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.