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Unbelievably amazing traditional boat resource from Italy

Big hat-tip here to our friend Carl Cramer, publisher of Wooden Boat and author of its My Wooden Boat of the Week blog – his entry today, drawings of Indonesian outrigger canoes, was great in-and-of itself. Carl was, though, good enough to provide the source site, a resource from Italy which can be roughly (per Google) translated as “Pages dedicated to the Navy and Merchant Navy and seafaring ethnic and historical.” It isn’t clear to me who is behind this site, but – my word! – what a treasure the site owners have amassed!

The site groups sets of resources – I take it many are drawings, but I haven’t browsed very deeply – in sensible clusters that revolve around time period and location. We were drawn to the second section, “Etnografia: i natanti nel mondo,” which we can tell you, senza Google, is “Boats of the World.” We literally don’t know what to show you as a sample – there are so many cool boats to point out. There are drawing sets for every corner of the planet, as far as we can tell, and there are many per set. The set from Indochina Carl references has 299 – 299! – drawings, mostly from Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam. Try these, for starters:

Indonesian outrigger canoe wiht Indonesian boat Sailing ship form Sumatra Vietnamese boat from Saigon

And that is just one region! There are 325 from Africa, including some amazing lateen craft from the northern and eastern sides of the continent:

Egyptian lateen craft Small Somali sailing vessel Sailing outrigger from Mozambique Long canoe of the Niger

I could go on, e.g., this set of 494 from mainland East Asia. Did we say this collection is mindblowing? ’cause it’s mindblowing. Check out the site and the full-sized images. It is fantastic.

Fun chance meeting with photographer Ellen Tynan

Last weekend we were out for a hikelet along the Potomac river and happened upon a woman enjoying the view of the marsh. We got talking and she mentioned, in particular, my Wooden Boat hat. She then revealed that she was a photographer who specialized in classic and traditional boats, and she noted she had been published in the magazine. Her name is Ellen Tynan and, on review, I am sure I have seen her work (also on Flickr).

She is hoping to publish a book in the not-too-distant future: “Boat Lines.” It will compile her photos of traditional boats from six regions of the world: Maori New Zealand, Ireland, Alaska and British Columbia, Peru, Indonesia, and Egypt. Good sampling, there, eh?

I’d suggest browsing through her work and getting a sneak peak at what might be in the book. A quick selection of works that jumped out at us, here at Chine bLog, includes (will open in new tabs/windows):

There are many more great ones. It would be well worth your time to browse them all on your own. Keep an eye out for this great sounding book.

Update on the rebuilding of the ama for my canoe, AL DEMANY CHIMAN

It seemed a good time to update you all on the status of our various winter projects on the skin-on-frame outrigger canoe, A DEMANY CHIMAN. When we last checked in, I was trying to figure out how to approach the redesign of the ama, especially with respect to the problem of it shipping lots of water. I have pursued the initial approach (despite good advice to the contrary) and am some way along.

To review, I took the ama completely apart and gave everything a good sanding. I had found the bow piece in suspect shape, so I just rebuilt it. I then coated everything with the same polyurethane that coats the skin and lashed it all back together, but for the stringers. I then got some polystyrene and built blocks matching the dimensions of the four sections of the ama (including the stringers in the width) and then split those down the middle lengthwise. I filed / sanded them to shape so that they fit snugly and had the appropriate sectional shape. I am now 3/4 through the final step, which is carving out a channel for the stringers. Below is the starboard side, with one stringer just laid in.

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Now I have to do the port side. I’ll paint them all so they aren’t that horrid pink (yes, in its regular life, this foam would be insulating some house).

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A couple thoughts are in order. First, working with foam has been a highly unpleasant process. The mess is horrendous and shaping it does not have the same satisfying feeling wood gives. The stuff is obviously soft enough that it is easy to ding up and it snags much more easily than it seems it should. On the other hand, I think it will meet my objectives pretty well. By coating the pieces in polyurethane, waiting for a full set, and then lashing them, they behave like skin-on-frame construction should, but are protected form the inevitable water (yes, there may be wear and, over time, places water will get to the wood, but that will be down the line a decent bit). The stringers will show through and give the appearance they had, maintaining the same look. Finally, the water will mostly stay out, leaving me confident the ama will remain buoyant in a longer, choppy crossing. Perfect? No, but I think this will get me where I wanted to, even if the journey has been a pain.

