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2011-05-02

Hooks, lines, but no sinkers


Due to a history of being a self-help organization, my boat club remains somewhat unusual in our part of the world in that the membership launches and hauls out our own boats. While we rent the cranes, and big, complex, capable things they are, it's "all hands on deck" for the line-handling, the "pusher" jobs of keeping the hulls off the gritty concrete seawalls of the navigational channel into which half the boats either are lowered or raised, and even the safety concerns.

For those of you in sunnier, or at least not frost-prone, climates, almost everyone on the Great Lakes will put their vessels on dry land for five to six months of the year, as the weather is generally too nasty to sail recreationally. I myself have sailed on January 1 locally (on a steel boat quite able to crush a path through six inches of pan ice), and have sailed my own plastic boat as early as the first week of April and as late as the third week of November. But I like the wind and contend it makes the boat go, an apparently minority opinion. Also, thanks to the magic of climate change, one can increasingly find very pleasant, mild days well past the end of October, and really, wouldn't you rather be sailing? Just add more rum in the thermos of scalding coffee and tie down your tuque. What could be more Canadian?

This launch, as in previous years, I was driving the safety boat much of the time, with a primary job of hauling out people who might fall in (it's happened more than once and this water is 4-5C at the moment) and a secondary job of retrieving lost items, telling boat owners if they are getting water along with gouts of black smoke upon first starting their long-stilled diesel auxiliaries, and telling people that no, we could not give their engineless or dead-engined vessel a tow because we are supposed to be there if someone falls in, and with few members opting to wear a PFD while jumping on and off moving boats to handle crane slings, the odds are not particularly good that we will have an incident-free day. Also, the "crash boat" we use, oddly named Dragon Lady, makes a lousy tug, having only a few inches of keel and not much weight.


This is the boat that tows the other boats when they cannot move themselves. She's called Storm King, and dates, along with her Chevy engine, to sometime in the '50s. Patched, repatched, replated and rebored, she's been reborn more times than a naughty bodhisattva, and still plugs along at a steady five knots of torquey goodness. Steering impulsively, looking vaguely on fire and not overly clean, she's like the gin-soaked aunt at the wedding with the age-inappropriate stories about orgies in the '70s, and quite willing to show you her dents.


At one point, we had three dead engines in a row and a tow queue formed. It's a mercy the weather, if not particularly warm, was benign. I've done this job in 25 knots (the point where the crane operators call it a day) and it can be miserable, if a boon to the fibreglass repair industry.




Ah, the coppery blush of fresh anti-fouling! How soon will you be tarnished by ablation and lake goo!

2 comments:

Lynn said...

Marc, I beg to differ about NYC be "unique" about having to help with launch... TSCC, QCYC, Ashbridges, Hydroplane and Sail, Bluffers, Cathedral, and that's off the top of my head!... I'd say RCYC and IYC are the only two in our area that have it done by only professionals in the Toronto area.

Regardless, I always loved the QCYC Launch and Haulouts... a marine railway, no flying boats, and lots of comraderie. It is a good chance to bond with other club members whatever club you belong to.

Rhys said...

I think I phrased that incorrectly. I meant to imply that "our part of the world is unusual in that many clubs self-launch", not that NYC was unique.

By the way, PCYC is pro-launched via appointments, also.

A lot of clubs in the States, for instance, appear to have such liability issues that only bonded "pros" are allowed to move the boats. The QCYC railway is the best of both worlds, I think, because it's member run, member repaired and yet has most of the advantages of a Travelift.

I agree about the "meeting and mixing" aspect. Everyone at NYC seems in a better mood this week, despite the appalling weather, because we had one nice day with little wind and we launched everyone in a 7:15 am-4:30 pm timeframe, which may be the fastest ever launch.