How I built my first boat. A 50' 23 ton yawl

Discussion in 'Boatbuilding' started by capt.fred, Dec 2, 2015.

  1. capt.fred
    Joined: Dec 2015
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    capt.fred Capt. Fred

    n 1974 I had very little sailing experience. I designed; hand built a 50 foot sail boat the Daedalus. The following are excerpts of chapter 11 of my autobiography, then later further chapters 12 through 16 if y’all are a bit interested. Thank you Capt. Fred.

    Little did I expect to find a partial plywood mold disintegrating in a back yard? The bow and aft end were mostly missing. That old useless mold got my juices going and I could see thru all that mess a very beautiful potential for a hull. The basic shape for this sailboat hull was there and with a lot of bracing and bending, I figured I could do something with it
    . At that time in history people were building thousands of boats up and down the entire West Coast from Canada to San Diego. I found a build it yourself boat yard on Gutierrez Street in Santa Barbara and rented a little corner of the yard.

    About 8 other boats were under construction. Some were under construction for as long as 10 to 15 years, Also, transferring ownership that many times. One fellow boat builder, an Engineer, who said he went through two wives and families already while building his boat, really scoffed at me when I said I would be done in about three years. He asked if I was going to buy a boat kit, which were available in different stages of construction. “No from scratch”, I answered. When he saw the old mold, he raised one eyebrow. His sympathy for me was obvious. At the yard we all became friends and trusted and watched out for each others stuff.

    Thousands of boats were under construction on the West Coast and old wooden boats were being demolished by the hundreds of thousands worldwide. Beautiful bronze parts were available. Fiber glass materials were relatively inexpensive and distressed sales were all over the place.

    I heard that 10,000 ferro cement boats were built on the West Coast. Sadly, presently there are only a few of them left. The steel mesh armature and sea water make a nice battery that just ate them up. My engineer friend in my boat yard was building out of cement, and he launched at the same time as I launched the DAEDALUS. His 60 foot Ferro cement settled in at about 12 inches above the waterline, to just below the portholes. That is what mindset is all about! However, he just raised the waterline and kept the port holes sealed.

    The miracle I experienced building the DAEDALUS was mystifying to say the least. When I needed something, whatever it was, resin, a bronze fitting, the mast, whatever it was. It just seemed to materialize. I found it shortly somewhere. It is almost like something was watching over me and always has. In adventures yet to come, at sea especially, you’ll see what I mean about being watched over. I’m not superstitious or religious, I’m just sayin…

    The mold was restored and I fashioned a bow and stern section as I saw fit. I painted the mold with a can of light colored paint, I found lying around. Then I heavy waxed the mold. BTW, I built scaffolding that went all around the inside of the mold without touching it, out of some used 2X10 lumber I found. Now I could reach it all and store supplies and cans and buckets of resin around. I did make a few mistakes, but a major one was not to take a pictorial record of the whole procedure. Big mistake! I did build a kind of shed over, with very valuable used sails I had salvaged. I did not know how valuable they were.

    A beautiful old 1930’s 50 foot sloop named the “LAST STRAW”, designed by the most famous yacht builder, Herreshoff,

    It had just left Santa Barbara heading north, to be refitted in San Francisco; she hit the rocks at dangerous Point Conception and was destroyed. Somebody dove and cut off the enormous lead keel, she floated on to the beach. Some farmer said it was his beach and he chained sawed that beautiful yacht into pieces, right through another skylight and some other precious parts.

    Frantically I was in the fray trying to save what I could from the LAST STRAW. For $1,000 I saved almost all the major bronze, including all the winches, cleats, sails, beautiful famous Herreshoff teak and copper hatches and thousands of other parts, anchors lines, turnbuckles etc., etc. I was stoked; the antique stainless gimbaled 4 burner propane stove alone was worth almost a $1000. The DAEDALUS was becoming a reality.

    There was a furniture factory on on side of the boat yard. Up on the 2nd floor there was one lonely 3 foot wide aluminum sliding window. Out of curiosity I got my ladder and looked in. It was right next to the DAEDALUS. It was a pine paneled room with a sink, refrig, double bed, carpet floor. Hey, what else do we need? Ok, a toilet, which was in the factory. Wow! I spoke to the amiable owner and he rented the room to us and we became kind of his night watchmen and friends. He had just kicked out a girl friend he had secreted in that room. What luck we loved it and moved a ladder to the window and that was our front door to our cozy home for a couple of years. It was great. Friends and relatives visited us there from all over the Country. We ate lots of tortillas and drank lots of rum in that boat yard.

