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The russet-bottomed Land Rover takes flight

One of the three or four R-class boats clustered at our club. It's like going into a parking lot filled with Toyotas and Nissans and finding a cluster of immaculate Duesenbergs.
Launch day is invariably nerve-wracking for both the things that may happen as for the thing that do. Despite the overall level of confidence I have gradually gained in my own competence and ability to prepare well enough to dodge disaster, every year there are veteran sailors to whom bad things happen. I've had a "waterline view" of some of them as I tend to be crewing on one of the safety boats in the Western Gap, the presence of which is to be the first response to one of the shoreside crew or "slingers" falling into the exceeding cold (2-4 degrees C as of today) water. It's one of the few "all hands on deck" (or, in this case, gravel) events that sees a mass turnout of volunteers, some of whose jobs require a great deal of planning and precision to ensure that closely packed, multi-tonne vessels gingerly take flight and hence to the lake without drama or incident.
This is Fire Escape, a Regal 4260 powerboat belonging to a fireman (clever, no?) and which is, at 10,000 kilos (22,000 pounds) in the same weight class as the 15,000 kilo Alchemy in terms of manhandling.
I was quite busy on the water, which made the surrounding air chilly enough to demand four layers under my foulie jacket despite very benign and sunny conditions, and didn't take many pictures. About 20% of the launched boats seem to have engine or steering trouble daunting enough to keep our club's workboat, Storm King, busy with tows, although I'm not sure why this is, as it's not onerous to do an engine start on land with a couple of pails of water, along with other recommissioning tasks.
Eh, they went with sticky letters instead of my suggestion...

I know that many of our membership are getting up in years (or have died and the boat goes to surviving kin), and that delegating these tasks to less-experienced friends or relatives rarely is as comprehensive a process as the boat's owner customarily performs. One of the courtesies the safety boats perform is to confirm that a freshly started boat motor is exhibiting "throughput" of the necessary cooling water along with the exhaust gases. In my safety boat, we noticed an old C&C which wasn't gushing at all. The single helmsman (not the owner), who we assumed was doing a favour, went below to check the seacock, and emerged, rather quickly for his own years, to announce that the boat was taking on water! A call for a tow was made. As it turned out, and as some of you will have guessed, the seawater intake had not been closed and had not been clamped back on to the motor, and the man tasked with taking the boat from launch to dock didn't know (or couldn't reach) the seacock to either fix it or just to stop the sinking. All was rapidly fixed, but it argues that if you can't, for whatever reason, recommission your boat, you'd best make a meticulous list of "must-dos" for the well-intentioned to do it for you.

Storm King tows the big "Blue Barge" used for lifting mooring anchors off the bottom and other beefy tasks to its tie-off spot. The Blue Barge, while very useful, is an absolute pig to steer and keep on station and has a history of pitchpoling should one's geometry and physics be not up to snuff.

After all the boats (almost three-fifths) had been launched into the Western Gap, the action shifted with the cranes to our basin, where safety boats are not used as there are ladders and far shorter distances at hand.
Alchemy has no waxed gelcoat to preserve, and so no clever gelcoat nappies are used as is the case on Fire Escape.
The cranes used for launching the club boats, which vary in mass from one to approaching 20 tonnes (and no, we aren't the heaviest boat, but we are likely in the top 10) are, I believe, capable of lifting 40 or 50 tonnes...but that's at a near-vertical angle. The cranes operate in circular sweeps: the farther away the boat is from the massive crane truck, the lighter it must be in order to lift without tipping. This means "crane moves" and about 15-20 minutes of prep as stabilizing legs are put down and various bits of gear, such as the "spreader frame" seen below", are moved. It's pretty interesting to see, if at times a touch alarming because the price of getting it wrong is easy to imagine.
Those cables are bigger than they seem because that boom is so long the whole thing is far away, Dougal.
The crane operators are exacting, however, and are able to cherry-pick boats from tight quarters in a fashion that would be called "nimble" save that nimble's a pretty dainty word for hauling big boats around.
At the extreme right can be seen a "pusher stick", meant to keep the boat being launched off the seawall if it is swaying. Little wind yesterday meant that wasn't a big deal.
Alchemy came right after Fire Escape. Because of her full keel, and because she sits fore and aft in her cradle in somewhat different spots year to year, "cinch belts" are usually called for. These keep the slings from moving, particularly when one is on a sloped section of the hull as is the case with the forward sling below.
There are also "sling marks" on the top rail, but they are usually only proximate, as Alchemy's full keel means she doesn't have to land on the same spot in order to be safely upright.
So there's a bit of fiddling and many muddy if purposeful boots on deck. It's why I defer the hull wash until after launch, really.
The lines leading from the fairleads are called "control lines" and are used to "steer" the boat once aloft.
More fiddling and discussion and reminding from the owner of the necessity of cinch belts as will be apparent in a few photos.
Ideally, the aft sling should be forward of this point (especially given the couple of hundred pounds of line and anchors I stowed in the forepeak this spring), but you can only do so much.
 When all is judged ready, the sling handlers step to the next deck due.
Alchemy's mass and general bulk and metal tend to lead to more urgent shouts of "everyone stand back!" It's prejudice, I tell you!
That forward sling would be happier about 30 cm. aft, but you can't have it all. Where would you put it?

I'm not sure why the bottom paint looks a touch patchier this year. It's not like we stinted on it. Perhaps the chilliness of the application opportunities? We'll see if the growth is an issue in the fall.
And perhaps we will decrud or replace those nasty fenders which customarily lurk on the outboard side of the docked vessel.
The myriad things that needed stowing, or at least stowed lower in the boat, did not, despite the bow-down aspect of the boat in slings, did not plummet or lurch, as far as we could tell, during the airborne portion of the program. Despite our relative confidence in getting these parts right, however, I doubt I will ever feel entirely happy seeing our boat fly.
Love is a many-splendoured sling.
But despite the mutterings of "Jesus Christ, would you look at the size of that thing!" and strategic repositioning (which wouldn't help if the cables broke, really), down she came, safe as houses.
I for one enjoy owning a boat that inspires others to invoke their gods.
Nearly there...they call it "splashing", but it's more gentle if done right.

The engine started instantly, the prop turned eagerly and the shifter shifted when pulled and pushed. I think I heard about a quarter-second of squeal from the shaft, but all seems otherwise to spec. You make your own luck through work, it's said, and I believe it these days.
The rarely seen Mrs. Alchemy, who doesn't care for being photographed yanking on a spring line. Or photographed, period, really.

Back at dock, there were still a number of jobs: fetching the nesting dinghy, loading my bike trailer with cradle pads and ladder (yes, it's a feat of strength), and arranging the lines to accommodate our new slip neighbours, a young couple named Doug and Nicole who have just bought an imposing Mainship 390, a trawler big enough to be a northerly windbreak for us and for which we'll have to rig springs to keep our bowsprit out of their swim platform. Valiente launches next week, with I hope will be as little drama as Launch 2015.

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