Sunday, December 13, 2009

And Now Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Programming

Whatever that was.

I felt a lot like my boat lately when they opened me up and took various bits out of my back, then sewed me up again, all in the name of better performance. On the whole I am improved, but hoping not to repeat the experience any time soon. The boat won't escape a second trip to the operating room, I'm afraid. But that's progress.

The local fleet is going strong, thanks to strong commitment and efforts on the Chinchillazilla and Black Pearl sides of the fleet. They were in Dago over the weekend so one hopes we will see some photos of the action. It rained cats and dogs in LA on Saturday but apparently things were not as hopeless further south.

Lately mothing has been confined to messing with spreadsheets, which are lots of fun actually. I have been trying to figure out how much vertical immersion one typically sails with upwind and down; from Bora's vids on U-tube it looks like 10-12 upwind and I would expect less offwind in flatter conditions - perhaps eight inches?

I plug these various scenarios into the spreadsheet and convert them into torque, in hopes of me, the boat and the planet all staying attached to one another no matter the sea state. I imagine it is sort of like designing a building to cope with wavelike fluctuations in the strength and direction of gravity, only in this case the building has to jump up and down in time to a conductor's wand.

When I was a kid in South Dakota, Ronald Regan funded these ridiculously cool supersonic nuclear-capable bombers called B-1s. Their main mission was to sneak in below Russian radar and annihilate everyone with cruise missiles loaded onto a carousel rather like a thermonuclear gatling gun in the bomb bay. In order to do this the plane was given seriously capable radar-controlled autopilots, allowing it to fly near supersonic at altitudes of about 300 feet. One of the best places to test this capability is over Eastern Montana, which is fairly close to my home town of Rapid City, SD. But then everything is pretty close when you are flying an air-refueling-capable supersonic bomber, and in fact pilots would not infrequently tell tales of flying to England for lunch and being home for dinner. But I digress.

The radar seemed to work well enough, but as in foiling, the margin for error is pretty slim when flying near an interface with another form of matter: birds, the airborne equivalent of the plastic bag, occasionally blasted through the wing leading edges and severed all hydraulic lines, and crews occasionally appeared to stuff the avionic equivalent of the foiling gybe, crashing into the ground out in the middle of nowhere for no apparent reason. But then typically none of them ever survived to tell their sides of the story.

I don't know what all this proves except to say that Moths are hardly the first craft to have problems flying at extremely low altitudes. The prototype B-1A had so much airframe flex from the rapid pitch adjustments during low level flight that they had to add little canards to the front of the aircraft to avoid making the pilots throw up. The canards are actuated by little accelerometers that kick in to limit the vibration of the airframe whenever it jiggles too much. This is of course the origin of the term "getting jiggy with it".

On a personal note, I like the B-1 for its all-moving tailplanes, which remind me of my mainfoil, except that the two sides can move independently of one another to induce roll (!). Pretty sure I am not ready for that feature.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Critical Mass

Well, not quite yet, but closer with each boat on the line! We had four yesterday: Nat, Richard and Paul from San Francisco. It was fun. Wind increased gradually from not foilable during the first two races to quite foilable for the last two.

The tilt-a-foil was fairly painful in ultra-marginal foiling, and only slightly painful the remainder of the time. It went pretty well uphill and offwind was decent when the too-short original rudder didn't ventilate. Gybes remain tricky with my short tiller/extension but are coming along; remarkable how easy they were with the old foil but old dogs, new tricks, etc.

Rather disappointed to not give Richard more of a run for his money, but well done on his part after not much time in the boat. PS - Richard I have your coffee mug! Nat had a moment of glory being first to the windward mark at one point, only to have his vang implode again on the downwind. Otherwise the CCZ had remarkably few issues for a homebuild. Paul's Mach 2 looks like it has been set up for a pro: nice and high almost immediately and good height control on all points of sail with good speed to go with it.

In terms of lessons learned, it will be difficult to get the current version competitive in the light, but there is another version coming down the pike. I am encouraged enough to stick with the program; this game is sort of like learning to foil all over again and often enough a good gybe or nice downhill run is as satisfying as a whole string of gybes in the old boat.

I particularly like this shot for showing how close the rudder foil is running to the surface; small wonder I have ventilation woes! Goodbye old, hello new:

Sunday, September 13, 2009

New Kid In Town

Sort of anticlimactic that BobbyK is taking all the footage with him to South Africa, but the CCZ hit the water today in true homebuild fashion, foiling around in spotty breeze until one of the sketchy micropress fittings gave up. Solid performance for a boat whose only dolly is a car! Maybe BKNA will take pity and send a photo! Rumors of a CCZ blog abound, but talk is cheap! So maybe I will get some stuff to post. But don't count on it.

