Lose Your Dreams, Lose Your Mind-Guido Builds a Boat


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Trad climber
Santa Cruz/New Zealand/South Pacific
Topic Author's Original Post - Mar 27, 2010 - 07:54pm PT
Lose Your Dreams and You Will Lose Your Mind

Well for the record , this isn’t about politics, Republican bs, religion, hot dogs or personal attacks on fellow SuperTopians. Indirectly my involvement in climbing was a significant catalyst for the following story. Certainly OT and long but what the heck, I have my Kevlar vest on so take a whack mate.

Part 1 Building the Boat

In The Beginning
I grew up on the San Francisco Bay, an area with a great maritime history and tradition, and as unlikely an environment for one to get jazzed on climbing as one could imagine. Prior to my active early years in climbing, the Bay was my playground. As kids we swam, fished, hunted rats with our slingshots, broke warehouse windows with rocks along the railroad tracks and generally acted like your basic energized juvenile delinquent of the 50s.

My first adventure on the Bay didn’t work out so well. We patched an old life raft, painted it with red lead paint to stop the small leaks, and launched from Kelly’s Beach on Pt Richmond on a beautiful Saturday morning. Half sinking, covered in red lead paint, we were picked up by the Coast Guard, headed out Golden Gate on a late afternoon ebb tide. Momma wasn’t too happy getting that phone call. Ominous beginning.

One time I won first place in a fishing derby on the Berkeley Pier. I had traded my bag of Oreo cookies for a fish, entered the fish and got my well -deserved first place award of a fishing lure. End of fishing career.

Jack London was my boyhood hero. What a life, sailing around the Bay, robbing oyster beds at night and writing when the need for real money prevailed. I forever dreamed of building a boat and sailing to the South Seas. Who hasn’t? Blue skies, tropical water and yes brown- skinned lovelies! Books by London, Slocum, Pye, Gerbault and William Albert Robinson were voraciously consumed and the dreams grew bolder. In later years they would be replaced by works from Moitessier, Hiscock, Griffith and a host of other “modern” day sailors.

I remember a trip to Sausalito with Harper to see the giant, 70ft trimaran Pen Duick IV, that had just arrived sailed by that great French sailor Eric Taberly. When Harper and I, together, had driver training class in high school it wasn’t difficult to coax our instructor Mr. Simon into field trips to Sausalito to look at sailboats.

Harper, always at the forefront, had owned a car since he was 14 and had been driving illegally for years. Better than that he was an excellent sailor and his storytelling was second to none. When he ran off to France to crew on the 176 ft schooner TeVega owned by Omar Darr on a voyage to Tahiti, I almost died with envy.

Around 1958, via the Boy Scouts, Foott and I got involved with climbing and the sailing dreams mostly faded into temporary oblivion. Gone were the days on the Bay to be replaced by afternoons at Indian Rock and weekends at either the Pinnacles or Yosemite. My literary heroes were now Rebuffat, Terray, Buhl, Gervasutti and Bonatti.

Fast forward almost 16 years to 1974: out of grad school, back from an expedition to Afganhistan and beginning a job in American Samoa at the LBJ Tropical Memorial Hospital. One of those big decisions, big changes in life. I had to see and experience the South Pacific. It was going to be either a cure or the death of a dream. Obsessed with this vision of sailing and exploring, I had to go and look. I fell in love.

It was the early days of blue water cruising in the Pacific and often reminds me of the early days in Camp 4 in the 60s. Not a lot of boats by the standard of today, but some fascinating people and interesting boats.

A hardy group of sailors with seaworthy but simple boats. Navigation by sextant, WWV time radio, sun and star sights and basic charts. No GPS, chart plotters, autopilots or other fancy paraphernalia that make up the modern cruising yacht.

I fell in love with a 47ft New Zealand sloop, named Tequila, designed by Paul Whiting at the age of 19, for his dad D”arcy Whiting, a legend in the Kiwi sailing fraternity.

