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In Greenland

Iron Bark

Iron Bark
Under full sail


At Russell Boating Club's Tall Ships Regatta

Annie Hill

Annie Hill
Photo credit: Alvah Simon

Blue Water Medal

Blue Water Medal
Blue Water Medal

Books By Annie Hill

  • Brazil and Beyond
  • Voyaging on a Small Income

About Me

28 May, 2016

Another Update on SibLim

I thought it's about time I posted a few more photos of progress.  As usual, there are some pics on the Junk Rig Association website.  I've had lots of visitors to the boat shed, who all make very kind comments about how quickly the boat is progressing.  I wish!  However, I never expected it to be a fast process and am pleased with what I've achieved.  My friend Rob, was absolutely invaluable in helping with the bilge panels - sheets of 12mm plywood are a handful for a small person to handle, but has had to leave to go back to Europe. he has been a great member of the SibLim Club.

Another visitor was John Welsford, back from a trip to Chile.  He came to check up on progress and brought me a wonderful present: a Bailey No 3 plane, which he rebuilt from parts.  This is narrower than most planes, which reduces its weight and, as John pointed out, fits my small hand more readily.  It's a delightful tool, but apparently they are not made any more.  Sad.  Many thanks, John.

While I'm working away, particularly when doing rather monotonous tasks like sanding and scraping, my mind is occupied with all sorts of thoughts. One is that I still haven't found a good name for this boat: SibLim (Small Is Beautiful, Less Is More) is a great name for the design, but isn't what I want for my (I hope) beautiful boat.  I'm  afraid I'm a bit of a romantic when it comes to boat names, and don't really like 'clever' ones, or puns - unless they are particularly subtle.  I don't want to call her after an animal again; nor do I want a girl's name, nor a star, nor a character from mythology.  It's all very difficult.

Below is a photo progress report:

With the temporary bulkhead removed, I can see the saloon panelling.

The scarphs land where they land, although it would be nice if they ended up on the bulkhead!

Additional framing around the bilgeboard panels.  This area will be sealed off, so I need to ensure that all the wood is thoroughly coated.  I will undoubtedly fit an access hatch, however, so that I can be sure there is nothing untoward going on.

I'm rather pleased with this scarph!

09 April, 2016

SibLim update

Every week, I try to post new photographs in my 'albums' on the Junk Rig Association's website. The outfit that hosts our site seems to keep moving the goal posts and what works one month, doesn't work the next.  The last few times I've uploaded photos to said albums, they've appeared in a totally random fashion.  One of my fellow members has suggested a way round this, but the whole thing takes forever, anyway, and I'm simply not prepared to delete all the photos and reload them.  Life is too short - especially when you are building a boat!  So for those of you who have tried to follow progress via the JRA, my apologies.

I didn't write about the wonderful Russell Boating Club's Tall Ships Regatta, that has also become the major junket for the NZ 'chapter' of the JRA.  Suffice it to say that it was excellent.  I only attended for a couple of days - being a busy boatbuilder - and the weather on the evening that I arrived was dire, but I enjoyed the whole event tremendously.  The bad weather had prevented our newest member of the fleet, Blondie from sailing up there (I hope to have some photos of her to show you some time), and Fantail's new owner (did I mention that I'd sold her?) had yet to take her over; neither La Chica nor Shoestring could make it, but we had quite a fleet for all that: Arcadian and Footprints from NZ, Tystie and Zebedee, who despite wearing the red ensign are almost Kiwi boats and Lakatao and Grand PHA from France, each on an extended voyage.  The latter I've already mentioned - Bertrand is a member of the SibLim Club - but I fell madly in love with Lakatao, which, while a Western design (Le Forrestiere) has many characteristics of a Chinese junk:

Her owners, Bruno and Elise are wonderful people and there is always laughter on board.  I found her incredibly inspirational for my own build, although I will never attain the craftsmanship of Bruno.

Back to Whangarei and my boatbuilding.  Because not everyone will want to follow my JRA links, I thought I'd just post a few photos here, so that anyone interested can follow my (glacial) progress.  The good news is that the money is holding out and I always knew that this project would take a long time, regardless of the other people who reckoned I should be able to 'knock it over' in a year.  I'm really enjoying the process, and that's the main thing.

At the end of December, the Icebreakers came along and fitted the skegs, thus earning membership of the SibLim Club.

Because of the junk bow, which is flat rather than pointy, the planking is put on starting with the bottom and I got into this, early in January.  Aft, I could use 12 mm plywood, but forward, where the bottom rolls into the bow, I had to use 6 mm because of the extreme curve.  On this photo a piece is laid out, ready to fit.

