Today is the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. The weather this spring in northwest New York has been unusually wet with rain at least five days out of seven every week. Gardening is delayed, lawn mowing is catch-as-catch-can, and it’s been a chore getting our sailboat Amanda ready and into the water.
The boat came out of the water early last October slightly earlier than expected because of a frayed forestay, the cable that runs from the top of the mast to the front, or bow of the boat. Since I had no idea how old the other cables were, I decided to replace them all. That meant that the forestay, the backstay, the two upper shrouds, the two front shrouds, and the two aft shrouds had to go.
While I was at it, I ordered a new jib halyard and mainsail halyard, the ropes that raise and lower the two sails. All these replacement parts arrived during the winter and I stored them with the other boating odds and ends I kept inside for the winter.
Starting a couple of weeks ago, I began working on getting the boat, a 1988 Catalina 22, ready for the season. Last week my son Will and I completely removed the mast from the boat and put it on sawhorses in the garage. Then, little by little, I started taking things off and replacing them with the newer counterparts.
I began with the halyards because there were only two of them and I could claim progress faster. These ropes go entirely through the mast, so it is unwise just to pull out the old ones. Rather, for each halyard I used a needle and thread to sew together the new rope to the old, and then covered the joint with some tape. I then pulled the old halyard through the mast and out, the new one following it and installing itself.
The shrouds were more time consuming since I had to remove pins holding the tops of the cables. These were held in place by small cotter pins that were not easy to grab and then remove. I worked my way through them, along with the fore- and the backstay.
During the evenings this last week I refinished the tiller, the curved oak piece that moves the rudder and hence is used for steering. The finish on it was chipped and it had several rough spots. I removed all the hardware, sanded the tiller down to the bare wood, put on five coats of exterior grade polyurethane, and replaced the hardware.
For the rudder itself, I thoroughly cleaned it and put a new coat of antifouling plaint on the portion of it that stays under the water for the four month season. This paint contains copper and that’s now the color of the bottom of the rudder, though I have it on good authority that it will turn the intended blue after a few weeks in the water.
Yesterday and today I loaded the boat with all the other things I need on it: the battery, the gas tank, the GPS, the portable VHF radio, the above mentioned tiller and rudder, some water, soda, and some snacks. I also remembered to put on the new license plate that also arrived this winter.
Today I gave the boat a final scrubbing and then Will and I put the mast on top of the boat and strapped it down. I did not connect the shrouds to the boat at this point, though normally the center and aft shrouds would be for transport. We attached the trailer to the car, checked that the lights worked, and put the outboard motor in the back of the car.
Together with my wife Judith we drove to our yacht club on Lake Ontario east of Rochester, NY. Once there, we removed the mast to make it easier to get the boat in the water.
It was at this point that I remembered that I left the key for the three locks on the boat at home. This was not a problem for the cabin since I had not locked it, but it was for the gas tank. Luckily a fellow club member walked by and told me about some bolt cutters in the utility shed. They made short work of the lock (scary, actually), and I had access to gas for the motor. Will and I then mounted the Tohatsu 6hp outboard.
With Judith directing and Will in the rear of the boat, we backed the trailer down the boat ramp and eased the sailboat into the water. The lake, like most bodies of water around here right now, is higher than usual and I didn’t have to get the trailer very far into the water to give the boat enough buoyancy to rise and move off. The motor started right up and we slowly moved the boat around the marina into our slip.
We set the fenders and the dock lines, placed the still-not-raised mast on top of the boat, and headed home.
On Monday Will and I plan to head back up the lake on Monday to raise the mast. Connecting the shrouds and the forestay will be easy, but we have a some work to do on the new backstay. Its configuration is different from the old one, so it will take some staring at the under-documented instructions and experimentation to get it right. After that, we’ll put up the boom and the mainsail.
If there’s a fair wind, we might even get Amanda out on Ontario, but I would settle for raising the mast and getting her ready to go.