Sunday, September 18, 2016

Longing to return...

Leonardo da Vinci once said...

For once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will long to return.”

Leonardo da Vinci died 384 years before the Write Brothers' first flight, so one wonders how he gained such a clear understanding of a pilot's heart. Somehow the modern world has turned flying into such a chore that most people cringe at the idea of having to go to the airport. But for many of us who made a living in the sky and those whose life defining hobby is flying, Mr. da Vinci was spot on. Still, things change. For many who do (or did) make a living dancing with clouds the constant scrutiny of drug tests, medical exams, recurrent training, TSA requirements, check points, and bag searches, coupled with deteriorating schedules, pay, and benefits (a reality not exclusive to the aviation industry) make it a good job from which to be retired.

Many "retired" pilots keep a pathway to the sky open with small, sport type, airplanes lovingly kept in a hanger at a nearby airport. For true “pelicans” those are often sailplanes, tail-draggers, acro-birds, bi-planes, or antiques. But tin can Cessna, Piper, or Beech products will do just as well, and Sunday mornings will find a gaggle of them doing touch-n-goes at the local airport or heading off for the $100 hamburger, content airplane drivers at the helm, returning to the sky that forms so much of their self-image.

I miss that realm. No low flying machine will pass near Kintala without me taking note. Most of the time I can still tell make and model at a glance. Sometimes the sound of the engine is all the identification needed. It has been a long time since I slipped a Cub to a perfect three-point on grass, or rode the ILS right down to minimums on a dark and stormy night, but I will always be a pilot.

I am also, now, a sailor. We are approaching the start of our fourth year of living on Kintala with plans (as much as a cruiser can plan) of where we will go stretching out well into the future. But the hard fact is we have been living at a dock for many months now. The other place I long to return to lies “out there”, beyond the break water, where land is a distant shadow. It has been hard to find a path, harder than I had hoped when we first tied up here. Yesterday the long drought came to an end.

We went sailing!

It wasn't on Kintala. She is in the midst of yet another multi-day project and one must step carefully around the open holes in her sole. A cumbersome air conditioning unit / duct work array fouls her deck. The sails are down, and the inner forestay is missing. Many days of effort will be necessary before we can go sailing on our own boat again, and we are not there yet.

Panacea is a mid-30s length Island Packet new to Tom and Lesa. They had it shipped here for work (yes, I did some of it) and are getting ready to move it to a new home somewhere not far from here. But they are new to sailing with most of their experience being classes taken. Deb has spent some time getting to know them, and the invitation to join them for a day of learning the way around a new ride could not be refused.

I guess it was a typical day for Florida sailing in the late summer. Hot, with intermittent winds and the chance of thunderstorms. We spent part of the day drifting until some distant afternoon rain showers stirred up enough of a breeze to see a solid five knots. Shore was still just a few miles away, but Kintala has been sitting within inches of a pier for so long that it seemed like big open water. We heeled, tacked, jibed, played the wind, and generally had nothing short of a great day. The only down side was not being able to anchor out for the night.

Late in the afternoon Tom coasted us into the pier like a pro, though there was a bit of a struggle getting the lines run and snugged at the right length. Tying a boat midst pilings is more art than science, and it can be a black art until the same boat has been parked in the same place many a time. With Panacea resting secure we headed back to dock-bound Kintala.

But being out for the day made it seem like Kintala was a little less bound than she was. Summer is fading. The work on the boat is going well. The cruising kitty is looking better every week.

We will return soon.


John Clark said...

What's your thoughts on the Island Packet Boat in general? Not necessarily rating their boat, but IP generalizations.

TJ said...

John, people who don't own Island Packets tend to talk about them being porky, slow, and heavy. Those who do own Island Packets shrug their shoulders at such talk, and go about enjoying their boats. Deb and I have always kind of liked them. If I was looking for a live aboard or extended cruising boat, and an Island Packet in the 40' +/` a couple came up in my price range, I would give it a serious look.

The mid 30s boat we were on seemed a fine sailing boat to me. We did six knots or so on a broad reach in winds that couldn't have been more than 12 - 15. (The wind-o-meter wasn't working so that is an estimate based on the very few and smallish white caps on the water.) The boat was rock steady and very comfortable. We were not working at trimming the sails very hard, so there might have been a little speed in there we didn't bother trying to find. The only thing I found wanting was the steering being a bit stiff. I kept checking to see if the lock was on.

One potential problem with Island Packets is the chain plates. They are glassed in, hard to inspect, and even harder to change; which translates as being an expensive job if needed. With a lot of old boats out there now, and insurance companies getting ever more cautious about rig age, it is something to consider.

I haven't done a lot of work on them, but what I have done suggests they are pretty well built so far as the marine industry goes. As always on an older boat, the care it has received over the years will be the determining factor on it still being a "good" boat.

Robert Sapp said...

They also tend to have aluminum tanks (finite lifespan, probably no more than 10-15 years before developing pinhole leaks) that are located in very difficult to access locations, often requiring major surgery or even large hull cuts to replace. I also hear it can be quite a challenge to try and drive them backwards due to their full foil keel, which makes them tricky to maneuver in a tight marina.

TJ said...

True Robert, aluminum tanks are a problem in a lot of older boats. I pulled an aluminum holding tank a few weeks ago that was every bit as disgusting as one can imagine. I don't remember what kind of boat I was working on, but at least the tank was easy to get at, pull, and replace.

Island Packets are not the only boats that don't back well. Kintala is no joy to try and move stern first either. Its a good thing that we try to avoid getting into marinas as much as possible. Though we have been in this one for months, we only came in once; and have yet to leave. It will have to be a pretty calm day when we try backing out of this slip.