Before any further planking could be done, however, it was necessary to install longitudinals: a chine log, stringer and sheer clamp on each side.  These were laminated where necessary, in order to bend the wood to the curves of the hull.  The Alaskan Yellow Cedar that I buy comes in lengths of around 4 m, so once these were sawn and planed, they had to be scarphed together, as in the photo above.   WEST epoxy is my glue of choice, largely because I know it and can anticipate how it works.  I've tried other brands in the past but never got on with them as well. A lot of February was spent joining and fitting all these pieces of wood.

Come March and planking was in sight, but first I had to fit the sheer clamps.  SibLim is going to have davits and David designed them to be part of the main structure of the boat, running out from the sheer clamp.  I felt that these needed to be made from hardwood, rather than Alaskan yellow cedar and my friend, Marcus, contributed a variety of boards that he had stored away.  They varied from iroko to purpleheart.  I would be almost tempted to varnish them, just for their interesting colours!

So here we are in April, and the boat is starting to take shape.  It's really exciting to see what she looks like.  My little camera has quite a wide angle lens, which somewhat distorts the appearance of the hull.  In fact it's rather less beamy aft than it looks in this photo: indeed it's rather 'cod's head, mackerel tail' in appearance, which I very much like.

I never thought I'd find myself building another boat.  I most certainly never thought I'd find myself building another boat on my own, although to be perfectly honest, without good friends lending me a hand at certain critical moments, I don't think I could.  However, in essence I'm building this boat by myself and I have to say it's an incredibly satisfying process.  I'm not a clever woodworker: indeed I'm barely competent, but thanks to wonderful epoxy (yes, I know it's very toxic), good advice and the tendency of 12 mm plywood to fair out any wobbles, my boat seems to be pretty sound so far.  Because I know I will remember every bodge, every short cut, every 'she'll be right' moment, I am doing the best work I can and, thus far, I think I will be able to trust it.  Oddly enough, my greatest (irrational) concern is that there are no fastenings.  Badger had no fastenings and relied entirely on glue, and to the best of my knowledge and belief is still in one piece, so I'm not sure where this worry comes from.  I can actually see myself, one dark night, rushing round with drill and screws, shoving in fastenings left, right and centre, just before I put the glass and epoxy on the hull!

13 December, 2015

The SibLim Club

As you can imagine, building a boat is a pretty time-consuming operation, so that I don't have much opportunity for blogging.  However, anyone who is interested can follow progress on the Junk Rig Association website.  Progress is not particularly fast, but is extremely enjoyable.

One of the very rewarding and rather unexpected aspects of this build, is how many people want to get involved in one way or another.  It really seems to have caught their imagination and I enjoy how people want to share in the progress of SibLim.  First of all, of course, was David Tyler, who was inspired by my ideas to create a wonderful design to my criteria.  Then came Marcus, who not only let me take over his shed, but has allowed me to make use of his machine tools, none of which I could have afforded to buy. Because he is so sensitised to epoxy, at this stage he can offer very little in the way of hands-on work, but his advice (he's a professional boatbuilder) and insights are invaluable, and he helps out in many other ways.

A week ago, the amazing Grand Pha sailed into the Hatea River and anchored off Norsand Boatyard, where I'm building SibLim.  In short order, Bertrand was changed into his old clothes and had taken on the exacting task of notching bulkheads for the chine log. 

At this time I decided that we now have quite a cohort, and so The SibLim Club was founded and now had three members.

A couple of days ago, I had a visit from my friend, the designer John Welsford, who is also very interested in the project - in spite of not having designed the boat!

He arrived with delicious bread and cheese (relieving me of the necessity of preparing lunch, and, having given me a (much-needed) lesson in how to handle a chisel became the fourth member of the Club.  I dare say I shall have to design and make burgees to give to all members at the end of the build!

I sometimes worry that I've bitten off more than I can chew, taking on this task: the fact that friends are there to help and encourage me makes me feel less daunted and more confident about the undertaking.  Thanks to the SibLim Club, I now don't think I'll ever be at a loss when an extra pair of hands is required, or I am in need of some sound advice.

02 November, 2015

Why Fantail won't be at this year's Tall Ships Regatta

A couple of days ago, this flyer came in the post:

For all the junkies in NZ, the Tall Ships Regatta has become part of our life and is our major junket.  It's the greatest fun and I'd make a huge effort not to miss it, but this year, Fantail won't be taking part.  Why?  Because in a moment of madness, I've decided to build myself a replacement boat.  It's a long story, and it will take far too long for me to write it all up here, but it's largely to do with shoal draught, simplicity and and abiding love of wooden boats.  The whole saga can be read here, on the Junk Rig Association website.

