Wind / man Power


Author supplied image

One of the little John Bell Blondie dinghies Roger and I have been working on is now in my garage waiting for a final coat of paint. There is still much to do before it will be launched, but Roger has taken his to Robe South Australia.

He anticipates it will handle well, even in choppy water, because it has a “rocker” bend in the flat floor. He likes to fish and he thinks Robe might give him a chance to catch some whiting. I hope he does because he was so excited to pack it with his fishing paraphernalia before he left.

It has oars roped to the gunnels. Rod keepers are screwed to the chine, or walls. In the bow he has ropes and the anchor stowed. In the stern it has an emergency flotation locker beneath the seat he has packed lures, line and hooks. He says because of its flat bottom when the dropdown keel is in place it should be easy to stand up and stretch his legs when he has been sitting for a while. This is much easier than his old dinghy which has a v shaped floor. All in all it should be much easier to row and manage on land, than the one it replaces. He understands we are getting older and he thinks he will get a small motor, to save having to row it in future.

I propose to give mine the name “Inshore Lady” in the next few days. I don’t fish. I don’t even sail, but stripped of its fishing garb and fitted with a balanced lug sail I intend to finish it so it can be sailed. The purpose was never to own a boat but to make one. Now it has reached this stage I am sorry I did not do more of the making myself. I fabricated it, and helped at every stage, but because it was made in Roger’s workshop he did much more in my absence than I expected.

In the long term I will have a sail boat a (grandchild) person should be able to sail easily. Roger will have a tender he can fish from – especially when he fits a motor.

The boat has been constructed in a stitch and glue procedure. This simple construction method has enabled the boat to be built and held together with plywood, a “peanut butter” consistency of resin , fibreglass, and flow coat. It has a few screws in it as well. Refer to my earlier post. John Mansfield inspired sea fever. https://onlinebluemoons.home.blog/2019/12/22/john-masefield-inspired-sea-fever/

The motor Roger expects to fit, and the screws it has used, have in common the use of the benefits of a helix. I am sorry Tom Lehrer did not produce a song about the helix. If you are unaware it is one of nature’s wonders. He did however compose “Mathematics”. Sensibly it all comes down to mathematics whether the boat is driven by a motor, by oars, or by the wind.

It is impossible to ignore the helix though. In its most complex form it holds the mystery of life itself. Our DNA is formed in a series of double helix. Best remembered with the nemonic, WCW, Wilkins, Crick, and Watson they were awarded the Noble Prize in 1962. From 1950 – 1952 Wilkins led a team to solve the nature of DNA. In the following year, Crick and Watson created a model to illustrate its complexity – in 1953.

The helix gives a screw the mechanical strength to pull pieces together. The propeller does the same with water, or with air, as it pulls – or pushes the transport along. The helix is also found on the human body. The cartilage around the outer ear is called the helix. It is only in writing I realised my grandmother wore her hair in a helix. The bun she wore at the back of her head is a helix. (A coil of rope – a like example).

Our boats, at least mine, sits waiting until we finish it’s rudder and tiller. A sail boat is steered by the sailor adjusting the sail against the wind. She can do this quite accurately except for sailing directly into the wind. One sixth of the compass direction the wind is blowing from cannot be sailed directly toward. (Imagine the wind is blowing from the twelve o’clock position. The boat cannot directly make progress against the wind from the ten o’clock to the two o’clock position). With the use of reserved speed, and with the sail down, a tiller enables the sailor to steer the yacht accurately toward a jetty even against the wind.

Some would say I am over thinking all this, especially by banging on about the helix. In response apart from the doing – it is all academic until I get the thing in the water anyway.


In explanation I choose to call the dinghy Inshore Lady, first because boats are most commonly referred to in feminine term. Therefore she is a lady. Secondly, Inshore, because she will be sailed close to shore for safety reasons. Finally it is a nice little semantic link to our home in Inshore Drive to recognise where she lives.


The discovery of the living matter we humans are constructed from – Deoxyribonucleic Acid or DNA for short) only came about from knowledge of the helix. The unraveling of its mystery is a marvellous achievement. The men and (the unacknowledged Rosalind Franklin a radiographer of photograph 51 used to create the DNA model) who discovered it were brilliant. The three main names (WDW) each earned PhD’s before their twenty-first birthday. (This writer had barely earned his driver’s licence at the same age). It is because DNA is understood scientists are now able to work with the human genome and find cures and remedies for the most terrible diseases. Amazing indeed. It was only explained first with knowledge of the helix.


Tom Lehrer deserves a mention for I found his satirical and comedic songs wonderful. This man of mathematics could have wasted his life on his popular ditties but he gave away fame to follow his passion. There is a message there. Become , and remain, passionate in order to lead a life well lived.

The mathematics song https://youtu.be/X6uyPL46Vi0

John Masefield inspired Sea-Fever

Around fifteen years after my school class read John Masefield’s poem “Sea-Fever” we were reading about his death in 1967. His lines beginning with, “ I must go down to the seas again….” impacted on me from the start.

In the intervening years I lived near lakes. Later all my visits to the coast were to the fishing villages near the Twelve Apostles. In the mornings the fishermen would return to shore and I would watch as they hauled their Couta boats out of the water onto the pier. Thus I saw the results of working as sea from the safety of the land.

Consequently my experience with boats is very limited. In fact to say I had an occasional sails on Gippsland lakes would sum it up.

Once though I spent thirty hours in Bass Strait on a 36 ft yacht. We started in blissfully calm waters that turned into a raging forty knot storm through the night. On that occasion my faith in boats was buoyed by memories of sticks, and how when tossed into a stream, they always floated. So I did on it. To think of sailors lost in stormy seas would have been too terrible that night.

Now I find, for reasons that can only be fathomed by analysis of my unconscious mind, I am building a dinghy. The plans suggest it can be fitted with a small sail. The knowledge it can be propelled by the wind has had me imagine I can pass on my love of sailing to my grandchildren playing in it. If I build one they can sail it single handedly, this is how I imagine it anyway.

Roger and I each started building “Blondie” a John Bell stitch-and-glue designed dinghy a few weeks ago. I think you need to come up to speed about how it is going.

The journey of this little boat started with a visit to the Internet where we found its rudimentary plans. From there we visited VJS Victorian Joinery Supplies and found marine plywood at a good price. Because we were building two boats we bought four sheets 1200×2400. fig 1.

Fig 1

When we got them to Roger’s workshop the first job was to measure and mark the dimensions of our first cuts. Like good tradesmen we measured twice before cutting. (It is safer to recheck your work before putting it under a saw. So we did.) We carefully measured and checked our cuts and work began. Fig 2.

Fig 2

We cut and rounded off two bottoms, two left sides and two right sides.

Then we used cable ties to pull the pieces together after we drilled holes every so often.

The boats came together when we applied resin and fibreglass around the inside joins. Fig 3

Fig 3

The job has only just begun but now you can see we each have a boat like shape. Fig 4

Fig 4

Thanks for reading. Come back again to follow the next stages.

Reference wpbsa.com

I am in unfamiliar water. If you are reading this then you are probably a blogger and you may understand. Perhaps you have had the same compulsion as me, and got up out of bed in the middle of the night and started to write. This is what I am doing now and I am unfamiliar with this urge.

My sleepless mind is urging me to begin. I liken what is happening to the desire my mother had at this time of the year. When she was making more than one Christmas cake. She cooked them slowly. That meant she would go to bed and would jump out in the middle of the night to pull a cake out of the oven when everyone was asleep. Perhaps it reminds me of being called from bed by a crying child who was weeping in fright. Perhaps the child was in pain but the little soul would not drop of to sleep again without a reassuring pat from a parent.

I do not know why this urge compels me to write tonight because the job of reassuring our children invariably was one I happily delegated to my wife. At any rate I am now well awake and tapping out something that seems quite compelling to me even at this unearthly hour. Hence it may not make sense.

My story is about my brushes with music, and music makers. Brushes is the word I choose but, bump – into, fits better the analogy i have in my mind. I envision telling this set of incidents as a game of billiards, or times in my life I have bumped into folk who have moulded me.. (I don’t play billiards and those childhood games I did play at the Coverdale’s table were brutal. I lost, because too often I left my ball exposed to an easy shot by my opponent. It happened when, where the billiards stopped allowed a good player to score freely.)

Bear with me – what I am proposing is to link the times in my life when I have been with musicians and close to music only to cannon off on some new pursuit, or I moved away and never took up with them again.

Let the game begin.

