Saturday, September 02, 2006

Fun with Ernesto

Rainy, windy day here in New York City as Ernesto's been passing through. I stayed in most of the day, doing a little cleaning here, a little stashing of pictures on my new external hard drive (to the great relief of my poor "c" drive that's been staggering under the accumulated megabytes of a year's worth of photography) there, a spot of cookie-baking, a little sending off an application to the Sebago Canoe Club...

Yep, a few more shifts in the scenario & I think instead of taking TQ up on his rescue offer (don't worry, he will still be thanked extravagantly ;D), I'm just going to join Sebago & ride this out there. If they'll have me, I shouldn't speak too blithely when I haven't heard back from their membership chair yet (well, it may be miserable but it IS Labor Day Weekend, and people are out of town). Just simpler that way - keeps my boats in reach and allows for paddling during the interim during which we can't get to our boats. Not too expensive, either, and the volunteer requirement doesn't sound too onerous. Fact is, I'm not seeing entirely eye to eye with some of the folks who have taken the forefront in the advocacy effort, so rather than keep trying to argue my point of view, I figure it's better to step down from taking any role & let them do their thing. I've had more than my share of waterfront politics, anyways, my involvement was pretty much on an "Ugh, well if I have to I'll do it" basis. Seems maybe I don't.

If MKC ends up being able to continue offering storage come Spring (and the word from MKC isn't discouraging, I been talking to them some & there's no sense of a lost cause there at all), I'll move the Romany back there & probably leave the surfski at Sebago - Jamaica Bay is actually a good place for practicing with a tetchy boat like that, quite sheltered, less ferryboat wakes.

Reasonably productive day considering I'm still not feeling so hot. I did also spend some nice down time just watching the tree branches lashing about outside. I only went out for the briefest time, just to run to the grocery store - I came back drenched and as windblown as I usually am after a good breezy schooner day!

Speaking of breezy schooner days - I worked the 6:30 - 8:30 sail on the schooner yesterday. Ernesto was just beginning to announce his arrival. Captain Peter had cancelled the 8:30 - 10:30 by the time I got there, but he thought we could squeeze in the earlier sail.

Sometimes, those stormy-weather sails can be fantastic - it's exciting to be out on the harbor with the whitecaps flying and the seagulls whizzing past with the wind at their backs, or laboring mightily with their wings in the other direction (I swear I've watched birds tacking into a headwind, rowing hard with their wings and ferry-gliding like kayaks, until they get tired or bored & decide maybe the other direction has some appeal after all, fall off and go zipping off like lightning). Get the right group of passengers taking it all in the right spirit, and it can be the best experience.

Last night's ended up being a little on the rough side. For starters, the wind was extremely shifty & gusty. Wind is generally better than no wind, but a nice steady strong wind is much more fun to sail in than an unpredictable, flukey strong wind. We only raised the foresail & staysail (the ease with which the amount of sail can be tailored to the wind is one of the nice things about schooners). That kept life reasonable as far as the big gusts hitting, but even with that, keeping them trimmed was a headache. I was also not feeling great, and my crewmate for the evening is one of my favorite people to work with but he was also tired after moving. Skipper could've introduced us as "And the crew tonight is Sick & Tired".

Let's see, what else was wrong from the git-go - oh, yeah, the head was broken, that always sucks (although actually in this case the problem was that the head DIDN'T suck, one of the valves in the pump which is supposed to be one-way had become two-way).

