At our April club night we were asked to talk about a book that influenced our journey as amateur boat builders and sailors. I chose a book about a boat called Mingming II because it described the type of sailing that I once aspired to do. The book is Mingming and the art of minimal ocean sailing by Roger D Taylor.
Let me tell you the story of Mingming II, the boat. In the author’s words, “She would be dismissed as a little weekender, a starter boat for some impoverished family man or hard up teenager desperate to get afloat and, with her low sheer and tiny portholes, a rather outdated hand me down.”
But what is Mingming II? It is a junk rigged Corribee:
• Length 6.3 metres
• Beam 2.2 metres
• Draft 0.7 metres
• Waterline length 5.0 metres
• Displacement 900kg
• Sail area 20 square metres.
Taylor’s motivation for having such a tiny boat was, “I was unmoved by the yachtsman’s more conventional dream of sailing, for example, to the warm and balmy waters of the Mediterranean. I had no desire to join the flotillas, the sun worshippers, the sippers of sangria and spumante. The prospect of earnest pleasure-seeking left me cold.”
She’s not exactly in mint condition, but then you have to consider the changes he has made to the boat. Mingming has:
• Robust self-steering
• A cockpit almost filled in
• Washboards and sliding hatch replaced with a watertight escape hatch from which she can be sailed from under a folding spray hood
• Sweeps but no motor
• An unstayed mast
• A junk sail
• Flotation forward and aft
• A bowsprit
• A Jordan series drogue (which looks like a string of miniature 13cm wide drogues along a rope)
• All equipment stored in water-tight containers.
With all this, he only goes sailing once a year. As soon as he returns he puts the boat on a trailer and puts it in storage.
So what does he do? He decides to cross the Arctic Circle. He spends a whole English winter planning it.
His attitude to the islands en route from England to the Arctic Circle is to avoid them by the widest possible margin because he sees them as hazards; his response to gale warnings is not to seek shelter but sea room to ride out the heavy weather. Of course, he makes a series of errors, but never says they are the fault of a wind shift, a weather change or gear failure. Instead, he carefully examines the decisions that led up to the error and discusses change he would make in his ideas, attitudes, gear and preparations.
His boat and his sailing embodies the spirit of single handed sailing, and it is no surprise to learn that he has previously completed the Jester Transatlantic Challenge and will later sail to Iceland. He will not land in Iceland but comes close to being forced ashore, confirming his view that islands are hazards not havens.
Why does this author appeal? In his own words, “I have been driven … to show that ocean sailing which is simple, harmonious, unaggressive and patient can bring the richest rewards. The modern sailor is often drowned in a technological morass.”
You can find out more about Roger Taylor and Mingming from his published books, at his simple sailor website and on YouTube videos. Here is a sample…
Taylor’s writing is clear and candid, with never a hint of the heroic or the narcissist. It’s like he’s chatting with you so you can follow the process and the outcome.
While some of you enjoyed a sailing day at Albert Park on 18 April, I was up country in the Mallee area checking out the art silo trail ... dry country until we reached Ouyen, where a manmade lake has been established for recreational use by all local communities ... swimming, fishing & boating . We had a great trip and I understand that the activities on Albert Park Lake were also enjoyed by those who attended, congratulations to Peter and Kirsty on the launch of their new boat, Pitthirrit and welcome to Roger and Cathie Spooner from Geelong.
Upcoming events to keep in mind are :
Wednesday 19 May, club night at APYC, commencing at 7.30pm.
Geoff Carroll will regale us with a show-and- tell session about his experience building “Tenderly”, the new tender for Rufus. Some of the stories might even be true! An interesting and fun night is guaranteed, and a light supper will be provided after the talk.
Sunday, 23 May, sailing day at APYC, commencing at 10.00am. Take advantage of the late autumn sunshine to get out on the water in your own boat, or one of the club boats.