    End Chapter 11. Further chapters will descibe how I built the 50 foot 23 ton Daedalus and then take you on some of this novice sailor’s adventures. If anyone shows some interest...
    3 people like this.
  2. gonzo
    Joined: Aug 2002
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    gonzo Senior Member

    Great story
  3. whitepointer23

    whitepointer23 Previous Member

    Waiting for the next chapter.
  4. Mr Efficiency
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    Mr Efficiency Senior Member

    What could have saved all those ferro boats ? Galv ? Hop dipped galv ? Prayer ? :p
  5. hoytedow
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    hoytedow Old Woodbutcher

    Welcome, Capt. Fred.
    I built my first boat with furring strips, plywood and galvanized screws. I sealed it with DAP bathroom caulk. It was only eight feet long.
  6. capt.fred
    Joined: Dec 2015
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    Location: Elberta, Al.

    capt.fred Capt. Fred

    Part 2; How I built a boat

    I Just noticed none of the photos copied. will try to figure out how to do the photos...

    Chapter Twelve
    1974 thru 1977 Part two (Building and launching the Daedalus)

    The Lay-up: If you are interested, this part is for you. If not, then please skip to somewhere further on, because I’m basically just reminiscing about all this. Laying up a fiberglass hull that extended out 45 feet was a feat. I will call the DAEDALUS 50 feet because of all the overhangs and booms that stick out. That is what I was charged in fees at most docks. Yes 50 feet 23 tons overall.

    It is a coincidence that the boat took a total of 23 each 55 gallon drums of resin, 23 rolls of 1 ½ oz. matt and 23 rolls of 12 oz. roving. 17 drums of resin were polyester and 6 drums were Epon epoxy. Well 1st you cut a pile of 30 inch wide X 60 inch long sections of matt and a separate pile of roving with a razor knife on a sheet of plywood. Don’t waste your time with a scissor.

    BTW, coincidence # 2 that one double layer of fabric around the whole hull required one drum of resin, one roll of matt and one roll of roving. Also one 30X60 double layer, 1 matt, 1 roving, required one gallon of resin.

    Here’s a major problem in manufactured boats. Many fiberglass boats had what were known as air bubbles in the lay up, I had none. These bubbles sometimes showed up years later and were a torture to the industry and very expensive to remove. They were unnecessary. They were simply caused by the rolling on the resin, while wetting down the fabric. Practically the whole fiberglass boat building industry was doing it. I thought that when that resin set up those tiny air bubbles that were almost invisible, would expand and be concealed by the next double layer of chopped matt and roving.

    Starting at the top edge of the mold, (gunnel or coaming) when I hand laid my hull, I just slightly wet the mold, laid the 30X60 matt down, then totally wet the matt, sloshing it liberally on with a brush, then laid the roving over the matt, wet as necessary and then I just squeejee’d all the bubbles out and the excess resin flowed with matt particles to the bottom of the mold (hull). I lapped the next section about 6 inches and repeated that around the entire mould until the entire mould was coated with a double layer that were all lapped about 6 inches. Now I had a hull 1/8 inch thick in the field and ¼ inch thick at the 6 inch laps. I continued that process around the mould until I had a substantially thick hull, able to be run aground on the rocks, because after all that ocean sailing reading, I realized that I was “Chicken Of The Sea” and I was.

    I just wanted you to sense the effort that went into just the bare beginning of that boat. One had to be very driven. I hardly took a day off. And slowly a beautiful hand crafted ship materialized. Many people walk away from their projects and many took time off, but taking time off turned a 30 month project into a 15 year project and I still had that Island of Inagua in my mind. Maybe not that particular exact Island, but that adventure lay before us. That is what Carol and I felt we wanted.

    By mid 1977, we were ready to launch. Boat slips in Santa Barbara were very hard to come by and we were on a waiting list and our number was coming up, we had to launch. The City rules were, your registered boat had to ready be put in the slip within a very short window of time, once your number came up. No ifs or buts, we made arrangements with a boat mover in Los Angeles and he kept saying he would come up this week, then next on and on.

