Button Swan refresh

Button Swan is sporting a fresh new creamy finish on her interior, and looking fantastic! We ran out of paint when we were nearly finished, and we were unable to find another can at the nearest marine paint supplier, but big thanks to our neighbour on the dock Eric for supplying a new can from his stash! That let us finish that part of the job, and get on to the varnishing. We’ve built up several coats of varnish, and then turned to painting the deck.

This coming Saturday (July 9) we’ll reassemble her interior, turn her over for a coat of bottom paint, and then GET HER BACK IN THE WATER!!!! It’s been much too long!

We had a rude surprise when we noticed that Vogler was sprouting some growth – when we pulled her out of the water for a cleaning, we found a couple of inches of unwelcome wildlife!! Not sure how the bottom paint failed so badly, but the boat has clearly not been taken out for a row nearly enough!! She should be a lot slipperier through the water now.

A recent story in the news was about a home-built boat that was stolen just before the family launched her – but thanks to some observant citizens (and stupid theives), the boat was spotted being rowed in False Creek! https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/stolen-homemade-boat-mcdonald-family-recovered-1.6493923

Summer sailing season is here for some of our members, with Anja and Ern and and crew heading up to the Broughtons for a while. We’ll look forward to their stories when they get back!

Bruce had the pleasant surprise of being sent photos and story from Steve Tomlinson in Kitimat who had built a scale model of North Star of Herschel Island! He did an amazing job on it, going from drawings and photos in two of Bruce’s books, North Star of Hershel Island and Sisters of the Ice. I hope Mr. Tomlinson doesn’t mind me sharing the story of how he built the model from scratch. It’s a beautiful recreation of the vessel as she appeared originally when in service in the Arctic, complete with fox furs hanging from the rigging!

Bruce’s latest book launch

Our wharfinger, guardian, and resident author Bruce has a new book out – “Never Say P*g: The Book of Sailors’ Superstitions”. Hmm, I wonder if this should be instituted as required reading before you take OLAS boats out on the bay… The official book launch is this coming Thursday, May 26th, in person at the Vancouver Maritime Museum at 6:30pm, and also online starting at 7:00 (though you’ll be responsible for your own drinks). Registration is free, but pre-registration is required – let’s fill that room to the point where the fire department has to send in someone to have a stern talking to us! The book is available in the Museum giftshop as well, if you can’t make it that night, and I’m sure Bruce would still sign the book for you if you ask nicely enough or bring a dog treat for Luna.

Since our last talk, there’s been a whole bunch of painting and varnishing done. Ragna and Button Swan’s spars got several coats of new varnish – HUGE thanks to all who took part in building up the coats last week! Ragna’s fresh paint looks amazing, and after putting her in the water a week ago she got reunited with her spars this past Saturday, and promptly taken out for a shakedown. We have a few bits of fine-tuning to improve her sail shape, but she is in service, in her summer sailing form – no need to struggle with the full cover, just the sail cover. Makes it quick and easy to get her out for a sail!

Button Swan got a couple of coats of bottom paint and a coat of turquoise (or as Interlux calls it – Sea Foam). She’s now been turned right-side-up and is being prepped for interior and deck paint, and varnish on her sheer strake and transom. All of her seats have been given the Arnt treatment of sanding and spray-on furniture-grade finish – they look amazing, and I can’t wait to see them back in the boat!

On Ragna’s shakedown sail on Saturday she was accompanied by Bruce and a few other OLAS members on Bruce’s recent acquisition Nansen – it was fun to see that bunch out there! The previous Saturday, Arnt rigged their tender Feather with a windsurfer sail and Anja’s topsail spar as a mast, and had a great sail along with Enke, and Dale’s SCAMP Luna. Good times!!

Heritage Harbour Revitalization Fundraiser

The Vancouver Maritime Museum has produced a great video of interviews and information about Heritage Harbour, with the goal of raising funds to renew the harbour, starting with replacing the decking and pilings. Please watch the video, and consider donating to this important cause.

