Tuesday, 28 May 2013

The Shed of Danger

I've mentioned The Shed of Danger in a previous post. The small shed built into the corner of the seawall is even more dangerous now. The other week the brick walls and corrugated roof dropped by a foot, the wood plank that's wedged diagonally across its interior must have slipped somehow. It's still wedged, keeping the remaining pieces of wall upright, but with more bricks lacing the ground around it and those still making up the wall far more gappy it feels time for a rename: The Shed of Peril. A smaller but more threatening structure.

What makes it particularly frustating is that there is still wood in there: bits of pallet and furniture, a couple of tree trunks, I daren't retrieve. Every so often I'll wade through the nettles and lust after the unobtainable wood. Just like a teenage girl with boys. There's a certain thrill in peering at the roof, the walls and working out how I might safely snaffle some pieces before acknowledging there's no way I'm going in. Like the school disco.

Originally this was the oil shed, where they kept the oil for the lighthouse. There's an arched doorway (now bricked up) in the wall nearby, providing a shortcut to the lower light. Over the winter a little owl was roosting here, although I've not seen it recently. And now it's bedecked with apple blossom, footed by bluebells, making it seem almost Romantic in its wreckage. A folly.

The sensible thing would be to pull it down. Which isn't going to happen. That it looks exactly the same as it did, apart from being a foot or so shorter, draws me back again again. My surveillance of it is another reason for braving the nettles. Will it drop lower and lower, as if sinking below ground? The old fishhouse was partially below ground to keep the fish cool. Somehow the building (so far) has retained its integrity of four walls and a roof. It's just editing itself for a change of purpose. One that doesn't involve five foot high people.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

I might forget but my body never will

Delayed by the strong easterlies of March and April we've only just put the boat back together. I chose the surprisingly relaxing job of untangling the lazy jacks (above) for my starter. These two lines hang either side from the mast to the sail cover on the boom, to make sure the main sail flakes neatly into itself when released rather than needing people to catch and fold it as it falls (as we did in the 'olden days'). Two pulleys and three small clips hang from the one loose end so it's a slow job freeing it from itself, tangled from having been washed. The cord is smooth and easy running, which makes a huge difference to the job.

It was pleasant sitting in the cockpit letting the cord slip through itself, slowly lengthening. It's an assault course for the fingers and eyes, a reverse macramé, the loose sensation of slipping with a river current that required little thought, more physicality. It's a rare boat job that doesn't have a low tremour of anxiety to it. Even mousing lines out of the boom or mast - tying the working rope to a smaller one and pulling it free so the track is still evident for when you need to return it - comes with a sense of worry that I may lose the knot half way down the mast, so pulling the small mousing line free and losing the ability to rethread the reefing lines or halyard.

This being the boat the relaxing job ends soon enough. The lines have to be attached to the pulleys two thirds of the way up the mast... 10 metres up. Even with someone else hauling me on two halyards in a climbing harness as I cling to the stays, the spinnaker halyard and mast, the ascent is nerve-racking. Not so much muscular as mental.  

Do not look down. There is no need to look down. As I rise. And with three people pottering about on deck each wobble of the boat is amplified as it is reverberates up the mast. At least standing on the spreaders to reach the pulleys meantsI feel a little more securely braced against the boat, and takes away the cut of the harness into my thighs, but my fingers are cold and need all the focus I can muster to co-ordinate to untie the end of one cord from my belt, thread it through the pulley, and tie it back to my belt, twice, to bring them back to the deck so we can raise the lazy jacks and therefore the sail cover. My right leg begins to shake uncontrollably, a minute tremour that prevents any load bearing. I press myself harder against the mast until I can shot Done! and am smoothly returned to deck.

As with seasickness, as soon as I'm on solid ground, the shakes cease. Stored invisibly in my muscle memory for the next time.