Then we ended up having a number of people on board who seemed to have a thoroughly good time based on the amount of laughter going on - usually we like that but in this case the laughter was over things like spilling red wine, spilling the refill of the red wine, and the way one or the another would find themselves staggering as a gust hit. That was the particularly stressful part - we do a safety speech before every sail. Part of that safety speech is about holding the shrouds (stout steel cables that hold up the mast) while standing. On a gusty, choppy night like last night, this is a rule we REALLY want people to take seriously. The captain caught one of them (a guy who said he was a sailor) standing up by the foremast without holding on, gave me a hand signal to speak to him. I did so. The guy's English was good, but less than perfect, but I thought I managed to get the idea across. A minute later, his two female companions came up to join him. I don't think they spoke English at all. I tried saying "Please", putting my own hand on the shrouds; they never quite seemed to all get it at the same time, though. They were all clustered right by the side, and everytime I'd look over, one or two of them would have let go either to take a picture, or to pose...this of course got especially true down by the Statue. Thing is, there was an awful lot of laughter every time I got nervous & asked them to either sit or hold a shroud - this peaked right when we were getting to tack, and I don't know whether they were doing it intentionally to mess with me, as a joke, or whether they just didn't get it, but my gosh, I've never felt so worried about passengers going overboard, even on days when we're booming along under full sail with a rail in the water. There's a certain type of rowdiness that just doesn't work well on a sailboat. Intentionally or not, these folks had it in spades. Fortunately everyone else was very cool, donned our yellow slickers with cheerful good humor & had a nice, safe, non-crew-distressing good time.

Par for the course for the way the week's gone though.

The skipper decided to have us drop the fore not too far up from the Statue - the trip down was downwind, so pretty quiet given the conditions (although I was tending the foresheet like I had OCD, with the wind being so shifty it was given to start swinging in pretty fast) - once we were on the upwind leg, the gustiness really got sort of unpleasant. Naturally, the week being the week it's been, the drop was rough too - the staysail halyard fouled the gaff collar, we had to drop the staysail a bit to free it, then with our stay all messy, we went back to dropping the now-freed fore - naturally this was the time the peak halyard decided to tie itself in knots that I had to shake out as I dropped. Ordinarily I do a pretty good sail drop, if I may say so myself, smooth & fast like a bird folding her wings...this looked more like one of those broken-wing displays those killdeers do when they think you're after their babies. It wasn't a dangerous situation by any means, but with the sails banging around & making all kinds of noise, and especially with the pause to futz around with the staysail halyard, it can look to the passengers like things aren't so good, which is not the impression we like to give.

I was MOST happy to get back to the dock. With the Russians, or whatever they were, I was particularly relieved that none of their horsing around had led to anybody going swimming.

That was the last sail until tomorrow. With Ernesto coming through, we were particularly diligent in our evening shutdown - we lowered the gaffs until they were resting right on the booms (ordinarily we leave them up just a titch, for looks & to minimize wear & tear on the hoops & sail), put some extra lines around them so that they were lashed down well, then doubled up on all the docklines (my crewmate spent the last part of the sail, after we'd lowered the fore, down below in the foc's'le finding some extra lines).

Watching the trees whipping around today, that was no wasted effort.

I went over to the barge afterwards - had gotten a little teary about how much I'm going to miss my Hudson paddling, and just wanted to go sit & watch the river go by. There was a wedding going on - the most wonderful, bizarre NYC cultural melange - I watched their Chinese lion dancers perform, while a troupe of Irish stepdancers in full regalia stood by flexing their calves -

I went up to the roof deck & listened to the music filtering up from below while I watched the tugboats go by.

Then I went to my favorite noodle shop for a nice hot bowl of noodle soup & they lost my order for half an hour (usually they're practically bringing it before I've finished saying "with thin Cantonese noodles, please"). What kind of planetary misalignment was going ON this week, anyways? Is it possible that Pluto is out for revenge after the demotion? Could always be worse but it was just a pretty rocky week. Human tendency is of course to look for causative factors, right?

Still not feeling so hot today - in fact when Captain Peter called this afternoon to say that if I wanted tomorrow off, he had a willing replacement for me, I took him up on it. With all the bad weather we've had, some of the full-time crew folks have not been getting their usual hours; knowing I was a little under the weather, but also knowing I'd have to be half dead before I'd skip my day, Capt. Peter made a few proactive calls & got a replacement pretty easily. Still feeling a little on the lousy side, and with a day that could potentially stretch out to 5 sails, starting at 10 am & finishing at 10:30 p.m. - I was actually relieved to get the offer.

Heck, if I'm feeling even a little better, maybe I'll finally go watch the tugboat races!

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