Log of the Construction Period
Click here to view photos of the construction and testing period
Q So what is going on Ed? Did you go away on vacation or something?
It's been a few months in the making but the first hull of the catamaran 'Absolute Absolution' is built. We launched her on the 9th of June. I was a little nervous during the lifting of the hull into the water, fearing several different disasters - would it break in two, would the track hold the nearly 2 ton weight, would anyone get hurt? Thankfully all went smoothly and Ed Kelly's launch track worked perfectly. The crew at the launch were impecable in carrying out their tasks. We had Mark of the Corpus Christi Coast Guard helping us on his day off and Bob and Pete who brought down a couple of extra 'come a longs'. Ed Kelly was here of course and June who has just returned from England and a visit with her family. June is excited to be back with the project as we move on to the next phase. 'duplicating the first hull'.
I figure the second hull will go a little faster as all the original problems have been worked out and there is a little more help now from some of the locals interested in our rafting project.
It is a great feeling to have this first step under our belt. To build on the water and launch from the building platform was an added bonus.
Capt. Betsy here (Ed's been too involved to get to his typewriter lately): Just to let you know that the Absolute Absolution construction is now proceeding forward in Port Isabel, having rejoined the main Neutrino raft fleet for the time being. Joint sharing of resources leads to more progress on all fronts. We are all happy to be working in closer proximity. Click here to read an article June wrote for the local newspaper, just before leaving Corpus Christi.
We have launched the second hull and are now in the process of connecting the two hulls together. In the last few days we have constructed the second of four bulkheads between the two hulls and are poised to begin enclosing the aft third of the catamaran.
It feels so good to be moving into this time of year, where the heat isnt so oppressive. It still amazes me that the construction crew (Tony, Dean, Jaclyn and June) was able to build this second hull in temperatures averaging 95 degrees and about as much humidity. Now, as we enter winter in Texas (which is more like a Canadian fall), building the raft has become a real treat for us.
This is a very exciting time as we are now down to the final stage in the building process of the Absolute Absolution. After this comes the testing of the vessel, which could be as soon as February or March of the New Year. It feels to me like I have built two four foot by fifty foot foam logs, and I am so looking forward to riding these foam logs with my crew to other countries. We intend to demonstrate and teach how living on the water can be achieved with recycled materials as we travel to different ports of call around the globe. We are still looking for more builders and crew for this next stage of the catamarans evolution.
Winter has arrived here in the sunny Rio Grande Valley, and with it the partially finished aft bridge deck. Junes cabin is built and she moved into it a week ago. I moved into my cabin in the starboard hull one month ago. Now we are starting on the midship cabins and then the forward ones. All the bulkhead walls are in place and it looks like three more months of our current pace will have most of the raft complete.
As the project progresses so does the interest of people who want to build and crew. It is really starting to look like something other than two 50 foot canoes with a lot of spikes sticking up in the air.
It feels great to be in this position with the project, considering that at this time last year I was thinking about starting construction of the building platform. The people, the materials and the will have come together to make the dream come true, and what a dream shes turning out to be.
I look ahead down the road that I am going to walk and I see my fear, the hurdles, the obstacles, the threats that will lead me away from the route, the path I have chosen. I will overcome these things.
[This log entry has been added by June Donaldson, as Ed is fully focused on the final stages of construction and the many last details to be attended to before getting underway.]
Summer has arrived early here in Port Isabel, and temperatures are now in the high 90's during the day. We are so glad of the breeze coming off the water to cool us down.
We are now in the final stages of external construction so that we can put ourselves in motion. There is an old sailors saying "If you wait til your boat is finished, you never leave." Our intention is to go coastal in a southerly direction towards Panama, continuing to build as we go.
All six primary crew cabins are now complete. There will also be two smaller cabins, one in the bow of each hull, for short-term crew. The main cabin at the stern is now fully enclosed, and we have a working galley in the center main cabin. We have closed in nearly half of the bottom of the bridge deck. Work continues - enclosing the port bow and completing the external structure of the bridge deck, as well as building the rudders and the helm.
Our crew list continues to expand Anna Seeger has joined us from Vermont and has settled in very quickly. She has experience of coastal sailing on tall ships, but was particularly drawn to our project because of her desire to be part of a community. Junes son, Adam, will be arriving from London, England, at the end of this month he has tired of the city life and is looking forward to learning how to sail and to visiting different countries. Brian Hockaday, who has assisted with construction and the launching of the second hull, is taking a year out from college and will be sailing with us as far as Panama. Poppa Neutrino has moved into his cabin. Tony Davis, who helped with construction all last summer and fall, is still interested in joining the crew, so we have a potential full complement of crew for the first leg of our journey around the world.
