Tuesday, November 12, 2019

The Big Boat Name Reveal.

I have a new boat; since July. She is a 1984 Bayfield 29. In fact, for most of the last six months I’ve had three boats. Luckily, my Westsail project in Florida has sold and I gave away the little daysailer I’d been sailing here in Michigan. I wrote a series of posts about how I came to acquire the Bayfield. She is a bit of a compromise and not quite the badass ocean boat that the Westsail would have been. She will, however, take me most of the places that I’ve longed to go.

I’m headed to Navassa, NC by the end of the month(November) where I had the Bayfield hauled in July. There is three or four months worth of work to get her back in the water. Some small work on the hull, a barrier coat, bottom paint as well as some sanding, cleaning and varnishing are all in order. I’ll probably replace the standing rigging since she is out of the water and I don’t know how old the rig is. Once she is safe, seaworthy and cleaned up a bit, we’ll be off to wander. More on that later.

I named my last two boats after important, powerful, early twentieth century anarchist women. Emma Goldman, namesake of the Westsail project, was an important writer and political activist; especially around the First World War and birth control. Wikipedia says “During her life, Goldman was lionized as a freethinking "rebel woman" by admirers, and denounced by detractors as an advocate of politically motivated murder and violent revolution. Her writing and lectures spanned a wide variety of issues, including prisons, atheism, freedom of speech, militarism, capitalism, marriage, free love, and homosexuality.” We need more people like Emma. 

I named my little daysailer after Lola Ridge, an anarchist poet and editor of avant-garde, feminist, and Marxist publications. She was a confidante to Emma Goldman and worked with both Goldman and Margaret Sanger. I thought it was especially appropriate that my little boat that was keeping me sane while I waited to return to the big boat was named after someone who had worked with the namesake of that bigger boat.

In mid-summer along came the opportunity with the Bayfield. I had been spending a long Fourth of July Weekend up at Torresen Marine where my little boat was. I sailed a lot and just hung out by the water in my camper van. A post about the Bayfield came up on Sailfar.net, a discussion forum where I’ve been hanging out for more than 15 years. A cheap boat looking for a good home. I had been trying to ignore it.

2019 has been a tough year. I came back to Michigan the previous October because Mom was going into chemo. I wanted to be available as much as possible to help out her and Dad. We lost Mom in April. I was shattered and heartbroken and grieving. Sailing was literally a therapeutic way for me to process everything. Her passing focused my mind on what I’d been trying to do for over a decade. I’ve been through four boats and 12 years but was still a fair distance from my ultimate goal – wandering the Caribbean basin and perhaps even the Atlantic by sail. The Bayfield was supposedly ready to go. I sent an email. That story is here.

I have written a post about my Dad and a special day we had sailing here. I’ve always meant to write about Mom in the same way. I know that she felt my love and respect, but I would have never dreamed that she wouldn’t ever read my appreciation “up-in-lights” on my blog.

I’m not fool enough to think that an inexpensive sailboat would actually be ready to go, but she appeared to be much closer to ready than the pile of boat parts I had in Florida – really, a potential boat. Despite not really needing another boat in my life, I talked to the owner a couple times on the phone and made a date to go look at the boat. Last July, I traveled to Little River, SC, looked at her, made the deal, and sailed her to a boatyard to be hauled out during hurricane season. That series starts here.

Mom & GG, last January
Since that trip in July, we also lost my grandmother; who we called GG. Mom’s mother was nearly 102 years old when she passed and was a wise and beautiful human. I will greatly miss the wonderfully aimless, thoughtful conversations we had. Grandma was a modern woman despite her generation. As I edited the obituary she had written for us, it was curiously cool to uncover a couple small, yet telling, details. I discovered that she had been a proud member of the American Association of University Women, an organization that “advances equity for women and girls through advocacy, education, philanthropy, and research.” Also, in describing her parents, GG listed her mother first rather than the traditional “Mr. and Mrs.” which had to have been intentional. Also, there was a note at the end of her obituary that said “this is about 150 words less than Dad’s obituary.” Surely, that was on purpose too.

My favorite story from GG was about someone coming to the door of her classroom one day years ago to ask how many black children she had in her classroom. When she answered “I don’t know, I’ll check,” the person asked how she could not know. GG simply stated “They're all just children to me, my students.” That story has always made me proud to be her grandson.