If you want some fireworks with your fundraiser, get tickets to the Museum Gala in July – take a look at their upcoming Events page. You’ll also find the book launch event for our wharfinger Bruce’s new book – you can attend in person or virtually.

Our boats Ragna and Button Swan are looking good with fresh paint! Ragna’s interior is finished, and her exterior hull is getting a nice bright blue. We just might be getting her in the water this weekend, though there is still varnish work to be done on spars and oars before she’s ready to set sail.

Button Swan has a coat of primer on her (slightly deeper) topsides, ready for re-coating with fresh turquoise paint. Then once Ragna’s work is completed, Button Swan will move into the shop for the rest of the varnish and interior paint.

The planes that some of our members were working on have turned out great! We are planning on doing a plane-making workshop sometime – if you’re interested in this very satisfying and surprisingly approachable process, keep an eye on this space or your email.

At our AGM on Tuesday, the reality of the painful increase in our insurance premiums resulted in an increase in our membership fees. Our new price for OLAS membership is $75, and if you want to use the boats as part of OSBUG, it’s an additional $75. If you’re on the automatic renewal plan, please be sure to login to that and update the fees (and include the $5 admin fee). We hope we can still make you feel that this wonderful club is worth the price!


We’ve been busy getting our fleet refreshed – our rowboat Vogler is back in the water, and thanks to Rob persevering through our insurance renewal troubles, Vogler is ready for our OSBUG members to enjoy! By the looks of our calendar, she’s already been out on the water a bunch of times this week.

Leapfrogging over the Button Swan, Ragna is now in the shop getting a new paint job. Because of the rather beat-up varnish, and since this is the most-used boat in the fleet, we decided to paint the entire interior of the boat. Here she’s got a coat of primer, but we’re planning on a nice off-white for all the parts that used to be varnish – should go nicely with the white hull interior, and will be much more durable.

Extracting Ragna’s mast was quite a struggle!! When we built a new mast a few years ago, we didn’t leave quite enough expansion room, and now it was very tight in its sleeve. After a few attempts with ropes and levers, Arnt stepped in and fabricated a clamp and base, and used a couple of hydraulic jacks to pull it out. Still wasn’t exactly easy, but it did the job! We’ve sanded it down a little, and we’ll add a bit of a collar at the top of the sleeve to prevent water getting in again. The mast, spars, oars and rudder will remain varnished.

Last Saturday Bruce gave an intro to celestial navigation, using a sextant. That’s a skill that comes up regularly in conversation at the shop, so it was great to get a taste of it, for those who took part.

If those new-found skills are not enough to keep you safe, Bruce has a new book out – pick up a copy, and learn how to avoid bad luck on the water! It’s available in the Vancouver Maritime Museum shop, and other book stores.

Planning ahead for our next new build, we tried out the process of making a plane, with an eye toward making a backing out plane. That will be needed if we decide to build the carvel planked handliner we’ve been thinking about. A backing out plane will help us shape the curved inner face of the planks.

On the topic of Renewal, we’ve got a few board members moving along to other things, so if you want to get involved, let us know – our AGM is coming up soon, where we’ll hold our elections.

There’s always something interesting going on at the dock! Come on down for a look, or to take part!

The Sparrow has launched!

A couple of weeks ago, we finished up (or mostly finished) the Ian Oughtred Acorn that we’ve been working on. She turned out beautifully, I’m sure you’ll agree!

Brent has shared the story of how the boat came to be, from a log on the beach to this gorgeous vessel.


From a log to a dinghy.

The rowing dinghy, Sparrow, started life as a 10 ft long hollow log of Yellow Cedar.  My dog, Boone, found the log on a rocky beach, back in 2014.  Boone knew that this was an above average piece of driftwood, and should be saved for a higher purpose.  At about 2-1/2 ft in diameter, the log was quite heavy – about 500 lbs soaking wet.  So simply getting this prize off the beach was an interesting problem.  We decided to split the log along its length into several manageable chunks, using a maul and wedges.  Then, with the help of a few strong friends, the resulting cants were hauled to a small local mill, where the Sawyer band-sawed them into thin planks.  These were carefully stacked to air-dry in an unheated shed.

