May 18, 2001

[TO MAIN PAGE]

[TO NARRATIVES AND PHOTOS LIST]

[TO PHOTOS MAY 18]

 

 

May 18, 2001

Latitude N 48 degrees 29.6 minutes. Longitude W 122 degrees 40.9 minutes. Daytime temperatures 55 to 60 degrees, wind calm and skies (as usual) overcast.

So far I have been limited to just staring out at the San Juan Islands. Over there I see rocks, thatch, moss and a thick forest of cedar trees. They call Washington the "Evergreen State" because of all the conifer trees around here, I suppose. I have also figured that all of those trees need water - lots of water. Therefore, that's WHY it rains alot in Washington. Do I have that backwards? The ongoing cloudy overcast gives rise to a local joke. "How do you enjoy your summer in Washington?" Answer: "If it occurs on a weekend, you usually go on a picnic." Even so, I'm enjoying my stay here. When compared to the East Coast, here it (1) it doesn't freeze and snow in the winter, (2) there are no bugs, (3) there's no overbearing humidity in the summer, (4) boats are kept in marinas as opposed hanging to moorings, (5) boats can be kept in the water in the same harbor year around, (6) there aren't any electrical storms, (7) AND there aren't any hurricanes. I should include how I admire the incredible beauty of West Coast geography.

It's sunny today (unusual) and the daytime temperature rose to 69 degrees! "Summer's on the way." they're saying. We're still in Flounder Bay commissioning the boat, and she is looking great. The systems are checking out. Cruise departure date is now June 15. That assumes we don't pass a woman carrying an empty pale, a minister doesn't come aboard and nobody brings a rabbit to the boat. Thankfully, nobody has mentioned any of those "furry things". All of these are bad omens. Check the log of Captain Robert Oakapple of the West Indiaman, "Felicity". The retrieved log of the "Felicity" is printed below. We didn't launch on a Friday. That is good. We changed her name. That is bad.

Last week I removed the acorn barnacle that was growing in the hose that leads to the refrigeration cooling line. It then ran perfectly (the refrigerator) and promptly froze everything in both refrigerator compartments. A twist of a small screwdriver, and I adjusted the temperatures. I installed an automated bilge pump that has an alarm which, when triggered by high water in the bilge, will raise the dead from their sleep. Light beams into the boat's cabin now that we've replaced all of the hatch tops with clear acrylic. We added a second anchor, called a Spade anchor. It's made in Tunisia. When scientifically measured against our old Scottish made CQR anchor, it demonstrated twice the holding power. That's good to know when you're 'on the hook', and the wind starts to blow at two in the morning. I remember hanging off "Silver Heels's" bowsprit one night, in my tee shirt and shorts, 'fixin' the anchor rode. With a good anchor rigged you get some sleep on a windy night. After these days of endless work, I'd sleep just fine anchored to a crab pot. I'm so very tired, but tired from a work of joy. The harder we work, the more Ellen and I love this boat. We've begun to personify the boat. "Her" mast boot is done, "her" dinghy is almost done. "She" has a great cabin layout. I think that's the way it should be. Tonight, I worked out in the rain fastening some deck chocks for the new boat hook (I made the specially designed boat hook out of hickory, and it floats, not flat on the water surface, but end-up vertically for easy retrieval.) Winds as predicted by the "weather-guessers" were going to gust to 60 knots. But, I stayed out finishing the job for her! Yes. Her! The 'inanimate' object. The boat!

I had those personified feelings about the schooner "Silver Heels", but she is gone. So is her fifteen foot bowsprit and her 'desire' to skewer a fuel pump on the dock, or a Hinckley yawl in the harbor, or a table at a dockside cafe or a biker's Harley parked near the water's edge. Gone is the difficult cabin pathway to the schooner's head. At night I would have to get out of my bunk, duck to half my height, open a door, sashay thru the engine room, duck thru another small door and finally, stand upright facing left or right depending on the need to be met. "Love of Liberty" has an open cabin space. From the aft sleeping cabin I can walk forward to the head proudly standing upright all the way. There's a stall shower in this boat, and believe me, that represents an improvement over the 'telephone' shower located over the toilet seat in the old schooner. Showering no longer creates a monsoon in the water closet.