Dean Kennell, who assisted with the construction of the second hull, provided transport for materials and donated tools, a GPS and a solar panel to our project, has left Port Isabel for the cooler woodland areas of Austin, Texas. We are so grateful for his friendship and have promised to keep in touch.
On July 13th we motored away from Billy Kenon's dock in Port Isabel, where we had been moored while building the Absolute Absolution, and out into the channel on our maiden voyage. We wanted to conduct sea trials on our experimental vessel and had decided to head south along the coast of Mexico to test her in varying conditions. We were so elated to be on the move at last, and the cheers and waves from the fishermen on the shrimp boats lifted our spirits even more. see photos
The Absolute Absolution handled better than we could have possibly imagined. She tracked beautifully through the water and steering her was a breeze. We cleared the jetty at South Padre Island and entered the choppy waters of the Gulf of Mexico. In spite of the wave action the Absolute Absolution was rock solid not a creak or a groan of protest from her structure. We motored for a day and a night down the coast of Mexico to our intended destination the port of Mesquital arriving at dawn. The Mexican Marine Authorities led us to a safe anchoring location, and were amazed that it had only taken us a year and a half to build our 53' vessel.
The people of Mesquital were incredibly friendly, offering us rides to shore on their boats, which are ubiquitous, used not only for fishing in the Gulf and in the inland Laguna, but also as essential transportation since many of the local dwellings are on islands with no bridges to the mainland. We were also given lifts in their trucks to the local stores which were several miles from the port, and even inviting us into their homes for cold drinks and conversation. I dont think they had ever seen anything like our vessel before, and were intrigued that we were not merely tourists.
While in Mesquital, we decided to step the first of our four masts. Ed designed and built a tabernacle and the crew assembled to raise the 33' main mast on the port hull. Betsy and Shawn pushed up on the lower part of the mast while Tony and Brian used a long pole to push against the upper section of the mast. Ed scrambled to attach the shrouds and stays in their positions and I was responsible for making sure the mast and the people involved in the lifting process didnt get tangled up. Poppa was filming the whole operation, which included some anxious moments when the mast started swaying off course, but it was soon standing tall and proud. see photos of mast stepping
Having decided to return to Port Isabel under sail, we motored directly into the Gulf until we could no longer see land, then raised the mainsail and a jib to catch the wind. see photos The Absolute Absolution performed even better under sail, and it was so calming to experience moving with the wind, despite choppy seas of around 5-7'. All of the crew agreed that Ed had done a magnificent job with the design and construction of the Absolute Absolution and felt confident to tackle the various oceans of the world in her.
We are now preparing to step the second of the four masts and finish the exterior paint work before departure towards the Yucatan early next month.
- log entry by June Donaldson
Port Aransas, Texas, Oct. 2, 2002
We spent a couple of loud weeks motoring east on the Intracoastal Waterway from Port Aransas to Galveston, Texas. We experienced the sometimes temperamental moods of our two unenthusiastic outboard engines (one would work, the other refused, then vice versa). After the first couple of days with constantly droning engines, the crew were equally unenthusiastic, preferring to be sailing. Motoring the Absolute Absolution with both outboards cooperating, we could make about 5 knots, or an easy 65 mile day. She handled well under motor power and proved herself in a severe thunderstorm that forced all barge traffic on the ICW to stop pushing their loads and pull them into the bank. The wind howled, drowning out the din of engines, whipping the Intracoastal Waterway into a tumult of racing waves. The storm was a short-lived event and gave us all great confidence in the rafts manoeuvrability under extreme conditions in tight quarters.
We finally arrived in Galveston with the decision to wait for the wind to come in our favour so we could continue our voyage to Florida under sail.
On the morning of October 15 we motored out to the Galveston jetties and set sail for Florida on a fresh north wind. Running downwind for twenty-four hours put 83.2 miles behind us and a new record distance for a Neutrino raft in 24 hours. During the night one of the rudders sheared off and disappeared into the night astern of us. Tony discovered the rudder was missing and, like myself, couldnt believe it was gone. We still had one, though, and the vessel was steering well - the beauty of a catamaran.
October 17 saw us 150 miles off shore and clear of the oil rigs that form an obstacle course between the mainland and the deep water to the south. On the evening of this day we tacked back to the northeast under full sail, with our new mizzen sail being used for the first time. The mizzens effect was felt right away as the vessel pointed higher and higher into the wind. I proudly settled for a course that left us sailing 55 degrees off the wind and good speed under our hulls. I was overjoyed.