    A couple weeks before the boat launcher finally showed, we saw smoke on the horizon south and day after day the great Santa Barbara fire came closer and closer. No mover and those propane gas storage tanks were a real concern. Hundreds and hundreds of homes were burning and the eucalyptus trees, because they were so oily would just explode out in front of the wind driven flames over hill after hill, we were getting covered with ashes. We removed some stuff, but we just resigned to our fate. At some point I felt a cool breeze on the back of my neck and the steady wind rapidly changed direction and the fire raged up some adjacent hill and we were spared.

    After some to do, we were launched, but we lost our boat slip, due to timing. Slip fees in the visitor slip were exorbitant. We decided to go back to San Francisco. We Launched on August 23, 1977. Carol finished her 3rd year in December 1977. The University was preparing to transfer me to a position in the USCB Architect’s Department.. A big promotion and step up in the University of California system. We practiced sailing the DAEDALUS and worked on her continuously.

    On December 17, 1977 I proposed to Carol and two days later on Friday, December 19, 1977, Carol and I were married. Our friends from La Cresta in Los Altos Hills unexpectedly showed up in Santa Barbara on the boat that evening, as they were passing thru to L.A. We told the minister not to say anything and when we announced what the minister was doing there, all our girl friends starting uncontrollable crying. It was the best..!

    Over the Christmas holidays in a cold winter rain storm we left Santa Barbara and took a treacherous winter sail north to San Francisco.

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Dec 3, 2015
  7. capt.fred
    Joined: Dec 2015
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    capt.fred Capt. Fred

    Part 3, for boat & Chapter 13 of my autobiography

    Chapter Thirteen
    1977 thru 1979 (First real experiences on the Daedalus)

    You know what the first rule of sailing is? ...Love. You can learn all the math in the 'verse, but you take
    a boat to the sea you don't love, she'll shake you off just as sure as the turning of the worlds. Love keeps
    her going when she oughta fall down, tells you she's hurting 'fore she keens. Makes her a home.

    —Cpt. Mal Reynolds, Serenity

    We pulled away from the Santa Barbara dock once and for all during the Christmas Holidays, 1977. We just wanted to go and we novice sailors left at the beginning of a winter storm. The wind was out of the south so we headed north, not only thru the treacherous Channel Islands, but among and past perhaps, dozens of rusting barnacle encrusted oil storage barges chained to clanking moorings in the middle of nowhere, close to the coast off Golita, somewhere between Santa Barbara, UCSB and Point Conception.

    We sailed close to the largest and very popular swimsuit optional beach in California. It is one of the nicest ones too, facing south, protected from the northwest ocean swell. It is located just kind of east of UCSB. Can you imagine 12,000 sun bathing coeds and people of all ages? I don’t think a swim suit was hardly ever sold in Santa Barbara. Well we had previously anchored close to that beach inside the kelp line many a weekend while in Santa Barbara.

    Now back to another reality. Shortly it was dark and raining, that cold dank Pacific rain. We navigated past the unlit barges solely by the sounds of their clanking mooring chains. We couldn’t see anything in the black freezing rainy night. Sometimes we avoided a barge by the skin of our chinny chin chins. We were cold, wet and tired. Finally dawn came and we were clear of Point Conception, The winter sun came out and Carol and I took turns napping. Point Conception is one of the most notoriously dangerous and rough points of land on the Pacific Coast.

    We made it to Morro Bay and tied up at the hospitable Morro Bay Yacht Club, where you made yourself a drink and tended the cash register yourself. Have you ever heard of such hospitality before? That was only the beginning of it. Well that two day sail was enough for us for a while, so we settled in at Beautiful Morro Bay for a couple months, until winter let up. Carol got a job working at the local Log Cabin Motel.

    Morro Bay is isolated from the general hub bub of California. It’s off the beaten track and is a safe all weather harbor. The bay is a mile wide at high tide and just a hundred yards wide stream at the 6 foot low tide. The bottom was all thick heavy mud, covered with oysters. Most docks were commercial seafood ports and you know we ate the best of it. The tidal current was very strong and anything that wasn’t securely tied would swiftly drift out of the harbor entrance into the huge breakers and be smashed on the rocks or sunk at sea. I forgot to mention the huge waves that were typically breaking over the entrance located at the north end of the bay.

