Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Hey, Wait A Minute!!

That's me part way down.

My last term at Michigan State University was a summer term, and I lived in a house with six other guys. It was a great house and a good bunch of roommates. A girl I spent some time with in the hot tub after a party there became my first wife. I often played guitar on the back deck with a guy who had chosen med school over touring with Amy Grant. I had an oddly curved tan line – white belly, tanned chest – from those sunny afternoons with a guitar in my lap.

My parents had moved to Houghton in Michigan’s Upper Penninsula and at some point most of my housemates and I organized a road trip up there. We used my parent’s house as a base camp to do all kinds of things including some rock climbing. I had never done any serious rock climbing before then, but the guys who had were keen to show me the ropes; and the webbing. We did some rappelling down the cliff at Douglass-Houghton Falls; more than a hundred feet down.

As a part of my introduction to rappelling, the guys handed me twenty feet or so of nylon webbing. Standing there ten feet from the cliff’s edge, I was guided through tying a harness around my waist and thighs. “Go around your waist, then around this thigh, tie it like this here, and then around there …” they instructed.

So it came my turn and I stood at the edge, the rope lay slack on the ground between me and the tree it was  tied to. I could see a hundred feet down between my ankles. I had to let my weight lean over the edge to take up the slack. None of what they had taught me would work if I didn’t take up that slack. The harness itself wouldn’t truly be tightened up around me, if that slack wasn’t taken up.

Hey, wait a minute! My brain screamed. I tied that harness; the harness my life was now going to depend on. I’ve never tied a harness like this before. What makes me qualified to tie a harness!?!

I’ve  had a similar thought recently. I am replacing the stainless steel wire rigging on my boat, the Ruth Ann, with synthetic rope; Dyneema specifically. What this means, however, is that I am splicing a bunch of rope in a very specific way; a way that I have not done before. That rope and my splices will be the very thing that holds my mast up and enables me to sail the sea.

“Hey, wait a minute!”

To further complicate my thoughts, new information has come to light. After completing eight of the nine deadeyes I needed, I ran across a blog post by the guy who originated the system I’m building. His post included a video that did not show up in my previous research. There I discovered one detail that I was doing incorrectly.

Now that one detail mostly made it more difficult for me to make them. It is likely that the deadeyes I had already made would probably have worked fine. By making the construction more difficult, however, the deadeyes are less smooth, less elegant. Dyneema is a twelve strand hollow braided line and is quite slippery. It doesn’t like traditional knots, and is therefore spliced in a unique way. Elegant and smooth, in this context, also means strength.

I made the last deadeye using this new information. It went together way better than my previous grommets. It was elegant and smooth. I looked at the previous eight with a newly jaundiced eye. I stared at them, molested them, twisted and pulled them. They seemed all right, seemed strong. In the end, I just couldn’t brook the thought of trusting them now that I knew they weren’t top notch; not 100% true to method. I removed the thimbles and threw away the grommets. It can only be chalked up as $100 worth of deadeye training.

I ordered some more dyneema; enough to build eight more good deadeyes; elegant and smooth. I’ll feel better banging to weather out at sea knowing that the deadeyes I made, that are holding up my mast as we crash through the waves – those deadeyes are as well built as I could make them.

In addition, I’ve discovered that Ruth Ann has lots of blisters below her waterline. For you landlubbers, blisters are shallow bubbles, just like a blister, on the skin of a boat’s hull. They are caused by tiny amounts of uncatalyzed resin left from the manufacturing process. That resin reacts with moisture to produce a gas which causes bumps on the hull. I am sanding and grinding a lot these days. Once the blisters are
all ground out, they’ll be patched with some glass cloth and epoxy resin. For the record, I'm grinding out the blister on the hull's surface. There are no additional holes in the boat. All the work on the hull though means the mast won’t be coming down real soon; a couple weeks anyway. I have some time to work out my elegant deadeye making process.

I’ve revised the Patreon statement below. Thanks for reading my blogs.

My Patreon account will be live by April First. Patreon is a website that helps people support their favorite creatives; writers, artists, musicians, etc. I am not working right now; just working on my boat, Ruth Ann. If you enjoy reading my blog and would like to support it, Patreon is an easy way to do such a thing, even a couple dollars a month is possible, amazingly helpful, and greatly appreciated.

Writing is my main thing. I will be posting to the blog at least twice a month. There will be some exclusive content for Patrons and early access to blogs. My book, YouTube updates, and a podcast will be coming, but I need to concentrate on getting Ruth Ann back in the water. I don't want to get too many irons in the fire until she floats again.

The sailing memoir book will trace my journey from a little Sunfish sailboat at scout camp, to being on the cusp of an extended cruise on the U. S. East Coast, in the Bahamas, the Caribbean, and Central America. Look for it later this year.

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