Rails In the Water

Wednesday May 30, 2012

After checking the weather report to make sure I’d be ready to go straight from work out to the yacht club for races I noticed that things were probably going to be very different from what they were last week.  On the night of my first race temperatures were in the low 80’s with winds under 5 knots.  Then checking weather.com today the hourly report was forecasting temps to be in the low 60’s with winds reaching 15 knots.  Knowing there was a good chance I might freeze my butt off I packed my foulies in a bag and wore a fleece lined top to work.  After speeding out to the lake once again I found that gettng there at 5:45 did not leave a lot of room for parking on the street and almost went all the way back to Torresen’s when I spotted one available spot left on a side street.  Grabbing my bag and a case of beer I promised Tom I’d bring since he supplied drinks last week I ran through the parking lot.  I knew the boat wouldn’t leave the docks until 6:00 but I also didn’t want them waiting on me.  Getting to the very end dock again I saw Tom and Shannon waiting in the cockpit along with two new faces.  After being introduced I ran below deck to get my beer in the cooler and slip my foulies on over my jeans.  Coming back up we waited for the last people to arrive which was only Rob and Jules.  A little bit of a smaller crew then last week but there were still seven of us and that would be plenty.

Getting our assignments Shannon was put on the spinnaker halyard again and I was to assist one of the new guys Pete will all the lines at the bow.  Motoring out into the lake towards the start we didn’t have any of our sails up yet but all the other boats did and they would zoom past us heeling over so far that their rail was underwater.  I was hoping I’d get to experience doing that tonight on Island Dream since it’s always something I’ve wanted to do as a crew member but did not want to be the one in charge of the helm when it happened.  As we came closer to the start which was half way down the lake the five minute warning sounded.  Tonight our division would be starting first and we needed to get ourselves in position stat.  Rounding other boats we were just raising the sails when the one minute warning sounded and had barely gotten ourselves in place when the final horn sounded and it was time to go.  Immediately Shannon and I were directed to sit on the high side of the boat, the side that wind was coming over.  It didn’t take us long to start shooting out toward the first marker and begin to heel a little ourselves.  At first it was just a slight tip and then it went further and further until we also had a rail in the water.  This is exactly what I had been wanting to do forever!!  It felt like I had been initiated into the club of cool kids and was finally a racer.  Not that I was doing anything more than sitting my butt on a deck while keeping out of the way of everyone else, but it was still thrilling nonetheless.

I had no idea where the first marker actually was since the course had changed from what it was last week, and since anyone aboard who knew what we were doing was already busy doing something I didn’t want to bug them and just watched where the boats in front of us were going.  They all appeared to be headed to a spot kiddy-corner across the lake from where we started although with the sun also lowering near the direction we were headed it was impossible for me to pick anything out of the water.  Along the way we did a few tacks because to get the best use of the wind and weren’t able to make a straight line from the start to the first marker.  Every time we turned and the jib would be pulled over to the other side it would extend way past the lifelines before being sheeted back in but would get stuck on the outside of the lines when it needed to be inside which meant someone would need to lift the foot of the sail over.  A pretty easy job in itself except that tonight by the time it was trimmed in to where it needed to be the boat was already at quite  a large heel.  Since I had skirted it the first time after we took off from the start I decided that could be my job for the night.  So after a tack when everyone else was scrambling to the other side of the boat I’d stay on what would now be the low side and wait for the jib to be trimmed in so I could bring the foot of the sail over the lifelines.  When I had completed the task the boat would be healing so far that my toes would almost be in the water.  It’s a good thing Island Dream has a large gunwale (pronounced gunnel and is the upper edge on the side of a vessel) or else my foot would have slid right off the boat probably taking me with it.  So then after managing to keep myself on the boat I needed to find a way to the other edge which was a little tricky and had me imagining what rock-wall climbing might be like.  ‘Ok, if I stick my foot there I can get a little leverage to push myself up a bit and my arm might extend enough to grab that hand rail at which point my other foot can be moved to this spot and then I can make it over the coachroof which will act like a wall behind me to keep me in place.’  Each time I was able to do it without much issue but I had to laugh at the fact that if Matt were there watching me he would be freaking out because  he knows my clumsiness better than anyone here I’ve just met and would be positive that these actions done by me would leave me in the water.  I’m starting to think that my hard work sanding over the past few months may have really paid off in upper body strength though because if I were doing this same thing a year ago I probably would have ended up in the water.

