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Friday, 25 May 2018

Swiss Bank Account

It shames me to say it, but things have being a bit quiet on the boat building front the past month. "Have you finished your boat yet?" is a question I hear all too often. But, this time at least, I have a valid excuse absent as I was from the country for several weeks on a fact finding and cultural exchange visit to Europe, including Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, The Low Countries and, our favourite, Switzerland.

Small, privately owned cable cars dot the landscape. There is currently some debate about what level of government imposed safety regulations should apply to small operations the general public cannot use. Owners fear they will be forced to shut down an essential transport tool.
Public cable cars are on almost every peak. This one took about 10 minutes and cost 20 CHF return ($30 NZD)
Elevator on the side of a mountain. Why not?
In Switzerland, we were lucky enough to stay with friends met when working in Laos last year. We got a locals tour of the Alpine region just south of Lucerne and discovered the Swiss love of all things chocolate, cheese and cable cars. It is a rural area, and the sound of ringing cow-bells is a constant background to the fantastic rolling, green views and snow-capped Alps.

In Spring, the cows are out of their winter sheds and grazing the valley fields
A Swiss dairy farm

Spectacular views at every turn
We were told that in a few weeks the cows would begin to be moved up into the Alps to graze on freshly exposed grass after the snow melts. This is a lot of work for a small single family operation. Fence wire has to be restrung (it is taken down in winter) and many posts repaired. The family typically live up on the mountain with the herd over Summer making cheese and keeping an ear out for the ever present ringing cow-bell.

The Summer farm house and dairy (Alp)
The snow has just melted. The fence will be repaired before the cows are bought up

The author of a favourite blog of mine, Fernglade Farm, often refers to chopped and stacked firewood as 'better than money in the bank'. Considering the wood can be used for home heating, hot water and cooking, plus it appreciates in value over time (aged firewood burns cleaner and hotter) this statement makes a lot of sense. The Swiss are famous bankers, and they seem to be also aware of this analogy.

Unfortunately, we eventually had to leave Switzerland, although not before finding an actual Swiss Army knife on a trail that had been lost months earlier in the snow! All is not lost though, once home I did manage to perform a minor task on the boat. Behold the beveled bow, now ready to receive the large piece of plywood that will make the floor:

Not long after we moved to New Zealand I purchased a very good TV panel for a great price. The only problem was it had no stand, the previous owners had it mounted to the wall of their gypsy van. After six months I was finally tired of it leaning against a cardboard box and decided to make a stand (get it?).

Fantastic progress for six weeks I think :-)

Monday, 9 April 2018

Move into the next dimension

There is a wise saying that suggests you should measure twice and cut once. Taking this to heart, I have taken my time on the next stage of the boat build - going 3D!

A cheeky Kea (Alpine parrot)
Before I could do that though, I needed to finish a work trip to the West Coast. On the way, near Arthurs Pass is a well known spot for seeing the Kea, or Alpine Parrot. These cheeky birds will help themselves to any bag, open car or food lying around. The one shown above even tried to sneak around me when I was looking elsewhere and start chewing on my camera strap!

Bow and Stern
Once back on the shed, it was time to create the bow and stern pieces. These are made in the same way as the four sides.

Clamped for extra straightness!
There was a slight bend after assembly, so I clamped them for a few days to get them straight again.

Cutting grooves for the bow and stern pieces
Like a glove

Small grooves needed to be cut to make room for the bow and stern pieces to fit. I then needed to think very carefully about how to glue everything together straight and square. The main problem being I have no straight edges or true, level floor to reference against.

Custom framing jig
I started with setting parallel planks for the twin hulls to fit against. By using the single piece of plywood which makes up the boat floor I ensured the outer edges would align with the actual floor.

I used the future boat floor as a reference
I then clamped the hull pieces into this frame, and checked for parallel with a rule and more clamps (you always need more clamps!).

Getting all four sides parallel
Finally, I used plywood wedges and blocks to make the bottom (actually the top) of each hull piece perpendicular to the floor.

Add wedges to keep everything on the straight and narrow

Then I could attach the bow and stern in a slightly stressful single run. Eight joins and twenty-four screws to complete before the glue begins to cure!

Almost looking like a box boat!
Stay tuned for the next exciting edition when the floor is attached and the boat is flipped the right way up!

