We are anchored in a very quiet spot just 12 miles from Noumea, New Caledonia. After three weeks of great weather, rain has set in. Perfect time to do a bit or writing. Today I finished editing a short story I started when we were preparing Sahula for the voyage away from the New Zealand winter. Hope you enjoy it.
Finding the Balance
By Lin Pardey
Half of each day the boat is afloat, half it is aground, high, dry, steady, sitting right next to my boatshed on a tidal grid. Reason? We are finally finishing a refit that was supposed to take six or eight weeks and has been on going for more than a year. More important, we are on the countdown. Just 10 weeks to get Sahula ready for another ocean passage.
That’s not to say we haven’t been sailing during the past year. We have. We’ve been getting away every second month for a few weeks at a time. My almost 5 decades of life afloat has taught me; nothing helps a refit as much as taking a sailing break. Even if the boat is a mess, even if you have to shove everything into boxes and live a bit rough, sailing away for a few days or weeks helps keep up the enthusiasm. And the bonus, it gives you mental space to sort out the necessities of the next phase of the refit. But now we are on the home stretch – or should I say the true run-away-from-home stretch.
For the major portion of our refit, we had Mike Hayes, a retired boatbuilder helping for a few hours a day with all the woodwork inside Sahula. David, between times spent being the builders apprentice, took care of ripping things apart, inspecting every crevice and cranny for rust (Sahula is a steel, 40-foot Van de Stadt cutter), then descaling and sealing and repainting the hull surfaces. I did the general dogs body work; sourcing and sorting supplies, sanding and varnishing, painting the finished woodwork, applying bandaids when necessary. But a few months ago Mike realized he had to get back to refitting his own boat. David was okay with the work involved in removing and replacing a large part of the overhead paneling and the majority of the remaining jobs. But, his woodworking skills and the patience to deal with the bits of trim we needed, are limited. All of a sudden, I was faced with a new reality. If I wanted the wood trim to match the work Mike had done, I had to try something new.
During the years I worked alongside Larry as he built our boats and repaired other people’s boats, he had taught me how to safely use basic woodworking tools and machinery. I’d learned to sharpen a chisel or scraper so I could remove the tops of wood plugs, or clean up pencil marks or sawblade scratches before applying the varnish or paint that made a customer’s boat look good. But up until a few weeks ago the only wooden things I’d actually built were some rickety sawhorses for the shop and a paper towel holder as a gift for a favorite sailing friend.
Then David came walking up to the house and said, “Lin, the only way I can think of to hide the wire connection for the overhead light in the salon is with a little wooden box. Are you willing to find some time to make one?”
Talking more boldly than I felt, I said, “Of course.” After all, how hard could it be – a simple little rectangular box just 1-1/4 inch by 2 inches by ¾ inch deep (32mm by 50mm by 19mm). Then I climbed on board the boat and realized, everyone would be able to see the box – everyone who sat at the salon table, or turned on the overhead light!
Slowly, methodically, I set to work; first creating a rough sketch of my project, then measuring, not once but twice before marking a cutting line on each piece of timber (is it correct to call the small scraps I was using “timber”?) As I plugged in the small bandsaw, I remembered the sign Larry had drawn up 50 years or more in the past, just before he let me use a bandsaw for the first time. It read, “Have you ever seen a nine fingered piano player?” Carefully I cut the small scraps into even smaller pieces. Two hours later I had done a practice run, piecing the four tiny sides and bottom I’d cut and sanded together to be sure each one fit correctly then figuring out how I was going to clamp them together while the glue dried. Next I carefully and quickly as possible mixed up some five-minute epoxy, spread it on both sides of each joint just as Larry had always done, then aligned and clamped my miniature project onto a square of baking paper on the workbench quickly together.
Late that afternoon I set to work sanding off the excess glue so I could finally see if my joints would have met Larry’s standards. I applied the first coat of varnish then ran up to the cottage and urged David to come and see my tiny creation.
I am quite proud of him. He didn’t laugh. “It will do the job perfectly,” he solemnly stated. “So now, how long will it take you to make the trim for the loo area?” David also didn’t laugh when I put the box in my pocket before we rowed across the bay to have drinks with a neighbor. Nor did he tease me when I carried it around for four days and showed it to other friends.
Now, two weeks and about three dozen pieces of trim later I am considering buying another chisel to add to my arsenal. For I have found I really enjoy working with wood, figuring out how to cut a compound angle right the first time, now to measure the correct length for a piece of trimming timber that will have to be bent to conform to the underside of the deck. It is like working on an intricate three-dimensional puzzle. But with a far longer lasting sense of accomplishment.
“Real difference between you and I,” David commented just a day ago. “I think you like working on the boat as much as you like sailing.”
Looking back over the years I have spent around the marine world, I think he may be right. I am one of those people who not only loves sailing, but enjoys taking care of a boat, making it look tidy, organized, and sometimes even easier to use. On the other hand, I am also aware there is a potential pitfall, the tendency to, as Larry would often say, “trip out on the job.” I have watched a lot of folks get so carried away with trying to make their boat perfect that they actually never got away sailing. I was reminded of this when I asked David to help me secure yet another a piece of trim in place. As the last screw went in, I realized the joint didn’t fit as well as it could. “I’ll take it down and make a new one tomorrow,” I said.
“Come on Lin, it’s good enough,” David stated. “Besides, who is going to sit on the loo and look at the overhead trim joints. Let’s just get this job done.”
He is right. As much as I am enjoying my new-found skill, time is passing, the open ocean is calling and, if I put a bit of putty in the joint before I paint the trim, even I won’t notice the less than perfect fit.
P.S. Video making, writing, blogging – all have added to my cruising kitty through the years. That is why I was pleased to find a way to share what I’d learned along the way. Now, I am delighted with the comments I am getting from folks who have downloaded or purchased the USB version of Storytelling for Sailors which includes interviews with 12 other sailors who have also found ways to earn from video, Youtubing and writing.
“Inspiring” - Kimberly Ward (She has just finished writing her first sailing sailing book , Three on board)
“Really useful guidelines for building a YouTube audience” - John Creamer, SV Going Too
You can purchase an online streaming version or digital copy of Storytelling for Sailors on a USB thumb drive from my publishing partner, Paradise Cay Publications, on their website here:
Previews are available at: