02/09/2013, home at the cottage
This past week has taken our journey down another new stream of consciousness. My trusted companion of 14 years on the water has developed a heartbreaking illness where her quality of life and existence came into question.
As much as Kelly Belle has always been a keen observer, smart and a devoted protector, she has also been the best companion a girl could ever ask for. Ever at my side, come rain, cold, snow, floods, hurricanes, kids coming, kids going, a string of different boats along the past 14 years, she has retained a sense of happiness and joy with a stick wherever she's traveled. Whether she's hanging out the window confident that the wind in her face was a testament to our moving mission or standing on the bow of every vessel poised in the wind as if giving respect with her stance. Her disposition has brought joy and laughter to faces everywhere she goes on water and roadway!
This all came into question this past week when her sunny disposition became horribly devastated by a geriatric vestibular condition that took that all away. Her worsening condition came in short events similar to seizures and then in the middle of the night, the condition took her mind over completely. After numerous vet visits and emergency calls in the night, they finally came to this diagnosis having observed her condition in it's current status. And the irony here, this is a dog that has "more sea miles than most people" and yet the only medication the vets could recommend was seasickness pills! The vestibular condition attacks the area of her brain that controls her inner gyroscope that allows her to stand ready on deck. So as we work with her rehabilitation, it is as if we are trying to straighten out the saunter of a drunken sailor...and her gaze has been reduced to rapid eye movements as if she is spinning out of control.
The positive side of our decision to love & care for her condition was found in her alert nature, her physical strength, her desire to overcome and her responsive wagging tail.
What a blessing this wonderful sea~dog has been in my life, setting an example of devotional love and unwavering stamina in overwhelming odds against her.
God bless you my sweet companion, Kelly Belle~ may you stay forever young
01/21/2013, Pamlico River, NC
Ol' MLK day was cause for celebration and it was time to prime the pumps and take the SPARROW (African Queen VOLVO) for a spin. Mostly due to the cold weather, I've been unable to get her 7 hp VOLVO diesel to turn over. But there were other issues as well, she has an automatic bilge pump cycling on and off every few minutes and that puts a drain on battery 1 (especially when there's nothing to pump). So we installed a battery 2 to help conserve power for an engine start. We've had several things installed since the SPARROW became mine....first of all, she did not have her glassed-in fuel tank hooked up (she was on a red polyethylene tank), upon investigation, the tank had to be cleaned out and we decided to install a RACOR fuel/water separator. Then I knew I would need an inverter for those times when you just need to plug something in. So with the cold weather, battery debacles and fuel feeds...I had yet to have success with turning her over.
That day had arrived, we put my handy dandy black n decker battery charger on for at least a half hour and then the marina mechanic came down and talked me through this 'monster's' routine. Thinking I just wasn't holding my mouth right, he went through the specific sequence with this engine and low and behold on the third try she stuttered into motion.
AHA....the secret was the ol' decompression valve I was not holding long enough. Once I understood that, it all made sense...even though I was not convinced that her coughing was actually a good sign that she was revving up! wOw...so much to learn with every different boat. The mechanic threw off my lines and off we went with a grin from ear to ear!
What a beautiful blue-sky day in mid January, in the 60's. Kelly Belle on the bow playing hood ornament and the open harbor opening up a whole new attitude toward this project. That little VOLVO ran like a top and I wondered if that young mechanic knew who I was talking about when I nicknamed her the African Queen, for that's exactly how she sounds. We tested out her turning curve and 'under power' hull speed forging up river and then out the mouth of the harbor for just a taste of the open water~
She swam like a dream in flat water and seemed to know the way back to her mooring where she coasted in without ordeal. The mechanic was proud to see her out and about and recognized we had some 'getting used to each other' time to spend. For our first solo together, she was stout and responsive!
~next time we launch her wing in the wind
|small boat adventures||
01/14/2013, Pamlico River, NC
So 'eyes are on the SPARROW' as she hosts a flurry of engine mechanics, riggers, mast climbers, catboat enthusiasts, canvas stitchers, transom board carvers and onlookers watching her steady transformation into a 'beautiful swimmer'.
Upon splash down and her somewhat permanent mooring by the lift dock, it became immediately apparent that her rigging was not quite what it should be. So with some back and forth conversations with MARSHALL, we downloaded and printed out the manufacturers rigging guidelines and found out there are good reasons that her rigging is not fully functioning. Mostly due to overkill and misplaced hardware aloft, her halyards continued to twist and the misalignments caused spars to not lift properly. The consensus on the dock was to go back to the drawing board and reconfigure her running rigging as "originally" intended. This is where this story begins like every other 'restoration project' boat.....most often, a boat must be 'restored' to her original intention not from weather abuse or even use....but by a series of judgement calls by previous owners.
