Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Jewelry Box

 24 Feb 21:

We like to make things out of wood scraps, some of the pieces of the Penobscot's strongback got turned into a jewelry box a few years back.

Carriage House Update

 22 Feb 21:

Carriage House contents are leaning out, SCUPPERS went along with PODS #3 to the new homeport. WAVE is left holding down the floor, so next we'll roll the 1963 wooden Sunfish CHIP in to pack her in a moving container, she is heading to a Grand Adventure in NW, details to follow.

There will be a Carriage House v2.0 built when we get the Hampton Roads area. Don't be surprised if it looks similar to the Gosport Naval Shipyard boat houses of the 1840s, with a canal cut to a drydock area behind the Casa :)

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Armada Relocation Pods #3

 23 Feb 21:

PODS #3 arrived, the POD system is pretty ingenious. The truck shows up and a travel lift is used as needed to lift the pod off of the truck, the truck is moved and then pod is lowered. Once free of the pod the lift can walk itself back over to the truck.

We are ordering 16 foot pods so we can fit our 13' 7" foot Sunfish on a dolly inside. 1981 AMF Sunfish MADISON wasted no time claiming her spot.

For this POD we built a 5 x 8 table to stack other bits on, once we get to the new homeport we'll repurpose the table as a craft table. It will be heavy with the 2 x 4 planks on the top, so I built the frame first, hoisted one end up and rolled MADISON underneath, as her dolly wheels were too wide to fit past the legs. 

Next we lowered the frame and added 2 x 4 x 8 pressure treated pine planks to make the table top,

Our Subaru Outback SUPER GUMBY helped us gather the last few planks, we love the versatility of the cargo space.

We needed something to prop up the bow of the dolly, so I made another John Gardner Boat Shop Stool, signal flag Bravo. More info on that in another post

We loaded SCUPPERS also, and left some space above MADISON so she doesn't get damaged, she had a rough ride through the hurricane and deserves a break. Shop Stool BRAVO pressed into service immediately, paint still tacky.

Monday, February 22, 2021

Gardner Boat Shop Bench aka Carpenter's Trestle

 22 Feb 21:

Here's a repost from April 2018. We have been using these trestles for 3 years now and they are very good additions to a boat shop. And to a back porch. Very useful for additional seating too. I have made close to a dozen from lumber that washes up onto the beach, usually 2x6 pressure treated. Read on...

18 Apr 18: 

I started fiddling with building a carpenter's trestle. I had seen a nice looking bench at the John Gardner workshop in Mystic Seaport and came across the term "trestle" while looking for information on tools in the 1918 book Farm Mechanics. Sounded like just the thing I need to steady pieces while I worked on them. We had some hunks of cedar, beams from our covered porch in Texas, that were being used as benches and plant stands, so I decided to use those. They'll get to be benches or plant stand when not being trestles, but now have new legs. Here is my adaptation so far.

Here is a similar bench in the John Gardner Boat Shop at Mystic, versatile, used to support boats during storage or maintenance. Upright or flipped.

I cut an angled notch for the 2x6 so it sits flush at the top, trimmed the 2x6 flush. The leg sits at a nice angle so I'll cut three more.

From SBR 3: Jan 2014-

From SBR 3: Jan 2014-

From SBR 3: Jan 2014-

I used a reciprocating saw first to cut the notch, then found I could cut them faster with a hand saw. A variation of this that I came up with later was to cut the notches all the way to the end of the seat with 10 degree bevel set on a circular saw, a time saver.

From SBR 3: Jan 2014-

From SBR 3: Jan 2014-

Chiseled the bevel.

From SBR 3: Jan 2014-

Cut a brace for the legs.

From SBR 3: Jan 2014-

Turned out nice.

From SBR 3: Jan 2014-

We can also use it as a plant stand and regular bench.

From SBR 3: Jan 2014-

One tip was to cut a V shaped notch into one end of the seat, about 2 inches wide across the top of the V. The notch can be used to help hold a board, wedge the end of the board into the ground and steady it with one hand and the V. Later benches have the legs and cross brace set in about an inch. this allows clamps to be used on the end. Don't set them in too far, or the bench could become unstable.

Here's a variation of the bench we made with some 2x8 lumber that washed up on our beach. 2x6s work great as well.

Log of Gardner Bench.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

John Gardner Boat Shop Stool Signal Bravo

 20 Feb 21:

Traced the patterns onto scrap cypress. 1 top step, 2 legs, 1 center brace and 2 side braces. Cut them out with the DeWALT 20V jigsaw.

To cut the handhold into the center brace we drill a starter hole for the jigsaw blade.

It is easier to round most of the edges before assembly using a 1/8th inch roundover bit on our DeWALT compact trim router. Some edges, like where the side braces attach to the legs, are better left square. Also it would be easier to paint all the pieces before assembly, but I was impatient.

Marked fastener holes with an awl.

We used #10 silicone bronze screws, 2 1/2 inches long, predrilled pilot hole and countersunk with a Fuller combination pilot hole and countersink bit. Long screws help hold everything together.

Ready for paint.

Intermission. Skipper wanted to visit Opal Beach, the road has just now opened after Hurricane Sally damage Sep 2020.

We coated the stool with TotalBoat WetEdge Fire Red, BlueGlo White and Halcyon Clear Satin Varnish.

One of our crew's first name initial is B, so the step stool got Signal Flag Bravo colors.

Thursday, February 18, 2021


18 Feb 21: 

Reposted from Times of the Island. Winter 2013/14 website (

"Cold Case

The loss of the US Navy Schooner Onkahye, 1848.

By Dr. Donald H. Keith, Chairman, TCI National Museum, and Dr. James W. Hunter

“Near Nine O Clock on Wednesday night the Vessel Struck and from the grating of her Keel . . . I concluded . . . that She Had run up and Lodged on Rocks her entire Length . . . [I] Believed the vessel would go to pieces before morning and never Expected myself to See the Light of another day.”

These are the words of Elija Hise, written while waiting in the survivor’s camp on Providenciales, June 24, 1848. The wreck he survived—in spite of his expectations to the contrary—was the US Navy schooner Onkahye. Its loss ended the career of what was then widely recognized as the most cutting-edge yacht built in America, but is now largely forgotten. There are many shipwrecks in the waters of the Turks & Caicos Islands. Not all of them are so interesting that they warrant a search, let alone excavation and recovery. But Onkahye is on the Museum’s “A List” of important shipwrecks. No, it was not carrying precious metals, bronze cannons, or works of art. Its “treasure” is the place it holds in the history of fast American-built sailing yachts.

Genesis of the American sailing yacht

The backstory begins in 1839 in Williamsburg, NY, where engineer Robert L. Stevens was designing and testing a series of small boat models to verify his theories about the sailing performance of a radical new hull design combining the best attributes of both centerboard and keel type yachts. Satisfied with his findings, he commissioned the construction of a single-decked yacht with an overall length of 96 feet, waterline length of 92 feet, beam of 24 feet, 2 inches, and a depth of hold of 10 feet, 9 inches when the centerboard was up and the vessel was in sailing trim. Christened OnKaHyE (an Oneida Indian term meaning “dancing feather”), it displaced 211 tons. The vessel’s uniquely innovative hull attributes included a deep forefoot, slightly rockered keel, perpendicular ends on the rabbet line, and a large centerboard. The hull’s maximum beam and draft dimensions were placed slightly aft of the midpoint of the waterline length.

Onkahye’s most unusual design feature was the shape of its midsection, which had a shallow, wide-mouthed wine glass cross-section rather than the bowl shape commonly seen in traditional ship design. This allowed Stevens to experiment with a large centerboard and, according to early reports, both iron and lead outside ballast on the keel (another innovation). Stevens also introduced the sliding-gear sail hoist and sail slides familiar to yachtsmen today.

The design was unorthodox by the standards of the day and according to America’s most famous naval historian Charles Chapelle, Onkahye was the genesis of the American sailing yacht. By all accounts the ship was fast and in a Boston newspaper article about a cruise to the West Indies in 1842, Stevens stated: “Enquire her character of anyone that ever crossed her path in water of any color, rough or smooth, in any wind or weather. Under no circumstances, on the Atlantic or elsewhere . . . was she ever beaten, [running] either before or by the wind. In a voyage to Santa Cruz she fell in with vessels of all sorts, and none had the slightest chance with her.” (Boston Globe 1844).