As we got to the other side of the lake I could finally see the marker and the other boats rounding it and immediately putting up their spinnakers.  Shannon was in charge of raising and lowering again while Pete was in charge of connecting and running the lines.  As we did one last tack and rounded the marker Shannon began to pull on the hailyard to raise the sail.  As far as getting the head of the sail to the top of the mast it went up fine, but there seemed to be an issue where the sail itself was twisted and would not unfurl to open itself to the wind.  When things like this happen it’s immediate cause for concern because spinnaker sails can rip or tear easily and are not cheap to replace.  Steering off to the side and kind of taking ourselves out of the race for a minute we worked on getting the twists out, not really sure what was causing it.  After a few minutes of pulling and gently working the fragile sail it filled with air and we raced off again.  There were however a few issues again when we tacked and the spinnaker didn’t transition over to to the other side easily and had to be worked again. The boat was slowed down and Rob rushed up front to try and get it to pass on the outside of the furled headsail.  Once it came over the wind just didn’t seem to be catching it right and we lowered it back down and decided to continue for the moment with just the head sail.  Up to the point we hit the first marker we had been doing pretty good for position in our division, even with our last minute start, but now because we had to pull ourselves to the side a few times while the spinnaker situations were handled we were starting to fall behind.  And this moment here is why I’m so glad I get to race on the boat I do.  There was no yelling about what was going on and no blame being placed on anyone for not doing exactly the right thing at exactly the right time to keep us in the front of the pack.  All we could hear from Tom is ‘Everyone’s doing a great job, keep it up!’

Apparently the only markers being used for the race that night was the one we started at and the one on the opposite end of the lake.  Headed upwind for the second time Shannon, Pete and I fell back into the positions of riding the high side with me pulling in the foot of the jib after a tack.  Rob would point out strong gusts on the water and could count down to the second that they would hit us and our heel would increase even more.  On our second downwind run the spinnaker went up without hassle and easily moved from side to side when we needed it do.  There was one more slight issue when not too long after we made our second downwind turn when there was a loud noise as if something had broken.  The three of us at the front of the boat turned around to see that the boomvang had just popped clean off the mast!  Still learning about what can go wrong on a boat I thought this may be a huge issue, especially with us sailing in slightly heavy winds, but the now dangling lines were just tied off to the side and Tom goes, ‘That’s ok, I’ve been meaning to replace it’.

Having no more major issues for the night we rounded the initial marker for our last upwind stretch to the finish.  I know we didn’t place that night, or what place we even took in our division, but just like last week once that horn blew to signal us we were done the whole crew cheered and high fived and hugged.  I was given the opportunity to take over the wheel while heading back to the yacht club which should not be an issue at all since that’s where I always am on our boat but this time I was a little nervous since these were sailors that knew how to point the boat into a direction best suited for the wind instead of having their husband mess with sheets while they pointed whichever direction they felt like.  I managed to get us back with pretty full sails and without running into anyone which is always a plus while the guys worked on dropping the main.  I did hand the wheel back over to time when it came time to dock still I still have never done that before and heard Tom can be like Captain Ron while he goes full speed toward the dock and parks it perfectly.

Just like last week the cooler was opened and most of the girls starting pulling out a Lime-a-Rita while I rooted around for a cold Leinenkugel.  Since I had not chilled the beers before bringing them and they had only been in the cooler for a little over an hour most of them had not chilled yet, but dang it I was going to have a Berry Weiss weather it was cold or not.  Sitting around the cockpit and passing around bags of Chex Mix we all relaxed and unwound.  About 2/3 of the crew occupies their winter months with skiing while they can’t be on boats and had some good stories to tell about winters past.  There was also talk from Jules on her past experiences with the Chicago to Mac race and how fun it can be as well as all the parties that go along with it.  It’s something I really wish I could experience but since we’ll be leaving for our trip about 10 days after that race I don’t think I can afford 3-4 days away from home and the boat with all the last minute projects that will need to be done.  Maybe a few years down the road when we come back?  All this talk of parties helped my first beer go down quickly and even though this is only week two it wouldn’t be a race night without a Lime-A-Rita for myself so I pulled a nice chilled one from the bottom of the cooler.  Rob wanted to try one of my fruity Berry Weiss drinks and even though his wasn’t very cold either he was a very good sport about it and even did the uplifted pinky for us girls to laugh at.