Fast forward about five years and the Yellow Cedar planks were now dried to about 15-20% moisture content (still retaining enough moisture for steaming and safely bending to shape).  In 2019 the Oarlock and Sail wooden boat club, OLAS, was looking for a new project, so I ordered a set of plans for an Ian Oughtred-designed Acorn dinghy.  Oughtred’s plans describe a frameless plywood lapstrake affair, held together with epoxy and mass hypnosis.  Given that I had a nice pile of outstanding air-dried Cedar, and our interest in traditional boatbuilding, we decided to build our little Acorn/Sparrow from solid Yellow Cedar, rather than plywood.  The plans arrived and we got to work cutting out patterns and setting them on a strongback.

Things were going along quite well until a pandemic of covid arrived in early 2020.  Nonetheless a few hardy souls were able, between lockdowns, to slowly continue, overthinking every detail, carefully spiling and shaping yellow cedar planks, and riveting them into a boat-like shape.  It turned out that switching from plywood and epoxy to solid cedar and copper rivets was somewhat more complicated than we had anticipated.

Still, we persevered.

Along with the wonderful Yellow Cedar beach-salvaged wood we’ve also managed to make good use a variety of scrounged, leftover and otherwise hoarded scraps of wood.  The sapele transom and stem and most of the white oak frames were leftovers from a larger boat restoration that’s ongoing in my shop.  The Douglas Fir keel and hog were also shop-found scraps and offcuts from other projects.

We are using traditional copper and bronze fasteners throughout, and the spiling, riveting and steam bending of planks and frames are as close to traditional wooden boatbuilding techniques as we can manage.  Sparrow will be finished with a bright oil-rubbed and varnished interior, transom and sheer strakes, and a creamy white painted bottom.

When complete Sparrow hopes to be carried on deck as the tender for the somewhat larger wooden sloop Ricochet, a Kettenburg PCC built in San Diego in 1956.

Sparrow – This small bird usually symbolizes joy, protection and simplicity.  Appropriately, it can also be a symbol of community and teamwork.

Brent Ash, October 2021

Since that was written, the finishing touches have been added, a celebretory drink has been enjoyed, and the boat has been put in the water and taken for a row – she rows like a dream!

After the joy of finishing off that beauty and seeing her off to her new home, we’ve moved on to refinishing our fleet of small boats. The Vogler is nearly done with new varnish and paint, and we’ve almost got Button Swan ready for new finishes.

We’ve decided to adjust Button Swan’s waterline – when we built her, we adjusted the waterline location a bit, as we were building her a bit lighter than original without the live well, but she still sat pretty high in the water. So, based on the discolouration of weathering, we’ve lowered the waterline, and we’ll see more of the turquoise topside paint. (we’re also hoping to do something about those awful rusty STEEL fasteners that snuck in at the stem!!) The tent frame worked out really well, to run a stringline around the boat to mark the waterline!

One last thing before wrapping this up – the Vancouver Maritime Museum is working hard to get some improvments done in the harbour. You can read a bit about it, and what the harbour means to the museum in the Future of Heritage Harbour. Be sure to sign up for the upcoming Town Hall discussion (date to come). Oh, and while you’re on the VMM site, check out their upcoming events, including an online presentation about the SS Master, coming up March 16.

Worldwide Classic Boat Show 2022

Off Center Harbor is a wonderful provider of boat videos, and starting last year, they’re hosting an annual virtual boat show. This year they’re offering free tickets to the show.

EDIT: The show is over for this year, but check back next year.

We are pleased to share that our club and boats have been accepted to the 2022 Worldwide Classic Boat Show! The Show runs from February 18th-27th, and we thought you’d enjoy attending the Show. To top it all off, they’re giving away free passes right now!

The Show is 100% online (virtual) at ClassicBoatShow.com, so you can attend from right where you are, sitting in your favorite chair.


There will be over 1,000 of the world’s best classic and wooden boats at this online/virtual Show, all on an interactive world map. The map also features leading maritime organizations around the world, and there will be 6 excellent presentations by leaders in the field.

