Welcome aboard. Get comfortable. Let the time pass without watching the clock. Set sail, let the wind drive your course.

We delight in those we meet along the way

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Misconceptions about the Best Day in a Boater's Life

Landlubbers, and those without the disease of boat passion obsession often tell the story, "the two best days in a boater's life are the day they buy a boat, and the day they sell it."

This is far from truth among those of us truly infected.

For boat lovers, one of the best days is clearly LAUNCH.  There is so much involved in launching a boat, and we have all experienced that grand "ugghh" when we first see our beloved boat on the hard after a season of rain and snow.  For a moment it is near impossible to imagine it looking good again, as it once was. This year, Tres Joli was stored near the marsh and somehow bushels of willow leaves and tree detritus  managed to finagle their way under the winter cover.  There was even enough of the stuff on hand for a robin to build a nest in the bowsprit.  (Lamentably, when Will and I moved the nest to a tree nearby, we returned the next day to find the eggs had fallen to an early ending.)

But I can tell I am boating obsessed when each scrubbing, cleaning and maintenance-repair exercise feels good.  Things I can't be bothered to do on land at home (snake out plumbing, crawl into tight spots and figure out leaks and problems) give me a real sense of accomplishment on board like few other feats.  This year, it felt so good to drink a beer with Will after our five day workout polishing the hull.

When my nephew Ty joined us this weekend for launch, we started the weekend optimistically thinking we would launch and soon be on our merry cruising way.  Not so.  The mechanics that winterized the boat missed a few things.  Securing the main halyard after they untethered the lazy jack was one missed item-- so a nice long trip to the top of the mast to retrieve it gave Will and Ty a master exercise in manliness.  I don't know who was more impressive:  Will blithely shimmying up 50 feet into the air in the bosun's chair, or Ty raising him to those heights one winch grind at a time.

Belowdecks, the yard missed a few things as well.  The oil was changed, but the engine cap was dropped into the bilge and left for lost.  Thankfully, that left me with an opportunity to retrieve it myself by simply cleaning out the near quart of oil and diesel in the bilge first.  Getting all that sludge and the diapers that soaked it up over to a used fuel repository at the marina without dripping it on the salon cushions was a terrific accomplishment, one I hope not to best in future years.

Tres Joli starts to spring back to life as it makes its way to the hoist.  I still remember Phase One on the hoist prior to launch.  Wood boats dry out during the winter, and my dad's Chris Craft had a mahogany hull.  They kept it on the slings until the wood swelled up and the boat was waterproof again.  Tres Joli stayed on the hoist just long enough for the yard hands to move it around to the maintenance dock.  Seems they forgot to charge the batteries as well, so we plugged in and got the old girl re-charged.  There is no better nautical sound in the world then when that grand lady sings-- in my case, she has a lot of vocal range.  She's a devoted 55 HP Perkins, and that first song of the season is magnificent, smoke and all as she comes roaring back to life after her seasonal hibernation.

After getting to our well, the real fun began.  Will and Ty decided to prove their seaworthiness by setting both the jib and main themselves without my assistance.  I'm not pointing out that they put the jib on backwards the first time to make fun of them, but rather to suggest that at a young age, they've already learned how men figure things out.  They jump in and just start doing, and read the directions afterward.  What I loved about watching Will and Ty was their  general sense of fun and enthusiasm for putting Tres Joli back together.  As soon as they succeeded with the sail cover, main and jib, they called Dan, and that made me smile.  It was as if the feat in itself wasn't complete without sharing it with their missing crew mate.  Dan's school and work obligations prevented him from being here, and he was missed, right along with the Treanor crew, and the Ancient Polish Mariner himself.  

Throughout the weekend, in the back of my mind, I kept feeling guilty that our plans for a weekend cruise seemed overambitious upon reflection.  There were so many launch details that required our attention before we could safely go anywhere with Tres Joli.  So our plans to cruise the Erie islands and Put-in-Bay remain for another weekend.  Hope always springs eternal on launch day.

Last up, before we took our first spin out of the marina, we cleaned her topsides.  Will and Ty really put their best effort into this, and the hull and topsides are now bristol thanks to them.  Appreciative and mindful of their invaluable assistance, and feats of manly strength throughout the launch, I'm going to conclude that they legitimately had mechanical issues wrestling with the nozzle and hose, and that's really the reason why we ended the deck washing with me pretty soaked, and them only marginally so.

As for the joy of launch, Tres Joli never looks better or treats us finer than on that first day.  The major cleaning and provisioning completed, the possibilities of the season begin to unfold.  As she leaves the marina with Ty unfurling the jib for the first sail of the season, she leans into the water, and picks up her pace as we douse the diesel, and take flight under her wings.

If there is no better day on the water than launch day, then it follows that there is no better beer and pizza than that first night moored safely back in the slip.  A growler of beer, some great pizza and coke, and a few more friends on hand for the first day of the season served to complete the launch.

Making his sailing debut this year was my friend David's 7.5 year old Jeremy.  It didn't take long to determine that Jeremy is going to be a successful new conscript.  As Ty took the helm, Jeremy and I had our first lesson in nautical terminology.  When he explained to me that my keel was actually made of iron and the rest of the boat was fiberglass, I pretty much determined, he is on his way to a good healthy boat obsession of his own.

As the rain started to come down gently, almost perfectly harmonized with sunset, we enjoyed our meal in the well covered cockpit.  As I looked around, I added the seam tears in the canvas to the punch list as we ate our pizza, and realized my complaints with the yard crew were diminishing.  The yard manager stopped by when we went to pick up pizza and fixed the water tank leak, and the hot water is working again.  We don't have to do dishes in the laundry room on shore again!

It's always the little things, isn't it?

Now the question is, how do we keep track of all the little things throughout the season, so Tres Joli remains bristol and in top working order? It was easier when the Ancient Polish Mariner was around.  He'd look around almost as soon as he boarded Tres Joli, and started castigating me for lapses of order, as his questions flew.  When was the last time you changed the oil on that diesel?  Cleaned out the Racor?  When are you ever gonna fix that clip on the galley cupboard-- do you know, it's still broken from the last time I was onboard?

Without his diligence, I fear we need more conscripts if we are going to keep up with all the inevitable maintenance and repairs.  That's a conversation for another day.  Today all is perfect.  We are in, and launched!