A canoe is a very small yacht. That is the assumption that the rebuilding of TILLIKUM is based on and the premise that will be behind the future adventures of this three masted ship that carries a famous name. Like this one, the original Tilikum was a three masted modified sailing canoe. We hope to follow in her footsteps, if not across great oceans, then across great continents.

Friday, July 24, 2009

The continuing story of Tillikum.

The story of Tillikum slips from the building stage and into the storys and adventures of my life. These are better served in the companion blog Dragongate which you can link to from here. http://gardheim.blogspot.com

Thursday, August 21, 2008

An Electrifying Experience, and Sea Trials.

Tillikum gains Electricity.
A Proper Yacht these days has electrical power to operate its various expensive gadgets: bilge pumps, lights, depth sounder, radar etc.. I wanted Tillikum to be up to date as well and I was particularly interested in an automatic bilge pump. I imagined being in an emergency situation where the canoe was taking on water and I was too busy rowing or sailing for my life to stop to bail. It would also be nice to plug in a navigation light or even a VHF radio.

The perennial problem was weight, but I found a small gel cell 12v. 7.5 amp. hr. battery that would fit through the hatch in the rear flotation compartment. I glued a plywood base for it to rest on into the bottom of the compartment with a bungee cord to keep it in place even in an upset. Wires from the battery (fused) lead through the bulkhead (sealed with marine silicone) to an automatic bilge switch and 500 gph. bilge pump set at the rear of the slot that forms the keel. A second set of wires and fuse serve a waterproof socket into which I can plug a variety of lights and a flexible solar panel for recharging. Anything else, like a GPS map plotter or cell phone can run on their own batteries.

Tillikum goes to Sea.
Late summer is a busy time around our house for my wife Heather, with a whole big vegetable garden to be processed into winter stores. There is no time to go gadding about with her husband in his latest toy, so when our friends Tom and Charlotte dropped in for a rest from their long Kayaking trip through the Gulf Islands it seemed a good time to take Tom back out to sea so I could try Tillikum out in salt water. We trailered Tillikum down to the head of Fulford Harbour and found the tide was out - way out! Having checked the tide tables, we were expecting this and it was the perfect opportunity to try out the carriage for the long walk over the sand to the water. The new wheels worked well on the hard sand and soon I was rowing out the bay somewhat disappointed not to find the canoe slipping along like greased lightning. She was no faster than my dory, but then, Edith is particularly fast.

An hour later and three miles from our launch site we went ashore at an island park for a walk and then I rigged the masts and sails and got Tom to take pictures as I sailed around in a light breeze. This time Tillikum tacked with no problems and sailed to windward well. With Tom back aboard we ran back up the harbour again in the light breeze. Running is the slowest point of sail but even so we only took another hour before we were beaching the canoe again and rolling it up to and on the trailer. Altogether a satisfactory sea trial.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Tillikum gets wheels.

Last time I put wheels under Tillikum, I borrowed the set I had made up for my dory. As they were designed to fit under the bows of the dory, the carriage was quite narrow and also fitted just back from the bow of the canoe: the weight 14 feet back at the stern was quite considerable. I needed a carriage that would be positioned close to the center balance point.

I had a couple of wheels saved from a broken lawnmower so these became the beginning of the new project. I removed the short axles and, after measuring the width needed amidships, I found a hollow metal tube the same diameter as the old axles and cut it to length. In itself it would not be rigid enough as an axle, so I forced a length of threaded rod down the center of it to stiffen it up and give a place to attach washers and nuts on to the outer ends of the axle.

A length of 2 by 4 was cut to fill the space between the wheels, a grove cut lengthwise and the axle glued into the slot with epoxy. (Washers between wheel and wood.)This stiffened the axle even more and gave a wooden frame to attach triangular plywood gussets on either end and either side. Onto these angled pieces were placed two plywood rectangular pieces to act as bunks (rests) where the canoe bottom met the carriage After a coat of paint I glued pieces of closed cell foam (old camper mat.) as the contact point for the canoe. Holes in the corners of the bunks took ropes to lash canoe to carriage. (I may replace these with cinch straps).

Strapped on amidships, partway in the unloading of canoe from the trailer, the canoe can be trundled around with one hand. Now I do not have to find a proper launching ramp or a full tide for launching. The canoe can be walked down any reasonably smooth beach, slid off the carriage into the water and the carriage left on the trailer for the reverse operation on my return.

Total cost: $0.00. Just the way I like it!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Sailing trials. S*P*L*A*S*H.

This morning Tillikum slid up onto her new trailer, trundled down the road for a short distance, and, using a set of small wheels to roll her down the hill to the water, was launched into Weston Lake.

Finishing the trailer and completing the wiring for the lights took up a long time because there is a lot of other things happening at this time of year(I`m back to work on the folkboat). The set of wheels that slip under the end of the canoe were borrowed from my dory Edith. They enable me to walk Tillikum around by holding up just one end while the wheels support the other.

Before launching, the masts were stepped, sails rigged, and rudder mounted on the stern. What a lot of pieces of string! With sails hoisted, Tillikum slid into the water, was spun around to face out into the lake, and I stepped aboard after remembering to lower the centerboard and lifting rudder.

The breeze was light and fluky, so my first sailing act was to grab an oar and paddle Tillikum away from the water lilies. The breeze filled in lightly and off we went with me learning to use the push/pull tiller, adjust the mainsheet and release and haul the jib sheets (actually, the sheets to the overlapping foresail). Oh yeah, and steer! I left the missen sheeted in and looking after itself.

