“2006! Wow, look at this!” Andrew’s voice is muffled; he is dangling head first in one of my storage lockers next to my stove.
“What is it?” Leslie and I say in unison.
He wriggles his shoulders out of the corners of the storage locker, first right, then left, until his head pops up and he can straighten to a standing position. He thrusts his arm into the air, holding a bottle like a victory trophy. “Wine! From 2006! What are the chances?”
“Where in the world did that come from?" Leslie asks.
“I don’t know, but it has to be good." Andrew says, ever the optimist.
“Hmmm.....isn’t that the stuff Surin gave us for free because she was pretty sure it had either gone bad, or it had never been good in the first place?” Leslie asks. Andrew scrunches his brows and wonders. “Where is it from?”
“Maybe... Should we drink it tonight in honor of our anniversary? We were married in 2006!”
“Yes! Yes!" I say. Little do they know, it is not bad. In fact, it is very good wine, and I’ve been hiding this bottle specifically as a surprise just for them.
I know some sailboats get jealous having other ladies aboard. It’s a long standing superstition that women distract Captain and Crew from their duties, putting a ship's safety at risk! (see Boating Superstitions, By Lenny Rudow) But, Leslie is different. She is a bit of a nag, so she tends to increase Andrew’s attention to the smaller details. She sails just as well as he does, and I'm pretty sure she would go stand on my bow topless to calm the seas if required. (Also a long standing superstition.) I don't have a carved figurehead like ships of old, so I have to keep at least one lady around. Besides, they always celebrate their anniversary with me, so what do I have to be jealous about?
Have you been wondering what has been taking so long in the yard? Why weren’t we splashed after the keel bolt project finished? Once my keel was back together, we all breathed a sigh of relief. We knew we had placed the scariest and most difficult project in our wake. Now, all we had to do is sacrifice Andrew’s sweat and sanity to Neptune through approximately 85 additional, projects, I wondered how we would ever get it all done.
“We’ll be done by end of August, Sonrisa. You’ll see.” Andrew would tell me this almost every day. Secretly, I’d look around at my body parts strewn across the yard and think: “if you say so.”
“We have no choice, we are losing our land apartment."
“Couldn’t you just rent a different land apartment?” This question is highly out of charcater for me, I admit. But truly, I thought Andrew to be a bit optimistic with his scheduling.
“No.” He said.
Each morning, Andrew would arrive on scene, gather his tools for whatever project he planned to work on that day, then spend a good twenty minutes staring at the part or piece he is repairing. “What are you doing?” I would ask.
Then, he’d begin hammering, chiseling, sanding, grinding, mixing epoxy resin, coordinating the welding of stainless steel...the options for projects never seemed to lack variety.
Soon, Semile would arrive on his motorbike toting two icey Teh Tariks (Malaysia’s National drink), one for himself, and one as a standing order Andrew. The cold, sweet, highly caffinated tannic beverage is just what Andrew needs as the sun begins to poach all of us in a spicy concoction of humidy and fiberglass dust. The yard dog, Callie would supervise.
“What’s on the plan today, Captain?” I would ask.
Andrew’s scheduling strategy is his own mysterious dance with the alignment of stars and the gravitational pull of due North. He keeps a slate of yellow sticky notes pasted to the back side of any flat surface he can find. These yellow notes have one or two word reminders of the larger tasks begging his attention. They trigger his memory to buy this set of bolts, that spare part, get this project in the works, etc. Because each project has its own lurching, start-stop, clutch release of momentum, Andrew bounces between tasks, doing design work here, sanding and fiberglass there, procurement ordering while the epoxy resin dries, painting while the bolts on order are shipped. Only when a task is fully complete, does he pluck the sticky note from it’s place and adds it to a tab that spikes downward like the center hair from a Chinese Wise-Man’s chin beard.
His pace fascinates me. He moves like a clock, turning his gears only so fast as he can keep them turning to infinity. Besides their visa run to Bali, he did not take a single day off until he fell sick and Leslie forced him to stay home. Three days on the couch fixed him right up, and there he is again: jeans and his cotton button down shirt for lead welding days, Tyvek jumpsuits for fiberglass grinding days, shorts and a t-shirt for all other days. And, always flipflops. Leslie says this is unsafe, but flipflops are where Andrew draws the line between safety and tropical discomfort.
