Archive for September, 2012

Along with the big questions, like “Why are we here?” and “What is the meaning of life?” I often ask myself “Why does everything take so long?” Many of my projects seem to go on and on and on. Here’s a case in point.

When I created the hard-chine plywood 16-30 canoe, I needed to put a yoke arm on top of the rudder. This is because the mizzen mast is between the rudder head and the tiller. The older cruising sailing canoe and canoe yawl designs often used rope or, on J.H. Rushton boats, delicate little brass chains, to connect the rudder yoke to the tiller yoke. Here’s an example from a Mersey canoe in W.P. Stephens’ Canoe and Boatbuilding: A Complete Manual for Amateurs.

Some of the canoe yawls used a bent tiller that allowed just enough space to put the helm hard over, as on Iris, also depicted in Stephens’ book:

Neither one of these works for the 16-30, since you need something to take out to the end of the seat with you. The original 16-30s used a rigid tiller rod connecting a single yoke arm on the rudder head to a tab on the crosshead steering gear. This is a modification of the “Norwegian Tiller,” which has a single yoke arm on the rudder head with a long rod extending forward. The 16-30 set-up is more like a bell crank (for those of you who used to fly control-line model aircraft), and this is what I used on the new 16-30. Here’s the rudder end:

And here’s how the tiller rod connects to the cross-head:

The original 16-30s often had beautiful soldered, brazed or forge-welded metal hardware, but I was trying to keep this affordable, which is where the scaffolding parts that make up the cross-head comes in. In order to brace the single yoke arm, I epoxied and bolted an aluminum L-bracket underneath and epoxied the two plywood pieces together:

It wasn’t the strongest arrangement in the world, but it lasted for several years and other new-generation 16-30s were outfitted the same way with no problems. Then, I went to Sturgeon Point. I’d been asked by the Sturgeon Lakes Sailing Club to come and give a talk on canoe sailing, which had been a big part of summer life there at the end of the 19th century. Here’s a typical summer scene from the photo collection of the City of Kawartha Lakes Archives:

So far, so good, except that if I’m going to demonstrate canoe sailing I should probably have a sailing canoe, no? I have dear old Clementine, the lateen and leeboard-rigged 1937 Old Town, but I don’t actually own a 16-30[!]. I’ve been too busy drawing plans and teaching classes and teaching people to sail them to get around to building one of my own. So, I needed to make a side trip to the Antique Boat Museum in Clayton, NY, to borrow 16-30 #2, Somethin’ Else, which I had built when I worked there a number of years ago. When I picked the boat up, I learned that vulnerable rudder/yoke right-angle joint had gotten a good knock, and needed fixing. I took it apart and put it back together again the same way and saddled up the Subaru to go to Sturgeon Point.

The day we were supposed to sail was pretty blustery, but I set the 16-30 up and launched anyways. As we waited for the other participants to come down, two of us held the fully-rigged boat off the dock. As the wind and chop continued to rise, a large wave picked the boat up and dropped her down hard right beside the dock, catching the protruding yoke arm and breaking the joint again. That was the end of 16-30 sailing that day, though an intrepid club member did manage to get Clementine out before a rain squall closed everything down.

So, the yoke was broken again and there didn’t seem to be much point in repairing it the same way. I thought about a bent piece of aluminum that would be wide enough to fasten securely to the rudder and could also form the yoke arm itself. First step was to make a pattern and get the piece out of some 5/32″ leftovers I had in the shop.

Next issue was how to bend the aluminum. A test on a piece of scrap revealed that the 5/32″ was too thick to do the usual vise-and-wooden-block method. The resulting bend wasn’t very satisfying.

I needed a better way to bend the aluminum, and I don’t have access to a metalworking shop or a big press brake. After a little consultation, I picked up a 4-ton bottle jack on sale and that, together with some threaded rod and odds and ends, produced what I hope will be a useful piece of equipment: The Bend-O-Matic.

The angle iron on the jack’s stem mates up with another identical piece that’s cradled in an oak block at the top. As the two are jacked together, the bend is formed:

It sure looks stronger than the old one. Hope to take it sailing soon, I’ll let you know how it works out.

And that’s how a simple “sure, you can borrow the boat for a little while but I think you’ll need to look at the rudder” turned into two repairs and a new piece of shop equipment.

Until next time. . .

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