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Back in the second post in this series, I was thinking about how to translate the arc bottom of the original sailing canoe into something I could build in stitch and glue. Using the original linesplan, I’ve modeled several different version of the hull in Delftship that allow me to make some numerical comparisons between them. All I’ve changed in each case is the number of chines and the underwater shape–everything else is the same (with the exception of some small changes to the bow profile to accommodate an additional chine). The design waterline and draft of 4″ are as on the original plans, and all these hulls are shown in a full bow-on view.

Here’s the original arc-bottomed hull, which displaces .117 short tons, or 234 lbs.

Here’s the same hull with all of the arc taken out of the bottom sections so that there’s just a straight section from chine to keel. This results in a significantly lower displacement of only .075 tons, or 150 lbs. How much displacement do we want or need? Well, I’d say something at least equal to the original hull. I’m also keeping in mind the displacement of my hard-chine 16-30 hull, which is .133 tons, or 266 lbs. From my experience in building and sailing those boats, they float pretty much on their marks with a sailor of average weight, so there’s a good comparison for what displacement we should shoot for in a two-masted, decked 16′ sailing canoe built in stitch and glue. I don’t think 150 lbs is going to do it.

Here I’ve added another chine and pulled it down amidships to make a nearly flat bottom. I may have overdone it on the extra volume, though, because now our displacement is up to .139 tons, or 278 lbs. I’m not sure we need quite all of that.

If I introduce just a little deadrise into the midships sections, leaving the ends unchanged, the displacement decreases to  .128 tons, or 256 lbs, which is pretty close to our 16-30 hull.

So far, so good. The next step is to add the deck and deck camber, put the bulkheads in the right places instead of just at a uniform 1′ interval and expand the individual hull panels. Then, I’ll buy some balsa wood and make a 1 1/2″ – 1′ model.

Until next time. . .

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As I mentioned in the last post, I started to do some work on the original linesplan for  the late 19th century decked sailing canoe Isalo to explore making the arc bottomed hull suitable for the flat panels of stitch-and-glue construction. I began drawing by hand, but then I decided to put the lines on the computer and see what I could come up with. To do this, I used a hull design program called DelftShip, a development of an earlier program called Freeship (which is still available from SourceForge). Both programs are powerful, full-featured naval architecture packages, and both are free. Once you figure out how to use them for canoes, you could also design yourself an oil tanker, passenger ship or tug if you’re so inclined. A professional version of Delftship with more features is also available for €150, with the latest version slated for release in late February. These programs have a steep learning curve, no pun intended, but are well worth the investment of time.

One thing they’re particularly useful for is projects like Isalo, because with them you can import a scanned linesplan of unknown scale, such as you might find in a magazine, and, as long as you know a couple of the principle dimensions, draw new fair lines on top of the original. There’s a handy tutorial about how to do this, based on, of all things, Leo Friede’s legendary 16-30 sailing canoe Mermaid on the WoodenBoat Forum. If you use this tutorial, go through it with the DelftShip manual in front of you, because author Bruce Taylor leaves out a couple of important steps whose absence will drive you crazy until you also read the DelftShip tutorial on Reproducing An Existing Lines Plan, which you can download from the company’s web site.

Even though I’m planning to add one or more chines, I thought I would start by getting Isalo‘s original arc-bottomed hull re-drawn in DelftShip. After a weekend’s worth of work, here’s what I’ve come up with:

This is the main Delftship window with all four views: perspective, profile, plan and body plan. Much as with regular lofting and fairing, you alternate between them, working iteratively on each one to gradually firm up and reconcile the lines. In each case, the starting point is the original linesplan in a background layer, on top of which you work with curves and the control mesh to shape the new lines.

Here’s the profile with the three main lines defined: the centreline of the hull [composed of bow, stern and bottom], the chine and the sheer.

And here’s the body plan, with the control curves [red] and stations [green]. Once you begin to develop the wireframe, you can add the other side of the hull and shade it to check on your progress.

 One of the most useful features for a project like this is that you can also run a developability check on the panels to see if they can be gotten out of plywood, which nominally doesn’t like to do compound curves, though you can torture it into shape to a certain extent. When you use that feature, the program adds red shading to show you areas that can’t be expanded into flat sheets.

DelftShip is telling me that the sections below the chine aren’t developable, which is not surprising since they’re still the original rounded arc bottom. The good news is that I seem gotten the topsides pretty straight, as it’s all green from sheer to chine. The next step is to go back to the body plan and make sure I’ve added enough curvature to the bottom to capture the volume of the original hull below the waterline. After that, I’ll  ask DelftShip to calculate the hydrostatics to get some numbers against which I can compare my multichine versions as they’re developed.