Lucy P
As I compiled my project list for this new boat and started buying tools and equipment for the tasks ahead, I also needed to name her. The boat came with the slightly-too-cute name “Afraid Knot.” I started to think of names in my important anarchist women series. Lucy Parsons was a good option and as a boat name “the Lucy P” had a nice ring to it. Mrs. Parsons was an important activist and was married to Albert Parsons, editor of the radical Chicago newspaper, The Alarm. After her husband’s execution subsequent to the Haymarket Affair, Lucy remained an activist and helped found the Industrial Workers of the World. I considered non-political names as well; like simply “Black Star” or “Pax” which is latin for “peace.”

Then it occurred to me that I had always had powerfully important women in my life and that I had acquired this new boat the same year that I had lost Mom and Grandma. I didn’t need to look very far to name a boat after a strong woman. Both these beautiful and strong women that I had just lost, were formative to who I became as a human. Therefore, I have decided to call my Bayfield 29 the Ruth Ann; Grandma’s first name and Mom’s middle name.

When I get to North Carolina, the old name will be removed. As sv Ruth Ann gets dipped back in the water in the coming months, I will celebrate her renaming with a little ceremony for her, for me and for Mom and GG. 

 Soon, her stern will say:
Ruth Ann

Detroit, Mi

The Traveling, Part II: Headed Back

After a mystical night of stars at anchor, Monday was the day to finish the mission. Cape Fear Boat Works was a few hours up the river. I had told them I’d arrive about midday. All I had to do was motor up past the port facilities, past the USS North Carolina ship museum, and turn left. The Cape Fear River splits off to the west while the Northeast Cape Fear River goes on through downtown Wilmington and off to the -- you guessed it -- northeast.

However, when I tried to start the engine, the battery was dead. Likely, the little solar panel that I stowed inside had drained all the battery. When sun is not going in the battery from a panel without a blocking diode in the cable, a solar panel can suck juice the other way. It was time to call Towboat/US -- again. Three calls in three days must be some kind of record for a new policy. Towing insurance was the best money I ever spent. A Towboat/US skipper came out in the bright light of a Carolina morning and gave me a jump start. Those will be replaced when I come back to work on her.

The rest of the trip was uneventful. I cruised by Wilmington’s Port with ships, tugs, cranes, containers, and all kinds of equipment. After I got to downtown Wilmington, the ship museum was indeed on my left and I turned up the tributary just past it. The boatyard is a couple miles up the river from Wilmington; through acres and acres of sawgrass. It was like cruising back in time; especially when I got to the ancient bascule railroad bridge.

The bridge is normally closed and opens on demand. I circled around below the bridge while trying to reach the operator with the same damn radio as before. Finally I saw the guy saunter across the bridge to lower a gate on the other side. Then he sauntered back, while I still circled slowly around and around. The bridge mechanism started to creak and pop and complain. Finally, the two massive concrete counterweights quivered and started their slow descent.

A bascule bridge is a one-sided drawbridge. As the bridge began to open, I circled around one last time and then goosed the fuel lever to power under the bridge. I waved and shouted ‘thanks’ toward the blank looking operator’s tower.

I called the boatyard to let them know I was under the bridge. Less than a mile and the yet-to-be-renamed boat and I would be getting hauled out. As we approached the slipway, the boatyard guys waved me right in. I cut the fuel, shifted into neutral, and ghosted. The guy on the travelift raised the inward canvas strap and caught my bow like a child running into their mother’s arms. We were there.

The boat was hauled out and the yard set up for pressure washing the hull. The travelift guy turned out to be the owner of the yard. Sam and I chatted as we walked up to the office. I filled out some paperwork with Amy. She said she’d email me the bill. Sam even gave me a ride into town so I wouldn’t have to pay a cab.

On the way, Sam talked my ear off. He was a college champion baseball player, hometown mover and shaker; and had once tried to buy the Southport marina where I had crashed (literally) Saturday night.

The motel I had picked out online didn’t look like it survived the last hurricane, so Sam took me down the block to another. I settled on a cheap but well kept Quality Inn. Now, I live for sailing but I have to tell you: that first shower -- first in four days -- was glorious!! So good that I took two more by the time I left in the morning. I had to be chilled out and scrubbed up because the next day was bound to be another exciting travel day.

