Category Archives: Outfitting

From a Needle to an Anchor

The ultimate compliment to a general store was that it could supply the shopper with anything from a needle to an anchor.  When R.T. Holman opened his store in Summerside in 1857 he was intent in meeting the needs of his customers and his store kept expanding its lines of goods and its showrooms and warehouses to fill every need. Even in the 20th century, when the store had expanded to Charlottetown the range of goods was immense.

As I write I have to hand a copy of the 1925 spring and summer mail order catalogue (the 36th edition) which went out to consumers in Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, P.E.Island, and even to the Dominion of Newfoundland.  The more than 120 pages of the catalogue show goods which ranged from fedoras to fish hooks, from flapper dresses to fox wire and from flea powder to framed pictures.

holman 002 While Holman’s was not a specialized chandlery shop it did carry a respectable line of goods for fishermen and boaters. Anchors and blocks and oars and boat hooks served many needs and the page has items that are no longer commonly found except in specialty shops – sail holman 003rings – 8 cents each, for making your own sails, along with thimbles, twine, sail needles and beeswax, trawl hooks and tarred cotton lines. There were boat hooks and tiller ropes, and for the new-fangled gasoline engines there were galvanized gasoline boat tanks, copper tubing and sleeves, priming cups and asbestos packing.  If you had a lobster packing plant you might be interested in boiler tube cleaners, lobster cleavers or a home soldering outfit to seal the tins.  Most goods were generically anonymous but the “Can’t Drag Anchor” especially constructed for motor boats , ready for instant use – was an exception. Another branded product was Union Jack brand copper paint.

holman 005The most intriguing (or perhaps frightening) of the items on offer were used life preservers:

Life Preservers, second-hand, but in good shape. Flat style fastening around the waist with straps over shoulders. Great for teaching the boys to swim; every boat should have two or three – each 50 cents.

I have a vision of a heavily burdened postman arriving with my Holman’s order. A bundle of still damp, salt-stained parcels of canvas and cork with the stencilled  “R.M.S. Titanic” still visible.  I mean – where else would you have a wholesale supplier of used life preservers?  As I sit at my desk and look up at my grandfather’s photo  I ask myself “Would you buy a used life-preserver from this man?”

holman 006Elsewhere in the catalogue other nautical needs are met.   Page 16 featured oiled clothing – apron pants, jackets, aprons, Storm King Hats, and the strangely disturbing Oiled Petticoat in size 1 and 2. ($2.85). For not much more you could get the whole Fisherman’s Rubber Suit.  Does the satisfied smile on the pipe-smoking rubber-clad gent suggest that beneath all he is wearing an oiled petticoat?

Yes, in 1925 Holman’s could provide you with a needle, or an anchor and just about anything in between. If it wasn’t in the Holman’s catalogue you probably didn’t need it anyway.

Adding space to a pocket cruiser

In a 20-foot boat with 4 berths storage space is at a premium, especially if you want to do anything more than day-sail. While the Halman 20 is cleverly constructed with a fair amount of useful but awkwardly shaped space under the bunks and in the lazarette  it is not long before the food, clothes, bedding, and beverages for an extended sail start to overflow into the cabin and cockpit. Add to that the need for safety equipment, tools, spares and sails and any space gained is a bonus. I wasn’t going to be able to make the boat any longer so I had to find space within.

IMG_3027Both the Halman and her sister design the Nordica had room under the cockpit for a small inboard motor although most owners opted for the outboard model. That left a bit of a gaping hole behind the cabin steps, usually occupied by the battery and little else. Because it was open to the bilge at the rear and was the space for cockpit drains and the bilge pump it was seldom used effectively. Long thin things like the deck scrub brush could be jammed in alongside the cockpit sole supports but getting anything in and out of the space was a real pain.

IMG_3029Behind the battery was the Halman “Black Hole” where any water that came in through the open hatch ended up along with every dropped screw, nut, bolt, cotter pin that slipped from my fingers but wasn’t lost over the side during rigging and repairs.  Although my hull is perfectly sound and dry the bilge had become a bit of a rusty pool which I finally drained and dried last year leaving an unattractive void that I certainly didn’t want anything else falling into.  Here you can see my fairly useless boarding ladder creeping to the edge of the pit.