Until next time. . .

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I recently received a note from my friend Ed Maurer down in Florida. A couple of years ago, Ed took the brave step of starting a new magazine called Canoe Sailor, which is a noble project in its own right. In this case, it was even better because the magazine was focused on, of all topics, sailing canoes–imagine such a thing!

Ed’s note let me know that he’s just re-formatted the original Canoe Sailor a new, all-digital page-turn publication called Skinny Hull. In his own words,

Skinny Hull covers sailing canoes and kayaks, proas and similar style boats, Chesapeake log canoes and a variety of purpose-built two- and three-hull boats that are essentially canoes (or kayaks) with outriggers. (We’re even working on bringing you ice boat sailing!) So, essentially, if it mounts a sail and has a skinny hull we cover it!

The first few issues will contain archived content from Canoe Sailor, and there’s some good material there. Like any editor, though, Ed will be looking for new content too. I’m going to try do do my part, and I’d encourage anyone who’s interested in contributing to contact him at editor@canoesailingmagazine.com, and also to subscribe, which I’m going to do as soon as I finish writing this post.

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As I mentioned in the last post, I’ve started to explore whether the 1893 sailing canoe design Isalo would be suitable for re-designing for construction in modern materials. One of the first big questions to is how to build the boat.

If I follow through with the idea that this cruising canoe and the 16-30 are “bookends” that between them cover a nice range of sailing canoe history, then it would be best if Isalo was rendered in stitch-and-glue plywood. This has worked well for the 16-30s, proving to be light and durable and reasonably quick to build.

The body plan for the 16-30, showing its single chine hull made up from four separate stitch-and-glue panels.

The original 16-30 was a perfect choice for stitch-and-glue construction, with a single hard chine and a V-shaped bottom. The only difference from the original to the new version was that the plank keel was replaced by a filleted epoxy joint.

An interior shot of the original 16-30, showing the top of the plank keel. The bottom planks converge in a slightly rounded V-joint on the bottom of the hull.

The interior of the plywood 16-30, showing the filleted and taped seam on the interior bottom.

Our original 1893 canoe, however, has an arc bottom, much like a Star-class keelboat.

Body plan for Isalo from the original 1893 drawings.

You could likely make the plywood conform to this shape, but not in stitch and glue. In order to get the compound curve in the bottom panels, you’d have to introduce some interior framework, as on the 15 1/2′ sailing canoe Zephyr, and this would take us away from the idea of making both canoes as similar in construction as possible.

The arc-bottomed sailing canoe Zephyr, published in Yachting in 1925, was designed for traditional batten-seam plank-on-frame construction.

There are (at least) three possible ways to tackle the bottom of the new canoe, starting with the original lines. Here’s a sample section.

The original body plan at midships, with an arc bottom.

Option one is to take all of the arc out of the bottom and connect the chine and keel with a straight line, as on the 16-30:

Bottom section straight from chine to keel, with the dotted line showing the original arc section.

As you can see from the sketch, this takes a fair bit of volume out of the bottom. It might be ok, but I wouldn’t know until I did some hydrostatic calculations. Another option would be to introduce a second chine below the waterline.

The straight section from keel to chine has been broken into two parts by the addition of a second chine, with dotted line showing the original arc section.

This option preserves more of the original volume, but we’re now up to six hull panels, which will be more work to construct. Another way to do this is to give the canoe a narrow flat bottom panel:

Introducing a flat bottom panel equals or exceeds the original volume of the arc-bottom hull.

There are a few reasons why I like this option: it only needs 5 panels; it will make the boat easy to beach; and finally, the flat bottom will give a good solid anchorage for the centreboard trunk and mast steps without the complications of fitting them over a filleted centre seam. I built and sailed a little canoe with a hull like this for several years in the 1990s and it worked quite well. It was designed by John Bull, who used to own Solway Dory in the UK. He’s since retired, but the company continues, though I don’t believe they offer this design any more. The only drawback is that you need to install some floorboards so that you’re not sitting in any water that happens to come aboard!

Next step is to lay in the flat bottom on the original hull, re-draw the lines and do some calculations.

Until then. . .

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Well, it’s December 22nd, 2011. The Fiddlehead is done, all my hand tools have been sharpened and tuned up again and I have a couple of weeks off work and some precious free time. What better way to end the year and look ahead to 2012 than to think about what boat I should build next?

