Humbled by the wind

For twenty one years this boat build has been sustained in part by daydreams of sailing anywhere the dreamer wants, confident in a strong, capable vessel. So of course on the day of the maiden sail when things should be tested in light zephyrs, we pull off the dock into 20+ knots on the nose and a big flood tide coming up the river we need to charge down many miles past Vallejo and in to the Bay. Damn, this is not going to be an easy day…

The 20hp motor and 10″ propeller are relatively small for the windage size of the boat. The motor is in the break-in first ten hours where you can’t run it beyond 2/3 speed. The apparent wind was up over 25, plus that north bay chop was starting. The builder who thought himself so clever with a motor mount ‘sled’ made that motor leg protection shield extend about 3″ below the water surface now paid the price of diverting water flow around the propeller area oddly enough to create major cavitation problems. So after a half hour of degrading conditions (that afternoon wind was building), motoring upwind, we had to admit this was a bad way to test new sailing systems. That was an ego blow, but some great learnings. The first: wow does Ravenswing sail well under ‘bare poles’. This shot is a few miles later, back in protected waters, but still sailing over 5kts with the head sail strapped to the deck and the main down at the boom. After a night of reflection, it’s pretty funny that her first sail didn’t involve sails. We learned to use the rotating semi-wing mast as a tall skinny sail, and actually tacked the boat with just the mast rotation when motoring back to the dock hours later. 

For those who visited the assembly / launch site, you can picture Charlie, Dean, Anton and I sailing back and forth doing two mile upwind/downwind legs in front of the people fishing from that dock. The main was double-reefed and we never did hoist the jib in that very narrow waterway. You sailors will be disgusted re: sail shape / trim, here with the main tortured up against a lazyjack I didn’t quite finish in time to make it easily adjustable. 

Yes, these photos make it all look mellow and the author here suspect :)

We sailed and motor-sailed enough to get a feel for key things. The revamped steering is much better. The daggerboard is humming once up near 10kts, which I think can be fixed by shimming the head tighter in the trunk. The clew-end reefing with the clutches and winch on the mast-end of the boom work well. The Vee Mainsheet worked just as advertised, including the ability to easily travel the boom upwind and down by yanking on the crossover line. (Still anxious to confirm that under full sail). The mast base and rotation setup work very well. We learned where on deck to place line holding cleats for sailing activities like holding the leeward (unused) back stay out of the way. Etc etc.

The jib is hanked on, waiting for another day. 

Anton saw the boat and said that’s a lot of string in the sky

And I had a few moments of reflection to really enjoy the fruits of years in the shop. Ravenswing is actually sailing, phew!

The boat has another new punch list of work needed, but for the next few days it’s all about the shop – finishing projects, moving tools and raw materials home, and nasty cleaning. 

Jeanne instigated a push to build all the cabinet doors before losing the shop. Inch and a half wide mahogany frames, 1/4″ foam core panels, and some cherry vaneer will get vac bagged today. 

More interior comforts finished; this is a great seat for surveying the scene 

And don’t do this: I used locktite to keep these VHF radio side mounts tight. Within two days it ate the plastic away. 

Standard Horizon replaced these at no charge, so another item on the list. 

Enjoy the 4th! We won’t be sailing :)

Five Sons

The assembly team had a good laugh last night after day five of putting this big boat together. The building manual suggests allowing six hours for final assembly at the water. We took six days. This amazing crew headed home last night and I got some quiet time on the brand new nets, same ones on the Americas Cup boats.

Falling asleep was easy, but by 4am the anticipation of launching overpowered sleep. The mast base got assembled at dawn.



