Friday, April 30, 2010

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A Report from the Skipper on the Jaftica Bridge in Halifax

Hi Shipmate,
I made it down to Halifax. Wayne Druhan and I have moved aboard JAFTICA and we spent the day rigging the sails,and flushing the water systems. The boat is scheduled to be hauled out on Friday in order for us to clean the bottom.
Tomorrow Wayne and I are going to repair the scratches on the hull and paint a few touch ups here and there.
 - The Capt'n
JAFTICA is currently stored at the Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron  

Sunday, April 25, 2010

About the Metre

Probably the most common distance measure today worldwide bar none is the metre however  it isn't commonly adopted in the USA, where the mile, the foot and the inch still reign - domestically at least. In Canada we adopted the SI or System International spelling of the metre while in America it remains the Meter.

By the end of the 18th. century, England had pretty much established standards for weights and measures in the pound, foot and quart and profited well in trade as a result. France meanwhile as a country had no national standards yet to speak of and suffered for it. Each municipality or locality pretty well had its own standard for a loaf of bread or measure of length or a sack of grain. For reference, these standards were frequently engraved into the sides of structures such as bridges, or fortress walls or buildings. The problem with each town having its own standards was that it severely deterred trade, due to the mistrust or understanding of each other's measures. Also many towns had their own keeper of weights and measures and I can imagine that he was not too interested in having his standards go obsolete by trusting that of another town.

The French Academy of Science became quite aware of this problem and came up with a very ingenious concept. The Academy wanted to determine a measure that would be "universal" for all mankind and that could not be argued. So they chose the size of the earth as a reference, since the earth is indeed common to all. After much deliberation, they decided that the measure shall be a metre and the metre will be of such a length that there shall be 10,000,000 or ten million metres between the Equator and the North Pole. Using the best astronomical instruments of the day and mathematics the Academy came up with its metre.

Today's metre is based on the same original metre that the Academy calculated in the late 1700s. So how well did the Academy do? Using Google Earth to determine an estimate of the distance from the north pole to the equator I get  around 9,987,601 metres.  That is an error of about 12.4 kilometres which to us doesn't seem that good, but it is an error of 0.12% which considering the technology and mathematical challenges and unknowns of the day, it is still very impressive. Over the length of a metre the error is 1.2 millimetres.

For a longer and possibly more boring version of this story see

A tip from a Career navigation officer

I thought the following tip very relevant for the landlubber that I am, from my Sixth cousin once removed who has retired from a career as a navigation office.

"a calm trip - remember, one hand for yourself and one for the boat!"

So balancing acts are out I guess. 

Of course I suppose good sailing and calm weather are probably exclusive of each other. You need the wind to sail but wind creates waves i.e. no calmness.  I suppose you could say there is good weather. One can always motor in calm weather.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

An Inspiration from the Captain

To young men contemplating a voyage I would say go.
The tales of rough usage are for the most part exaggerations, as also are the tales of sea danger.
To face the elements is, to be sure, no light matter when the sea is in its grandest mood.
You must then know the sea, and know that you know it, and not forget that it was made to be sailed over.
                              Captain Joshua Slocum - 1898

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Eclectic Posting

I was advised by a close family member that I should remove the boring posts about miles etc. and I thought at the time that a mix of stuff might keep the blog more interesting. So now I was becoming doubtful of my approach until I got an unsolicited message from a fellow UNB Engineering Graduate, who wrote me:

Pieter, good luck on your sailing trip. Read your blog, definitely written by someone interested in surveying history, nice to read. I ran into.  .  . 
Ha! Maybe I'll give a short history of the metre now.  Courage, courage I need courage.

I had to reply:

I am glad you like the bit about surveying history. I do find it truly fascinating, but alas . . . . thinks this stuff doesn't belong on the blog if I want to keep people interested. I thought that maybe by keeping the posts somewhat eclectic it might be interesting to a more varied crowd.

And then he replied:

Eclectic works for me, but I am an engineer as well so maybe I don't count :-).
Beware or stay tuned for a short history of the metre.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Planning Meeting Today

Captain Peter and his wife came by today to work out some details and plans for the trip. It is now firm that we can leave on Sunday preferably or Monday at the latest. I will drop off a duffel bag of my heavy gear with the capt to take down on his drive to Halifax in his van. Since I only need a one way passage, I will probably head down by air where luggage is restricted. 

Gear List

Captain Peter has shared with me a list of gear that I ought to bring.


Gear List

Suitcases are not recommended: Space is limited - everything should be brought aboard in foldable bags.

