Sunday, October 17, 2010


Next up is the rudder and controls.  Like the leeboard, the rudder is carved from a solid piece of white ash.  I do not plan on painting the rudder, so it is protected with a coat of epoxy.  The rudder box is made of several layers of fiberglass and carbon fiber and is very strong and stiff.  It pivots on a 3/8" stainless steel bolt.  The gudgeons are built into the XCR and are made of low friction plastic bearings set into thickened epoxy and reinforced with several layers of unidirectional carbon fiber.  As you can see from the pictures, I still need to get everything smoothed out and painted over.

I have several means of controlling the rudder.  The primary control for sailing is via a push-pull tiller.  An aluminum tiller bar is bolted across the top of the rudder box.  A custom made carbon fiber universal joint connects the tiller bar to the aluminum tube tiller extension.  A foam rubber grip provides a comfortable grip while sailing.  With this setup, I have a lot of ability to move around and maintain control of the boat.  I can stay in my seat, or easily hike out on either side if I am feeling adventurous.

I also have the foot control pedals which provide a means of hands-free steering.  These are not intended as the primary means of steering, but they are great when I need to put down the tiller and attend to other things.  Finally, I have a continuous loop hand steering line that can be cleated off and provides a solid backup if any of the other systems fail.

And last but not least is the rudder uphaul and downhaul.  The uphaul connects to the top of the rudder box, runs through a small block on the rear edge of the rudder and back over a turning block up to the rear cockpit.  The downhaul runs from the front edge of the rudder, over the top of the rudder box, to a auto-release cleat near the rear cockpit.  This allows the rudder to pop up if it hits an obstacle.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


On to the leeboard and bracket... The leeboard is carved out of a solid piece of white ash, beautiful stuff.  I used the method I read about on Duckworks Magazine and it worked perfectly.  After routing off the majority of the material, I smoothed out the router bit marks with the random-orbital.  I wanted some extra reinforcement, so I added two strips of uni-directional carbon fiber on each side.  Then to smooth everything out, I put on a thin layer of epoxy + phenolic micro spheres, then sanded nice and smooth.  As you can see, I still haven't gotten around to painting it... still a little unsure about the color, help me decide by voting in the poll on the right side of the page --->

The leeboard isn't much use without the bracket.  It seemed to me that the loads on the bracket could be pretty substantial, so I built it pretty beefy.  It is made of 3/4" stock, 4" wide with 2" tall sides; creating a U-beam of sorts...  The pivot face is glue and screwed to one side, with 1/4" thick triangular reinforcements.  The main body of the bracket is covered with a layer of carbon fiber, and all joints on the pivot face are reinforced with fiberglass and carbon fiber.

The bracket is held to the XCR thwarts with two "L" shaped wood blocks (carbon/kevlar reinforced) that are tightened down with 1/2" stainless steel bolts and handle nuts. The bolts go through slots cut into the bracket, so that I can move the blocks in or out depending on their position in the boat.  This allows me to adjust the center of lateral resistance and find the best position for the given conditions.

The leeboard pivots on a 1/2" stainless steel bolt, with large stainless steel "thumb" nuts.  These are relatively easy to loosen or tighten underway if I need to pivot the board up or down.  Thanks to McMaster-Carr for all this great stainless hardware, they have everything!  So far, everything has been working great!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Sailing bits and parts...

In the push to get the XCR sailing, I kind of slacked off the blogging.  Over the next few days or so, I will try and do a post about the various parts of the sailing rig.  Today, the roller furler:

This is one of my favorite features of the rig.  This is a continuous line type of furler that I designed and built based on pictures of commercial ones that I looked at.  The disc is 6" diameter x 3/4" oak.  The 'notch' cut into the edge is not circular, but is actually 12 straight line notches, similar to the sheave of a Harken Hexaratchet (or similar ratchet block).  This allows the furling line to 'grip' the furling disc better.  The pair of lines runs back to my seat in the rear of the XCR where I can easily and quickly furl or unfurl the sail based on the wind conditions.  The mast rotates in a low friction plastic bushing in the thwart and in the mast step.  So far, I have used the system in a variety of wind conditions, and it has worked perfectly.  Up next... the leeboard and leeboard bracket...

Friday, August 27, 2010

Embedded map test

Thursday, August 26, 2010

New map feature

Check out the cool new map feature!

GPS Visualizer allows me to upload GPX files from my Garmin GPSMAP76CSx and show them on Google maps with the track colorized by speed. Cool!

I plan on updating the map whenever we have a good track to show.

Saturday, August 7, 2010


This morning we took the XCR sailing for the first time. We had a great time!

Since it was our first time out in a new boat, we left the kids with grandma and grandpa (thanks!) After getting almost to the beach, I realized I had left the akas leaning on the wall in the garage. Oops. Fortunately, it is only about a 10 minute drive back to the house. Back on the beach, we got everything set up pretty quickly.