TQ was designed for the 1972 Sydney Hobart race, cold-molded construction of triple-skinned kauri and epoxy. She was strong, fast, voluminous and beautiful. A very serious boat for offshore cruising. Decision time.

I had been reading anything and everything on sailing, all the books and magazines, walking marinas up and down the Cal coast and kicking the proverbial tires for years and even had a nice 24 ft fiberglass sloop in Santa Cruz for a spell but I needed the big fix. The vision was there, I had found the boat and the dream was as powerful as ever. Time to either put it all together or head back to the couch.

Now About the Boat
Shanachie, that is what we eventually named her, is a fin keeled, skeg- hung rudder, 50ft cutter-rigged sailboat built mainly of Alaskan yellow cedar on fir stringers and a yellow cedar backbone. She has a high aspect ratio mainsail and roller furling on the staysail and headsail. She is of moderate displacement and is easily handled by two.

The Shanachie was a story teller in ancient Ireland. He would travel from village to village and share his vast repertoire of tales to all who would listen. A single tale could last three days and in the meantime the village was obligated to keep him supplied with food and drink. Part fact, part fiction but nonetheless an important aspect of tradition and oral history. In essence a great bull shitter. Hey, I resemble that remark.

Since I had never built a boat before, I went on a headhunting trip to NZ and found a talented lad of 23 years old, David Blair, who had already built 23 boats. David was a master craftsman and a pleasure to work with. We have since worked on other projects in both the US and NZ.

Build the Shop and They Will Come
Seems logical: first you have to build the shop to build the boat. So we built a 60ft x 25ft x 29ft high shop on our property in Santa Cruz. The entire structure is on poles. This was my first experience with trusses and what a marvelous way to obtain large roof spans.

Most of the wood came at a bargain when Big Creek Lumber, up the coast in Santa Cruz ended up with 20,000 BF of specially milled lumber that was never picked up. The window frames and trusses are old growth fir from a 100 year old school house in Stockton that we recycled.

Line Drawings and Lofting
The line drawings and a numerical table of offsets are what we utilized to draw the boat to scale on the floor, ie. loft it. A million sheets of 4x8 particle board, painted white and a good week drawing different cross and longitudinal sections to scale on the floor and then with 60 ft battens connecting all the dots.

As you progress with the construction you can go back to the lofting and pull off any other critical measurements for fabrication. We literally laminated the hull and deck beams on the lofting lines drawn up. David has such an artistic eye that after a spell he literally threw out the table of offsets and went with his artistic sense. Mess up with the lofting and you might as well go golfing.

Stations-Frames and Backbone
This stage is easier to comprehend if you can visualize a whale skeleton. Ribs, backbone and overall curvature are analogous to the internal structure of a wood boat. The only difference is we use stringers on top of the frames more analogous to airplane wings of old.

The critical first phase after lofting is to establish the correct contour and curvature of the hull. This is accomplished with a combination of temporary stations and actual laminated frames interspersed along the length of the hull. The backbone is an integral structural component of the entire hull and ties the entire unit together. Once the hull is planked, and the boat is turned over, you can remove the temporary stations.

Three laminates make up the exterior skin of the hull. The first two are 3/8-inch yellow Cedar and are run diagonally opposite each other. They are epoxy saturated and attached to the stringers. The final layer is ½- inch mahogany and it is screwed to the other layers. We used the good old well-proven Yankee screwdriver for its excellent torque and over 13,000 screws. Finally, on alternate stringers, the planking as a unit is copper riveted to the frames. A very long and tedious job.

Next phase is to buy a keg of beer or whatever, invite all those friends that hope to go sailing with you, make up some long-boards with 40 grit sandpaper and have a Long Board Sanding Party. A layer of 10oz. fiberglass, primer paint and the boat is ready to turn over.

Reality check! Big pat on the back, you have just spent 33% of the cost and 25% of the time to complete the boat. Heck, in my amateur naivety I was already visualizing the first sail.

Turning Over
When we designed the shop we had to add a belvedere in order to gain enough height to attach a beam to block and tackle the boat for turning it over. In principle pretty straight forward. Two huge blocks to lift it off the deck, two blocks on the floor one as a preventer and one to pull and then reverse positions as the boat is turned. Bit unnerving with all the noise and creaks but things went quite well.

