If you are a dreamer, a doer, a horizon viewer - come in! come in! Announce yourself and let it be known.
The seed of adventure has been sown.

The goal is to take this boat on a trip that no other Wharram boat has taken.
From Great Slave Lake in Canada's Northwest Territories up the MacKenzie River to the Beafort Sea
and westward to the Bering Sea and south to the inside passage on the Alaska and British Columbia coast.

Sunday, November 23, 2008






I took a whole sequence of photos showing how I added a skeg to my Ulua and mocked up and built a rudder but I had forgotten to put the memory card in the camera so no photos of that. Here is the mocked up rudder and the final install. It's glued on with 5-min epoxy so I can remove it easily if it doesn't work. If you look carefully you can see a piece a monofilament which will run on the outside up to two small holes in the hull sides and then to a control bar at the stern seat. The photo sequence shows the rudder operating. I used the attachment method that James Wharram uses on his boats, a figure 8 lash, that keeps the rudder aligned with the skeg. It's tied on with monofilament which I tightened a fair amount so that the rudder naturally returns to a middle position. The next task is to flip the boat and install the control bar then a water test.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


Fixing where the deck split from the hull


Cleaned up and ready for a light sand and glazing coat



Capping the ends of the bamboo mast


I rigged the sail(s) on my Ulua yesterday - temporarily and forgot to take pictures. I say sails as I've made a small jib that I may use as a way to balance the rig when sailing and possibly lighten the work of steering. This is the stage of boat building that goes on forever. Many small projects. I glued the blade into the steering oar, made a wave dasher for the fore deck, tacked a small skeg onto the stern rise to help with steering when paddling amoungst other things. I have ideas on how to add a Wharram style rudder to the skeg if that make sense. It's all little moves. I won't be putting any paint on until spring at this rate. Anyway there is so little sunlight around at this time of year that the epoxy won't be harmed.

We figured out that the middle seat, installed per design, isn't great for 6' tall paddlers. Your reach is too long so you strike the front iako with your blade. I moved the seat back 3 inches. That should be just right. The sternsman will still have room to paddle without hitting the bow person in the back. Of course this may change how the boat sits in the water, stern down, requiring a sandbag in the bow but as Gary Dierking notes it's better to build light and add ballast than to sail around in an overweight boat.

I've been working on other stuff too. I modified a tramp from another boat to go between the iakos for sailing and have an idea for a safety ama that is inflatable so it can be easily stowed when not sailing. If I rig the boat again today, I'll remember to take some photos.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Rigging up the ama.


Iakos sticking way out past the hull.


Iakos cut down to length. Note blue tape - I blew out a hull-deck seam this morning and quick fixed it with 5 minute epoxy and tape.


Stern iako-wae detail.


Bow iako-wae detail. Note mast notch.


Iako pylon detail - I made them look like little submarine conning towers!

Lise and I went for a two hour paddle this morning. She claims I can't paddle and Ulua isn't fast but then she's the racer, paddles all the time and is use to 20 lb OC-1's and OC-6 full of burly women paddlers.

We tried out a number of different setting for the iakos and ama until it all felt right. One concern is with steering while paddling. This boat spins fast without a rudder/skeg which is a good thing unless you want to go straight and have both paddlers paddling. In the end we got things set up pretty well but I'm going to try adding a small skeg with an adjustable trim tab on it and see if that helps.

The waves were running 1 to 1.5 feet so we took on water going into the waves. Adding a splash board as shown in the plans should help some. When we got back to the launching ramp, I got out my Japanese pull saw and cut the iako's down to length. That will help with paddling on the side opposite the ama. I also think I'll move the bow seat (really closer to midships) back three inches. That will let us 6' tall paddlers with long reaches paddle without striking the forward iako with our blade.

Next on the list of activities will be getting the rig set up for sailing; after all if there's wind why not use it.

Sunday, November 16, 2008


Rachel pours coconut milk on the bow

Ulua is light, an easy carry for myself and Rachel 9 yrs old

All together now using NRS cam lock straps

4 parts make a boat
Building a boat is an ever expanding series of smaller and smaller tasks that take more and more time. Detailing. The beginning is composed of big bold moves. Things move fast and then it all comes to a steady uphill grind. After yesterday's impromptu burst onto the water for a quick test, I spent today detailing the pylons that have now been glued to the ama and are held in place, hopefully at the right angles by the iakos which are strapped to the hull. It's all outside, today being ok weather and with me, a farmer's watchful eye to the sky hoping the rain will hold off long enough to get the harvest in the barn before it pours. I should be cleaning up the garage but instead I'm helping my daughter sew a stuffed toy of her invention - we are a project family. All good but will the epoxy cure enough such that I can take the boat apart and keep the bonds in place. I wait for rain, many small details drag on awaiting completion.

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Saturday, November 15, 2008

video

LAUNCHED - I was in the backyard trying to get all the angles right with the canoe, ama and iakos when I got the idea to take it all to the water. LIse had a beautiful morning on the water so why not the rest of us? See for yourself - Launched! Much to do still sort of a prelaunch sea-trial. We did splash her bow with coconut milk.

Thursday, November 13, 2008



Things are advancing well. I still have bits and pieces to make but I did a trial assembly. The ama needs its pylons so the iakos can attach. I glued them up this evening. There is really not a complete picture trying to build this boat just from the information in Gary Dierking's book. You need plans if you want the whole picture. I'm having to do a fair amount of interpretation!