Ideas welcome – beginning the redesign / rebuild of AL DEMANY CHIMAN’s ama

AL DEMANY CHIMANs ama in my shopAs I have noted before, one of the biggest issues I have found with the skin-on-frame outrigger canoe AL DEMANY CHIMAN is that the ama isn’t working out. The shape is a bit off and it ships too much water. Having completed a number of smaller maintenance items since calling an end to the season, I have begin the winter’s major project: redesigning and rebuilding the ama.

My first step was last night. I unscrewed the “sheer clamps” and the pulled off the skin. What I found was a bit distressing, if not wholly unexpected: there has been water trapped beneath the skin and the frame doing what water will do. Moisture in frame of AL DEMANY CHIMANs ama You can see that dark area where the oil I put on the bow piece didn’t help (or wasn’t enough). The part above that was quite wet, and that is from rain somehow getting in (or, forbid, leftover from a month ago – shudder). The line where the skin met the bow piece is distressingly evident, though this is more mildew. The bigger issue here is that the two planks that make up that piece have separated (note the slight hitch in the “sheerline”). The afte end is better off, but has a few issues of it’s own. Bow of AL DEMANY CHIMANs ama without skin

So this leaves me with the question of how to proceed from here, as I have to approach this project with an additional variable. Factors I am thinking about are:

  • I need to reconstruct the ama so that it does not ship water
  • I want to preserve the skin-on-frame look as much as possible
  • It is unlikely that, with the skin-on-frame medium, I can keep all water out
  • If I make the ama a good deal more watertight, but not 100% so, I’ll end up with more of the issues noted above
  • A new ama that is fully watertight and water-protected may not go as well with the rest of the boat

A bit of a quandary, eh? My current thinking is to unlash the frame, coat every inside surface with the same two-part polyurethane that coats the skin, partially relash, add foam to fill the inside, and reskin the ama. My guess is that this approach leaves some vulnerability to water damage, but hopefully holds it off a good bit. Any other ideas or approaches you all would recommend? Please comment below. Many thanks,

A celebration of a boating season

On Sunday afternoon I took AL DEMANY CHIMAN out for probably the last time this season. It was a stunning Fall day and there were only a few other folks out with me on the Patuxent River. There were some birds about and a couple fish jumping, but, for the most part, things were quiet and autumnal. As I put the boat back on the car and drove home I reflected on what a great boating season it has been.

The story of the season was obviously AL DEMANY CHIMAN. This was her first full season in existence and she gave me all I had hoped she would. From the first paddles in May, she continued to prove light and easy to transport. She took the whole family out and did fine (except for the part where we all leaned to starboard) and even carried my boss and colleagues. From there she carried me and five days gear around Muscongus Bay, ME in what will go down as one of my great voyages. This is the adventure she was built for, whether I had articulated it or not, and she served me fabulously.

The heat of summer and my desire to complete the sailing rig slowed us some,but when September arrived, AL DEMANY CHIMAN became my social yacht. I had some great outings with friends and, a couple times, with friends and sons. She proved a great draw and a fun boat for talking or for fishing.

Throughout all these interactions, I was thrilled with the reception AL DEMANY CHIMAN got. I have been so touched by the clearly sincere compliments she has received. People have been drawn to her and it has been thrilling to see and hear.

It will now be a long wait for the Spring…

Races at Mid-Atlantic Small Craft Festival

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For those scoring at home, your 2011 Mid-Atlantic Small Craft Festival sailing race winner was a Sunfish. A non-traditional, plastic boat – kinda violates my sensibilities. But well done.

I am eager to get going with the paddling race as it is COLD here in St. Michael’s, MD.

[UPDATE] It was me and four kayaks. I got shallaced… again. Time to get my double paddle working with this boat (tried once and I could get my position right). At least the race committee noted I was the only single paddle and called me my own class. So they gave me recognition.

Final impressions of Muscongus Bay, ME camp cruise in AL DEMANY CHIMAN

This is a continuation of the story of my 2011 camp cruise in my skin-on-frame outrigger canoe AL DEMANY CHIMAN (the introductory post and map is here).

There were a few items I thought it would be useful to touch upon in summary.

Muscongus Bay
Let me start with the area I picked. Simply put, I am not sure why I had never discovered Muscongus Bay before, but it is a total gem. Beautiful islands and waterways, a mix of open and protected passages, and numerous lovely islands. It is a stunning spot. It was some compelling, in its own right, that when I got to Port Clyde and realized I could probably achieve my earlier plan of entering Penobscot Bay and exploring the Mussel Ridge Channel, I decided I’d rather stay in Muscongus and do it better. And I don’t regret that for a moment.

This leads me to muse, however: where was everyone?! It was the week of the Fourth of July, weather was amazing, and I ran into three other sets of campers (two on the first night, on a different island, and two using motor boats). I didn’t even see many cruising sailboats! How can people be missing this spot?! It makes no sense. People are missing out!

The Maine Island Trail
I want to call out the Maine Island Trail Association again. This organization has created an absolutely first class resource and, in my limited experience, the standard by which water trails should be judged. There are many camp sites reflecting a variety of needs / desires of a party. Those I saw were well-maintained and well-chosen for convenience to the water. Better yet, they are generally spaced well-enough to ensure one can travel a long length of coast or explore an area deeply, without having to get far off the water. There is also a guide book and web site with detailed information on sites and an array of background and safety information.

Look, I am clearly not an expert in water trials, but they do fascinate me and I have done some research on some which are closer to home here in DC. The characteristics above seem like what you need in a true water trail: camping all along the trail, a long and/or deep possible voyage, and excellent resources for planning a trip and using the trail. I haven’t seen that elsewhere. The Patuxent Water Trail is close by and certainly covers a lovely stretch of water, but it offers only about three camping spots and those are all in one general area. The Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail [gasp for breath] is really a collection of sites, with a few local trails, none of which have the same kind of water-convenient camping. I was able to find similar smatterings of not-really connected, not really camp-friendly trails in North Carolina. I know it isn’t easy to get trails done like MITA has, especially here in a more developed area. My point is not to criticize these other efforts as much as it is to hold up MITA’s stunning achievement as an example others should try to emulate. We need more trails like Maine’s and there are plenty of other waterways with strong potential.

In the meantime, get out on the Maine Island Trail and support MITA!

AL DEMANY CHIMAN as a camp cruiser
So, you may ask, how’d the boat do through all this? Overall, I’d say well. In her first heavy use, AL DEMANY CHIMAN proved a good boat for this purpose, though she was not without issues.

The good

  • Head-turning quotient – Oh let me have this one. The fact is that people all along the route took notice of AL DEMANY CHIMAN and we got many compliments. I definitely felt proud paddling around Muscongus Bay in this boat.
  • Stability – AL DEMANY CHIMAN proved plenty stable for my needs. With just me and my stuff, she showed no signs of capsize, even when encountering large wakes.
  • Dryness – In the whole trip there was only one case where AL DEMANY CHIMAN took water over side, and that was in a close hit by a pretty big lobster boat wake. She rode up over waves, as a skin-on-frame boat should.
  • Tracking in calm – The boat has a rocker, so it is not going to track spectacularly, but it wasn’t a problem when it was calm.
  • Capacity – I was able to load up the boat with five dry bags, and anchor bag, and bunch of water and still be plenty comfortable. If there had been two along it might have been tighter, but I still think it would have been doable.
  • Weight – This skin-on-frame boat definitely lived up to its weight advantages. In general I had to break the boat down (take off the iakos and ama) each night, but I could manage the main canoe hull (wa’a) alone, even on rocky beaches.
  • Durability – The skin took a few scratches from shells on the beaches, but none was remotely catastrophic.
  • Ease of paddling – See more on my speed below, but, overall, I was able to cover a good deal of ground, er, water, without working abnormally hard.