Pretty happy with that piece, especially considering it was hunks of chop and table saw aluminum stock a few weeks back. Definitely all measure thrice, cut once, stuff.
The ‘core team’ started arriving by 8 and we were targeting the launch at 11 on the rising, near-high tide. The morning was consumed with numerous final clean up jobs and considerable angst about the building wind on the Napa River (actually more of a tidal slough at this location). This boat is SO much bigger than the F27 and we already know what a handful that is docking/trailering in higher winds.
The plan was solid, the dock lines stout, and the big crew well instructed. Carlos backed the pickup down with the beams and floats hanging free in the air, Griffin was on the ramp / in the water directing, and Mr/Mrs Carter were alone on deck (thank you, friends for giving us that moment together) to feel F36 hull #5 float for the first time. Pure magic.
Charlie skillfully commanded the line handlers to move us from the ramp to the primary side-tie dock. The wind kept building but the boat was tethered to pilings from trailer to dock and we were basically flying a big kite.
Once the dock lines were secured we could stand back and see what exactly just came to be:


Those pictures are the product of 21 years, two families with five sons admonished by their fathers to “come over to the shop and help me lift the (insert heavy things here ) for too many years. It shouldn’t take that long to build a boat, but it has to be a balance with the life going on around you. So while this was a long build requiring patience from everyone involved, we now have an adventure platform we hope you all will come help enjoy. Yes, Phillip, we have lots more to post here as the work and sailing continues.

F36 #5 plans were delivered to California in 1995. And on June 15, 2016, Ravenswing became the Carters’ sailboat. Come on out to sail this summer. Just drop us a line.

I can’t wait for stepping the mast on Monday!!!

First sunset

F36 #5 became a trimaran for the first time today. Her assembly team struggled mightily on Sunday to bolt the beams in to their float sleeves and form the complete boat, but we ended the day with the starboard beams flanges 3″ above the float deck. Frustrating for everyone going home, and pretty much a freak out for the builder who crawled in to the cabin solo and quietly tried to figure out what went wrong. (Remember this had been put together in the shop two years ago so it was supposed to be easy this time). A fresh mind at 6am realized I must have added fairing and paint thickness to sleeves and beam ends that made the difference. Before anyone else returned to the site Monday morning, the float hull was pryed loose from its stuck position (thank you for that lesson Carlos) and lowered near the ground to give access to the sleeves / pockets. When the gang arrived we ground back all the added materials and greased the heck out of the parts. It was still a very tight fit but an hour of fiddling got the float properly mated to the beam. And the boat became a tri.

Huge thanks in the journey to water to everyone who made their ways to Napa. Carlos, Don, Rick, Dean, Goose – you guys are so kind with your time and energy. Charlie and Jim, what can I say, except 3 f27 Amigos wanting a shower and fridge in our fboat, right? Carters&Joe, although I’ve been a bit crabby in spots I am loving doing this work with you. Thanks for devoting this time to finishing the long project that has cut out many other things.

So, we’ll use Tuesday to test the motor, install the nets and daggerboard and finish up some hardware and safety items. We’re planning on the Weds 10:30am high tide to launch. (Need the high water at this ramp), and stepping the mast hopefully Friday. Call or email for more details as you wish.

It’s a little stunning to believe we actually made this:


Thanks Latitude38!

wow, Latitude gave our boat some nice real estate in their August issue. You can read their story in the online edition, or page 84 of the print mag. Go to Latitude site here

When managing editor Andy Turpin visited the shop, I was a bit vague about the project history between the two families. So a few clarifications from the article… Howard and I combined add up to about 7k hours. It was Howard’s idea to ‘take a bit of the forest to the sea; I liked that and have continued with the cabin woodworking he started. Thankfully, we have Farrier’s updated plans for the F39 cassette rudder system, so that part of the steering is built to plan. We’ve customized the steering linkage components, and of course all that trim tab / wind vane stuff. And for those who are really tracking my details, the beams fit in to sockets in the floats, not the main hull :)

A big thank you here to the Latitude 38 staff for taking the time to drive up to Santa Rosa, do the fact-checking phone calls and give us so much encouragement. That 2015 Baja HaHa start line is now sounding too optimistic, but Ravenswing will be out there sailing this year and we love the last line in his story.

