This week was all devoted to the preparation for the launching of the patatxe.
A patatxe (we use the Basque spelling here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patache), was a light sailing vessel with two masts originally used for patrolling the coastline, especially in this area close to the border near .
Patatxes later took part in trans-Pacific expeditions and because of their speed and versatility they were soon favored by pirates as well.
The launching went well, and we now have plenty of space in the workshop! Now back to the sandolo.
As you can see from the picture, we found some time to position the stringers and fair the frames in order to fasten them.
We also cut all the frame heads, which is always a difficult and at the same time relieving step in the construction process.
Notwithstanding all the measuring (“measure twice, cut once”, they say), some of them look a bit off and will need to be trimmed again later, until they are all nice and consistent. There is no gunwale on this kind of boats, therefore the frames will be visible and we want them to look good.
This week Ioanna and I will be back to work on Laguna at 100% and we hope to get some real progress done.
In fact, there are great news from Venice: apparently, the Vogalonga committee is trying to organize this year’s edition for May 23rd!
We may have a deadline for finishing our project.
I’ll make a post devoted to the Vogalonga further on, when we have more news about this year’s edition… and our possible attendance.
I am writing today, because we have been working until Easter. The museum of Albaola was open and a few of us students had to keep the workshop “active” while the guided tours passed by. Good for us, because we actually lost a lot of time trying to wrap our head around many small details that are still not so clear in our minds…
All in all, it has been a week devoted to frames. We finally finished and installed all of them!
Unfortunately, trying the stringers on, we realized that they will need a bit of fairing on the inside of the boat. One of the frames is actually quite different in dimensions, because it was made by a volunteer, interested in joining the school next year.
It’s always difficult to make sure that volunteers have a full picture of what they need to do, probably we should have double- and triple-checked the frame before installing it. Now it’s too late, I hope we can fix it next week without having to disassemble it…
Another volunteer (he’s also interested in the school, let’s hope next year there will be more new people than there were this one), made the mast-step. It touches the bottom of the boat, even though sometimes it is suspended on the frames to allow water to pass below it in the bilge. It raises two cm above the frames, so that it will be flush with the floor boards.
I have started thinking of the forward deck, and cut the first beam out of a curved-grain larch offcut. There will be three beams in total, but I never got to installing it because we still need to trim the edges of the planks.
This is where we lost a lot of time. The edge of the planks, which is now square, has a rolling bevel with the angle changing as you move towards the ends of the planks, where it flares out. This bevel is usually planed “by eye”, and we don’t have that skill yet.
The top of the planks also affects the angle at which the frame-heads will be cut (the edge is not level, since Venetian gunwhales are usually tilt outwards). Nobody wants to cut them and then find out they are too short!
My boatbuilder friend Nicolò Zen has been helping me a lot during the last weeks, and he has sent me a couple interesting things lately. The first one is a picture of the boat from which the plans we are using were taken:
The second one is a video. And what a video. It’s an episode of “Pianeta mare” hosted by Tessa Gelisio, from Italian tv channel Rete4. From the info I could gather (here: http://www1.adnkronos.com/Archivio/AdnAgenzia/2007/03/09/Spettacolo/Televisione/TV-IMBARCAZIONI-FAI-DA-TE-DOMENICA-A-PIANETA-MARE_130413.php) it was aired on March 2007.
It’s a two-day build of a s’ciopon by Agostino Amadi (this one: https://www.agostinoamadisrl.it/dati/schede/schioppon_en.htm#), one of the most renowned names among Venetian boatbuilders.
Two days from start to finish, yes.
Sorry if I am bit late with this update on last week’s progress. As I mentioned in my last post, we had a press conference on Wednesday, and this weekend I have been busy looking for all the articles that have been published. They are quite a few, both in Spanish and Basque (plus an Italian one, on a local newspaper of Venice).