Monday, 2 April 2018

1. The Stranger

I have decided to continue the story of Gibbon, set 1000 years from now. The first entry, which took place in far future Tasmania, was a mostly enjoyable process to write, although at times it was hard going. The catalyst for writing that story was a competition hosted by John Michael Greer on his old blog. My story, The Cupertinians was not selected but it did later get published in the quarterly magazine Into The Ruins. Another writing competition, this time hosted by Greer and Zendexor over at Solar System Heritage was a lot of fun and the result, Arden Archer will be published shortly. It was a lot easier to write Arden Archer then The Cupertinians (helped in part by discovering a word processing program called 'FocusWriter') and I wondered if maybe I could write an actual novel rather than a short story. Furthermore, could it actually be any good?

Greer has yet again prompted more writing, this time by posting scenes and analysis as he writes them, and encouraging others to follow. Below is the first scene:

1. The Stranger

Gibbon awoke into total darkness with a cracking headache. He was lying on a hard wooden floor that creaked and groaned in time with a gentle rocking. There was a strong smell of timber, hemp and pitch with just a faint hint of salt. Nearby, he could hear the gentle sound of waves and somewhere above a gull cried as it circled overhead. Gibbon relaxed slightly, he must be still on board the Wanderlust, enroute to Shinano. Gibbon slowly became aware of two muffled voices nearby.
“So how did it happen?”
“I don’t know, but the Captain seemed pissed didn’t he?”
“Jojen watched her come in last night. Couldn’t believe it when she ignored the channel markers. Must have had a right fool behind the wheel.”
A disturbing thought crept into Gibbons consciousness. He tried to situp, but couldn’t move his arms and was rewarded for the attempt by a hard thwump and a wave of pain in his head. The nearby talking was now laughter.
“Haha, you aren’t going anywhere matey. It’s old betsy for you!”
After their laughter had died down, the two men were silent and other sounds became clear. The crunch of gravel under a wheel. The movement of a leather harness and occasional snort of a mule or horse. Lying next to him a large animal snored and grunted. Gibbon groaned, realising he was trussed up and blindfolded in the back of a wagon. He had no idea who or what old besty was, but it didn’t sound at all like the state cabin he had on the Wanderlust.

The two men started talking about the various merits of the female passengers now stranded in their town and Gibbon stopped listening, his thoughts wandering. This sad state of affairs was a worrying development and required addressing. Clearly someone was to blame for his unjustified imprisonment, but who? And perhaps more importantly, what happened to his possessions? Were they still on board the Wanderlust, or appropiated by some corrupt and peevish official as restitution for imagined crimes? Gibbon thought of the strange book-sized energy panel he found in an abandoned compound in the remote mountains west of New Hobart. There too he had being accused of poor conduct and ungentlemen like behaviour. In all his travels, thought Gibbon, the one constant was the petty jealousies and baseless accusations he encountered all across the Pacific Ring. Was humanity always this way? Was another factor at play? Gibbon had no time for such self-defeating philispohosing. In the here and now the situation was immediate and required no reflection. Escape his bonds, locate and reacquire his possessions, deliver justice if necessary. The path before him was clear even if his vision was not.

