Of Mooncursers and other Spun yarns

Of Mooncursers and other Spun yarns
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Friday, January 12, 2007

A tribute to boat builders and beer: Read the oldest posts first

Didn't feel like writing on the Wolftrap story tonight so I did this for the boat builder instead.

. Sooo! about noon I got in the pickup truck drove up to the corner and bought a six pack of Imported dark beer and an equal number of light to mix. I went back to the boat and went back to work. Today my work all morning, has been to sit in the shed and look at the cockpit. I couldn't seem to figure out what to do with the seats. I opened a dark beer and a light beer and poured them into a cold tea pitcher and started drinking it . Sure was good. I drank and studied my problem. After a time I sawed a piece out of a frame and moved the stringer out in the middle into a little more curve. That's the one that the cockpit coaming attaches to. Then I cut out a temporary coaming and nailed it to the stringer with a couple of finishing nails. I set down on the other side of the cockpit to study my handy work and realized the tea pitcher was empty. Going to the shed I refilled it with two more beers. Now setting in the cockpit I felt a little more was needed. I went to the band saw took a piece of wood a couple feet long and sawed a pretty curve.into its edge. I climbed up into the boat had a couple more drinks of beer and contemplated the sheer beauty of the curve. Satisfied that an old world artist could do no better I drove a couple screws through the coaming and the stringer into the beautifully sawn wood behind them. All of it pulled into that fine curve and I found myself nearly over come by it's beauty , a kind of oneness between the coaming, the curve, Kate.and my inner soul. I had several more drinks.

I picked up a piece of sandpaper had another drink and began to sand. Had another drink and sanded some more.using finer and finer sandpaper until it began to take on a kind of sheen. I had a couple more drinks and got up to go to the shed for a refill. I had a couple drinks and considered offering one to my drill press who just stood there on her four legs, seemingly speechless. I guess she already had some.

I went out ter Kate and climbed the stepladder with a pitcher in one had and the ladder in the other. You see, the bladder, ladder that is, must have been drinking too as it was quite wobbly. Went to the usual place, one goes to while sailing, the stern, to pee. To far to the door and I didn't want to pee in the sawdust ,so I went to the bow and barely was able to wet the grass behind the shed. Sure ain't the pressure there, there once was.

The cockpit sole moved drunkenly. I slipped and dropped to a sat on a seat not to spill even a dab. Now there is a strangeness about a boat in a shed that is afloat on water where there ain't any. The boat didn't rock it kind of waved as the water did and that made my eyes go all funny. So to straighten my vision, as beer is sometimes prone to do I had a couple more drinks.

I picked up the fine sandpaper and gently caressed my beautiful coaming. Then it struck me the sand paper and the wood were one with my sole, excuse me soul. I felt a deep need to achieve perfection as had been done with the curve in the coaming it's self..

The sunlight bounced off the water around me and wriggled all over the inside of my cathedral ceilinged shed.

I had seemed to have been sailing a while and from the looks of things I was way to far from the house to get back to it. I had another drink or two and looked to the distant horizon, a place I longed to be, so as to pear at another distant horizon. There must be some secret there.. I laid down as we sailed upon a vast Blue green ocean. Suddenly in my mind I saw beyond and beyond! I gathered up another drink or two in all of my hands. All them horizons was followed by a revolution, revalation I think, I saw that. there are some that simply sand with out the combination Zen, beer, the inner being and sandpaper. They surly never achieve the insight that we hoo-doo do. I alone in my altered condition, know the pride God felt when he made Eve and placed her in the Garden of Eden. for the joy of Adam. God must have loved Eve for he made her perfect and beautiful but how much more he must have loved Adam to give her to him.

I alone in all the world. As the night darkened and the stars were snuffed out like burning candles and I sailed off into blackness of a starless night, I realize the powerful Zen of sandpaper and beer had failed me. I had not understood it all. How is it I may by felling, sawing, sanding and glueing build a thing of beauty and turn it over to another? A lovely thing worth more than gold that contains a piece of my heart. Is it she I love, or my fellow man to whom I have given so much for a thing so fleeting, as a bit of wealth.


Thursday, January 11, 2007

Sailboats fair and Fine#13: read oldest posts first

The above pictures are Jacksons Creek Deltaville Va. as seen from Deltaville marina. I was later on one of several Dockmasters here.