Three possibilities have been going through my head for a while. Back in the mid 1990s when I worked at the old Marine Museum of Upper Canada with Peter the Boatbuilder (see last post), we taught a workshop course called “Introduction to Lapstrake Boatbuilding.” The boat we used as the example was Pete Culler’s 13′ lapstrake canoe, a design he called Butternut. This is a lovely little boat, weighing about 35 lbs. We liked it because it showed you everything you needed to know about traditional lapstrake boatbuilding in a nice small package that didn’t go through a whole lot of materials, and was also small enough that we could have two of them underway in the shop at the same time. We told the students it was “the original personal watercraft,” a boat you wear more than use. Here’s one of the completed Butternuts:

As usual with these projects, I didn’t end up with one for myself, so maybe now it’s time? Something this light would also fit on top of Wendy’s little Nissan, and be light enough for her to get up and down easily. Butternut is featured on pp. 23-25 of John Burke’s book Pete Culler’s Boats. The original book is out of print but WoodenBoat have reprinted a catalogue of Culler’s designs. A simple lines plan can be ordered from the Ships’ Plans Department at Mystic Seaport.

Another boat I’ve had in my head even longer than Butternut is the late Bob Baker’s lapstrake canoe Piccolo. He designed this for WoodenBoat back in the magazine’s early days, and a comprehensive how-to-build article appeared in issues no. 36 and 37. It’s an exquisite little sailing canoe, a boat of thoroughgoing charm and modest windward ability (but gentlemen don’t cruise to windward anyways, right?). I liked this boat as soon as I saw her and have always wanted one. Plans are available from The WoodenBoat Store. I’ve gotten as far as lofting Piccolo and starting to pile up some cedar to plank her with (sorry for the grainy photo, hard to take a picture of pencil lines on lofting!):

Two little lapstrake canoes, two worthwhile projects, and eventually I’ll probably build one of each. I’m still thinking about the 16-30 sliding seat canoe, though. One of the ideas I’ve been mulling over is turning the 16-30 into a how-to-build book that also includes some of the history of canoe sailing. I’ve made a couple of false starts on this, but they’ve always come up short. I think one of the things holding me back has been the fact that, much as I love the 16-30 and the sliding seat era of canoe sailing, it was a relatively late development, and isn’t really representative of the whole 1870-1900 era when recreational canoeing first flourished.

An idea came to me in the shower a while ago (often happens there, perhaps the water hitting my head shakes loose a thought?): what about developing another historic canoe design for construction in modern materials that could be a companion to the 16-30? The aims of that project (see the 16-30 page on this blog) were to capture the decked sliding seat canoe sailing experience in a boat that could be built by one person with average tools and skills, in a garage, in a winter, using readily-available parts and materials. Could I find an original design for a cruising sailing canoe that could be adapted the same way? If I did that, then the book could feature these boats as “bookends” exemplifying the range of canoe sailing types, with some history sandwiched in between, and complete plans and building instructions for both.

On to the search for a suitable design. One of the things that made the 16-30 work was that the original boat I was inspired by was a hard-chine hull. I don’t mind turning hard-chine cedar on oak into hard-chine stitch and glue plywood, but I’m not as interested in rendering a round-bottomed hull into a multi-chine stitch and glue boat. Then I came across a design while browsing through Forest & Stream, a treasure trove of canoeing, yachting and other 19th century sporting history. Called Isalo (which is a town in Madagascar, not sure of the connection to canoeing), the boat is a hard-chined hull with a removable sliding seat and two sliding gunter rigs: a cruising outfit of 60 + 18 square feet and a racing rig of 100 + 30 square feet.

This design looks as though it has some potential, so the first step is to do a feasibility study by scaling the design up, re-drawing the lines, generating offsets and thinking about how she might be built. I’ll let you know how it goes.

In the mean time, here’s an interesting development for those interested in the history of small craft. Isalo‘s lines were originally published in The Model Yachtsman and Canoeist, a British magazine which appeared from 1884-1894. It wasn’t what you’d call a mass-circulation piece, so original copies are very hard to find. The Albert Strange Association has just announced that the whole run of 2000 pages has been digitized and made available on two CDs in a searchable pdf format for the very reasonable price of 15 pounds sterling. You can order your copy from the Association’s web site. Perfect Christmas gift for the boating historian on your list.

Best wishes of the season to you all.

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 The history of the canoe building companies that were a significant part of the economic life of Peterborough, Ontario, for more than one hundred years is as rich and tangled a story as you’re likely to find in Canadian business history. Invention, entrepreurship, patents, lawsuits, rivalries, mergers, acquisitions, bankruptcies and catastrophic fires: it’s a tale that has all this and more. It is also a complicated story, and those who are interested in canoeing history, Canadian history, Canadian business history and the story of how the city of Peterborough, Ontario came to be synonymous around the world with the canoe will have a much easier time figuring it out after they have read Peterborough author Ken Brown’s new book: The Canadian Canoe Company & the early Peterborough Canoe Factories.