In any event a huge day for the San Pedro Bay Moth Fleet as there are now three functional Moths at ABYC; we would call ourselves the Alamitos Bay Moth Fleet but the cops won't let us sail in Alamitos Bay, which is fine as long as they keep coming outside to get us when our masts break! SBMF. Why don't we get together and call ourselves an institute? San Pedro Institute of Neophytes Sailing Tiny Esoteric Runabouts, or SPINSTER.

Anyway, that's it. Congratulations Nat, well done.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Monstersphere

When it's a slow news day and the anchors have to talk about inane freeway chases and make them sound interesting I always joke that the 24 hour news channels are a monster that needs to be fed, whether there is any news or not. I am beginning to think the same thing about the Mothosphere. I have nothing to report. Really. Stop reading now.

Movies are apparently fair game for filler; saw District 9 tonight and enjoyed it though the s/o said it was too much like work! I guess babies are sort of like little aliens, now that you mention it...but it wasn't that only the general adrenalin level. When you give at the office you want something more sedate at the theater.

I have been planning a new rudder for so long I am sick of talking about it. Shut up and stick the thing together already, chump! I pity the fool! Nat even has a tiller for me. All I need is an angel of attack [sic].

No sailing to report as I am working all weekend. Holiday Monday to boot.

Watched a vid tonight about aeronautical oddities. I always wonder when I see these things what happened to the planes. Are they in museums somewhere? Some truly original thinkers, those early aviators, with the courage of their convictions. Anyone can fly they say but it takes a pilot to get back down! At some point there will be a museum with early hydrofoil Moths in it and we will look as antiquated as those old planes. No, son, I was cool. This stuff was all the rage. Really. I have vids on YouTube. What? You mean they shut YouTube down? Always thought we should archive that stuff somewhere on a class website...

None of this makes me go any faster but there is something about Mothies that makes them want to write about sailing when they are not able to do it. Since most people find themselves unable to sail the majority of the time, the Mothosphere makes Mothing tons more interesting between regattas than sailing other boats, and foils make it more interesting the rest of the time. Like Mr. Buchan said in that interview from Worlds: there is something about sailing a boat you can build and redesign that keeps a class healthy and draws interesting people into it. Old School, man. What goes around comes around.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Damn the Torpedoes

Though I should be out in the garage figuring out how to beat Dave Lister on the water, the urge to take up arms in defense of Blogdom is simply too enticing to resist. I feel like Obi-Wan by the Tractor Beam: "You can't win, Dave. If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you could possibly imagine."

And so, proceding with reckless abandon, we put to the fullest test the canard that the pen is mightier than the foil. I am reminded of Rear Admiral David Farragut, who, if Wikipedia is to be believed, ran full throttle through a minefield with an entire fleet of warships to take victory in the battle of Mobile Bay. When one of the ships hit a mine (known as a "torpedo" at the time) and sank, causing the other ships to falter, Farragut yelled down from the rigging of his own ship "Damn the Torpedoes...four bells Captain - full speed ahead!"

This brings to mind my most recent lake foiling experience, during which I managed to foil through the lee of Greg's catamaran, only to discover that a) Carolyn, not Greg was driving the cat and b) she was headed straight into shallow water with billions of small dead trees sticking up from the surface. What to do - tack and risk coming off foils, or Damn the Torpedoes? I think you know the answer.

In trademark style, Tom Petty used Farragut's quote as the title of his groundbreaking 1979 album, Damn the Torpedoes. Living in Southern California always lends a bit of extra relevance to Mr. Petty's lyrics, given the freeway running through my yard...

And so my fellow bloggers, take heart. Lister may be fast, but he probably doesn't sail in your neighborhood, so you won't have to find out precisely how much faster he is than you for a good long time. In the interim, take up your pens, and answer the call. Losers may blog, and bloggers may lose, but no less an authority than Petty would be quick to point out that in Mothing, as in the rest of life, even the losers get lucky sometimes.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Cold Infusion

Yes I registered for Worlds; no I am not there. Sorry if you were expecting to see me; with any luck we will catch each other in Dubai.

Sailed on a lake Sunday. Extremely puffy, 0 knots ambient, with foilable puffs. Sort of frustrating Mothing, but good practice. New spring held up well after a little maintenance.

Managed a gybe or two - nothing spectacular. Boat is much more stable after putting some more black stuff on the mainfoil at the hull exit - it used to wobble around alarmingly during gybes, then the uni started to break and flake off - always a sign that some beefing up is in order!

Ski is going OK once on foils and is awesome offwind. Transition to foiling is another story.

Somebody was giving me a hard time about the bowsprit crossing centerline. I always figured the wand tip was the thing to put on the centerline! Looks pretty close here:

No smarty pants comments about the line dangling from the leeward wing please - in common parlance that would be the adjustable ride height, but I don't use it much.

One day I'll get around to shortening the bowsprit. One day.

I am so sick of the twist grip tiller and short rudder! Making new rudder. Wetting out 9oz uni is always a drag, so I decided to trade one kind of pain for another and infuse the thing. Time will tell whether I got it hot enough; multiple layers of uni are always a bit tricky!

