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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Sailing "to do" list: Waxing, and in a word, Jazzed

Tobermory in the North Channel, Lake Huron

We are getting ready for another Summer Sailing Adventure 2012 aboard Tres Joli

However, as I write, I look at the massive amount of work facing me in getting Tres Joli ready for launch, and I become depressed, completely catatonic and crestfallen.  The list of repairs, fixes, and details to attend is limitless.  Both boys are in the middle of college final exam preparations-- hardly a time to be bugging them, and foisting maritime maintenance responsibilities on their shoulders!  Kay is telecommuting still, and across state lines 5 days a week.  If I even have a prayer of enticing her into some sailing this summer, it is probably best not to start with a plea for work aboard ship, especially after her solo marathon to finish this year's taxes with little assistance from me.  So I start compiling the list of things the boat requires, but that just gets more maddening the more I write.

It's not that Tres Joli isn't a grand lady.  Paul and Sandy, her previous owners attended to her care exceptionally well, and outfitted her in a style to which we've all become readily accustomed.  But there is frankly nothing worse than looking at her hull in the marina yard, within walking distance of Lake Erie's shore, and seeing the kind of sorry, smooty grime that lays her beautiful markings low by the end of a long winter season.  Where to start?

A good place is probably at the marina, setting up a launch date. A timeline, methinks, will bracket all the work, and help to contain the endless litany of items.  In order to do that, of course, I need to make sure my account is up to date.  Fortunately, there is only $700 in outstanding balances for winter storage due, so that's the first of many checks we write for the boat this year.  I know, why bother complaining?  Everyone will just pipe in:  A boat is an endless hole into which we are destined to pour all disposable income. And we are on record saying that Tres Joli is more an investment in making memories, so best not to go down this path.  Besides Tres Joli certainly deserves more consideration than that.

She is a valued member of our family, and she's been hibernating all winter just waiting to entertain us for months.  We simply need to give her the attention she's overdue.  So the marina and I settle on a date:  May 4th.  This is the official start date for our Summer Sailing Adventure 2012.  That gives my long list some needed definition. 

Anyone out there wanna join us for the pre-sailing preparatory fun?

Last year, Will helped with the hull preparation.  We now have this part down to a five part science.  It mirrors scenes from the Karate Kid in which we chant "wax on" "wax off" about a thousand times until just moments before our arms fall completely listless and useless at our sides.  The hull is first rubbed out, and then two coats of hull wax are lovingly and diligently applied and buffed with an electric waxer to a high gloss.  Seeing the shining result always makes me feel like everything else is possible as the sheen of the near-new looking hull radiates against an emerging spring sun.  Everything is possible.

Two years ago Max and Don Treanor gave up an entire Saturday to rub out and wax Tres Joli.  They were so dedicated, never complained, it made me feel guilty and euphoric all at once.  Admittedly, it took our friendship to an entirely different level.  Show of hands, how many of you can lay claim to a friend who will spot you an entire Saturday to wax the boat before it's even in the water?  Yes, with the Treanors we've experienced the highs of many summer nights in Oyster Bay barging Tres Joli and In Transit II together while all the kids splashed around in the near frigid waters.  We've also hit the lows with Don's heart attack and health scare.  But nothing compares to waxing a boat.  What I've learned is simply this:  a friendship bonded by a day of boat waxing-- that is as precious as life itself.  After all, we ultimately learn that life is certainly not a given, but having a friend to help through the entire duration of an annual boat wash and wax ritual -- that's equally priceless and rare!

Of course, this year's feeling of overwhelmedness regarding boat work has its roots in being an "empty nester" I'm sure.  Usually there was at least one of the boys I could bribe into helping.  And I don't have the chops to call friends or their young charges for assistance.  Owning a boat, I need to remind myself, is about maintaining a certain amount of self-reliance.  So I start to get my head around doing what I know must be done-- I need to do most of the work for myself, and by myself without further complaint. Enough whining already.

