have been a hand model.

And here’s the whole thing when it was still being clamped together.

I finally managed to get one of the airboxes sealed up today. I sure hope I made it water tight! It looks like it should be, but I won’t know until it’s in the water… (Yikes.)

Paint cans, etc. weighing it down while the glue cures.

Paint cans, etc. weighing it down while the glue cures.

I had a bit of overhang, which may have been by design. Or it could be a continuation of the sloppy job I’ve been doing so far. Here’s a shot from the rear to show off the overhang.
Less than 1/4". Nothing I can't take out with the planer or surform tool!

In unrelated news: Pandora was SUPER good to me, and tonight’s jam was Roisin Murphy’s “You Know Me Better”… BANGING tune. I got way more productive when it came on.

On that note, it’s half past midnight. Sweet dreams.

Getting ready to “go 3D”

The last couple days have found me researching sail design. I’ve decided to follow suit with what seems to be the most common for a Puddle Duck, and try a “Leg-o-Mutton” spirit sail. I have some concerns that I’ve shorted myself on the sail material, as the tarp is only 9′ x 12′. Most of the plans for what’s known as the Bolger 59 call for at least a 14 foot luff… So, that will be getting exchanged on the next trip to the big box hardware store.

Upon returning home from work and setting upon “SV Serenity” (as she’ll be named once the hull is registered), I realized that I was kind of stuck. So far the build had been progressing with the intention of making the airboxes first, and then attaching the hull. However after reading up on some other designs, it seemed that method would be less stable as the transoms would be adhered multiple smaller chines, rather than a solid piece running the entire width of the boat.

The up side of this meant I could get to attaching the bottom sooner. The down side was the incredibly strong airboxes would now need to be cut up. Lessons for the next build, right? Let’s start putting this together!

Beginning with measuring the width of the hull sides, and subtracting that figure from 48″, I cut several pieces for permanent and temporary supports. Then the supports were glued and screwed in place using the old screw holes from the chine was curved.


After installing most of the supports, I checked to see if it was square, and HOLY CRAP was it not! I couldn’t figure it out. I had used the holes on both side, but it was a good couple inches out of square. I finally figured out that the starboard side was not originally screwed in using the same intervals. Some of the supports were over 2 inches off. After measuring it out, and redrilling/screwing, it all lined up very nicely.


Before heading in for the night, I tossed the bottom hull section on the frame in the hopes that it would start to naturally fit that curve. I also tossed some windshield washer fluid bottles on the stern to help hold it down. (not pictured)


I’m very close to having a “3D” hull. While that’s exciting, Amazon still has not shipped over half of the gear that was ordered. Boo, Amazon!

To do:

  • Exchange the tarp. Go big or go home!
  • Look into fiberglass. From what I understand, glassing the seams makes a HUGE difference. It wouldn’t be bad for the mast and oars either. (I really like the oar design here: Cheap Oars
  • Continue reading up on sail design, and make more scale prototypes.
  • Start making plans for the kickup rudder, as well as the lee board.

Blades of Steel

Yesterday’s boat building adventures informed me that my circular saw blade was totally hosed. Rather than cutting through a 2×4, it was burning its way through… Not good.
That meant another trip to Home Depot. Of course, I can never just pick up exactly the one item I need and leave. It seems that the mental list gets longer while I’m at the store:

  • Circular saw blades
    • Framing
    • Plywood
  • Jigsaw blades (I didn’t trust the one that came with the jigsaw to be fine enough.)
  • More clamps!
  • A long thin strip of pine to mark the hull shape

This brings the total closer to $150, if we’re counting tool costs. Still fairly reasonable. I’ll be happy if it stays under $200, which gives me about $50 to spend on paint/finish.

Back to the building process; the station lines that give the shape of the hull had already been measured out. Since this design requires full length airboxes, I clamped two of the 1/4″ plywood pieces together, placed nails at the station marks and clamped the thin strip of pine to the nails and traced the curve. This method produces a nice rounded shape which was then jig-sawed out, producing 4 hull pieces. These are now ready to have the chines glued to them. The scrap from the middle of the boards will be used to make the top of each airbox.

This shows the shape of my hull. To the left of the pic is the bow, right is the stern.

This shows the shape of my hull. To the left of the pic is the bow, right is the stern.

