12 August 2022

The ‘Dowager voyage’

 Diana is 48 years old as of this past March 1st. I have had her since November 2002; and after a too-long period during much of which I was unable to do the necessary work to both restore and remodel her, she is now in the water, (very nearly) complete, and a viable sailing vessel once again. 

 She has not been in the water since the 1999 season. In about 2012 my friend Jerry Rohrbach was inspecting his C44 with a moisture meter and he offered to test Diana with it as well. Neither expected her to show any (potentially deadly, for a fiberglass hull) water intrusion in the laminate; and her reading were all very low, indicating a normal dryness. 

 Today she was put to the test, as my friends Matt and Boo and I dared to push her off from the dock under her own power.  And now that I’ve got over worrying about the motor’s reliability, I worried about how structurally sound she would be by now, especially after I’ve taken apart and reassembled virtually every single structural, electrical, plumbing and cabinetry system including detaching and reattaching the keel.

 But she was fine. In fact she was more than fine. Like the long pent-up dragon in Deathly Hallows, once free she reverted to her true self, a proper sailing yacht that knows exactly what she has been supposed to have been doing all along. She had not forgot. And as well pulled up sail and turned upwind at the end of Burlington Island, she heeled over and then accelerated (as all my dad’s boats do, in that sequence) and chased the bone in her teeth. ‘I am a yacht,’ she said. ‘This is what I was born to do.’

 Nothing broke.  Nothing jammed.  Nothing failed to do what it was meant to do.  The collection of parts, raw materials, paint, varnish, and Dacron just coalesced into a living, breathing boat, as though to scold me: ‘What did you think I was waiting to do all these years?  I’m a boat after all; this is what I do.’

 Matt said several times that he was impressed that nothing failed, or broke, or fell apart (or even slid off onto the floor below).  He sent the accompanying photo in a text message with the one word: ‘Success!’

 Once I said, ‘We should check the bilge.’

 ‘Good idea,’ he said; and he checked.  ‘There’s about half an inch of water in here.’

‘That’s from the icebox drain,’ I said; for I had not blotted it out (and definitely should.  I haven’t drained it since the first time - I just scoop it out before adding each new bag of ice, which stands in cheap plastic box that contains the melting water.  I hate having waste water in the bilge).

 Of course it was not all perfect.  The motor stalled three or four times, once at a crucial moment just before landing at the dock.  It is probably the idle mixture and I can fix that tomorrow.  Also the sail track is dirty and dry - as soon as I find any SailKote (only thing that should be used, ever) in stock anywhere I’ll lube it.  Also the downhaul tackle was off, getting an eye spliced in; so we could not definitively tension the mainsail.  These things can be done tomorrow.

 Little Diana is reborn. There’s something profound, even divine, in that.

 Much thanks to all who’ve contributed, in diverse ways, to the success of this moment. 

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