April Tools Challenge in Pender Harbour, British Columbia. The idea is you show up, they give you a surprise pile of materials, and you get to plan and build a boat out of the materials (and nothing more) in four hours, using nothing but hand tools. (And power screwdrivers.)So fishy talked neuro, gcc, and I into trying the |
Insofar as I have a lot of woodworking tools, and I like crashing about the country, and renting a car to drive out of the country is difficult and expensive, I drove up to Seattle, then up to Vancouver, picked up N, met up with fishy, neuro, gcc, and friends, took a ferry to the Sunshine Coast of Canada, and drove up to Pender Harbour. We built a boat, then we all drove back, and I drove back to Denver.
That's the short version.
I drove up through Wyoming into Montana and across Idaho. My coworker who grew up in the area strongly recommended I hit this particular hamburger joint in Cour D'Alene, but it was 10 pm when I went through there, and they were closed. I ran into heavy rain, turning to heavy snow, near Mullen, Idaho. Now, just before I left Colorado, I got new Pirelli tires on the Subaru, and it's turned into a snowshoe hare: it handles beautifully on snow, but it's really exciting in water/rain. It hydroplanes at half the speed it used to on the old tires. (Weird, insofar as they were nearly bald.) So I ended up stopping for the night near Mullen, and starting again the next morning.
Zoom! through Spokane, through central Washington, and over Snoqualmie Pass. When I was coming down the coast-side, I saw a beautiful visual example of the adiabatic lapse rate.
That white line is snow, not some weird lighting effect: a perfect isohypse.
I drove over to west Seattle, to Nerdvana, and hung out with M&L and their dogs Sancho and Nicki. I'd never gotten to meet Nicki before. She's charming.
M&L and I went out to a great Thai place just at where the West Seattle Bridge road finally begins to spread out into West Seattle. Hot for my tastes, but *excellent*.
Next morning, up early-ish, to get to Vancouver, where N was to be landing at the international airport.
Which necessarily involves a border crossing.
Which was entirely more painful than I'd anticipated.
I'm all alone, in a car jam-packed with equipment -- hey, we had no idea what sort of tools we'd need, so I brought every bit of woodworking equipment I had, clamps, sawhorses, planes, screwdrivers, drills, ship augurs, screwdrivers, saws, hatchets, you name it.
And I'm going to a small harbor to build a boat with three friends also from the US, who aren't travelling with me.
Now I'm not entirely bereft of sense. I saved a bunch of documentation -- the website for the boat shenanigans, the organizer's phone number, friends' names and phone numbers -- on my computer.
So I pull into the border checkpoint and talk to the guy and he looks in the back of my car and asks me to go inside and talk to the people there. I do that. I pull out my laptop, fire it up, the guy at the counter picks it up by one corner, and it dies.
And of course I don't have a cellphone for numerous reasons, so I don't actually have any way to get in contact with anyone.
It was a long discussion, that involved them going out and looking in my car a couple of times, and me trying to explain how I knew all these people, how we were funding this whole shenanigans, ugggh.
But in one of the searches they found the itinerary N wrote up, about where we'd be meeting and staying, that of course I'd entirely forgotten about in all the chaos, and that seemed to reassure them that I wasn't trying to sneak into Canada and I dunno open a woodshop or something.
So I high-tailed it north into Vancouver, zoomed to the airport, and got there, amazingly, thirty minutes before N was supposed to arrive.
I walked in the front, went to the big jade boat where we were supposed to meet, and just as I got there I saw her walking across the lobby. She, too, had just gotten there.
SOOOOO we drove to downtown Vancouver to see the Steam Clock.
It was steamy.
We were immediately beside Chinatown.
We did a bit of exploration by foot and found this particular part of Vancouver seriously intimidating. You did *not* want to look down alleyways because what was going on there was flat-out scary. I could go six months wandering around near homeless shelters at dinnertime in Denver and not see as many junkies as we saw at noon on one street.
It turns out we'd found the single scariest block in the entire city to wander around on. Figures. (But I have to say, sure, the rest of Vancouver was charming, but I've never been in a midwest/west coast city that had anything even approaching that kind of gritty and dark.)
So we went over to Stanley Park.
They had art.
And more art.
And a bunch of boats, including a viking shortship -- a half-scale viking longship.
We admired the carving on the stempost.
There were a whole bunch of paragliders practicing controls on their paragliders, pulling them up in the onshore breeze and standing there messing about with the airfoil shapes.
We found an enormous wrought-iron anchor at the boat museum.
