Sailing boat

Shellbacks Report - April to June

Go For It! Volunteering Adventures on Roads less Travelled

April 2, 2015

This was Alastair and Candas’ return visit to Shellbacks. In their previous presentation they discussed Alistair’s adventures in the North West Territories, and this time they discussed their joint travels and adventures in volunteerism resulting from their previous work up North. They opened their presentation with a 10 minute slide show montage of all their recent travels in Bangladesh, Jamaica, Guyana, with a musical accompaniment including Bob Marley. Each read selected excerpts from the new book “Go for it!”

The first reading was from Alastair about his two years in Bangladesh, focussing on the benefits of “micro-credit” in bringing people out of poverty to achieve financial independence. To do this they worked for South Asia Partnership (SAP). Alastair gave an example of one woman working with a friend to start selling coconuts on the street, resulting in enough money to rent their own rooms and take care of her mother.

The second reading was from their adventures in Jamaica read by Candas, and also accompanied by slides, which emphasized the need for flexibility and to “go with the flow” attitude when working in third world countries. This passage dealt with a local drought and lack of water from the city of Kingston, with water flowing one hour every evening and morning, but only from the tap in the parking lot. The houses used cisterns for water, which were empty, so water didn’t arrive in the house taps. They ordered a truck of water for their cistern, but the water leaked out of at least 20 holes on the hose from the truck, with all the locals trying to catch the water leaking out of the hose. When asked if any water was making it into the tank. “No Problem Mon!” was the reply, but the tank was soon found to be empty. The water delivery company was called “Cesspool cleaners”! But there was nothing to worry about because there was no water in the tank! They ended up using swimming pool water to flush toilets. Found out that tank was draining back to the city waterlines through an open valve. They said they would never again take the ability to get water out of the tap for granted.

The third reading, also by Candas, was from their travels to Georgetown, Guyana, where you have to travel by boat to get to the interior. The reading described a three day excursion from Georgetown to other little towns in the interior by road and boat. Their party of seven volunteers and two guides, were all seniors. Their goal was the 900’ Kaieteur Falls, the second largest free falling waterfall in the world. It was a gruelling five hour climb to the top, not the 2 to 2-1/2 hour hike they were told. At the 2 hour point they were shocked when told by the guides that they were only half way, and hadn’t yet reached the worst part of the climb, the OMG portion! Each was carrying a heavy back pack, and were relieved to cool off in a mountain spring. When they finally reached the top, it was well worthwhile – magnificent and silent. All the noise was 900 ft below. A plane flew them out, so they did not have to make the arduous descent.

A number of questions from the members of Shellbacks followed, with discussion about the history and population of Guyana, the safety of traveling in Jamaica where tourism is important to the economy, compared to Guyana, where is is less so. 75% of their contingent were mugged at some point in their stay in Guyana!

Making Art with Robots

April 16, 2015

Steve’s Shellbacks presentation attracted over 60 people, and Colin in his introduction welcomed the large number of new attendees to Shellbacks, inviting them to attend future events.

Stephen’s presentation traced his progression from a ceramic artist working in clay to a digital sculpture using 3D printing to produce his art. He discussed his early years in Hamilton at the Dundas Valley School of Art sculpting his toys in clay, and how he went on to make a living by still sculpting his own toys. After graduating, and returning to Hamilton after a short stint in the US, he returned to sculpture, and showed slides of his early works, especially his “rabbit men” in 2005, which culminated in his first independent show at Transit Gallery, and his heading Hamilton Artists Inc. During this period, he was enjoying being an up and coming artist, but didn’t want to be known only as the Rabbit guy. So, he started sculpting robots, which strangely led directly to his now sculpting with robots. At that time he felt that his work was becoming constrained by the limited size of his kiln and the weight of clay. He felt restricted by the material, and felt that he was actually fighting with the material.