You can find them all here: https://acquastanca.eu/2021/03/27/intermezzo-rassegna-stampa/
But let’s go back for a second at the beginning of the week. This is the boat as we left it the previous week.
We had decided we wanted to have something to show to the journalists, so on Tuesday we finally nailed the sheer planks on.
Here a close-up of the new stem (the cutwater still needs to be shaped). The nail heads will later be covered with puddy, and then painted over together with the sides. On the plank it’s easy to spot one (or two) diamond-shaped repairs, which replaced dead knots.
All in all, the boat looks cool. We took out our oars and forcole, plus an ikurrina (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ikurri%C3%B1a) and even a Venetian flag (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flag_of_the_Republic_of_Venice). Thanks to our colleague Antoine’s parents for this last one!
Very happy with the result, after the press left we realized we had actually hanged the planks lower than they should have been. This is what you get when you work in a hurry!
Nobody noticed, of course, and until the boat stays in the Basque Country nobody ever will, probably. But today a Venetian friend (Gilberto Penzo, the author of the plans, nonetheless) called me to ask why the sheer looked so low…
I guess that for your first construction you are bound to make mistakes.
The problem is that by now we have already started fitting in the other frames, nailing them in place. There’s no way to move the planks now.
Albaola’s museum will open this Easter, so we’ll keep working through the holidays. I hope we can finish all the frames, and install the seat-riser by the end of the week. Maybe we might as well start thinking about the decks?
Il 25 marzo, con la scusa che era il 1600° anniversario della fondazione di Venezia, abbiamo tenuto ad Albaola una conferenza stampa per presentare ufficialmente al pubblico il progetto del sandolo Laguna.
Il museo infatti riaprirà al pubblico per la Semana Santa, per poi iniziare ad aprire nei fine settimana di aprile e, si spera, di nuovo a tempo pieno a partire da maggio.
La risposta è stata molto positiva, per cui ho deciso di raccogliere qui sotto gli articoli mano a mano che usciranno.
“Albaola construye un barco de trabajo veneciano”, Noticias de Gipuzkoa
“El astillero Albaola presenta su ‘barco veneciano’ y reabre al público”, El Diario Vasco (paywall)
“‘Laguna’, un sándolo veneciano que se está construyendo en Albaola”, Naiz
“‘Laguna’, un sándolo veneciano que se está construyendo en Albaola”, Gara
“Un Sándolo s’ciopón en Albaola, Pasaia, 1600 aniversario de la fundación de la ciudad de Venecia”, GipuzkoaDigital
“Albaola reabre sus puestas al público esta Semana Santa”, Cadena SER, Radio San Sebastián
“Albaola, Aste Santuan barriro zabalik”, Bizkaie!
“Saul diventa maestro d’ascia a Venezia e con il “sandolo s’ciopon” solcherà l’Oceano Atlantico”, La Nuova di Venezia e Mestre
Non poteva mancare il sito di Gilberto Penzo, autore dei piani di costruzione e coordinatore del rilievo dell’originale. Alcune delle foto pubblicate sul suo sito sono inedite: http://www.veniceboats.com/s-ciopon-in-atlantico.htm
E ovviamente il sito di Albaola: http://www.albaola.com/en/site/news/351/un-barco-veneciano-en-pasaia
This week was a short one: Friday was San José (Saint Joseph), Father’s Day and national holiday in Spain.
It sort of makes sense that we wouldn’t work. After all, he’s the patron saint of all carpenters (including boatbuilders). For sure Noah would have been a much better choice, since he was an actual shipwright (Medieval depictions of him building the ark offer a wonderful representation of the tools of the trade, which haven’t changed much since then).
But Noah was not so lucky, having made the mistake of being born before the coming of Christ. He was friend with God and saved all humanity (plus the animals, obv), but he was not a Christian and therefore is spending the rest of times in Hell. Probably forever fairing a hull that will never be fair, or sanding something for eternity… I could not thing of a more terrible torture.
Anyways, let’s not dwell on theology, we have a boat to build!