Sunday 27 June - A booking on behalf of the WBA has been made for lunch at 12 noon at the Anglers Restaurant, Albert Park Yachting and Angling Club, Kerferd Road Pier, 129B Beaconsfield Parade, Albert Park (cnr Kerferd Rd, Melway 57 E5). It is a great spot in good or bad weather, but we will be seated inside as it is the middle of winter! Street parking should not be a problem. The menu is a la carte, with drinks from the bar at very reasonable prices. Our booking is in Bob Morgan’s name and you will have to sign in on arrival, as is usual for licensed clubs. After lunch (approx. 2pm) Bob will conduct a tour of the boatshed where there are approx. 40 clinker boats from the 1920’s to the 1960’s.
For history buffs, the club is on the site of the 1860’s Middle Park Half Battery gun emplacements which along with the Williamstown fort were the last line of defence for Melbourne. The pier itself was built in 1897 and the club house built in 1909. The original building is still there although it has been extended several times. To book, email email@example.com, with “Anglers Restaurant booking” in the subject line.
That’s enough for now folks, I hope to see you on either 19 May or 23 May, or I dare hope, both!
Cheers all, Chris.
Like all Australians, Hanh and I managed the original COVID19 lockdown at home in March.With the second lockdown, like all Melbournite’s we pushed the limits of boredom through the 121 days.
Hanh busied herself by taking up vegetable gardening from the basic principles. Basic principles realised vegetables from dried seeds from previous vegetables we had bought at the supermarket. I supported the concept as I could see the advantage if the pandemic turned to some kind of greater event.
I had a myriad of jobs I could do at home that I had put off, sometimes for years. Although after about 100 days I had got a bit “over” these. That said it was very convenient to order things on line and I must thank Rhonda and Adrian Brewer at Float a Boat for helping with supplying me with components for a model project I was working on.
Toward the end of the lockdown, country Victoria had some of the rules relaxed and friends Ian and Fran from Bendigo and WBA members Russ and Marg Hurren from Nagambie had planned a Murray River trip starting at Swan Hill. At the same time, I had planned on taking Mars to the Gippsland Lakes when the COVID rules were relaxed. When Hanh heard that the Murray River trip was on, I decided this was a better option, provided our Melbourne lockdown was relaxed before they completed the trip.
As it turned out, the Hurrens could only go as far as Robinvale with Ian and Fran continuing. By the time the Melbourne lockdown was relaxed, the Murray trekkers were just days before their schedule arrival of reaching Robinvale. The lockdown was relaxed on the Monday and we were towing Mars to Robinvale by Wednesday.
The next three weeks had us travel downstream to Mildura followed by entering Wentworth on the Monday NSW opened its border to Victorians. From Wentworth, we travelled the Darling River then back to Wentworth and then home. The November weather was variable and the traffic on the river was low apart from close to towns.
The wake boats presented a problem for 14ft Mars particularly when tied to the river bank. Given my holing in 2019, I discussed this with NSW Marine Authority when licence-checked on the Darling River. I was told they police people making unnecessary wake for which the wake maker is responsible. I said I made reports and had the registration number of the offender, with no action (so insurance was impossible) and told him how one wake-maker a few days before was the NSW Maritime Authority.
Sadly, I think with the wake hazard and the low interest from officialdom, the risk of damage far from assistance is too great and this could be my last Murray River trip.
Our first autumn sail day was held on the 28 March and was (I believe) well attended and a good day was enjoyed, a “thanks” to Penny for being the key keeper for the day and opening and closing the facilities.
You will have received an email detailing the coming events for this and next month.
Wednesday, 14 April, club night at APYC, commencing at 7.30pm. Share your favourite readings from nautical literature (or even writing that could not be called literature). Bring your own material, or make use of our library resources. Choose a work that you found inspirational, instructive or funny, and tell us about it and how it relates to your boating experiences. A light supper will be provided.
Sunday, 18 April, sailing day at APYC, commencing at 10.00am. Get out on the water, browse the Club library, catch up with friends over lunch on the deck.
Wednesday 19 May, club night at APYC, commencing at 7.30pm. Geoff Carroll will present a show-and-tell session about his experience building “Tenderly”, the new tender for Rufus. A light supper will be provided after the talk.
Sunday, 23 May, sailing day at APYC, commencing at 10.00am. Take advantage of the late autumn sunshine to get out on the water.