LAG. To begin. In turn the players hit the white, or the yellow ball, from the back cushion and cannon off the other end and finish nearest the starting point. The first to play is the closest.

Mrs GwenTucker and Mrs Elsie McAlpine were trained opera singers. Soprano voices of great depth and clarity allowed them to sing the ancient hymnal with ease. They were able to sight read the music as easily as the organist and they formed the basis of our choir. The ancient Fincher pipe organ was donated to the Church fifty years before and yet it played as new. I was a junior choirboy. My voice worked best when I sang with John for he found the notes as easily as his mother. I got to enjoy choral music from this simple start although I was marked as a failed pianist by the time I left primary school.

The hymns we sang followed the seasons of the church. The congregation sang along led by the choir everyone reading the chosen words from the hymnal. The music and the hymns were traditional. Nothing we sang was new music. Yet I loved the sound as it vibrated around and through me.

I hadn’t been in the choir long when my future brother-in-law appeared as the new organist. With his keen ear he heard occasional discordant notes so he auditioned every choir member. Without John beside me I was tentative and weak of voice and before I was allowed to sing with them again he gave me some individual lessons. With my piano lessons finishing in naught I was even more hesitant of these. I need not have worried because he could not dismiss any of the volunteers who sang with him.

My love of music for the pipe organ began with him. He took any opportunity he had to demonstrate his mastery of the implement to play Bach, or any of his favourites, when he was at the console.

DIAMONDS. The inlaid geometrical markings on the table the player uses to plan a shot. Billiards depends on skill and an appreciation of geometry. Here is one.

The best part of ignorance is it gives you such a vast ranges of things to learn. Whatever you select to discover – it will help to educate you. The difficulty is it is hard to decide what to do.

In my first weeks at Teachers College I had to decide on an elective subject. I could have chosen anything but I chose the music elective. It was a chance to study music appreciation. A very young Peter Larsen was the lecturer in charge. He loosely based his sessions on a book by Aaron Copeland. Perhaps it was “What to listen for in music.” I no longer remember. What I do remember is the passion he gave to the few of us in his charge.

We could have just wasted our time but he challenged us to grow. Not only did we listen to music he got us to compose pieces as well. At one point he asked us to write a canon. (Think Pachelbels Canon”) He made it a competition. The winner would play their composition at a college assembly (You wish) Each week he would look at what we produced and early on he announced I had produced the best piece to date.

In the end the award went to someone deserving. Fortunately Elaine the girl that won had studied music for seven years. What I got from it was an understanding of the relationship of numbers and patterns we find in music. It licensed me to tell kids. Maths is beautiful.

A teacher never immediately knows the impact they have on a child’s life. How your past catches up can humble you. In the last couple of years out of nowhere I received this uninvited email.

Hi Mr Wxxxxxx

I think you taught me at Carstairs Primary school in the 70’s.

My name then was Ruth O’Brien and your mantra was ‘Maths is beautiful’

NATURAL. (Carom games) A shot with only natural angle and stroke required for successful execution; a simple or easily visualized, and accomplished, scoring opportunity.

The first natural in my world is niece Karen. She has a bell like clarity in her voice. In her first weeks at school Noreen discovered she had such a beautiful sound she used her at every opportunity she could.

Whenever I hear her sing I am moved to tears.

The next voice of equivalent clarity belonged to Peter the Troubled. His voice was as clear that as the young Welch singer Aled Jones. Peter caused me much grief but it was all forgotten when he sang. Our school produced a concert version of Joseph’s Amazing Technicolor Coat and he was our amazing lead. (Using Facebook I have discovered he is leading a very productive life and this is pleasant news.)

Natural ability at music is the talent of Peter, Alan, and Terry Norman. Both have perfect pitch. Terry was the next brilliant organist into which it was my fortune to bump. Meredith of course helped build discipline into the young piano player who later learned to play the flute so well in our home.

Some people have no trouble with their natural talent yet it is my keenly held prejudice that too many of the smartest people I know (those named excluded) have wasted theirs. That may become a story for another day. The billiards game is over. I had but three points to make and like billiards play finishes with the first person to win the agreed number of points.

1. Thank you for reading my prose. I appreciate your feed back so today, please comment.

2. Would you spend 5 seconds reading adds (while I make money) before you viewed a page link I reference.

3. If you like a billiards story here is a link I found. Someone will be paid.