If you’re anything resembling a regular reader of this feature, you know that I’ve been missing in action for a week, attending an annual Society for Creative Anachronism gathering known as the Lilies War. For the more newcomers among you, the SCA is a medieval re-creation group where we put on suit of armor and bash each other over the head and other body parts with wooden swords. The Lilies War is out on at the Kelsey Short Youth Camp on Smithville Lake, in Missouri, in what we call the Kingdom of Calontir.
Sadly, I have very little to report about the Lilies War this year. I wasn’t there most of the time. The first three days I got calls from work, and had to go into the nearby town of Kearny, MO to find adqueate bandwidth for my cellular modem, so that I could resolve a couple of crisies that had ensued in my absense from work. I suppose it’s nice to be appreciated. I spent 3 – 5 days sitting in either a Panera Bread Company restaurant, or a Taco Bell working on a laptop. After that was resolved, I spent the rest of the war either sailing on the lake, or waiting for suitable weather to sail on the lake. As a result, I didn’t see the inside of my armor once during the war.
As I mentioned in the past, my Dad owns a sailboat, in the loosest sense of the term. Found in his basement and slapped together, it was lake-worthy for Lilies, and there was a lake at the war. So I took the boat and put it in the water for the first time since I was fifteen. I’m not sure why I gave up sailing when I turned fifteen. By wild coincidence, South Carolina allows fifteen-year-olds to get learners permits and my parents bought me a beat up old Air Force jeep. I’m certain that the fact that the Girls Who Were Interested In Me lived sixteen miles up Highway 52 and said jeep brought them into pursuit range had nothing to do with my abandoning my styrofoam sailboat. Nope, nothing at all. But now that all girls have lost interest in me, I can return to the water. And return I have.
Pardon the repeat, but it’s worth beginning at the beginning. The Snark, pictured on the right, is a styrofoam boat with a homemade fiberglass shell protecting the foam from clumsy drivers, rough boat launches, and children and teenagers who are utterly unable to appreciate the replacement cost of the finer things in life. And a sailboat, regardless of materials, size, or composition, is one of the finer things in life. Fiberglassing was a new skill for dad, and the boat ended up with a . . . unique colored hull. (Snot-colored, to be precise.) And where it wasn’t lumpy, it was abrasive. But it kept the water out and the boat afloat and that was all that mattered to a nine-year-old boy. In the last four days before the Lilies War I ordered the two parts I could not fabricate from one of two parts suppliers on-line: the sail and the gudgeon assembly that attaches the rudder to the transom, and I fabricated a new daggerboard, rudder, and thwart in my woodshop. Aluminum conduit were an effective substitute for the mast, spar, and boom. Steel rings from the leather working supply bin replaced the old plastic rings in the rigging. Snarks do not use pullys. And lastly, 3/16″ woven nylon line completed the re-rigging. Just add water.
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Here I am, preparing the Snark for its first hull-wetting since 1979 or so. The funny clothes are explained by the fact that I’m at a medieval re-enactment. Never mind that the boat is not remotely medieval. And I love the This Is Serious Business expression on my face. You’d think I was about to launch the QE II. Entertaining fact: you will notice my somewhat protuberant gut. I currently weigh 242 pounds. The weight limit on this boat according to the still-extant manufacturer is 300 pounds. Also worthy of note: like any good coastal boy, I knew that if you go out on the water, any exposed meat is going to get burned. And, like any cubicle drone, I display more white meat than your average Thanksgiving Dinner. So I took great care to anoint anything that showed with a goodly supply of SPF 30 sunscreen. I even remembered my ears. (A childhood memory. Fewer things are worse than sunburned ears.) Face, neck, hunk of chest, arms, back of neck . . . all was marinated with great care.
Here, displayed for your amusement is just how rusty a freshwater sailor can get after thirty years of being landlocked. For starters, check out the furrow I’ve plowed in the sand in the lower left-hand corner of the picture. I stuck the daggerboard in to the well while I was still on land. Of course, it slipped down when I picked up the bow to drag the boat to the water. It kept getting harder and harder to drag, and kept trying to roll over on one side. It took a bystander to tell me what I was doing wrong. And if you’ll look, I haven’t attached the rudder to the gudgeon yet, but I’m raising sail. You raise sail last, because if you’re still fiddling with the rest of the of the fittings with the sail up, it whips around and either a) pushed itself and the boat against your chest and gets in your way, b) whips around and smacks you in the head, or c) tries to sail off without you. Further, the boat is facing the wrong way. The rudder has to be in enough water to attached it to the gudgeon without dragging on the bottom of the lake. Here, I’d have to lift the boat up six inches off of the ground just to attach the rudder. *sigh* Finally, take a look at my lower legs. They’ll be entertaining later.
And finally, here’s the Snark, hull down in the water for the first time in three decades. Good Gravy I’ve gained weight since the last time I had to trim this boat. The angle is unfortunate. Despite my extra weight, I don’t actually take up 80% of the volume of the boat. But it sure looks like I do in this picture. There’s less than four inches of freeboard between me and Smithville Lake. A bad gust of wind, and I’m getting wet.
Okay – I kind of like this one. You can’t see my face, but sail is well-filled, the boat is trimmed, and I have weigh on. I also don’t look like I’m taking up 80% of the cubic volume of the boat. The wind was blowing directly into the little lagoon next to our camp, so to get my boat out my first effort at sailing in 30 years was beating to windward. My tiller is also too short. If you look closely you can see that I’m hanging onto the very tip of it in order to slide my body as far forward as possible to help trim the boat a little more. You’re looking across the lagoon next to our camp. The green field in the background is where the Friday night fireworks exhibition is set up. That’s why there’s no one camping on that field.
There was barely any air for that first cruise, but I got through it without having to resort to the paddle. In fact, I didn’t have to resort to the paddle because of lack of air the entire week. I took four strokes with the paddle during one cruise when I ran into a tree branch. It spoiled the shape of the sail and pulled off my momentum in light air. I had to use the paddle to draw clear of the branches before the wind could fill the sail and I could get moving again.
More tomorrow – this has already gone over 1000 words!