We did have a working bee on 13 March to tidy up and move some of our collection in the lower hall of the yacht club, thanks to those who helped, Jim, Penny, Jimmy, Rob and David for your able assistance. There is more to do in the future and I will call for assistance again.
For a club lunch, Bob Morgan has kindly arranged a booking for 20 at the Albert Park Yachting and Angling Club, Kerford Road Pier, Beaconsfield Parade, Albert Park. The date is 27 June, 12.00 pm. Bob will conduct a tour of the premises and the boatshed after luch at approx. 2.00 pm there are about 40 timber from the 1920’s to 1960’s to be seen. Please contact me to make a booking on 0438 519 033. First in best dressed!
Also in Shavings you will find details of accommodation available at Mallacoota which is our location for the WBA annual getaway. Normally we run these over a weekend but due to the distance we suggest that a little extra time be allocated... the weekend date is 18 to 21 November (Grand Prix weekend in Melbourne) so based on what time you have available, book your accommodation accordingly.
A schedule of activities will be worked out and communicated in due course.
I look forward to seeing you at some or all of these events!
Cheers all, Chris.
by David N. Webb, skipper of the Yawl Mariko
Bangladesh may not be the first place that comes to mind when discussing the building of traditional timber boats. However, when I went there in December 2019, I found that stepping on and off boats of all kinds was part of daily life there. Bangladesh is a country of waterways: everywhere land and water are interspersed at regular intervals and, aside from urban apartment dwellers, the lives of the majority of its hundred and sixty-three million people are to some extent amphibious.
A myriad of vessels ply their trade on Bangladesh’s rivers, constituting the world’s largest fleet of inland vessels according to Strauss (2016). These range from steel ships that might look at home in the commercial docks of Melbourne, were it not for their somewhat lesser size, down to slender traditional fishing boats, smaller than a canoe, upon which the locals manage to stand and cast their nets with an incredible degree of balance and confidence.
In Bangladesh the time-honoured method of constructing a wide variety of traditional wooden craft has best been preserved, with a living museum of master craftsmen having been established by a local woman named Runa Khan, for the teaching, preservation and documentation of the traditional boat construction techniques (Strauss, 2016), using traditional hand tools.
In this series of short snippets from my travels I will attempt to describe some of the many vessels I saw there, especially the more traditional wooden ones, including enough of a narrative to convey some feeling for the waters on which they cruise.
Part 1 – A couple of local rivers near Narayanganj and my first real ḍiṅgi
Shortly after arriving I bought a motorcycle using a local smartphone app, where it cost me somewhere a little over three hundred Australian dollars. It was a two-stroke, hundred Yamaha RX-100, and although somewhat underpowered for the combined weight my companion Jahanara and I, it bore us along at as fast a speed as anyone could safely hope to achieve in the congested and chaotic traffic conditions of Bangladesh, where a large proportion of the vehicles are pedal-powered rikshaws. Not half a kilometre from the place of purchase it developed a fuel leak from the carburettor, but one of the many roadside mechanics fixed that for a further two dollars and so we were on our way and set off for our first little exploratory outing, from Narayanganj to Sonargaon, to see the ruins of the old capital and the beautiful gardens and ponds.
Figure 1: The route we took
About half a kilometre from home, we came upon the Shitalakshya River near Narayanganj; a brown expanse of water two or three times the width of the Yarra. The river is so named because the word Shital means cool and clean. In a bygone era the water used to be good to drink and was said to taste slightly sweet and rumoured to cure all illness. Now, however, it is lined with Narayanganj’s famous textile factories, where many of the famous brand garments of the world are manufactured by multinational corporations. The jobs they bring are of some benefit to the local economy, but unfortunately they release dyes and other chemicals into the Shitalakshya River to the extent that fish caught in it are said to smell like petrol and are no longer considered edible, which has ended what was previously a major form of food production. Gazing into the murky waters, I certainly didn’t feel inclined to take a drink.
