The Old man is back…

You could be forgiven for thinking that the “Old Man in a Boat Tour” has faded away uncompleted – but… we’re back in action! … after a rather unproductive Fall and Winter.  As I write this I am looking back at a blog post that I had written (but never published) in October (2021).  I must confess that I somewhat lost heart for my project these last few months as the cold limited my work (the workshop isn’t heated) and I struggled to design and build some of the new features required by the changed plans made upon bringing the boat home from Grand Bend.  The rise of Omicron, the relative failure of COP 26 regarding action on climate change and the impending threat of Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine were part of a daily pressure that certainly also added to my rather bleak state of mind. 

So… what has changed? 

A couple of very generous and heartfelt donations just before Christmas pushed our total to just under the $9,000 mark and made me realize that other people share my concerns about the environment and want me to be successful in my project.  That was very heartening.

In addition, Mindfulness training; my Recovery training ( which I learned from my mother, Madeline Robertson, who was a Recovery Group Leader for many years; continued fitness training and practice of Tai Chi/Qigong; and most importantly, the steady patient support of my family – all these have got me moving forward again. 

So, I’m going to publish what I wrote in October (along with pictures of the progress on the boat) and then I promise to bring you much more regular updates on how the work is proceeding.  Come the proverbial **** or high water, the Greta T will be in the water by the end of June!

Unpublished Blog post for “Old Man in a Boat Tour”                         October 20, 2021

Have you ever had a time when you felt the wind had gone out of your sails – either figuratively or literally?  It seems to have happened to me for parts of the last month and this one since bringing the Greta T home from Grand Bend to finish.  Life has taken over – yard and garden work that needed doing urgently (including picking up over 200 lbs. of walnuts from the enormous walnut tree in our back yard!); an increasingly sore knee that turns out to be a cyst and strained tendon attachment; a feeling of discouragement at the size of the task of finishing the boat on my own; and a seeming mountain of paperwork that had piled up while I was up in Grand Bend for so much of the summer.  All this with the steady clamour in the background of the urgency for action on climate change and a national election that really changed nothing.  My beloved Green party seems to have descended into total disarray as well. 

In short, I have had a dose of the doldrums – but it’s time to get back to the project.

On a brighter note, I did manage recently to get to a Laser Masters’ regatta/clinic up on beautiful Georgian Bay which was hosted by the very friendly folks at the Thornbury Yacht Club.  My friend from the HBSC, Orest Ostapiak, and I travelled up a few weeks ago and had a blast on both days as the wind and weather both co-operated despite the forecast and we had excellent coaching from Lee Parkhill (Canadian men’s Laser entry at the Rio Olympics) plus numerous short races. I paid the price for all that leaping about in the boat – I was hobbling for a few days afterwards!

So, what about the boat building?  I started to tackle the transom and very quickly decided after numerous trips up and down stairs from the loft to the workshop that I needed to equip the loft a bit better for working.  I built some tool racks and installed a vise so things would be close at hand and I built an insulated box for keeping the epoxy warm.

The challenge with the transom (flat surface at the back end of the boat) was to provide enough surface off which to hang the rudder since the stern is open to drain the boat (the floor slopes downwards fore and aft) . 

For stiffness we had laminated another wooden “arch” to mimic the one at the midships bulkhead which will support the mainmast.  However, at the stern I had to build up the sides to get enough clearance for the rudder, and the challenge was then to make this a smooth transition for the water to flow over as the boat heels and the quarter (stern corner of the boat) enters the water.  The solution was to glue up close-celled foam shapes(shaped by heating) on either side and grind/sand these into a hydro-dynamic shape and then ‘glass over these.

Mast partners are what hold the mast in place, but in this boat there is a bit of a difference:  the actual “partner” that holds the mast is bent at an angle to allow the masts to tilt when sailing down wind. I designed and built a version when I was working in Grand Bend but once home I came to realize that they were too heavy… so I am rebuilding them and hope to achieve a good weight savings and that they don’t look quite so clumsy.  Then the challenge of supporting them – especially the forward mast  – required me to design and build a holder that fits under the deck for the foremast and under the floor for the mainmast.  The time-consuming part is building this as a “mock-up” to get the dimensions and angles correct, and then finally building it with ply, foam and carbon fibre.

Now to the present – April 20, 2022.  Not much has changed on the issues that were my heavy preoccupations in the fall:  climate change inaction, the daily horrors of the war in Ukraine, and the on-going prevalence of Covid and the threat of its new variants.  However, these are certainly issues that are largely beyond my control, although I can continue my efforts to keep my carbon footprint small and keep my project as environmentally friendly as possible.  As to Covid, I have been for my second booster and continue to wear a mask when shopping and working at the boat club while fixing up an old Laser that I am donating to them.  After the craziness of the protest in Ottawa and the relaxing of mandates in Ontario I’m just keeping my head down trying to stay safe for myself and others. 

As to the Greta T, I am pleased to report further progress in that I am ready to make both of the mast partners from the mould which I built and the forward mast step is almost finished.  Boy, making that cut through the deck was pretty nerve-racking – I must have measured it five times before daring to pick up the saw!

The deck is fitted, cut open and the forward mast support holder in place but not yet trimmed.

The forward mast support holder is a lightweight foam block built in layers with carbon fibre reinforcement between each layer and a tube to hold the mast support installed at the same angle as the mast support’s bend. For such a plain looking object there is sure a lot going under the hood!

The forward mast support holder removed from the deck.

I promise to keep up with more regular updates of the work and the progress towards launching and setting out.

Many, many thanks to all who have shown an interest and/or donated to the Old Man in a Boat Tour.   The “old man” is working hard to repay your trust and support.

Published by Ian C. Robertson

I am a retired Mathematics teacher and formerly a sailing instructor and Instructor-Evaluator with the CYA. I have been planning this fundraising trip for a number of years now, and despite setbacks - notably a cancer diagnosis and the pandemic - I am now at the building stages of a light, wooden, 16 foot rowing and sailing boat for the trip. The trip: 1,3000 km. along Lake Ontario, up through the Trent-Severn Waterway, along Georgian Bay to Lake Huron, through the St. Clair River, Lake Erie, alongside the Welland Canal and back onto Lake Ontario to get home to Grimsby! I am offering to match all donations to the WWF for this trip up to $8,000 and I hope and believe that there are lots of people who will support me and the WWF!

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