The bad

  • The ama – As I referenced in the introductory post, the ama needs a redo. The biggest issue was that, even after some judicious caulking, it still shipped a fair bit of water in any kind of chop, necessitating a trip to shallows for a dump-out. I could not go for any lengthy stretch without a shallow-water bail-out option. The fact is that it is hollow but uses the skin-on-frame medium, which creates a great many ways for water to get in (unlike, say, a strip-planked one). I am going to have to redesign the ama to be either solid (e.g., with foam) or watertight (e.g., with gobs of epoxy). I am leaning to the former. A re-working is also necessary because…
  • Tracking in a wind – When the breeze comes up, the boat tends to want to pivot such that it is not-quite broadside to the wind. Obviously this makes such passages a bit hard. I believe a good bit of the issue is that the ama rides with its aft end digging into the water too much. I need to re-do the aft iako connection and re-work the aft end of the ama.

My speed
I kept a log of the trip and thus have a record of time and distance. I think my speed was fine. I think the boat has good characteristics in the regard, but with a single paddle, only so much driving force is possible. What was interesting is the consistency across days and distances, pretty much always two-and-change knots:

Overall, I am extremely pleased with the boat and the trip!

Days 3-5 of Muscongus Bay, ME cruise in AL DEMANY CHIMAN

This is a continuation of the story of my 2011 camp cruise in my skin-on-frame outrigger canoe AL DEMANY CHIMAN (the introductory post and map is here).

Day 3, In which we log some miles
On day 3 I awoke – still groggy – at 7:45! I didn’t get on the water until 10:00, a pretty poor performance. The rest of the day was to make up or it.

My original plan was to paddle up some intriguing looking narrow passages to Friendship, then head west back into the main body of the bay and up the Medomak River to Hungry Island. I set out as planned between Friendship Long Island and Cranberry Island, the first narrow passage I had seen. The tide was dead low, so it was an especially narrow waterway, but no problem for us. It was one of those gunkholing experiences that make camp cruising so exciting. When I got to the end, though, and glanced to the east and realized, in consulting the chart, that the northern set of Georges Islands were not far away. I decided to follow the next narrow passage, between Friendship Long Island and Morse, and the circle around the north side of Morse to emerge back in the same bay by Gay Island. This I did, feeling excited that the weather was again letting me get further afield.

As I passed south of Caldwell, enjoying the day fully, I again looked east and saw that Port Clyde was not a great stretch more. I needed water anyway, and, in stopping there, I could tag the eastern edge of Muscongus Bay. I pushed on and bummed water, inadvertently, from the owner of a private dock. Not my fault you have your own dock that looks like a small marina, pal! Actually he was very gracious and impressed by my voyage.

I spun back out of Port Clyde in a freshening breeze and hard a long pull across the mouth of the St. Georges River. I had noted another interesting narrow passage, Pleasant Point Gut, and the tide more than made this stunning channel accessible to me. I still had barely stopped for a rest, never mind lunch, but I pushed on towards Friendship as the afternoon was creeping by. I finally grabbed a quick bit at the northern tip of Friendship Long Island, gazing out at the only Friendship Sloop to be seen there.

Under still sunny skies and a solid afternoon breeze, I headed through Friendship Harbor, buzzing a nice-looking motorsailer, and west to Martin Point and the Medomak. There I turned mostly down wind and had an easy final couple miles to Hungry Island, arriving at 5:30 tired, but not exhausted. Again I was alone and again the spot was pretty, with views across to some small islands and, to the side, down the bay.

I unhurriedly pitched camp and then glanced through the trees to the west to see ominous clouds. NOAA was reporting severe storms to the south, but I just got rain and nearby thunder. The weather coming in created some amazing clouds, though.

Day 4, In which we steal away, again, to Thief Island
Day 4 dawned foggy, but, with the sun clearly peaking out, did not remain that way. I headed north up the Medomak River as far as Havener Island, a small MITA island that looked really cool but would have been hard to land on with AL DEMANY CHIMAN. I spent the rest of the morning heading down Hockomock Channel, staying on the Bremen Long Island Shore, before getting to Strawberry Island for lunch before noon. Tons of mussel shoals exposed at lower tides there made the area particularly interesting (and muddy when one stepped off the boat). I set off with a stronger northwest wind mostly behind me, crossing down to Thief Island again with little issue.

