No rush…

Such wonderful words, and so refreshing to hear after last spring’s ‘rushing’, it turns out, is what led to our major rudder headaches that rippled through a good part of this summer and, in turn, left us with yet another repair for the coming winter. More on that later. But first, Saturday went PERFECT.

The original plan was to move Annabel Lee to her new winter home on Friday, with both high tide and daylight in our favor. But by Friday morning the wind was ripping from the north and the river churning. By afternoon high tide, the only time we can ease our four foot six inch draft out from Piermont’s shallows, conditions had only worsened. We still had the option of the next high tide at 4:16 a.m., which coincided with a predicted lull in the winds, which would shift to a more agreeable easterly direction as well.

Saturday morning we were underway beneath a crisp, star-filled sky, with a light breeze and smooth water. Traffic on the Tappan Zee Bridge was light, and even lighter beneath it. The only other vessels we saw through our trip were a pair of tugs pushing barges.

Continuing north, daylight gradually lit the sky and the sun rose as we reached Haverstraw. We tied up as the yard opened and then moved Annabel Lee into the pit. The lift went smoothly and the yard crew worked with easy, practiced precision. One minute we’re floating, next, suspended high in the air.

While the yard crew pressure-washed Annabel Lee’s bottom, we took the car, dropped off two nights earlier, and ran up the road for breakfast. We would have brought back coffee for the guys, but they said they were good. After they finished up, we set to work removing the skeg and disconnecting the rudder. We checked to be sure we weren’t holding things up and were reassured there was ‘no rush’, and we could do whatever work we needed. So we proceeded to flush the engine, winterize it, and yet again change the oil. Again we checked, and again were told ‘no rush’. After last winter and spring, where everything was ALWAYS a rush, always hurry-hurry, this was a pleasant, though unfamiliar, change of pace. So we washed the boat down before she would go indoors. Then the yard lifted the boat higher and we eased the rudder out. Sure enough, there were suspicious wear marks, slight, but telling. By now it was lunchtime and the car was loaded to capacity with no room for the rudder, so we ran home to grab lunch and switch over to the truck. The yard told us after lunch they’d move the boat to the shed. When we returned, there she was off to the corner, blocked neatly and perfectly, right where we’d hoped they’d put her.

The nicest part was seeing how professionally they’d set her, with blocks running the length of her keel (not just TWO, like two winters ago in Massachusetts, and six stands, chained together, not four, the way we began last winter.) This is the proper arrangement for a boat of her size and weight, and seeing that the yard set things up so well only added to our confidence that we’d come to the right place. Being in a yard where work proceeded smoothly and efficiently, without rushing and shouting, was very reassuring. I’ve both worked at and been a customer in yards where a sense of urgency, real or imagined, creates tension, mistakes and unnecessary damage, such as dismastings, dropped boats, toppled cranes, and our rudder. (Back to that later.) True, we deliberately hauled prior to the peak fall haul-outs, but even when yards aren’t busy I’ve seen them racing themselves, as if they’re scored on how fast they can get a boat from water to blocks. This doesn’t appear to be the case here, and that makes me very happy. And considering they have no issues with our intentions to do extensive work on the boat ourselves, it seems we’ve at last found the ideal location for Annabel Lee.

At the moment we have much of the shed to ourselves, aside from the Wiggins forklift and a graceful little wood sloop tucked safely behind a large stack of wood. By the looks of things, someone was moving along with an ambitious restoration, though it seems work came to a halt years ago. She looks quite sound and sturdy, and being well protected, doesn’t appear to have suffered any further deterioration. I’m curious what her story is, and glad to see she’s not outdoors, where weather would take its toll.

And the rudder…

You regular readers may recall my mention no only of our ongoing aggravation with the rudder sticking at a certain angle, but of last spring’s gray-hair-inducing rudder installation, which occurred at the end of the Great Keel Ordeal. Following repairs on the keel, we reinstalled the shaft and rudder, which required the Travelift raise the boat high enough that we could c-a-r-e-f-u-l-l-y lift the large and heavy rudder back in place. This involved several volunteers above and below. We were midway through gently jacking the rudder in position when the yard manager, ever in a rush, insisted he’d speed the process up by LOWERING the boat over the shaft. Even as we shouted “NO!” he proceeded anyways, and for a moment something hung up in the housing, with all the boat’s weight bearing down. After what seemed an eternity he finally heard our frantic shouts of “UP! UP!” and lifted the boat enough for us to align the shaft and things to slide into place. Needless to say, we could only hope no damage occurred.

Unfortunately, hoping was not enough. Through the coming weeks it became apparent something was clearly wrong, something that even the mid-summer short-haul could not correct. We spent the summer suspecting the worst and ultimately using the boat very little. Sure enough, when we pulled the rudder, as stated, there were some suspicious new wear marks. A quick inspection of the housing, shining a light up inside, revealed marks in the metal, and damage of some degree. It ‘s possible that was bent as well. Fortunately the good people at S&S Propeller assured us this is something they know how to tackle, so it looks like I’ll be heading over to Flushing in the coming weeks.

If anyone wonders why we put ourselves through all this, as I’ve stated from the beginning, we’re clearly out of our minds. But our sanity was somewhat reassured as we paid a visit to the Norwalk Boat Show earlier today. We went there hoping to find some resources for repairs, parts suppliers and the like, but discovered that was not to be. The vendors, for the most part, were either offering their services or selling things like (I kid you not) LED lighted cup-holders. Clearly, this was not a show for the do-it-yourself crowd. I’ve heard the wooden boat shows may be more of what we’re looking for. But we’d paid our admission, so I suggested to Frank we take a stroll down the dock to view the shiny new stuff floating there. I can’t even venture to guess the price-tags on those gleaming toys. As the saying goes, if you have to ask how much, you can’t afford it. But amusingly, as we strolled among the window-shoppers, we paused to study construction on some of these multi-million dollar yachts, noticing the nice and the less-than-nice workmanship. There were details that impressed us, and just as often, places where corners were cut. For that kind of money, I expect my corners to be steam-bent and perfectly fitted. The more we looked, the more we came to appreciate our well-built little boat. I’d like to see how some of these fine boats weather 32 years of love, knocks and neglect. Will all this work we’re doing restoring this boat be worth it in the end? Financially? Probably not. We knew that going in. But the more I look around, the more I see, they just don’t build them like they used to.

And finally, in the life of Moxy, Loki and Rex… we’re gonna need a bigger couch!

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