Saturday, April 12, 2014

A New Navigator in Germany

Congratulations to Dietmar Edelmann of Viernheim, Germany, on the sucessful completion of his beautiful new Navigator.

The project took 18 months to complete, which seems to be about the average timeframe for the typical family guy with a day job.

Dietmar built his Navigator in a small, single car garage measuring only 18' x 9' (5.5 x 2.7 meters).  Building a Navigator in a small shop like this has been done many times before, but I still find it remarkable every time I see it.

How'd he do it?  Look closely at Dietmar's building jig and you can see how his clever use of locking casters enable him to roll the project out to his driveway for some relaxing and fulfilling woodworking in the fresh air and sunshine.  And adjust the height of the jig too.

Dietmar purchased his sails and rigging from Duckworks, and he says he found my rigging examples helpful.

Dietmar spends his holidays at Lakes Chiemsee, Bodensee and Ostsee in Germany.  Beautiful sailing destinations to be sure.

Sailing a modern classic like Navigator is but one of this electrical machine builder's notable interests.  When he's not sailing you may find him and his wife enjoying themselves in this Western Cub.

Or you may find him enjoying his other modern classics.  These are his 18th and 19th century replicas of old American rifles.  He builds and shoots them himself.

Well done, Dietmar!  I wish you many, many years of smooth sailing aboard your beautiful new Navigator.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

How to build an adjustable tiller lock for a couple bucks

It's that time of year again.  Spring Tweak time!  This year's Spring Tweak is a DIY tiller lock.

This tiller lock is fully adjustable, easy to make, unobtrusive, easily removed and set up, and only costs a few bucks to make.  I'll show you how to make one.

Tiller Locks:

When it comes to tiller locking devices, there's certainly no shortage of them.  Do a Google search for "tiller tamer", or "tiller lock" or something similar, and before you know it you'll have spent your entire day looking at a bewildering assortment of different types, both commercially available and home made.  Don't ask me how I know that.

Tiller locks generally fall into four main categories.

CCCC Small Business Center aids WaveFront successFirst, you've got your on-off lever action type, like this TillerClutch for example.  These usually have a lever mounted towards the front of the tiller that allows you to alternate between locking the tiller in place, or allowing it to move freely.  It's usually locked or unlocked, there's no in-between. 
tiller lock boxThen there's the Solid Brace type.  These consist of an adjustable rod that goes from the tiller to a box usually mounted on the seat back.  They're designed to be rugged.  The rod doubles as a tiller extender and can be easily detached to unlock the tiller and the rod's length can be adjusted as needed.

Next, there's the Friction Knob type, like the ever popular Tiller Tamer.  Here, a knob is used to adjust the amount of friction anywhere from very loose to a full lock.

Also using adjustable friction technology are a variety  of  DIY Shock Cord, Rope and Bungee types.  These are usually home-made and can range from a single piece of rope stretched between two cleats, to devices constructed from bungee cords, fairleads, camcleats, blocks, hooks, and various other items.

Of course they all have their pros and cons.  So how do you decide which one to buy or build?

What makes a good tiller lock (in my opinion):
  • Adjustability means flexability.  I favor the devices that allow the friction to be adjusted from completely free tiller movement all the way up to a full lock.  Small boats need an occasional nudge to keep them on course.
  • Don't get in the way.  Most devices have ropes that lead from the front of the tiller to the sides of the boat that block access to outboard motors, block seats, and so on.  This can be a major drawback on a boat with limited space to begin with.
  • Quickly disabled and enabled.  I want to be able to quickly and easily disable or remove the device in case of an emergency or simply for convenience.
  • A DIY solution, inexpensive and easily constructed from readily available parts.
  • Strong, reliable, and should not be unattractive.

How my tiller lock works:

My tiller lock is a Friction Knob type.  Tightening the knob pulls up on an eye-bolt, pinching a line against a strip of leather with increasing friction. The amount of friction is fully adjustable from very loose to a full lock.  The friction between the rope and leather is smooth, consistant, and the leather will not wear out any time soon. It is not necessary to locate the tiller lock near the front of the tiller.  I located mine slightly forward of my aft coaming and ran the line almost straight across. There, the line is not blocking my way at all but still functions perfectly, so long as I keep the line free of slack. Two jam cleats on my coaming allow me to easily tension the line tightly.  I can instantly remove the device by pulling the line off the jam cleats. A leather washer under the knob protects the tiller from damage and its friction prevents the knob from turning on its own.

Materials needed:

To make my tiller lock you'll need a stainless steel eye-bolt and a few other small items that you can probably find lying around the house or garage.  The eye-bolt I used is a Stanley V2161 that I got from Lowes for $1.28.  You'll also need a small scrap of leather, a couple stainless steel screws, a short piece of rope, and a couple small scraps of wood.  You may also need to purchase a couple small jam cleats.  The knob can be made from a scrap of wood by tapping a threaded hole in it, or you can buy a plastic knob at a hardware store for $2.60 like I did.  Or use a stainless steel wingnut.

Building the tiller lock:

The lock is very simple and building it should be quite self-explanitory.  Here is a cutaway diagram of how it goes together:
You'll need to drill a 1/4" hole through your tiller for the eye-bolt.

