Scamp Raid on Jackson Lake

They’re beautiful lakes in the Rocky Mountains.  Jackson lake ranks among the most scenic.

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Northern Cross resting peacefully in Colter Bay.

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Approaching Moran Bay, Teton National Park

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We got a lot of looks with our classic wooden boat.

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Johnny Walker with his modified Balanced Cat Ketch rig on Scamp #24.  Jonny’s had a lot of experience sailing with his family and developed a unique Scamp to suit his voyaging philosophy.

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Scamp #24 had lots of mods and was even powered by a through transom electric motor

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Hal powering around on his SUP/chair combo amongst fellow boaters.  Hal’s a mountain climber, sailor, kayaker, boat builder and good conversationalist.  His athleticism defies his age.

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Skiff America’s flat bottom beaches with ease.  Here we took some time to explore the shore and take a nap.

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Jennifer exploring a small bay off the South end of Jackson lake.

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The folding bikes (Brompton’s) worked well to access more scenic vistas.

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We secured the bikes on the dock and cruised away on our Skiff.  This made us feel quite hip.

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At this high altitude, the weather can change in an instant.

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The bow works well for photography

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Paul Breeding aboard Northern Cross traveling into Moran Bay.  He’s the only guy I know (other than myself) who has built both a Scamp and Skiff America.  It was great to meet Paul, after having had many phone conversations with him over the years.

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You’ve got to see Moran Bay in person to appreciate the majesty of this peaceful remote bay.

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I had so much fun on this lake, I came back a few days later with my dad and 2 of my sons.  Bennett loves to drive.

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Here we are going where only kayaks can go.  We floated through 8″ of water to access another bay on the lake.  That’s a kayak coming in behind us.  They were amazed we could make this passage.  With the motor raised, we paddled right through.

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It rained and hailed for a few minutes.  My dad and sons take cover under the cabin.  This is a very versatile boat that can change with the weather.

Summary:

Northern Cross has impressed me with every adventure I’ve pursued.  It’s a boat that many misunderstand.  It does what it’s designed to do and continues to amaze me with its versatility, efficiency, ease of towing, affordability and good looks, to name but a few of it’s virtues.  You almost have to own this boat in order to understand it.  

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Ririe Reservoir, Idaho

Today I got out with some of our kids to explore and play on a nearby reservoir.

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The paddle boards proved a huge hit.

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We hauled two paddle boards across the back of Northern Cross.  The didn’t move an inch.  

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We offset the fins and placed the paddles across the top.  

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Bennett loves to drive.

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The older kids blasted the tunes inside the cabin.  We all had a great time.

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The cabin cover proved an excellent place to get out of the sun.  By removing the filler boards, you still get good air movement through the cabin.  

Parting Shot:

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It doesn’t get much better than this folks.  A great time was had by all.  

What we learned:

  1. The paddle boards were a total hit.  By tying up to a dock, it allowed the kids to play on the boards and explore the area.
  2. With the bimini up and cabin top installed, we had a huge amount of shade and a great place to lay down and get out of the sun.  With the filler boards removed, we still had excellent air flow through this area.
  3. Music as provided by the teenagers, keep things hopping.
  4. Food out on the water is essential and keeps everyone happy.
  5. The boat works as well as a transport tool and it does and exploring rig.

Summary:

My kids had so much fun on our Skiff America.  It was very rewarding for me as the builder to see my kids having so much fun on a boat I built.  I’m very impressed by the design and functionality of this simple, affordable water craft.  We spent $9 dollars in gas for this excellent outing.  Amazing, just simply amazing.  Kilburn Adams, thank you for designing this most excellent boat!

Skiff America at Hebgen Lake, MT.

Hebgen Lake is a beautiful, large mountain lake minutes out of West Yellowstone.  Jennifer and I spent Friday exploring this beautiful lake.

Check it out:

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The cabin offers tremendous wind protection with the front filler boards in place.  The lap trays worked extremely well for multiple uses.

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The No Feed Back Steering system allows you to steer by shifting your weight.  This makes it very handy when motoring.  

