There is never a shortage of onlookers and gawkers when it comes to this project. Someone will hear rumor of the strange man wearing a gas mask and flip flops melting apart his own keel and this is always something they have to see. Our good friends Pete, Jen, Dixie the Boat Kitty, and of course Grin’s friend Steel Steven/Tango on Steel Sapphire were no exception to this rule. We knew they were heading into town, so I was keeping a close watch to see them sail by.
“There they are!” I say to Andrew, who lays down his torch and walks to the edge of the water to take a photo. They have just escaped their own time at the boat yard in Thailand, and are happily sailing Southward again to explore the Anambas Islands while they wait for the 2020 Indian Ocean Sailing Season just like us.
One afternoon I see Pete approaching through the yard. “Hi Sonrisa,” he greets me. Andrew is suited up for his next melt, and he has already chiseled away the oxidation. He greets Pete through his face goggle, but continues with his work. The fork lift operators had pulled the keel vertical again this morning and Andrew is ready to melt several more bolts out. Pete watches the first lead-fall rush away under the heat of the torch.
“Wow,” he says, “I don’t know, I can’t believe you are doing this. I can’t believe how much you’ve torn apart! Wow, Sonrisa doesn’t even look like a boat anymore. This is such a huge undertaking…are you sure they are going to line up with the holes later? I see the jig, but how…?
“Pete, you’re not helping.” Andrew says as he strips himself of his safety mask to get some fresh air.
“Right, right…” Pete says. Peter is a real card. Born and raised in Scotland, he moved to Australia early in his adulthood, and now his Scottish lilt and Australian Brogue make for a sonorous accent the likes of none have ever heard before.
They circle my hull and Andrew walks Pete through all the bits and pieces of both destruction and work in progress. “Oh, so you took off… wow! There are lot of holes there… oooh, the rudder looks pretty cracked, better shore that up…What have you done with that skeg!?”
“Let’s go get lunch. I’m supposed to meet Leslie, anyway.” Andrew says.
That is the last I see of Andrew for the rest of the day. What is this!? A break!? Time off?! Apparently, Pete and Andrew met up with Leslie and Jen, and everyone had a nice swim in the apartment complex pool. A pool. Why would you swim in a pool when you have a perfectly nice ocean to swim in? -- Oh, what, your boat is up on land? All the more reason to hurry up and get me fixed. Even worse than this little escapade, I learn the next day that Pete and Jen have invited Andrew and Leslie aboard Steel Sapphire for a whole weekend of sailing!
“A whole weekend? You’re not going to do it, are you?” I ask as Andrew fiddles at something on the underbelly of my hull.
“Well, it’s a holiday weekend here in Malaysia, and no one is going to be working in the yard at all. I can’t really get anything else done on the keel if we don’t have the fork lift to flip it up and down, so… yeah, we are going.” Andrew explains.
I can’t believe this.
So, I wait. This isn’t even a regular weekend, but a long four-day weekend!
I’m all alone, and I am so irritated I start to think about niggling at something and causing trouble. But, then, I fall asleep and forget all about it. I guess we are all pretty tired.
Next thing I know, I hear the grunt of a diesel engine, and I can see my keel being tipped on its side again. Andrew is back!
“How was your trip aboard Steely?”
“Great!” Andrew says, “although, they made me play card games over and over again, which I am apparently terrible at and we watched a movie an Australian land rights dispute.”
“Land rights dispute!?” I ask, hardly believing that a land rights dispute is appropriate cinematic fare for a relaxing weekend at sea.
Andrew shrugs, “it was a comedy.”
Leslie confirmed both these reported facts to be true. After a lovely upwind sail during which Leslie enjoyed hand steering Steel Sapphire, they anchored in the Langkawi Fjords, enjoyed a Thai Beef Salad, and broke out the cards. That night, they played a round of my favorite game, Texas Hold’em, during which Andrew lost miserably.
Day 2, they sailed to another beautiful anchorage which, thankfully, was protected from some storminess that had rolled in for the weekend. They unzipped Steely’s new full cockpit enclosure and stayed nice and dry…at least until the fans started leaking water because the contractor who built their new hard top dodger is a schiesty-incompetent-sheistermeister. (But that’s a story for another day.) Ugh, I commiserate. I see more yard time in her future.
That evening, the clouds cleared and a nice night opened up just in time for Sundowner Beers on deck.
After a failed attempt to reach the beach in Tango (tide was too low to get across the reef), Jen and Leslie engineered Steel Sapphire’s new projector movie rig (inspired by my own!)…
…on which they viewed “Castle”, a very charming and funny Australian made movie about a 1980s vintage family man stopping at no length to stop a big corporation from taking his land. “See!” Leslie says, “I told you real estate litigation is a world of intrigue and interest.”
If you need a dose of 1980’s small town Australia – which, by the way, looks strikingly similar to 1980’s small town America with a weird accent – this movie is for you.
Day 3, they continued on to a third (just guess -yes, beautiful) anchorage. Here, Pete taught Andrew and Leslie to play Kalooki, a card game quite similar to Gin Rummy, that also seems to function like a seance allowing Pete to channel his paternal grandmother, Edna, into Steely’s cockpit cup holder.
“Go ahead, take all the time you need to make your decisions. There aren’t four other people gathered around this table waiting and ready to make their own moves.” Edna tells Andrew, her voice gruff as her spirit escapes from Pete’s lips.
Andrew scowls. “I have no cards to play, they’re all terrible!”
“Sucks to be you, Laddy.” Edna responds, “Now, make your move.”
By Day 4, the weather had deteriorated to the point where no anchorage was comfortable. Unfortunately, my sailors have gotten all weak and landlubbery; they were both useless and seasick the whole way home. (Sorry about that Steely.) But, once they arrived to Telaga harbor, everyone perked up, and Andrew felt well enough to introduce Pete, Jen, and even Edna to his beloved Beer ATM.
In the end, I guess I’m glad they were able to get out on the water. A little reminder of what it feels like to hold the helm in your hands and feel the tug of a Genoa rope never hurt anyone. My team deserves a reminder of why they are doing all this work in the first place.
“My favorite part was the Boat Kitty. They just add a certain ambiance.” Andrew declares. “Sonrisa, do you want a Boat Kitty?”
I blink. “Isn’t Leslie allergic to cats?”
“I think we should get a Boat Kitty.” Andrew says.