Thief is a stunning island, particularly in a nice, clearing northwesterly. It is in the middle of the bay and is high enough to afford views well up the bay and off to the east and west. I was alone, as before, and was able to select a lovely camp site right on the bluff above the rocky beach. I walked around the island, greatly annoying an osprey on the nest, and catching sweeping views to the south. I got treated to a lovely sunset before climbing into bed and falling asleep to a loon calling.

Day 5, In which all good things…
Day 5 was again calm, but more overcast. I got ready and headed southwest through Marsh Harbor, around Ross Island (toward the mouth of the bay) and then north along Louds Island toward Round Pond. I dawdled, trying to find interesting wildlife amidst the kelp beds, but nothing showed itself. At mid-day I paddled into Round Pond again, ogled some nice boats, and brought to end, nearly 55 miles later, one amazing voyage. I strongly recommend others try this kind of trip.

Day 1 & 2 of Muscongus Bay, ME cruise in AL DEMANY CHIMAN

This is a continuation of the story of my 2011 camp cruise in my skin-on-frame outrigger canoe AL DEMANY CHIMAN.

Day 1, In which we get our keel under us
The 4th of July dawned overcast and a little foggy. Truth be told, I was pretty nervous about the voyage around Muscongus Bay in AL DEMANY CHIMAN. As much as I wanted to make such a voyage, I never actually had and I had the jitters. All told, though, I got off smoothly from Round Pond, ME in late morning and headed north along the shore towards Bremen. Folks on the dock showed great interest in the boat and were very complimentary, which made me feel good. Even more exciting was when a kayaker put in from shore just to come out to see the boat. They weren’t the only interested parties. I learned later, from a party of kayakers that left at the same time, that a seal followed me for some way. I saw a loon as I spun Greenland Cove and was feeling good when I entered a suddenly foggy Hockomock Channel north of Hog Island.

I decided to put into Crow Island for lunch and suddenly found it lost in the fog, even though it is only about 50 yards off Hog. I set a compass course and put my whistle in my teeth and gunned it safely to the little island. There I found some older guys blasting old-timey country music and a nice beach where I had lunch and pondered the fog.

With the fog still thick after lunch I paddled back to Hog and headed south along its shore, hoping for some clearing. I thought I’d head to Thief Island instead of the planned Black. Soon the wind came up and visibility improved, but, as NOAA had suggested, somewhat threatening clouds appeared. I landed on Louds Island to dump water from the ama and thought some more about the next steps. In retrospect I could have made it, but, with a longish upwind pull ahead of me, uncertain weather, and an ama I suddenly didn’t trust as much, I turned back to the campsite on Hog Island for the night, feeling like I hadn’t made it very far.

On Hog I found some locals having a 4th of July picnic and gathered more interest in – and compliments on – the boat. I made camp as the fog rolled back in hard. After a couple hours the locals left and I was alone in thick fog, wondering what I had gotten myself into. The campsite was certainly comfortable, but I tucked myself in early feeling a good bit less sure of the venture.

Day 2, in which we relearn how to cruise
When I woke and stepped out of my tent I was greeted by clear visibility and calm waters. Before the trip I had planned my route up, down, and sideways. Part of my anxiety on the first afternoon was the thought that my plan had already been mucked up. As I stared out at a beautiful, still bay, however, it dawned on me that going with what they day gives you is what cruising is all about. I have always found the old saw “its the voyage, not the destination” a bit tiresome, but it fit here. Cruising is about exploring and serendipity. I had forgotten that was what I was there for. I resolved to go where I could and enjoy whatever I found within those parameters. I got on the water before 9:00 in good spirits.

With a clear, calm bay I decided to head south while I could. I made for Thief Island, had a look around this spectacular little spot. I then crossed to some ledges where I found a seal colony, some of whom followed me halfway around Wreck Island. I am guessing Wreck Island was not so named when it came into the possession of James A. Wreckham in 1831. Alas there is no doubt a darker tale. Today I noticed great blue herons coming and going like O’Hare airport on a Friday afternoon. My bet is that there is a rookery there, though I didn’t spot the nests.