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Here I’m standing in the cabin footwell, steering by shifting my weight.  This was a lot of fun.

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Mountain Dew happens to be my preferred beverage of choice.  

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The front cushions provide a great place to kneel.

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The bow breastplate is a great place for observing wildlife.  We came upon several large pelican colonies.  

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First Mate takes her turn at the wheel.

What I learned:

  1. The boat is extremely versatile.
  2. You can steer from the wheel, or by standing in the cockpit or footwell and shifting your weight.
  3. The bimini is fast to deploy and a must have for sunny days.
  4. Lap trays are very handy for a variety of task when a built-in table is too big.
  5. I motored for 4.5 hours and burned approximately 5.5 gallons of fuel.

Summary:

This boat is going to be an excellent tool for exploring our mountain lakes.

Family Cycling with DaVinci Grand Junctions

I love a lot of outdoor pursuits.  Things like:  backpacking, cycling, sailing, RV’ing, hiking, outdoor photography, rafting and nordic skiing.  Near the top of this list is cycling, even better yet might be family cycling.  When I speak of family cycling a few challenges immediately raise their ugly heads.  You already know what the issues are:  Things like keeping the kids happy, keeping the kids hydrated, keeping the kids on the right side of the road and keeping the kids motivated to push the pedals.  At a young age, their attention span is simply too short, they lag behind and become uninterested.  In fact, one of the biggest challenges of cycling with kids is keeping yourself from screaming at your kids instead of enjoying your kids.    

So what’s the solution?  Although not the only solution, the best solution from my way of thinking is a tandem.  Yes, a bicycle built for 2.  The benefits of the tandem riding with your kids are:

  1. Your child never lags behind
  2. Your child never feels like they’re too slow
  3. Your child never swerves out into the road
  4. Your child feels like they’re part of a team, cuz they are
  5. Your child doesn’t need to navigate
  6. Your child doesn’t need to shift gears
  7. Your child doesn’t need to brake and/or steer

This leaves your child free to sing and tell stories as you cycle along at a much faster pace than otherwise possible.  And, sing they will.  Trust me, I’ve owned four tandems in my past and always been amazed at how children open up while riding a tandem.

But, tandems companies have fallen by the way side over the last decade or so, leaving fewer and fewer manufactures.  Subsequently, tandem prices have risen significantly and many families have chosen to forgo this most excellent form of family togetherness. Additionally, many tandem manufactures have decided to cater to the high end performance market, leaving the availability of family tandems even further behind.  As I have scoured the market for what I feel represents a great family machine for a fair price, I’ve found one offering that seems to stand out amongst the others.

First, Let’s review my family tandem criteria:

  1. Tire size accommodation:   This is hugely important and rarely address by manufactures.  Idaho has a ton of great off road trails.  You simply cannot ride these trails with a 1″ or even a 1.25″ tire, yet few manufactures understand this or at least care to address this critical issue.  I’ve tried on several occasions to get CoMotion Cycles to widen the legs of their Periscope (which otherwise would make an excellent family tandem), without success.  I refuse to buy a tandem that won’t allow good tire clearances for different trail conditions.  If you can’t run a 2″ tire, many of our trails would be utterly unridable.  Why say no to these trails?  Why not allow for wider tires?  How hard is it folks?  Truth is, it’s not hard at all, they’re just stuck in their corporate ways.
  2. Adjustability for different rider heights:  Frames with small stoker positions help fit a wider range of riders.  This can be accomplished by several tandems once the kids reach about 10 and above.
  3. Rack compatible:  What if we want to run the Great Allegheny Passage?  We’ll need both tire clearance and a full complement of panniers with possibly even a trailer.  Versatile tandems offer a plethora of mounting points for bicycle touring.
  4. Value oriented:  Still a lot of money at $3,500 each.  But, I wasn’t happy with the cheaper options offered by KHS and Raleigh.  They simply didn’t fit the criteria stated above.  For a quality built versatile tandem, you’ll need to spend around this amount (at least that’s been my experience).