    The monumental stone breakwater was very intelligently installed diagonally to the natural breaking waves, so in order to enter safely; you had to damn well know what you were doing. A powerful fishing trawler could time the wave sets and dash in, going hard to port as soon as the rudder was back in the water. A sailboat does not have that dashing ability or option. According to the printed ocean guide, a sailboat with an engine just goes for it. The waves are coming west northwest, the breakwater is on your port side (left), You aim for the breakwater with your portside and when your rudder and prop are back in the water you slam hard to port around the inside of the breakwater on your left. It is even trickier during an ebb tide. If you missed all that maneuvering, the waves just washed you up onto the sandy rocky beach. I went thru that entrance several times.

    Recreational boats don’t usually use Morro Bay Harbor, unless they are very experienced or don’t know any better. I am a survivor. A large Pacific swell from the West North West slams into the unprotected areas of the California Coast. I mean not protected by islands or bays. This swell brings on the icy Aleutian Current, which is a down welling current, which means, the surface waters come ashore at approximately ¾ knots per hour and then this current submerges to the bottom of the sea. So, if there is no wind and you don’t have an engine you had better have oars, or you are on the rocks. The West Coast has several harbors like Morro Bay that remain unspoiled.

    FYI, at the extreme south end of the Bay is the Point Lobo Nuclear power plant that faces out into the ocean. One day I was sightseeing, motoring along with my 7 year old daughter in our 11 foot Boston Whaler that fit easily on the Daedalus deck, when I noticed about a mile off to my port side a raft of some sort with two men using the distress signal of waving ones arms up and down along their sides. I was along side them in short order. It was the owner of a local seafood industry, including, crab, fish, sea urchins, assorted clams, muscles, lobster, abalone, oysters, etc. We rescued him as the current was rushing him out to sea and he had about $35,000 dollars of oyster spat piled high on board, that he was seeding his area with. His barge engine had failed and other safety gear was awry. He was so happy to see my Boston Whaler and 25HP Evinrude, that towed him back in. At the time I did not know who he was.

    The next day he showed up to present us with his gratitude. I pleaded it was unnecessary and ignoring me, he asked my little girl, if she would please sit down at a table. He pulled out a jar of pearls, dumping them carefully on a cloth and said to my enthralled kid, “Ok, you pick one then I pick one and they split that jar of pearls. Here we are 35 years later and I’m still wondering what ever happened to those pearls. He also continuously presented us with fresh seafood in the weeks ahead.

    Moored out one night, Carol awoke, and said ”What’s that scraping noise?” I jumped up onto the deck in my birthday suit in time to lash a big beautiful wooden sailing yacht to the side of the Daedalus. I immediately assumed it was drifting out to those breakers. My mistake, ho,ho,ho, it was the Daedalus that had broken loose with the mooring ball still tied to the bow. The Mooring shackle came loose. Bad shackle wiring job by the marine contractor,that work for the Yacht Club. Shackle lesson #1, Single shackle wire for deck shackles, double shackle wire for anchor shackles, and triple shackle wire for mooring shackles. I didn’t make a fuss, but yet that was one of another of thousands of lessons to be remembered.

    All that time in Morro Bay was spent working on the Daedalus. When the warmer weather approached we sailed for San Francisco. We spent one night anchored off the Santa Cruz beach in the protection of the north corner on Monterrey Bay. The next stop north was Half Moon Bay. Then it was non stop to Sausalito in the north corner of San Francisco Bay.