Standard Gear

    • Valid passport & valid medical card
    • Sleeping bag with removable cotton liner or bed sheet.
    • Flashlight with extra batteries & spare bulb
    • Rigging knife
    • Waterproof sunscreen (SPF of at least 15)
    • Water bottle
    • Beach towel

Recommended Clothing

    • Windbreaker, gloves, toque or watch cap
    • 2 pairs of non-skid shoes
    • Raincoat and rain pants (or other wet weather gear) are essential – rain ponchos are not suitable, rubber boots would be an asset.
    • 3 pairs of shorts, 2 pairs of jeans
    • 1 or 2 sweaters and/or sweatshirts (preferably wool – hooded is best)
    • Enough socks & underwear for each day. (a few pair of wool socks are a good idea because they will keep feet warm during chilly watches)
    • Sunglasses with safety strap
    • Sun hat, gloves and a pair of long underwear for possible cold weather
    • Swim suits (one that can withstand the rigors of working)
    • T-shirts

    • Comb/brush
    • Wash kit (soap, shampoo, towel, tooth brush, toothpaste, shaving gear, deodorant, etc.)

Optional Items:
    • Camera
    • Small musical instrument
    • Reading book(s)
    • A set of smart clothes for when in port
    • Notebook & writing equipment
    • Insect repellent
    • Binoculars

The Nautical Mile

Another fundamental measure -- the nautical mile has a much simpler and more straightforward origin. It was originally quite simply a minute of arc of latitude. While longitude is the measure of degrees east or west from Greenwich where it is zero and the center of the British Empire. France had its own prime meridian running through Paris but that is another story less well told. Latitude is the angular measurement of the earth in the north and south direction starting with zero at the equator and ending at 90 degrees at the poles. If one knows the distance from sea level (approximately) to the center of the earth or its radius we can calculate the distance of a nautical mile. But it is not that simple a matter. The earth is not entirely spherical but actually an oblate spheriod. Some say it is shaped like an egg and that I must say it is not. It is more like a beach ball flattened at the top and bottom. There are many models that try to estimate the earth but probably the best one is that used for GPS called WGS 84 and its radius from the earth's center is approx 6357 kilometres to sea level at the north and south poles, and approx. 6378 kilometres to sea level at the equator, a difference of about 21 kilometres more at the equator. So the nautical mile will be a little bit larger at the equator compared to the poles.  A convenient conversion constant called rho (ρ) is the number of degrees in a radian calculated as 180 degrees divided by pi (π). So ρ is about 57.3 degrees. The nm can be calculated as the radius (6357 or 6378 km) divided by ρ to get degrees and divided by 60 to get minutes of arc. So at the equator the nm is very close to 6378/57.3/60 = 1.855 km. Similarly at the pole it is nearly 1.849 Km.
This of course was the original nautical mile before we standardized it. As stated in an earlier post, today we use a fixed standard for the nm which is 1.852 km. exactly by definition. This is likely to simplify its application in computerized processes.

Seafaring navigators used this nautical mile for its convenience on a chart. The edges of a chart show the degrees and minutes of latitude on the sides and longitude at the top and bottom.
The distance between longitude coordinates vary as we go north and get closer together. But for latitude it stays pretty constant as shown in the calculations above. On a road map one would use a legend to determine a distance with a ruler or a pair of dividers, well on a nautical chart the navigator could simply use the latitude minute marks on the left and right edges of the chart and not have to go turn the chart over looking for a legend. Also on some chart projections like the Mercator projection, the scale varied with latitude. For example you know how on some maps Greenland is bigger than the US. In these cases the scale would only be accurate at the same latitude where the reading was taken off the left and right edges.

The nautical mile is a pretty ingenious invention.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Origin of the Statute Mile

Measurement trivia can be interesting for one with a formal education in surveying and later career in electronic navigation. What is even more interesting is the anthropological rationale behind why we as a people chose our measures. Land measurement in England before the 18th century was measured in rods. For some reason the rod was 16 and a half feet long and land was measured by laying down the rod end to end. Astronomer Edmond Gunter came up with a novel new measure called the chain. Compared to the rod, this tool could be folded up and easily stored and could measure distances by stretching it out straight. He chose the chain to be four rods long which made it 66 feet, and his choice for that was that he figured that it could be easily manipulated by two operators and be of a reasonably useful length I suppose. Distances were then measured by a chain crew including a forward chainman and a rear chainman. The forward chainman would start out with a metal loop on his belt from which hung 11 chaining pins. Starting from a survey marker, the rear chainman would hold the trailing end on the marker and the forward chainman would press a chaining pin into the ground at the exact chain distance along the desired line. The pair would move forward a chain length the rear chainman holding the trailing end of the chain on the chaining pin left by the forward chainman and the process would proceed until the 10 chains were measured.

The only oddity is that the chain was divided into 100 links which makes each link an odd length of 7.92 inches. Old survey plans will show lots,  for example the original King's grants, measured in chains and links.

And so the 66' chain became important for land measure in the British Colonies such as Australia, Canada and the US. This measure still has a very strong influence in our lives today. For example a road allowance for all the older roads -- width of a road from boundary to boundary -- is 66 feet or one chain. This is the case for all the streets in Ottawa for instance, yet Wellington Ave, which was initially intended to be a boulevard, is actually 2 chains or 132 feet wide.

Today with the conversion to metric in Canada, newly built road allowances are now typically a convenient 20 metres or 65.6168 feet wide, a measure still strongly influenced by the chain.