Here’s what we settled on:

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Meet the DaVinci Grand Junction.  This quality tandem, developed by DaVinci Cycles out of Colorado, will be our next wonder horse.  Given our family size, we needed two.   One bought one in size Small, the other in size Medium.  My wife can captain the small, while I can captain the medium.  This will allow us to attend tandem rallies and experience other trails with our youngest children in the stoker position.

Benefits of a Grand Junction:

  1. Tire widths accommodating a full 2,1/4″ knobby.
  2. Independent pedaling:  DaVinci uses the term “independent coasting”.  This allows your child to stop pedaling to eat a granola bar, shed a jacket or take a drink, while you continue pedaling.  If they get tired, let ’em take a break while you continue to make forward progress.  This may prove very beneficial with younger stokers.  With linked pedals…they stop and you stop.  I would prefer to keep moving forward even if it means only under solo power.
  3. Drop bars for efficient crossings.  I prefer drop bars for road riding and non aggressive off road riding.  Think multiple hand positions.
  4. Disc brakes for smooth control on the down hills.
  5. Good stand over range accommodated by sloping top tube.
  6. Steel Frame:  I would always choose a good chrome moly frame over an aluminum frame, especially when comfort is on the line.
  7. Quality:  DaVinci is an quality American company whose products will last a lifetime.  You can also pick up the phone and speak to them any day of the week.

Check out their web site for a host of other advantages.  I’ll do a full review of these tandems once we log a few hundred miles.  Let’s just say on paper, I’m sold.

Is it worth the expense?

You’ll need to answer that question for yourself.  As for us, we’re dreaming of doing the C&O Tow Path and the Great Allegheny Passage with our kids.  That trip alone would make this investment totally worth it to me.  Add on all the local rides, along with tandem rallies and family cycling works out to be a very affordable form of family recreation.  Let’s do this another way:  For the price of one cheap ATV, you could buy 2 family tandems and do a ton of family riding, with very little continued expense.  Your ATV will require yearly Off Road stickers, oil changes, tune-ups, a trailer to haul it and a tow vehicle to pull it.  Not to mention another garage to store it.  The list goes on and on.  Family cycling teaching your kids a much healthier lifestyle.  It teaches them to enjoy the simple things, to experience and appreciate nature.  The quiet things of life that are so desperately missing from their daily lifestyles of texting and tweeting.  And, might I add a much more sustainable lifestyle going forward.  Yes, to us, it’s definitely worth the expense.  

 

 

Fire Extinguisher

After looking at other options, I decided to mount the fire extinguisher under the port side bunk, next to the battery.  Maybe this is a bad idea, if the battery explodes, but I can move it later if needed.

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I used the battery strap to secure the fire extinguisher.  There is room to slip the extinguisher out without loosening the strap.  Notice the (2) 12V receptacles near the upper edge of the photograph.  These will be handy to charge digital devices when motoring.  Remember, the 25 Yamaha has an alternator for charging when motoring.

 

Steering Wheel Cover

I love the look of the wooden steering wheel, but the center hole with accompanying bolt needed some attention.

Here’s what I came up with:

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1/4″ okoume plywood scrap. I traced Cygnus the Swan constellation onto the cap. 

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Three small stainless steel screws secured the cap to the wheel.

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Summary:

I have several more small things to touch-up to complete the build.  Then, Northern Cross will be off to the upholstery shop for travel cover, cushions, cabin top and bimini.

Bow Eye, Trailer Winch and Rub Plate

Now just finishing the small details that remain in the building of Northern Cross.  Up next was the bow eye, the trailer winch and the stainless steel rub plate.

Check it out:

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I had a local fabrication shop make me this rub guard. It’s from stainless steel .058″. There’s actually a double bend in the steel to keep the aft edges tight against the boat.  If you look real closely, you can almost see it.  

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The bow eye was first cut to length, the run all the way through the stem.  Ordered from West Marine,  it started as a 6″ long U bolt.  

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Here’s the entire ensemble all hooked up and ready to go down the road.

Summary:

Up next, I’m making a small wooden cover plate for the steering wheel bolt.  

