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Beltane splash

Slipped and slided
Today is the first of May, in many Northern Hemisphere cultures the traditional start of spring, irrespective of the chilly winds or the pelting rain that may be occuring in your locality. In ours, the last day of April was our club's Launch, 2016.
Prop property of Alchemy

After a few last-minute tasks, such as the servicing of the Variprop, the day began at sunrise and was slightly cold and increasingly windy as the hours passed, but still, it was a day very amenable to effective launching.
Cranes are the most popular birds ashore this time of year.
This year I was one of the crew on the club's workboat, the vessel designated as the towboat for boats with either known deficiencies of propulsion, or those who find out that what ticked over nicely in the cradle does not always do so when introduced to a 5C lake. 
My club, National YC, uses professional crane operators, but the rest of the process is done by volunteers.
As can be seen, conditions were nearly ideal with an intermittent zephyr from the increasingly popular east. Most people who've paid attention have noticed in recent years a higher proportion of easterly winds in our area. While generally benign, it does make for a damper and chillier waterfront and does indicate an evolution of the historical wind patterns. 

Most boats were self-propelled, but a few with dead engines would prove to be doozies. Doozies that came in groups.
The spectacle of launch is always a compelling one, even from a brisk vantage point on the water. The difficulty is the adjacent airport, where helicopters and "quiet" turboprops can make communication difficult by voice and radio.
Hanging out on the boat.
The observation that most of the boats picured are between seven and 14 metres in length and weigh from two to 20 tonnes gives an idea of the size of the cranes used to hoist them straight out of their winter cradles, dozens of metres in the air and down into the lake with the tiniest of splashes attests to the skill of the operators and the confidence of the "pusher" crews on the sea wall that they won't get a keel to the noggin. Those blue safety helmets really are for show in such an outcome. 
That boat is nine metres. The top of the crane is where eagles dare.
After several hours of towing and waiting to tow, including one tow that featured a huge, unsteerable wooden powerboat that was sinking because its planks hadn't swollen or clinched or whatever the term is that means "I am not having four tonnes of water in my bilges" and which needed a 120 VAC outlet to power heavy-duty pumps,  we got to our row. The process is interesting visually, I think, so here it is in pictures.

The large powerboat beside us is probably close to our weight. The furry stick is a "pusher" for keeping launched but unsecured boats away from the sometimes gnarly sea wall. Note how it also features load spreaders.
The orange rectangle is called a "spreader frame" and distributes the boat's mass around the center point of the crane hook, while also providing a more or less vertical drop to the connections to the slings in which the boat is hoisted into the air. Were the spreaders not there, the slings would compress against the sides of the boat and would potentially damage or even crush the hull. 

Because this boat has flat sides, the owner covers his hull with fabric to prevent the grotty and abrasive slings from mucking up his topcoat.
There's only half a metre or so between boats. If it's windy, as it was at this point, belaying lines are used not only to turn the boat in the slings, but to keep it, once airborne, from swinging into its neighbours, in this case, us.
More is better: We requested a specific orientation of our bow into the wind so we wouldn't have to make a three-point turn.
Seen here are the "control lines"; dropped from the quarters of the bow, volunteers on land use them to turn the boat and, to a limited degree, keep it from starting to swing in the wind if the wind is playing up. Conscious about the inertial potential of a steel full keeler, I usually put out four 40-foot lines.
No use cleaning one's decks with the muck-covered boots in play. The slings are guided by taped sling marks on the rail.
Because the front sling is on the slope of the keel, I request "cinch belts", which discourage slippage when the full weight of the boat is on these slings.
Ready to fly! Note that the cinch belts are nearly taut. They take little force; they are more like suspenders to the main belts.
The boat usually pitches forward 10 degrees or so because the front sling is slightly above the rear sling.
There's never a year that goes by, despite the number of times now that Alchemy's been launched and hauled, that someone doesn't comment on her heft or admitted butch appearance. That's fine. We are comfortable with her relatively rare looks on an inland lake.

Forget it, Jake, it's chine-town.
 Again, the skill of the operator is evident in that I didn't hear a splash. You'd think you'd hear a splash.
The flag shows that there was some wind slotting in between buildings. We didn't want to do a multi-part turn with our windage in the relatively tight spaces involved. We can and have before, but it's not the first bit of motoring I prefer to do.
The people who do this (including Mrs. Alchemy while I am usually in a work or safety boat), tend to do the same job for many seasons. They know their jobs well and generally are very Zen-like, save for the grunting.
Down, aye, down and the engine started instantly. The docking was without issues, either.
We are finding that we are far less worried about the boat's part in getting to the dock than things we can't fix, such as weather or the attention spans of the people maneuvering the boats.
Next: the enmastinging. Alchemy almost looks fast here.
It's going to be a busy season. Stay tuned.

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