Posted by: wrmcnutt | July 14, 2009

Sorry – Another Sailing Post

My Loyal Crew Helps Me Prep The Boat

My Loyal Crew Helps Me Prep The Boat

I spent about four hours on the lake before taking any passengers.  My first cruise was about an hour long on the first day.  The next day I went out for two hours in the morning before offering to take the two kids in camp out for a ride.  My friend Mike had two daughters in camp that I thought might like to go out and ride around the island.

But my overgrown beach toy can only carry one passenger in addtion to the skipper.  So I had to pick who gets to go first, between the two sisters.  Here was my logic:  I was the oldest growing up.  I was the first to get a bike.  I was the first to get a driver’s license.  I was the first to get a car.  I was the first to start dating.  I figured that the youngest ought to have a chance to do something first, as petty as it was.  I was advised later by the older daughter that, in fact, the sister had had plenty of firsts in their life. I got an exhaustive list later on when she got her ride.

Rigging for my first trip out with a passenger.

Rigging for my first trip out with a passenger.

[iframe width=”1″ height=”1″ src=”″%5DSo we get ready to roll out.  I will confess, my learing curve isn’t as steep as it used to be.  I’m still trying to rig the rudder with the bottom of the lake in the way.  I’ve got my crew too far astern, but at least I’m raising the sail in the right order.  After the rudder so that the sail isn’t trying to beat the daylights out of me while I’m rigging the rudder.  You’ll notice that I have my crew outfitted in a life jacket.  I always have one in arm’s reach when I’m sailing, but minors on my boat have to actually be wearing life preservers.  Especially when they’re somebody else’s minors.  From one perspective, it was just a boat ride on a styrofoam bathtub.  But from another entirely different perspective, someone had entrusted me with their precious child, under the assumption that I am a certified small-craft sailor (Boy Scouts) and life guard (Boy Scouts, Red Cross, US Navy).  But all of that was thirty years ago.  Today I am fat, old, and my ‘leet boating skills are seriously rusty.  It wasn’t just my gut that was causing that boat to ride low in the water; we were also shipping a heavy load of responsibility.

My first passenger sail since 1979

My first passenger sail since 1979

 And so commences my first passenger trip since 1979.  The first thing you’ll probably notice is that we are heading out in unbelievably light air.  It was something I fought the whole War.  Smithville Lake seemed to occilate between almost no air, and way too much air.  I may have forgotten a lot about reading the water since I was a kid, but I do remember one thing my Dad taught me:  if there are whitecaps on the water, it’s too windy for a small craft.  And I have a very small craft.  
According to the Beaufort Scale, “frequent whitecaps, some spray” is a “fresh breeze,” and is running about 17 – 12 knots.  While this is substantially below what the US Weather Service calls a “small craft advisory,”  it’s more than ample to scare the peedoodle out of me, at least at this stage of rust.  I’ve only dumped a sailboat once, when I was twelved, and I’m not interested in doing it again.  Perhaps, as I get a little more practice in, I’ll man up and dare the occasional whitecap. There’s a small island on Smithville Lake.  It’s directly south from the beach, and about a half mile away.  I took the little girl out around the island, under the powerlines, and back to camp.  It took us about 45 minutes or so.  If you look closely at the picture on the left, you can see how I worked out trimming the boat after having gained 100 pounds since my last outing on it.  I prop my back against one gunwale, put my butt firmly on the centerline, and hang my feet off of the other side.  The feet that were wearing shoes and pants when I was putting on sunscreen.  It’s been weeks since Lilies, and my legs are still sunburned.  I’m not sure that they are going to recover.
Beyond the "Grove-yard"

Beyond the "Grove-yard"

Here we are, far across the lake.  At this point, Smithville Lake is about a half-mile across, and my photographer is leveraging the zoom on our camera.  We’re out past what I call the Groveyard.  Smithville Lake is a man-made lake.  When the Army dammed the river and flooded the little valley, there was a grove of trees here.  With their root systems entirely underwater, they died, leaving the cadavers sticking partially above water.  Every year that we go to the site, there are a few more driftwood trunks on the beach, and a few less tree corpses poking out of the water.   The Groveyard is much bigger and more intimidating when you’re sailing through it.  The images of the broken off trunks of trees beneath our hull, reaching up with rotting limbs for the sunlight they will never see again kept coming to mind.  Sailboats are almost silent, and we slid among the dead like ghosts our selves.  Occasionally we could hear the soft rattle of broken off branches scraping the bottom of our hull, scratching softly, like finger bones inside a coffin.