Then on top of that, as much as he enjoyed being an artist, he still needed to make a living, which led him to doing scenery and theatrical work with a number of different companies in the Hamilton Burlington area.. There were crazy projects, often with complete freedom of how to make it, but of course still making it on time and on budget. He worked on the scenery for a number of theatrical productions including “Rock You” and “Dirty Dancing”. But this was and is very dangerous work with significant safety and health issues. Stephen showed slides of a number of pieces, especially a large 18’ tall stylized tree done for a well-known cruise line, which was ultimately built much in the same fashion as used in a 3-D printer, with layers being cut on a CNC router then assembled and faired. The terms CNC (Computer Numerically Controlled) Router and C&C Yachts caused some confusion at this point, until explained!) On such a piece, tolerances were very close, since the piece had to be able to be disassembled for shipping and reassembled on board ship after going through a number of doorways. Fire safety is always a consideration, both during production and after installation, necessitating the use of fire retardant resins. It was while working on this project that he was first exposed to the use of Zee Brush software to produce this piece.

These jobs were also a good exercise in team building, often working with twenty other people – electricians, engineers, carpenters, glass workers, painters, sculptures, etc. with the piece having to be delivered in a month! This necessitated the working of many fourteen hours days to get it done. At this point in his career he was conscious of having his “own work” to get done, as well as his “work work” One completely independent and the other very constrained. He wanted to merge those two fields; so, he started introducing foams to his own works, starting with a TH&B piece using Styrofoam covered in papier-mâché. Then he showed slides of his factories and smoke stack art while his studio was part of the old Cotton Company on Sherman. This art paid homage to Hamilton and the dying steel industry, playing on the theme “art is the new steel”.

It was during this period in his career that he starting to realize new ideas, and decided not be constrained to one material. While the factories were fabricated from hundreds of individual bonded clay bricks, the tall plume of smoke was made from foam. Some of these factory sculptures survived a full summer outside at the Museum of Steam & Technology. The fabricating of these factories was very frustrating and time consuming, cutting, kilning, and assembling individual bricks.

So Steve started looking for other new ideas and materials. When thinking about ways to make his sculptures move, he was told by friends, “You have to talk to “Think House”. Think House is a Maker Space or Hacker Space located on Dundurn . This is a new concept consisting of a collection of people working with electronics, programming, mechanics, science, engineering, 3 D printing, etc.. Think House started 5 or 6 years ago, and is open to the public every Tuesday night. It is based on “Open Source”, sharing and adapting technology. It wasn’t long before he found that he had “tumbled down this rabbit hole”! He said that he couldn’t keep up with all the stuff he wanted to learn. One example was when a group of them made remote control model aeroplanes for $100 each, which were powered by AA batteries. He watched another fellow building a 3-D printer for $600. 3D printers used to cost over a million dollars an few years ago! This opened his eyes to being able to build the thing that made the thing. But it was always about making the thing. The Think House was using their 3D printers make the parts for other 3D printers! But it was a slow and excruciating process, with after six months the only thing made on his 3D printer was a penny bottle opener! He called this his $600 penny bottle opener.

While at one of the scenery companies he worked with, he saw a Printer Bot 3D printer still in its box that the company never had time to get running. They loaned it to Stephen to get it working. His previous $600 printer took 6 months to work. This one was up and running in an hour! Steve found that he starts to build pieces in ways that he can’t by hand. But he also is only “printing” what is already programed into the printer, and not building anything of his own designs. As he put it, “The technology was cool, but I was boring”. This led him to acquiring the 3D design program Rhino, which allows him to use the 3D printer to build things for use at work. He started with a redesign of a piece that was not quite right, a finger control for one of the Lion King costumes. These were previously cast individually in resin, but Stephen then started to build them in 3D printing, modifying beach one as necessary.

But the Maker Bot product wasn’t quite consumer ready. He needed something more reliable than the Maker Bot. So, he spent $10,000 for a better machine. This machine was also much more expensive to run and used much more expensive plastics in its printing, meaning that everything had to be “watertight” before you print. He then moved on to the Zee Bruch computer sculpting program with a much more powerful computer acquired from a friend. With this program he could actually “sculpt” a shape on the computer. He used the Hamilton Surgeon of the Year award as an example, where the hand holding the scalpel was created with Zee Brush, while the more angular scalpel was created using Rhino. This piece was printed in Stainless Steel, which cost about $1,000 to do. Steve then showed examples of pieces sculpted on the printer that could not have been carved by hand, and which can be recreated at any size required.