Then Northern Cross will be off to the boat shop for bimini, cushions and cabin cover.  I can’t believe I’m actually nearing the finish line with this build.  It was almost one year ago exactly, when I started.  I’m so glad I did!

Final Touches to Motor Cover

From the onset of this project, I had a very distinct look I was trying to achieve with the motor cover.  It was just in my head, but it was somewhat of a vision.  When I was a small boy I saw a wooden motorboat with a wooden flag pole mounted to its stern.  That look has stayed with me for years.  Now at age 51, I have the chance to recreate that look on my own hand built wooden boat.

Here it is:

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I added Teak handles to aid in boarding from the lake.  Notice, they aren’t epoxied and varnished?  I’m experimenting with the maintenance of oil on Teak.  Also, Teak has so much resin in the wood, I’m not sure how well epoxy will bond to it.  These handles contained so much resin, it almost felt like I could wring them out.

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Basic stainless hinges from West Marine.

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Now, what’s that on the back?  Awe, that’s the stainless steel flag pole mount.

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I used a forsner bit to cut the foam for the flag mount bolts.

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I love the look of the US Yacht Ensign.  This flag measures 12″ x 18″.

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I drilled a 3/16″ hole through the flag pole to secure the flag.  I used nylon line to secure the flag.

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The teak pole is 24″ tall.  The bottom is turned to 1″ which fits perfectly inside the stainless flag holder.

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The flag holder angles aft for a soft look and uses a small set screw to secure the flag.  

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This photo gives you the proportion of the flag to that of the boat.  I think the proportion is just right.

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The taper on the teak pole is stunningly elegant and beautiful.  

Summary:

It’s very rewarding for me to see the final outcome of the motor cover.  I almost gave up on this step…just got impatient and frustrated with it’s design.  I’m so glad I stuck with it and finished this boat off with this key visual element.

Houston, We Have a Lid

It’s been long in the coming, but here it is.

Check it out:

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I added a small cleat (1/2″ x 1″) to the under side, aft end of motor cover to stiffen the lid.

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I added a small fillet under the lid on all sides.

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I’ll add a foam panel under the lid once the epoxy cures.

Summary:

I’m very pleased with the simplicity and strength of this motor cover.  I can’t wait to see it mounted to the motor well.  I’ll now focus on applying varnish to both the motor cover and loading ladder.   

Adding Sounding to the Motor Cover

I can see 3 reasons to build a motor cover:

  1. to add beauty when looking aft by covering the outboard.
  2. to create a hand hold to facilitate boarding from the lake.
  3. and, possibly the most important of all, to make the outboard quieter.

I’d like to make my outboard as quiet as possible.  My strategy is to add closed cell foam to dampen the sound coming forward off the motor.  Glued on the underside of the motor cover, this foam is non intrusive, and out of sight.  The grey color is visually much more subtle than the standard bright blue you typically see and it matches my color scheme.

Check it out:

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This is a typical exercise mat from Walmart for $14.95.  These mats work very well because they lay flat and are 3/8″ thick.  They are made from closed cell foam making them 100% waterproof. 

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Using a Sharpie, I tracked around the parts of the motor cover.

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After tracing the parts, I cut 1/2″ inside the lines as not to crowd the edges.  

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I then made allowances for the hinges.  

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I taped off the areas that will not receive the Contact Cement.  

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With all the pieces ready to go, I pulled down the Contact Cement.  

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I used a throw away chip brush to apply the glue.  It went on smoothly and evenly.  

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After waiting 15-20 minutes, you can carefully apply the foam to the side panels.  The adhesion is instantaneous and secure.  Hopefully it will hold up well to the moist environment.  Time will tell. But, I’m only out 15 bucks if it all goes south.  I’ll take that gamble.  

Summary:

 I elected to add the sounding prior to assembling the cover.  Most of these steps are easier to accomplish flat on the bench.  I’m now ready to start assembling the parts and designing the top lid.  Nothing happens fast when I build a boat, but I’m pleased with how things are coming together.