But this only motivates me so far.  So I go back to the lists, and of course this gets me in front of a computer screen checking out all the sailing websites for all the items I think I will need for the boat.  It doesn't matter that Paul stocked the lockers of Tres Joli with enough repair parts and cleaning and fixing tools and materials that I probably don't need to buy much of anything-- a few new buffing pads, a bit more black spot-off.  Of course, this little online excursion leads me inevitably to yachtworld.com where I start checking out fantasy alternatives-- newer model boats that won't require the same hard toil to look bristol.  But with 2 kids in college, less than a freak announcement from the State Lottery Commission means we need to be content with our lot in life-- the good old boat that we have.

But as I peruse the sites, and find all manner of reasons to procrastinate further, I get an email from my marina landlord.  He shares his excitement about the coming season, and tells me they are also considering sailing to the North Channel this year.  This gets me all jazzed, because I have been planning a cruise there for 2 years now, and have twice come up short due to time constraints.  This year, I look over the sailing calendar with the grand sense of optimism that only sailors possess-- possessed of a fantasy that things are perfect and possible, even when my better judgment suggests that bliss lasts but a fleeting moment or two with all things maritime, whether on land or at sea. 

I am on the cusp of actually figuring out how to plan a cruising summer that will take us beyond view of Toledo's energy plants to one of the Great Lake's fairest cruising grounds-- Tobermory on the North Channel. I imagine gentle summer breezes as the sun sets after a glorious dinner of simple galley fare, shrimp and grits and a few really cold Coronnas and an equally well-chilled bottle of Conundrum. (I know my tastes are pedestrian, but keep in mind that just means I am easily satisfied.) 

Before long, I jump off all the sailing websites, respond to my marina landlord, and start looking at the chaos of the boy's pending work schedules, graduation commitments, Kay's work travel and mine, and a late summer wedding out west.  As I look over the months ready to circle open blocks of time into which I can insert even modest sailing plans, I am almost into August before realizing this exercise when taken down to its finest details will only make me feel like summer is gone before it even arrives (a feeling inspired already, in part, by the March Madness Summer Weather of 2012)

Tobermory perches me squarely into the realm of fantasy, more a concept than even a destination at this point.  I love the name, unusual, like a big word no one else has heard used in a sentence before.  This gets me jazzed, and moments later two communications take my enthusiasm even further. 

The first, another email from landlord Bill telling me that they are sponsoring the Pink Boat Regatta this year at Toledo Beach Marina and wants to know if we'll participate.  I say yes without much thought, and as I research the Pink Boat Project online, I get even more jazzed.  A young guy named Tom Watson has painted his 28 foot Triton Pearson "Darwind" pink and decides to sail around the world to fulfill a lifelong dream and raise $1,000,000 for Breast Cancer Research.  So we are signed up, reading to start posting, and line up pledges for a race on September 15th to support Tom Watson's noble sailing project. 

Click here to Join the Pink Boat

Then, as good fortune has it, as I finalize my laundry list of sail maintenance items, I receive another email.  It's official:  my nephew Levi is going to fly from his home in Bethesda Maryland to join us aboard Tres Joli the first weekend he gets out of school.  Jazzed some more now.  As Will, Dan, Jake, Evan, Colin and Tyler will attest, there is nothing I enjoy more than taking others out sailing with us, especially those new to the sport. 

Despite every cautionary flag thrown down by knowing friends who have witnessed firsthand some of my "misadventures" at sea, which parenthetically have never included loss of life or serious injury, I remain confident that others can trust the safety of their firstborn sons to my care.  I consider reminding folks that I first had Will aboard a sailboat when he was 8 weeks old, but the fact that we ran aground as he began teething doesn't inspire confidence among any who've already heard that story, and certainly not among friends who know me less well.  Yes, I'm jazzed.  New crew to Tres Joli.  Yet another impressionable mind waiting to be spellbound by what we do with wind and water and our wiley winsome ways. 

Oh, yeah, what about that long list of things that still need to be done? Who cares?  I now have a Pink Boat Project, and Levi's homecoming aboard Tres Joli at the top of my list.  The rest will follow. 

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