We left our buoy to port and was steady picking up speed we sailed a quarter of a mile and headed off toward New Point Light which we could see in the distance. We weren't heading South yet, but going North To Deltaville, Urbana, and Parrot creek, where our son lived.

We were sailing down wind and sailing about four knots with a breeze picking up. I raised the centerboard as it wasn't needed on this point of sail. We picked up another half a knot. The fog was almost gone now and we began stripping down to lighter cloths and our shorts came out as we took turns going below and steering. Georgene put on our second pot of coffee and in a few minutes I could smell it's wonderful aroma. We were skimming over the flats now with the muddy bottom just under the keel. We turned on the marine radio for the first time and listened to some weather.

There was resistantly a little more water under the keel now so we hoisted our Mizzen staysail. There was now a little chop running as we got farther off shore and the breeze picked up. We were now making a full six knots and climbing. We were soon off the flats and heading across the Mobjack bay Channel with the fish traps coming up quick. Wolftrap was now throwing spray and pushing seven knots.

LOOKING GOOD DOUG came over the radio. I went below and answered, Yeah Ginnea who are you. WHISH MY DADDY COULD SEE YOU, was the comeback in a quick staccato of fast and heavy Guinneaeze. It was Edmund a local fisher man. His father now eighty six had recently turned over his boat and gear to him. The old man a fisherman from the age of sail had much admired our boat when we were building her and had stopped by often to talk and watched as had many of the local Guinneamen did. We were building her as a cat yawl and he told me on every visit she needed to be a schooner. You have to remember that the age of sail lasted in the lower bay a long time after all the sailboats had been replaced in other places. There were still schooners going to Baltimore around 1950 carrying produce, seafood and often timber out of the Chicahominy swamp down on the James River.

Pow, pow gunshots rang out then over the radio accompanied by the high pitched wine of an outboard motor screaming at high speed came the words help, “Help help” some guy is shooting at me. Then we heard, “Ain't nobody shooting at you but but your gonna wish I had if I catch you. Pow Pow Pow came across the water. The Coast guard came on the radio wanting to know the name of the boat in distress and what is your location. No answer. The coast guard said Mathews county men come back. And then came the Coast Guard we have boats on the way.

Cost Guard, Coast Guard this Ginny one, Ginny one. This is Coast Guard Yorktown what is you position Ginny one . Ginny one gave a position and then stated we caught that fellow stealing crabs from our crab pots but we ain't a shooten at'im.

Next on the air was “You did so and all we wanted was a crab or two for bait”. Your gonna get bait If I catch you was replied by Ginny one. This is Coast Guard Yorktown hold your positions a Vessel is on the way. We ain't gotta gun was Ginnie's reply. This is Coast guard Yorktown all vessels concerned lets take this traffic to a working channel.

Ginny one probably threw the gun over board in a plastic bay wit a crab pot buoy on it. Theres a jillion crab pot buoys out there so the coast guard would most likely not find any gun. The fellow stealing crabs probably learned a good lesson as did every one he knows. I know one thing I sure wouldn't want to get caught stealing crabs . Justice could be swift.

We didn't switch and there were no more gun shots. I figured nobody got shot so it was the Coastguards problem. By now we had passed New Point light and were headed up the bay. With the wind nearly behind us and now up pretty good our knot meter was reading seven and a half knots steady. There was land one quarter of a mile up wind and the waves had dropped down some, and Wolftrap light house was getting bigger all the time just off our Starboard bow. In an hour we had Wolftrap light house to the east of us and had turned a little westward heading for Stingray Point and Deltaville. The wind was coming around more to the west and was dropping out a little. In a short time we were leaving The Hole in the wall at the south end of Gwen's Island aft of our beam. Cherry point was off our port bow and dead ahead Stingray Point. The wind was dropping light and we were sailing just under four knots. With small swells running and were were enjoying our sail. The sun was warm and Georgene was working on a suntan. We had the centerboard down about half way so we stayed out side the Green dolphin at the north end of Gwen's Island.

