Sunday, 19 April 2009

Shake Down

For those of you waiting with baited breath - we got the boat back into the water the week before Easter.

We then proceeded to spend about six wo/man days so it was ready to go sailing: getting the electrics reconnected (not my job); running rig (the ropes) back on board, in place; sails attached; sink glued in; life raft, flares etcetera back on; scrub throughout and numerous other little bits and pieces, not to mention the three hoiks to the top of the mast to unravel halyards (ropes that hold sails up) and rejig the furler, which you'll remember from this entry.

The thing about being at the top of the mast is every teensy step that the people on the deck make is reverberated several fold by the time it's travelled 40 odd feet vertically, so you're left swinging violently. I took the first trip up, reminding myself that I'd done it when one boat I was crewing on was underway. I was 23 that time and now hated the thought of having lost the courage I'd had then. I can't remember when I was last so scared. You don't actually have to do anything to get up except keep cool - the people below winch you up, you just feed yourself up the mast and make sure you don't get your legs the wrong side of the stays (the wires that hold it up).

It was only once down and in the pub that we read that on no account should you use snap shackles to be winched up on - exactly what we had used and I kept looking at in apprehension on the way up - they are a quick release, supposedly when tugged, but not half as secure as ones that are screwed in nice and slowly, and need to be screwed nice and slowly out.

But we did it, with the loss of one washer and a few curse words overboard. So three of us got the pleasure of checking all the ropes pulled the right things and the sails did what they were meant to and we could remember what was what and how to ask for things nicely of each other.

We had the lightest of breezes - about six knots to take us north over the bay to Piel Island, just off Barrow, which we caught at a speed of about three knots - we could have walked faster - but just perfect to test everything. And then to arrive at Piel Island - a bird kingdom, guarded by grey seals - with enough time to circumnavigate the island, nose about the castle ruins, grab a beer before cooking dinner under a glossed pink sky and the hurl and hush of gulls and ducks bedding down for the night.

Despite the other anchored boats, the campers on the island, the lights of Barrow and the rev of the ferryman's engine, that night felt like the most solitary, expansive beginning of the year for me. The start of another season of boating. I think I might mark it with the writing of my first poem in six months.

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