The Worldwide Classic Boat Show was created by Off Center Harbor (the premier video website for classic boating enthusiasts). Everything they do is first class. See you there! 

Our boat and club pages (you’ll need to be logged in):



Also look for Anja and Ern (and Querencia?)

An update on the kayak that was donated to us, and then passed along to the Vancouver Wooden Boat Society – they’ve been working on it in their (much more roomy) shop in New Westminster. Take a look back in their Facebook page for photos and video.

Also posted on their site is a video of some work done on the SS Master a year ago. Read some more about her on her site: https://www.ssmaster.org/, and join in on the Vancouver Maritime Museum’s online presentation on March 16th.


Last week we were busy applying varnish and paint, to both the new Acorn and our rowboat Vogler. The Acorn is looking amazing with the white paint and varnished Sapelle sheer strake!

The Vogler has new varnish on the thwarts and gunwales, and we’ve started with paint on the interior.

It feels great to be getting the boats to this stage. Thanks to Dale, Dylan, and Nick who came during the week to apply several coats of varnish!

Today was a gorgeous day, and it would have been a shame not to get out sailing. We’re having a bit of a problem with our insurance, and so our fleet is grounded for the moment. Thankfully, Arnt stepped up and brought down the sails for their boat, Anja, and took a few of us out for a wonderful sail! Before our insurance ran out last month, a couple of us got out for a January sail in Ragna and Enke. Hopefully things will get resolved soon, and we can get back to enjoying our beautiful little boats!

We have a tent!

Christmas has come and gone for another year – blink, and it’s over! Our decorations have been taken down and put away, the snow is melting, and boat-work is going on.

The Acorn has now had the breasthook installed and shaped, the thwarts and knees installed, and the rope bumper nearly ready for installation. The ribs have been trimmed to the top of the gunwales, and blocking installed for the oarlocks. Oarlock pads have been rough-cut, and will soon be installed.

The Acorn is currently sharing the shop with the Vogler, which is in for that bit of planking repair sustained in a storm a year ago. We’ve applied some thickened epoxy to fill the gouges, and now we need to smooth it, and then get some paint on it. The boats seem to be getting along ok for now.

Vogler’s berth was modified (shortly before we hauled her into the shed!), giving us a bit more room to get at her, moving the life-ring stand, tucking the cables and hoses under the bull-rail, and giving her some cleats to tie her off to. These improvements should make her much more accessible and enjoyable to get into!

When removing Ragna’s sail to put on the winter cover, we noticed that the top batten pocket was taking a beating. The sail-cloth had torn at both ends, leaving the batten in danger of falling out, or further damaging the sail. After consulting our club member Bob who has made our sails, we removed the old batten pocket, repaired the rips using sail-repair tape, and fashioned a new pocket. While we were at it, we changed the angle of the batten, so that the sail will roll up easier. The old angle was part of the reason for the damage, as it caused a lot of stress on the pocket ends. The boat is now ready to sail again, when conditions allow. Thanks Bruce for lending us Sheila’s sewing machine for this!

Since about the beginning of the pandemic, we’ve been talking about and planning a tent on the dock, to give us another sheltered workspace. In December, we finally got it, and set it up, and then worked on stabilizing and reinforcing it to keep it standing through the strong winds. This last windstorm on Friday was the first real test, and it held up, thankfully!

We’ll probably keep the sides rolled up most of the time, only dropping them when we’re in there working, or if we’re sure we won’t get a storm.

The tent is now home to Button Swan, which is next in line for a refresh. We found that the bottom paint was completely worn off in places, putting the planking in danger of damage by shipworms or other destructive pests.

Storms have been happening more often than usual, and MUCH more than we’d like. The docks and the shed are taking a real beating. The wind and waves have been bashing the shed against the dock a lot – so we’ve added more cushioning using wider tires, and reinforced the shed where the tires hit it.