Steve then went into what is now available in the form of hand held scanners, showing 3D printed “busts:” of himself and his wife Joanna, made from the 3D images created by a $1000 device. Steve is wrestling with the concept of “what is art”, since with no more work, he can repeat the same object over and over again, in any size he wants. This got him thinking that this is art much like music. That is, not just one object, but an infinite number. There is no longer an individual piece. “Am I still an Artist or a maker?”.  He can now evolve a piece and print each iteration. That makes “art” no longer a concept of scarcity. He can even change the type of material that is being printed. He showed a very intricate three side symmetrical piece. To do that by hand would have been impossible to that level of complexity and detail., which is often the limiting factor in hand sculpting. Steve has now established his own website (

What’s happening next? You can now print 3D guns that are working better. That’s the negative impact. But at the same time you can print an artificial foot for a duck with a missing foot. They are now printing in human tissue and creating exact shunts for surgery, and titanium knees that are a perfect match. He discussed the concept of actually printing auto parts, so there would no longer be a need to inventory actual parts, just material. All this used to be science fiction, but not anymore. Even the good things have impact. For instance, what is the future of manufacturing and employment in the manufacturing sector? Robots are already displacing mid-level labour in things like the auto industry. Secretarial pools have been eliminated by the word processor and computer.

Stephen then cranked up his computer and showed how to create an object using Zee Brush. Unlike other CAd programs, Zee brush doesn’t work with existing shapes. Zee Brush is like working with digital clay. He started carving a shape which somehow evolved into a not entirely accurate bust of his father.

This was an amazing presentation which well justified the high attendance.

Start the Cycle: Grow Up With Bike Sharing

May 7, 2015

Justin and Charles gave a very polished presentation on their concept of a bike sharing program based on the library system, where children could check out a bike from the library as easily as they check out a book. Justin Hall is familiar to most RHYC members as the past race coach for the Race Training program at RHYC. Both are in a Master’s program at McMaster in Transportation Planning. They see this concept of bike share for youth expanding to include universities and colleges and small cities. The purpose of the program is create physical literacy as an alternative to sport among children, on the basis that just like reading and writing and arithmetic, children have to learn to move. Since not all children or their families can afford to buy a bike, this program provides them access to one for defined periods of time. In order to test the validity of the concept, they launched a pilot program right on the McMaster campus, and based on the success of that program will soon be opening bike share access at the Barton and Red Hill libraries in Hamilton, with a longer term goal of opening such centers in smaller cities throughout Canada., including Vancouver, Calgary, Ottawa, Quebec City, and Halifax.

All this is based on the new concept of “Active Transportation” wherein it has been shown that an increase in physical activity by one minute per day per person can save the health care system in Ontario $1.17 per person. Therefore, a single “Start the Cycle” Bike Library, generating 180 hours of physical activity per day can save the province almost $5,900 per month. However, raising funds to finance this program is not easy, and Justin and Charles have turned to the concept of “Social Good” to0 do that. The current fund raising environment is very challenging with less money to go around, an often bulky finding structure, constant evaluation, and the choice between Government or corporate financing. The traditional fund raising model involves first acquiring the capital, and then doing something with it. You start with a business model, establish customers, then hope to grow. They adopted the Tech inspired model where you start with the idea, acquire users, prove the value of the idea, and then seek funding. In this fund raising model, the novelty of the idea is vital, and visibility is very much part of the marketing plan. So once the pilot program had started on the Mac campus they aggressively promoted the concept in the media through all the local papers and CBC outlets. However, expanding the program beyond Mac did have its challenges, specifically with the need to use outer peoples infrastructure, specifically thye existing library system and the need to get them on board vwith the concept, which includes all the “invisible stakeholders” involved.

Justin and Charles then discussed what they got right in this program, specifically the novelty of the concept, the ability to scale it up, and the open source business model. However, there were things they also go wrong, including the difficulty in finding financing, moving too fast with the concept and implementation, wasting valuable time chasing every lead, and the difficulty of finding the right person in the organization to talk to. The whole process has been a valuable learning experience for them , showing that entrepreneurship is challenging but rewarding, that traditional entities often lag behind the introduction of a new concept, the importance of acting like a business and learning that business is business and has its own vocabulary and that concepts do evolve.

Meet the Manager

May 21, 2015

Katrina explained that she was born in the mining town of Elliot Lake, which had its advantages since the two dominant employers, Dennison and Rio Algom mines, poured a lot of money into the town to fit out the town for every possible sport. This especially benefitted sailing since the chief executives of the mines sailed and directed funds to establish the North Channel Yacht Club in Sprague right on the North Channel. The mines made sure that the North Channel Yacht Club was well served and maintained. It was a beautiful place to say. (Editorial aside – Recently returned Norma Young is a Past Commodore of the NCYC, and Don Young, of course, is a Past Commodore of RHYC. How many families can boast two commodores, of different clubs?)