When my wife Heather had enough photos I picked her up and we went for a sail around the lake. A gust soon had us running fast before it and the long narrow hull moved ahead with a rush. She was fast before the wind but the true test began as we began to beat back toward our launch site. Reaching in the gusty breeze was a test of stability and we found that with two of us instinctively adjusting our weight she was stable; not rock solid, but for people used to tippy small boats and canoes, quite OK. An extra strong gust called for the main to be eased so the two smaller sails alone carried us along. As we tacked it was difficult to bring her through the winds eye and a couple of times we backed up with a reversed rudder to bring her around. The wind was very fluky and this may not be a problem in the future. We did sail back up the lake successfully however so on the whole I`m quite happy. There were so many unknown variables in my home design of hull and sail plan .

I did work out how to manage all those pieces of string eventually. The tiller was the solution that saved my having to manage two more strings as tiller lines. That would have been too much! Next launch will be in the ocean.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Canada Day Weekend. Big Pond Sailing.

Today Tillikum took a step foreward. She tried out the trailer I have been building for her ( up and down off our van roof regularly would be a difficult stretch.) and then tried out her new sails on Big Pond. She now has push/ pull tiller steering.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

What`s in a Name?

There`s nothing quite so rewarding as painting your boat. I used the same paint for the canoe as I used for my sailboat. It`s expensive paint (one part polyurethane) but I like the results and do not want to deal with peeling paint at a later date. I used a fiberglass wash, a white primer designed for this paint and did a careful job with a brush: two coats, to cover any lingering remains of the faded blue of the original gel coat. Sometime early on in the building process I decided to aim for only an OK quality of finish and the mirror finish shows up the blemishes. For the red and yellow stripes I used a hardware store plastic paint. For interior seats and floorboards I used floor paint I had on hand. Any parts covered in epoxy/graphite I left alone.

I painted the name and home port freehand between two strips of masking tape over lightly penciled in letters.

By using the Interlux Brightside“Hatteras off white” as the main colour inside and out I kept the canoe looking simple and uncomplicated. It should be cool in the summer sunlight. It will share one common colour and a touch-up paint pot with my folk boat sailboat “Safari Kati” that I am also working on.

Painting on a name has got to be a magical moment. Up to that moment the canoe is just that - a canoe, and possibly could be a “Traveller”, or “Raven,” or a dozen other names with their attendant indications of personality. Tillikum was by no means obvious until I realized that I had built a three masted modified sailing canoe, just as Captain Voss had done around one hundred years before. The fact that his Tilikum`s name meant “friend” in a west coast Indian language clinched the decision. In Victoria, the word is also spelt “Tillicum,” so this led me to combine the two spellings to make a uniquely spelled name for this canoe. TILLIKUM. Now she is named, she has taken on a separate personality. I called her home port “Victoria” to be like that first and famous ocean going canoe and our own schooner Shiriri.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


Of all the design considerations, it was the sail plan that occupied a lot of my reading and thinking hours. It was so fascinating and there was so much choice!

Although the first dream image showed only one mast and a triangular kind of sail, I knew this was only a starting point: the sail plan would need to be low and spread out fore and aft. Three masts would do this but would this create a wild complexity of sails and standing and running rigging? I reached for books that described traditional sails like sprits and lugs and pictures of sailing canoe rigs.

The slants of the fore and aft masts evolved from the configuration of the flotation compartments at bow and stern which sloped ( and now had holes cut in so that, with a watertight hatch, they could be used for storage).Using my usual try it and see if it looks right process I used sticks as masts and spars to help me test different configurations. I then cut, tapered and rounded three cedar sticks for masts and built some supports into the canoe. There were three different types of supports at deck level. The foremast passed through the front deck, the mainmast through a piece of plywood attached at the front end to the underside of the front seat and the after mast through a plywood crosspiece at deck level. Cedar was what I had available to make the masts from and although not strong, it is light and all through the project I have worried about adding too much weight. I wrapped the places that would take the most bending stress in fiberglass cloth for strength. I made the spars in the same way, adding chafe resistance with epoxy/ graphite where spars would rub against masts.

Even at this point I was switching back and forth between a sprit rig or a lug rig. Both had their advantages, and I had used a standing lug sail on my dory. Fortunately my wife, Heather, is used to my dithering over decisions and is quite easy going as long as it does n`t involve her. I settled on a lug rig in the end but it was a near thing! The slant of the fore and aft masts was useful. The aft sail would naturally swing inward where it would normally be for sailing on the wind, and the fore sail would swing out to the side for off wind work! I added a (removable) pole outrigger on the stern to allow the easy sheeting control of the aft sail. None of the masts needed the support of standing rigging and the lug sails had only one halyard and one sheet each. I also made a small triangular sail for the aft mast for use as a riding sail in strong winds. All other sails had reef points built in so their size could be reduced. In theory, Tillikum can sail with main alone , or fore and aft alone or with a variety of reefed combinations.

Sail cloth for my tiny sails came from a big light used genoa; bought very cheaply. While I dreamed of red sails in the sunset, price and practicality won through. I first made paper patterns by sticking the sheets of newsprint directly to the yards when they were set up in their proper places and after looking and imagining how they would interact and how they could be raised and lowered, I laid them out on the sailcloth and cut them out. ( no changing my mind again now!) In a couple of hours, Heather and I had them sewn up and the next day I put in the grommets that would allow the sails to be attached to yards, sheets and allow for reef points.

This has been a most satisfying process for me because sails are such a dynamic medium - like kite making, but more so. Will they work as I imagine? Not perfectly, I`m sure, but that is part of the fun and I`m working in such a small scale, with such inexpensive materials (There is a lot more of that genoa) that I am free to try things out. Have I given the canoe too much sail? Too little? Will she go to windward well? Will three sails and tiller lines wrap me up in too much string? How exciting!

The original Tilikum