Monday, August 3, 2009


Sort of like machismo, but more pain and no bad cologne. Wind from Sunday:

18-20+ mph from due West, regular as Clockwork this time of year, but not always that strong.

Some really good foiling with Richard out on his Bladerider doing some work to windward and sticking a few downwind runs in for good measure. He seems to be making great progress on the boathandling front and will no doubt soon be even more difficult to keep up with. Our fleet being quite small and me sailing Inspector-Gadget-prototype mode has heretofore kept me from comparing speeds against other Moths, but suffice it to say that the boat seems to have decent pace. Richard sent me a file (see below) of his fastest runs with several over 20 knots and I seemed to be going as fast as he was occasionally without pushing super hard, so the boat should do 25 without much fuss, and I still have yet to install the new rudder. Rohan seems to be going these speeds uphill lately so I clearly have a long way to go, but I am pretty happy whenever I can go out and sail these speeds with any semblance of control:

Overall I'm starting to feel like I can trust the boat offwind, which is a huge step forward. But there is still a lot of tuning to do.

It all started to go wrong very subtly when one of my control set points shifted, changing its effective range and launching me into the sky. The effect was almost imperceptible at first and I was tempted to put it down to poor sailing, but no, the boat was actually was trying to kill me! The mainsheet has been sticking lately also, just to make life more exciting, and the rudder flap had started to lose its flap down also, though I didn't realize this until much later.

At one point I pitchpoled in a new fashion. It involved bearing off, accelerating to warp speed, then capsizing slowly to leeward. I was looking a long way down at the shroud thinking "that could hurt" when of course I was thrown off the wingbar down on top of the wire. In the end it didn't hurt, but I did manage a complete cartwheel around the shroud before hitting the water off the bow. First time for everything I guess.

I was pretty much as tired as I have ever been when I got back and was very happy to have Richard and Nat come down and help me onto the dock.

At this point, after at least a year of weekends building and messing about with the tilting foil system, all I can say is that a Moth is about the worst platform for foil system development ever conceived. My hat is off to anyone who does something fundamentally new on this boat and makes it work, because the boat and the speeds it achieves will absolutely kick your ass if the control systems are not functioning perfectly - and they never are in the beginning.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

What Comes Around

More foil porn.


Despite the fact that it is late July in southern California, I am chilling out on the couch with some virus which I have decided is either Swine Flu or possibly one of those Coxsackie viruses that makes you sick for a week and then completely destroys your heart over the course of a few days. I would not normally invoke either one, but both happen to be running around my neighborhood at the moment. Rather than continue this morose line of thought I decided to watch a little comfort Tube.

Powerboating is pretty boring in the final analysis but people occasionally think of some pretty cool things to do with all those horses. I thought everyone who cared had seen this before but I realized recently I was wrong:

So if you hadn't seen it before, now you have. They put the same foil setup on kiteboards to make them more usable in light air, and on surfboards to tow in on the big/fast waves. Somebody glommed one onto a windsurfer at some point but wasn't fast, so I guess that's on hold for the moment. There is a great paper out there about another foiling windsurfer from San Fran several years back, which apparently WAS faster than a normal board, but it never seemed to catch on, and who knows how it would stack up against today's technology. Anyway that deserves its own post.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Guest Stars

Nat and Bobby K were nice enough to take a break from sanding Duratek to show me the rudders they stuck together out of the tooling we made together. Vertical is John Z's Eppler tool and horizontal is from a couple of windsurfer fins I used as a plug for a female tool. Nice to see a finished product come out of all that.

Not long before it's out with the old, in with the new for my boat, minus flaps and such. Looking forward to a bit of added vertical in the bargain as well:

Not much else to report. Tried my new damper today but for technical reasons that only about four people on the planet would understand without me typing for half an hour the mounting bracket for the damper interfered with part of the foil tilt mechanism, preventing me from doing enough foiling to form an opinion. I was a bit frustrated as I had anticipated the problem but had not been aggressive about fixing it before going sailing, but at least now I'm sure it needs to be modified!

I do not think the world is quite ready for photos yet - everything is sort of Terminator-esqe in a Rise of the Machines way, you know, the first one where all Arnold's skin is gone and he is just a skeleton of metal with a glowing red eye lurching toward Linda Hamilton before she drops the 100 ton press on him. Who knows, perhaps the damper will disappear after sea trials like a bad dream. Or will it return as T2, liquid metal? I suppose the fishnet tramps will only add to the confusion when they are installed, which will be soon as the dacron is looking really sketchy these days.

New North sail is looking very full in the top which was nice for today's light breeze, but making me think about growing new muscles to pull on the vang when it gets windy! At any rate the sail is so light the boat won't stay capsized on shore anymore, which is sort of interesting! Exchanged greetings with Richard as he returned to shore looking very stylish on his Bladerider.