We turned in some and lined up with Jacksons creek in Deltaville. The breeze fell out to nothing so we started the engine. We worked our way through the horse shoe bend in the channel and headed into the creek We found a good spot just off the yacht club and run the anchor in hard. In a few minutes we were in the Dingy rowed to Ruark's dock and walked into Taylors restaurant to eat and found our selves among friends we had known for years. A couple of hours were spent in conversation. It was a pleasant evening.

back at Wolftrap we ran the anchor light up drank coffee, read, listen to music and turn in about ten oclock for a really good night's sleep.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Sailboats Fair and Fine: read oldest posts First

The top picture shows Wolftrap's interior layout and deck layout The little heater was fired with wood, coconut husks , coal and sometimes charcoal. When we used charcoal we gave ourselves plenty of ventilation. We never burned soft coal. It makes so much soot it can clog up a chimney.

Notice how the anchors hung off the bow sprit. There is nothing better. The crank tiller was a fine thing in a boat with a wide cockpit. You could rotate the tiller and it was always close enough to the helmsman the he never had to reach across the cockpit when coming about We put a regular water closet in the head instead of the portable head called for. These are a few features and we'll talk more a them and others as we go south.

Sailboats Fair and fine: read olderposts first

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Sailboats Fair and Fine: read oldest posts first

Wolftrap Drawings showing both rigs. Top picture is Schooner Wolftrap Sailing

Well we hung around about six weeks and I was offered work and took some of it. A little income makes all the difference. We visited friends and family and in general had a good time. I did some work on the boat that we had planed to do in Fort Lauderdale. I was feeling pretty good about the whole thing though I felt sorry for my wife. All this time Georgene was feeling down. She had a broken arm we had sold our nearly new home and moved on a boat that she couldn't stand up in and September was steady moving on. We were starting to have chilly nights and we couldn't drink the marina water.

About that time my new video camera broke down and we had to send it to Canon to have it fixed. I tried to talk them into lending me one until mine was fixed and they didn't show any interest. I told them what we were doing and offered to buy another one at a price reduced enough that I could sell it and not get hurt to bad. Again they weren't interested. It would be six to eight weeks before we could expect to get it back.

We went back to see Georgene's doctor and they thought we should wait three months while she took therapy. We decided to go in two weeks. They wanted her to sign a release and told us she would never get full use of her arm without professional help with the therapy. She still had some time to wear a sling so we had time to think about it.

This time there were no offers to throw a party . I guess friends and relatives were sick of us and wanted us to go on an get out of town.

The day before we were were to leave to go up the bay we were feeling a little nervouse about one of us breaking something so we didn't do any thing even remotely dangerous.

We moved Wolftrap out to the face dock at the end of the pier. I don't think we slept much that night. We probably would have been as well off sailing up the bay all night. Some time late we went to sleep and it got pretty cool the temperature dropped to the mid thirties and a pretty good layer of fog moved in. About four A.M. We were jolted awake. The work boats were on their way out and the first one rolled us against the dock. We had fenders out they are never exactly right somehow.

I jumped out of bed and said, “Common George lets get going.”
She raised up sleepily and said, “It's dark and we haven't had any coffee or breakfast,”
“Well we can get started and you can make breakfast under way,” I pleaded.
“No, I want my breakfast and I want to go wash up and brush my teeth,” she answered with a fair amount of firmness so thats what we did.
I stewed the whole time and didn't brush my teeth. Now you know that gets'em every time. I felt like I was even.
Finally the sky was getting light but the fog wasn't. There was a breeze holding against the dock but not strong. I went over a piling with a dock line and made it to my forward port cleat. Put the engine in forward and with just a little power she began pulling the stern out. The plow anchor mounted on the Bowsprit skidded across the top of the dock and I let go the dock line and pulled it to me I put her in reverse Wolftrap started backing away. I want to say right here that Wolftrap steered better than any sailboat I have ever owned. She had a balanced rudder with part of the rudder forward of the rudder post. With the engine running in reverse there was none of that thing of her backing to port. She went where you aimed her forward or reverse. I pushed the tiller to starboard and she backed to port and lined up with the channel. We headed out at about three knots through the fog. We could see from one buoy to the next so it was a piece of cake. We cleared the end of the channel and headed outto the channel of the York River. We were aiming for Buoy 22 which would be coming into view if the course I had laid into my Loran was correct. I hoisted the main and trimmed her and she started pulling right away next the forsail was hoisted and finally the jib and we killed the engine. Near silence ensued with only a gental swish, swish, of her bow gliding through small waves and then we could her the bell on buoy 22 . With a hot cup of coffee in the cold damp air and a feeling that God loves the world, we watched the sun sneak through the clearing fog.

