Sunday, 28 July 2013

Just scratch it already!

For the most part we and our customers build boats that we want to shine; I’m not talking about the way in which they fulfill their intended tasks. Though we do want them to shine in that way, what I am talking about is that wonderful look you get with a boat that is built of wood and covered in coats of carefully applied varnish, giving them that warmth that you only get with wood. I have said more than once when we are at shows that if we just charged a dollar a picture we would always make back the money we have invested. This tells me that many of you feel the same way about wood and wooden boats as we do.

The problem that this glossy finish brings to the fore is that first scratch, at shows we are often asked if we paddle the boats, or if they are just for display. Yes we do paddle them, as often as we can and like everyone who enjoys getting out on the water not nearly as often as we want to. Those who pass through our display booth will follow that question up with, aren't you worried about damaging the boats? The answer I usually give is that the cure for that worry is to go out the first day and just get it over with, scratch the boat.  This answer is given somewhat tongue in cheek as it does seem to me to some small degree a sort of sacrilege and I have scratched many boats.

The fact is that the answer really is yes, like any boat owner you do not want to damage your boat but damage and scratches are not the same thing.  A scratch just means that you use your boat, all boats get scratches some are more visible than others due to the fact that some colours and materials simply make them more obvious than others. Some are more obvious because well you have hit something a little harder. These  wood and epoxy  boats are amazingly tough but like any boat they where designed for a purpose, you would not run rapids in a sea kayak and neither would you do so in one of ours its not what they where made for. That’s what playboats are made for and they use materials that are appropriate to the use when they build them.

Varnished boats actually have a distinct advantage over the average fiberglass boat when it comes to those inevitable scratches. The varnished boat can go home and into the garage and with a couple hours of work the next day comes out looking like new.  Not many people are equipped to repair gel coat but most everyone can handle a paint brush and a little varnish. So get out there and use them it he reason they where designed and built.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Some days this design thing is just like work

After a few weeks of fun, launching new boats and getting out on the water for their first trials, the fun part of designing for home .builders has come to an abrupt end. Now instead of sitting in one of the boats on a  lake or a river  or even parked in front  of the computer or at the drafting table mulling over a new design it is time to put together the plans and construction notes.  As much as I enjoy the process of designing and building boats at times like these it seems just like a job, it needs to be done, so on with the task.

This plans building process is simply hours of sitting in front of the computer going through the construction process in your head and getting it all down on paper. It also involves running out to the boat shed taking more pictures, taking measurements of those parts that were either modified during construction, had their final location set or an aspect of the design that was finalized during construction.  This running back and forth to the boat makes me thankful for the digital camera and the ability to quickly and directly download pictures, and to take as many as needed quickly and efficiently.

With the first draft done next is trying to compile it all in a way that makes sense, not just to me but to those who will often only ever seen a picture of the boat online or in a brochure, until the plans arrive in the mail or the truck with the kit shows up at the door.  This may also be their first project of any size; they may have limited experience working with wood and more likely limited experience with epoxy resin systems.  While it is easy to write this line it is more difficult in practice not to make any jumps that may seem to not be of any significance to me but may stop the first time builder or even worse cause them some degree of confusion that could lead to mistakes.

Now that I have completed writing what seems to be in part a reminder to self about what I am doing spending these hours sitting in front of the computer, it is time to go back to getting the plans together.

Friday, 12 July 2013

Launching 1,2,3

Over the last few weeks we have had the fun of launching two new designs; as a designer and builder launchings come in three parts, first is that day when the boat is loaded up and its time to head off to the water. From a builders point of view this is a great time the build is complete, the boat is as pretty as it will likely ever be the paint and varnish are new and fresh all the hardware and fittings are spotless. It is time to play, to get out on the water and enjoy the joy and freedom that comes with time outdoors in a vessel you have crafted. I looked forward to these two most recent boats in particular because they are boats that I can paddle, often new designs are too small for me to paddle and I end up on shore with the camera while others get to go play. Those times when there is no way that I will ever get to paddle the boat can make this a time that feels somewhat anti-climatic.

That brings me to the second look at launching, the first put in for a new design from the designer’s point of view. The launch can cause a designer anxiety, from a builder’s point of view you know the boat will float, from the designer’s point of view the question is not will the boat  float but will it float as intended, does it sit in the water the way it was envisioned? Does the boat paddle as easily as hoped, does it handle in the water as planned, and will it do the job it was intended to do? This is when most of the questions that concern you as a designer get the final answers, you can be pretty confident that the design will do as intended and that you made the right choices but this is the confirmation.

No boat can do every thing; those who aim for a craft that can do a wide array of disparate tasks usually end up with one that does nothing really well. When you prowl through the various on line forums you often come across criticisms, I often find they are done with no though given to the boats intended purpose, but rather are based on a preconceived notion of what it ought to do or what that individual would like it to do. That does not mean that criticisms and commentary are not a good thing, we like to hear from our clients and others it is one of the ways that we are able to improve our boats and the plans for building them. The idea being that we want the boats to better meet the original design goals, not to try to head off in a direction the design was never intended to go.

The third launch is when the boat meets the public; these days this usually happens first on the internet through our web site where renderings of the preliminary design have been posted for weeks or even months as the design and then building process took place. When the boat is finished it takes place in parking lots, at boat launches and beaches as we head out and put a few miles under the keels and of course it happens at boat shows. Shows are great in that you get to introduce people to your work and get a chance to gauge the level of acceptance that the boats are receiving; the only draw back is that there are not many shows with a set up that allows for paddling leaving only discussion. Shows also allow for a chance to meet up with builders who you may not have heard from since the plans or kits were shipped.

That’s it for launching 1, 2, 3, tomorrows a paddling day, maybe we will see you on the beach.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Miracle Fibre W

Spent the past weekend at the ACBS (Antique and Classic Boat Society) show in Gravenhurst, Ontario, we of course where there with our line of kayaks as many of those who have gathered there are people with a love of both the water and in spending time on the water in wooden boats. While I do not get to spend much time looking around at the boats due to having to man the booth, I did get a few moments to sneak over to the shore and watch a few of the boats run (we have posted a few pictures over on our facebook page). This was made easier by the fact that often when a new group of boats came out and went thundering past most everyone headed for the waterfront no matter what they had been doing
Some of the boats that where gathered there where famous such as Miss Canada or Miss Supertest, there where others such as the Sea Fleas that belonged to people who just want to go out and play on the water, but at a much faster pace then some of us are looking for. In addition to the race boats there where many others that are beautiful examples of the many different models that where built in the Muskoka’s over the years.

These boats may all be constructed using different techniques, they may all have very different purposes but they all have one thing in common they all are made of what has been referred to as the original miracle fibre, wood.  We may all get on the water for different reasons, but there is nothing like doing it in a craft constructed of the miracle fibre.