Vancouver is quite difficult to navigate: lots of small squirrely roads, with lots of bridges over inlets and bays. We drove out to northwest Vancouver, where the ferry takes off, got in a line of cars, and started reading library books. I'm digging through a great book about metal refining right now.
As we were sitting there, I saw a fedora moving about in the distance, and thought "I recognize that fedora!" and sure enough, it was sitting on neuro's head, as his car was parked several ahead of mine in the line, and a couple lines off to one side. We got to meet his girlfriend, who was charming, and sat around and talked for a while. Then fishy and gcc and L showed up, neuro went off to the coffee shop to acquire that nectar of the gods, INTERNET! (apparently they serve that in all coffeeshops: nice to know!) and we talked some more.
The ferry made ferry noises, we got on board, went out on the front deck, and watched the fjords go by.
Then a 100 km drive up to Pender Harbour itself, where, come to find out and entirely by chance (*) we were all staying at the same hotel.
(*) not entirely: there's pretty much only one hotel in town.
We slept like the dead -- well, N&I did. Apparently someone smuggled whiskey across international boundary lines and there was a hot tub involved and some other stuff, but I was too busy dreaming about krakens.
And then it was the next morning, and we all wandered over to a local breakfast hut, had a good time talking with some of the locals who were also on their way to the contest, and went to the harbour itself.
Where we met up with crouton! whom we've all known online for like I dunno let's say 10 years but nobody has ever met! and it was awesome! He was busily snapping pictures throughout the whole soiree.
In our workspace, we had: one and one eighth sheets of 3/8" plywood. 8 1x2 boards, 8' long. 1 2x2 board, 8' long. One pound of 1 1/4" square-drive screws. about 10 2" square-drive screws. One roll of duct tape. Three tubes of caulk. 8' of 3/8" poly rope.
To make a boat.
We all thanked crouton for pointing out, a week before, that we needed square-drive drivers for our drills. We would've shown up with phillips head.
We had an hour to plan, and three hours to build.
I proposed a scow: flat-bottomed, slope-ended. gcc and fishy wanted to do something more like a sea kayak with a flattened bottom. After drawing some pictures and cutting out some paper models, we went with a flat bottom, roughly elliptic with pointed ends, and two sides, each half the length of the circumference of the pointed ellipse.
Here we are, lofting the outline of the bottom, using a catenary as a template.
gcc is tracing the orange string while I hold one end.
Cutting the plywood went surprisingly quickly with fishy's big ripsaw, and the smaller rip did a good job of cutting the curves for the bottom.
gcc and I alternated working on the paddle and cutting small pieces to attach the sides of the boat to the bottom, while neuro and fishy did the fitting on the sides.
You can see the bottom, the cleats along the sides of the bottom, the two sides, and a thwart from side to side to keep them aligned as we screwed everything together. We don't have any glue, so we had to use the wood to do all the forming: the cleats are each held into the bottom with a single screw, and the sides are held to the cleats with another single screw. Because the material for the cleats was so thin we had to predrill before putting in a screw, and the only decent drills we had were bit&brace, with huge square-grab chucks. Neuro cleverly realized we could put a pin vise in the chuck, and put a small spiral drill in the pin vise. Predrilling through a piece of heavily bent plywood, and into the wood behind it, was not a lot of fun. We couldn't clamp the bent sides because nothing was square and plywood is slippery: I tried cutting angled blocks but they just slid.
When we got to the stern and bow, we needed angled pieces of wood to attach and seal the joints between the two plywood sides. I got out my #2 Stanley plane and madly started making chips, and we managed to get two pieces done in time: I finished one and neuro and fish worked as fast as they could, putting screws in and slowly tightening them to bend the plywood into shape, as I finished the bowpost. Gcc put the final touches on the paddle and cut out a stempiece.
Here's neuro and gcc finishing the bow, with gcc's stempiece in place.
We sealed each seam with caulk as soon as it was done, then covered the seams with duct tape. The dark spot on the dragon's face is a bit of duct tape to mark where the eye should be.
I drove a ship augur 2000 km across the country, and I was going to USE it, by Odin!
The drill broke through two seconds before the "tools down" call went through.
And so we had the SS. Knorr, with, from the right, fish, neuro, gcc and me:
We took it down and put it in the water with the other 8 boats from our race, out of about 15 or so boats in total. It sat high in the water, and looked lovely. We'd calculated the displacement we needed and made sure we had about 3x as much displacement as we needed so we'd have a good 20 cm of freeboard over the water. Some of the other boats had a third of what we had: 16 foot long, incredibly narrow boats with nearly no sides. One was just a surfboard, with some air held inside it, and something like hand paddles for the sailor to wear.
