Buttons and collars — marlinespike seamanship

I returned from Virginia to find a long box on the dining room table with a pair of new spruce Shaw & Tenney oars to replace the faithful, but fast fading crap basswood oars that have served me for the last six or so years.

Shaw & Tenney is an ancient company in Orono, Maine that makes very nice (and expensive) oars and paddles. I ordered my pair back in June, and finally, with summer on the wane, they arrived. After placing dead fat last in the morning skiff race, I opted out of the second punishment, came home, and sat down on the back deck with my ditty bag to get some leather onto my new blades.

Chafing is the enemy of the sailor, and a lot of seamanship is devoted to cutting down on friction. A frayed line, a chafed sail, or a worn spar can mean disaster at the wrong time and in the wrong conditions, so one does what they can to keep a boat from rubbing itself apart. Leather is a staple of any ditty bag, generally high quality tanned stuff for applying to spars where they rub against other spars. Boom crutches and gaff jaws are two places where some well applied leather will protect the brightwork (varnish), but nowhere is it more useful (and good looking) than on the looms of a nice pair of oars.

I have collars and buttons on my old oars, but I tacked the leather in place with bronze brads — a bad but quick way to get the leather on and the method preferred by my grandfather on his ash oars. Bronze looks good when it corrodes green with verdigris, but one is putting two rows of small holes into the oar which will eventually let water in and cause the oar to swell, split, and fail. So I decided to put my collars and buttons on the old school way — with needle and thread, and for an hour today put my ditty bag to good work. Paul Gartside, a boat builder in British Columbia, has excellent instructions on how to do this.
First, I took a leather collar kit and marked the leather around the shaft, centering the leather about 24 inches from the end of the grips. Shaw & Tenney recommends 20 inches, but I like to have my oar handles close together, so I move the collars out.

I marked the circumference of the oars on the rough side of the leather and cut it with a single-edged razor blade using a steel ruler as a straight edge. Then, with the ruler as a quide, I marked twenty points 3/8ths of a inch apart on each edge, and popped them through with a hammer and nail over a piece of scrap wood (an awl also works well). The holes don’t need to be particularly large, just punctures to guide the needle.

I lace with a six-foot piece of dacron sail thread thoroughly waxed with beeswax. I use two egg-eye needles — stout and blunt tipped on each end of the thread. Some experts call for shorter thread for ease of use, but I go with a long piece so I can have one continuous piece. I laced these leathers on by putting the oar across my lap, and had my sailor’s palm on my right hand to help drive the needles through. The stitch is easy — essentially the same pattern as a shoelace.

I start with a few passes on the top edge, pulling the dacron very tight to bring the two edges of the leather together. I cut the leather about 3/16ths short in the expectation that the lacing will bring it together super-tight around the loom of the oar.

I run the thread up and back, and wind up with this:

I finish it off with a Turk’s head over the button, and with some care, these oars should last at least ten years.

Obligatory Weekly Marketing Post

In deference to Peter Kim’s M20 list of marketing blogs, of which this feeble effort now resides in 12th place, I need to stay on topic and be pedantic about marketing.

In the spirit of this week’s random theme, here are some random topics which I have been thinking about lately:

1. Facebook: joined in January to the horror of my daughter, who has lived on the thing since it was launched. Now spend more and more time there without knowing why. I intend to do a deeper anthropological study of the phenomenon and make the argument that the company needs to be there in a big way. Initial fears: it is a closed system; it is spammish; it is a great demo for our public sector/college marketing efforts. It needs to be watched as part of our Social Media Marketing monitoring efforts.

2. Vibrant Media/Intellitext: I remain opposed to this insertion of advertiser links within editorial copy. This begs the question of can an ex-journalist be effective as a marketer?
3. Corporate Blog Policy: Ours is being reviewed. A new general counsel and the discipline of an annual review is now in process. I have a new personal corporate blog policy: I am going to see how long I can go without mentioning the “L word” and I don’t mean Lebanon. Why? This remains a personal endeavor and if I want to talk about the company I’ll do it on a company blog.
4. Agency Disintermediation: The “D-word” of the 90s, you know, the end of the middle-man, death of a travel agent, extinction of the human modem — the crumb catchers who act as a go-between. Ive been thinking a lot about the role of the traditional advertising agency and clients given the rise of the global interactive network and the consolidation of ad servers by the big players. I need to think carefully on this topic, but for now, I see clients going direct to the networks, and fragmenting their interactive operations across boutiques (viral agencies, microsite developers, ad servers, email outsourcers, etc. etc.)