Week two of racing was another success in my book and it’s beginning to be something I look forward to all week long.  I’m so happy I started this year at the beginning of the season and I get to experience it hopefully 7-8 more times before I’m racing my own boat through the Great Lakes and down the Atlantic.

Racing in Slow Motion

Wednesday May 23, 2012

Since you’ve probably gathered from previous posts that I have a lot to learn in the way of sailing still before we leave on our trip I though racing would be a great way to take in some of that knowledge.  It would help me to learn all of the lines, what they’re for and how to use them without having Matt be the one to teach me and without having to worry about what’s happening at the helm where I’m normally cemented.  After working in the boatyard weekend after weekend and talking to some of the other boat owners I mentioned to one that I wanted to get into the races at Muskegon Yacht Club but didn’t know how to go about it.  Do I have to call the yacht club?, get in touch with one of the helmsmen?, put a want ad online?  (I actually did in Sailnet forums but had no response).  This guy’s answer was ‘Just show up, they’ll find a boat to put you on’.  Seemed logical enough and I waited for the next available Wednesday to come up so I could make my way out to the water after work.

After making a mad dash out to the lake from work which was over an hour drive away I was panicking thinking that by the time I pulled in all the boats would already be on the water and I’d be out of luck.  The races start at 6:15 and I had images in my head of them getting on the water an hour before the start as also in my head I thought the races were on Lake Michigan and that can take a little travel time.  After parking my car on the street I walked around back by the docks where dozens of people were standing around.  I didn’t know who to approach as everyone looked very busy getting set up but there was one guy off to the side so I walked up to him with a smile and said it was my first time there but I’d really like to get on a boat and does he know who I could talk to.  He admitted he was a first timer as well but pointed me to a woman he thought could help me out.  After hearing that I was a newbie but wanted to crew she started scrambling around to different helmsmen asking of they could take me on.  After a few responses of ‘we’re all full’ she set off down the docks as I sat at a picnic table feeling like a kid in their first day at a new school.  Having made this joke with a friend at work she suggested I walk up to someone and say, “I’m new, will you be my friend?” which we got a very good laugh out of but I was starting to feel like it may be my only way onto a boat.

Walking back toward me the woman said she found a boat that was looking for crew and pointed me in the direction she had just come from at the very end of the docks and gave me the helmsman’s name.  Getting to the boat I introduced myself to the helmsman, Tom, and another woman with him, Shannon, who was coming out for her first time sailing ever.  Right away I was able to get to work helping Tom fold a sail which felt like a piece of cake having two people work on it instead of it being like when I fight the tarps on my own.  After getting that sail rolled up and taking the cover off the mainsail there wasn’t much for me to do and I stood there as Tom ran the lines for the headsail and him and Shannon hanked it on.  As we continued to get the boat ready more and more people started walking up the dock to the boat.  There was a guy around my age, Mark, and his dad Bill.  There was also another guy Matt that joined us who was new to sailing sailing as well, and then a couple Rob and Julie and their niece Jess.  We were becoming quite a full crew!

Just 15 minutes before the race was to start (what was I worried about?, I had plenty of time!) we threw off the lines and made for the starting area on Muskegon Lake.  There were four different divisions to race that night and we would be in the last group to start along with 7 other boats.  Winds were very light around 5 knots so it didn’t look like it was going to be a thrilling ‘hold on for your life’ kind of race but I was still expecting a good laid back time.  While still making sure to pay attention to how all the lines are handled of course. After the first three divisions started and we were making our way to the start all the other boats in the division were on their way as well, tacking and jibing so they could be in the best position possible when the horn blew.  It’s amazing how close some of these boats will get to each other and it doesn’t even phase anyone.  There were a few times I could have hopped from our boat onto another one.  Once the horn blew though we all began to spread out and make our way for the first marker near shore.  Which is actually kind of funny because I had passed this buoy a million times on our way out to the channel and wondered why it was sitting in the middle of nowhere but was actually used for races.  On the way to the first marker the wind wasn’t strong but we were pushing our way forward enough that the progress over water was easy to see.  Trying to get the most out of that little bit of wind and to put ourselves on the best course for the first marker there were many tacks and jibes.  I still didn’t have a job handling any of the lines so I was positioned to sit on the low side and give us a little heel.  Then when we’d swing the other direction I’d slide under the boom while trying not to let myself get hit by it and then I could go back to hugging the low side.  That’s not an area I’d normally let myself switch from Port to Starboard because the boom could do some real damage if it were swinging fast or hard, but on this night winds were so low that it wasn’t even an issue.

