Monday, April 15, 2019


All vessels kept in salt water will, over time, accumulate barnacles, algae and other marine growth.  Generally, this growth can be slowed but not eliminated by the application of "anti-fouling" bottom paints, most of which contain varying percentages of cuprous oxide.

I took my schooner to a boat yard in Washington about fifty miles west of here two years ago to haul her and paint the bottom.  The guy who owned the yard, although he allowed me to do my own painting, required that I buy the paint from him.  Of course the only brand he had in stock was the most expensive available anywhere but he assured me it would last at least three years.

"Are you kidding?" I said, "I keep this boat in Ocracoke where I'll be lucky if the paint lasts three months!"

"No, really," he said, "You'll see."

I did see.  Three months later I donned a mask and went over the side for a look below the waterline.  Sure enough, the barnacles were just as thick as before I'd hauled her.  I would have called the guy to complain but I'd heard he sold the yard shortly after launching me and retired to Florida.  With all the profit from my paint purchase he probably bought a luxury condo!

Last summer, instead of taking her to a boat yard, I hired a local scuba diver to scrape the bottom and that pretty much got me through the season.  By the time of the Christmas boat parade my propeller was so encrusted that I could hardly make three knots but it was okay.  It was a parade after all and not a race. A few weeks ago when the water had warmed to the point of making hypothermia less inevitable, I broke out the mask and wetsuit and cleaned the prop and as much of the hull as I could before freezing.

With sailing season fast approaching, I hadn't decided what to do about the barnacles when, last Sunday, deep into my bi-annual tool shed cleanup, I disinterred a five-gallon can with about a gallon of anti-fouling paint in it. It put me in mind of another boat yard, also about 50 miles away with no rules about bottom paint (or much else for that matter!) and I decided to give them a call.

After trying all day Monday to reach the yard by telephone (they're generally too busy to chat with potential customers), I decided to drive down and talk with them face to face.  On the 7:30 a.m. Cedar Island ferry I met up with my old buddy Capt. Carl who happens to be the one who put me onto this yard several years ago.  When I told him what I was up to he agreed that was the way to do it and further suggested that showing up at lunch time with a box of doughnuts for the yard gang could only help my case.

The doughnuts did the trick and it was soon agreed that if I arrived too late on Thursday to be hauled out, they'd get to me first thing Friday morning.  I rounded up my long-time sailing buddy Bill who, although five years older than me, always seems to be up for one of my ill-planned boat rides.

Bill and I pulled out of Silver Lake at six on Thursday morning.  A fair breeze took across the sound under full sail and we reached the yard shortly after five p.m. -- too late to haul out but we tied up in the slip and enjoyed a delicious dinner of grilled lamb chops.

You might have noticed my reluctance to identify these boat yards and I suppose it is a little selfish of me not to help advertise these places.  But over my decades of messing about in boats I've seen far too many of my favorite marine facilities taken over by folks with deep pockets and big plans. It's rare and wonderful to happen in to a place like this where, after hours, boat owners and yard hands sit around on paint buckets and swap lies.

True to his word, the yard owner hauled us out first thing Friday morning and Bill and I worked like much younger men for most of the day, prepping and painting the boat.  When they launched us at six p.m., we were hoping to make it to an anchorage in the couple of hours' daylight that remained.  I had a charter booked for Saturday evening and didn't want to disappoint.

As it turned out darkness overtook us before we got through the Core Creek Canal so, after adjusting to the challenges of night-time chart plotting we opted just to keep on truckin'! After what was probably the lumpiest night crossing I've ever had on the Pamlico Sound we pulled into Silver Lake at 5:15 Saturday morning and dragged our tired carcasses home.  A couple of hours later my charter party called to say they thought it was too cloudy to sail that evening so they canceled!

I was happy enough with a night off.  On Sunday morning I got a call from a gentleman who wanted to take his family sailing on very short notice.  We had a delightful two-hour sail with a charming eight-year-old named Savannah mostly at the helm.  She held a course just like a seasoned old tar!

Life is good!

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