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Andy's Non-Maritime Adventures


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For anyone paying attention at home, it's been almost two years since I had to give up my sailing career. It has not been an easy transition to a shore career, but at long last I've settled on a course of action and now am pursuing a little more education to help me get there.

Back in August 2017 I moved up to a wonderful 80 acre parcel of gently rolling forest adjacent to my grandparent's farm. One of the assets at my disposal is a sizeable section of hardwood forest (about 20 acres in size), containing a large number of my favourite type of tree.... the sugar maple.

Now that winter has begun to loosen it's icy grip, I've decided to take advantage of the situation and try my hand at making my own, home made, maple syrup. Yummy!


I began a couple of weeks ago gathering the supplies that I needed to get started, spiles and buckets, and I set out with my furry friend into the woods.fullsizeoutput_cfa.thumb.jpeg.06fe574b2366dc3de64e7632c1293744.jpeg




For a first timer, it is suggested to tap between 5 and 10 trees (I tapped 7). Each spile will yield roughly a gallon of sap a day when the weather conditions are optimal (below freezing at night, and mild during the day). A few days after I tapped my trees, the weather decided to co-operate and things started to run.



My furry friend is a great help when checking the buckets



I'm out every afternoon emptying buckets, and since the bush trails are impassable by any vehicle that I own, it generally means hauling out the sap on foot (with toboggan assistance).



Six gallons of sap ready to go.



This morning I began the initial boiling. This is always best done outside over an open fire (you can use a propane burner, but you'll run through a lot of gas!). If you try to do this inside.... say goodby to your wallpaper, it takes roughly 40 parts sap to make one part maple syrup, which means A LOT of steam. For my first run, I boiled down about 6 gallons at one shot.



After a good day's boiling (about 6 hours at a steady rolling boil), the concentrated sap was filtered (there's always little twigs and things that fall into the buckets and the big pot), and brought inside for finishing. This is the tricky part where you have to watch the temperature carefully, and make sure the syrup doesn't boil over.... or burn.



Finally after an hour on the stove.... my first bottle of maple syrup, it's a little cloudy because it needs to be filtered once more to remove the nitre (also known as sugar sand, which is a result of the natural minerals in the sap precipitating out), but it's still good enough for a first attempt......bring on the pancakes!!




PS, I've got another 10 gallons of sap waiting in the shed.... and more on the way.... I think I'm going to be busy.....

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Welcome back, indeed, Andy. It's been an odd season for maple syrup flow, but the next week or so looks promising in this part of the world. Congratulations on your first batch of syrup. You could get free fuel by renting your reduction process out to folk who want their wallpaper removed....  BTW, does 'furry friend' have a name?

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2 minutes ago, druxey said:

Welcome back, indeed, Andy. It's been an odd season for maple syrup flow, but the next week or so looks promising in this part of the world. Congratulations on your first batch of syrup. You could get free fuel by renting your reduction process out to folk who want their wallpaper removed....  BTW, does 'furry friend' have a name?


My furry friend is named Freyja, she’s 11 months old, and still a very energetic and entertaining puppy (and being a shepherd, she’s often stuck to me like Velcro). Sadly for the wallpaper people, I have an ample supply firewood that only cost me a couple of litres of gas and a few afternoons of work last spring. 



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  • 2 weeks later...

A small update on the maple syrup progress so far.CBC235B6-1773-419F-85E8-71723DBAC8F4.thumb.jpeg.107561d517970541186ac2d277bf71ff.jpeg

Still busy boiling away when the weather is favourable.


And the haul so far, less four medium sized (500mL) bottles that I’ve already given away to family and friends. My kitchen is nearing a state of semi-permanent stickiness...



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  • 2 months later...

Oh summer, where art thou?


Anyone living in southern Ontario can attest, this has been one of the cooler and wetter springs in a few years. Good weather for the growing grass.... 


The time has come for me to get a new toy... er.... lawnmower.





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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 4 weeks later...


Lost track of you for a while. The last time we communicated you had helped me with a Great Lakes steamer I was building by pointing me toward a kit that could supply the hull. Thanks for the help. Got it done and lots of brownie points. I had to cut out the cargo area or the model would have been 7 feet long.



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  • 1 month later...

While I was out walking the dog, yesterday evening, we encountered this “little” guy hiding in a large basswood tree at the back of my property:09353BC4-6B4F-47EF-92F9-C3D86E025F38.thumb.jpeg.7cb78076beb7ee3715a156262412bd60.jpeg

A good sized (around 3ft long) Fisher. I’m pretty sure I’d seen tracks in the snow last winter, now I’m certain. Bad news for porcupines (which is good news for me, as any rural dog owner can attest)!


After taking a few low quality cell phone photos, I was happy to leave him be, but it’s nice to know that there’s interesting wildlife around!



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  • 1 year later...


Going downhill fast!