I continued heading south and east as the wind came up from the usual southwest. By the time I was rounding Franklin Island I had a bit of chop against me, but I got great views of the pretty lighthouse there. After Franklin I headed downwind to gorgeous Harbor Island.

Harbor is privately owned and is mostly wild. I landed on a lovely beach of sand and small cobbles. There were many beautiful skipping stones, and I was able to knock off a series of 10+ skips. Lunch was on a rock overlooking the beach, and, after being unable to find the trail that supposedly exists across the island, I happily lolled on the beach for a while.

The wind was quite fresh as I again headed downwind to Black Island. The crossing was a little hairy, but not bad. Black proved to be a gem of a little island, a quintessential chunk of Maine coast with rocky shores and spruce forests. I pitched my tent just off the shore by some Cape Code rose bushes. This proved to be the only night I had company, as a father and two sons were already there. After exploring the island I settled in for dinner and the watched the sun set from the rocks. Sleep came much more easily.

A fantastic first camp cruise – Muscongus Bay, Maine in AL DEMANY CHIMAN, Introduction

AL DEMANY CHIMAN on Thief IslandRegular readers know all about my skin-on-frame outrigger canoe project, which culminated in the launch of AL DEMANY CHIMAN last October. Her launch represented the completion of two “bucket list” items: designing my own boat and building to that design. It also represented my first true forays into longtime interests in outrigger canoes and the skin-on-frame medium. the end of 2010 brought some great successes, to be sure.

There was always, though, one more element, floating around the back of my mind. It would be great to design and to build my own boat, but I also wanted to cruise it, and, given the size I envisioned, that meant camp-cruising. Well, as of last week, I can check that off too. Over the course of the winter I hatched and brought to life a plan to extend our family vacation to Maine by another week during which I would camp cruise some part of the Maine Island Trail in AL DEMANY CHIMAN. I am pleased to be able to report on this voyage over the course of a few posts.

Once I figured out how to make this trip happen, I had to think about where to do it. I have spent a great deal of time between the Kennebec and Pemaquid Point, so that was out. Far down east was too far and remote, so that was out too. I finally dropped Deer Isle to Mt. Desert because I have also seen that area, thought not as much and not very recently. That left Casco Bay, which I have seen only a little, oddly enough, Muscongus Bay, which I hadn’t really seen, and Western Penobscot, which I have seen, but not in a while and not enough. After some kicking around, I settled on a trip from Muscongus around into southwestern Penobscot.

I arrived in Maine, however, prepared to test the plan before embarking. I decided to do a shakedown trip around Rutherford Island (at the mouth of the Damariscotta River). I was glad I did, as I learned to key facts. One was that AL DEMANY CHIMAN’s biggest weakness is her ama, which I must confess, has a design flaw. In short, it was shipping fairly large amounts of water in any significant chop. This came somewhat dramatically into play as I passed out of the Thread of Life into a southwest breeze and, in rounding the island, found the ama nearly fully submerged. I remained stable, but I wasn’t going anywhere fast and had poor maneuverability. I was able to land, luckily, and dump the water, but it left me concerned. I remedied this issue to some extent afterwards through some judicious caulking, but that didn’t fully fix the issue. More on this later.

I also found that I hadn’t gone nearly as far as fast as I had hoped, given that one long leg was dead upwind and a couple others were against the tide. This left me thinking my plans may have been too ambitious. In the end, therefore, I never left Muscongus Bay. While ensuring the trip would be achievable was a factor, I also realized I really wanted to focus and do a smaller area well. And this I believe I did. The decision was definitely the right one. Muscongus Bay was amazingly beautiful and had plenty to offer on its own.

Below is a nice interactive map showing the whole voyage. All the stops are Maine Island Trail Association islands (their site as a really nice online guide for MITA members).


View MITA Trip 2011 in a larger map

As you can see, I covered much of the bay, from Round Pond in the west to Port Clyde in the East; Havener in the north to Franklin in the south. Nearly 55 miles of paddling across five days. In subsequent posts I’ll share some pictures of the actual voyage, but this post sets the scene. So be looking for more.