In the 1880's with the very significant invention of spring steel, the tape measure took over from the chain. Yet I still remember in survey school seeing a steel windable tape measure that was marked in chains and links on one side and feet and tenths of a foot on the other. Inches were never used in surveying. This was probably very handy for retracing old surveys before the advent of computers that automated conversions.

The acre by definition is 10 square chains. The township lot that our property is a part of was originally 200 acres or 20 chains wide by 100 chains deep, the original grant from the king. In Ontario, for military service, officers were typically given 100 acres by splitting the front and back half of the lot, and soldiers were typically offered 50 by cutting a lot into quarters, one in each corner.

Many Ontario farmers kept a survey chain hanging in the barn, in case they wanted to divide their land into fields or put in fence lines. They are a lovely instrument, a steel chain with nice brass handles at both ends, and brass tabs that mark every ten links in the chain. I picked one up years ago from Ebay and still have it around here somewhere.

Finally the statute mile is by definition 80 chains long or 5280 feet.This is not to be confused with the nautical mile.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Scheduling of the Trip

CP (Captain Pete) advised me that the departure date will likely be predicated by the seasonal plans of the Marina, the Royal N.S. Yacht Sqn. south west of Halifax. I am told that the date is not firm but for planning purposes we are departing on Sunday May 2nd. 

We will then sail a track made good of approximately (my estimate from my handy dandy Mapart roadmap) 2500 kms. In the nautical world all distances are measured in nautical miles or nm. The SI (System International) standard nautical mile is 1852 metres exactly. That is the modern definition. So to convert the 2500 km to nm, multiply 2500 by 1000 to get a distance of 2,500,000 metres and divide by 1852 to get very nearly 1350 nm.

CP tells me that we sail at possibly 6 knots (or slower of course). What is a knot you may ask?. Well in ancient times speed was measured by the number of knots on a rope that slipped through the sailor's hands during a specified time when the log that was tied to the rope was thrown in the water and allowed to drift aft. The spacing of the knots was calibrated to indicate the speed. A knot is equal to a nautical mile per hour.

We have scheduled 3 weeks to do the trip but there is absolutely no telling how long it will take or how far we will get. At worst we may not get up the St. Lawrence much past Quebec City, due to dead calm seas and/or head winds and head currents and at best I think we will make it all the way to Picton under perfect conditions.  Under absolutely ideal conditions i.e. perfect wind and maintaining a steady 6 knots, we would do the whole distance in 9 and half days, but that is entirely unrealistic. We need to stop for rests and visits and wait for locks, go through locks etc.

Bear in mind that with a sailboat you can not always sail a straight track along the desired route. One must for example tack or zigzag when we want to sail into the wind. So the real distance traveled over the ground can be much longer than the actual distance traveled along a desired track. In nautical navigation they use all kinds of other unusual terms as well like speed over ground, distance made good etc. I might expand on those later.

A note from the builder.

I received a message from the original builder of the boat and an excerpt of that is:

Hello Pieter, as the builder of this boat I am interested in her owners and travels.

. . .

Just a minor correction the Bruce Roberts design was for a 37 footer not 36, she was built in the small village of Scotsburn, just west of Pictou.

Pictou is where she was launched and kept for the nine years we owned her.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Boat

The boat:
Jaftica is a sloop rigged, steel yacht based on a Bruce Roberts design for a 36 footer. She was stretched out to 39 feet when built in 1998 in Pictou, Nova Scotia. The beam is 12 feet and the shoal keel has a depth of 5 1/2 feet.
This yacht has a pilot house containing a helm station and a dining/navigation benches and table. Steering and propulsion systems are hydraulic with autopilot and variable pitch propeller.
There are two cabins - one fore and aft, two heads and a galley. The interior is finished in Nova Scotia hemlock and has 6'2" headroom throughout.
The yacht is fitted with the latest safety and communication equipment required for off-shore voyages - including radar, EPIRB, GPS, VHF/MF/HF radio communications and a SOLAS style 4 man inflatable lifeboat.
All sail handing lines are controlled from the aft helm station. The jib is self tacking - making sail handling even easier.
Jaftica has a 40 hp Perkins diesel engine that is used mainly when entering or departing a harbour. Batteries are charged with a wind generator and solar panel.
A 10' inflatable zodiac style dinghy is carried off the stern on davits. The dingy has a 9.9 hp outboard engine and a set of oars.

Galley Stbd Side

Forward Cabin Head (sailor-speak for Toilet)

Forward Cabin Bunk

Forward Cabin Port Side

Forward Cabin Head

The Forward Cabin looking Aft

The Forward Cabin Bunk

The Aft Cabin

Captain Pete at the Helm

Playing with the wheelie thing, as he put it.

Pilot House Helm

The Tender

Some photos

Peter shared some photos of his boat.

This is taken by Peter sitting in a bosun's chair suspended from the top of the mast. He was servicing some equipment at the time.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Call from Peter

Peter called today to confirm plans. We will likely be leaving from Halifax around the first of May. The departure date will be based on the schedule at the Yacht club in Halifax where the boat is stored for the winter. It might be earlier.