Saturday was Raritan Yacht Club's annual haul-out day. For those of you on the West Coast or Florida that means we take the boats out of the water and store them till April or May. This sucks on so many dimensions. Firstly, it marks the end of sailing for six months or so (other than a bit of dinghy sailing). Secondly, it's a hellacious pain in the ass. Worst of all, it means I now actually have to start working on the boat. Ugh!
It was a jolly affair. The club is superbly organized. A big crane is rented and the yard is cleared for action to store 30-40 boats. Haul-out day is run by Dennis Driscoll who does an awesome job, assigning tasks, setting-up work teams, organizing the haul-out order and above all dealing calmly with 30 experts (i.e. the veteran members who have been doing this for decades). They are all on hand to work hard and above all give instructions on any subject. Often each piece of advice is diametrically opposite to another. Much of this advice was doled out to yours truly who was a haul-out virgin and provided many opportunities to be advised.
Things did not start well for me. I was out of town at a conference and the earliest I could fly back was Saturday morning. I emailed Dennis and asked "if it was OK if I rocked up at 10". The answer was "no it was bloody wasn't. Work started at 6."
I sent a pleading email to the missus. My emails are the only printable ones from the exchange and went something like this:
"Would you mind getting down to the club at 6 for the haul-out?"
"Yes, love of my life, 6 am"
"Yes , dear heart, on Saturday"
"No, I haven't been drinking"
"Sure, would you prefer diamonds or rubies"
I arrived at 10 and things had been in full swing for 4 hours. They had hauled out nearly half the boats and one of the docks. The place was a hive of activity. I was told that I should bring my boat up to the dock to be hauled.
Miracle of miracles, the motor started. God, I hate that bloody outboard but it started after about 15 minutes of cursing and yanking the pull-cord. We motored slowly up to the dock to be ..er greeted by the 30 experts. As we got close, the 30 experts bellowed at me "You need four lines out". Mad charging about the boat to get two more lines out. "You'll need longer lines than that” commanded the 30 experts. I informed them that these were my longest lines. "Use your sheets" shouted the 30 experts. Good thinking.
It was windy and the current was ripping so maneuvering was challenging. I seemed to be drifting up to the dock too fast and in danger of hitting the boat ahead. The 30 experts pointed this out to me, just in case I wasn't aware.
Alice, the missus was on the bow and was trying to toss the forward line to one of the 30 experts. First throw was a girlie throw and missed. Second was better but an aforementioned expert missed the line. The 30 experts were giving her helpful tips about how to throw. Alice was getting a little flustered - understandably. She threw it a third time. This time, she leaned too far forward and started to pitch in. She grabbed for the lifelines. Unfortunately the lifeline was slack. I had opened the gate in preparation for disembarkation.
It all happened in slow motion. Alice went head first over the lifelines. She held on to a lifeline, did an impressive forward flip and then dropped into the drink. I wasn't sure what to do. Should I a) dive in. Not advisable as the boat would be unmanned. Moreover Alice is a better swimmer than me and was clearly swimming well for the ladder; b) get the camera out; c) go below and start drinking heavily; d) do nothing. I picked d).
During the entire time Alice was in the water, she didn't panic but had a look of wide-eyed surprise. As she was clambering up the ladder, one of the highest-ranking of the 30 experts informed me that this had been my fault as my lifelines were slack. Fair point but as someone pointed out to me, we were actually supposed to slack our lifelines before the crane hauled out the boat. In my case this was not an excuse as I was unaware of this piece of information.
As Alice headed for a hot shower, the haul-out crew jumped aboard and one wag told me "Hey bud, some days you watch the show. Some days you are the show!" This cheered me up a bit.
Messing About was hauled skyward. By this time, I was on the dock trying to be invisible. Unfortunately not successfully as the guy in charge of the crew that put the boats in position marched up to me and informed me in no uncertain terms that my stands were too tall and Messing About would be 2 feet off the ground. This was too precarious. He turned away and told the crane operator to put Messing About back in the water.
At this point the 30 experts let loose. I was instructed that I simultaneously needed to get back on my boat and take her to a marina, immediately go buy taller keel blocks, quickly hunt the yard for shorter stands, put my boat back on a mooring and wait till the end of the day when things had calmed down.
I picked the latter and at the sanctuary of the mooring considered my options. I was not convinced that my stands were too tall. By the time I got back to the dock, Alice was showered and in dry clothes. She was in good spirits and had in fact got a massive attack of the giggles in the shower.
I was supposed to be on the crew that power-washed and scraped the hull. I put my best foulies on and walked up to the guy in charge of wash-down. He eyed me pitifully and told me that they would be ruined. Unfortunately that was all I had and the wash-down crew suggested I find another job. One more misdemeanor. I got to work with the crew helping adjust stands and keel blocks as boats were hauled out .
One very kind member went home and brought back some shorter stands. In combination with the shorter stands from my original borrowed set, it was deemed that I had a satisfactory set of stands. By 1 pm, Messing About was hauled out, and put to bed till the spring.
The good thing is that I am no longer a haul-out virgin. Next year I can be the 31st expert. I will of course be a junior member but I will serve my apprenticeship and then dole out the advice like the best of them.