Interior and Deck
Now the serious work begins. Best to accomplish as much as you can inside before you start the deck structure. Lots of time drawing, mocking up, templates, milling, fabricating, finishing, wiring, plumbing , mechanical systems, sanding, (a zillion sheets of sandpaper and eternal raw fingers), paint, varnish and lots of beer.

Back to the lofting for the deck curvature and patterns for lamination. Underlayer of 1/2-inch marine Fin Ply and then ½-inch teak, epoxied, screwed, plugged and two part Polysulfied Caulking. Messy but traditional and beautiful.

Down the Road

Before we built the shop or boat I asked a friend, Doug Kilner, with a bull dozer and lowboy trailer if he thought we could get a 50ft boat down our steep and curvy road. Three of us walked it with a 50ft rope, one person at each end and one in the center with a 13ft wide board. Visualize a dragon at a Chinese parade. Seemed logical.

In reality he had to straighten out several corners with his dozer and disconnect the stays holding up the PG&E power pole.

Doug at that time also owned a large helicopter that had to capacity to pick up the boat but in talks with my insurance agent, “You want to do what?” (there is a primary school just down the road) we opted out. Without the keel, which we were to attach later at the harbor, it was possible and I was rather excited about the prospect.

Sadly, the designer and a good friend of mine, Paul Whiting his wife and crew were lost at sea when his boat Smackwater Jack disappeared returning to NZ across the Tasman Sea in a 100 kt storm. They had just completed the classic Sydney-Hobart race.

The original keel drawings were lost but D’arcy, his father, had the original wood plug from when they built the parent ship Tequila. D’arcy shipped it up from NZ, we refaired it, had a friend make a ferrocement two-part mold, buried the mold in a huge hole, packed it with sand and after it had cured we spent 6 hours melting 13,500 pounds of lead and poured the keel.

Toys R Us shopping center, in Santa Cruz, now occupies the spot of our temporary foundry. Ah, for the good old days in the Cruz!

We place two temporary 1” eyebolts, deep into the pour at the top, to lift it out of the ground. When the crane came, the operator, seeing just two eyebolts sticking out of the keel, laughed at me when I told him he better put out his outrigger supports because this was heavy. The fool almost flipped the entire crane.

Because the keel is so large, it would be difficult to set the keel bolts in it while pouring the lead. It would be impossible to make a template accurate enough to align and drill all the holes through 30 inches of wood into the boat to secure the keel.

Therefore we fit the keel under the boat by rolling it back and forth to accomplish this. We then drilled down from inside the boat, cut into the keel with a torch, fastened a huge washer and nut and repoured the lead back into the keel. In all nine, 1-inch Monel bolts from 5 to 7ft long. Big job!

Well, finally launch day came, we were outta money, outta time and needed to get the boat into the water to turn the whole project off for a breather. Friends came from far and wide, Nancy christened the good ship Shanachie with a bottle of the finest Irish Whiskey, we had a fantastic party and dance in the now abandoned boathouse and soon headed to the Sierras and Palisade area for a week of cross country exploration and recuperation. Kudos to Peter Haan for all the help on the old and funky photos.

“There is no time to lose I heard her say
Catch your dreams before they slip away.”


Sport climber
Boulder, Colorado!
Mar 27, 2010 - 08:02pm PT
What to say but WOW! Thanks for posting this.

Mar 27, 2010 - 08:04pm PT
This is the stuff that separates the best from the rest.

Absolute masterpiece of quality and workmanship ...........
Mark Rodell

Trad climber
Mar 27, 2010 - 08:18pm PT
Guido, that is what I call a good tale. I will go back to this thread many times. I am in awe. Of course the work is stunning and staggering but the vision more so and to sail it, now, man that's cool. How different this is compared to the tread of the log cabin on the eastside where builder/craftsman will not live within its walls.
Mike Bolte

Trad climber
Planet Earth
Mar 27, 2010 - 08:19pm PT
Guido - this is an incredible story! Thanks for sharing!!