Well, I don’t know about you, but this pandemic is starting to annoy me... especially since the province decided to close the ski hills as part of a greater lockdown. I’d rather not sit idly by and watch the winter melt away.... all that nice powdery snow beckoning me... so it’s past time to take matters into my own hands.

There’s a fairly decent ridge on my property, and thanks to some logging that was done last summer, clearing a couple of ski runs was a matter of moving a few piles of pine branches and the odd stump or two.... or so I thought...



This was the scene shortly after I had scouted out the path of the first run and about a weeks worth of pulling branches.



Here’s how things look as of yesterday. It’s been a few weeks of hard slogging (and soaked gloves) to clear the runs, but it’s worth it!




This is the view from the top.




A second trail loops around behind and down into a gully.


The ridge rises about 70 vertical feet, not a high hill, but enough to keep me amused. Having said that, hiking up that hill does get old... very quickly.... (puff pant.... no I’m not tired, I’m just stopping halfway up to enjoy the view...) so I decided to build a ski lift too.

Taking some inspiration from some YouTube videos, I’ve started building my own rope tow.



The main mechanical components consist of a 10.5hp Tecumseh engine and the transaxle out of a lawn tractor. I had initially planned on using an old Ariens riding mower, however the cost of repairs just to get its engine running again were considerably more than I was willing to spend. The engine came out of a snowblower (bought it from the mechanic for a pretty good price), and it runs well. There’s more than enough power to haul up a few adults, and a few more kids.



This is where things stand with my rope tow so far. At the moment the engine and transaxle are just mocked up to give you the general idea. The wooden frame will require a bit more bracing, as well as some side stabilizers. A “V” belt will connect the engine and transaxle. The differential will be “locked” by stalling the unused wheel.


I have a number of small wheel rims (wheel barrow, garden cart) to serve as guide and return pulleys.


The lift run will be about 300 feet, and I’ll be getting some 3/4” polypropylene rope to serve as the haul line.


When seen from the bottom, the lift will run just to the right of my first ski run. You can see the cleared path at the far right in the second photo. Conveniently, there’s a tree at both the top and bottom to serve as anchor points for the rope tow. Hopefully sometime in the next couple of weeks, I should have the whole thing up and running. 



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1 hour ago, mtaylor said:

Interesting project and something to keep you off the streets and out of trouble.  Will there be a grand opening of Andy's Ski Resort?

There will be some kind of an opening, not sure how “grand” it will be, maybe just a celebratory Scotch 😜



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1 hour ago, druxey said:

You should be up, running and the bugs ironed out of your lift/hoist/contraption by Spring melt.. or when the ski slopes open up again. 

If those overgrown whistlepigs got their prognostications correct yesterday, I’d say you might be right! 

Actually, with any luck I should be starting to haul the pieces out to the hill on Friday. Hopefully skiing will happen shortly afterwards.



Edited by realworkingsailor
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Well, all the construction I can do in my garage is now finished. Tomorrow I’ll disassemble the motor and axle, in preparation to haul the whole thing out to the hill.




The larger bracket, with the brace, will be fasten to a conveniently placed tree, and will guide the return rope clear of upwards riders. The sheave isn’t yet attached to the arm, that will happen when it’s installed.

The other piece with the larger wheel is the return pulley, and it will be lashed to yet another conveniently placed tree at the bottom of the hill. 
The smaller “sheaves” were all wheel rims from a garden cart, and the return pulley sheave is an old wheelbarrow rim. The axles were made out of 5/8” rebar, and everything spins quite freely.



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Well, it works!

My sister and her family came up today to help get things set up:



It turns out, I got a little more than 600 feet of rope (yay!). There’s a couple of small tweaks needed, but otherwise it’s ready to haul skiers and sliders! I’ve been grinning like a fool all afternoon.


My brother-in-law made the inaugural test run up the hill.


I’ll add some more photos soon



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As promised, a few more photos:



Aside from the weight of the machine, it’s tethered to four six foot lengths of rebar pounded into the ground. For the test runs yesterday, this hadn’t yet been done, but the machine hardly moved while towing one adult up the hill. 
Just ahead of it is the safety stop. There’s a cord running across the path of the tow rope (on the two stakes), connected back to the throttle. If anything pulls on the rope, it cuts out the engine almost instantly. (Peace of mind)




At the bottom of the hill is the tail pulley. Despite the rope running along the ground, I managed to pull enough tension to get the tail pulley floating.




Looking up the hill. I will probably add a couple more intermediate pulleys to keep the upwards and downwards lines separate. 

The lift is perfectly useable as it is, and I will be out soon getting in some turns.



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2 hours ago, Jim Lad said:

You don't happen to be related to a bloke called Heath-Robinson do you Andy? :D



I had to look that one up, I don’t think I’m related, but I’ll give him a run for his money... 😁



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