Yesterday’s screw-up:
After deciding where to make the cuts for the airboxes, I had chalklined the planned cuts. Since it was an 8 foot long cut, I came up with the brilliant idea to take a strip of 1×2, clamp it to the sheet of plywood and use it as a guide. Pretty smart, eh? Only problem was I didn’t measure against the chalk line along the entire length. As it turned out after I made the cut, there was about a 1/4″ bow right in the middle. I didn’t even notice the curve until I set the piece on the ground and noticed it was rocking. Damn it.

Fortunately, there was plenty of scrap left. A couple of quick measurements, new chalk lines, and two cuts later, new and perfectly suitable airbox tops had been created. Hooray! Up next: gluing the chines to the hull pieces, and determining airbox size.

Electra Bearcat III Scanner

One of the perks of my job is people will occasionally ask us to recycle their functional electronics. Which often translates to: “More toys for Marc”. A number of months ago I pulled this old scanner from the bin, mostly because I was drawn to its aesthetics. It’s an Electra Bearcat III, early 1970’s vintage. I saved it from the bin thinking at the very least, I could use the housing for another project at some point. It is simply too cool looking to be tossed in the trash.

Behold, a Bearcat

Behold, a Bearcat

After sitting on the shelf for months, last night I decided to tear into it and see if I could make it work. Now, it should be noted that I know nothing about scanners, radios, what-have-you. This proved to be an advantage, since it seemed a smart move to document everything for my own reference.

The controls:
Fairly straightforward, there’s a Volume/Power knob, a Squelch knob, a toggle swithch for Auto scanning or manual channel selection, and on/off switches for each of the 8 channels. Red LEDs serve as channel indicators.

The enclosure is held together by a single screw in the back, and the cover slides off to the rear. Looking down at the main board, there are the crystals in an array on the lower left.

There are 8 crystals, one per channel. There are also two modules; A and B, which correspond to the installed boards on the bottom of the main board. Here’s a close-up of the crystals, all installed in Module B. You can see some of the frequencies printed on the tops of the crystals.

On the underside of the unit there are two boards for the High and Low Bands. So plugging a crystal into one side or the other determines which board it connects to. Pretty cool. I would assume that means if I could find the parts, I could possibly get Citizen and other bands by replacing those boards.

Close-up of the boards, one covers a band from 30-50MHz, and the other covers 150-174MHz.

Okay, now that we’re familiar with the internals, I can start messing with things, right? Wrong. Despite my desire to tear into things all willy-nilly, discretion told me it might be a good idea to look over some documentation first. Thanks to the internets, I managed to locate a PDF of the manual!

Also, taking Adam Savage’s words of wisdom to heart, I made sure to take thorough notes.
Adam Advice

First, I pulled each crystal, and noted frequency and location in module. After that I found a list of frequencies in my area, and jotted down any that sounded like they’d be interesting. Then since I misread the manual, I banged my head against the wall trying to sort out how to make the channels “be the correct frequency”… It doesn’t exactly work like that, and it took me almost an hour to figure out that I had misinterpreted what the manual was telling me. Somehow I got it into my head that with certian combinations of placing crystals in the modules, I could “tune” it. I was close, but it doesn’t quite work that way. For a crystal radio, you need the crystal with whatever frequency you are interested in. Without the desired crystal, it isn’t going to pick up that frequency. The End.

After cross referencing the list of frequencies I had, and placing them back into correct module, I figured I was out of luck. None of the crystals in either module had picked up the slightest trace of activity. It was closing in on midnight, and I had work in the morning. Dejected that I either had a dead scanner or a bunch of bunk crystals, I decided to call it a night. I liked the LEDs blinking though, so I left it running in my lab, figuring I’d poke at it this evening.

Just as I was drifting off to sleep, I heard voices coming from down the hall. As I got up to investigate, I heard an ambulance dispatcher speaking from my lab! Hey! It works after all!

What did I learn?
That taking the time to really understand documentation makes a big difference. I learned that sometimes thing are actually more simple than they appear. From researching I learned a bunch about the various radio bands and what’s on them. And, as I told Molly this morning before I wrote this blog: “Sometimes you have no clue what you’re doing, but that shouldn’t stop you from getting in there and doing it.” I think that may be the one of the most important lessons that anyone can learn. While it’ll occasionally blow up in your face, the experience is almost always worth it.

So now what?
As it turns out, crystals are still fairly easy to come across. A number of them can be found on eBay for about $5 each. It’s a possibility that I’ll shell out the coins if I can somehow verify that I will be able to pick some interesting things with it. I have to imagine that the local HAMS would have that information, some forum digging is in my future.