Rigging remedy

 My heart was so full from everyone and all I encountered in Oriental that it felt heavy the night before leaving. My lines did not tug at their cleats. There was not a breath of wind or current pushing me off the dock. I thought, for what must have been the hundredth time, ‘I don’t want to leave.’

I’ve always said this and it remains–life moves pretty fast on a boat that goes an average of five knots.

I showed up at the free dock in Oreintal, NC with a broken lower shroud and a completely drained battery from lack of sun and freezing temperatures. With the help of a young 20-years-old Quebecoise couple that pulled their battery charger off their engine room bulkhead, and several extension chords later, I was charging my battery with power from the public restrooms. Miraculously it was nursed back to health and I should be able to limp it along as my primary ship’s power until I reach warmer waters and stop to work.

My forward, starboard lower stay was completely cracked at its swaged end. Miles earlier in Elizabeth City I’d scored some 1/4 inch rigging cable to replace my aging, cracking, original standing rigging but knew I needed to at least consult a professional before moving forward. Even having gotten the cable for free, the end fittings I need for each stay are still expensive. Around $40 and I need eight. I could only afford to replace the one broken one for now. It was getting to the point where I could not continue to sail, until that one was fixed. So I came to Oriental, the sailing capital of North Carolina to do just that. In between was some of the best sailing this whole trip! Except I was kind of playing Russian roulette the entire time.

The series of events are as follows:

-Hunted through town to find a Sta-lok —the fitting needed for DIY rigging replacement to no avail
-Hunted through town to find a rigging shop that could swage the correct end size fitting for me. This came up successful but it was Saturday.
-Found a mobile rigger on the phone who answered (on said Saturday after thanksgiving) and hunted for a part for me  but came up short. It kinda sounded like the best idea to have him just come look at the whole thing.
-Had an internal crisis about paying someone to do work on my boat instead of doing it myself. Rationalized that I know nothing about re-rigging a sailboat and that I will be able to learn first hand. He was coming at a moments notice in order to help me get underway again, and it required a more professional eye than mine. At least the first time around.
-The rigger was awesome and charged me half price to remove the broken stay and measure exactly for the new one, inspected my current and new (free) rigging, instructed me precisely on next steps of where to go to get fitting swaged and install it myself, and just generally provided merriment, tips, and knowledge to me and another young sailor on the dock.

Rigger’s kid

In the meantime I found a climbing harness to borrow from Austin, a crazy 23-year-old sailor on a Sabre 28 who was told to look out for me by the folks on the Bonnie Boat, a sister ship on the Chesapeake Bay. Rode around town doing errands on his dope folding bike (thanks, dude!). Drank far too much wine and sang karaoke with some of my favorite sailors I’ve been seeing along the blue highway. Shared meals and tools and trades with my neighbor. Helped pull two different people up two different masts. Learned that a sailing friend from the best boatyard in the world had indeed sent me the sta-lok he had found in his boat that was exactly the right size I needed and it was waiting for me at the post office ready to pick up first thing Monday morning (Thank you Charlie and Meg)!!.

My good fortune continued. I met a couple, Herbie and Maddie around my age on a 1968 Morgan 45. They’d just been through a gale off Hatteras and were here waiting on parts for their electric engine. I told them I needed someone to pull me up my mast and it turns out Herb is a rigger! Not only that, but I’d read their blog The Rigging Doctor, when I first ventured into this crazy idea to re rig my own vessel from 1968! He knew exactly how to cut the cable and fit the sta-lok (more complicated than you’d think. Keep an eye out for their upcoming video about some DIY-rigging filmed on my boat)!

I was hoisted up with the right tools and instructions. After fiddling with the tight fitting pins for far too long the first part of my new stay was installed! Herb looked through binoculars on my foredeck to confirm it was indeed installed correctly! Then we cut the cable, fanned its individual wires ever so rightly into the new fitting, tightened it, attached it to the turnbuckle and re tuned the rig.

It was a whirlwind–but my rig is whole again. The boat looked slightly sad with her missing stay but it didn’t last long and I could not have been marooned in a better place waiting for all the pieces to come together. As soon as I am somewhere warm and am earning a much needed cash injection, the rest of my stays will all be replaced using the methods I learned in Oriental.

My beautiful new stay!

