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Little Boat, Big Dreams
On the Hard Again…

With apologies to Willie Nelson, Angels Wings is on the hard again...

After several abortive and frustrating attempts to get hauled at our local marina, we eventually decided to move Wings to Jennings Boatyard down near the Bay, a boatyard where the skipper had a liveaboard ketch hauled several times nearly twenty years before. Still under the same family ownership, Jennings doesn't purport to be a marina, but rather a boatyard. Although there are the usual slips available monthly or annually, the stock and trade remains boat-building and refurbishment - no restaurant, no night-club, no tiki-bar; just several large sheds for building or major refurbishing, one public restroom, several acres of haul out space for the dozens of boats on the hard, and the ever-present expertise of Larry Jennings -- should an owner need to order supplies, contract for complex repairs, or just need some friendly advice on a pet project.

We were please to see that two years in the water had not encouraged the stubborn marine growth we'd had to contend with last time. Wings' hull still seemed in reassuringly good shape and the power-wash got most of the growth off, so the bottom paint had done its duty. We quickly stripped most of the equipment out of Wings' cabin because we expect her to be out of the water for 12-18 months as we leisurely piddle through several projects, both to rigging and hull, and also make a few changes in the cabin as well as some repairs where the deck has gotten spongy. Already it feels better just having Wings at this tranquil, rural crossroads of transoceanic cruisers, working watermen and dreaming weekenders like ourselves -- the beguiling aroma of epoxy, sawdust and salt air invites us.

Library – Reflections from the rocking chair

What keeps the pipe dream alive when one is between boats or hopelessly aground, or otherwise without a sailable vessel - such as we are now with Angels Wings on the hard for several months?

One can immerse themselves in productive boating projects (which right now we have in abundance); however, in the quiet hours it has been books and manuals (and now DVDs) that both nurture and enlighten the dream.

From the earliest days in the 1950s and 1960s hawking newspapers on a North Dakota street corner, I remember setting aside the coins needed to buy the latest issues of Rudder magazine (where I first saw Herreshoff's lovely Rozinante) and Boat Builder (a Science and Mechanics publication that offered DIY plans for the average man).

Since then the boating, and eventually sailing, library waxed and waned depending on how feasible the fantasy seemed at the moment. But in recent years the collection has once again grown to occupy the better part of a bookcase or so, as well as an assortment of volumes handily stashed under the bed for drowsy reflections and of course the required hodgepodge of restroom reading material (usually comprised of the latest marine/tool catalogues and magazines - with books consigned generally to more formal shelving).

Roughly the books seemed to divide themselves into: books of inspiration, usually penned by those who have actually sailed beyond the reach of the internet; books of design, those penned by designers and builders who have earned a place in sailing history; and of course a smattering of books that have to do with the art, navigation, seamanship, upkeep and modification of the craft. So here goes a sample of what is on the shelf,

Those who have been there:

Sailing the Dream: McGrady
500 Days; Serge Testa
My Old Man and the Sea: Hays & Hays
Sailing Promise: Alayne Main
The First Voyage of the Joshua: Moitessier
Sailing to the Reefs: Moitessier
Three Years in a 12-Foot Boat: Stephen Ladd
Maiden Voyage: Tania Aebi
Alone Against the Atlantic: Gerry Spiess
Tinkerbelle: Robert Manry
Sea Gypsy: Tangvald
Gipsy Moth Circles the World: Chichester

Some designers and builders:

Cruising Yachts, Benford
Yacht Design According to Perry, Perry
Yacht Designs, Garden
From a Bare Hull, Mate'
The Cruising Multihull, White
Sensible Cruising Designs, Herreshoff
Cruising Trimaran, Brown
Cruising as a Way of Life, Colvin
Skene's Elements of Yacht Design, Kinney
Offshore Cruising Encyclopedia, Dashew

And some on navigation, seamanship, upkeep and modifications:

Heavy Weather Sailing, Coles
Multihull Seamanship, McMullen
Multihull Voyaging, Jones
Buehler's Backyard Boatbuilding, Buehler
Upgrading Your Small Sailboat, Butler
Devlin's Boatbuilding, Devlin
World Cruising Routes, Cornell
Understanding Rigs and Rigging, Henderson
Sensible Cruising, Casey and Hackler
The Long Way, Moitessier
Elements of Boat Strength, Gerr
Voyaging Under Power, Beede
Sailmaker's Apprentice, Marino
Practical Sail Care and Repair, Carr
Fiberglass Boatbuilding for Amateurs, Hankenson
The Gougeon Brothers on Boat Construction
Aero-Hydrodynamics of Sailing, Marchaj
Single Handing, Meisel
Ocean Passages for the World, Hydrographer of the Navy
Celestial Navigation for Yachtsmen, Blewitt
Self-Taught Navigation, Kittredge
The Splicing Handbook, Merry

Plus, of course, the classic tomes that many sailors (rocking chair or otherwise) started out with, such as Chapman's, Bowditch, the Pardey's many writings -- as well as the Roth's, Hiscock's and the like. Sure seems like a lot of reading just to keep one 24-foot sloop sailing right side up doesn't it?

Ah well, no point in being a rocking chair sailor, if all one does in the chair is sleep !

Making do… nicely...

Angels Wings' drop-boards were originally made of plywood for some unknown reason. Probably seemed like a not altogether bad idea years ago, but over the years despite some emergency care, Wings drop-boards had begun to delaminate. This past winter they finally came apart completely. We'd hoped they'd survive until we could get Wings up on the hard for a more complete refit. However plywood being plywood, they delaminated on their own schedule, not ours.