Coming up to the marker we were going to need to change direction as soon as we passed it and raise the spinnaker.  I was still line-less but I made sure to keep a close eye on all the people that were pulling and moving and attaching so I would know exactly what to do when it was me on my boat.  The lines to the foot of the sail had already been attached so when the halyard was clipped on the head and we rounded the marker Shannon pulled on the halyard to raise the giant sail.  The wind caught it for just a moment but then any wind we did have almost completely died.  The spinnaker stayed up for a few minutes but began luffing so much we decided we were better off without it and lowered it.  Although we did have one boat behind us already there were two boats not too far ahead that we were working hard to catch but moves had to be planned well in advance since once you picked an option in such light conditions you were kind of stuck with it.  While coming up on the second marker we easily passed one of the boats and just squeezed past the other and instead of turning sharply back to the original marker we stayed our course for a minute trying to head for a few small ripples in the water ahead of us which meant we might be able to find some wind in that spot.

There was  just enough blowing behind us to carry us to that spot where we would have an advantage over everyone else.  Looking at all the other boats on the water it was amazing how still everything was.  It looked like a real life photo where someone had snapped an action picture where for that moment everything appeared frozen, except it was that way in real life too.  Off to our side there were 4-5 boats that had their sails raised and spinnakers up and were dead still in the water.  When our boat had gotten far enough out to feel a little breeze on our bare skin and we had turned enough to be heading back to the next marker we raised the spinnaker once again.  Elated as it filled right away we thought we had the race in the bag and we’d start flying along the water while everyone else remained still, but again the giant sail began to luff in certain areas and would have to be pulled at the ends to catch the wind yet again.  I tried acting as a spinnaker pole by grabbing one end and holding it out as far from the boat as possible to allow any possible air to flow into it.  This helped only a little bit but in this race every second, every bit of forward motion counted.  Due to that little bit of luck we were now far ahead of the two boats from the second marker and becoming even with two more boats that had been ahead of us although they were far off to our Port side as they had decided to made a sharp turn earlier like everyone else.  From what I heard before this boat tended to finish near the end of the pack but things were looking up tonight and we might actually place if we could keep our position.  It would also help if none of the other boats were able to find the spot of wind we had, just to let us cross the finish waaaay before them.

Imagine this was a 30 second video.  The image would not have changed at all.

I was thinking once we passed the marker where we had started the race would be over but the finish line was actually the first maker we passed after the start.  Many boats were getting bored from the lack of wind and thrill and a few actually dropped out before the finish, motoring back to the yacht club to have a little more time for a few extra cocktails.  I don’t blame them as when Matt and I are cruising around at this pace I would beg and plead to put the motor on because we weren’t actually going anywhere.  Somehow my view changed tonight and this was actually exciting!  I had a mission to complete and I wanted to do it weather it was at 6 knots of speed or 1.  The thrill was in trying to keep ahead of the boats behind you while catching up to the ones in front, wondering if any of those boats you passed will come up on you from behind and watching their every move.

After making the last turn and  heading for the finish we had long passed the other boats and now had 5 people behind us.  The spinnaker was dropped and once more we had only the headsail and mainsail while all the boats behind us still had their spinnakers raised hoping one last gust of wind would push through before the end of the race.  The wind did begin to pick up just ever so slightly and these followers began to gain on us just a little.  To give Island Dream everything she had I took my position again as a human spinnaker pole at the clew while Shannon and Mark worked the middle and front.  This was just enough to keep us in place and although I could not see past the sail to tell how close we were to the finish I did hear that sweet little horn blow while all five boats were still behind us.  Which meant that in our division we placed third!  Everyone on board cheered as the motor was turned on to head back to the yacht club and celebrate the victory.