Someone in a kayak asked me if my boat was a Laser (!). Of course she asked while I was trying to tack into the basin against a two knot tide in no wind, but I did pause long enough to say "No". Then she said "It's beautiful". Must be the bowsprit. Or maybe the ski, which I almost had to pry some F18 dude away from before launching as he oohhed and ahhhed and poked and prodded to test its little recoil spring. People do so love gadgets!

Enough fun for one day.

Sunday, July 5, 2009


Riddle: What's the enemy of "good"?

Had the boat working reasonably well today in the fading breeze between five and eight pm. California was doing one of it's epically beautiful Sunday evening things with a nearly full moon high in the east as the sun disappeared below the horizon. The breeze held until just before sunset, allowing me to do more troubleshooting than I had any right to expect getting on the water at 5.

I transmorgrified my wand "paddle" into a larger footprint and found it vastly improved performance; a bit draggy at the top end but nothing a step or two won't fix. The foil return action was giving me fits until I realized a line had slipped so I wasn't getting the proper throw on it. After retying it things were better and I had some nice sailing, even getting foiling pretty quickly after the tacks and lifting off in not too much breeze without having to fiddle very much.

Reaching back and forth to my launching point on the beach I was having so much fun I just had to give it one last run before heading in. Of course once I was out past the oil island I got hit by a puff while trying to gybe, at which point my sail was interrupted by a rather loud crack and some crunching carbon as I stuffed it hard. I thought I might have broken a foil, but it was only the magic box glued to the deck letting go, pulling a bunch of paint off the deck in the process, ricocheting off the back of the trunk breaking a little nomex gusset and putting the foil into full negative. While righting I noticed the police boat watching me carefully from a short distance away; whether out of pity, alarm, disbelief or all three I have no idea. Anyway I sailed back with the foil full negative but it was a great day with perfect conditions for fiddling - plenty of breeze to foil but not nuclear and some chop but not too much.

I have decided my new rudder strut will be fashionably longer than the current one. It should be interesting picking an angle of attack for the new section but I'll aim a bit more positive than the difference between the zero lift angles of attack and see what happens...I'll miss having the twist grip tiller extension but that setting should really be on a line anyway so Lister Lever here I come, or what I am forced to assume is a Lister Lever given the prevailing radio silence from that particular part of the Mothosphere!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Independence Day

Whoever said that the first rule of writing is having something to say clearly never had a bloog! People keep reminding me I have one and neglecting it is giving me pangs of guilt!

First, a thought on masts: Why does everyone keep making them lighter? Wouldn't a heavy mast give you more righting moment upwind? I thought the whole point of lighter masts was to increase righting moment on keel boats that heel to leeward, which Moths don't do very much, and to reduce pitching moment, which last time I checked moths don't do much. So skinny and heavy would seem to be the way to go!

Next, a thought on Moth Sailors. I could cook up a bunch of arbitrary but colorful categories, but they would only be a distraction from the truth everyone, on some level, knows: There are only two kinds of moth sailors, professionals and amateurs. Not that anyone is really making a living from the sailing itself, but there are a whole lot of people in the class who sail for a living, or did at one point. If you do not, you are pretty much kidding yourself if you think you are keeping up with them. And if you are keeping up with them, you are kidding yourself about not being a professional. I so love circular logic! If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns! The next rung down are people who sail a lot and are involved with some aspect of the industry with Moth ties - masts/sails/foils/hardware/boats. They are pros but of a less deadly variety. Then there are amateurs, some serious, some not so serious, some more technically inclined than others. But who really cares? Let's go sailing!

Speaking of which, I haven't been doing a whole lot lately, but new rudder foil is coming together gradually, new mast is working OK, new sail arrived yesterday to replace the MSL 12, which never fails to elicit cries of alarm from youth sailors when I hoist it these days. What?? You've never seen battens stitched in with whipping twine instead of batten pockets? Having battens tack independently of the sail is fast! Funny it has never actually come completely apart though I do seem to find new ways to jam the mast through the luff pocket each time I rig it...speed holes.

Congrats to Eelco for 3rd at Euros and a nice blog. Impressive accomplishment and impressive humility about it all. Kind of puts the lie to my professional/amateur theory, but whatever.

I heard recently how towns all across America are suffering because their fireworks displays have been cancelled for economic reasons, and they cannot afford the traditional 90 minute, $45,000 displays which have become customary. Sometime in the 90s fireworks became ubiquitous in the US; not the kind you can buy but the serious electronically programmed and choreographed variety formerly reserved for the President and major metropolises. What? The football team won? Fireworks! Basball game is over? More Fireworks! Big shopping day? How about some Fireworks! Half the time I don't even know what they're for anymore. Guess they'll have to go back to being special, at least for awhile.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

My Boat is Bigger Than Your Boat

Went out sailing today with a raft of enhancements and was actually coming to grips with them little by little with a fickle breeze providing foiling where one could find it. On the way out the channel, against what must have been a four knot current, several leadmines asked if I was OK. Apparently here in California, the only reason a boater gets into the water is if their boat is sinking. Yes yes I'm fine never mind just making an adjustment. Carry on, as you were.