This isn’t Brown’s first crack at the subject. In 2001, The Canadian Canoe Museum published published his book The Invention of the Board Canoe: the Peterborough stories from their sources, which compiled primary source material to explore competing claims for the origin of the Peterborough area’s unique wide-board method of canoe construction. This first book was a modest pamphlet, which did invaluable service in clarifying an important part of the local canoeing story. It wasn’t, however, a book that you would be likely to leave out on your coffee table, or give to anyone but the most hardened canoe-head as a Christmas or birthday present (don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a criticism. I’ve read and enjoyed and used it, and I’ll be forever grateful that he wrote it.) With the publication of this new volume, which has been more than fifteen years in the making, Brown has really raised the bar. Now we’re definitely in gift and coffee table territory, and several people I know will be getting one for Christmas.

Reading through this book and learning about the challenges that faced these entrepreurs as they developed their businesses, we are reminded that although the canoes they built are revered today for their craftsmanship, they were originally made in an un-romantic, hard-headed commercial environment. Brown has done an excellent job with the business history of this industry, not surprising considering that his working life was spent as a chartered accountant. This is an aspect of maritime history that is often neglected, and it is refreshing to see it treated in such detail. It also helps to bring the story out, for we see both the sucesses and the failures of these companies, both the good decisions and the bad.

The book is amply illustrated and visually sumptuous, and publisher Karen Taylor and graphic designer Louis Taylor have done a fine job bringing the story to life. The 16 pages of colour plates at the end are a real treat, as is the back inside cover, which identifies the sites of companies connected with Peterborough’s canoe industry from 1858-1961. This map is particularly valuable because few of these structures are still extant today and these industries which were such a prominent part of downtown Peterborough for so many years are now invisible.

Highly-recommended and just in time for Christmas, The Canadian Canoe Company & the early Peterborough Canoe Factories is available from Cover to Cover Publication Services and from The Canadian Canoe Museum, which also carries The Invention of the Board Canoe: The Peterborough stories from their sources.

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In this shot, the covering boards have been varnished on the underside and permanently screwed to the boat. Where they cover the watertight compartment of each end, they’ve also been bedded in sealant. I’ve also taken the outer stem off, buttered it with bedding compound, re-attached it using all of the screws and epoxied a tapered wooden plug ineach screw hole which will be trimmed flush later.

The inwales receive a coat of bedding compound on their backs before being screwed in place for good.

With all of the decking and outwales permanently fastened, it’s time to start building up the finish. The first coatis usually thinned at least 50% to penetrate deeply and raise the grain.

Even a thinned coat begins to bring out the nice warm look of the cherry.

The next step is the cockpit coamings. Because of the way Harry has designed the ends, they don’t have to fit together closely, but it still takes a couple of tries of clamping them in place dry to get the fit right.

It’s a good idea to use clamping pads on the inside of the coaming to avoid marking it with the c-clamps. It’s also a good idea to not press too hard on the portion of the coaming that extends above the deck, or you might split it and have to get out another one in a hurry (this last sentence was written by the voice of experience!).

With both sides trimmed and clamped in place, the coaming can be fastened. You’ll need to measure carefully from the bottom up to make sure the screws hit the carlin and not the deck.

At each end of the coaming, a triangular block of cherry fastens the two ends together.

The block is fastened in place from the outside with four screws through the coaming.

After the block is fastened, the top and bottom are faired into the coaming.

Now is a good time to stand back and look at the coaming. For this boat, I decided that it was a little too high in the middle, so I got out the plane and gave it some more sheer. Do this carefully, and don’t forget to sight from each end as well as each side as you’re working.

The coamings in place.

The designer has come up with an ingenious solution for finishing the coamings which avoids what can be a tricky raking beveled cut. It begins by sawing off the rough ends of the coaming and the triangular block.

This leaves a blunt surface at each end.

This is finished with another triangular block that sits on the deck cap.

This little block ties everything together nicely.

This is attached with a little thickened epoxy.

And left to dry overnight.

Then it’s back to sanding, fairing the coaming and blocks together into a pleasing whole with smooth transitions between the different pieces.

And then it’s back to varnishing, building up a good solid surface.

Because I was in a bit of a hurry, I used a quick-drying acrylic enamel on the exterior hull and the interior bottom.

The last step was to make some nice cherry floorboards that go in in two sections. And here we are, a finished Fiddlehead.

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