This SPARROW had a unique beginning though (which we are still researching).....MARSHALL MARINE up on the New England coast just celebrated their 50th Anniversary in 2012 and the SPARROW will celebrate her 40th birthday this year. Here's where the story gets sketchy.....Marshall Marine was producing so many catboats early-on that they decided to sell a few "kit-boats". SPARROW began as one of these. She was sold as a hull to be finished out by the buyer. It was obvious that along her journey, some owners had done well by her and others were seafaring artisans, not. Actually, her below decks is quite unique and favorable to the "open" concept and so the standard cut up by bulkhead layout was tossed for a U-shaped wrap around salon with a handy table that fits snugly over the forward end of the centerboard trunk. The head then sits smartly at the bow abaft the mast tabernacle with a modesty curtain hung above. She bares a backing cushion that wraps around from beam to beam creating a finely fitted U for a cozy conversation, dinner or round of cards. All of these cushions are currently being replaced, refilled and updated to accentuate her warm inviting character.
As for her coat of many colors, we love her traditional~eco green hull with wood accents. Her pasty decks are next on the to-do list. Since her boot-stripe is white, but her decks are creamy, the Bristol Beige on the mast needed to tie into all the horizontal surfaces, leaving the verticals as white. Of course once all the painting is to a triad, then we can focus on bleaching out the toe rail to match the eventual cetol finish on the cockpit woods. Hopefully the brass rail will come back up to a nice finish. We're investigating a new hybrid material for the hand rails and cabin sole and still considering the wood trim around the main cabin top housing. And selecting a traditional canvas tweed for her sail covers and cockpit cushions. Of course all of this is cosmetic splash that will make her sparkle!
So the work continues: mechanical, electronic, rigging, hardware, cushioning, covering, painting, scrubbing, etc all for the love of a 'beautiful swimmer'.
I've been throwing out the tag line: "she'll be like a Winslow Homer painting, sailing around the Swansboro waterfront"~
11/12/2012, little Washington
It's OFFICIAL! Transfer of ownership of SPARROW, a classic Marshall 22' catboat for picnic charters and plein air painting adventures. In 1997, 15 years ago I began a journey with a vessel along the Carolina coast with my two children. We intended to give other sailing kids a sense of their seafaring heritage. That journey turned into flotillas, camp workshops, teacher staff development, national conference speaker invitations and cross country presentations about the maritime arts.
But all that came to a halt this past year when my Mom's condition worsened and my Father was holding on~
After the worst emotional storm of my life, my Mom passed on June 15th.....
She had been lost for some time suffering from alzheimers. It took me a couple months to mourn her passing and not sailing before her spirit awakened in me a new vision. Upon one of our last conversations, I asked her, "if you could go anywhere and do anything right now, what would you do?" and she said, "go sailing". Although her mind was lost to the disease, the mere fact that she could muster up a reply such as this was remarkable when most of her hours were spent either in bed or sitting out in the garden watching the sparrows for hours while Dad tended to the gardening. She found some solace in watching those sparrows.....so in her final days, Dad placed her hospital bed up close to the window so she could see out and continue to watch the sparrows feeding from the garden gazebo. You see, sailors have an old saying, that when a sailor is lost at sea, sparrows will come and carry their soul to heaven........and that's exactly what they did~
So that bright fall day as I had my early morning walk in the woods I felt her spirit come over me and stir my soul.....we were going sailing, still.
We (Kelly Belle & I) decided to take a road trip that morning up to Oriental, the sailing capital of North Carolina to rejuvenate our passion. Thought we might find a sailor or two and a few boats to look at, we even stopped by the local brokers yard to look at an interesting old boat, and then moved on. We decided to stop down by the ramp access and to our surprise there were two interesting catboats at the dock and a curious man climbing under a fence to access one of them. We followed his lead and caught his attention on the dock.....I called out, "so how do you like your catboat?"
An hour later, after making introductions and talking furiously about catboats and what makes them so special, I admitted to him that I was on a somewhat of a search for a catboat. He instantly told me of one that he had seen in an ad that was lying up in little Washington....he said if he weren't so busy that day, he would go check her out himself. So I took the universe for what it was playing out in front of me and headed to little Washington, specifically, McCotters Marina, a place that was on my list of stops when out on Sunday drives looking at boats.
I pulled into McCotters and there she was.......I felt a strong urgency to climb right aboard, finding a rickety old ladder and tying Kelly Belle to the hull stands. Could it be true, was this providence happening....had Mom led me to this rare find!?!?! I called the broker on the card to inquire and the mystery boat search had begun! She was listed as a '73 custom cat, but little did I know, with a little research, I was to find that this little sweetheart was a rare classic find from the New England coast.....a Marshall 22. Weeks later, after a wonderful sea trial held up only by a hurricane, she and I had bonded and several other folks made our acquaintance congratulating us on our contract. Catboat lovers came out of the woodwork (universe) telling us wonderful stories of their love of catboats and why they were so special. Once I released the plan to use her for a picnic charter service in Swansboro, it has been a magical line of folks appearing in all forms of circumstances and encouraging our new venture. WoW~
So today, SPARROW was officially commissioned into the Wallace Charter Service and activity surrounds her like a Belle going to the Ball. She sorely needed someone to come along and give her 'tender loving care' and I, I knew my Mom had led me here and we were going to bring the joy of sailing to even more folks for years to come~
Mom always said that one day, if she ever won the lottery (although she never bought a ticket), she would buy me a dreamboat....and sure enough....she did......her lottery was won in heaven and I found my dreamboat~ : )
I can remember always having cats. I think my sister started that tradition. My first cat's name was Fletcher and he was Black n' White. My other first cat's name was Atlantis and she was vanished wood and ocean blue and her make was all of an 11' penguin. She came by way of an estate auction...my Fletcher came by way of the pound.