5. Content Effectiveness: I need to embark on a project to rigorously quantify content effectiveness, fall out points, A/B and multivariate testing. I know the framework exists, I just need to focus on discovering it.

6. Social Media Metrics: lots of thoughts about the marriage of social media monitoring, actions/outreach and impact/ROI. Need to spend some time in NYC this week discussing the metrics, but I believe there is a major brand management move in the offing.

7. Conferences: I’m not a conference goer, but there are more and more beginning to pile up on the calendar. I thought conferences were somewhat doomed, but now the whole BarCamp thing seems to be breathing life back into them.

Randomness from the road

I am back in Cotuit, doing the post-vacation inbox dance, but as it is lunch and I have much to bloviate, bloviate I shall.

  • I need a vacation.
  • Cruise control is one of those accessories that I never understood until driving 1,500 miles over three days. My right gluteus maximus, (aka, right ass-cheek) is seriously compromised from sitting too long in the same seat pushing the same gas pedal.
  • Those wireless dee-vices that purport to enable an iPod through the car radio? A sledgehammer is too good for them. Why I didn’t get an IceLink installed is beyond me. I need to hardwire the iPod … and now. (and yes, Uncle Fester, you were right two years ago)
  • Radar detectors are illegal in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Do the police have detectors for detectors?
  • (What is a “commonwealth” and are there any others than Massachusetts and Virginia?)
  • Why do highway signs now set off radar detectors? Is it to create false-hits to freak out lead-foots like me? Or is it some brilliant thing that permits the sign to go dark when there is no traffic, thus saving power, and light up when the radar sees a moving vehicle?
  • A Garmin GPS is one of life’s essentials and I am indebted to Fester for buying me mine.
  • Driving the Skyline Drive through the Shenandoah Vally on a foggy day is a moron move.
  • Angry customers will call me even when I take three days off. This makes my wife angry. 12-hour car rides are a good test for marital compatibility, or is it martial compatibility?
  • Charlottesville, Virgina is a better place to go to college than New Haven, Connecticut was in the late 1970s.
  • Never take me back to school shopping with a daughter and a wife who is a professional interior decorator. I act like a four-year old.
  • I need to tour some Civil War battlegrounds
  • The best Mexican food I have eaten outside of California can be found in Front Royal, VA at the Jallisco Authentic Mexican Restaurant

A good view for doing conference calls

In Charlottesville, Virginia this week, bringing my daughter to her first year at UVA. I woke at 5:30 to catch up on email, and this is my view as I review some Olympic pavillion designs with Beijing.

Lots of standing in line ahead, some up-and-down stair move-in, then a tour of the Jefferson-designed campus. Tomorrow my wife and I make the 650 mile drive back to the Cape. I am on cell and stealing blackberry looks if anyone needs me.

Site officiel du Paris-Brest-Paris 2007

Site officiel du Paris-Brest-Paris 2007

From RUSA – Randonneurs USA

“In August 2007, more than 4 000 randonneurs will gather in Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines to enter into the legend of the PARIS-BREST-PARIS (P.B.P.) Randonneur. Since 1931, thousands of randonneurs have tried their hand at the most famous brevet at “allure libre” (self paced rides), the 1200 km PBP, which must be completed in 90 hours, the present maximum time limit.”

This is what I am dreaming of doing — buying a replacement bike, riding the Boston Brevet Series, then the Boston-Montreal-Boston — and cap my cycling career with the Paris-Brest-Paris, the world’s longest and most venerated cycling event. It’s run every four years and is going on now.

Worldsource Or Perish – Bill Amelio, CEO of Lenovo on the next phase of Globalization

“In a world with just one time zone (“Now”), business must source materials, innovation, talent, logistics, infrastructure and production wherever they are best available. And we must sell wherever profitable markets exist, anywhere in the world. In today’s global economy, companies must worldsource.”

Forbes.com has a piece by Bill Amelio today on “Worldsourcing” — this is an interesting thesis I heard expressed at McKinsey in the Global Strategy Practice. We were working on a book about financial reforms in emerging markets driven by the globalization of credit and the accompanying export of stringent regulatory regimes by the dominant market economies. IE — if you want to borrow money in Brazil, you better be prepared to deliver a financial statement acceptable under Sarbanes Oxley. Amelio’s argument — admittedly China centric as Lenovo was founded in China, and China is taking a pasting for product quality control — is that the best way to bring FDA types of standards to an emerging market is to engage in that market and source product from it.

Hence, who is better prepared to kick a foreign supplier into line than a buyer operating under a strictest quality regulations? By default, that exports those regulations into the foreign domain.

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