The countdown counter for Sailstrait featured 1 May as launch day. Even as I posted it I knew it was wishful thinking and I actually missed the date by 17 days. However, it was not totally unrealistic and by next year when I will not have permanent employment playing havoc with my free time it might actually be possible. May can be frustrating time with cold and rain (invariably occurring on weekends) conspiring to prevent completion of the necessary tasks prior to launch. This year such an excuse was not valid and two weekends in a row enabled cleaning, polishing and waxing of the hull and changing of the stanchion bases for the pulpit on the first weekend and a succession of glorious days on the holiday weekend just past allowed for completion of the job.
I find the bottom painting a hateful job. It is not the painting itself, which is relatively easy, it is the removal of the old paint. Last year I was so anxious to get the boat in the water I just slapped a coat of XXX bottomcoat on top of whatever layers were there already. In the fall I simply pressure washed, missing a number of large areas. This year I swallowed hard and had at the hull with an electric sander with three small floating pads which allowed it to follow the curves of the hull. It was hardly a thorough job and I had no intention of getting down to the base but I am sure the badly pitted paint was an eighth of an inch thick. I seem to be the latest in a long line of owners who were more at ease with “painting over” than with “taking it all off”. It was very satisfying to see the amount of black chips and dust which flew out of the disks and the hull, if not smooth, is at least smoother. Not perhaps enough to make my progress through the water noticeably faster, but I do feel better about the bottom than I did last year.
On Saturday all was ready and it was a short pull, dragging one flat tire, from the parking lot to the crane and from there up on the clings and into the water. The motor started (always an anxious moment) and I was off to my finger pier.
Meanwhile work on the masthead was in order. A previous owner had fashioned a masthead fitting to hold the anchor light, windex and radio antenna. Unfortunately it was made from angle iron and had rusted. Worked fine but looked like hell. I was originally going to substitute a similar piece of aluminium but couldn’t find the right size and instead scraped and painted the fitting with rust paint. From the distance of the deck it looks just fine. I barely avoided humiliation when at the last moment I noticed that the windex (totally absent last year) had been mounted backwards. Up on the mast crane the spar was put in place and turnbuckles tightened – except for one of the uppers which seemed to be askew. The following day I went up on the bo’sun chair and wiggled it into place. A new record for success as only one cotter pin and no tools were dropped overboard.
In the fall I had totally stripped every movable item from the boat and the work of replacement has begun. It is a re-learning experience and I seem to have forgotten where I had safely stored some of the pieces.
By the holiday Monday Ebony was more than ready for the first sail and a glorious sail it was – 15 knots with gusts to 25 – bright sun and warm temperatures (except when sailing against the wind). The inaugural voyage was out to Nine Mile Creek (more on that in another post) and back. A five-hour beat out and two hours home.
The season has truly begun.
Last weekend I paid another visit to Ebony in her winter quarters along side Clive Pickles’ Dragon at his farm in Alexandra. Although I has snuck aboard several times over the winter it was always with a layer of snow on the tarp and everything within was frozen solid. This time the spring winds had been blowing and without their burden of snow the tarps had been flapping in the breeze having broken their grommets and snapped a few of the lines lacing them to the trailer. The stanchions had also punched through the cheap woven plastic tarp. (Reminder to self – collect a few used tennis balls to mount on the stanchions to serve as reinforcement next year.)
It was time to shrug off the winter overcoat. The only damage was some marks where the grommets had rubbed on the hull. Looks worse than it is and I know that the marks will disappear with a good polish. In the interior, which I had completely stripped and emptied over the winter all seems well with the not-unexpected 2 inches of water in the locker under the sink which has somehow snuck in through an as yet un-discovered deck leak. Sponged out without problems. The only issue standing between Alexandra and the Yacht Club is the little matter of a flat tire on the trailer which I hope will respond to an air pig when the time comes.
With spring weather giving record high temperatures (forecast for higher temps. than for most days in June, 15 to 19 degrees) the blood is running in my veins like sap in the maples. I paid a visit to Ebony in her winter quarters last week and have started my pre-launch task list. This is the first full year that I have had the boat and there is an accumulation of things have noticed in the last season’s sailing that really must be dealt with before Ebony goes in the water this year. None is fatal to the enjoyment of sailing but all should be attended to sometime.
- Replace running rigging – The previous owner overbuilt everything and the halyards are a good example. He had 7/16″ or 1/2″ lines which could hardly fit through the rope clutches. They also seem to have been on the boat for 8-10 years. I have ordered halyards from Cajun Ropes http://www.cajunrope.com/ at 3/8′ which still have 4700 lbs breaking strength and which will be much easier to handle. They also have eyes and fitting spliced in.
- Replace pulpit bases – These have corroded and cracked and while they appear to be holding do not give confidence. I have the new bases and will have to fit them into place. Getting the old ones out will, I expect, be a bugger but my intention is to see if it can be done without removing the entire pulpit.
- Replace mast-head fitting. With the addition of the VHF aerial, masthead light, spinnaker block and windex the top of the mast was a little crowded. Former owner bolted on a piece of 1.5″ angle iron which holds all the extras but has corroded and looks like hell. I will be using the same design but replacing the angle iron with aluminium.
- Find that bloody deck leak – Somehow, somewhere water is getting into the area below the sink. It is fresh water and so I know it is not coming in through the thruhull but rather from the deck. There are no evident spots but there is a gap somewhere. The volume is not very much and so it is not a worry but it is an irritant – just enough to have to sponge out once a week or so.
- Rig a traveller – Last fall I experimented with a traveller for the mainsheet block to better tune the rig. I need to further refine it and I bought a couple of small fiddle blocks and clam cleats which should allow an infinite amount of tweaking.
- Mount the winch handle holder – The current resting place for the winch handle – the little box locker in the port side of the cockpit just isn’t practical and I have purchased a winch handle holder which should be much easier to get at.
- Re–wire the charger on the outboard. – With increased plans for cruising I would be nice to be able to top up the battery, especially if I am using the autohelm a lot, and I am sure that the little solar panel really won’t do the job.
That’s one list of one-time things. Then there’s the other list – all the things that have to be done every year to get ready for launch. a longer list perhaps, but one that has a real sense of accomplishment.
By the end of this week almost all the snow will be gone and the ice will be out of the harbour. Can launch day be far behind?