It’s really tempting to break off and leave you with that imagery, but there’s one more tale to tell.  Here we have our valiant return from our trip around the island.  Note the razor sharp reflexes of my loyal crew as she raises the daggerboard to allow us to neatly beach the snark near camp.  Note my lower legs, still exposed directly to the giant yellow ball of pain in the sky.  Note the older sister smiling and awaiting her turn with a modicum of impatience.  It took us a few minutes to get Crew #1 out of the boat, Crew #2 into the boat, and the boat outbound.  Just when we were getting under way, *bam*.

A sudden deployment of an unauthorized 'sea-anchor!'

A sudden deployment of an unauthorized 'sea-anchor!'

The mast blew through the bottom of the hull!  The forty-year-old styrofoam was not up to holding the weight of the mast, boom, and sail, plus the pressure of the wind.  All of a sudden we had our boom on our gunels, a three-foot tall mast, and a four foot long spike sticking out of the bottom of the boat into the mud.  Needless to say, we jerked to a screeching halt.  Now, unlike other boats, a hole in the bottom of the mast well, while a crisis, is not a disaster.  For starters, the mast well comes up in a peak inside the hull. Even in this picture, where the weight of both captain and crew has reduced the snark to less than seven inches of freeboard, the mast well still isn’t below the waterline.  So no gusher of water into the hull.  Further, even if she’d filled entirely with water, the foam hull just will not sink.  On the other hand, the boat’s grounded on the lower end of the mast and cannot move.  The sail is still deployed at gunwhale level, and threatening to beat us into submission.  So, Job One:  drop the sail.  Boy, I sure tie a good (ow), tight (ow), hard (ow) knot. (As the boom and spar smack into my chest and thighs.)  Wait, I have a knife ( chop).  Ok, sail down.  Job Two: get this overgrown beach toy moving.  Challenge:  I can yank the mast up out of the mud, but if I let go of it, it will drop back in to the mud.  Ok – got it.  Unstep the mast completely, and become a gondolier.  Pole the 10 feet back to shore.  Job Three:  Convince loyal crew not to tell her father where she learned those new vocabularly words when I jammed the daggerboard and rudder into the beach because I’d forgotten to strike them before poling ashore.

Now I have an urgent task.  Repair my hull?  No.  Armor up and support my fellow warriors in battle?  No.  Do my duty as a Laurel and attend either the Laurel meeting or A&S classes? No.  I have to get this boat back in working order so that Loyal Crew #2 gets her turn, ’cause her little sister has already had one!

It took me two hours, but with only duct tape and a two-by-four, I was back on the water, and Loyal Crew #2 got her turn.  Tune in tomorrow to find out how.



  1. What? No pictures of the duct tape and 2×4 version?

    • Tragically, no. I didn’t get any pictures of the temporary repair. Three separate funtional applications of duct tape in 1 repair, and I didn’t think to get a shot.

  2. I like that “Do my duty as a Laurel and attend a [boring meeting, in favor of teaching the loyal youth good, period words]? Hell, no!” Good man. You have your priorities straight. Or at least heading in the right direction — ten years ago I gave up the SCA, bought a Catalina 25 TR, enticed Mr. Bother to leave the field of combat and take up sailboat racing, and we’ve never looked back. Just sayin’.

    • The plan was to sail Dad’s Boat this season, re-glass the hull this winter, and sail it next season. Then, if I still have a taste for it, pick up a day sailer that’s big enough to take out wife and friends. Maybe camp on over night. If she develops a taste for it, then look into getting a boat big enough to tour on.

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