HUGE thanks to the club members including Arnt, Knut, and Dylan, who have been at the dock helping Bruce during the last few storms, tending the lines, and making sure the boats and shed haven’t been damaged too badly. There was some pretty dramatic footage of the last storm which happened at a King tide, with water washing over the spit, a boat getting washed up on the rocks, and the incredible force of the wind.

One way I’ve been keeping an eye on the harbour (and the rest of English Bay) is a local webcam which was activated after the barge ran aground in November. The camera cycles among a bunch of views, and one of them is a great view of our harbour. You can see it on YouTube: https://youtu.be/wAfNuT8IqJw

I think I’ll leave it at that – a lot of stuff has been piling up in the almost 2 months since the last post – life seems to be getting busier all the time!! Hopefully Covid conditions will allow us to keep meeting at the shop for our Saturday workdays. The tent should allow us to work on two projects, as long as we get back to more normal temperatures!

Outwales and Sculling Notch

Very satisfying progress over the last few weeks on the Acorn – getting some good work done!

The transom got a sculling notch cut in, for an alternative to a pair of oars. The outwales are coved to receive a rope as a bumper, to avoid scuffing the mothership.

The breasthook was cut to thickness, and some creative use of furniture as circle template, to get the right curve. The seat risers have been steam-bent and rivetted in place.

Admiring the good work, and planning next steps.

The shed has had the barnacles scraped off, a regular bit of maintenance – thanks Dylan!

A new addition to the dock (for the moment) is this partially completed kayak – the builder’s family has donated it to the club after he passed away. We are going to look for a suitable outcome for it, whether finishing it as a club project, or selling it to someone who wants to complete it. In the meantime, we’ll get it into dry storage off-site. Let us know if you’re interested!

This dock will soon be home to a tent – we’re getting one to expand our workspace for the winter, so that we can work on some of the much-neglected maintenance work on our fleet of boats. And as we get into winter weather, our shed is just a bit too small to accomodate as many people as we’d like. We are also putting a temporary hold on new Boat Users Group members until spring-time.

Here is a photo from the field trip last Wednesday to the VMM Archive room to view some ship plans. Five lucky OLAS members met with the Librarian Ashlynn Prasad. She pulled a few plans those members wanted to see. The really good news is that she is open to doing it again on a Saturday so that more of our members can participate. We’ll let you know when that is coming up!

We heard from Ingrid over on the Island – she’s working on making her Gartside 14′ more managable, planning on coming over some time to trim a bit off her mainsail. She’s also been involved at Cowichan Bay Maritime Centre, and their rowing and sailing program, enjoying time in the Zachary Mudge, a replica of George Vancouver’s cutter. Always great to hear from our distant members, and what they’re up to!

Off Center Harbor is a great source of videos about boats and boatbuilding – check out this wonderful video of schooners dancing a tango in Maine.

Eastside Culture Crawl is happening now – this weekend is by appointment only, and next weekend is the free-for-all. If you haven’t attended, DO!! It’s an amazing opportunity to visit artist studios, see their work, and be inspired. Our Oarlock & Sail club members Valerie and Arnt Arntzen were among the founding members 25 years ago, and they’d love to have you drop by Panaficio Studios! Check out Valerie’s great interview on CTV Morning.

Thanks Brent for the photo of the lovely Button Swan doing her thing!

Stem & Knees

We as the Oarlock & Sail Wooden Boat Club board members are working on communicating more with the rest of our club members. Please watch your email for some upcoming info on how you can get more involved, and be informed about upcoming work at the shop.

Work on the Acorn is progressing nicely – today she had her outer stem installed, and some templates cut for her stern knees and breasthook.

Before that, the boat got an oil bath, and then all ribs rivetted in place.

A couple of weeks ago, we modified a sail cover to fit Button Swan – we added a bit to an existing one that wasn’t quite long enough for that long boom. Thanks Tom for the use of your sewing machine, heat knife (which cuts the material so nicely!) and your expertise. A bunch of members got to try their hand at sewing, and we got a great new cover!

Meanwhile, the boats are giving much enjoyment to OSBUG members!

Hope to see you at the shop sometime!