My teenage years were filled with learning from cats....how to be independent and keep curiosity at bay. I learned how to trust that friendship was of comings and goings but always of warm greetings. I learned that 'being' is something to purr about. So the first time I sailed a cat of a different color, it was comforting when she purred as I skipped across the water at high speed with the agility of...well, a cat....er...a cat-amaran.
As I have maintained this quirky penchant for cats my entire life, I find myself continuously coming and going with one or more cats. At the present moment I have two cats in the yard and one sleeping on my bed and the next one I'm searching for online. And oh what a line it's been....beautiful, sleek, agile and without a doubt, full of grace.
For that's what cats do...Grace us with their presence!
*Oreo, Fletcher, Hobie, Miss Marble, Momma kitty and Max
*Atlantis 11' penguin catboat
*Hobie 16's, Hobie 14's, Nacra 5.2, Sailfish 12' catamarans
(currently seeking a skinny-water catboat to grow old with)
09/23/2012, Cleveland, Ohio
She sailed because she loved him...my father. And when I asked her in those remaining days, "if you could go do anything, what would you like to do?" And her reply, "go sailing".
Sailing was not a sport in our family, it was not even a hobby or pastime....it was a 'way of life'. Mom brought me aboard in those early years and laid me up in the v~berth. I have vivid memories of listening to those wooden ribs and planks breathing in a rhythmic pattern with the lift and fall of each wave she'd pull through. What a nurse-maid I had, the rolling and pitching of a wooden vessel~
As I grew, so did my adventurous spirit, and Mom was there to swim and dive with me wherever we weighed anchor. She and I would set off on foot to find the nearest town to gather supplies and of course somehow always find an ice cream parlor...her favorite! On one island in Canada, we came upon a little shop that had all forms of British/Scottish/Irish memorabilia and she ordered the 'Wallace' tartan fabric so she could make all of us 5 kids something for Christmas that year! You see she was always making something. Every boat was sewn together with Mom's love....every cushion, sail cover, sailboat cross-stitch, wheel cover, bimini, port-hole curtains and numerous other decorative & practical item.
But Mom was the self-proclaimed 'chief, cook & bottle-washer'....for down in the hold, organizing all the ships stores was her proclivity....we always laughed at how every floor board, closet and cubby was filled with canned meat (she canned herself in winter), vegetables, Heritage House soda, sweet-snacks and hard tack saltines! On cold dreary evenings when it seemed the whole world was wet and cold, she could pull something out of the stores and before long, the whole cabin was wafting with hearty smells and warming our bellies. Mom was good about things like that...always making you feel better and always encouraging you to get out there and challenge yourself.
It must have worked, because as I became a teenager and my siblings had all gone off and I remained behind, there were many times when the weather conditions even scared Mom. She would go down below to keep everything in place and Dad and I would face the storms together, he at the helm, and I pulling in the sails and lashing down loose ends. These were the days I remember most when I think about how much I loved my parents and how much courage they instilled in me.
Besides all the constant fixing and rehab on a boat, there was always plenty of water folly.....dragging our bodies on the leeward side as we sailed along, playing in the dinghy behind, swinging off the deck from the halyards and my personal favorite: being thrown overboard right before we crossed international waters so they could cheer that I had swam from the U.S. to Canada! ha ha You see, Mom was a water safety instructor and was ever vigilant about our swimming and diving skills....I had to have been the youngest child I knew that had full mask & fins gear. Mom would watch over me from onboard, as I would dive under the boat and to the bottom pretending to be Jacques Cousteau...my hero.
I can hardly remember a time when Mom wasn't busy doing something, fixing something, putting something away or trying to find something in the bilge. I remember she found out that you can't put cans of vegetables in the bilge because the paper labels will fall off. We had lots of succotash that summer, 'cause she never knew what was in the cans until they were opened....she called it dinner a la carte.
But at night, under the caboose lantern light in the cabin, she would insist we play a round of "oh Hell", her favorite family card game. I can still hear her say "Hell's Bells" whenever she didn't make her call. Once in a blue moon, I would catch her reading a book and falling asleep, until I noticed her little secret......as the book fell down on her lap, I would notice she had cut a square hole out of the center of the book and I had discovered her buried treasure hiding place!! har har
One of my funniest memories of Mom was when we were docking at South Bass Island and she had one foot on the dock and one on the boat with the bow line in her hand....as the boat started drifting away from the dock, she looked at me with a glint in her eye and she declared, "I'm going in aren't I?" And sure enough, she splashed into the space between the boat and the dock. She came up cool and refreshed sputtering water, "ah, that felt good".
I loved my Mom that much more when we were at sea. It always seemed we had left all our troubles far away....and this was family time~and that made Mom happy!
thanks Mom for making all those memories~
*my Mom passed this summer on June 15th and her spirit rose into the wind~