Lentils win

Row over and examine abandoned boat, or stay in cabin with warm tea, alcohol heater, and make lentils? Lentils win.

smallboat galley, pearson ariel 26

No wind today. I didn’t care. Was happy to be under way. Was happy to have made some progress to the engine. Was happy it was running so well. The sun made an appearance. Twenty five miles left of the Chesapeake. Anchored in Pepper Creek–sketchy depths. Came in at high tide but leaving closer to low. I may find myself waiting to float off the ground tomorrow with the afternoon flood…Wind forecast perfect for tomorrow, minus some rain. Hope it sticks. My last November northerly on the bay. Hope I find myself just lingering out there tomorrow again, not quite ready for it to end.

cruising guide chesapeake bay
A rare Chesapeake calm in November

I’m wearing an old Pendleton I got from my friends in Matthews, VA. I’m like the son they never had. No, really. I feel like a boy. At least a tom boy. I put in eye liner to go to shore the other day and looked more like I was leaving the coal mines than trying to look presentable in society.

I’m scheming again to take Vanupied far, not this year though. I can’t stop thinking about it. It would be real easy to shorten the cockpit, move her scuppers. I designed a sort of locker in my head that would double as storage while reducing the size. I want to replace her standing rigging, at least some if not all. I’m on this kick about using Dyneema to do it. A backup cheapie auto pilot and sheet to tiller steering (double redundancy). Short wave radio for Chris Parker weather reports. Already got a receiver on the backstay (which unfortunately I think indicates the age of of my shrouds).

I don’t know, though. I still need her looked at with a keener eye than mine. It’s a process. For now I know what needs doing in the immediate future and I have lots, and lots, of ideas.

Back to the abandoned boat. Pretty grey hull with a sorry looking paint job. No mast. Sixties or seventies era. Strong, sturdy hull with pretty, traditional lines. Hell, she could even be an Alberg! Don’t think so, though. Her sheer is slung differently. More elegant.

Maybe it belongs to the creek person I just saw. He was catching oysters on a homemade barge constructed from an old dock and an outboard motor.

I left my heart on the Champlain Canal

americas great loop, cruising the champlain canal

History. Industry. Wildlife. That’s how I would describe the miles logged traversing the historic Champlain Canal. Built in the 1800’s and birthed from the brain of Gov. George Clinton of New York, well, all I can say is hats off to you, Sir Clinton.

cruising america's canal

For every ounce of sun we had there were equal parts rain, which were made increasingly miserable due to the large boom and mainsail taking up most of my cabin, and the breath/sweat condensing from two 20-something women. My crew was my best friend, Whitney. Not a sailor, but born on a boat. She sailed with me last year in a steep chop out of Burlington Harbor where I turned to her and said, “Okay, this is the point of no return–do you want to go back?”

To which she replied, “I trust you, Cap.”

champlain canal, US canal system, NYS canal

If only she could be onboard forever, as her mere presence helps me to solve the problems of the world. But she has her own adventure to build, her own “boat” to find. She will be back onboard Vanupied when we reach southern latitudes. This much is certain.

NYS Canal System

For the first few locks we were nervous and scared. By the final we were entering the great big chambers of water playing the harmonica. We tied on and off docks and wharf walls like it were a game. We docked next to the actual remnants of the USS Ticonderoga and, naturally, saluted it when we left. I could’ve lived there amongst those lock walls and slimy lines with Whit as a canal rat forever but, alas, we finally reached tidal waters.

cruising the hudson river

Whitney traveled with me another several miles on the Hudson River to Catskill, NY where I became a sailboat again. Luckily, her friend came to pick her up and return her back home for work on Monday—because even though I promised her I’d get her somewhere accessible to mass transit to get back in time, I really had no idea if I’d be able to deliver on that.

Huge shout out to Hop-O-Nose marina on Catskill Creek for a doing a dope job stepping my mast, for a free night at the dock and supporting the adventure. My favorite question I received from the owner there was, “WHAT DO YOU EAT?!”

Leaving Lake Champlain

sailing lake champlain, cruising lake champlain, solo sailor girl, spinnaker watches

September 2, 2017

Well, I left. I’d have cut the proverbial dock lines but I sold my mooring bridle to a mate to pay my debt to the marina. It all worked out. I feel like it’s my birthday or something. So many well wishes as I prepared to and left the mooring field. “Bye,” I yelled to my neighbors who I hadn’t seen in a couple of weeks. “I’m not coming back!”

So, yes, while I technically left I’m only five miles away. And I’m okay with that.

September 3

cruising the ICW, cruising lake champlain, pearson ariel 26 live aboard

I left at 9 AM with a single reef in the main and was glad I did. I wanted to make it to crown point but it took two hours just to make it this far. I was cold, wet. My foul weather gear sucks. The rain, remnants of hurricane harvey, was tempestuous. Busted my depth sounder. I knew something electronic would fry I’m just glad it wasn’t Jane (my autopilot) or my GPS. Guna make me a lead line. No other boats I’ve ever owned or sailed on had depth finders anyway.