In keeping with the irony theme it would be perfect if, having waved off all those offers, one were to then encounter a problem requiring assistance. As I foiled merrily across the swell out to the nearest oil platform, tacked, and foiled up nearly to the starting line for the cruising boats I could almost feel myself being smug - that's how well all the new stuff was working. Little self-recoiling ski feeler? Check - bouncing along without a hint of the old geyser effect - seemingly much more efficient, and never tripped tip down once though it spent a fair bit of time underwater. Adjustable linkage length? Performing flawlessly, though it does need a port tack counterpart. Stiffer wand doing its thing - the bowsprit is now the bendiest part of the setup. Aft mainsheet keeping itself out of trouble, except when I forget and try to pass the tiller around the end of the boom!

I sailed into a hole near oil island #1, floundered a bit and while righting the boat suddenly a popping sound and slack shrouds. But everything still seemed attached...with a sinking feeling I followed the shrouds up to the hounds and noticed a new kink in the mast of all things! Random failure. I thought sure it was abrasion from the batten cams but later inspection would disprove the theory. Full on failure about a foot above the join, standard C-tech spar, two years old.

So now I am bobbing merrily about, collecting various bits in anticipation of assistance at some point. Disconnect the shrouds and prodder from the mast and coil them on deck. Untie the clew/outhaul/cunningham. Pull the lower mast section out of the sail and secure it to a compression strut with the sheet. Pull the short broken bit of the upper mast out of the sock and shove it into life jacket. Pull the upper mast out of the sock and tie it to the deck with the tail of the mainsheet. Roll the sail up and jam it onto the deck, and tie it on roughly this point a beautiful 25' white power cat pulls up and asks if I am OK. "I'm fine" I respond, "but my mast is broken so I will require some assistance". "Oh" says the driver, "well, the Coast Guard will be here in a few minutes" and he zooms off. Not quite what I had in mind, but there's not much I can do about it! I bob around some more, wondering if turtled is the most stable mode, or if I should right the boat, when I note an absolutely HUGE black vessel bearing straight at me from 500 yards off. Before I have time to contemplate the amount of confetti a moth can generate getting sucked through twin screws on a boat like that, he has backed down, pointed his stern to windward and is parked twenty feet from me. The boat has something like 30 old airliner tires tied on the side for fenders. After exchanging pleasantries with the deck hands and explaining about my mast, it occurs to me that I have never seen any boat this big go into the channel near my club, let alone been assisted by anything like it. I mean, it has a few 20' shipping containers positioned athwartships on the aft deck, and I can barely see the tops. We chat about the water temperature, which is 65 and would have been a problem had I not been wearing, as I always do, a 3mm farmer john under my shorts and spray top. Apparently they are a tender for the local oil platforms and responded to the distress call put out by the catamaran driver.

Meanwhile, something like 30 cruising boats just to weather of me continue racing, assuming I suppose that it is normal for 150' oil platform tenders to stop and shoot the breeze with turtled, rigless moths for 15 minutes. Nice.

Now it is the fire department's turn. They have extremely nice big (maybe 30') red boats with twin diesels and usually when one is motoring toward me it is inside Alamitos Bay to threaten me with a ticket for speeding. But today they are all business responding to my distress call. Except I didn't call, and would have preferred not to bother them, but no matter they are here, and none of my erstwhile clubmates seems to be lifting a finger, so what the hell. I tell them it's probably best to just haul my boat up over the stern and that it probably only weighs 50 pounds, and they are OK with that. They pirhouette and come at me with a swim platform, hook the bowsprit with a boathook and before I know it the moth is on the aft deck and I am wandering around an expansive immaculately white griptex dance floor. We could have fit another moth up there with no trouble at all. Another identical red power boat shows up from downtown Long Beach to supervise. Turns out these boats have another engine just for the pumps and a huge chrome bow nozzle for fighting fires. All in all an impressive day for working boat exposure.

Normally this mast thing is an overnight repair and back on the water tomorrow but I lack an appropriately sized inner sleeve at the moment, so I am down to rigging the new mast. Sounds like it's time for a replacement anyway.

Saturday, May 2, 2009


I wonder if there's some sort of cosmic index measuring how closely one's life matches one's plans for it in the final analysis. If there is one I must be pegging the meter on inverse correlation. None of this seems real. Perhaps I am truly John Malkovich, and he is me, and we are each simply doing our level best given the circumstances.

There is a point at which the Moth ceases to be merely a boat and assumes a larger significance, as though invested with an ambition or longing for the impossible. Flying has always been the next best thing to impossible, and with the possible exception of sex, flying in a moth is the closest most of us will come to transcendence, in a physical sense. Which is why foiling is so popular I suppose.