The view from our stern when we crossed the finish

Before the main sail could even be lowered the cooler was opened and I was intoduced to one of the best things in the world as far as canned drinks go.  It’s made by Bud Light and is called Lime-A-Rita, which taste a lot like a margarita packaged inside a cute little 8 oz beer can.  That is awesome.  Realizing before a full blown celebration could break out there was still a little work to be done before we got to the docks I tried to help fold the mainsail as it came down which is a very hard task to do with only one hand so I had to put my adorable blue beer can down to get the job done.  Reaching the dock and cleating ourselves off we all sat around the cockpit with our cold drinks and then the food became to come out.  Crackers, cheese with cranberries, strawberries, red peppers and sausage drenched in a sweet tangy bbq sauce.  See, this is always what I imagined the posh world of sailing is.  Or at least how most other people perceive us.  Sitting on a boat at the yacht club after a regatta while eating fancy cheese and meats.  Why did I wait so long to take up racing?

After finishing all the food on board we though they may be holding ceremonies soon and began to make our way to the picnic tables and awnings of the yacht club.  Racers and watchers were all mingling while talking about the night or the prep they had just finished to get their boats ready for the season.  This was something I could relate to.  Finally I was able to explain my sanding woes to people that could sympathise with my pain instead of all my coworkers that would just look at me and think, ‘Oh poor you….you own a boat.  I feel so sorry for you’.  After meeting many other fellow sailors and discussing all things boating I was ushered inside for a fresh beer and to wait for the ceremonies to begin.  Team Island Dream took a large round table by the door and all got to know each other a little better as there were so many new faces that night.  I discussed our trip which everyone was very interested in hearing about….how long we’ll be gone for….what exactly we’ll be doing.  I had to keep assuring Jules that those plans did not include making a baby.

As darkness grew on the water more and more people were making their way inside the club and it was becoming crowded and noisy but in a good way.  We could hear someone starting to make announcements and strained to make out our boat name when they got to our division.  As soon as we heard Island Dream our table cheered and applauded as Tom got up to collect his prize.  Disappearing through the crowd and coming back he had a frosted glass in his hand, something to display for our victory.  The entire night was a success even if the winds had decided not to tag along. For my first time out in a non-cruising fashion I had a great time.  Everyone was incredibly friendly and helpful and there is a bonding that takes place over people even if you’ve just met.  We were all a team now, including me.  I was extended an invitation to come back every week which I am definitley planning on doing.  Maybe next week I’ll introduce everyone to the Lienenkugel summer pack to celebrate what I’m sure will be another victory.  Or to console us for not placing.  Either way I’m sure we’ll have a great time.

Team Island Dream

Our 3rd place prize (my phone does not take good low-light photos)

* Team racing results for 5/23/12:

Average wind speed –   4 knots                   Time Elapsed –  1:49:39                     Average speed – 0.996 knots


Quote Of the Day

‘Tuesday May 15, 2012

All our hard work will have us visiting places like this

(Photo courtesy of Mr. Mrs. Globetrot)

At work everyday we get an inspirational quote sent to us, probably reminding us just to hang in there because while working customer service on the phones you can use all the positive energy you can get. A lot of people will delete them without reading and I’ll usually skim through them myself without fully taking it in.  However, as I sat at my computer one morning without much to do I did read through the daily quote and found it quite uplifting.  Maybe it was because it came across my desk after I just completed three days in a row of sanding where my arms were about to fall off and I was just sick of the work, but this one really stood out to me as something I could learn from.

For future reference, I’m not the kind of person that will normally post quotes on the blog, but this is one I really wanted to share.

Instant results are not always the best results. Have a little patience, and you can greatly expand your possibilities.

If your desires were always fulfilled immediately, you would have nothing to look forward to. You would miss out on the joy of anticipation.

There are some good things you can have instantly. There are many, many more good and valuable things that will take time.

You deserve more than mere instant gratification. Be willing to take the time, and to put in the effort, and give yourself access to life’s greatest rewards.

Value that arrives in an instant is probably going to be gone in an instant. Value that takes time and commitment to create will enrich your life far into the future.

Dream, plan, prepare and persist in your efforts for the long haul. The more time and effort you give, the more richness you can achieve.

