Captured by the Spell of the Vessel

Boats do have their famous ways to grab your attention in its entirety and dominate the doings of your daily living, exterminating without mercy any trace of free will. I guess that is what exasperated and exhausted men mean when they say the boats are worse than women and when boats are called upon to give their proverbial promise of freedom, I’d like to caution that this does come at a very high price! To cut a long story short we are now in the midst of paying our dues for having abandoned Aluna to the elements for a good twenty months. Boats by their very nature do make their home on the water, and that is a very unforgiving element indeed!

I mentioned in my last post, it could have been an awful lot worse and we certainly are grateful for that. But the transformation of two cheerful vagabonds jet setting across half of the globe and paying delightful visits to friends and family along the way into, once again, scrubbing sponge and epoxy brush wielding maritime construction workers does grind away at the ever meager resources of the psyche. For all of you leading the stable fantasy of a normal life, let yourselves be warned: There is a price to be paid for freedom, and rightfully so. The irony of this statement can not be expressed with any emoticon!

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Here’s a short list of what’s been done since our return and what awaits eagerly at the pole positions of our various lists. The bottoms have been almost freed of the astonishing amount of marine growth, banging away at it from the dinghy with an aluminum scraper on a long stick. This latest and greatest form of cardio workout has helped to raise Aluna out of the water a good inch and a half. The shells of those admirable beings that made their filtering home on our boat hulls sport a density similar to that of rocks, after all they are sand waiting to be ground under pounding surf somewhere on the fringes of our earth’s oceans.

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The aft netting beam came off its two sockets atop the sternposts with the intention of fixing a couple of cracks in the fiberglass. Chiseling away on its ends at Ted’s shop a soggy mess of not very nice smelling dark grey wood soon appeared and before we knew it, the option of constructing a new beam had emerged as a far more reasonable approach to the problem. A short trip to the lumber yard with our newly acquired little wine red Honda Logo with three five-meter-long boards strapped to its fragile roof on the way back provided with the necessary materials for the task at hand. An I-beam with a slightly curved top similar to the Tiki 38’s main beams was deemed the best design, after discarding the temptation to purchase a piece of round aluminum extrusion due to the three times heavier material costs.

alunajan16 - 7 alunajan16 - 8The three boards, two 19x140mm vertical grain and one treated construction grade 2×6, were first glassed before gluing them together. Cutouts where made on the contraption to sit in the sockets and extra layers of fiberglass were laid on the places where the lashings will try to gnaw their way into the delicate timber. Three pads were then added at carefully measured positions to accommodate the blocks for suspending the boarding ramp. The vertical board was a good meter and a half longer than needed. I decided against cutting these ends off, thinking they would make good supports for adding two little catwalks outside the tiller arms. Two one inch holes were finally drilled to either side of the rudders to serve as fairleads for the bridle of our sea anchor, which should help us ride out any serious storm. Finally, three coats of gleaming white marine enamel paint culminated the fabrication and by now Aluna’s newest member sits proudly aft, all that is left to do is attach the bridle for the steering lines and the netting that spans between the center catwalk and the starboard hull before checking this task off the list.

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While I’ve been busy with these testosterone prone activities, Beatriz let her estrogen flow freely by tidying up Aluna inside out to make her livable again, chasing grime and slime and spider webs away sending them off to find happiness somewhere else. The joy about the absence of seagull guano on Aluna’s decks on our return was somehow tempered by the discovery of swarms of swallows who made their agile flybys just before sunset, cruising at breakneck speed under and in between the two hulls. Christian, our neighbor and owner of SV Donella and the mooring Aluna is still tied up to, was swearing out his full German self about their nesting under his sail covers, messing up the sails underneath. The crevices between Aluna’s hulls and decks soon turned out to have received ample decoration marked by the little critter’s poop. But that was an easy clean up, as it became soon obvious, having all dried to little hoops of black dust.

What we had to keep an iron fisted secret though was the discovery of two small nests the swallows had built behind beam number three, just underneath the step I had glued there to be able to walk back and forth behind the cockpit, because we had seen what happened to the poor critters should they end up in the hands of Christian. Little black thingies dangling from SV Donella’s lifelines when observed through our binoculars turned out to be the lifeless bodies of our swallow’s siblings hung by their feet as scarecrows against those undesired intruders.

We granted our guests a two-week extension to their lease while we went for our house sitting stint down to Auckland over the holidays. On our return the three tiny little eggs in one of the nests had turned into fat balls of dark brown plumage slumbering away during daylight while their diligent parents where out and about snapping up enough fluttering critters to come home and feed their brood at dusk. Within a couple more days those fat balls of dark brown plumage had again transformed into aspiring acrobats of the airways, each one of them making the most important leap of faith to adulthood without stranding in the lethal waters below. It was now time to unmount the nests from their inopportune location to contemplate their intrinsically mudded engineering.

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Next up will be the transferring of the big main sail from its old and tired spars to the new bamboo sticks we had glassed just before leaving for Europe on May 2014. These are much more solid than the old ones and will hopefully provide our mainsail with added stiffness, to be able to leave it up in stronger winds to provide ample power of propulsion to our vessel. For February 24 we have booked a date for Aluna to be hauled out of the water at the Norsand Boat Yard in Whangarei, as her bottoms are in need of urgent care. This implies a short sailing stint of about 60 miles down the Northland coast, where those new spars will have to prove their worth. Plans are to sand the underwater parts of both hulls free from the lime stone residue down to the copper epoxy substrate and recoat with an additional coat of this up to the chine line. The failure to do so due to having fallen prey to the persistent myth of the waterline has been given ample payment by scrubbing green algae sludge from supposedly white top side paint. An additional ailment to be cured while on the hard is the port hull’s rudder blade, which had been knocked off its centered position because the ropes of its classic Wharram hinges had not been glued in properly. Aluna has limped across the watery Pacific this way since shortly after we left Hawai’i.

Then, finally and hopefully, once this string of sweaty labors will have been completed, we will be able to turn our attention to planning for the travels ahead. This, of course, is where all the true excitement lies. In the meantime though, the brain must not fall ill while the brawn does its mindless duty!

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One Response to “Captured by the Spell of the Vessel”

  1. Rudy Says:

    All I can say is that you guys are made of stuff that is not of this earth. It must be stuff found only in THE DEEP BLUE SEA or deeper even. Maybe it is some type migrating pills with extra gills. If you need more guts don’t come runnin’ to us. We are fresh out as of 50 years ago… All our best but I must warn you that that’s not good enough.

    You do know that its getting harder and harder to get out of this world alive. Now we must add to it the same goes for going around it on three glorified popsicle sticks. Ahhh to dream to the dream of the Beats…

    Rudy & Dora

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