This week Ioanna has finished planing the after filler block, so that the side planks arrive nice and snug, hopefully without letting water in.
We have also cut both sheer planks at the desired width (around 20/25cm), drilled out some nasty knots and plugged them, and painted the inside with a first coat of primer. It is much easier to do it now then after they will be hanged, with all those frames installed.
I have spent quite a lot of time trying to figure out the shape of the plank at the bow, and how they meet with the stem.
After some trial and error, and a few phone calls and pictures sent to a boatbuilder in Venice friend of mine, I have come to the conclusion that:
- the stem was set at the wrong height;
- the rabbet I had cut was not quite in the right position.
Also, as a bonus, I had forgotten that the edge of the plank should be cut at an angle inferior to 90°, so that it gets trapped into the stem.
Long story short: on Thursday I took off stem and forward filler block, and milled up a new one. I will be installing it next week.
This is what happens when you have never built a boat of this kind before and you don’t have a boat to copy near to you to use as reference. But it’s probably what makes it more fun. Maybe.
On a more light note, if you follow my stories on Instagram (@acqua_stanca) you already saw our new mascot, that Ioanna (@io_moutu) bought: a miniature decoy duck. The full-sized ones are called stampi in Venetian and were used when hunting in the lagoon of Venice. The boat is a s’ciopon, after all.
Next week we’ll have a press conference to present the project to the local newspapers, let’s hope we have something nice to show them!
At last, the patatxe has been moved, and Ioanna and I were finally able to fasten our cantier (the strongback) and start building the sandolo for real. The countdown has officially started: let’s see how long will it take us to finish it.
After marking the colomba (keel-plank) with a centerline and all the frame stations, and making sure it sits level across on the whole length of the cantier, I embarked in the task of fitting the stem, while Ioanna did the same with the transom.
We chose oak for the stem because we have plenty available (a luxury we will miss after we leave the Aprendiztegi, I am sure). We didn’t have any wide oak offcuts to use as transom, so we went with larch, which would be the traditional wood choice in Venice, anyways.
With the help of a couple battens, I traced the lines of the rabbet on the stem, and carved it with a chisel. I wasn’t really sure of the shape it would have, but it turns out it is basically a straight line. Now, that’s convenient. I left some extra material in there, you never know: we’ll probably have to adjust the bevel slightly eventually.
Since we are actually copying an existing s’ciopon, of which we have the exact measurements, we decided to add and extra step to the traditional construction method and place the first and last frames as well, in order to get a more precise idea of the shape of the boat and, most importantly, height of the sheer.
Once the frames were in place, the following step has been fitting two filler blocks. These have a triple function:
- they give some extra material for the nails to bite into (In these small portions of the boat converge all the side and bottom planks, with their fastenings);
- they help connect transom and stem to the keel plank (more nails);
- they displace water that would otherwise collect into the bilge, in places under the aft and fore decks, i.e. not always easy to bail and with lack of air circulation = prone to rot.
Once we had everything fitted, we bedded the parts with a mix of linseed-oil based putty and primer (and some blood, because accidents happen). We then nailed everything into place and we were ready for the next step: hanging the sheer planks.
Well, first of all we actually had to go and find suitable planks. Our larch stock is only six meter long, so we considered scarfing two planks together in order to reach the 6,30m (more or less) we needed. But luckily, someone remembered of a pile of cypress planks, which were the left over from a boat we had build in the school two years ago.
Obviously the planks that were left were full of dead knots and spikes, but since they are very wide and we only need planks of around 25cm width, we probably found something good enough for us.
The smell of cypress when you cut it is amazing!
We have a name! I mean, Ioanna and I obviously already did, but now the sandolo has officially a name, too.
Last year, I was reading a book on boatbuilding (not that I read much else lately). I’m not quite sure if it was “From Tree to Sea” by Ted Frost https://openlibrary.org/books/OL22307584M/From_Tree_to_Sea or “How to Build a Wooden Boat”, by Bud McIntosh https://www.woodenboatstore.com/products/how-to-build-a-wooden-boat). Both are very much recommended, by the way.