Things were really looking up. Around the end of July, I had almost all the pieces I need to be a boat again. By the first week in August, we had finished painting my new blue stripes on my hull…
…and covered my now sleek and perfectly smooth bottom in a process that can only be known as the Copper Coat Crunch Challenge (more on that, later!)
I’m so pretty!
By Mid-August, Andrew’s sticky note waiting list had grown thin - so thin, he started thinking he had spare time to do a few more beautifcation projects. “Would you like fresh paint in your lazarettes, Sonrisa?”
Andrew dug out all the gear stored in my lazarettes, piling it in my cockpit and making a rightful mess so he can decend into that steaming, humid cubby to tape off and protect a few pieces of the steering equipment, auto pilot, and fuel tank. He paints the primer, and climbs out leaving the door open to let it cure.
He pops a tiger beer and sits down below with me, letting that infernal air conditioner cool him off. "Tomorrow, we have another hoist, Sonrisa.”
“Okay," I say, I’ve lost track how many times they have lifted me up and down now to remove and replace parts and pieces. “What are we lifting for tomorrow?”
“We have to replace the rudder.”
Andrew had been hemming and hawing about whether he wanted to do a major overhaul of my rudder or leave it well enough alone. In the end, he selected to go the middle route. When built, the manufacturer didn't build fiberglass into the leading and trailing edges. Instead, they left a seam that had started to peel apart, water starting to creep into the fiberglass layers and cause more swelling. Andrew chopped the rudder apart along those seams to give him access to see the internal components of the rudder and check to see if they are still strong. They were, so then, he had to fiberglass the rudder back as good (or better) than new. It's finished now, and we are ready to take the twelve foot rudder, and lift it back into place. I went to sleep that night with the butterflies of another hoist in my stomach; in just a few hours I will have all the pieces I need to be a real sailboat again!
Early that morning, they had me in the travel lift stirrups, ready to go. Ryan gives his trademark finger twirl to Jan, and Jan lifts me up slow and easy - bow and stern balanced in unison. I feel my keel lift off the ground, and then...
...a tweak. “Ouch!" I say.
“What's the matter?” Andrew asks.
I don't know. It was just one sharp jab of pain in my underbelly, and now it’s gone. I shrug. “Nothing, I’m okay." And I really thought I was.
The rest of the day went smoothly. We got the rudder in place and secured, then the team rested me back down on my keel. Andrew watched from my port side, arms akimbo, scowling. That night, under the grey purple bloom of thunderstorm clouds, I felt uncomfortable in my stilts. I lean my weight one way then the other, but a nagging pain persisted like a hang nail. I couldn't sleep. Instead, I listened to the air conditioner whir, and whir, dropping it’s water trail into my bilge. It made me grind my teeth. Rain drizzled in mist and sheets atop my deck, and the yard ghosts wandered the aisleways between boats groaning occasionally with the howl of the wind. Everyone and everything felt...off. I was relieved as the sun cracked the horizon. I knew Andrew would be coming soon, and I wouldn't be alone in my misery.
Upon arrival, he parks the car and immediately circles me to to that port side, folding his arms across his chest, he scowls. “What are you looking at?” I ask, now irritable that he’s just standing there, judging me.
He wipes his forehead, “Sonrisa, there is water coming out of your keel stub.”
“Yeah, water. What is going on?”
“I don't know....well, I felt a jab when they lifted me yesterday, could something have broken inside?” My heart drops at the prospect.
“Well, how bad is it? Please don't tell me it's bad enough to cut into my perfect copper coat.” Andrew asks.
“I don't know, it is just kind of achey, now.”
Andrew watches as water dribbles down the side of my keel. He looks like he wants to cry. I bite my lip, but I don’t say anything.
He spends the rest of the day putting the next few layers on the lazarette paint. Every now and then, he descends the ladder to glare at the side of my keel. Water, continuously trickling.
Three more days pass.
Water keeps trickling.
“Sonrisa. Please don't tell me I have to cut a hole in this keel stub." Andrew says.
To be continued...