With the seas building to 5 to 7 feet and a 15-20 knot wind, Absolute Absolution raced along through the night, edging towards the Mississippi Delta. The following morning left me not quite so happy about my engineering skills. Tony shouted out from the aft deck while I was eating breakfast, "The other rudders broken off!" I arrived a second later, staring dumfounded at the blue form of the second rudder bobbing up and down and falling astern at 4 knots. There was nothing to be done; we were rudderless, 110 miles offshore.
I immediately asked Brian, who was at the helm, for the course that the ship was now on and to my astonishment she was holding the same bearing. Everyone was a little shocked at the current state of affairs, though Brian, who had recently celebrated his 18th birthday aboard, took it the hardest. He felt that it was somehow his fault that the rudder had broken off. I assured him that it was an engineering flaw and the blame for our current predicament was solely on my rudder design. We had a crew meeting at which I expressed my desire to sail on towards Florida using the sails to steer the vessel. We had lots of sea room and, as we would have to sail up close to shore before using the motors, it may as well be Florida. We needed a southerly wind, though to be able to sail east, otherwise we would be making landfall in Morgan City on our current course.
Since the first rudder fell off Id been working on a design for a make shift rudder. This process was accelerated when the second rudder drifted away. With all hands helping out we built a rudder that would be mounted amid ships off the stern. Due to the turbulence and wave action between the hulls the makeshift rudder could not be hung until we sailed into calmer water. The first night, rudderless, each of the crew on their watch played a game of dodge the oil rig as we sailed back through the hornet's nest of production platforms, derricks, survey vessels, seismic vessels and drilling platforms between us and Morgan City. The horizon all round was twinkling from the activity of the petroleum industry. Twice during the night we had to make a sail adjustment to avoid hitting a rig. The adjustments were subtle - drop the mizzen for 10 degrees downwind; raise a jib for another 10 or 15 degrees. Average speed during the night was 4.5 knots.
The crew on the morning of the 19th was in an enthusiastic mood, unfazed by the state of things. They had so competently handled the steering of our crippled vessel. I still felt disappointed in my rudder engineering, but with it there now came a feeling of pleasure that, even without rudders, the raft was going where I wanted it to go.
However, the wind remained out of the east and, during the afternoon, we passed the point at which I wanted to tack if we were going to clear the Mississippi Delta. Our course would now take us into Morgan City. That evening we dropped anchor just off the channel buoys that lead to the Atchafalaya River. Without rudders we had set another new Neutrino record for a 24 hour run - 85.3 miles!
On the morning of the 20th we mounted the plywood rudder and fired up one of our engines. We spent the rest of the day motoring in the channel and then up the Atchafalaya River to Morgan City, arriving safely a couple of hours after sunset.
What a trip! What a crew! What a raft!
Take care, Ed
In the pursuit of a dream there are many disappointments. To see beyond the disappointment may reveal that you are yet a step closer to what you set out to achieve.
We arrived in the Caribbean in December having sailed across the Gulf of Mexico!
Brian Hockaday left the raft at Morgan City, Louisiana to continue his adventures in the USA and then on to Chile. We wish him safe voyage and good travels. His cabin was immediately occupied by a new crew member, Corrie Cole, a native of Morgan City, who felt our project to be an exciting possibility at this moment in her life. Also joining us (myself, June, Shawn and Tony) for our sail across the Gulf was Poppa Neutrino and an artist from New York, Lech Bider.
With the rudders replaced with a better design, we were ready to tackle the Gulf of Mexico again. It was necessary to leave during one of the many cold fronts coming down from the north. This would give us good driving winds to get out past the oil rigs off the southern coast of Louisiana. We left Houma, Louisiana, on the tail of a gale with a crew of seven.
After 2 days sailing, we were well clear of the rigs and found the vessel to be riding very nicely with average speeds of 4.5 knots over the 2 day period. Our destination was Isla Mujeres on the northeast tip of the Yucatan Peninsula in the Yucatan Straits. We were becalmed for a couple of days, but then another cold front sped our voyage along. We made our first landfall in Rio Lagartos, staying there one night and then leaving for Isla Mujeres. It was a terrific sail, we learned so much about the vessel and her abilities. The crew matured rapidly in the knowledge of sailing and working together.
The long awaited sailing has really given new life to the project. Its exciting to be on the water again, and having reached the clear Caribbean waters really makes all we have done to this point worthwhile. Here in Isla Mujeres we will take a long needed break to enjoy our success, then do some sail repairs, get some charts, put on provisions and head to Panama via the south coast of Cuba. Being in this part of Mexico is so refreshing and we feel really up for the next leg of our journey.
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