{ Category Archives: expedition }

A Most Straightforward Skiff

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This little skiff is a wondeful example of one of my favorite kinds of boat- a flat bottom skiff with a pointy bow and straight sides running back to a full width stern. The bottom is slightly rockered for planing over a chop, and the sharp bow cuts the solid water of a small wave. In lieu of a keel or skeg, a simple ‘shoe’ running the full length under the bottom planking keeps the hull from sliding under power without interfering with landing on a sandy or rocky shore. The extra thick bottom adds the necessary bouyancy and toughness required of a working boat negotiating a range of conditions. Easy to build, repair and maintain, such a flat-bottom skiff is well suited to fishing or crabbing in protected bays, clamming the shallow sloughs, carrying a load or ferrying passengers. A low-powered outboard, like the 15 HP pictured above should push her along at about 8-10 knots without burning too much fuel. Oars are the auxiliary power.

As yet another salmon season kicks off along the Sonoma Coast, I’m seriously considering building such a skiff for fishing and crabbing Bodega Bay.

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Highlights of the Season

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Pride of Madeira (Echium candicans)

– Echium is in bloom (see above).

– Road trip to Santa Barbara. Transmodern highlight: Hanging out in a beach house with the Norwegians, cooking Indian food while listening to hill-billy trip hop.

– Meeting film historian Jan Anders Diesen and getting a private lecture and screening of never-before-seen footage from every major polar expedition, including Byrd, Amundsen, Shackleton, etc.

– Delivering my new line of furniture to Healdsburg Shed.

Wowhaus wins a new public art commission for the City of Cincinnati.

– Visit from my younger brother and his family (pending, arriving today).

– Aili is offered an Academic Honors Scholarship to Occidental College.

– Bodysurfing the point break off of Leadbetter Beach in Santa Barbara.

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Free Sign #2

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Free Sign #2, found in Bodega, CA


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I always replace Free Signs with my own homemade version.

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Free Sign #2 was made on the backside of a bad painting.

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Free Sign

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The first handmade ‘Free’ sign of my collection, found in Bodega, CA.

Driving around the back roads of West Sonoma County on a sunny day, you almost always find a pile of junk by the side of the road with a ‘Free’ sign in plain view. I have yet to find anything of interest, but my eye inevitably lingers on the sign itself. These are almost always handmade and somehow offer a clue as to the character and impetus underlying the otherwise anonymous act of roadside generosity. So I’ve begun collecting ‘Free’ signs, replacing them with my own generic stenciled version, which I sign and date for posterity.

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My first batch of generic ‘Free’ signs, signed and dated, 6″ x 15.5″ each.

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Bull Kelp Harvest

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Each winter since we’ve lived on the Sonoma Coast and made a daily practice of walking the beaches, I become mildly obsessed with the bull kelp that washes ashore in great heaps after storms. I’ve tried weaving the kelp into seat blanks, drying it as an iodine-rich jerky, and brewing it for a savory stock. My experiments have not been utter failures, and the waste product makes for nutritious compost, but I have yet to find its ideal use.

This year, I harvested several large heads of the kelp, selecting the freshest and most well-formed. I’m considering casting these in bronze as a table leg for a new design commission, and have carefully cleaned and wrapped them for freezing until I’m ready to make the molds.

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Deep Jersey Meets the North Woods

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Killian’s dad wore his Deep Jersey on excursions in Northern Canada

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Killian’s dad likes his Deep Jersey so much, they just ordered one for Uncle Whoop.

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Learning from the Murmur

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I was lucky to catch the last rays of early September sun glistening off the ornately glazed tiles and finials of downtown Oakland’s deco treasures; the building facades just drink up this light, colors saturated against a deep azure sky. I had arrived on bike just as the Murmur was setting up, bought tickets at the Fox to see The Hives, and strolled the seven or so blocks of Telegraph closed off to thru-traffic for the evening, scanning food trucks and bicycle vendors for something yummy to eat before folks arrived en masse. Oakland’s Art Murmur is a phantasmagorical, largely improvised street festival happening on the first Friday of each month, whose current locus is several blocks between Telegraph and Broadway, 18th and 27th streets, but is fast spreading further downtown to the harbor. It was my first Murmur and I was seriously blown away.

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I was on the final leg of reconnaissance as we prepare to design a permanent sculpture to be sited by the shore of Lake Merritt just a couple of blocks to the East, a public art project commissioned by the City Of Oakland as part of the City’s innovative Lakeside Green Streets initiative. One of our goals is to create a destination that better links the Lake with the social contours of the City, particularly in light of Oakland’s exceedingly popular Art Murmur. Like the lovely art deco buildings so associated with Oakland’s uptown revival, we want the sculpture to communicate a fine-ness for the ages, while encouraging the temporal exuberance of public events like the Murmur. It’s the ultimate design challenge for any successful public space to balance these extremes, so I was very curious to witness how people interact today, what draws them together, and how the built environment might act simultaneously as catalyst and stage.

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As the Murmur wound down I walked my bike down 20th to the Lake, stood at each of our proposed sites, stared out at the black water and thought about what might attract people to Lake Merritt after dark. Though I could still hear bands playing and people laughing just a couple of blocks away, no one was around. I cycled south to Lake Chalet, a thriving lakefront bistro in the old Boathouse, and found a bustling crowd inside, spillover from the Murmur. Our site is almost exactly between the two scenes, an easy walk from either. I ordered a hoppy IPA from Lake Chalet’s own brewery and pondered the possibilities.

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To learn more about our project for Oakland’s Lakeside Green Streets, click here and scroll down.

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