I checked in with my cousin Sherry as I was going to try and fly standby again to get home. The flight looked OK, but since I didn’t depart until early afternoon, we agreed to check in the morning. Next door to the motel was a large convenience store/gas station and beyond that an Arby’s. Though I’m usually plant-based, Jimmy Buffet’s “Cheeseburger in Paradise” was ringing in my ear. So I hiked over to Arby’s, got a couple roast beef sliders AND a turkey sandwich. On the way back the convenience store was too much a temptation. I went in for junk food desserts, big bottles of water, and some snacks for the flight tomorrow. There was an historic Wilmington seafood restaurant across the street and down a bit, but I just couldn’t get up the gumption to go.

In the morning, Sherry informed me that the flight from Wilmington to Chicago, with a layover, was probably not going to work. She had found a flight that looked good but out of Myrtle Beach. I found a minivan airport transport company nearby and booked a ride. It was an hour and a half down to Myrtle Beach. The driver talked about his guns the whole trip. I just smiled and kept my mouth shut.

At Myrtle Beach, in the terminal, the gate agents were telling me the flight was well packed and they couldn’t guarantee I could get on. I found some coffee and a chair and got on Priceline.com. There was a flight into Chicago on another airline two gates down and about two hours after the flight I was waiting for. Priceline has a fantastic cancellation policy, so I booked the flight, leaned back and relaxed.

The flight started to board and the people lined up. They were quite a crowd. It might have looked grim, but I had my backup just down the hall. There were a couple young ladies hanging around the desk at the gate; obviously holding out for a standby seat. The crowd thinned out as the plane was filled and I heard the agent tell the gals that she wasn’t sure there was room; she had a list. She called my name and when I stood up, the two standby ladies hung their heads. The agent gave me a boarding pass and I was on my way [thanks, Sherry and Ed!!].

I stowed my gear, took my seat, and looked up just in time to see my fellow standby passengers had also got on. I gave them a smile and a thumbs up. As the flight attendants went through all the safety procedures, I got online while I still had airport wifi and cancelled my backup flight.

The flight was uneventful, and I landed in due course at Chicago O’Hare. There was plenty of time to get downtown and get on the Southshore Railroad, but I didn’t want to mess around. Haunting me was the fact that I had left my car in Michigan City in the wee hours Friday. The railroad website had no information about whether long term parking was allowed. When I had arrived there were no obvious signs prohibiting parking a while, but I didn’t know for sure. In addition, I had to get back to my car, if it was there, and drive back to Michigan to get to work at midnight.

I took “The El” into town, walked 4 or 5 blocks to the Millenium Station. Once there, I dropped my bag to rest my shoulder, bought a ticket to Michigan City and found a Chicago Hot Dog stand at the station. Before the train left I had a couple Chicago Dogs and a great big Diet Coke.

The students at Notre Dame call the Southshore Train the “Vomit Comet” because they take the train into Chicago to party and suffer the way home. The train is pleasant with comfortable seating and clean; no evience that ND students had preceded me. We lurched through down through Hyde Park, South Shore, South Chicago, Hammond, East Chicago, Gary etc. There was a stretch of wilderness around Burns Harbor and the Indiana Dunes before we got to the edges of Michigan City, where I started paying attention.

Heading east, the first station in Michigan City is 11th Street -- not my station. A few people got off there and the train wobbled through town to the Carroll Street Station where I had left my car. The moment of truth had arrived. I leaned this way and that looking for my car. We were coming into the station from the opposite direction that I had imagined. A little panic. A stretch. Another look. And there it was! I had made it and the car was still there -- and I still had time to get to work. I grabbed my bag, disembarked, and jumped in the car. It was two hours back home, where I laid down for about an hour and then went to work for an eight hour shift. It was a helluva travel day; all in the service of getting my new-to-me boat out of the water and safe during hurricane season.

The Bayfield 29 will be at Cape Fear Boatworks, on her own for a few months before I return. She and I will be there in Navassa, NC while I work to get her set up the way I’d like and back in the water. Basically, I only have a little bit more work than normal annual maintenance. She has a couple small blisters to fix, then a barrier coat and some bottom paint. I’ll also get a couple solar panels, new batteries, a better radio and a chartplotter of some kind; probably on a tablet. I also have my eye on using a Raspberry Pi computer to monitor the ship’s systems and eventually do navigation and some automatic logging.

In fact, since it took so long to get all these travelogs written and posted, I can tell you that I will be back at the boat before the First of December. Stay tuned.

Homeward Epilogue

sv Ruth Ann in Beaufort, SC, 12/23 Ruth Ann is the last in a series of boats on which I was attempting to escape. I found her when I found a...