Week 1 -- The blue boat sailsÖ
Thinking back to youth, itís the subtle differences that define the miles weíve come on our journeys through life.
Most anyone that visits a childhood home makes those curious remarks -- how small their old room seems; how short the walk down the hallÖ
It was a time before the grandeur of the little things was dulled by the inevitable weathering of experience. A time when the seat atop your dadís shoulders was the loftiest height imaginable. A time when a bicycle and a hill defined what was speed. A time when the end of your driveway was the farthest you dared venture on your own.
But as sure as day become night, those horizons will broaden. We seek. We strive. We yearn. With every discovery, the units of measure with which we gauge the world transform. They expand or shrink, sometimes in leaps and bounds, and none so much as that inescapable acceleration of time.
So strong is the memory of when five minutes in the corner was a sentence of intolerable duration. Of when six weeks between report cards was time enough for both failure and redemption. Of when Christmas
seemed always a lifetime away.
But now, we might wish for those five minutes of quiet, six weeks is the time between credit card payments, and Christmas
seems, always, to come too soon.
And so, too, with our little blue boat. That, which just weeks ago merited daily updates as I crawled over her like a jungle gym, discovering, learning
-- finding a world of new experience without ever leaving my driveway. But the extraordinary becomes routine, days become weeks, and the repair of a part seems no longer worthy an excited proclamation.
But with life, and boats, perhaps we shouldnít reminisce too longingly for innocence lost
. Growing up comes at a price
, but we should not forget the reward.
There is a world of adventure beyond the end of our drives, and weíve earned our right to explore.
The little blue boat has sailed.
First, how we got there!
The ugly metal tiller from the last post has been replaced with a new wood one that I cobbled together for less than $20.
The terrible trailer (as Iíve taken to calling it) continues to be a source of problems, but Iíve managed to slowly get them within the realm of sanity. You might remember the springs that certainly added to the excitement of bringing it home:
Well, Iíve replaced the band-aid with a cast while I decide what Iím going to do with this trailer.
post was also in a condition so crappy that even a procrastinator like me couldnít pretend to ignore it.
So I broke out my favorite tool, the angle grinder (it solves all of lifeís little problems), plugged in my little 110 volt MIG welder (my best impulsive purchase
to date), donned a respirator (in hopes of avoiding metal fume fever), and after about an hour of noise
, flying sparks, and metal slag, hereís what weíve got.
This isnít the greatest repair, for a couple reasons. First, I had to cut off a pretty good length of this post to get into non-rusted metal, and if I took any more, I though the winch
would be too low to do its job. Thatís why thereís still a rust hole on the right of the photo
Second, the metal they used was so thin that I had to keep my welder on the lowest heat setting, or it would burn through instantly. The result is a weld that didnít penetrate well and looks like a bead of hot glue. (Sadly, it might not be much stronger than hot glue either). I banged on everything with the hammer pretty good and it held, but I donít expect this to last more than a few months before it breaks again.
Oh well. Iíll cross that bridge when I come to it. For now, it was good enough to get me the three miles to the boat ramp
, and the real reason for this post: IT SAILS!!!
Let me introduce my companions for this new chapter. On the left is Kris. Heís a court reporter at my paper, and heís been asking me about my progress on the boat and trailer for weeks. He jumped at the opportunity to come along for the first day on the water
On the right is Irina, a fascinating girl who recently entered the fray. She grew up in Russia
and moved to the states several years ago for some adventure. She initially planned for a summer, but ended up staying to finish her degree. She agreed to come along on the Ďmaiden voyageí so to speak, even after I told her I couldnít guarantee the boat would float.
No problem, she said. She knows how to swim, and as long as there are no sharks involved, sheís in.
Sadly, Rebekah couldnít be here for the fun. A Louisiana girl, through and through, sheís spending the week in New Orleans
for Mardi Gras. But I had to promise I would give her updates on how it went.
So, I was dreading raising the mast
on this thing. The biggest Iíve ever done before was on a Hobie 16, and that was a major PITA, so this big thing, with its tangle of cables
and spreader bars kind of freaked me out. But it went up very easily. Iíve got to hand it to Southcoast Seacraft for intelligently designing the rigging
. The side stays on this boat are located perfectly in line with the mastís base, and keep it from falling to the left or right as you lift
After bolting the base of the mast
to the pivot, I stood in the back and lifted it the first bit, and Kris stood on the roof and took over once I had it over my head
. Irina held on to the forestay and clipped it in once we had the mast up. Piece of cake!
So we back it in, fire up the outboard
, and off we go! It took Kris about five seconds to find the best seat in the house:
But the outboard wasnít going to awake from its multi-year slumber without a fight. After it warmed up, it refused to run at more than half throttle, and then the prop managed to grab on to a stray rope
and wrap it around the shaft about 20 times before the engine
choked to a stop.
Thatís me trying to restart the engine
after spending several minutes hacking the rope
free of its stranglehold on the prop. (Notice the wet left sleeve). It doesnít help that while Iím doing this, the wind
is steadily blowing us toward a bridge that has about a 15í clearance. (The mast is probably about 30 feet high). Kris was just about to pull the new paddle out of its packaging (I bought it just for this type of eventuality) and start frantically paddling against the breeze, but thankfully, I got the engine cranked back up, and disaster was averted.
Irina took the helm
as we motored away. (Notice the bridge in the background). And I turned an eye to the waves the wind
was pushing across the bayou. It was a nice breeze, probably 10 knots, and blowing perfectly perpendicular to the long finger of brackish water that is Bayou Grande.
I hadnít planned to sail. I mainly just wanted to raise the mast and motor
around to see if the swing keel
would go down, and make sure the boat didnít leak. Neither of my friends had ever sailed before, and all my experience is on little boats like Sunfish and Hobie 16s. Besides, I hadnít had a chance to raise the sails
and check the rigging
, what were the chances it would be in any better shape than the rest of the boat?
But I threw them in anyway, just in case, and boy am I glad I didÖ
With Irina at the helm
and the motor
still rattling away, Kris and I raised the jib
. It went up without any problems. I showed them the basics of sailing across the breeze, then tacking and readjusting the jib
as it comes back into the wind.
A few passes later, we raised the main. It went up beautifully. I clipped the boom into the sheet and couldnít help but smile as I hauled it in.
I heard the VA-WOOM as the luffing sail filled with wind overhead. I felt the boat lean hard and accelerate beyond the whining little engineís ability to keep up. I killed the engine, and Kris remarked how quiet it was without it. I pointed back to our wake and told them to look how fast we were going without needing it.
A good gust came skipping across the water and pushed the little blue boat even farther on its side, causing Irina to let out a little yelp and scramble over to sit with me on the upwind side.
Kris snaps a photo
. Journalists are cool like that.
We keep on sailing and they practice tacking. The boat is so forgiving. Sheís like marshmallows and butterflies compared to a Hobie 16. She refuses to let my friends get caught in the irons if they turn too slowly or donít carry enough speed. Instead, she just falls back into the wind and continues on in whichever way they were going as if to say, ďThatís okay, it happens to all guys sometimes.Ē
We continued until the sun sank too low to be ignored. The wind cooled down and its bite reminded us that it was February, after all. I pushed the mast out into a broad reach, and Kris piloted us all the way back to the boat ramp
as we warmed up in the surreal stillness of relative wind, listening to the splash of the rudder
cutting through the bayou. At the last minute, we dropped the sails
, cranked the motor, and eased her gently into the dock
ďIt was wonderful. It was beautiful,Ē Kris later said, one of the most eloquent writers I know reduced to three word sentences.
But, yes. It was.