But that altered state can extend onto land as well, and that is where the definition of Mothing gets blurry. Velocity prediction programs. CNC programming. CAD. XFOIL. Epoxy. Clearly the lure of the design and build is as strong for some as the lure of flying, which makes it all doubly intoxicating.

It seems clear to me that this is why professional boat designers do what they do: sit and think all day about new ways to accomplish things in a slightly more efficient, or elegant, or just plain smarter fashion. They dig the whole process, from soup to nuts. Mothing is just another way to check that box, but on a highly personal level, so when you combine the two, look out.

Perhaps that is why the foils on the production boats seem to get better and better with time: there are factories of smart dudes thinking about how to do this stuff, with all the machinery and resources needed to do a completely ridiculous job of optimizing everything, and the time to spend on it.

The rest of us muddle along on a shoestring and a prayer, hoping we might actually have something to add to the mix in the odd hours away from whatever we do with the rest of our waking lives. For instance, I have no CNC machine, which left me in a bit of a fix for a rudder foil recently. My old rudder works fine but the latest trends suggest I might go better with a new one.

This is how I found myself working backward from positive to negative en route to another positive. It is like 3d photography but everything is 1:1. I could have had something machined but the journey is often as important as the destination and I thought I might learn something on the way. Which I have, but I have learned as much about myself as about the foils really. And that is the point.

There is a feeling you get when you do something a bit crazy and it actually works. Even if it is only a small thing, like splashing a mold, there is a satisfaction in a job well done which doesn't come with the purchase price of a new Moth, no matter how fast it might be - or how expensive.

It is probably this feeling which keeps some people working on new things at home, despite the fact that God is in his heaven and labor is discounted in China. CNC time might be cheap for the big boys, but good ideas are still free.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Everything in Moderation...

especially moderation. That's my old motto. The jury's still out on whether I require a new one.

Lately I have observed that for a town with as many insanely beautiful people as LA, we have more than our share of unhappy ones. You spot some woman who looks for all the world like she just stepped out of a photo shoot for Vogue, work your way up past the amazing shoes, yoga-sculpted calves and thighs, revealing short skirt, silicon rack/lips and sophisticated dye job shouting "money money money" only to find that despite cornering the market on botox her brow is knit and there is no trace of a smile in that face. I mean, if being beautiful means you have to look like you're on some sort of unpleasant tranquilizer trip, is it really worth it?

I don't know what they put in MDF that makes it vaporize like oil in a diffusion pump when you hit it with a router, but there is nothing that comes close for turning the shop into a Day After scenario (though cutting G10 with a table saw runs a strong second). When St. Helens blew up the ash was four inches thick on my grandfather's car and if he tried to wash it off with a hose it just congealed. The lake where I had my first sailing experiences was completely obliterated that day, but I was reminded of it this afternoon, looking around at all my tools buried in brown powder: small yellow daysailers bobbing around my brain to the Darth Vader sounds of my respirator. It is a lot like scuba diving actually, including the poor visibility. I may have to invest in some more aggressive dust control technology than a roof vent fan.

I have not done much sailing lately. I have done various things in the garage. Somewhere along the way I decided to make a new rudder tool; partly to experiment with geometry and partly because the CCZ boys need rudders so it was a good chance to make some tooling cooperatively. BobbyK and I laid up some strut skins last Sunday on a low-drag tool and I should be able to get a female lifting tool completed by next week. After that we can all start figuring out what to do with the delrin acme allthread that has been sitting around my shop for aeons. I am tempted to go power barring ala Mr. Lister but the Engineers are into screws so some assortment of solutions is likely to emerge.

I went with some windsurfer fins. Glommed them together on centerline and ended up with about a nice span and 11:1 AR. The tool effort is to duplicate the shape for the Nilla Zillas; this particular adventure in formica-coated MDF flangemaking has so far claimed only one guide bearing but the fit is strictly white on rice.

Other projects on the list include improved surface feeler technology, adjustable wand phase, and off in the distance, a refined version of my mainfoil. But no need for that just yet.

Back to squishing airfoils. I am trying to convince XFOIL to accept my modified versions of various shapes but so far it seems to look only disdainfully upon .txt files, preferring DAT exclusively. It is like dreaming you are in a country where you can't speak the language, but somehow you understand everything anyway. Only you are the country and your computer is the one dreaming, like in Blade Runner. It understands perfectly, but remains impassive, as though waiting for some magic word. Which, of course, it is.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

4.75, Baby

Despite having somehow procured the lowest interest rate on a home loan I have ever encountered, GUI is too lazy to get his own bloog, which is fine as it is far easier for me to bloog vicariously about his boat than make any real progress on my own. Somehow he has managed to finish a PhD, switch jobs twice, move three times, buy a house and have a baby during the past two years, during which time he has designed and built two foilers from scratch (though the Guitine has yet to fly) - not including the converted lowrider Skippy2. As nearly as I can tell, he is able to accomplish this because while most builders ponder how many layers of uni to put in their foils, Gui has assembled various components from Home Depot and NAPA auto parts and is already at the lake learning how to gybe! "Flap? I need a flap? What for - the wind is blowing - let's go sailing!" And yes his wife is a saint, or in the run-offs at any rate.