The race was out along the dock, turn around a buoy a short distance out in the harbour, run at right angles to shore to a second buoy, turn right again towards land, back along another pier, then swap crew, and sprint along the final side of the square to a finish line at but perpendicular to the start line.
Somehow I was on the float, as the trade-in crew, while fish, who has the most experience in canoes, was going to take the long first leg.
The flag went up, and fish got in the boat.
I'm having issues getting the video that L shot of what happened next, but a link is here:
The boat was not stable when loaded: it rolled aggressively. Fish tried everything he could to stay in it. He even tried turning it upside-down and riding on top or pushing it. It was not roll-stable in any configuration. The best it did was fishy got it up beside another boat that was also not roll-stable, they grabbed each other's boats, and started trying to paddle as the world's narrowest catamaran.
The Knorr went down by the stern, taking on water, and when it was low enough the other boat went over and everything ground to a halt.
Fishy gave it his best, and managed to not drown, and we hauled the Knorr back onto the ramp and retired her.
Then we cleaned up, packed up, and set off for home.
N was *really* hungry so we went down to the lovely little town of Gibsons, where (it turns out) one of my coworkers and his wife spent a lot of time, insofar as she'd grown up there, and had a lovely dinner.
Gibsons has art cars!
Gibsons also had the most polite graffiti ever: pieces of paper taped onto walls.
I love Canada.
We got back on the last ferry to Van, cruised across, and spent the night in a hotel right beside the ferry.
The next morning we drove back into Van to find some brekkie.
Generally, Vancouverites have -- if not the same Seattle Chill that much of the northwest has, at least similar: people don't seem to invite or welcome conversation. However, we found an exception, a nice man waiting in line at the Big Dutch Pancake Hut along with us, who was seated next to us, and talked not quite nonstop the whole breakfast. It was a lot of fun to chat with him about the area. However, he said that our plan, to bum around town a bit more and then wander back to Seattle that afternoon, was problematic, because there were often
getting from Van back across the border. Since I'd already had a *horrible* time getting *into* Canada, this sent us into a frenzy, so disregarding his nice advise to wait until evening, and reluctantly skipping meeting my friend Novel, we booked it back south to the border.
Where it was like an hour wait, and the US guard dismissed us with a wave of his hand and "uh, whatever" and hey back in Seattle.
On the way there we saw a Bad Spoiler In Action!
(It's not just Denver, then! Although I saw this yesterday, just up the street from the house:
More spoiler than car!)
So, yeah, Seattle. We met up with Sarah and went through the Pike Place Market, where there's a store that sells a specific pickled hot pepper that N loves: we bought all they had. And some chocolate. Then we walked down to the shoreline and talked for a couple hours.
There was a pirate store.
It is hard to find words for this.
We checked out the front of the Seattle Aquarium, and their octopus bike rack.
Then S headed for home, and we met up with Noah and Shelly. We've known Noah for years, but although N has been friends with Shelly online for a decade, we'd never met her. (Nor had Noah.) It was a funny, boisterous dinner. We walked across Cap Hill and had ice cream and talked some more, then departed in various directions.
Back to Nerdvana for a bit, then back to the U.W. campus for a HAPPENING. Jason Webley had sent us (and a lot of other people) a coded message, telling us where and when to go for an EVENT. Our friend 2-11 had broken the code so we showed up at the right time and place, and met up with Noah and our friend Barnaby in a park right beside the UW boathouse, at 11:11 pm, with 11 cents each. There was a huge model asparagus sticking up into the sky, and people playing accordions and dancing around it, and we all joined in and had a good time, right up until people started lining up at the dock. A very low boat cruised up, filled with people dressed in white, and the people in line handed over their eleven cents and a ferryman helped them onto the boat.
A lot of people per boatload.
And it was a really small boat. With a really small engine.
And nobody had life preservers.
And N and I were both wearing peacoats and lots of heavy clothing.
N said "I've seen this movie. The cute girls in the odd clothes all sing and people start dancing around and then you get on the ship and then you die. Unless your name is Odysseus."
So we chickened out.
BUT! N & B didn't and whilst on the boat ride they got envelopes full of magic beans and N gave his to us, so we've planted them and we hope they grow.
and then we went to sleep. Got up too early, took N to the airport, I went over and chatted with my friend A and met her lovely dogs, went over and chatted with my old Reed friend B and her wonderful girlfriend and helped them plan a southwest trip, then drove up north and met up with fishy and saw his prototype equipment for his next big project, a hydraulic legged robot you can ride, and then I drove back to Colorado.
I'd intended to hit Moab and ride slickrock but there just wasn't time.
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