A Backstory Post
Getting to Know each other
Spring - Summer 2013
Luckily for all of us, Andrew and Leslie have an excellent cruising mentor at their yacht club in Nevada, Larry Folsom. One race day, Andrew tells Larry of his project list and wonders aloud if he should just send me to a yard. “Let the professionals handle it?” Andrew suggests. Larry shakes his head. He tells Andrew a story of hiring “experts” to fix his electrical system, only to have them light the thing on fire and ruin a whole battery bank. “Trust me. You can either spend $5,000 and let someone else break your boat, or you can break it yourself for free and learn something in the process.” Now, that is a piece of advice Captains everywhere can take to the bank.
Larry also insists “things that suck build character,” and this too, is a theory I quite agree with!
By the close of Andrew’s research phase, he has determined his strategy for repairing my chainplates. I’ve convinced myself I’ve done Andrew and Leslie an enormous favor, one I should continue to grant them until they are fully and adequately “refit” to go to sea. Look at all these opportunities to build character! What would they do without me?
And, so, I started devising all sorts of entertaining plots to provide them with the necessary challenges. Of course I will employ the usual tactics: hanging tight to the last of four bolts, making steps three of four easy, but refusing to cooperate on the fourth, quietly undoing work completed yesterday so they must repeat it today, and of course, letting them figure things out on their own. In Sonrisa’s school of hard knocks, I am not going to give them any answers. No way. The best learning is done by your own accord. But, these are all the usual and boring standards! I have to think of something else.
Instead of visiting me one weekend, Andrew and Leslie decide they need a mental break from thinking “sailboat” and take a trip with some friends to Napa Valley to taste wine. Without me. The nerve. That weekend, stroke of luck - or maybe a disaster, depending on your perspective - strikes. I’m sitting in the marina slip minding my own business when a dove flies in under my dodger and starts arranging twigs and grass atop the rope right next to my companion way hatch.
“What? Noooo, what are you doing?” I ask her. Ugh. Birds. The biggest mess makers I know. She doesn’t respond other than to grunt a little “Coooooooooooo” at me and fly off. “Good, go. No one wants you here,” I think. But a few minutes later she is back, with more twigs and more grass. This time, she is followed in by another dove who roosts himself atop my steering pedestal. “Aaawwwooooo! NO!” I tell him. I definitely don’t want his bird poo streaming down my nice wheel cover. Ew. But then, the two of them just wiggle their bottoms and get comfy exactly whee they are.
“Coooooo!” ….. “Coo” ….. “Cooooooo!” … “Coo.”
I sigh. The two birds Coo in Question/Answer format until the one under my dodger stands up, spins a circle, and looks beneath her feathered bottom. Success! She waves the second bird over who looks into her bramble of grass and twigs, and the two of them seem satisfied. “What is going on now,” I think. I strain my neck to see what is going on; the bird has laid not one, but TWO eggs on my cabin top. “Oh, for Pete’s sake.” I think. “Of all the bad luck…a whole bird family…" And then, I remember. Leslie and Andrew love birds. They are always sending me pictures of humming birds they find in their back yard, or baby quail. Leslie is on a mission to convince me birds aren’t as bad as I think.
“Heh….heh….heeeeeee!” Now, I cheer up considerably, realizing the mischief THIS is going to cause.
And, the eggs are kind of cute.
The next weekend, they arrived all jazzed up to start their “boat work”. As usual, they arrive late on Friday night after the San Diego dew has dropped onto my deck and hangs in a mist beneath the dock lamps. Leslie clamors aboard with her duffle slung over one shoulder, climbs into the cockpit and ducks under my dodger. Papa-Dove who had been sitting on the steering column flaps away in a panic, and as Leslie bends down to see the numbers on my combination lock Mama-Dove watches her with a wide-eyed, frozen panic. Leslie feels like someone is watching and glances down to her right. “Sonrisa! What is thi…? Oh!” Leslie backs away and points from a distance. “Andrew!” She whispers. There is a dove nest under Sonrisa’s dodger!” As Andrew gets closer, the dove gets nervous and flies away – exposing my prize: one dove hatchling and one egg yet to hatch.
