Monday, April 27, 2020

The Other Boat

Boatyard Neighbors at Sunset

An unusual thing happened that made me notice something else had settled. It was apparent that I was just perceiving what had already baked in; was already done.

Hanging around a boatyard is being with my tribe. We have disparate opinions about politics, power vs. sail, and all sorts of things, but we can talk about boats for days. I was describing to my neighbor a trip I had taken down the U.S. East Coast, crewing on Eleanor, a Westsail 42. [The telling of that whole story starts here.] I had said that if money was no object and I could have any boat, I would likely choose a Westsail just like Eleanor; even though they haven’t been produced since the late 1980s.

This neighbor occasionally tries to convince his wife that they should have a sailboat rather than their curiously beautiful British workboat turned cruiser. Just then, he remembered having looked at a boat nearby that was like the one I described. He thought it could be had for cheap.

It turned out that he had seen a Tartan not a Westsail, but another beautiful, solidly-built boat about forty two feet long. It was a ketch just like Eleanor and had been featured in a magazine at one time. Apparently, it had been partially sunk but rescued by a skilled salvage crew. She had been saved, preserved, and now spends her days motoring a bit around Georgetown, SC. The story was, the salvager didn’t really know what to do with her and was getting bored. She might be headed to the scrapyard. Or … an ambitious sailor might be able to have her for the scrap value of the lead in her keel.

I saw pictures, recent ones. I received the phone number. I read the article.

Pic from the magazine, not current.
She is still beautiful; even after some trauma and benign neglect.

Not so long ago, a previous version of me would have spent the next few days sifting through the details, doing the math, and daydreaming big plans. I often did this without any real thought of trying to purchase some prospective boat. But other times I would sink into detailed planning, get emotionally involved, even discuss options with an owner, and end up heartbroken when I couldn’t pull it off.

I haven’t seen this boat in person and there are several red flags about her. Set aside that the used sailboat market is not so soft that someone else would not have grabbed a feasible project by now. I don’t know the story or the extent of the sinking. The sails are supposedly shot, but there might be another set. And a bigger boat is always more expensive; to maintain, to dock, to run. None of this, however, would have slowed me down before. Hell, I bought a boat in Miami that had no engine, from Michigan sight unseen, and subsequently sailed her over a hundred miles in the Atlantic to get her to a yard where I could work on her.

I was never really turned on for some reason, but the magazine article was chock full of other details that were not positive. The article was titled “The Geriatric Ketch” and was all about how the previous owners, an older couple, had set the boat up to assist them in continuing to sail in their autumn years. The boat bristled with gadgets and labor saving devices, like electric winches. There were modifications to the keel. Every sail was on a furler. I don’t even like furlers, but that might not have stopped the previous me. That me would have likely been obsessed with the idea that a beautiful, fixable forty two foot ketch could be had for round about $9000.00. It seemed strange, but even after all that neighborly boat talk, I was unfazed. I couldn't have cared less.

I had read the article on my phone from a lawn chair in the shadow of the boat that sits right behind my Ruth Ann. I’d been sanding all morning when I struck up a conversation with the neighbor. I set the phone down just as the sun climbed over the building behind us; splashing afternoon sun all over my boat. I’m working hard to bring her back to her glory and that work stood out in the bright contrasts. The port side of the hull was mostly smooth again. She was generally clean and finally looked like someone was taking care of her. No streaks of dirt from the rain. No moss in the shadows. No sun-eaten ropes hanging around. Halyards were coiled and stowed. They only bang the mast in the strongest wind. Her transom is clean waiting for a proper name and hail. The teak that I had stripped, sanded and oiled glistened darkly, relishing its renewal.

She had overheard our conversation about the other boat. Her trailboards quivered and her shoulders sagged against the jackstands that held her upright. I could sense that I had confused her. We have made so many promises to each other. But I felt nothing about that other boat. There was no swell of curiosity. I couldn’t even bring myself to play with the details just for the sake of playing. I didn’t look up her displacement, what kind of keel she had, or the price of scrap lead.

All I could do for Ruth Ann was get back to work. I picked up the sander, grabbed a fresh sanding disc and snapped on my ear muffs. She’ll know soon enough.

Ruth Ann is a bit small; storage is going to be a concern, but she’s mine. She is a great boat for places like the Bahamas, Chesapeake Bay, and Pamlico Sound. She can probably cross an ocean too, and she and I are going to work on that for the future. I know just what she needs and there isn’t that much. Ruth Ann and I are very close to setting off. There’s just no sense in starting over on another project; no matter how luxurious the possibilities are. And besides I can feel that I am committed. I wasn’t sure of that until now, but this is it. She and I are the plan.

This might not sound like much of a revelation, especially to a landlubber, but it feels significant to me. The analogies to falling in love are obvious but too cute. I’ve been committed to this lifestyle but have never been committed to a particular boat [‘obviously’ some of you groan]. Surely part of it is that I’ve never been as close as I am today to actually being able to push off and start to wander.