Make the bottom piece from a scrap of wood measuring 2-1/2" long by 1" high by 3/4" thick.  I used white oak.  Cut a 1/4" slot completely through it long enough for the eye-bolt to fit through, and counterbore a couple of screw holes in it. Round off the corners.

Cut a strip of leather as wide as the inside diameter of the eye-bolt and long enough to go around the wooden piece.  Leather from an old belt works fine.  Insert the eye-bolt, then add the leather strip, holding it in place with glue or a couple brass tacks. Make a leather washer for under the knob. Drill the hole in the leather washer oversized so the eye-bolt can freely move up and down through it.

Attach to your tiller, kick back and relax!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Attention all Welsford Navigator owners!

Small Craft Advisor magazine, one of the best magazines available for small boaters, is currently writing a review of the Welsford Navigator.  I've been working with the magazine's editor, Josh Colvin, to help provide the information he needs to write the review, but we need your help.  If you are a Welsford Navigator owner we would really appreciate it if you could answer a short questionnaire about your impression of the boat.  If you can help us, please e-mail Josh or myself and ask for a copy of the questionnaire.  Then e-mail your completed questionnaire to Josh.  Please act soon - I believe Josh is aiming for next months' issue.

Contact Josh at:
Contact me at:

Friday, February 21, 2014

Navigator Setup Times

A while back, someone on the JW Builders forum asked how long it takes to rig a Navigator for sailing after arriving at the boat launch.  Most owners replied that it took between 20 and 30 minutes, but one owner said it only took him 15 minutes.  It takes me about 30 minutes, but if it can be done in 15, I'd really like that!

So I set up a camera to record myself rigging for this morning's sail, hoping I could spot which steps could be done more quickly.

I've only reviewed the video once, but already I see room for improvement.
  • I've got a lot of clevis pins that use split rings.  Split rings are a pain and time consuming to attach and remove.
  • I didn't realize how long it took to set up my roller furler.  Room for improvement there for sure.
  • Too many lashings and bungee cords.  They take a significant amount of time to remove.

If you have any suggestions, please post them below.  Help!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

My daughter's wedding

My lovely daughter Heather married our handsome and charming new Son in Law Kevin last September.  I made this video of the wedding that I think you may enjoy.  It was a lighthearted ceremony that was a lot of fun.  I built the wedding arch that they were married under, using my Shopsmith.  Heather and Kevin plan to use this arch in their yard when they buy a home together in the near future.  They were married at the Everett Yacht club, which has a spectacular view of the bay.  In the background is where I daysail Ellie. Directly behind and slightly left of the wedding arch is Hat Island.  Anyway, I hope you enjoy the video.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

How to build a roller furler for under 25 quid.

Shortly after he bought a Falmouth Bass Boat 16, Barry Taylor began searching the internet for guidance on how to build his own roller furler.
Said Barry, "When I came across your web site, showing how to build a furler, I was immediately excited and inspired because you had provided very clear and easy to follow details of how to build one."

But Barry soon ran into a couple problems.  Indoor plumbing, as it turns out, isn't quite the same shape in the UK as it is in the US.
"I think the 3" black ABS cap is excellent and want to build one of these. The problem is I am in the UK and I can't get hold of black ABS, especially a cap with a relatively flat end to it (they're all slightly domed over here - and grey!). Lowes or Home Depot won't ship to UK so was wondering if anyone could offer me a suggestion how I might get a 3" black cap?"

I considered sending a cap to Barry, until I looked up the shipping costs, and nearly fell out of my chair!

But persistence paid off, and he was successful in getting the domed cap to work.  In fact, I find the shape quite attractive.  The cast stainless steel eyebolt Barry used also looks attractive and strong.  An excellent choice.

"I immediately set about researching how to obtain the necessary ABS end cap etc.  Anyway, to cut a long story short, I sourced all the materials, made my furler drum/bobbin from 6mm ply discs and a solid oak centre drum, painted it up black and white (because yours looks so smart in those colours) and hey presto I had a furler, for a fraction of the cost of a new one.  I used a thrust washer similar to the one you describe and bought the Spro Ball Bearing Swivel that you recommended."
Another problem Barry had to solve is a common one.  Barry's boat uses a fixed forestay, which required a modification to his bow fitting so that the furler and jib could be mounted aft of the forestay.
"I had to make a bespoke mount plate to enable the furler to be mounted behind the forestay such that there was sufficient clearance to prevent the jib snagging on the forestay when being furled." 

And finally, an adjustment had to be made to accommodate the available eyebolt length.
"I had to counterbore the centre of the furling drum because 6mm eyebolts only come 100mm long and this wasn’t quite sufficient to allow fitment of the thrust washer."

"The project is complete and the jib furls away beautifully."

Well done, Barry!  Yours is an excellent example of how this furler can be adapted to a variety of materials and sailboat rigs.  I hope you enjoy many years of smooth sailing with your hand crafted furler.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Pocket Yacht Palooza

Last weekend was the second annual Pocket Yacht Palooza.  I had Ellie on display and it was a lot of fun.  More to come.  The first photos have been posted on the Pocket Yachters website and more will be posted soon.   Click here to enjoy them.  Thank you, Marty, for organizing this event!