“Oh wow! There are babies!” Andrew says, but he knows they have to be careful. The mother will abandon the baby and the egg if she feels threatened. He very carefully opens my companion way door, sneaks down and unlocks all the rest of my hatches. “Hand the bags down the bow hatch,” He instructs Leslie. She complies, carries the bags down my deck-sides, hands them down, then follows by climbing onto my bow bed.
Her smile turns to a frown. “Oh man. This means we can’t use the companionway, doesn’t it?”
“Yup,” Andrew says.
“Should we abandon the work until the birds leave?”
Andrew shakes his head. “Nope, we’ll just have to use the bow hatch.” As they crack their Friday night beers, Mama Dove returns to the nest and waggles her tail feathers until they are cozy and warm atop her babies again.
The next morning, while Andrew and Leslie make their coffee and boil water for oatmeal, I receive a knock-knock on my hull. Friends Coffee and Brian have arrived to help with the chain plates, too. Andrew and Leslie wave them forward to the bow hatch and explain everyone is going to have to climb in and out over here to preserve the sanctity of life and whatnot. I giggle to myself as Leslie and Coffee sneak quietly over to peer out my companion way to see Mama and Babies without disturbing the scene.
What you must understand about boat repair is: rarely can you stay in one spot with tools you need to make the repair conveniently at hand. Because one must wrestle things through the deck, you often have to swap position from top deck to below deck. If you need a tool, it is likely wherever you least wish it to be. “Can you hand me the screw driver?” Andrew asks, neck deep in a cupboard. “Yeah,” Leslie says, “Where is it?” She hunts all around until Andrew realizes, he last used it top deck. Leslie climbs out the bow hatch, finds the hammer and brings it down again. Not long thereafter, they all go top decks. “Have you seen my scraper?”
Guess where the scraper is.
Leslie climbs down the hatch.
This weekend’s project is one of those tedious, annoying projects that test your patience and stamina. My team is scraping a semi-permanent caulk-like substance called “4200” from the holes where the chainplates used to be. The 4200 is supposed to seal the seams between my deck and the chainplate to keep water from getting to the chain plates in the first place. It’s never foolproof, but you have to put it there to keep most of the water out. It’s notoriously difficult to remove and requires hammering, chiseling, scraping, peeling, and begging from multiple angles to get it off. Inevitably, this bird & caulk situation resulted in no less than 50 events of ingress and egress through a hatch not designed for such things. Both Coffee and Leslie are a scoche too short to reach the bed with their feet while sitting atop my deck, so they would have to lower themselves down using their best attempt at a triceps press, then reverse course when they want to haul themselves out again. Of course they could be cold hearted individuals and care not about this poor Mama and baby doves, but my sailors aren’t like that.
Andrew and Leslie reward Coffee and Brian with dinner and beers at Rogue Brewery down the way. Its not all slog and misery around here.
A few weekends later, the babies have flown from the nest and work can resume as normal. Andrew and Leslie arrive carrying a big box of beautiful, shiny brand new chainplates. BOAT BLING!
They also bring another friend! She is a mechanical engineer whom Andrew is confident will be more helpful than Leslie’s less-than-handy lawyer hands. This weekend, their task is to slide the chain plates back into place and hammer five new bolts through the plates and my bulkheads to hold the plates in place. I decide that Andrew needs further patience conditioning and I do not make it easy going getting the bolts back through. “Hammer, Hammer, Hammer, HAMMER, HAMMER, HAMMER!” Hammering like this is never as simple and straightforward as you might think. Accessing the space typically requires my people to weave their bodies through cabinetry in various states of disassembly and/or add an extra joint to your forearm. “Sonrisa, could you just…cooperate?” He asks.
“Nah,” I tell him. “I love you though.”
Even though I fully intend to drive them mad, I have to give them props. They work hard all week at work, one or the other continuing their brief writing or customer proposals while the other drives the car five hours each way from Las Vegas to San Diego. While they are here, they work hard on me, but usually squeeze in one or two bits of fun. Sunday afternoons are reserved for a little beach time or a nice restaurant. Their work takes on the pace of an endurance race: work hard through the hills, then keep moving through recovery. I like it. It’s just the kind of strategy that can take us around the world.
My only question is: where do they get all these friends who are willing to spend their weekend doing boat work? Look at this level of abuse!