    It was a cold and windy, predawn morning as we anxiously approached the back lit Half Moon Bay harbor lights. I don’t remember all the details, but what I do remember was hard to forget. I always enter a harbor in bad weather reefed, in case the engine failed, I’d still be able to maneuver. The channel markers are south of the harbor entrance, perpendicular to the breakers. Then, once inside the reef, you swing hard to port and head North a hundred yards or so, straight past the breakwater, into safe harbor. Well, OK, let’s backtrack to riding the swells entering the difficult channel; I noticed my bilge light was on. Carol took the helm and I went below with a light to notice the engine was partly submerged due to the hose clamps breaking lose on the rubber hose at the shaft log. My hands were freezing, the hose was spinning with the shaft, I continually hollered blind instructions to poor Carol and there was a mighty stream of icy water. I threw several towels on the spinning hose, grabbed the mass with my hands, extradited the hose, which I now had a firm grip, in a split second, Carol handed me some tools. I retightened the hose clamps, to rush to the helm, to see that Carol had turned to port and with breaking swells abeam, was entering the breakwater…As soon as we dropped anchor, we changed into dry clothes, cuddled, warmed up and fell asleep…Amen

    Arriving in San Franscico the next day, we were welcome quests at our own yacht club, The Sausalito Yacht Club. We had maintained club membership from 1974, all the way up to 2002, when we sold the Daedalus. In a couple days we looked for a slip or dock for our precious home the Daedalus. Ned Martin, a friend in Sausalito, had now built “Pelican Harbor” a huge magnificent harbor and marina and he catered exclusively to very valuable classic wooden yachts. Like the “Lord Jim” and the “Xanadu” etc. What a show place.

    Well our Daedalus wasn’t a wood classic and to some, she did not look like very much, but she was our baby and she was beautiful to us. 3 years, previously, we had made friends with Ned and now pulled into his marina that had explicit signs for everyone to keep the hell out! He saw us coming in and rushed down the docks to shoo us away. He recognized us and asked, Where did you get that piece of s _ _ _? He put us in a far corner where we could not be seen; that was OK with us.

    Now here’s the punch line. As we were motoring into his harbor, amongst some very expensive boats, a line in my hydraulic steering burst loose. Several problems occurred at one time. 1, I had to stop my boat in the middle of a tiny space, which, I did immediately with a ready anchor fore and aft. 2. I had to turn off the bilge pump, so hydraulic fluid wouldn’t fill his harbor. 3. I had to repair the leak immediately, so not to block the waterway. 4. I had to avoid appearing to be alarmed or that there was a problem 5. I could not let Ned know, what the problem was, because Ned did not want or like problems. I succeeded in solving all 5 problems in a couple of minutes and explained to Ned I had the runs and had to hit the head. That he could understand.

    After a few days I found a job in facilities design with the Cetus Corp (a genetic research laboratory) in Berkeley, across the Bay and we moved over there, close by in Richmond at the Blue Bahia Marina. It was imperative that Carol finish her BA and graduate from the University of California @ Berkeley. Carol struggled to get accepted at UCB and we would not give up. UCB did not accept transfer students from within the system and that was it no if, when or buts, However through an ombudsman and much cajoling, Carol was enrolled and in one year 1979, she achieved her under graduate degree a BA in Science.

    We eventually moved to the Berkeley Marina, Let me put it this way. Although it was very convenient to SF Bay and the town of Bizerlekeley, It was also directly in line with the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and great view of the City by the Bay, but boy it was Hell. Every afternoon the hills would heat up behind Berkeley. The warm air would rise up and the freezing wind from the cold surface water of the Pacific would come racing across the Bay from under the Golden Gate and blow all the pleasure off your deck in the Berkeley Marina, The saying went, “You couldn’t lay your hammer down, ‘cause it would blow away. ‘Er, quote me on that!

    While working at Cetus Corp in Berkeley, Carol and I sailed as often as possible. Many times we’d spend weekend days loaded with fellow employees and friends. We got down the rudiments of sailing. One long weekend we decided to round trip it to Santa Cruz in 4 days. No big deal. We warmly bundled up for our trek outside the Golden Gate. As we approached Mile Rock Light House a huge wave smashed into the Daedalus and tore the forward jib sail in half. I went forward mostly under icy water, I pulled down the torn sail and secured it, as Carol steered back under the Golden Gate Bridge. The next time we left the Golden gate, we were prepared for “Hell and high water” but it was a beautiful balmy day. You never know, so be prepared
    Back to the torn sail. The big around the Farallon Islands Race was the next weekend. I entered my 1st race. In the beginning of the race the fleet left me far behind, I was chided by motor boaters watching the race, “Hey they went thatta way.” I said, “Oh yeah wait’ll I get this jib sail up”. I don’t know how I had forgotten about the torn sail. Lot’s of laughs and snickers all around.