Monday, January 8, 2007

Sailboats Fair and Fine: read oldest post first

The machine shop was sold in the summer 1986 and we put our house up for sale. It sold quick. I probably should have asked more for it?? In September we, moved aboard and was challenged by a hurricane. We were expecting about 100 mile per hour winds. We anchored out in Sarah's creek. With a CQR plow, two Danforths and a Herrshoff yachtsman with Woftrap in the center. I had almost no concern that we would drag anchor at least not more than fifty feet. The storm took a different course and we had about 50 knots of wind. We had spent the night aboard and were really happy that the worst of it missed us. It was really a pretty safe thing to do. We were up in the back end of the creak in a few feet of water. We were nearly surrounded by tall marsh grass and in the worst case we might wind up in someones bean field. The other boats were farther out in the creek and pretty much out of our way. Of course there was always the worry that one of them would drag anchor and hit us. I think that all our boats were in less danger than being tied to the docks with a couple hundred other boats all pulling snatching jerking at the pier and all In danger of climbing on top the piers. In a couple days we moved down to the old Buoy 22 Marina down in Guinea there in Gloucester Va. We had kept a boat there in the late 1960's . We loved the place it was almost all work boats ,water men and a few scraggly looking live aboards. Most of these guys worked at the marina or with crabbers or pound fishermen. Every body wanted to put us to work. we declined. We were busy running back and forth buying groceries and supplies. We ran around telling friends goodbye and all that usual kind of stuff They all wanted to give us a going away party and we wanted none of that. Ten years before we left for Bermuda after a huge going away party and about eight days later had to come sneaking back to the dock with a half wrecked boat. But thats another story. We scratched items off of lists as we shopped and added more. A lot of that was silliness as we were going down the waterway and would have ample opportunity to buy supplies. The water at the marina tasted like river bottom mud so we hauled jugs of water in the car from up on the highway. We only had about 30 gallons of water with the idea we would get all we wanted on the way.

We spent time at the Laundromat , the drugstore stocking up on our medicines and all manner of first aid items. We had been talking about how nice it would be to have one of those new 8mm video cameras. We had shopped around looking at them. I had found one I liked. It was a lot of money. Finally we decided to go look again. That afternoon we lost our minds and paid $1600.00 for a video camera. We had a little portable TV set stuffed up in the bow so we could watch our movies. The camera and the television set both would work on 12 volts DC and that was wonderful.

It was the day be for we were ready to leave. Georgene and I headed for the showers I got back to the boat first and set in the cockpit looking again for the one thousandth time at the waterway charts. Georgen came down the dock carrying he bag of toilet items, damp towels and cloths she had changed out of. There was a line across the finger pier from the stern of the boat in the next slip. IT hung down about three inches off the finger pier. Georgene stepped out onto the finger and the rope caught between her toes and the sole of her open towed candle. She started falling forward. I was standing on the boat seat pulling the boat over for her to get aboard. I jumped over to the finger pier to grab her and she fell forward and I landed partially on top of her. She went off the side of the pier grabbing the topside of the boat. She fell in hanging on to the boat. She came up blowing water and laughing and said, That must have been the funnest thing to watch ever. To bad there was nobody here to see it it. My Golly my shoulder hurts. I helped her out of the water. When on the dock went from laughing to crying. I asked, “Can you raise your arm.” I dreaded the answer. “No,” she said with a knowing look We tied her arm up and I helped her put on dry cloths and we went to the doctor. It was broken alright so we put off leaving for while.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Sailboats Fair and Fine: Read oldestest posts first

I decided I would take Woftrap and go sailing. For sailing in the Bahamas and farther south I felt that the cat yawl rig with it's 500 square foot main was unhandy for sailing the Bahamian winter northers. I wanted the rig broken up into smaller parts. That my aging self and wife could handle. See I thought I was getting old. Boy what a waste of good muscle and sinue that was.

We began building a new rig using what spars we could, from the cat yawl rig. Bob, David and I sat up late nights in my office and drew up a rig using Mr. Bolger's same center of effort. The main mast was shortened and stepped on deck just forward of the main hatch with shrouds. The forward mast partners were made smaller for a 4' dia. foremast that mast when stepped was shorter than the 35 ft main mast and was stayed.