— Ralph Marston

Arms on Fire

Sunday May 13, 2012


I’ll try and keep this post a bit short by covering three days at once because I’m sure you’re as sick of hearing about my sanding as I am of actually doing it.  I had taken another Friday off of work to get boat work done and was very worried that it was going to be just like last time where I wasted a vacation day to do nothing at all.  Winds were showing that they may grow to 15 mph, but this day they were coming out of the south and I was protected by land so they weren’t hitting as hard as they normally do.  Using concrete blocks and anchor chain as normal I got the set-up all squared away and went to work trying to bridge the gap between the bow and stern.  The first few sections I did were a little rough on me because I was still using the same sanding pad I had finished with last week trying to get as much use out of it as I could but it was taking forever to get the paint off and my arms were already becoming sore from holding it up for these longer periods.  After an hour of work I put a new one on and it made a world of difference, the paint started comming off like butter (if that term works here).  From that point I was able to start racing through the work or at least it was feeling like I was.

After I took my lunch break for the day I figured 2-3 more rows would have the full side finished and then all I would have left is the work underneath and on the keel.  But part of me was getting really annoyed with the winds blowing on my back and blowing me directly into the boat again.  Then my mind started grinding gears and I realized if I was out here two more days in a row, I didn’t want to save all the hardest parts for days I was already tired and weak.  Getting down really low I started working underneath the hull.  Unlike the stern area where I could lunge forward to work, this area had the cradle in the way so I had to sit on it while keeping the 10 lb sander above my head.  Doing better than last time I worked for a straight hour going as far down as I could before the sander would bump into the keel.  When I had done the whole area from left to right I took a short break and then set myself up again to do the higher parts starting at the waterline and working my way down.  I finished two more rows before my phone showed quitting time and I began the hour long process of cleaning up by vacuuming the dust from the boat, cradle and tarp, and then bagging everything up to stick in the cockpit.

Saturday morning I gave up my ritual of watching the previous week’s Amazing Race episode while sipping fresh hot coffee to go out to the boat for a half day of work.  Since I was unsupervised this time I made a few stops on my way out, one to buy Matt’s birthday gift and then a stop at Tim Horton’s since I had never been to one before and wanted to see what all the fuss was about.  I probably looked like a complete idiot to the girls behind the counter when I didn’t realize there were three different areas I had to pick up my donut, coffee, and sandwich.  The fact that one of my earrings had fallen out the previous day and I had forgotten to remove the other one probably didn’t help my case at all.  Pulling in to the marina still bright and early just after 9:00 I was greeted by an adorable pit bull that was tied up to the cradle of a boat a few down from me.  After getting the ok from her owner I spent a few minutes playing with her before I needed to get to work putting up the tarps while the winds were still low.

I had everything set up in less than an hour which I was impressed by since it was only me and I didn’t have Matt dragging the wet/dry vac down from the cockpit for me.  I ended up skipping the anchor chain this day and just using a few cement blocks, partly because the remote for the windlanss popped out of the locker killing the power and even though I could tell where it needed to be plugged back in I didn’t trust myself to get it in without breaking the fragile looking prongs.  Since I knew I only had 4 hours of work before I needed to start cleaning up to go home I used the same logic as the previous day by working on and area I knew would be hard.  Not even bothering with the large Porter Cable I pulled out the little Makita and sat on the metal bars of the cradle while beginnng to sand paint off the keel.  I remember the last time I worked with the Makita it felt like I was moving incredibly slow but I thought that was due to a lack of strength on my end and now I’d have some muscle to back it up.  Nope, something about that sander just takes five times longer to remove paint.  Working in sections 4″ wide and 24″ long it took me close to an hour to do one.  My dreams of finishing the remainder of my sanding this weekend were starting to get squashed.  I tried to work as diligently as possible but I did require more breaks than I had recently been using because this area of sanding had me constantly crouched over and I needed to get out and stretch.

Halfway through my day I took a break to eat my donut and after grabbing it from the car had to duck back under the protection of the tarp since winds were picking up and it was getting chilly.  My neighbor with the blue bottom boat and smurf-like wife I had talked to before saw me sitting and came over to talk about boat projects and overall plans.  We compared boat notes and after he told me that he’d been sailing in the area for 20 yeas I sheepishly admitted that I was in need of lessons before we left on the trip and asked if he knew about the races that were held next door at the yacht club.  He was surprised that after four years of sailing I didn’t have a full grasp on how to handle everything and agreed with Matt that I should know exactly what I’m doing by now.  Getting called out by Matt is one thing, but an almost stranger?  Ouch.  In my defense… I haven’t had anyone to train me or show me how to handle all the lines properly.  Matt was able to pick it up by reading alone and figured I should be able to do the same since it worked for him although I’m a total kinesthetic learner. Once I do the process and repeat it, it becomes ingrained.  Oh well, I’ll find a boat of nice people that I’m sure would love to teach me exactly what I need to know.  And lastly in my defense again, I may not know how to handle all the lines but I’m a kick ass helmsman.