Here we rode the motorbike onto a slightly rusted car ferry, driven by cables, where the ferryman relieved us of a few taka and we began to rumble out across the brown water accompanied by twenty or thirty traditional timber boats with curved bows, generous beam but very little freeboard once loaded. About half of these had diesel engines and the others were propelled using a sweep over the stern. Those with an engine typically had no rudder and were steered with a similar oar or sweep.
|Figure 2: Some of the wooden sampans that accompanied the ferry across, carrying passengers, some of whom are shown disembarking||Figure 3: The barge of brick laying sand must have been at least twice the length of the one shown here, but was laden just the same|
The deck of each of these vessels was crowded with a great number of people. I was informed by my companion Jahanara, who sat behind me on the motorcycle that, in the boatmen’s eagerness to accept money from passengers, these boats were often overloaded and capsizes were common. When I pointed at one of the vessels and asked what kind of boat it was I was told, “engine boat” and when I pointed at another operated with a sweep she replied “traditional boat”. As best I can ascertain, these are a local adaptation of the sampan, common across China and Southeast Asia, whose name is said to come from the Chinese word 三板 (san ban), meaning three planks (Online Etymology Dictionary, 2021). This name is a reference to their construction, which consists of a single wide plank as a bottom and two slightly narrower ones for the sides. On this occasion, all made it across without any incident besides being honked several times by an enormous barge, laden almost to the gunwales by an enormous ridge of what looked like bricklaying sand, that passed just ahead of our ferry as we crossed.
Once off the ferry we passed through the merry town of Nabiganj and on across small farms of flooded paddy fields, interspersed with ponds and smaller rivers crossed by bridges. This went on for some time until we emerged onto a long, gently rising bridge with timber rails that spanned a river slightly less wide than the Shitalakshya, but utterly incomparable in that everything about it was clean and fresh and incredibly beautiful. This was the Brahmaputra River. Although small by Bangladeshi standards, this river is still used for commercial shipping. As evidence of this, an enormous steel ship (fig. 4), barely visible in the distance, was somehow perched improbably high up the west bank, perhaps having been deposited there when the river was in flood.
|Figure 4: A large steel ship on the West bank||Figure 5: The Brahmaputra River|
|Figure 6: Barges, large and small, on the Brahmaputra|
We stood atop the bridge for some time, gazing at the beauty of the place. We were passed by a number of barges, similar to those that had passed us on the ferry earlier. These, I observed, were built of steel plates, painted with eyes and various other decorations, and steered by means of a long tiller atop the deckhouse aft of their open cargo hold.I was looking down at a pond heron and trying to photograph it in among the lilies when Jahanara tapped my arm with some excitement and drew my attention to two men aboard what she informed me was the most traditional of local fishing craft. Long and narrow, despite being fashioned from rough timber planks, the vessel moved through the water gracefullyand was sufficiently stable, balanced by the counterweight of the paddler astern, for the man in the bows to stand comfortably as he cast his net. The sight of him doing so was truly a wonder to behold
|Figure 7: Casting the net from the dinghy||Figure 8: ḍiṅgi: The most traditional of Bangladeshi inland fishing craft|
I thought at first that Jahanara’s referring to the boat as a ḍiṅgi must surely be her attempting to translate the name into English as dinghy. However, I later came to research this further and found that in fact the reverse is true. The word dinghy in English is itself, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary and other sources, a loan word picked up by the British Royal Navy during their colonisation and trade in the region and is an anglicisation of ḍiṅgi, subtle variations of which are used in Bengali, Hindi, Urdu, Telegu and other languages used in the Indian subcontinent. In these languages it means not just any small boat but specifically on of the same construction as that which is depicted here, since there are other terms for similar but slightly different small boat designs, such as those I will mention in parts 2 and 3.
