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!

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. 

Existential Crisis

sailing the ICW , sailing pearson ariel 26

I’ve been tied to the mooring ball for days. Ten, maybe. Maybe seven. Chipping away at the boat. I’d look at my log but I haven’t been keeping it. The passage of time makes no sense. The days have blurred into one. Drill holes, go to the hardware store, fix a new problem I didn’t know existed. Tear the boat apart. Put it back together.

living on a small boat, refitting a small sailboat for cruising

It seems like a life time ago I was cruising in Tandem with Sixth Girl, a Melody 32, and her captain Dale. She won the Chicago Mackinac, once. In the sixties. She fell off a semi-truck once, too. Dale has been restoring her to do a trip much like my own–except he’s sailing on the outside of the Atlantic Coast. What I intend to do has snippets of it, but is mostly part of the Inter Coastal Waterway. There’s blue water though, on my trip. And even more blue water to chose from once I get further south.

melody 32, charlie morgan,

People ask me why I’m doing this. For food, I suppose. I never know what to eat in the American world of meat and dairy. I’m searching for coconuts and pineapples (although I’m slightly allergic to pineapples. On a crowded bus to a tiny peninsula in Costa Rica my lips started to tingle and I pondered the possibility of a tracheotomy and who on said bus might know how to perform one. I’ve got plenty of benadryl on my boat though…don’t worry, mom).

“I’m trying to find the conch dock,” I’ll often say. “You know, a place you can tie up your dinghy and there’s like, fried conch for cheap.” (But the Carribean and Bahamas are expensive I’ve heard. So the odds are greater I’ll have to learn to forage for my own sea food). I just like saying ‘the conch dock.’

Bluewater, I suppose, is a reason too. While it scares me more than anything it’s something I’ve always yearned to return to since a yacht delivery from NZ to Tonga in 2011. I suppose it’s there that my obsession with sailing boats truly began, but I’m only just beginning to know what I’m actually doing.

pearson ariel 26

Wherein lies my problem is that my boat is ready for this trip (almost, a few more screws and pieces of string), but the whole point is to keep going and she’ll need more work for that. I know that without constant maintenance and upkeep she will turn for the worst. Even though I’ve done nothing but make her better and stronger, I’m afraid that once I leave here and all my resources I’m not going to be able to continuing making progress to her and I’ll be forced to leave. I’m afraid I won’t be able to accept that and I’ll fall into the category of ‘live aboard’ not ‘sailor,’ stuck somewhere in Florida.

What if I never make it beyond to distant shores?

But aren’t they all distant shores? I have the Champlain Canal, Hudson River, New Jersey coast, Chesepeake Bay and more in front of me before I have to worry about that. Shit, there’s even the possibility that this all works out. That I maintain my focus. That I continue to learn.

Still, I can’t stop thinking about making her totally blue water capable. Like strong enough to cross an ocean. Nothing for miles except blue onboard my own boat. New standing rigging, strengthening her transom, ripping out and rebuilding everything that’s decaying, stripping her to bare bones, etc., etc…

Can I do it all along the way? Will other parts of the country, or other countries entirely be as friendly and helpful as this sailing community has been? Will I sail into the perfect port some thousands of miles from her to begin another stage of my little boat’s refit?

I guess I’ll find out.