The wind was VERY light when we got started, tacking usually took a couple paddle strokes to get things around. After a few minutes the wind picked up some and we really started moving. I saw a 5MPH on the GPS before the batteries died; a real bummer because I know we went faster than that later on, but I have no record. That will teach me to check the batteries BEFORE I'm on the water next time. Here is our GPS track before the batteries died:

We sailed up the lake (upwind) until the powerboat traffic and time forced us to turn around. Sailing downwind back to the launch beach was amazing. This is where I really wanted the GPS. I may try and figure out our speed from my SPOT track. By the time we were back to the beach, the wind had really picked up, so we decided to take a quick upwind jaunt in the stronger conditions. We reefed the sail (roller reefing is awesome!) and did a couple quick tacks. The XCR performed wonderfully with the reefed sail too. Finally, we turned the boat back downwind, rolled up the sail just off the beach and surfed right in. Overall, a GREAT trip, I can't wait to get out again!

Oh, and sorry for the lack of pics, our camera battery died too (argh!!!)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Hugh Heward 25

This past weekend, Emily and I participated in the Hugh Heward Challenge. This "race" follows the supposed 50 mile sprint down the Grand River followed by Hugh Heward in 1790. We didn't do the whole 50 miles (not enough time or training) so we did the "Half Hugh" at 25 miles. A great amenity this year was carspotting provided by Trailspotters of Michigan. We dropped the boat off at the starting point in Grand Ledge; I drove the car and trailer back to the finish in Portland; I was picked up by Trailspotters and driven back to Grand Ledge. An awesome system! Once back in Grand Ledge, we got the boat down a long steep bank down to the river. This was no simple matter given the weight of the XCR, thank goodness I built it tough! Next time I'm bringing portage wheels... We got underway a little before 9am (there did not appear to be an official start...) paddling mostly by ourselves. We passed and were passed by a few kayakers and a couple guys in Superior Canoes Expeditions. One of these guys was Scott Smith who is the owner of the company and the builder of the canoes. We chatted for a while about the XCR which he really admired. We enjoyed a pretty leisurely paddle, taking breaks to eat cookies and other snacks. We finished sometime before 3pm with only a couple of kayakers in front of us. It was really fun to wait at the finish watching everyone else come in, especially the super-fast racers in their carbon / kevlar canoes. These guys (and girls) are AVERAGING over 7mph... wow! Another highlight was to see Hugh Heward himself come in:

This was a genuine birchbark canoe, pretty cool!

Here are the rest of my pics:

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Macatawa River Paddle

A few weeks ago, we had an unseasonably warm day. So we decided to take the XCR out for a quick paddle. We drove up the the launch and almost turned around. The wind was very strong from the south west and was driving some short chop right onto our launch beach. Not an issue for just Emily and I, but we had the kids with us... what to do... We decided to give it a whirl; packed everybody into the boat and set off. Once we turned off the lake into the river, things calmed down pretty quickly, so much so that David fell asleep. Every time he is in this boat, he falls asleep! We paddled a bit then pulled up on shore and moved him into the covered bow section of the boat, where he slept until the end of our trip.

Sara wasn't happy sitting on the bottom of the boat, so we put her up on a dry bag and she loved it. She was pointing at the "alligators" and "elephants" but told us "it's OK, they are just pretend." We paddled up the river a bit, went around Windmill Island, then turned around and went back to our launch site. Landing was a blast! We paddled out away from shore a bit, then turned downwind and literally surfed the boat in. Very fun! Sara really enjoyed herself, and how could she not?!?! She sat on a soft drybag eating an apple, what a life. Here are some more pics:

I'm still around!

Wow, it has been a while since I have posted!

Well, my dad and I successfully completed the WaterTribe UltraMarathon in March. It was a great experience, and we both had a lot of fun. We finished in just under 24 hours, with about 21 hours of paddling. We took breaks pretty consistently throughout the day, just to stretch legs, eat snacks, etc... The boat was great; handled well in the wind and waves, paddled well. I just wish we had had a sail! We ended up having a tail wind for most of the day and a sail would have really pushed us along. Oh well, next year.

Speaking of next year... I am slowly getting things going on the sail rig. I ordered a set of inflatable amas from Attila at Custom Inflatables. These are not something you will find on his web page, but he as made them before, a couple of pictures are here. Mine are going to be made from red 32oz PVC.

Over the next month or so, I hope to get the rest of the sailing rig built and assembled. The major steps:
  • Modify Escape Rumba sail
  • Shape leeboard and rudder
  • Build leeboard bracket and rudder box
  • Assemble mast and akas
  • Install running rigging
Sounds easy! We'll see... watch this space!

But for now, here is a link to my dad's UltraMarathon trip report.
And here is a slideshow of our pictures:

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Countdown to the UM

With just under three weeks to go, I need to wrap up all the final bits and pieces on my boat. This weekend I finished the bow and stern lighting and a mount for the compass: