Most of you are probably watching the leaves around you turning to gold then red and feeling the first cold breezes of autumn whispering in. For us it is the opposite. The equinox, which marks the change from winter to spring, has just passed and with it ten days of traditional foul weather. Early spring flowers have shoved their heads clear of the blown branches and debris in the flowerbeds surrounding my cottage. Buds are beginning to show on every tree and bush. The owners of the boats which have spent the winter stored at Mickey Mouse Marine, have shown up, sandpaper, face masks and scrubbing gear in hand. They seem relaxed and glad for an excuse to mess about in boats on the first truly warm, light wind days of spring.
This is in direct contrast to the scene in our little boatyard a few months ago on a cold damp wintery day. Boats, barges, nervous owners, for a short time Mickey Mouse Marine looked like a very serious little boatyard. Almost every winter, the crew of Total Marine Barge Company detour from their wharf building chores and steam into North Cove to lift one or two of the local Etchell’s (30’6” foot racing sloops) into our yard for winter storage and a spring clean up. Etchell’s are relatively light boats, made of fiberglass. There is a fleet of several hundred identical boats floating here and abroad. Though well loved by their owners, they are not hard to replace should something drastic happen. So we can appreciate the concern that set in as Tim Barnes one of our favorite neighbors, slowly brought his custom built, one-off 28-foot wooden sloop Moppet alongside the 100-ton barge that lay next to our seawall. As he later explained, Tim has owned his Allen Wright designed yacht for several years but has never lifted Moppet out of the water. Instead, when it was time to work on the underbody of the boat, he dried her out on a tidal grid. This winter was different Moppet needed a good long dry-out and some underbody caressing.
I knew Larry had everything under control. He’d laid out strong wooden bearers for Moppet to sit on. There was a stack of 100 X 50 timbers and wedges ready to be placed quickly under her hull to shore her up. I should have stayed hard at work at my desk. But I just couldn’t stay out of the action. As an excuse to get outside on this cold bright day and join the fun I reminded Larry I needed to take a few pictures for an eventual newsletter. Tim made it clear he was taking no chances with this operation by handing over a container full of fresh baked brownies as soon as I appeared. “Baked these last night, to encourage the crew to be extra careful,” he said. I’ve been the fortunate recipient of Tim’s cooking before, so it was with some reluctance that I said to the three-man crew of the barge, “As soon as his boat is safe and sound on shore I’ll share these out.”
I was truly impressed as I watched Mark, skipper of Total Marines 130 ton barge and tugboat, fire up his big crane, and then swing it into position. Methodically, checking carefully to be sure the lifting straps were in exactly the right place to lift the 3-1/2 ton keeler without breaking off the propeller, the three-man team worked as a well oiled unit. It was when Moppet was suspended in the air, her keel flying across the old jetty timbers and tools that cluttered the deck of the barge that I happened to look at Tim. Now I know how a father might look as he waits for news that his first child is safely into the world; slightly pale, trying to relax and let the experts do their job, but wanting also to run over and help.
Moppet settled on to her bearers, Larry and Tim quickly hammered four supporting struts into place. Then Larry turned to help move the barge along the seawall to lift out the next boat, John Sinclair’s Etchells 28. He called to Tim, “How about lending a hand.” I must admit to feeling four sticks of timber seemed a shaky support system for lovely Moppet until Larry called out, “stop fretting, she’ll be just fine for the next half hour. We’ll get her properly set up as soon as these guys leave. Amazing how perceptive he can be at times. Amazing also how fast a scene of chaos can turn into one of tranquility.
Only 55 minutes from the time the tug, barge and crane came chugging into my world, they were gone. So was the pile of extra shores and wedges, the securing lines Larry had laid out. Now they formed a strong system of supports for Moppet. Tim and his sidekick Marcos were gone too, headed back to their construction work at the Whitehouse’s holiday home. All that was left to prove they had all been here was the last delicious brownie I’d hidden away in the timber shed to eat when everyone was gone, plus a small fleet of dripping boats festooned with their year’s growth of weed. There Moppet and her friends have sat; strongly shored up against winter gales. They won’t be relaunched until Tim gets the topsides gleaming; Larry finishes upgrading her cockpit and handrails. Then I’ll again enjoy having the minutes of hustle bustle that ensue each time my friends from Total Marine arrive to herald the real beginning of our summer sailing season.
This winter, the first full winter we have spent in the southern hemisphere in almost 10 years, has not been too harsh. We did have almost ten days straight of storm and gale force wind just as September was drawing to a close. Fortunately Herb McCormick, roving editor for Cruising World timed his long, leisurely visit with us perfectly. He had spent 13 months as crew and scribe on board 64 foot Ocean Watch which sailed completely around the Americas (yes north through the Northwest passage, then south around Cape Horn.) Their goal, to show how interconnected all the America’s are with the sea and with each other (www.aroundtheamericas.com). A month after he finished that voyage, Herb flew here to interview us for a biography he is writing. The weather for his visit, though chilly and windy, was usually sunny. I’ll tell you more about Herb’s project when he gives me the go ahead. Needless to say, we had a fine reunion, sharing stories of sailors and friends we have in common, going out sailing on Taleisin, doing a tour of some favorite sights and friends to the north.
While Larry is upgrading Moppett and also repairing the damaged caused by some serious landslips here at Mickey Mouse Marine, my writing work is going very well. The memoir I am working on goes off to the editor next week. I had a fun time doing research. On the exact day when Moppett and friends were getting hauled out I was writing about a rodeo we’d attended when we were building Taleisin. I wanted to be sure the names of the champion bucking bulls I wrote about were accurate. Here, for your pleasure and to show you that it is not only boats that end up with interesting names, is a list of the top bucking bulls of 1980-85:
- Scene of the crash
- Fear me
- Yellow jacket
- Turn the Crank Frank
- Bucking Crazy
- Sugar Ray
- Flirting with Disastor
- Cactus Moon
- Taking Care of Business
- Preparation H
Hope autumn in the northern hemisphere is sliding gently in.
Lin and Larry