Anyhow, the author wrote that one should avoid to pronounce the name of a boat before she’s launched, since the evil spirits would be able to follow her in her voyages, or something like that. But luckily enough for us, bad spirits can’t read apparently. So there is no problem in writing the name of a boat before she’s launched.
Therefore I’m happy to announce that our little sandolo will be called “Laguna”.
“Laguna” means “lagoon” in Italian. The lagoon of Venice is justly famous for its beauty and is actually part of the UNESCO site comprehending the city of Venice: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/394
It is because of its being build in such a place that Venice became the maritime power that we know. And it is because of its being surrounded by water that Venice developed so many different kinds of boats.
Specifically, if you remember from my previous posts, the sandolo s’ciopon was used in the past especially for hunting out of the city, in the lagoon.
But I also wanted the name to reflect the fact that the boat is going to be built in the Basque Country. For a fortuitous event, “laguna” also means “friend” in Euskara (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basque_language).
What better name to seal the friendship between Venice and Pasaia (home to Albaola) that this projects wants to symbolize?
Naming a boat is probably the most difficult thing to do, after naming your child, but I think we did good here. See you soon, Laguna!
Another week passed by, and still there is no space in the workshop for us. But worry not: we have been promised a space in the workshop for next monday. Until then we cannot fasten the strongback (cantier) to the floor and actually start building.
There were, however, a lot of things that we could do this week. Most important of all, milling up the wood to the dimensions of the parts we will need.
First things first: a boat would not float without a bottom. The flat bottom of our sandolo will be made out of three very wide larch planks (about 32 cm each), planed down to 1.8 cm thick.
Moving up, we needed frames. Lots of ‘em. I believe 38 in total.
Keeping in mind to leave enough material for the changing bevel of the frames, we used a pattern of the central frame (maestra) to mark the wood to cut.
Since we don’t usually work with such small boats, we tried to take advantage of leftover oak planks, planed down to just 1.8 cm.
Floor timbers where the easiest part to source. There are 18 of them, but the shortest is only about 30 cm long and the longest slightly more than a meter. They all are 4.2 cm wide and 3 cm thick. In Venice they would be in many cases made of larch, especially for such a small (and cheap) boats. We have an abundance of oak, so we’ll give her some extra strength.
We then assembled the main frame (that we’ll need next week to hang the sheer planks). The floor timber has two notches to accommodate about two thirds of each frame, in order to prevent it from moving.
Nowadays boats in Venice are mainly fastened with stainless steel screws, but we are building this s’ciopon the old way, therefore we fastened the three parts together with galvanised nails.
Ioanna also started the transom, and I tried to figure out how the stem is going to be shaped. More on that next week, when we would like to install them on the strongback.
Per chi se lo fosse perso, la scorsa settimana ho partecipato a una diretta Instagram con mia sorella Eva e il suo ragazzo Giacomo.
L’anno scorso sono riusciti a venirci a trovare a San Sebastián nella finestra estiva tra le due ondate di coronavirus. Si sono dovuti impegnare, perché al di là della pandemia sono venuti fin qua in macchina, ma ne è valsa la pena!
Come è loro abitudine, hanno dedicato alla loro vacanza un diario di viaggio disegnato, che abbiamo riletto insieme durante la diretta.
Vi consiglio di fare un salto sul sito di Giacomo (https://www.disegnintasca.it/) se vi piace l’idea: ne hanno già pubblicati altri in passato.
A questo indirizzo trovate il post sulla diretta a cui ho partecipato: https://www.disegnintasca.it/sketchbook-tour-dei-paesi-baschi/
Qui sotto invece vi metto il video montato da Giacomo, con tanto di disegni ad alta risoluzione: buona visione!