A short while later, after Gibbon has considered and rejected several unsuitable stratagems for escape the cart came to a stop. He was rudely dragged upright and temporarily blinded by the strong morning light as a hesian bag covering his head was removed.
“It’s gonna be a hot one today matey. Hope you remembered your hat.” The two guards laughed, jumped down from the cart and began poking at something on the ground just out of Gibbons line of sight. They had stopped at the top of a large bay, the overcast skies giving an uninviting grey and foamy look to the waves. There was only a few metres separating the dusty road from a rocky coastline and in places an occasional larger wave had thrown spray across the road leaving a muddy puddle. It was into one of these that Gibbon was now unceremoniously pushed. Cold mud ran down his back. Yet another injustice for which there must be an accounting! Gibbon painfully stood up and took in his surroundings. To the north, the bay swept up into a dramatic headland. The green slopes covered with a scattering of white sheep and carved by rows of poplars. Here and there a fine house or manor, surrounded by low hedges and stone fences. Looking back south, the bay continued for a kilometre, terminating at a rocky quay and a small town. Squat grey buildings clustered along the quay, which had several sailing ships tied up alongside. A few hundred metres offshore lay a large four masted ship with sleek lines and a sharp bow. It was a clipper ship - the Wanderlust. But something didn’t look right. It took a moment for Gibbon to realise it wasn’t moving on the swell. The waves washed and broke against the sides, it was aground. From this distance Gibbon could just make out the stern windows and balcony of the state cabin he had booked in New Hobart. How long ago was that? His last memory was losing sight of Van Diemens land. Everything since then a confusing blur, for sure this land was not Shinano, the destination he had booked and paid for! In truth, Gibbon didn’t recognise this place at all. Inland from the bay, the fields were rich, green and productive. But looking further inland Gibbon noted the cultivated fields ended well before the horizon, which was dominated by tall snow-capped mountains with steep, dark green slopes. This place was prosperous, but only recently settled and no doubt subject to frequent predations by hill tribes and coastal raiders. Such places typically took a hardline approach to dispensing justice. Appeals for leniency would fall on deaf ears here.
Gibbon continued his turn, his shoulders sinking as he saw their destination. A sturdy frame of thick, dark timber rose from the ground at the roads intersection. Hanging from this frame were three, large cages. Each was large enough to hold a person and made from thick iron. The first cage already had someone in it, dressed in black and watching them. The other two cages were empty and lying on the ground. Before Gibbon could formulate a plan, in truth he still felt nauseous and his head was swimming, the two guards shoved him into the second cage, locked the door and winched the cage into the air.
“There you go matey” said the first guard, “delivered safe and sound to old Betsy just like we said.”
“There must be some sort of mistake” stammered Gibbon.
But the guards just laughed and walked back to the cart and began prodding a rotound shape lying in the back. It wasn’t an animal at all, but a rather large person. The first guard, not too unkindly, removed his club and prodded him in the stomach a few times.
“Come on Garjo, you know the drill.”
The large man groaned and rolled off the cart, then crawled into the third cage still on the ground. The second guard threw in a full bladder and some bread.
“Here you go. Once the Sharif has cooled down a bit and you’ve dried out we will come back for you.”
But Garjo didn’t hear them, he was already snoring again as they hoisted the cage. Chatting to themselves, the conversation had now turned to the subject of lunch, the guards ignored Gibbons protests and turned the cart back towards town. Gibbon could only watch as the cart left. A seal sunning itself on a nearby rock was awoken by the cart as it rolled past. It gave a questioning bark at the two guards, then briefly stared at Gibbon before sliding back into the water and disappearing in the frothy wake of a breaking wave.

Friday, 16 March 2018

No more gaps

A lot has happened I swear!
The seasons change, time moves on and the wheel of fate continues it inevitable turn. Occasionally, incremental progress on a simple plywood boat (now two!) is also made. The past week, it was necessary to travel to several destinations around the South Island which somewhat slowed me down. South to Invercargill then up into central Otago and the lakes around Wanaka and Queenstown. Followed by a trip through Haast Pass into the West Coast, Hokitika and Greymouth. Finally back across the mountains onto the Canterbury plains and Christchurch. Some of the best scenery New Zealand has to offer was on display and I feel very privileged to be able to see these fantastic destinations during work hours!

Deep, blue, glacial fed lakes dot the region of Central Otago
Rivers like this one criss-cross the valleys beneath glacier capped mountains
You can drive hours surrounded by steep mountains with mist shrouded waterfalls
Rob Roy Glacier
Rain-soaked hikers looked with envy at our umbrellas after a two hour hike
On the west coast, old mine workings can be explored
Birds come so close a wide angle lens is no problem
Safe to eat?
Despite all this time away from home, I did make a small amount of progress on the boat. Seams and cracks in the plywood were sealed with expanding foam glue. My thoughts here is that it is probably a good idea to keep water out rather than in, thus holes and cracks in a boat may not be helpful.

All four side pieces on boat number one now have the chines attached. By clamping them together I can sand back any rough edges and ensure they line up true and straight.

Two pieces that will make up the starboard hull are clamped together

Then sanded true and straight
A flush, clean surface will make it easier to attached the bottom

In other news, I discovered what the strange knife-saw device found at an op-shop is meant to do..

This is a knife
Made by a japanese company a long time ago, this type of knife is used for sawing up frozen items and large pieces of meat. So there you go!

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

That's not a knife

In this weeks exciting edition of 'excuses for why I haven't done much with the boat', our hero travels to Nelson, has some lunch and is given a knife!

Ex-Cyclone Gita closed the coast road, so I was forced to take the inland route
These enterprising folk bough some land on a popular tourist road and opened a 'permanent' food van. The council closed them down a couple of years back, now they are open again in mysterious circumstances
One day my boat will look as good as this... (cough)
Is it a saw? A knife? What should I cut with it? So many questions...
Exciting news, I have started on the side pieces for boat number two! That's right, one boat is clearly not taking enough time, so I have upped the stakes!
Finally, I have some exciting news. A short story I completed a few weeks back has been accepted into an anthology of stories set in the solar system of yesteryear. Think jungles on Venus, dusty taverns on Mars and strange cloud like beings on Neptune. For more information and a full list of authors check out the Solar System Heritage website.