One of the hardest things about setting out cruising five years ago was closing down the business I had created, selling off all my shop tools, and knowing that there would be no more time, money or space for projects not immediately involved with boat maintenance. Not that that was huge cause for regret—after all, the business, the tools, the hillside shop in the side yard had all been calculated to speed along the process of building Ganymede and getting back to sea. But the Ganymede project had been fun—so many things to improvise, to design, to invent, and I’d become so used to having the table saw, drill press, and air compressor, that I could barely imagine cruising without them. I even considered cramming my smaller drill press into the sail locker to bring along, but this being patently foolish I sold it instead.
I didn’t have much opportunity while cruising full time to miss my shop and tools, but now that we’re contemplating a prolonged shoreside stint, the tinker in me is rearing his head once more. After two winters in a row of building things for other people, my hands are itching to get to ideas of my own that were born long ago during Ganymede’s construction, or that I worked out from necessity during our cruise. In short, I’m ready to get a little shop, start a business again and get to making things.
In the interest of starting small, a friend suggested that I simply add a sale page to this website, get a credit card app, and sell Dyneema soft shackles and custom-length strops, which I can easily make without a big investment in tools. From there I could branch out into local rigging, which I’ve already been doing on the side here and there around Newport harbor whenever a friend needs a new mainsheet or halyard spliced. It got me thinking, though: why not go to the next level and put out the handy toggle shackles I’ve been testing on Ganymede for the last few thousand miles? Standard Dyneema soft shackles with diamond knots are readily available from West Marine, but my own version—which I find easier to use with cold, wet fingers in the dark—are not.
Of course that led to the next thought, that the small supply of wooden toggles I’d made while I still owned a lathe would soon be exhausted, and then what? The best thing to do would be to have aluminum toggles machined, in sufficient quantities to keep the unit price within reason. But that would require an investment greater than I could responsibly risk—especially not knowing if I was the only person in the world interested in the endless rigging uses of the toggle. It seemed that I needed an investor, but who would venture their capital on something so small, especially when the margin for profit will be so slim even if it succeeds?
It took a few days of puzzling it out in circles in my mind before the solution hit me. I first heard about Kickstarter a year ago while cruising Newfoundland, when Jim Thereal, a local who befriended us and ran me around in his car for some errands, suggested I use it to raise money to write and publish a book about our voyage. Not that that’s a bad idea, but here was a more immediate use for it: why not see if I could crowdfund the first run of toggled shackles? If there’s enough interest and contributions to be able to make the first batch of toggles and defray the ancillary expenses of starting up a business, it will be worth the time spent setting up and managing the Kickstarter campaign. And if we can get Zartman Marine off the ground, there’s a whole bag of neat little gizmos I’d like to eventually develop. But for now the goal is to raise $10,000; for toggles, Dyneema, shop rent, destruction testing, possible anodizing, business licenses, postage, Kickstarter’s commission, etc. etc.
So here it is, dear readers and followers: a chance to be part of it all. Go to Kickstarter to contribute, catch up on progress, or simply to share with anyone you think might be interested. The pictures are a little rough; the pitch a bit unpolished. It may seem that a simple aluminum toggle on a bit of line is barely a start to anything at all. But the day of small beginnings is not to be despised, and who knows where this will all end up?