Questa è la scaletta, per farvi un’idea:
- 00:00:00 Introduzione
- 00:02:36 Viaggio in auto e arrivo a San Sebastián
- 00:08:00 Pamplona
- 00:14:00 San Sebastián e la Concha
- 00:20:20 Pasai Donibane e barca a vela
- 00:25:40 Bilbao
- 00:31:30 Albaola e intervento di Saul
- 00:51:43 Cena ad Hondarribia
- 00:55:28 Zumaia, la spiaggia di Game of Thrones
- 01:02:15 Attrezzatura per Urban Sketching
- 01:10:20 Ultimo giorno a San Sebastián e una storia da James Bond
- 01:16:35 Rientro in Italia con imprevisto
- 01:22:06 Sfoglio dello sketchbook e saluti
Everything is going according to plan: after the forcole of last week, this week we made remi, the oars.
We couldn’t use Basque oars, of which we have aplenty obviously, because they are not the right shape and dimensions. After all, the Venetian rowing style is so inherently different: standing and facing forward, the rower needs a much lighter and slender oar.
In Venice, the artisan making oars is the same one making the oarlocks. Actually, it is called remer, i.e. oar-maker.
Since 1500, Venice made the oars for its galleys out of beech, sourced in the Cansiglio forests, on the Alps (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cansiglio).
Even though modern oars in Venice are made with a variety of different kinds of wood (with a preference for the exotic ramin for its straight and clear bole: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gonystylus), we decided to go for the traditional material, and started out with a single plank of kiln-dried beech (320x19x5cm).
Following step-by-step the process detailed in Gilberto’s book (which, by the way, is written in both Italian and English, and available here: http://www.veniceboats.com/it-pubblicazioni-catalogo-libri-forcole.htm) we marked out and cut the two oars.
After planing the sides to the wanted dimensions, we cut the notches on the sides of the blade at 45°, and glued on the off-cuts we saved from the initial cutting at the band saw.
These side-strips have different purposes: their different lenghts indicate if the oar is for port or starboard (the long strip always faces forward), and in the case of fir oars, they are still made of beech, helping protect the thin blade from accidental hits. This is a common occurrence, in a city with narrow canals surrounded by brick-and-stone walls.
After the epoxy had cured, the shaping begun. The blade is asymmetrical in many ways: first of all, the tip raises from the horizontal line of the loom, in order to move more water. This is much more evident on modern scoop-oars, but that’s basically the same principle.
Secondly, the blade is rounded on the bottom, and has a spine on the top. This reinforces the blade, as much as folding a sheet of paper in half and then holding it as an inverted V makes it possible to keep it horizontal, without collapsing under its own weight.
Lastly, this spine is itself not centered on the blade, but more towards aft. This makes the center of gravity of the oar move aft as well, helping the rower with the peculiar movement Venetian voga requires.
With the help of a spar gauge I had built my first year here in Albaola, we marked the looms and went from square, to octagonal, to 16-sided, to circular. Of course this involves a lot of planing, look at Ioanna loading a full wheelbarrow with a day’s worth of shavings!
In case you where wondering where I got them from, here are the plans for the spar gauge:
After some scraping and some more sanding with progressively higher grits (we went from 60 to 120, through 80 and 100), we marked the oars on the handle in the traditional way, in order to quickly distinguish which one goes forward and which aft.
The whole process took us only a few days. As per the forcole, it took us less time than expected. Here you can see me enjoying my first alzaremi with the new oars.
Alzaremi (literally “oar-lifting”) is the traditional salute at rowing events and regattas in Venice. I can’t wait to be able to properly do it on the boat!
But we all know that an oar is not ready until it’s got oh so many coats of varnish. At the moment of writing, we only have three coats on, so this will go on for a while also next week…
Next month there will be a press conference to present the s’ciopon, so Ioanna an I are working hard to get started as soon as possible. We have begun assembling the cantier, i.e. the strongback onto which the boat is built. More on that next week.