Onboard a racing sailboat, the old trope of jocks vs. bookworms is retold by geography. Wisdom tends to move toward the back of the boat, while brawn moves forward.
Work the bow, and your self-image is probably skewed to "athletic and adventurous" or "spry and plucky."
I drank this Kool-Aid® by the gallon at the beginning of my sailing career. What could be more wonderful than being the hero on the pointy end performing sinewy miracles in the heat of battle?
After a few years of heroics, and you begin to think: "Well, yes, it would be even more wonderful if only we planned ahead, possibly avoided some of the heat of that battle." Experienced bow-folk tend to find themselves muttering darkly, "If they had only listened to us! We saw that one coming. What the hell are they doing back there?"
We pushed off the dock and did some practice maneuvers before the start of that first race. We checked our upwind settings, set the 'chute, jibed...all fine. The mainsail was big (hence the need for me to trim it instead of the skipper doing so as he drove) and I was very very careful not to wrap my hand in the line.
There's always some gruesome story about how so-and-so's finger was degloved, or how another sailor's entire hand got crushed, etc., etc.
I modeled my technique on the gorillas of my acquaintance: take giant, smooth yanks with an open-palm, thumb-up grab of the sheet down near the block pulling up as tall as possible, then reach with again open-palm/thumb up (so that the line just falls out of the hand at the top of the pull) over and over like a rabid windmill until the sail is in. Then scramble for the high side, and get hiked out next to the jib trimmer.
It probably happened on the first leeward mark rounding. Maybe the second. In any case, there I was, at the highest stretch, left hand way behind my head, when I felt it. An unmistakable sensation. Not a pleasant one. I froze for just a moment, and then went back to windmilling the main in, taking about 5 inches off the top of my reach.
Scooting under the lifeline and surreptitiously wiping my left thumb on my foul-weather pants, I spoke to the jib-trimmer quietly: Had I just inserted my thumb into one of his nostrils?
He answered just as quietly, "Yes."
And that, boys and girls, is the kind of thing that happens in the back of the boat. Just as we suspected. I'm okay hanging with the jocks at the front of the boat.
Today is the final day of the 2015 Flying Scot North Americans here in Bay Waveland, Mississippi (a state, by the way, that I invariably spell to the tune I learned in third grade. Thank you, Mr. Spering. And, farther away from the road, which the locals pronounce: Ms. Zippy).
Results will appear here.
If all goes well, the Yet-Unnamed Boat will become a 22-foot-long sloop in the next six months. On paper, it looks fast and stable, with the option of power from the wind or from oars. The idea is that it will be suited to adventure racing (like the Everglades Challenge!) and also just plain fun to sail.
The transformation of a stack of exotic plywood and epoxy resin into such a creature? That process chugs along. While the addition of bulkheads fore and aft help ensure that the hull will keep its shape; the next step is a little unsettling. A rather large hole is to be cut into the bottom of the boat.
As it stands, the Unnamed Boat resembles a curled autumn leaf: it would float, but it would not track upwind in a straight line. What's needed is a centerboard to give the boat some purchase against sliding sideways. This centerboard will be raised and lowered with the use of a set of pulleys (as opposed to a keel, which remains in place), allowing the Boat to venture into shallow water (or back onto its trailer) as needed.
And that means a hole. It also means that Mr. Linton has constructed a sort of case for the centerboard, so that once the centerboard is pulled up –– the nautical term is "housed" –– it will be held secure and straight. This structure hugging the centerboard in turn is called the centerboard trunk. It adds a great deal of strength to the hull.
As one can imagine, without beefy support, if the centerboard were simply dropped through the hull, the okume plywood hull would quickly splinter and crack under the strain. In which case, we might choose instead to swim the distance rather than sail it.
So, a centerboard trunk...As with Frankenscot, this trunk will also eventually support the sliding seat for rowing.
Because it's summertime, the boat-build will be on hiatus for some weeks. There are races to be sailed and road-trips that will betake us away from the boat-yard lair. Meanwhile, the resin will be curing and additional plans brewing...
Think "farm" and there it is, just as bright and crisp as the photo on a feed-store calendar: a vision of tidy fences, a neat rows of crops, clean animals placidly munching lush pastures.
It's nothing new, nothing unique, this pretty ideal. Classical Romans and Greeks cherished the image of pastoral beauty. They made a whole genre of it. The <ahem> Pastoral.
Still, it's a long way between ideal and actuality: even leaving out the amount of salty sweat and hard work, there's just so much to learn in transforming a lapsed dairy farm into something that feels like The Farm.
Take even a short wander across one of the meadows, and the questions follow one on the other, like hungry livestock rushing the trough:
Consult the Google? Well, my phone is not that smart, and besides, I enjoy taking a break from the lure of online research while at the Farm. Plus, she noted galactically, my solar system is not finished, so the battery must be conserved.
Old style. The bookshelf starts to groan under the weight of curiosity:
This reference shelf in turn gives me more fodder (ooh! a farming metaphor!) for agricultural day-dreams and even more blathering on, as I begin to realize how vast is my ignorance...
*Pasternak? Almanack? I don't know, I guess I'm still working on my Cockney rhyming slang. Or perhaps it's a homonym (a word that does not, honestly, have a gay subtext) with "pasteurize" or possibly, (to complete the full circle of piffle!), with "pasture."