Suffice it to say, that she will be 26 ft long, shoal draught and, of course, junk rigged.

My friend David Tyler and I have combined forces on the design: he's done the clever bits on the computer and I have told him what I want and how I want it.  It's taken some thrashing out at times, but I'm very happy with what we've come up with.

David sailed down from Canada, in August, to help me get the project started.  After a lot more debating, we sorted out the details and then built a model to help finalise dimensions.  We are building the boat for me, so instead of postulating a crew of three or four 6ft people, we are working around one, 5ft 1in woman.  This has meant that some things, such as the cockpit, are non-standard.

I have made my photos on the JRA site available to non members, so if you want to see more, have a look here.

Building a boat is a very full-time job, especially with all the other chores that have to be carried out on a daily basis, so I won't get much time to post on this blog.

And of course, it means that poor little Fantail will need a new home.  Anyone with NZ$23,000 in their pocket who would like my lovely little floating home, please contact me!

05 September, 2015

'Mariposa' needs to go sailing!

My last post was about the difficulty of finding a junk-rigged boat when you wnat one.  This one is about the fact that there is a beautiful little Contessa 26 looking for a home.  She has been owned for short periods of time by several people in the recent past.  One decided that buying a boat in the UK when he lived in NZ was perhaps not the wisest of decisions.  The second one did heaps of good work on the boat, having found some structural defects; she is now apparently in great shape and probably better than new.  He was about ready to do the finishing touches when he was offered work now in China.  The most recent owner finished off all the little jobs needed to get the boat sailing and then realised that his money wasn't going to go as far as he hoped and that getting work in Europe was easier said than done, so had to go back home to Oz to earn some more money.  Poor wee boat - aspirational and competent owners, but no-one to take her sailing.

Of course, at 26ft, she isn't even considered 'entry level', for most people, and without an inboard engine, she is dismissed out of hand by nearly everyone.  But I keep hearing about young, adventurous people desperate for an opportunity to Achieve Something.  For £5,500 someone can buy an adventure ready to go: put some food on board, fill up the water, pull up the sail and there you are.  Come on - there must be somebody out there who will grab this opportunity!

28 June, 2015

Where can I buy a junk-rigged boat?

I recently had a comment from someone called James, in USA.  He asked "Where do I start looking for a small boat that is junk-rigged in the U.S.? Have searched the Internet and have found only one boat in the U.S. And it was 36'."

This reminded me of something that I've heard said so many times by people debating re-rigging their existing boat with junk rig.  "What happens if I want to sell the boat?  Won't putting a junk rig on it make it more difficult?"

My usual response is to ask them why they are fitting the junk rig in the first place and generally they say because they couldn't find a boat already converted that would suit them.  Well, doesn't that answer the question for them?  There are lots of people looking for junk-rigged boats and there aren't many for sale.  Of course, if you happen to be in a country with a very restricted market, with a boat that is unlikely to be easy to sell anyway, having a junk rig may not necessarily swing the deal, but most of the people I know who have wanted to sell a junk-rigged boat have moved them along pretty quickly.

And to James, and other people who would like to buy a junk-rigged boat, I recommend you visiting the Junk Rig Association website, where there is a Swop, Sell or Buy forum that members use to list (and look for) boats.  And if you are thinking you'd like to buy a boat to sail distant climes, why not make it easy for yourself and buy one that's overseas to start with?!

Just think of the joy of owning something as delightful as one of these:

18 April, 2015

A Better Choice

To those who aren't used to boats, it might seem odd to the point of unpleasant, that when two or more boat owners get together, sooner or later they start talking about toilets.  But one of the big differences between living on a boat and living in a house, is that on a boat, you are far more closely concerned with the day-to-day realities that most people ashore completely ignore.  For them it's a case of turn on a tap and out comes water: another tap produces hot water!  You pull a plug and the water vanishes.  You flush a toilet and suddenly it is filled with clean water.  On a boat, however, none of this happens automatically.  Those of us who like to keep things simple manually pump water from a tank; heat it in a kettle; possibly pump it out of the sink and as for the toilet ...