Katrina spent her summers cruising the family Flying Dutchman, with camping gear stored forward, they would sail from Island to Island in the North Channel all summer. As time passed, the boats got bigger and over time Katrina sailed all the lakes of the Great Lakes, often delivering club member’s new boats from Port Credit up to Lake Huron.

When Rio Algom acquired an operation in Nova Scotia, Katrina’s parents moved to Yarmouth, keeping their boat in Shelburne. Thus started Katrina’s salt water adventures, sailing to the various ports on the Nova Scotia coast, then racing from Portland ME, to Yarmouth, NS, quickly followed by delivery trips to and from Bermuda, with her parents taking the boat all the way to the British Virgin Islands.

At about 25 years of age, Katrina started teaching sailing full time in the summers, and taught skiing in the winter, until she landed a full time job teaching sailing in the BVI and has not looked back. She says she has sailed most of the Caribbean multiple times, heading to a different area each year. She often joined her parents when they were cruising the BVI as well. Katrina then discovered Scuba diving, which has again changed her life. She has been night diving, wreak diving, and even shark diving! This year the paln is to explore St. Croix.

However, while all this cruising and diving is great fun, you still have to make a living, so Katrina started her sailing management career at Queen Quay sailing in Toronto, then moved on to be the Club Manager at Island Yacht Club, then moved to Port Credit Yacht Club as assistant Harbour Master, then became the Director of sailing at PCYC, before returning to IYC as General Manager during their recent challenges, and them started as Operations Manager at RHYC this past winter. “You, just never know where life will take you!”

Katrina said how much she enjoys working with RHYC, saying that our staff and members “great”, and that she looking forward to many years together.

Able Sail: Boats designed for a special purpose

June 4, 2015

RHYC’s own Helen Dam made a presentation on the boats used in the RHYC Able Sail program. For this presentation there was an Access 303, a Martin 16, and Cam Perry’s 2.4 on display on the front lawn. Next to Cam Perry, Helen thought she was the longest active member of the RHYC Able Sail program, having literally grown up through the program. Helen was the first Able Sailor to achieve her Bonze 4, then Silver and Gold CYA standards, and is now the first Able Sailor in Canada to achieve her Instructor’s Qualifications.

The RHYC Able Sail Program started in 2002 with Cam’s acquisition of the Martian 16 Rude Dude, and Jenny Ewen-Hill integrating the program into the expanded Sail Training program while she was Vice Commodore of Sail Training, using borrowed Sail Ontario boats in the all day program. The initial participants were recruited from hospitals and physiotherapy centers, which is how Helen became involved. However, increased opportunities for children with disabilities in other sports reduced enrollment, so the program transitioned to an adult program on Mondays and Wednesday evening, organized completely by volunteers.

The program culminated with RHYC hosted the Mobility Cup in 2011 which was designated the Regatta of the Year by both Sail Canada and Ontario Sailing. Accessibility is a huge factor since our participants have a variety of handicaps including visual impairments, autism, development delays, hemiplegia, paraplegia, quadriplegia, etc. Jenny Lifts. Hosting the Mobility Cup resulted in grants for improved docks and building access. 2014 was a pivotal year, allowing the program to again become a five day a week program. A one-time Trillium grant in 2013 allowed RHYC to purchase a dedicated coach boat and hire one full time instructor. The program has two full time qualified instructors, and runs five days a week, and on Monday and Wednesday evenings. Evening are the more popular because  can accommodate more participants and volunteers schedules. The current program has 28 participants ranging in age from 8 to 80. Last summer the program has also accommodated some long term care residents, who will be coming back this year. RHYC Able Sail also hosts the annual John Farrell Regatta, the Provincial championship of the Martin 16. Helen pointed out that the Able Sail program depends heavily on volunteers, a number of whom Helen introduced from the audience. Volunteers don’t need to know how to sail but that is a plus. They help rig and unrig the boats, launch the Access dinghies and the 2.4s, act as companions, and help with the John Farrell regatta.