When last we left the boat-build, the hull was something like a tortilla, held in form by a pair of belly pans while my favorite skipper puttied and filled gaps in the interior surface. Since a floppy taco of a hull hardly inspires confidence, the next steps involved building structure into the boat.
Anyway, bulkhead. Sailors quickly noticed that bulkheads not only kept cargo where it was stowed, they also made the hull sturdier and kept water walled up in the likely event of a leak.
So the Boat-That-Is-Presently-Nameless got some bulkheads. The bow has a fore-and-aft bulkhead onto which the headstay will be anchored, there's a side-to-side bulkhead that will support a deck-stepped mast, as well as sealing off the bow so that it will be watertight. And a smaller bulkhead at the aft end of the future centerboard trunk will probably host the mainsheet block.
Alright already, enough words: some photos:
There were no two ways about it...
There were no two ways about it –– you could tell people by how they react to the reptiles, he thought, gazing at the crowd on the other side of the block wall. People were crazy about snakes or they didn't really care.
If not full of hate and fear for them, the emotional ones adored Our Scaly Pals and went on about how wonderful they were, eating vermin and keeping Nature's precious balance, all that happy-slappy crap.
The others were comfortable knowing nothing, standing around after the show, saying things like, "Oh, are snakes reptiles? Huh."
He understood that. Hell, he couldn't give less of a crap about a lot of stuff. Re-baloting, stem-cell research, modern art, that shit didn't mean jack to him. He was a reptile guy. Was going to keep doing this gator-wrestling, snake-handling gig for the rest of his life. Unless the old place collapsed around him.
He tapped a finger against the wooden handle of his hook, touching wood as the anxiety pinched at his guts. He didn't like thinking about the future. Too much to worry about. Enough to pay attention to right now.
There were no two ways about it...she was not going to walk this footpath again. She wasn't going to skinny-dip in the deep black water of the lake. Wasn't going to hop onto her bike and pedal forty-five miles on a whim, forgetting the sun-block and then guzzling sweet tea straight from the heavy glass pitcher in her gram's cool, dark kitchen before turning her bike around and rolling back home.
The second opinion, this one sporting a rugby shirt under his white coat, as if he'd just scrambled off the pitch, was just as awful as the first. The same absolutes –– the same phrases even –– and no other possible diagnosis. A second opinion, handsome as he was, made it a truth.
There were no two ways about it...he might have tried again, but he had never been one for sticktoitivity. He wasn't cut out for the job. He knew that. He was good at starting, not so hot at finishing. A string of unconnected jobs, a smattering of half-baked skills. If he didn't know what made him unhappy about his own history, he was also pretty decent at maintaining a cheerful front.
"Eyes front," his mom used to say. "Eyes front," and "Tomorrow is another day."
For the first few weeks of the build, the boat was upside-down. After framing and planking the boat, Jeff went through a repetitive series of steps: putty, sand, putty, sand, putty, sand. Then paint. Followed by more sanding. The result is a smooth, fair* hull.
A giant step involved the inversion of the boat. While it might seem like a simple task –– just pick it up and turn it over -- the adventure was more like flipping a very big flapjack without a spatula. Minus any interior structure, the hull is a bit floppy and wiggly.
*Mirror, mirror on the wall? In this case, "fair" means that the hull is symmetrical from side to side and that most bumps and hollows have been smoothed out. Pretty is just a bonus.
The boat was glued to the floor to start with, so the first step of inverting the boat was to break the beastie free from the box and most of its frames. The application of a 2x4 as a big lever made a lot of cracking sounds, but only a few small splinters.
Leaving two of the frames in (Station 4 and 8, for those taking note), Jeff and OH and Brent B. each took a grip of a side, heaved, and the boat took flight. Like three skilled pizza dough-thowers, the guys manhandled the boat through a half-somersault and settled it into its "belly pan." (A belly pan being a shaped structure [think nested bowls] under Stations 4 and 8 that cradle the hull so it's level and true.)
While others might have paused to simply admire the workmanship, not my skipper. Next time: bulkheads.
Some people need noise in order to concentrate, while others do best in silence and isolation. This, by the by, might be roughly the difference between extroverts and introverts.
At school, I'd occasionally sit in on a random lecture in fluid dynamics or organic chemistry –– not to listen and learn, mind you, but because I needed a threshold level of activity around me so I could bang out a paper or two. Sometimes the library is just too quiet.
This still holds true, and I'm happy to find a perch to work where people are buzzing about. But most days, I make my own buzz with playlists. With a theme. Here are a couple of selections from my current project. Sense a topic?
Around here, boat-building has taken center stage, with early-morning runs to Fiberglass Coating, a LOT of sawdust and elbow-grease, and the odd day-trip to Lauderdale to pick up a carbon-fiber mast.
When Mr. Linton repurposed an old Flying Scot into Frankenscot two years ago, it was about 2 parts deconstruction for every bit of construction. With this one –– name to come* –– the boat is getting built from scratch. A stack of wood and a few jugs of resin are assembling into something that we hope will float.
*Note to self: Maybe we need a naming contest. With prizes? Hmmm. Consult the peanut gallery.
So, with the frame built and the stringers lain, the boat's skin –– two skinny layers of okume plywood –– has been bent into place, glued, and puttied.
Following the application of a coat of fiberglass and epoxy resin, the boat now will go through a series of filling and sanding steps known as "fairing."
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