Getting back to work with just an hour left before clean up I continued on the keel not making much more progress.  The wind was starting to blow pretty hard at his point and the tarps were having a hard time staying shut.  I started closing down shop about 20 minutes earlier than I had planned and was happy to do it since my back was killing me by this time.  It was also going to allow me time to quick take a shower and hop in bed for Saturday afternoon nap before I needed to start gettting ready for family things.

Arriving back out on Sunday morning we tried to get an early start since it was Mother’s Day and we had dinner planned at Matt’s grandma’s at 5:30 which meant another half day of work.  Getting into my routine I put my tarps up again for the third day in a row now.  My enthusiasm for the project was dying a little and what both Matt and I thought would be my big push of a weekend to get the rest of the paint of clearly was not going to happen.  I was just going to focus on the keel again and work on getting the paint off that area since it was turning into one of the hardest areas to sand on the boat even though it took up the least amount of space.  All the odd angles made for diligent  and time consuming work.  I should have pulled out the Porter Cable for the larger areas but it was so big and the area was so small.  I thought I’d be working with it for five minutes before I got into a small angled area and would need to put it down and work with the smaller sander anyway.  If I was smart that’s what I should have done because the area that would have only taken me five minutes with the Porter Cable was now taking me forty-five minutes with the Makita.  Live and learn I guess.

Knowing that I didn’t have to spend a full agonizing day there I did try and skip a few breaks and even worked past the time I told myself I’d start cleaning up at to get as much work in as possible and make sure the next weekend was my last one ever at sanding.  What I was left with at the end of the day was a keel that was sanded, but paint was still left on the fin and the curved area that connected the keel to the hull.  It of course wasn’t as much as I had wanted to finish that day but I think I still did a good job in the time I had.  I have to admit though that I’m so happy there was an excuse to leave early because three days in a row of that backbreaking labor was really starting to wear on my positive energy.  It was almost having me say things like ‘This trip isn’t worth all the work’.  So good thing I got out of there in time before Matt heard me and decided to use our money for a riverfront condo instead.  (Have I mentioned that he keeps talking investments and a condo would put us further ahead in life than a few years of traveling?  I need to get that boy back on the water and remind him what he could be missing)

Dancing In the Dust

 Sunday May 6, 2012

Heading out to the boat today I had no idea if I’d be getting any sanding done since winds were right at that point where I might be able to get the tarps up or they might all come tearing off on me.  I’m beginning to loathe the wind and how it dictates my work.  Can’t wait until it’s dictating my movements of travel, but I think the lack of a professional job and experiencing different places will help to combat that irritation.  I was about to beg Matt to stay home and I’d maybe finish work on the dodger once and for all but he said that if I couldn’t sand he would need my help on the rudder.  We stopped at West Marine on the way to pick up some supplies for the day (where I noticed they had some Sperry Topsiders I was eyeing for Matt’s birthday that were in stock) but they did not have the filler we needed to do work on the rudder.  If winds weren’t agreeable I’d be stuck there all day with nothing to do.  When we pulled into the yard and got out of the car there were small waves rolling through the docks near our boat and I worried I was out of luck but the winds themselves didn’t feel too strong.  Both of us had checked different weather sites that morning and while the one I looked at showed winds going from 9 up to 16 mph in the afternoon the one Matt checked showed them only going up to 11 which since it was more acceptable to him of course had to be the correct one.  After years of studying forecast on multiple sites I can tell you the one starting with accu is usually not the most accurate.