The program is unique with the variety of boats involved. The single sail Access 2.3 is the smallest, and can accommodate to smallish people side by side. In the last two years they have acquired three larger Access 303s to accommodate those participants who are growing up through the program. The 303 also has a jib which makes it a good transitional boat to the larger Martin 16. The Martin 16 is the most popular boat in Able Sail programs min the Province, and is the Canadian designed and built specifically for Able Sailing. RHYC hosts the Ontario championships.

The Martin 16 is an excellent boat in which to learn to sail because it is so adaptable. It can be equipped with a windless to handle the sails, for those who don’t have the upper body strength to do so on their own. It can also be adapted tp “sip and puff” technology for quadriplegia for both steering and sail trim. Cam has a foot pedal in both his his Martin and 2.4 to handle his hemiplegia. The two 2.4 Metres in the program are privately owned. The 2.4 is the Paralympic single hander boat.

“Jenny Lifts” are used to transfer participants from wheel chairs to the boats. These lifts were designed and manufactured by Len Verhey and his company Canway, working closely with Jenny Hill.  Len then generously donated five Jenny Lifts to RHYC Able Sail. A video was shown showing the lifts in operation. Za mentioned that they were told to not talk during the filming of the video, which is not at all what happens on the dock with a lot of banter back and forth between participant and volunteers. The Jenny Lifts replaced the more limited hydraulically operated Hoyer lifts, which didn’t have as much range of motion.

RHYC Able Sail has a wide range of programs ranging from recreational sailing to higher performance racing. Access is open to all, as long as the specific disability can be accommodated. All instruction is to CanSail levels 1 and 2 and the instructors are Can Sail qualified. The Monday and Wednesday evening programs more focussed on racing. Helen explained that they use a “family approach” where they also teach the parents of disabled children to sail so that they can then sail with their children. This formal instruction to parents is at no cost to the participant. The parents are listed as volunteers, not participant. So sailing in RHYC Able Sail is often a family experience, with the parent or care giver sailing with the participant, which frees the instructors to help others. The program is located in the North End of Hamilton; a portion of the city deemed a Code Red area by the Spectator. It is one of the poorest areas of the city and 1/3 of our participants live in the Code Red area. Persons with disabilities have a higher rate of poverty. Hamilton has a high rate of disabilities 27% compared to the national average of 17%. All disabled programs in Canada are heavily subsidised. Participant fees only cover about 25% of the cost of the program. So, RHYC Able Sail is highly dependent on grants, donations and fund raising.

Helen then pointed out that there is a revolution in sports taking place, which is focussed on long term athlete development.  It was felt that there was too much focus on competing and winning, leading to early burn out and dropping out of the sport. The emphasis now is focussing on “athletes for life” concept, so you can enjoy the sport for your entire life. Disabled athletes have two extra steps in this new program, the first being awareness to change their perception of sport and show them what is available to meet their needs, especially if they acquired a disability later in live. The second step unique to disabled athelets in the program is to make sure that the first contact with the sport is a positive experience so they have confidence to adapt to the activity. Part of the recent Trillium Grant application was to list the health benefits of sailing which includes sociability, self-confidence, sense of community, and sense of independence and inner well-being.

Helen then highlighted some individuals in the program, starting with Jodi who busses from her home. Jodi acquired her disability late in life, so the transition into a disability was difficult because she enjoyed being out of doors in the summer, but now felt trapped in her house. Sailing has given Jodi her summers back and she looks upon her time on the water as a spiritual experience. Helen then spoke about Marina, Gabi and Sergio from Brazil. Marina wanted to become involved as a volunteer after her father Sergio and brother Gabi learned to sail. Helen then spoke about Brian who is visually impaired so needs a companion to spot the markes and look for the other boats. Helen closed her excellent presentation with a video featuring a pair of twins sailing with Mom and Dad all of whom have learned to sail.

Rolf Gerstenberger and the situation at Stelco

June 18, 2015

Past President (recently retired) of United Steelworkers local 1005

Rolf Gerstenberger, unfortunately, was a no show. The first and only one this year. However, Rolf Essig soon stepped up to the plate to discuss his experience with Unions and Management in Germany and his transition to the same institutions in Canada. Paul Boleantu then discussed his own Union experiences, and Laurel Thompson contributed greatly to the conversation. It turned out to be very conversational session, enlightening to all.