IMG_3033I had no desire to move the battery and wiring which seemed to be well placed for both access and balance so the solution was to build a platform above the battery and extending across the cabin and back to the cockpit supports.  I also brought it forward along the sides of the steps to give an area to set things down when the cabin table was not in place. With battens across the front and back to keep things from falling off I ended up with about 4 square feet of IMG_3039additional, accessible space without taking away any of the scarce area on the cabin floor.   Most things on the shelf can be removed without taking out the cabin steps but that is not a real barrier as I use the space for things I need to be accessible but which are not in constant use.  It is a perfect for my safety equipment box  with flares, first aid kit, fog horn etc.  It is a good spot if I have to direct passengers or crew to find it. The flare box was formerly buried in one of the lockers under the cabin cushions. I also have my tool bag in this location as I am rarely in need of it when underway. Another box holds some the miscellaneous bits which normally roll off the galley shelves as soon as the boat is heeled. and there is still space left for me to put down my coffee mug.


Vee-berth black hole looking from above toward stern.

The other area of unused storage is right in the bow of the boat under the vee-berth.  While not huge, what storage space is available is rendered useless owing to the danger of anything placed there falling into another narrow hole which extends back what seems like several feet as a sort of cave.  I suspect that his may have been designed as a chain locker but is completely inaccessible  owing to the placement of the water tank above it. I spent  a claustrophobic hour trying to retrieve a wrench I had dropped into the hole and discovered a trove of tools, fittings and toiletries which previous owners had abandoned to the hull gods over the years.

Vee-berth locker with black hole closed.

Vee-berth locker with black hole closed.

Here the solution was much simpler. Just deck the damn thing over.  By placing a floor in the locker I can now use it without the undue worry of items being sucked into the void.  I don’t want to put too much weight this far forward  so I use the space for bulky items  such as spare life jackets.  It is somewhat awkward to reach as one has to remove the vee-berth cushions to get access to the space but it probably results in about three cubic feet I couldn’t use before.

Neither one of these fixes are permanent as I suspect there may still be occasions when I need to get into the spaces. But they have reduced the pressure to simply stuff things into the corners of the cabin.  As you can see they are somewhat rough carpentry but before fitting out next year I may have the opportunity to fine tune the placement and stain or paint the wood for protection.






The countdown counter for Sailstrait featured 1 May as launch day.  Even as I posted it I knew it was wishful thinking and I actually missed the date by 17 days.  However, it was not totally unrealistic and by next year when I will not have permanent employment playing havoc with my free time it might actually be possible.  May can be frustrating time with cold and rain (invariably occurring on weekends) conspiring to prevent completion of the necessary tasks prior to launch. This year such an excuse was not valid and two weekends in a row enabled cleaning, polishing and waxing of the hull and changing of the stanchion bases for the pulpit on the first weekend and a succession of glorious days on the holiday weekend just past allowed for completion of the job.

I find the bottom painting a hateful job. It is not the painting itself, which is relatively easy, it is the removal of the old paint.  Last year I was so anxious to get the boat in the water I just slapped a coat of XXX bottomcoat on top of whatever layers were there already. In the fall I simply pressure washed, missing a number of large areas.  This year I swallowed hard and had at the hull with an electric sander with three small floating pads which allowed it to follow the curves of the hull.  It was hardly a thorough job and I had no intention of getting down to the base but I am sure the badly pitted paint was an eighth of an inch thick.  I seem to be the latest in a long line of owners who were more at ease with “painting over” than with “taking it all off”.   It was very satisfying to see the amount of black chips and dust which flew out of the disks and the hull, if not smooth, is at least smoother. Not perhaps enough to make my progress through the water noticeably faster, but I do feel better about the bottom than I did last year.

On Saturday all was ready and it was a short pull, dragging one flat tire, from the parking lot to the crane and from there up on the clings and into the water.  The motor started (always an anxious moment) and I was off to my finger pier.

Meanwhile work on the masthead was in order. A previous owner had fashioned a masthead fitting to hold the anchor light, windex and radio antenna. Unfortunately it was made from angle iron and had rusted. Worked fine but looked like hell.  I was originally going to substitute a similar piece of aluminium but couldn’t find the right size and instead scraped and painted the fitting with rust paint.  From the distance of the deck it looks just fine.  I barely avoided humiliation when at the last moment I noticed that the windex (totally absent last year) had been mounted backwards.  Up on the mast crane the spar was put in place and turnbuckles tightened – except for one of the uppers which seemed  to be askew. The following day I went up on the bo’sun chair and wiggled it into place.  A new record for success as only one cotter pin and no tools were dropped overboard.

In the fall I had totally stripped every movable item from the boat and the work of replacement has begun.  It is a re-learning experience and I seem to have forgotten where I had safely stored some of the pieces.

By the holiday Monday Ebony was more than ready for the first sail and a glorious sail it was – 15 knots with gusts to 25 – bright sun and warm temperatures (except when sailing against the wind). The inaugural voyage was out to Nine Mile Creek (more on that in another post) and back.  A five-hour beat out and two hours home.

The season has truly begun.