The ḍiṅgi is, as shown in Figures 7 and 8, pointed at both bow and stern. According to a survey of vessels in the Bay of Bengal (Bay of Bengal Program, 1985) the construction consists of strengthened by both ribs and cross beams, the latter of which can be seen in Figure 7. They state that specimens of this construction type ranged, at that time, from five to seven metres in length and were propelled by sail, oars or both. They state that common construction timbers for these boats include sal teak and jarul, which are described in Figure 9. These vessels are sometimes decked in over the crossbeams, with split bamboo a common decking material. This form of decking does not form a watertight compartment, but raises goods and occupants out of any bilge water that may be present. Their use in rivers and inland waterways means they are unlikely to encounter any substantial waves other than wash from passing barges.
|Sal (Shorea robusta)||Coarse-grained hardwood. Durable, but hard to obtain a pleasing finish. Not to be confused with brown salwood which is a craft timber sold in Australia from an acacia, but grown extensively in plantations across northern India.|
|Teak (Tectona grandis)||Straight grained hardwood, initially golden but fading to silvery grey with time. Well known in western boatbuilding and grown throughout most tropical regions of Asia in plantations. High oil content and rot resistance characteristics. Easily worked, but contains silica that will blunt tools in time.|
Jarul(Lagerstroemia speciose) also known as a queen crepe myrtle
|Medium weight (505-810kg/m3) hardwood. Straight or slightly interlocked grain varying from fine to moderately course. Termite resistant. Grown in plantations in India, Bangladesh and Indonesia in limited quantities.|
Timbers used in ḍiṅgi construction
The ruins of the old capital were haunting and the nearby water gardens were home to many birds and quite tranquil despite the timber Ferris wheel that had been set up to entertain crowds of shrieking and children. The timber rowing skiffs for hire on the ponds were of unremarkable plywood construction over a light frame and unlikely to have represented any local tradition in boat construction. So we returned that evening the way we had some, enjoying every moment of the journey, but seeing no more that was remarkable in terms of boats.
Bay of Bengal Program (1985). Marine Small-Scale Fisheries of Bangladesh: A General Description. http://www.fao.org/3/ae486e/ae486e.pdf
Etymology Dictionary (2021). sampan (n.). https://www.etymonline.com/word/sampan
Strauss, G. (2016). Anchoring Bangladesh's Ancient Boatbuilding Technology. National Geographic. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/history/article/Runa-Khan-explorer-moments-develops-living-museum-to-preserve-national-craft
Part 2: The Sundarbans
Part 3: The Indian Ocean and a trip to Coconut Island
I have just done two days of hard labour.
My offence was to make a mast that is 50mm across at the top, 80mm across at the base and 6.1m long. There was plenty of time to contemplate why sanding took so long on this project. I’ve made several masts with cross sections around 50mm during the lockdown, and sanding them never took more than a few hours. I actually made my physical and mental torment worse by starting at the narrow end.
I acknowledge that the punishment fits the crime, and it’s all a matter of pi (π, about 3.14) and his mates radius (r) and 2. Yes folks, I’ve discovered that the circumference of a circle is 2 multiplied by 3.14 times r, so for every 1mm increase in radius there is more than 6mm extra surface to sand.
You can see the difference in the photograph. The offcut to the left is from the top and has been partly rounded. The base of the mast to the right shows just how much rounding there is to do.
At the top end of the mast there was 25 times 2 times π = 157 mm of surface to sand. By the time I got to the base of the mast there was 40 times 2 times π = 251mm to sand. That’s 60% more. No wonder the job got slower and slower as I approached the wide end.
The mast now has a coat of epoxy and when that cures it will be time to sand the mast again. Next time I start at the big end because that will make the job go faster.
Welcome all to 2021 ... this is going to be a much better year!
I am sorry that I was unable to attend the Christmas Party but thank you to Andrew Campbell for taking over and to all the committee for their great work in organising and holding the event. We were unable to hold many events in 2020 so you all deserved a good day for Christmas and it wouldn’t have been a party without your attendance, particularly those who travelled from outside the metro area... Russ and Margaret Hurren, Colin and Jan Hunt - always good to have your support.
We had a sailing day on 17 January at APYC and we had a small attendance, but it gave us the opportunity to get Begonia into the water, and with Leigh and Graham aboard she sailed well. In fact, if she was fitted with a trapeze, Leigh would have used it at one stage.
Your committee will be arranging an exciting schedule of events for the coming year so watch for notifications and reminders.
Best wishes to everyone for 2021.