To keep the center of effort in the same place we added two feet to the bow sprite and put side stays on it and a bob stay so the jib stay could be kept tight. The tops of the masts were stayed together. The mains stays were somewhat back so they would to some degree act as back stays. The length of the main boom was determined by how far I could reach standing on a cockpit seat and leaning out over the transom to adjust the out haul. We started off drawing a gaff main and gaff fore sail.

To get her to balance the bow sprite would have had to had to have been several feet longer. It was already 6ft long and would have gone to 9 feet. A bit much I thought. As a result we changed the main to a Bermuda rig, and a gaff foresail The top of the main mast was fitted for a sheet to the foresail gaff So that when trimming sails the yard could be trimmed in so that she had a good shape at the top and was pulling good. The the fore sail boom was sheeted in until it was pulling. There was a big advantage in this type of rig. The foresail controlled by two sheets could be pulling top and bottom and not back wind the main going to windward. With a rig like this she would and did sail to windward like a banshee. There was another halyard on the forward side of the main mast and that was for the flat spinnaker that had been used forward when Woftrap was a cat yawl. We used the flat spinnaker like a Genoa buy attaching the luff to the deck behind the foremast. On some occasions we used the old spinnaker pole to set the luff of the sail to windward when reaching and running.

We also had a spinnaker and Genoa that we only set a few times with a large crew on board. It was unbelievable and scary as hell!! I thought we were going to sail her right under and would have I believe if the wind had picked up. Still she was not as weatherly as she could have been.

She had a clubfooted jib that had to be hauled in tight to get the whole sail to pull. That caused the lower portion to back wind the foresail. Had there been a sprite it could have been sailed with the sail out just as far as the foresail and their would have been no back winding any of the sails. She would then sail to windward with most sloops even though her sails were a low aspect ratio. The difference being that all three sails would have 100% of all all there canvas pulling as compared to about 80% in the Bermuda rig. It absolutely amazes me that sloop sailors keep saying that the foresail on a ketch or a schooner back winds the aft sail so they are slower to windward. With that kind of thinking all boats would be faster if they were cat boats. I never see sloop sailors take their jib down when they sail to windward. The sail that is forward doesn't have to back wind the sail behind it unless you want it to.

Off the wind is where the schooner comes into its own, where it is faster than a sloop and when you add on a staysail or golly wobbler speeds pick up at least a knot no matter what speed you are sailing at.. The staysail is over the cockpit and is easily hoisted and lowered by one person. Now the speed is limited by how far you want to drive the bow down in the water and how much you you want to lift the stern out and will you be able to keep the rudder in the water. With a schooner rig there is a good reason to rake the mast. The longer the boom the more rake in the mast is needed. With the mast raked the boom lifts off the water as it swings out when running down wind.

After all this schooner bragging I have to admit that she was really a ketch I guess as the gaff foresail was slightly bigger than the main even though not as tall.

Woftrap was slower now with her new rig even though she had the same square footage in sail area as the cat yawl rig had. We could carry extra sails then she would outrun most anything around.

All this talk about speed leaves out the fact that with her new rig she was easy to handle. More so than with her original rig. All lines came back to the cockpit and there was a down haul on the jib. With her ease of steering and the ability to balance the helm every time new sail was added and the fact that all sails could be handled from the cockpit. I could single hand her with four sails pulling. The first reef amounted to dropping the staysail. Then she could be reefed by Dropping the foresail then reefing the jib and main. Then the foresail hoisted again and reefed. The whole time she would be sailing herself. The whole trick to reefing while single handing is watching the weather and reefing sooner than later. I can see no reason for being caught with too much sail up. When I was young and foolish I used to get caught once in a while but in recent years I have not allowed it to happen.

Two anchors hung under the bowsprit and they were threaded through blocks on the forward end of the sprite. Set from there there was no tenancy to sail in the wind when at anchor. It also kept anchor roads and chain off the forward sides of the boat. Woftrap's 8 hp engine would not pull the anchors into the bottom as tight as I liked them. We usually sailed or motored in, dropped a hook and sailed on dropping the second hook then sailing between then and when we thought we were halfway we would head to windward and wrap both roads tight around the Sampson post. She would pull them in halfway to hell for a secure nights sleep.