For you Latitude readers who’ve just clicked over, notice the Follow button on the right side of this website home page. Sign up with your email address and you’ll get the latest installments of the build sent about once a week. WordPress does NOT use the email addresses for anything else and the list is confidential.  I’ll be posting details about launching and test sails where we’ll need plenty of crew to shake down the new boat. Hope to see you out there. 

We only got a few of the “credits” into the article – there are many more fantastic supporting companies and individuals to this project (I don’t think you can build one of these boats alone!). We love the help from Skateaway Design, Colligo, Digital Marine of Sausalito, Fiberglass Supply in WA, Applied Poleramic (epoxies), Golden Oldies Multihulls in Reno, and MultiMarine in Venice (yea, that’s Leneman’s summer splash tshirt I’m wearing in Latitude shots). If any readers want sourcing help, drop me a line. 

Thanks for reading!

Messing about

Remember Tom Sawyer whitewashing the fence? All day long before they escaped to the river rafting. Today’s version was fairing putty for the aft cabin. To one bucket, add: 4 pumps of epoxy resin, 1 pump of hardener, a half scoop of Cabosil and a scoop and a half or so of phenolic micro balloons. Stir and add balloons til just past runny. Smear on walls, bunks, cabinets, overhead, etc. Repeat process when bucket is empty. Over and over :)

Peeking in the porthole later, it looks kinda like whitewashing the walls. However this leads to sanding tomorrow! And probably a second, finer coat of fairing compound. All in the name of GETTING TO PAINT – the new big goal.

After the cabins get primer paint, we’ll bond in all the wood trim pieces. The foam panel to wood seams will get touched up, then the finished wood gets masked off for the final paint. So all that wood trim is getting epoxied now.

Every piece has a number written on the back for placement, as they’ve all been cut to size. Lots of little busy work and not much to show you here on the website for a bit.

The bike trip last week was great inspiration for this fall. Rolling down the pacific coast highway, thinking about sailing the new boat on a parallel path soon!


Big rain eliminated the 5Th day leg to Santa Barbara, but we enjoyed 300 miles anyway. And we learned that strenuous biking burns about 5,000 calories over a 75 mile day. So we of course chose to eat like kings. Bill attacks tri tip and linguisa in Santa Maria…

Thanks for the good company, my friend! And to Mark, Dave and Steve. And especially Fred for driving the suitcase car :)

We feel your pain

It’s just plain not fair that our kid and friends in the East are nailed with all this cold, when out West it’s full-on sailing season.
But keep working hard Colin, while Dad is out messing about with boats. Today the workshop went dark for a little on water R&R thanks to Charlie’s F27 and her new screacher. We did a lot of hanging out in The Slot watching these guys.


Really interesting watching both Oracle and Artemis Americas Cup teams trying to keep the boats up on foils thru the tacks and gybes.

And it was great fun to have accomplished multihull designer Richard Woods aboard today. Check out his boats at
Smart boats that are kind to the builder and a joy to sail – the way they all should be!

Watching the boats practicing hot sailing gives another shot of energy to the build shop this week. Sorry Keith it’s so darn cold in PA that your boats can’t come out to play :(



Very motivating…

… Seeing another builder’s boat get launched! Saturday was the first dip for Andy Miller’s F22, christened “Dart” at the Alameda crane launch pad.



His project took about four years from purchasing the plans, with very impressive dedication in the off hours from his busy engineering career. It was fun watching Dart go through the build stages and it’s very inspiring to see the finished product – makes me want to get painting!


Dart floated well above her waterline (before we stacked 10+ humans aboard), the new engine fired right up, the beams unfolded perfectly, and the Ballenger rig looks fantastic. Andy has some used f24 sails to modify and use before making that one more big purchase. Can’t wait to get out sailing on this speedster :)
Great work, Captain Andy!