Unloading all my supplies from the cockpit I tried to gauge which direction the wind was coming from so I didn’t have any openings in the tarp on that side and could hopefully use the full coverage on that side from letting wind blow in on other sides.  Conditions were so well when I started that I didn’t even ask Matt for help or put down the anchor chain. Of course once the third and last tarp was taped up wind started kicking in so I used both anchor chain and a few concrete blocks to hold everything down. We had given up on shore power so I ran an extension cord to the far docks for some electricity.  I had everything set up but just needed to grab a few more things from the cockpit.  Standing on the port side where I would be working that day I could definitely hear gravel moving by Nemesis’ boat and freaked out thinking he was there.  I don’t even know why I worry, we’re doing everything we’re supposed to and he shouldn’t have a problem with us, but if I can avoid him all together I would prefer to.  I didn’t want to spend my day having him tell me what he thinks we’re doing wrong.  Not wanting to use the main opening I had given myself by the bow for fear I could run into him there I made my way to starboard by the ladder where two tarps were overlapping.  Having used sheet stays on the top and middle to keep it closed to the wind I got on my hands and knees to crawl out the bottom and make my way up the ladder without being seen.  Up in the cockpit grabbing the last few things necessary, a sander is usually good to have, I stood out on deck searching for his black pickup but did not see it.  Going back down the ladder and around the front this time I found it was a man from a neighboring boat hooking himself up to shore power.  Guess it was back on after all.

Hoping to use this day to bridge the gap between the front and back I started putting on all my gear only to find out Matt had shoved my mask and goggles in the bag with the hose while cleaning up last week and they were absolutely covered in dust.  Making a quick trip to the restrooms to clean everything off as best as possible I finally suited up and got to work.  My arms were sore from the beginning but I had the same problem when I began last week and thought I just needed a little time to get my body used to the movements again.  I was also starting with an old sanding pad trying to get as many miles out of it as possible and that was slowing down my work as well.  Maybe I was going at the same pace as before, but without caffeine and other things to keep me going it felt like I was moving in slow motion today.

When I finished my first top to bottom section I went through the routine of vacuuming the dust that had accumulated on the hull and made sure to change the sanding pad stat.  If I needed to buy a new box to finish the job, so be it.  Just when I was getting ready to start the process again Matt came under the tarp from the rain that had just begun to do a little sawing for a platform he needed to place the watermaker on.  I had heard some thunder booming off in the distance for awhile and asked if I would be ok working through the storm and wouldn’t be electrocuted by the cords I had running outside.  He said not to worry which either meant it was a non issue or he was getting ready to take this journey as a single man with all my life insurance money.  Before he went back up to do work in the cabin he asked if I could sand down the fiberglass he had put over the throughull last week.  It wasn’t a problem to do it for him, but once I had finished all the rough edges really took their toll on the sanding pad and I was almost back to square one when I went back to working on other parts of the hull.

Working two more 6-8″ top to bottom sections I sat down to take a little rest.  Looking down the side I didn’t have too much more to sand before bridging the gap.  What I did have though was the whole underneath section leading to the keel and then the keel itself. It would be the hardest part where I wouldn’t be able to hold the sander right in front of me and use my body for leverage, but instead holding the sander above my head and only using the muscles in my arms to not only hold it there but to keep just the right amount of pressure on it too.  If I finished the easy part today and left only the hard part for next week I would die.  I’d be incredibly miserable and get nothing done.  So I made the decision to start working the underneath today and split up the job a little bit.  Sitting myself on the cradle I positioned the sander against the hull above my head and turned on the power.  15 seconds of work and then lower my arms for a rest.  Back up for another 15 seconds and then down again.  Sometimes I’d get a burst of energy where I could hold it up for 20-25 seconds.    By the time I had worked about three feet horizontally and only gone down about four inches vertically I was panting like I had just run a 5k.  My arms were burning and I needed a rest.  Since I still had a bean burrito in the car that I hadn’t eaten on the ride over I pulled it out and went back under the safety of the tarp to enjoy it.

While I was eating the winds had begun to pick up at bit more just like I had forecast them to (ok, or the website I chose) and I started to wonder if the tarps would hold.  Just as I was thinking this the opening on the windward side blew open and all my clothespins exploded off.  I quick ran out to put it back together and sat down again.  While I was finishing Matt had come down to see how much longer I wanted to stay and when I mentioned the winds were really picking up he gave me the ok to start cleaning up for the day.  I hadn’t even finished my burrito yet when the wind broke the tarp open again and even more forceful this time started plucking the tape off the hull with it.  At least it was helping me to do my job of taking it down.  Maybe it could help me a little more by blowing all of the dust away instead of me having to vacuum it.  (kidding!!)