In thirteen years, I’ve never been this close to my dream. I can feel it! For the resources I have and the plans I’ve made, Ruth Ann is just about perfect. We can work together to handle whatever isn’t. Depending on how the world turns out in the near future, Ruth Ann and I will be cruising the U.S. East Coast this summer. And if this pandemic situation relaxes enough, we’ll be in the Bahamas for sure next fall and winter. Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Haiti, Jamaica, even Colombia and Panama are all also within the realm of possibility. Stay tuned.

I’ll be ordering barrier coat and bottom paint by next week. The work continues.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Fortunate One

Shine On You Crazy Diamond

In the last post, I talked about gratitude. I am in a really privileged position. My life has changed very little with all the lockdowns and other pandemic precautions happening. North Carolina is under a stay-at-home order like most other states, but boat repair facilities are considered essential and are exempt. I am therefore riding on the coattails of the shop here at Cape Fear Boat Works. I can still get the supplies I need; though I’m paying to have most stuff shipped in so I can maintain my isolation. Trips to town are much rarer and I’m relying on my reasonably well-stocked pantry to get by.

My gratitude is leavened by the unknowns of the situation our world is in. I haven’t slept well the last couple nights. It may be all the pondering possibilities, but it might be the coffee too. I started my day today with green tea. The day started a little slow and I settled down. To reduce my own anxieties, I’ve decided that I can keep doing what I’m doing if our status quo goes all the way into August. If the country is still locked down past August and I can't sail anywhere, I might find some work and pause to save some money rather than just burning through my cash while waiting. If I am on the water, on the boat, toward the new year I’ll have to pause somewhere anyway to make a little money. Pausing to work occasionally while living on the boat was always the plan.

I’ve had some good productive days lately, but today I didn’t really want to do anything. After a slow start, and leaning heavily on my gratitude attitude, I did get to work and sanded for a few hours. Sanding over my head is hard work and a few hours is nearly as much as I would have accomplished on a good day.

The divots where I ground out the blisters on the port side of the hull are about 95% patched and filled. An order of peel ply got hung up in the postal system, and I couldn’t finish. So, I started sanding the patches and have a solid third of them sanded smooth. There are lots of projects, so with the delay on hull work, I expanded my focus. I re-bedded a couple blocks on the cabin top that were weeping a little in heavy rains.

The mainsail has full battens and was just rolled up and stowed below. I removed the battens and stretched it out on the lawn to check it out. I had not used the main at all on the trip up from Little River, SC, so I haven’t had a good look. It was purchased relatively recently and is in good condition; still stiff and crispy. I was happy to find that the hull number and a proper Bayfield logo were on the sail. Afterward, I folded the sail and rolled it up tight so it will stow better.

The Canadian company that supplied hatches and ports to the Bayfield Boat Yard is still in business. I ordered new gasket material for the portlights and now had time to work on the “windows.” The frames were removed, cleaned up, regasketed, and rebedded. While cleaning the portlight frames, I brushed my hand pretty well with a brass brush spinning in a drill motor, so I got to practice some first aid too. It’s doing fine and was really only like road rash from spilling off a bike or something.

One of the biggest projects was the head (that’s the bathroom to you landlubbers). I am a proponent of composting toilets and purchased a C-Head just like the one I had on the Westsail in Florida. With a composting toilet, there is no need for a holding tank and the odors associated with them. Ruth Ann’s old tank had to go. I could use the storage space it was taking up.

The downside was that the holding tank was not empty. I disconnected a hose that would have emptied the tank into the sea and filled a half dozen tall kitchen garbage bags with about a gallon of sawdust in each as an absorbent. The full bags were gently placed in the dumpster. Then I removed a bunch of hoses and the old toilet.

The holding tank, however, would not come out. The inner liner of the boat’s cabin was put it place after the tank – trapping it. I ended up cutting a tank-shaped hole and sliding it out of it’s hiding place (think of the Wiley Coyote-shaped hole he left after crashing through a wall).

The peel ply and some epoxy filler has arrived. I can get back to work on the hull. The port side is nearly done, but I have the starboard side to do next. I also ordered a colossal supply of 5” hook and loop-backed, 80-grit sanding discs. Two of the portlights are regasketed and rebedded, but Ruth Ann has four more.

The Tank is out!!
The work continues.

My Patreon page did go live on April 1. It was important to me to accomplish that when I had said I would. Nevertheless, in our current situation, I am not going to promote it. We’ll get to that when things are back to normal; or whatever is close to normal again. The page is operational and linked on the upper right of this page. I’m just not emphasizing it for now. Patreon is a way for people to support the creative projects that they enjoy. You are very welcome to support my adventures and the Bubba the Pirate Blog. And my content will greatly improve when I’m bragging about sailing rather than droning on about boat projects. For now, please consider supporting your favorite musicians and artists. They are really hurting and their livelihoods are nearly completely interrupted by pandemic precautions.

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...