Sunday, November 23, 2008

Wrapped Up

Finally, Aura is covered up for winter. Good thing as it's supposed to snow heavily this week. Friends Liam and Paul helped me out and tried a new technique of rolling the front of the tarp and "stitching" it just with strands of rope. It's really effective.

What a brutally cold day to be out, though. There is already about two inches of ice in the harbor. While we were working on getting Liam's boat covered, we started hearing this hacking sound. It turned out to be one of the maintenance staff, trying to hack an aluminum work boat out of the water with an oar. The whole thing, including a big 30Hp Mercury motor were frozen solid into the ice. We had a good laugh over the silliness of it all... forgetting to take the boat out in the first place, the futile hacking with the oar, and the blasted freezing cold. At least there was somebody out there more miserable than us.

A few minutes later we started hearing a huge crunching sound. I ran to the harbor wall and looked out towards the entrance. A yellow sailboat was making it's way in like a Russian icebreaker at the north pole. The bow was riding up, the motor was gunned wide open, and chunks of ice were flying all over port and starboard. I ran back and told Liam and Paul, "You've gotta see this!" We all just stood there mouths agape, until Paul got his cellphone out and snapped a couple of pictures. Right about then they got hopelessly stuck, and we were practically rolling on the ground laughing. For some reason, being out in the bitter cold made watching these shenanigans seem really hilarious. We got back to work on Liam's boat, taking care because he didn't want the metal grommets on the tarp to scratch his hull. We had to undo a few of the knots till it met with his satisfaction. When we finally finished, the lads in the harbor had somehow managed to force that poor yellow sailboat up to the crane, which they were now busy manipulating into position for a haul-out. A jagged trail of broken ice streamed off behind them.

"Forget about grommets", I told Liam, "If you're concerned about scratching your hull, those are just the two fellows you ought to call!"

There was a roaring fire in the fireplace when we got to the clubhouse, and dinner was still being served. It hit the spot nicely.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Bitter End

The end of the sailing season has come, and Aura is now high and dry, on the hard, laid up for the winter. She still has to be covered over and the motor prepped and stored, but the big work of hauling out is done.

It was a good season of sailing. With her new sails, Aura looked like a new boat and performed well. A used #2 genoa given to me by fellow Tanzer 22 sailor John Lydon gave us some enormous sail area for light wind races and was a deciding factor in us crossing the finish line ahead of some others.

One crisp and sunny October afternoon as I finished putting new pads on the boat cradle, enjoying all the sawing, hammering, and general puttering around in the harbor, I reflected on the hours of behind-the-scenes work that go into owning a sailboat. My crew this year (on weekly PHRF and JAM races) were good sports, fun to sail with, and did a great job for being relatively new to racing. It did turn out to be a bit of a chore to get everyone to show up consistently though, and I've realized that to most people, sailing is seen a relaxing way to spend a couple of hours, not a competitive sport. When you've spent countless hours working on a boat doing a hundred little things that have to be done, there's more of you in the boat, and you're more dedicated to it. That's probably why my best crew member is also the owner of an Aloha 28 and a dedicated sailor. For the rest, the novelty wore off about halfway through the season, and we withdrew from the Fall series of races.

But there's a certain enjoyment in just being around boats. The environment is good to be in. There's the wind, and the water, the promise of the open river and places to explore. And sailing up the river under the bright white canvas, feeling the forces of nature and the laws of physics working to propel you effortlessly forward... it's all very different from motoring along in a machine. It instills a sense of wonder.

As I wrapped up my work on the boat cradle that day and headed back to the club house for a hot drink in the Dragon bar, a chilling breeze blew in across Lac Duschenes. A lone sloop was tacking upwind for one last run into the setting sun. I shivered and ducked inside where the fireplace was blazing warmly. It's a bit sad to see the end of the season come so soon, but I don't think I'd want to be out sailing in the biting November wind. Better tuck away the memories of hot Sunday afternoon cruises and picnics on the water for another year.

Now it is time to prepare for a long, cold winter.

Translate