    Disgruntled I went back to the YC; had a nice lunch, a gin martini up and a couple of Guinness, to brighten my day. I did perfect my racing skills and once in a not very important race, I took 1st in my class and 1st overall. In time the Daedalus became respected as a fast all weather boat.

    That evening and all night it was noted one of the well known young sailors had not checked in yet. Some supposed she just went elsewhere. She was beautiful 18 year old Amy Boyer, Quite a celebrity to be. She soloed the Transpac race and came in 1st in her class and 2nd overall. That is 1700 miles by yourself to Hawaii. Also, she soloed the Atlantic Ocean to Europe, all in an astonishing tiny racing boat “Lil Rascal”, a Wilderness 23.

    Before dawn Carol and I thought we would go out of the Golden Gate and maybe just look for her. Nobody else appeared concerned. The Farallon Island Race is a treacherous freezing 25 mile round trip out to sea around the islands and back. As dawn broke about 2 miles out, we saw a tiny sail. We pulled along side this half swamped boat finding this young woman in a semi-hyperthermia state still determined to finish the race although disqualified since sundown last night.

    We helped her on board, tied her boat astern and called a doctor thru the YC, who suggested some steps to take. We dried her, fed her a bit of hot soup, wrapped her in an electric blanket and she slept most of the day on the Daedalus tied up at the YC. There were many anxious visitors milling about on the dock. We since have tried to follow Amy’s adventures in various sailing magazines and believe she found her guy and moved to the mountains in the North West somewhere.

    If I didn’t say this before, I will say it again “If you love doing something and do it again and again, you will actually become very good at it” I wasn’t perfect by far, but was building confidence and knowledge. Although I enjoyed working for the great people, at Cetus Corp., Carol and I had a hankering for an adventure. In late 1979, we sailed to Mexico.

    P.S. Please let me know if anyone is interested, my continuing my learning how to sail in further chapters... Chapter 14 is next, if interested.

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Dec 4, 2015
  8. capt.fred
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    capt.fred Capt. Fred

    Mr. Efficiency asked, 'What could have saved those ferro boats?' I will say, along the Alabama Gulf Coast building codes do not permit galvanized coating on any structural members. 304 stainless is the minimum for exposed bolts, anchors and straps etc.
  9. waikikin
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    waikikin Senior Member

    Hi Capt. Fred

    Looks like you've lived a great life with a terrific girl that was up for it.

    All the best from Jeff.
  10. Petros
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    Petros Senior Member

    great story capt'n, keep the chapters coming please!
  11. Mr Efficiency
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    Mr Efficiency Senior Member

    OK, interesting. Getting a touch expensive losing stainless anchors, though. And the stainless re-inforced ferro would be hurting the pocket somewhat. What is this ban based on ? Zinc is hardly toxic.
  12. capt.fred
    Joined: Dec 2015
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    Location: Elberta, Al.

    capt.fred Capt. Fred

    Petros, thanks for the compliment. I will submit them.

    Mr. Efficiency, I've always found galvanized ground tackle to be the way to go, but not a pleasure long term anywhere else in a salt environment.
    As an architect, I've noticed galvanized fastened structures along this Gulf Coast seem to deteriorate in about 20 to 25 years. The insurance companies don't like that. As an old guy 20 years has passed by me more than 4 times. My boat the Daedalus is almost 40 years old and has been a daily 23 passenger charter for 30 years. The overbuilt rigging, the other stainless and bronze were all used when I built her and are still original. If you care to see a drone professional 6 minute video on You Tube, please see "Sail The Daedalus" Please let me know what you think.
  13. capt.fred
    Joined: Dec 2015
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    capt.fred Capt. Fred

    Draft copy 12/20/13

    Chapter Fourteen
    1979 thru 1980 (Sailing to Mexico and back.)

    For the full text with photos please click on attachments

    Attached Files:

  14. capt.fred
    Joined: Dec 2015
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    capt.fred Capt. Fred

    Chapter 15 of chapters 12 through 16 of a portion of my autobiography. The building a 50' 23 ton yawl, then learning how to sail and a few sailing adventures. I hope you enjoy..

    Attached Files:

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