For many years the norm has been to have a marine toilet that used seawater to flush out the contents of the bowl directly over the side.  There is no real objection to this: your e.coli apparently isn't that fond of salt water and doesn't last long.  Most sailors have experienced the sight of a shoal of fish rushing to the outlet and busily feeding, so you are obviously not disposing of noxious waste.  However, where you have a lot of boats gathered together there are reasons to worry about this arrangement.  For a start many marinas and inner harbours have a lot of fresh water coming into them.  This often floats over the salt water and is a fine place for you e.coli to breed.  If there is little or no flow of water, all the stuff pumped out will sink to the bottom of the harbour and there will probably be too much of it for the local flora and fauna to deal with.  In addition, if you are anchored in a popular spot, you don't want to pump out your toilet in an area where people are swimming.  The way round this is a holding tank, which you empty at a dedicated place in a marina or yacht harbour, or which you take out to sea and empty away from beaches, anchorages etc.

But sea toilets themselves are not without their issues.  In order for them to work effectively, they need to be able to pump in plenty of sea water, but all too often these pumps leak.  Not a lot, but a little water in an otherwise dry boat goes a long way, and the salt means that it's always damp in the area.  In addition, there are often valves to turn on and off, which non-sailors find disconcerting to downright worrying.  The most effective of the marine toilets I've dealt with is the Lavac, which only requires one to shut the lid and then pump, following simple instructions displayed on the bulkhead.  But even this paragon requires that you have two holes through the boat in order for it to work.  I happen to have a prejudice about holes under the waterline.  They have to be protected by a skin fitting that allows you to seal off the hole should the pipe leading to them fracture for some reason.  In theory, this could happen at any time and ideally one would shut all these sea-cocks off every time one leaves the boat.  Most people don't of course, because they fail very rarely.  But I know of more than one boat that has been lost because something failed between the hole and whatever the pipe led to.  In an ideal world, I wouldn't have holes under the waterline.

One can live with these niggles and worries, and most boats are bought with a sea toilet already fitted and the owners live with them.  When I bought Fantail she had a standard marine toilet, and a very indifferent holding tank.  One of my first jobs was to replace this with something a bit better and by and large things were OK.  However, the pump always dribbled sea water with the result that black mould would start growing the moment I turned my back.  I was getting increasingly irritated with this, but what finally destroyed any empathy I had for this system, was as a result from my moving from the cold waters of Tasman Bay to the warm waters of Northland.  Apparently the long, dark, inlet pipe was an ideal environment for something (I'm not sure what) to grow very happily.  But whatever it was, it liked a certain level of salt water, no more and no less, so when I stayed in a river for a while, it would grow and flourish, only to die when I went back to sea.  Then its salt water equivalent would grow and flourish only to die when I went back into a river.  How do I know?  Because each time I changed my environment, a couple of days later, the water coming into the heads would stink of sulphur and this appalling stench would last for a day or so, until all the dead matter was flushed through.  I got to the stage of dreading the change in water salinity.

I used to live with a Porta Potti, but they are heavy when full, and I didn't really relish the thought of struggling with one through the very narrow passageway into my heads compartment.  I decided to try out a composting toilet: a lot of friends have them and all spoke very positively about them.  I thought of making one, but realised that they need to be quite carefully set up for the female anatomy and I didn't really want to make one only to find it didn't quite work.  So in the end, I cashed in my savings and bought a C-Head.  These are made on a one-off basis by a chap called Sandy Graves in Florida.  It's not strictly correct to call them composting toilets: they are in fact, desiccators and to that end solids and liquids are separated.

Sandy has a variety of shapes and sizes and after we'd emailed back and forth, I decided which I wanted and it duly arrived.  It took me a while to get used to it: the dried coir bricks had to be reconstituted with water, and ended up too wet to do their job properly.  I then tried wood shavings, but found that the hardwood didn't do a very good job of absorbing moisture either.  I was seriously contemplating installing a fan to assist, although this was something I very much wished to avoid.  However, a bag of softwood shavings worked like a charm and instead of adding more medium almost every time I used the toilet, I found it stayed dry for ages.  Now that I have found the ideal medium, I am delighted with my 'composting' heads.  It is easy to empty out at sea; alternatively, you can put the solid waste into a stout bin liner, pour over half a cup of bleach and dump it ashore.  I much prefer to wait until I'm outside the 'no dumping' limits.  The website has several different ideas as to what you can use for a medium: I guess it's essentially trial and error until you find what works for you. The bottle can simply be emptied over the side, rinsed out and put back in place.

So that's two fewer holes under my boat; a toilet compartment that is easy to keep nice and clean and no smell.  I can only recommend this as a much better alternative to a conventional marine toilet.