Trad climber
Depends on the day...
Mar 27, 2010 - 08:24pm PT
So where are you posting this from????

Trad climber
san diego
Mar 27, 2010 - 08:42pm PT
Wow, Captain Guido, incredible story!

I was curious in regards to the history of your sloop.

You have certainly lived your dreams.

I bet Shanachie has a few tales to tell...no blarney now, eh!

Thanks for sharing!

EDIT: Certainly inspiring, fill us in on some more of the details!
Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Mar 27, 2010 - 08:46pm PT
Pilgrims, you can get a lot more on this from the website the family has established: http://www.shanachie.org/

Yes. This is truly a dream come true. They spend time in Fiji, New Zealand and Santa Cruz depending on weather. Right now they are in New Zealand. If you read the site thoroughly you will see that they sold the boat at one point but later bought it back and added some really useful length off the transom.
Mighty Hiker

Vancouver, B.C.
Mar 27, 2010 - 08:46pm PT
That's just amazing! Thank you!

Did you consider naming the boat Ruby Tuesday?

ps Watch out for faux pirates - there are a few around here.

Big Wall climber
From Back to Big Wall Baby
Mar 27, 2010 - 08:54pm PT
Well, as a yacht designer by profession of course I found this post very interesting and yes OT as it may be there is so much more to life. The process of taking an idea from paper and creating with your hands something from that idea is one of the most rewarding things I can think of. Traditional methods of design and boatbuilding are still alive in many places. However are seen by many as outdated or no longer practical. I disagree as it is those persons that miss the whole point.

The computer has for the most part replaced the drawing board in design and Fiberglass and Carbon Fiber have replaced wood but in this persons opinion I feel hat they should not be seen as any better as they are more or less just different perspectives and options. Although I use the computer for most of my work I still find it rewarding to explore ideas through the physical act of drawing. There is nothing more flexible than a piece of paper and a pencil.

Really nice work Guido. I really enjoyed the TR of sorts.
Lynne Leichtfuss

Sport climber
Will know soon
Mar 27, 2010 - 09:12pm PT
So Guido, Amazing. "Go confidentally in the direction of your dreams! Live the Life you've imagined."

And you have done it. Stellar, spectacular, incredible......Water, the Ocean, sailing ships and adventure are something I hope to experience, something on my bucket list.

I have never really read thru a thread as long as your's but it was pure pleasure. It was an encouragement for me to keep the All My Dreams Alive.


Trad climber
Mar 27, 2010 - 09:16pm PT
13000 screws with a yankee!?!?!?


Mar 27, 2010 - 10:00pm PT
Dr Woo


Those were some wild times back then.

And this is only a part of what Guido is capable of - he has stretched the boundaries in many arenas.

I spot a Bardini in there.

Roger Breedlove

Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Mar 27, 2010 - 10:12pm PT
Nice story, Joe. Great looking boat.

Trad climber
Mar 27, 2010 - 10:15pm PT

Trad climber
Placerville, California
Mar 27, 2010 - 10:21pm PT
the sirens will now have you, guido.

gravity is a fairytale at sea. make fun.

A long way from where I started
Mar 27, 2010 - 10:23pm PT
The pull of the ocean does not touch me, but the pull of dreams... Ah, yes, I understand that.

Wonderful post Joe. Thank you.

Trad climber
Mar 27, 2010 - 10:26pm PT
I'm speechless, Guido. What a fantastic project, a truly beautiful outcome, and a study in patient, persevering craftsmanship. You can't see it, but I'm bowing.

Trad climber
New York, NY
Mar 27, 2010 - 10:28pm PT
What a cool story! What a beautiful boat!

So sad to read the designer was lost at sea, though, but such is the life, and death, of an adventurer.

Social climber
Across Town From Easy Street
Mar 27, 2010 - 10:32pm PT
A great story and an amazing final product.

Great work, from someone who spent 2 years building custom yachts in Washington state - really nice galley layout.

Kudos, Erik
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