My father and I loved boats as far back as I can remember. In the forties, just after WW II, my father took to amateur boat building. My mother said the 'damn' boat was in the back of the garage. I knew that. I enjoyed playing there between the wood frames of a boat he was building. He tolerated my swinging the plumb bobs against one another, piling sawdust on the keel, and ripping a piece of oak with his father's precious crosscut saw. That saw survived the San Francisco '06 earthquake and was used after the quake to build my grandfather's home. I used it now to build "Love of Liberty's" dinghy. So, my dad's boats were made of wood, they had gas engines, their masts were made of wood and their sails were made of cotton. The bronze and brass fittings I polished with BrilliantShine. Each screw in the hull was driven by a Yankee hand screwdriver after each screw was dipped in Weldwood glue. There were hundreds, I know because my father bought screws by the 'gross', 144 screws to the box. There were those little boxes all over the shop. Sweat, cut fingers, glue stained jeans, sawdust piles, scraps of Honduras mahogany, teak and oak, Folger's coffee cans filled with gelled paint or varnish ... all of this fused into a thing of beauty, ... my father's boat. Out of the mud grew a Lotus. I, thereby, acquired a certain romance with wood boats. I always believed I would own a boat someday, and it would be a wood boat. At that time what else was there for boatbuilding?

I bought my first boat in the sixties, and it wasn't made of wood. I was about to buy a wood boat called a New York 32 that was in beautiful condition. An old sailing friend talked me out of it and moved me toward a newer fiberglass design, which I purchased. In the late1960's sailboaters thought fiberglass boatbuilding was 'de riguer' and traditional wood boats were on their way out. Now several boats later, I'm sixty-two years older. Interestingly, that New York 32 is in demand and is selling for more than the fiberglass boat I first owned. Now I've owned a wood boat - several actually - and fiberglass boats. I've built four small wood boats myself. I like wood boat designs the best ... but I know I would be forever varnishing, painting, caulking, refastening and patching if I owned another 44 foot wood boat. "Love of Liberty" bridges the gap. Sure her hull is fiberglass, but she's covered with wood decks, wood trim, wood hatches, a wood boarding ladder and incredible wood joinery in the cabin. She has traditional lines. I've built a wood dinghy for her, as well. Sure the halyards are dacron not manila, the shrouds are stainless steel wire not galvanised wire, the sails are synthetic dacron not cotton, and the mast is aluminum not wood. This boat is NOT a compromise. I think I have the best all worlds. I've been aboard boats from Maine to New York to the Virgin Islands to the Great Lakes, and from San Diego to British Columbia. Wood boat traditionalists, purists I've met along the way, want their boats to be "authentic" using the old materials. They scoff at the new materials. However, I've yet to see a restored traditional wood sailboat with cotton sails. Synthetic Dacron made to look like Egyptian cotton is what they use! Then the other shoe drops when some contemporary sailor sees my boat. "Too much wood to take care of. You'll haf'ta varnish all that." "Those wood decks won't last." he'll say. I say, in the words of George Bernard Shaw, "For every difficult question, there is an answer that is clear and simple and wrong." Heck with 'em all. I'm very tired of their Jehad. Secretly, I know they all admire this boat. She is soooooo perfect.

With warm regards,

Terry and Ellen

THE LOG OF THE EAST INDIAMAN "FELICITY"

Superstition has always played an interesting role in the history of the sea. Some of the most colorful apprehensions affected the lives of sailors and their families in the early days of our nation. One of the oldest taboos was against launching a boat on Friday. This fear still manifests itself in some parts of our country. It was also considered bad luck to carry a rabbit aboard, matter of fact, even the mention of the name was avoided. To speak of "one of those furry things" was a strain in itself. Pigs were also feared.