I figured why not ditch out while I still can. Soon there will be long passages with nothing in between. I’m anchored off the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum which is fitting. I’m slightly exposed to the south because mooring balls are taking up most of the anchorage. If no one claims them by tonight I’ll move onto one. I fought with the alcohol heater for a while but finally got it to work. Everything is damp but it’s beautiful in the rain.

basin harbor yacht club, cruising lake champlain

I hope to reach Chipman Point in time for my mast unstepping appointment but I’m behind. I’ll have to leave crown point very early and should probably motor if I want to get there on time. Wind forecast 25 kts from the south but this part of the lake is very narrow, meandering, full of eagles I’ve been told.

September  4

live aboard pearson ariel 26, cruising lake champlain

Day three. Depth finder definitely broken. Crown point. I’ve re-anchored for the third, maybe fourth time trying to get as close to shore as possible but the gusts kept pushing me back. I’m scared for tonight. I’ve been in blows before but this spot is unknown to me. 

I left early to avoid increasing wind prediction and motored into a dead calm until a light wind filled in for about an hour. Becalmed for another hour I started to motor until I hit more wind with soon became 20 kts with gusts higher. After some miles tacking one gust hit that almost knocked us down. It was time to go on deck to either shorten sail or motor. I motored. Heeling over hard in 20 kts, solo, on my boat for miles is…difficult. I kept kicking the autopilot out of its socket I was sure I’d break it. It’s hard to look at charts or do damn near anything when I have to sail the boat so closely. Crew would make all the difference in the world in that situation. But at the same time, fuck going to weather. Everyone avoids it whenever they can, right? I don’t have anything to prove to anyone or to myself. 

September 5

cruising the champlain canal

Exhausted! Starving! No time to eat much today. Wiring catastrophe. Tried to drill hole out in bulkhead to pass running light wires and connectors through. Would up drilling into the wires and have to re splice now anyway, so hole drilling was useless and destructive. Wound up lashing the mast to the rails instead of using wood supports. It’s sturdy. Got pretty pissed though when one of the marina employees was insisting on untying my boat from the crane area in the middle of huge thunderstorm. Finally the owner came over and told him to stop. I was pissed, but the owner made it right by giving me free dockage. 

Two cruising families here heading south. One I met last year in the Champlain Islands. 

September 5

cruising family, cruising with kids, sailing mom

Approximately eighteen snaky miles through the creek like, final miles of Lake Champlain. Eagles. White and blue herons. Train tracks. Trees and cliffs. Misty and fjord like. 

Crew: Amber. Off the boat of cruising family. We buddy boated with her son and husband onboard their vessel and passed through Lock 12 of the Champlain Canal. Emerged triumphant. Excellent crew. Tied to the high cement wall in Whitehall, NY now awaiting the arrival of my crew for the next four days who will travel with me the next sixty miles of the Champlain Canal and to the entry of the Hudson River where, shortly after that, I’ll become a sailboat again. 

Sail angels (get it? Like ‘trail angels’)

pearson ariel 26 sail inventory

My main sail was in such bad condition that I’d taken to fastening patches on new tears that were appearing nearly every time I sailed with 5200, because adding more perforation by sewing only seemed to damage the deteriorating fabric further.

My new (to-me) main sail is all dialed in. It even has a third reef point now with completed slab reefing capabilities (which meant a total of eight holes drilled and threaded on my boom). The sail was donated to me. A huge thanks to Bill Phelon, commodore over at the Pearson Ariel owners association who shipped me his old main within hours of my post on the forum. I only paid shipping on the sail from California and it was well worth the cost as it has years of life left whereas my sail maybe had weeks.

Sewing reinforcements for my second and third reef points was also donated (with a partial trade), by Spinnaker Sallie Mack, one of the first female sailmakers on Lake Michigan back in her day, and local Champlain wooden boat sailor. She also helped me make a little storm head sail out of a staysail in perfect condition that came off a 62-foot-ketch my BFF’s mom used to own and sail on the Atlantic Coast. Thanks, Sallie and Kay!

Grommets and further dialing in on my sail inventory came at a fraction of the cost from Ed Trombley up at Doyle Sailmakers on the New York side of the lake. Thanks, Ed.

As prepared as I am I’m learning you’ll never really be ready to go. I’m as prepared as I can be, and know enough to know what I don’t know, you know?