Sunday, November 09, 2008





I've made a practice sail, a small jib that I could use on the Ulua from a cutoff of the main sail tarp. My handcrank sewing machine works well. It's a little slow but who cares. I'm thinking I can substitute an external pully with a belt to a second pully that I drive with a cordless drill if I need it meanwhile I'll hand crank my modified machine.

Thursday, November 06, 2008




One of the first things my parents bought after getting married was a Pfaff 332 sewing machine in Birkerod Denmark. That was 1951, 57 years ago. It cost them 1200 DK Kroner, a right big sum. My mom gave it to me twenty or so years ago. I don't think she liked to sew being more of a knitter. If you needed a sweater, she'd whip one out in a week. Hat or gloves a couple of hours. Some of my friends benefited hugely from this and I still have my own stash going back to when I was about 12-13. One of those sweaters kept me alive while I thrashed about Alaska in my kayak in unseasonable cold and wet June weather

As sewing wasn't my mom's thing, she'd let me entertain myself with the sewing machine. A scrap of cloth and some colorful thread and I'd make 'railway tracks" all over it. When I got serious, I fixed my jeans and other stuff. Eventually I started to make clothes out of old tents, stuff sacks and backpacks and the likes. I made custom climbing gear in the 80's and early 90's - some of my stuff even went to Everest and K2. The machine being European never fit in well in North America - 220v having to fit into a 110v world. It worked with a big primitive transformer my dad made up. I think there was a voltage issue as over the years of sewing heavy duty projects it started to loose its power. The Tiki 26 projects spelled an end to the drive motor so it got put away. What to do I still had (and have) projects for Tsunamichaser to do. Every month or so, afterwards, I'd go to Sailrite's website and covet their walking foot machines but a thousand bucks is a thousand bucks and they are no cheaper on eBay or Craig'slist when you find one. I didn't place one in my shopping cart.

A month or so I pulled out old faithful to see if the motor had "healed" no such luck. Thinking I was stuck with having to buy a new machine - hey I've used this one for nearly 40 years - I sank into a deep moroseful state of sewingness. But the timing was right as the laundry/storage room was a mess and so I was cleaning up boxes and consolidating stuff. Low and behold I found a plastic floating winch handle from my keelboat days. I could see a solution here. The two; an old sewing machine and a marginally usefull winch handle could make a gorgeous pair. A couple of machine screws and nuts and some quick drilling and I'm sailing or sewing on a beam reach again with my head held high. I fixed it Cuban-style like my favorite black beans. Check back after I've stitched 40 to 50 feet of edging onto Ulua's new sail and see if I'm still as optimistic!

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I was struggling as to where I would layout the tarp from which I plan to cut the sail. Nowhere in my house is big enough. It's raining so outside is not an option. How about where I play soccer? It is an old Navy hanger with plenty of space. It worked out great. While my wife played soccer, my daughter and I plus two of her friends did the layout. One little mistake but ok nothing that will hurt the spirit of it plus Karina, one of my helpers did this great drawing of her character known as the Juggler. Now I need to figure out whether I'll need to sew on edge tape or can I just heat seal it all together.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008






Everything is really coming together now. The Ama is glassed. Glassing over foam is different than wood you need to take it easy on the pressure you squeegee with. The life saver here is using Scott William's technique that has you trimming semicured impregnated cloth against tape. It makes for a superb finish.

My package from Soller Composites came yesterday so now I have material for sheathing the iako's, boom and to make three or four carbon fiber paddles.

Monday, November 03, 2008






I made great progress yesterday. I shaped the final expansion foam layer in the bow and stern and fit the decks. I cut strips of cloth for glassing in the mast web on the axial and taped the perimeter per Scott Williams' clean method. When all the prep work was done, I mixed up resin for the decks first - wood flour thickened and when they were in place, wetted out the glass on the web. The boat is gaining weight but it remains light and I think is below design weight. With glass on both sides of the bamboo strips, the decks and bulkheads in the boat has taken on a stiffness that will make paddling and sailing it exciting.

Saturday, November 01, 2008




It is hard to believe that I have gotten so far in a week but then this is a small boat. Yesterday I filleted in the bulkheads and the ring frame where the mast goes and today I cut out Roughs for the seats, seat stringers decks and waes and mast support. I worked my way through this lot of carpentry then switched to sanding and fairing the main part of the hull inside where you sit. I also decided to add more foam to the ends so the foam will be tight to the decks. The ends are now over filled and will need to be shaped back. I did this so I can glue the decks to the foam with no void in between. My daughter helped me fair the ama or helped get it on its way as it still needs to be sanded. We used a super light weight spackle to fill voids in the foam. Tomorrow if it's not raining, I'll sand it with fine sandpaper in preparation for glass. The big discovery today was that the boom which I've been bending by suspending it between to fixed points with a 50 - 60 pound weight hung from the middle, lost its strength and cracked in today's rain. I'm seeing this as positive. A. I learned something and B. I filled the longitudinal cracks with Gorilla glue and shrinkwrapped the glue area to drive the glue into the cane. If it works I'll have a curved boom as Dierking calls for. I'll have to wrap the split area in glass and now plan to epoxy coat the whole cane. Nothing lost and I learned something.

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