The new Guitine is clearly a step up in terms of cosmesis as there is no irrigation pipe or mild steel throttle cable in evidence and no carbon death needles as suggested by the baby on board. In any event it looks good on screen and the foils should be nice also which in G's hands could be a formidable combo... Secondary bonds on the strut attachments GUI? What were you thinking! Who are you trying to impress anyway?

Thursday, March 26, 2009


"Those who say it can't be done are usually interrupted by others doing it."

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Time Lapse

OK for the concrete canoe guys, some technical info from my limited time-lapse experience:

I use a Pentax Optio 30 waterproof camera on "Interval Shoot" mode. I believe the Oregon Scientific ATC3K video camera has a similar mode, but much less resolution.

I import the photos with Picasa3. There is a button above the folder that says "create movie". You specify a soundtrack (must be in mp3 format), then select "fit photos to sound track" option and it will set the duration of each photo automatically.

You can put captions on the photos in Picasa and choose to display them if you like, or put annotations in later after uploading to YouTube.

Put whatever you want on the title slide using that tab, then hit "create movie". It takes about ten minutes or more, depending upon what resolution you use for the original photos - I am using 2MP (whatever that is) to keep processing time down though my camera will do much more than that.

Pick a song no longer than 3 minutes. Nobody wants to suffer through 6 minutes of somebody laying stuff up, unless you really have a lot of photos and it is a big project. Pick an obscure jazz or other tune, or YouTube will eventually disable your soundtrack for copyright violations.

For short 1-2 hour wet layups I started with a photo interval of 30 sec. This is too long. For the vid below I am down to 20 sec interval and about 600 photos, which will cover 200 minutes of layup (or whatever). I think 15 sec would be better but it depends upon the length of the song, length of project and how much memory your camera has.

That's it. Go make some movies - the world is waiting!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Thursday, March 5, 2009


Listen to the MUSTN'TS, child,
Listen to the DON'TS


Listen to the NEVER HAVES
Then listen close to me --

Anything can happen, child
ANYTHING can be.
- Shel Silverstein
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Sunday, February 15, 2009


Delilah the Manipulator:

Everybody who comes to my house asks the same question when they roll up: This is where you keep your boat, right? I mean, you don't LIVE here?

I don't know if it's the barbed wire and the junkyard dog (see above) or the welded steel collar around my steel safety door deadbolt, or the graffiti on the wall of the corner hairstyling salon, but nobody wants to believe I live like this apparently! It's less intimidating on the inside. Really.

Anyway a bunch of non-sailing stuff going on 'round here. First, Dan showed up from points North to claim his Guillotine, which had been languishing under the hot LA sun in its seaweed wrap for a couple of months. Neither of us were sure whether to rent him a car and strap it to the roof or crate it and explore shipping options, but Home Depot is on the road from the airport and before I knew it power tools were strewn all over the alley and we had built a crate the size of a FEMA trailer:

With that out of the way, it got strapped on the roof of the Benz

then we fired up the pizza oven, and it was time to go to sleep. Not a bad Sunday afternoon.

Monday AM I turned him loose on the freeways of LA in driving rain to find the FedEx freight terminal which apparently he did because the car reappeared in my drive with no crate and no Dan in sight - he was home for dinner, 1300 miles away. Hard to keep up with that guy:

Word then trickled up from Long Beach Thursday that a layup party was in progress on CCZ#2. More pizza and beer. Do these guys look like professionals or what:

Just what you want to do when you're done designing boats all day, apparently:

Then I get an email from Kirk on yet another way to improve the Tilt-a-Whirl. That may be version 3.0, but I haven't built 2.0, and now may not need to. In fact, I'm not sure I need to build anything, aside from the G10 clamp thingy I've been putting off while I type this.

That's all the news from here. Got a new bike; nothing rides like 4130.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Let them eat cake

One step closer to the Gui-tine (or was that the Starship Enterprise)?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Magic Wand?

So, like, I know he won the first race, but what is going on with the wand here? If that's max flap up, everything's different. If not, something seems very wrong?

Photo Credit: Teri Dodds (permission requested - I'll take it down if she objects)
More Photos HERE

Sunday, January 18, 2009

I Ain't Askin' for a Miracle Lord - Just a Little Bit of Luck Would Do

- Steve Earle

I haven't been writing much in the way of technical stuff, mostly because I'm pretty sure nobody thinks what I'm doing can work, and they might be right. I'd rather let the boat do the talking, but sort of like building your own Frankenstein, it takes a while to teach the Monster proper syntax and grammar. Mostly, it says things like "Sheeeeeiiit! YiiiiiiiiiiAiAiAikes! What are you DOOOOOOHOHOHOHing...cut that OWWWWWWWT FAAAAAAACK." Then it takes off maniacally in some random direction, happy as a pig in mud, asking "How would you like your prime rib cooked, sir?"