Ministers were hardly welcome aboard, supposedly bringing foul weather to any ship. They weren't even mentioned when underway. Women were taboo, and it wasn't until late in the nineteenth century that we began to read of "sailing wives." Curiously enough, should a departing sailor pass a woman with an empty pail, he had better do something to counteract the evilness of the spell bound to be upon him, or else.

Trumpets and other horns were considered talismans of good luck and launchings had better be accompanied by frequent and hearty blasts if the ship were to fare well. Bad happenings at launch time apparently presaged bad times for the life of any vessel. High flown names were avoided as were names of oceans or seas. You might recall the poem about the Atlantic which comments after describing the loss of that ship, "there shall not two Atlantics be." Historic among haunting accounts of ill luck at sea is the log of the ship Felicity, a West Indiaman captained by one Robert Oakapple. The following are excerpts from a true account.

******

June 3rd, 1820 -- Going down to the vessel for launching at 10:30 A.M. met woman with empty pail and passed the Rev. Adam Noble. Launching unsuccessful. Ways broke down. Fear the hull has been strained.

June 16th -- Hull jacked up and ways repaired. Builder reports no injury to vessel. Ship took the water at 11:15 P.M.

June 30th -- Great difficulty in securing crew to take vessel around to London.

July 10th -- Weighed anchor 5:20 A.M., stood down channel under all plain sail. Temperature 62. Wind light S.S.W. Fair, Glass steady, 29.51.

July 12th -- Mate reports that seaman had brought one of those furry things aboard in a covered cage. Ordered its neck rung and body thrown overboard. Story of launching has gotten about. Crew grumbling, wish me to turn back. Temperature 70. Wind steady S.E. fair.

July 26th -- St. Elmo's fire on yards and trucks lasted fifteen minutes. Strange spectacle. Lat. N. 31.35, Long. W. 41.13. Temperature 71. Wind N.E. Cloudy.

July 27th -- Yesterday fell in with large topsail schooner: thought it to be a slaver. Came within hail and stated he was short of water; asked if I could give him some; longboat came alongside about 7:30 P.M. and seven men came on deck. Drew pistols, backed me into cabin, bound me, took what money I had, water and other things they wanted, compelled six of crew to accompany them, leaving the rest bound, and vessel hove to. In no condition to resist. Mate managed to free himself and others. Now shorthanded. Temperature 69. Wind N.E. strong, fair.

August 6th -- Two of crew sick, think slavers men brought small pox aboard. Wind N.E. by N. Lat. N. 25.07, lon., W. 52.22 W. Temperature 72 Moderate, fair.

August 7th -- Another man down. Occasional showers. Temperature 65. Wind N.E., Cloudy.

August 8th -- Curious sunset last night; whole sky orange coloured. Wind baffling and puffy; glass falling. Now under reefed topsails. Temperature 78. Wind N.E., cloudy.

August 9th -- Dismasted. Sudden squall of hurricane force from S.E. for about six minutes. Too shorthanded to reduce sail quick enough. Long boat crushed by fall of foremast, lost two men overboard. Ship leaking badly; clear water coming up from pumps. Temperature 74. Wind now light, N.E., fair, no observation today.

August 11th -- Balance of sound hands left ship in jolly boat while I was in hold with carpenter trying to locate leak. Ship sinking. One of sick died last night. God help us.

 

(A half cask, containing the logbook from which the foregoing extracts are taken, was picked up by the bark Emilia of Fair Haven, Mass., on August 12, 1820, in latitude N. 23 59', longitude W. 51 41'.)

 

 

[TO MAIN PAGE]

[TO NARRATIVES AND PHOTOS LIST]

[TO PHOTOS MAY 18]