So, Deanna not at all pleased with the embarrassing sight of Wings delaminated boards, dashed down to the lumberyard, bought some general purpose pine and in an afternoon or so, sawed, routed, stained and varnished an emergency set that will probably serve for a number of years, while we attend to more vital matters. The "temporary" boards turned out nicer than we'd expected and once again Wings cabin is modestly secure - and, more importantly, the water stays outside instead of seeping through myriad cracks and seams in the hopeless plywood boards.

What !! That ain’t a boat…

Well, okay, I know this isn't a boat... but we took the week off from boating to see the Rolex cars race at VIR. Boy, there is as much carbon fiber here as the higher-tech Volvo and Vendee racers - with the recent volcano activity, several of the crews had a dickens of a time even getting there, let alone being competitive... now, with our "batteries" recharged, back to our low-tech sailboat (Angels Wings ) refurbishing...

Second Time's the Charm

Rory and the geriatric skipper finally got Angels Wings moved from her usual home on the Potomac to Jennings Boatyard at Reedville, Virginia on the Bay, where we're planning to haul her for a few months or longer (depending on how ambitious we feel). After a rather frustrating attempt into a peevish headwind the week before, the weatherman promised to mend his ways and assured light, pleasant downwind sailing. This time it was indeed smoother for us, even though not exactly to plan and the venture took a day longer than anticipated, but oh well.

Sunday morning we put up the red and black drifter and Wings leisurely ghosted down the Potomac at maybe 3kts with about a 4kt following breeze on the nearly glassy water. The nigh on motionless apparent wind invited a pesky spider to begin spinning a web between the stays and it took us hours to actually find the little critter even though his network grew out of reach, nearly to the masthead. Toward late afternoon the wind died to nothing. For a bit, we coasted with the current and slathering on the first sunscreen of the season until we finally figured time was wasting and fired up the little 8hp kicker, shattering the almost eerie silence. We'd planned to sail or motor-sail through the night, but the rear running light crapped out, so we pressed one of those Coleman LED lanterns into service as a stern light and looked for a friendly creek.

After dark we wormed ourselves up a meandering creek off the Saint Mary's river - the LED lantern worked extremely well, but probably not strictly legal, what the heck. After about two hours of feeling our way along in the darkness we arrived at an unfamiliar restaurant dock, where we were told we could dock for free, but the suspicious rural proprietor made it abundantly clear didn't want to see us wandering around his property. Although the skipper had been up this tricky little creek twenty years before, we'd never attempted it in the dark and bounced off the bottom once and narrowly missed some uncharted fish-trap pilings as well; thankfully, no nets were yet set.

The following day, the wind was 10-15kts right on the nose once we got near the Bay and it took nearly six hours of upwind sailing to clear Smith Point (first point south in the Bay on the Virginia side). All things considered Wings remained amazingly comfortable for such a little thing -- with her elderly, stained and baggy sails she is neither at her happiest beating upwind, nor able to point worth a hoot with her untuned rig, but then she's 40 years old (but, decades younger than the skipper), so whatdoya expect. Nonetheless, she shoulders aside the chop with a simple doggedness befitting her Paul Coble designed hull and rarely wets the deck unless the waves are exceptionally confrontational.

In the brisk breeze we were temporarily joined by a monarch butterfly - who knows where it blew in from - and later a stowaway grasshopper that preened contentedly in the folds of the reefed mainsail. We reluctantly admitted we weren't making very good progress, however, and finally decided to motor sail so we could get on in to Reedville before it was too dark (used three times more gas on this little jaunt, a whole seven gallons, than Wings has used in the past two years put together).

The two-foot plus afternoon chop on the Bay had held us up now and again, but we were tied up in Reedville by a little after 22:00. I suppose we coulda sailed at a more leisurely pace, but that's the inconvenience of trying to sail on a schedule. I think sailors need to be retired or on vacation. Had an additional grounding due to skipper inattentiveness in the dark (do ya see a bit of a pattern developing here...), but no real "adventure," and the grandson distinguished himself on several occasions, with chart-reading, relief on the helm, much time with binoculars in hand to avoid the numerous obstructions and making himself generally indispensible on the little boat.

Well, Phooey

Took off with the grandson/able-bodied-seaman on what was supposed to be a simple, 60-mile relocation of Angels Wings from her slip in Colonial Beach to Jennings Boatyard in Reedville, only to find ourselves beating directly into a frustratingly stiff breeze that only grew stronger as the afternoon wore on... whitecaps everywhere, and even in the river 2-3 chop hindered forward progress. With a reef thrown in (hastily jury rigged after the cheek-block exploded), we were making 4.5-5.5kts through the water, but only averaging about one per hour made good. Even though she pinches up nicely, beating is not Wings best point of sail and although she stayed generally dry and amazingly comfortable (many folks think we're lying on that score), we weren't getting anywhere, so with even less cooperative weather focasted we eventually made a 180 for home, retracing our 6-hour upwind trek in about an hour and twenty minutes -- arriving at about mach 3 as we blew into the inlet with following seas, grandson white-knuckling it on the helm and a 16-20kt wind, rounded up in the rear of the marina and let go the anchor to give us enough time to tidy up a bit before docking... whew... we'll try again another day !

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Port: Colonial Beach, Virginia, USA
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