Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Another good-bye

Last Friday was the last day of working at the yard for this season. Being the start of the Christmas Holiday it was also a half-day, with lunch provided by the owner. Afterward I stopped and talked with the Boss Boss for a few moments, thanking him for having had me around for the summer and voicing the hope that it had worked out as well for him as it had for us. He allowed as it had. The project boat on which I had done much of the electrical system rebuild, had not been projected to be a project near as involved as it had evolved into being. (He didn't put it that way.) He seemed to think I was a good fit for a job he had not planned on having to do during my interview. Even better many of the people I worked with seem pleased to hear that Kintala will be heading back this way sometime in the spring. I am secretly kind of proud about that. One of my specific goals for this summer was to be as “user friendly” as I could manage. While that may come natural for most people, I don't have an innate talent for playing well with others. Deep in the south, surrounded by a culture I don't always understand that has some, how shall we say, “quirks” that I find problematic, I suspected being a kind of puzzling loner was the best I would do. Instead I found people I am proud to call my friends.

So, as the sun rose over the still waters of the basin, with our old Tartan rocking gently to her mooring lines, I was a bit ambivalent about leaving here. It isn't that I am not looking forward to cruising once again, getting back to the life we worked so hard to get to in the first place. But there are people here I am going to miss seeing nearly every day, and the “say good-bye” that is part of cruising is my least favorite part.

In addition, I spent much of my life around technicians, pilots, and mechanics. By and large, they are people who know, somewhere deep in their soul, that each day working for someone else costs a little more than it pays. A knowledge accepted with a casual shrug, for that is simply the way that it is. I missed being a part of that clan, one marked by a tough edge, a hard earned expertise, and a deep feeling that being good at what they do matters. It is a clan where it is  easy to tell the difference between those who can and those who can't. They live in a world with few excuses. The judgment of who-is-who doesn't come from opinion poles, twitter followers, or even elections. The job gets done, or it doesn't get done. The machine works as it should and goes away, or it doesn't and comes back to get done right. It was good to spend time in a place where the residents are comfortable with that kind of clarity.

Big open water brings that kind of clarity as well, sometimes with an even harder and sharper edge. Those of us who venture that way often gather and share stories of the experience. But for the most part we go out as single handers, in pairs, or small crews of friends or family. We also do it in intense little bursts of days or sometimes weeks. It isn't (usually) a day in, day out kind of thing shared by a select group working together. As much as I am looking forward to living that way again, the time spend here was good time, and I am glad we came this way.

There are people who get the week between Christmas and New Year's Eve off from work, some with pay, some without. For me the first Monday after Christmas was the first day of my (temporary) re-retirement and transition back into the cruising life. The first steps in that transformation included getting Kintala off the dock, motoring up and across the river for fuel and a pump out, and then a few hours spent sailing to work all of the stuff that makes a sailboat a sailboat. Since it was also the first serious shake-down cruise after months of being on the dock doing a lot of re-fitting, Daughter Eldest and Family waved us off from the shore. Little ones do not belong on shake-down cruises, no matter how benign or low key.
As it turns out Deb and I were kind of glad they weren't around, as any claim of us being any kind of serious sailors would have been put in serious doubt. We got off the dock okay, even found our way to the Twin Dolphin Marina and settled onto the fuel dock without drama. (Nice place by the way, with good and friendly hands willing to help anyway they can.) Unfortunately we had to get off of the fuel dock and get turned around in a tight basin, with a cross wind. 

It didn't go well. 

At least I have learned that going slow is the way to go, making sudden stops more a “bump” than a “crash”. After multiple tries, with real sailors giving us advice from the bows of their boats to “back into the wind”, and a bit of luck, I managed to get Kintala turned around and back out on the Manatee River. Though I don't envy the maintenance bills that come with a bow thruster, I sure wished I had one. 

I didn't actually bump anything, let alone crash. A small balm for my battered pride. People haven't yelled advice to me from shore since our days back on the lake in IL but, truth to tell, I earned it. Years ago, in one of the first posts on this blog, I said something about sailboats handling like a loaf of bread. Some things haven't changed.

Once back out on the river we turned downwind, let the jib fly, and gave the Beast a rest. For the first time in too many days we were sailing on our own boat once again. It should have been glorious. And it was - sort of. But neither one of us is really healthy yet, and the pure effort it takes to rig sails, stow lines and fenders, and keep the deck and cockpit of any sailboat under way under control, was taking its toll. Turning back toward Snead Island we came up tight on the wind, tacking our way up the channel. Flying the main would have been the right choice, but Kintala does pretty good on just her head sail, and handling one sail was enough.

Actually, it was more than enough. Lines snagged, blocks experienced minor jams, and our timing was off. Even tacking just the staysail went less than smoothly. In reality everything on the boat pretty much worked the way it should, except for the crew. We were just ham fisted amateurs, off the water and away from the demands of sailing Kintala well for way too many months. 
Only one mechanical task lies between us and dropping the dock lines for real. The little Merc is not happy, refusing to idle even after a good sonic cleaning of its tiny carburetor bits. Last time around it took several tries to get the idle jet clear and it looks like a repeat performance. I can't really complain though, the poor thing has hung on the stern rail for months, completely ignored as other tasks filled the days.

It is tempting to hope that all of the summer's work will pay off with an easy winter of sailing in the Islands. But it also has (to me anyway) value all of its own. Kintala is arguably in better shape than she has been since we bought her, safer, and much more user friendly. And it is safe to bet that both Deb and I have vastly expanded our knowledge base of boat repair and maintenance. Regardless of what the next few months bring, I think we can rest easy in the knowledge that we have done a lot of hard and necessary work, and made the best choices we could.

Now all we have to do is knock off a little more rust, and hope that our sea legs return soon.


Robert R Harris said...

Fairwinds and safe journey as you sail towards the Bahamas. Your writing is always beautiful and it sounds like a summer and fall well spent in a nice place and increased knowledge base. Your todo list is undoubtedly shorter with some beautiful new improvements. Must seem like a new boat. As you journey hopefully the list won't grow to long but as we know it will grow. Look forward to your updates.

The Retirement Manifesto said...

Thank you for letting us live vicariously through your words. Godspeed and fair winds as you enjoy the Bahamas. We've sailed several times in the Virgin Islands, something magical about the Caribbean waters. Enjoy regaining your sea legs, we'll be watching from afar, wistfully.

Deb said...

@The Retirement Manifesto - I was looking at your site and saw your article about Fitter or Fatter. If you ever want me to do a guest post on the subject leave me a contact form email.

@ Robert - Thank you for your kind words We surely benefited in ways we never expected from this summer. I'm a firm believer that if you ever stop learning, you may as well die right then.