The jury is still out - way out. The longer they stay out, the better, in my view. But I see them lurking by the courthouse windows, peering in from time to time.

Anyway it looks different now, but I haven't taken any photos for awhile. The basic setup remains the same. Yes, my daggerboard trunk opening is still square. Whatever. I have also done away with the rudder completely, just to make things interesting.

OK I'm kidding about that last bit.

WhY, YoU mAy AsK?

Why not, I say. I am not cutting up YOUR Prowler, so chill out. More to the point, I wanted to get rid of the flap and all its associated flap crap. Theoretically flaps are pretty good, but practically they have their limitations. So I thought I'd play with some other limitations for awhile and see if I could compensate for the theoretical disadvantages by realizing some practical benefits.

I have been flying this way since August or so, weekends mostly. This weekend there was no wind, which was perfect, because I was sick and it was 80 degrees, and there were a million junior sailors at my club, racing a junior championship in everything but 29ers. All in all, a good weekend to be under the weather:

Digging the Perverted Moth blog, though the author appears to have multiple personality disorder, which doesn't really exist, so it's probably OK. The flatpack Moth idea is long overdue in any event, and the writing is a perfect balance of technical stuff and self deprecation. Galeotti is setting new standards for economy - truly impressive. It is like watching a fuel cell that runs on words. How does it keep going? Air bearings maybe.

Looking forward to some serious armchair mothing this week while I recuperate.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Dinner on G-food Street

Gui's latest effort, the Guillotine. Its namesake cutaway stern has become quite popular, no doubt due to Gui's masterful marketing strategy:

Note the inverted aft deck, and Escheresque vang cutaway:

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Second Coming

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

- W.B. Yeats, The Second Coming

Right before I moved to California and parked the canoe in the front yard, I felt I had a sort of understanding with that boat - I took forever to build it, had sailed it only a handful of times, yet I was developing a lot of confidence in her. The same was true of the Prowler - I had it pretty well set up for most conditions before I undid everything. Getting back there with something entirely different is a slow process.

Since going flapless, sailing has been a bit like roulette: some days and in some conditions it has been brilliant, but others I spend swimming, without really understanding why. There have been enough glimpses of potential that I have never seriously doubted the thing can be tamed and managed; like a slot machine, she pays out just enough to keep me coming back for more. But excitement wears quickly, and eventually we all want to trade the drama of a high strung filly for something a bit more predictable now, don't we?

I hadn't sailed for a few weeks before today, making lots of little changes to the boat and anxious to try them out. The wind was pathetic until about noon, at which point the sensors rang up 10mph out of the west - pretty much ideal testing conditions. Alamitos Bay was hosting something called the Rose Bowl Regatta, with the top college sailing teams in the nation competing against each other in team racing (I think). Boston College took the trophy home this year, with MIT second and Georgetown third. Those college and high school sailors all know exactly what the boat is, think it is ultra cool, but tend to regard it as completely unattainable and impossibly rarefied. To my mind, these kids are precisely the people who are best suited to the boat, and I tell them as much. I don't know if we have $8000 USD foilers yet, but if we ever get them, I think there will be a pretty big market.

As things transpired, the wind was late, and I felt pressed to get out before the Spanish Armada of 420s finished racing and jammed the launch ramp like oh-so-many Sabots. A quick rig, stash the car, change and launch. I left the boat on the dock to stow the dolly, and just as I was coming back, a gust picked the rig up and dumped the hull into the water, upright. I grabbed the mainsheet, hopped on the deck, and was off in serious style.

The changes made a really big difference in the performance of the boat. There is still room for improvement, but had there been a racecourse set today, I definitely could have gotten round it. Upwind and reaches I could probably have hung in there speedwise; gybes remain challenging. Tacks are a bit slower than before but getting faster - there is a bit more work to do in moderate conditions than with the flap, though the boat lifts off sooner, so it is probably a wash. I have a solution for gybe issues in the works - one never knows but I think I understand the problem and how to fix it.

Interesting to note Scott B sailing a longer rudder. What goes around comes around in borrowed ideas; back and forth between the major manufacturers (though I'm certain they would take issue with the statement). Awhile back I posted about the rudder strut issue on the Australian forum and came away with the sense that nobody really knew why rudder struts on almost all foiler Moths are shorter than the main foil. Crazy - we all sail these things and nobody knows why they look like they do - sort of like Polynesian dugout canoes - "That's just the way we've always done it". It will be interesting to see whether the improved control is worth the drag penalty; seems like this has been tried before...