Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Belt and suspenders

It may have been mentioned that I once lost an outboard motor overboard -- a brand-new one, I might add -- thanks to the New York city police. (No, I haven't ever actually told the story. What am I waiting for? A book contract, maybe?)

Anyway, I don't want to lose another. Motor, I mean, not book contract. So when the Scapegrace is moored on the choppy turbulent roller-coaster waters of the Hudson River, I wrap a dock line around the motor and secure it on either side, in case the motor mount itself -- which frankly isn't that sturdy -- should work loose.

Now this is ugly as sin, as you can see from the photo above. (Click to see more detail). But it does help me sleep better at night, which at my age is a great thing.

(You may be thinking, as you look at this picture, that all the motor has to do is work loose and twist once arsy-versy and it's gone. What you can't see is that the deck line also goes through a handle on the front of the motor. So there, Mr Subtle Topologist!)

I have a number of these repulsive, un-yachty, Appalachian po'-white-trash improvisations set up on the poor boat -- which certainly deserves better, but when the Cap'n is basically a pauper, this is what you get. Here's another such desperate improvisation:

It may not be very easy for non-sailors to see, but sailors will notice right away that the boom is held down, not just by the taut main sheet in the center of the picture, but also by an ungainly and inelegant dock line -- yet another repurposed dock line -- stretching up from the starboard quarter cleat to the boom, around the boom in a clove hitch, and then down to the port-side rail.

Hey, as long as I was doing something ugly, I thought I'd make it really ugly.

Now the reason for doing this is that the boat rocks a good deal, and every so often gale-force winds come roaring down the Hudson and pry loose anything that can be pried loose. Last year -- before I started lashing these brutal unlovely corsets on the poor Scapegrace -- I had a very nasty experience: The boom whipped around so much in one of these winds that a pin broke, the main sheet collapsed in a heap on the cockpit sole, and the boom was unsecured by anything except the very permissive topping lift -- the little cable that keeps it up above head height when you're not actually sailing, and creates that insouciant jaunty cocked-up boom angle that you can see in other pictures of the dear boat here on the blog.

Now we must make an entry in the Kindness Of Strangers file, a very well-filled jacket in any boater's life. The day that I came out to the boat and discovered that this mishap had occurred, probably a day or two before, I also found that somebody -- presumably another boater on a nearby mooring, perhaps even the guy who has the other Pearson 26 -- had quietly boarded the Scapegrace and improvised a lash-down for the boom, so it didn't bang around any more and damage itself, or the mast, or the standing rigging.

Of course I was pleased and grateful. Oddly enough, on my way back to the dinghy dock -- about a mile and a half of boisterous Hudson that year -- I passed another boat where the very same thing had happened -- one of the fittings on the main sheet broke, and the boom was whipping back and forth like a spoon in one of those in-sink garbage disposals, with an equally nasty and scary sound.

I had a moment's hesitation. It's a huge taboo to go on somebody else's boat uninvited. But somebody had gone on mine, and I was glad they had. It's the Band Of Brothers here at the Hudson River boat basin. So I tied up the dinghy on the other boat's cleat, and climbed aboard, and found a few random lengths of line here and there in the cockpit that I could fit together to jury-rig a lashing for the boom and keep it amidships.

What goes around comes around, they say. But it seldom comes around so quickly and neatly. A nice moment.


  1. How secure is the port-side rail, as compared to the cleats?

  2. The rails are bedded down pretty solidly. I would have preferred the cleat but it's otherwise occupied.