Onkahye was built in 1839–1840 before the United States had a single yacht club and yachting as an organized sport existed in America. Perhaps this cruise and the success of Onkahye’s radical design is what led Robert’s brother, John Cox Stevens, to become a founding member of the New York Yacht Club in 1844, ushering in the first such club in the United States. In any case, ten years later John formed a syndicate to build a yacht and race it in England with the intention of showing off US shipbuilding skill — and making money! Christened America upon its launch, the schooner rigged vessel was taken to England for the great industrial exhibition of 1851 where its victory in a race around the Isle of Wight led to the creation of the America’s Cup.

Onkahye Joins the Navy

After three years of sea trials, various modifications, and the 1842 cruise to the West Indies, Stevens sold Onkahye to the US Navy in 1843. Why would the Navy want a yacht? The answer may be in how the yacht was used. Between 1843 and 1845 it was modified, armed with cannon, and deployed for anti-slavery and anti-piracy patrols in the Caribbean and off the coast of South America. It was also used as a mail packet and dispatch ship between Virginia, Texas and, on its last voyage, to Panama to take US diplomats on urgent State business. These missions required a speedy and nimble ship to chase down pirates or slavers and quickly deliver people and secret documents. By all contemporary accounts, Onkahye was a fast ship and, therefore, well-suited for these duties.

On June 21, 1848, while sailing from New York to Chagres, Panama, Onkahye was shipwrecked on one of the fringe reefs that border the Turks & Caicos Islands. In addition to its regular complement of officers and men, the schooner accommodated John Appleton, the United States ChargĂ© d’ Affaires to the Republic of Bolivia, his clerk James S. Dodge, and three other civilian passengers. Foremost among Appleton’s varied diplomatic duties was the delivery of news of the impending termination of hostilities between the United States and Mexico to the U.S. Consulate in Callao, Peru. Onkahye’s mission being very time-sensitive, Lt. Otway H. Berryman, Master and Commander, decided to make a daring night approach to the Caicos Pass.

Onkahye’s loss: bravado, negligence or unfortunate accident?

If Onkahye wrecked today, a team of forensic investigators would be dispatched to examine the site and interview witnesses. Lacking that ability in 1848, the US Navy convened a Court of Inquiry to determine if negligence or inattention to duty was involved. In August 1848 a detailed statement of the wreck event was taken from Henry S. Newcomb, Acting Master of Onkahye on its last voyage. By carefully examining Newcomb’s statement we can deconstruct the wreck event and decide for ourselves the answer to this important question.

Maybe you are asking yourself, why go to all this trouble? After all, the ship wrecked 165 years ago. Broadly speaking, archaeologists love a mystery. If it involves a shipwreck so much the better—particularly if that shipwreck has historical significance. Because Onkahye was never decommissioned, it is still property of the US Navy. It is also important to a little-known period in the history of the Turks & Caicos Islands. For these and other reasons, Onkahye is important to the Turks & Caicos National Museum and Ships of Discovery, its maritime archaeological partner. Working together, we are trying to solve this mystery, determine the cause and perhaps in so doing, find this important site."

To view a painting of USS ONKAHYE 1843-48  by Charles Lundgren


(Sch: t. 250; l. 96-; b. 22-; dr. 12-; a. 2 guns)

A former name retained.

Onkahye, a schooner yacht of a radical R. L. Stevens design, was laid down in 1839 by William Capes, Williamsburg, N. Y.; launched in 1840; purchased by the Navy in early 1843; and commissioned at Gosport Navy Yard, Va., 11 July 1843, Lt. William C. Whittle in command.

Departing Norfolk 23 October 1843, Onkahye spent her first commission as a dispatch vessel in Charleston, S. C., returning to Norfolk 18 June 1844 and decommissioning two days later. She recommissioned 10 April 1845 and sailed 9 May for duty in the Caribbean and the West Indies. Sailing to Vera Cruz, Mexico, to unload passengers, the schooner moved on to Cuba and then returned to Norfolk 14 July. The warship sailed for the West Indies once again 11 September. She remained on duty in those waters and along the northern coast of South America until departing Mobile Bay 8 November for Norfolk, arriving 1 January 1846 and decommissioning on the 9th. Throughout her service in southern waters, the ship patrolled against pirates and slavers, her great speed making her a valuable asset as a chase and dispatch vessel.

Onkahye recommissioned 22 April 1847, Lt. Otway Berry man commanding, and sailed for Caribbean waters once again before the month was out. Cruising the West Indies and South American coast, the schooner put into Rio de Janiero 22 November and stayed there until 29 January 1848, capturing bark Lawrence, a heavily laden slaver, at that port 24 January. Continuing her patrols in the West Indies, Onkahye was lost off Caicos Reef 21 June 1848 without loss of life. A unique ship in the American Navy under sail, the vessel occupied a significant place in ship development, being the only converted sailing yacht to serve on distant station before the Civil War.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021


17 Dec 21:

Skipper was sad back in 2016 when we took BARBASHELA back to the little skiff back to her Museum home in Biloxi, Mississippi. 

So back in 2016 I made her a porch table using measurements from BARBASHELA's bow. It was a good exercise to see if the lines we had taken off of BARBASHELA were accurate. The bow seat was cut from cypress left over from the restoration and fastened with silicone bronze fasteners. Coatings are BARBASHELAS's colors, Valspar Ultra 4000 alkyd enamel Swiss Coffee, Whipped Apricot and Mark Twain House Brown.

The seat is enroute the the new homeport in PODS #2.


Laphroaig 10 Year

 17 Feb 21:

Skipper and I both have family ancestry to Scotland, might need to go visit the Isle of Islay to learn more about this. A hint of old school turpentine, oak sawdust, flavors that remind us of the boat shop. Delicious! Our first taste included a toast to our friend and fellow sailor Webb.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Armada Relocation PODS #2

 16 Feb 21:

We loaded PODS #2 with our Penobscot 14 ST. JACQUES, Pelican Icon kayaks SACAGAWEA and CLARK and the parts for the Pascagoula Diamond Bottom Catboat MARGARET ROSE. For this load we built another platform above the boats to hold more boat shop bits.

Monday, February 15, 2021

Bluff Ratty v0.1 SCUPPERS 11 Feb 21 Sea Trials

 11 Feb 21:

Launched SCUPPERS for Sea Trials. Watertight integrity was 100 percent, no leaks from any of the 3 different seams we tried, THIXO, PL Subfloor and RustOleum soaked cloth. One positive aspect of the punt design was the ability to step in directly from the shore and walk to towards the stern, which lifted the bow, and from there I was able to punt pole off of the beach.

Found out real fast that the lightweight punt, with her narrow beam, is very twitchy side to side when an adult is standing. Standing up for an extended period would be a workout, and also the punt pole was too long, it created an even higher moment arm above the lateral center of balance. So I switched over quickly to secondary propulsion mode of paddle. She floats well on her lines with about 6 inches of freeboard and was easy to control with a paddle. The punt pole could also be used as a double paddle, not very efficient but it did move the boat around.

I checked balance fore and aft, and with just one person and no cargo it would be possible to submerge a corner. Keeping a wide stance did help with lateral stability but it was hard to change positions unless I shuffled.  The punt also needs a skeg to help with directional control.

Overall SCUPPERS was an easy build with locally available materials, 4 leisurely weekends. She weighs in at 60 ponds and will fit in a pickup bed, so she'd be a fun little boat for kids to mess about in on the shoreline under adult supervision.  We envision she'd be tied to the shore and kids would spend most of the day dumping sand in her bilge.

One question we get asked is how we know which end is which? As it turned out, I didn't know, most of the Sea Trial was conducted stern first. The bow is tucked up just a little more than the stern and she would have beached even easier. In the photos above she is beached stern first.

We took steps to help identify bow and stern.

Looking for some short oars now, we have oarlocks standing by. She also needs some handling lines, maybe a cleat or two.