Monday, October 16, 2017

Learning the Ropes in a Sailor's Town







So … this weekend I learned the Rogerson Variation of the the McDonald Brummel splice for high modulus polyethylene fiber cordage! Woo! I attended the 59 North Sailing seminars on rigging and sail repair. Hanging out with a bunch of sailors can never be bad, but the intense learning we did along the way made for an incredibly productive time.

Brion Toss, renown rigger and author, was the speaker Friday afternoon and Saturday. We dove deep into rigging with his talks, a couple dock walks, some hands-on knots and splices, and an incline test and critique of a student’s boat at the marina. There was only two math formulas, but all kinds of juicy, red meat, technical information about keeping your mast up and control of your sails.

Nearly everyone has furling gear on their boat. Some of both the rigging and the sail repair seminars
Rigging Shop, Port of Annapolis Marina
began with the assumption that all of our boats had furlers; at least on the bow. One great moment for me came when I confessed in front of the class that I don’t like furlers. “Am I a fool or a luddite?” I asked Mr. Toss. He didn't flinch and seemed to sympathize with my philosophy.

Most of our ‘class time’ was in the shop at Chesapeake Sailmakers. Chuck O’Malley, founder of the loft, spoke to us on Sunday. He went over materials, methods, and designs early, and in the afternoon talked at length about lifespan, damage, abuse, and repair of sails. Chuck says he doesn’t make “white triangles,” he makes sails. Developing a relationship with a boat and her sailors, Chuck brings his knowledge and experience to bear and offers just the right solution. “Up to the point where the boat will still notice the difference.”

I came away with all kinds of new knowledge and some new friends. Details of rope and wire and Dacron; knots and splices and sail shapes are still oozing out my ears -- my brain is full!! Yet, I know exactly what I’m going to do with my rig and have a great idea to make my main sail track buttery smooth.

And(!) I got to chat with Matt Rutherford, he was the first to sail non-stop around the Americas. He sailed an Albin Vega, like my Bella, non-stop from Annapolis, up and over the top of Canada, down the Pacific Coast to Cape Horn, around and up past South America and back to Annapolis. He now does ocean research for NASA and the Smithsonian aboard his 42’ steel schooner.

The seminars were almost three miles away from the house where I got an AirBnB room; a fabulously funky, little artist-owned, art-filled bungalow. It was really enjoyable to walk more than five miles a day, all weekend. I also had some great seafood and got to hang around a great sailor’s town. It’s been incredible, and soul satisfying, how much of the small talk at the next table, in the store, even just out on the sidewalk was about boats; most often sailboats.

Two and half years ago, Alex and I spent a night at anchor up Weems Creek in Annapolis on our way south with his Westsail, Eleanor. Now I know a couple even better places. I’ll be back. Emma’s gonna love to visit.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

If it was easy ... Part 42


Last month I was in town and cleaned any non-essential things out of my truck in anticipation of quitting. At the time, the gasket material for my portlights had come in, so I got a small boat project done too. Last week, I indeed ended my Over-The-Road driving career. 

The company I had been driving for bought me a bus ticket home after I dropped my truck off at the company headquarters. It was late on a Wednesday when I got back to Fort Pierce. The city bus was shut down for the evening, so I grabbed a taxi to the marina. The cupboards were pretty bare aboard Emma and I was too tired to walk a mile to the grocery. The rain started almost as soon as I was settled. The first couple days I was at the marina it rained and rained. This helped me identify that a few of the leaks I had blamed on the old gaskets were actually coming in around the ports. 

The next morning, still raining, I went through a few cans in the galley and chose Clam Chowder for breakfast. By midday, the sun had peaked out and I walked up to the store. Something like normal life was making a start. 

I've found a pretty ideal part-time job -- good pay and 3 days a week, but 30 miles away.
First, however, I am spending an extra long weekend in Annapolis learning about sail repair and rigging. The new job wants me to start as soon as I get back. So, I spent my first couple days as a local resident shopping for a car. This entailed a four mile round trip walking into town on Friday and then a 2 mile walk back on Saturday morning to buy a car with my debit card. And(!) I had planned on never having another vehicle. 

After securing a car, I wanted to seal up my ports before I left town. With a little more than two days to spend, I tore all 14 bronze ports out in the main cabin. The cabin walls were in good shape despite the leaks. I cleaned up the surfaces inside and out; and then set out to clean up the ports themselves. Old caulk and wood fiber came off with relative ease. It was the drips and slops from careless interior painting that caused the most work, but I managed to maintain most of the wonderful patina of the 45 year old bronze beauties. 

When I got ready to re-install the ports on the morning of my last day in town, I discovered that my caulk was solid in the tubes. The label said “do not store above 80 degrees.” Apparently, a year inside a locked boat in Florida was too much. I ran to the boat store; and the post office on a side errand. It’s just my luck that right after pledging to get back to ‘plant-based’, I discovered the closest USPS counter inside a restaurant that makes a fabulously decadent Cafe Con Leche! 


Just after 4:00p, I was finished with the ports and wandered over to the marina office. Some special black caulk, for my next project, had arrived. Also, I wanted to let them know my ‘new’ car would be hanging around for a week without me. Back at the boat, I removed the rattling shade tarp and called the taxi again. 

This time, however, my little local taxi guy was not available. I called Yellow Cab and they have given up on Fort Pierce and shut down. So, I schlepped my heavy duffel and book bag a mile to the city bus. I just missed the 5:30p bus. In fact, I saw him diappear down Jaunita Avenue. As I sat there, in the sun, waiting on the 6:30 bus, I realized that this later bus was only going to get me to the Central Transit Station before the buses quit running. So, lord help my ex-taxi soul, I installed Lyft on my phone and had a ride in 10 minutes. Charmaine took me out to the Motel 6 where I had a wonderful hot shower and slept like a mummy in a king-sized bed the night before I traveled. 

I hiked with the same duffel from the motel over to the Love’s Truckstop where Greyhound picks up. All went well, up through Jacksonville, then Savannah but came to a screeching halt in Fayetteville, NC. There we spent 8 hours locked in limbo by a missing driver. It was a good test of patience and equanimity, but in the end Greyhound did me right. This evening I’ll get to Baltimore and then they’ll send me in a taxi to Annapolis. If all those T’s get crossed, I’ll make it to the start of my seminar tomorrow. 

I am attending a couple seminars put on by Andy and Mia of 59 North Sailing. One is on sail repair and the other is on rigging -- the next big project after I install the diesel engine. Life is good. If it was easy, everybody would be doing it.