Our boat is at what Mike calls a 'blue-collar' marina in Hamilton. That is, there's no membership fee, no high-class hoity-toities, no restricted access; it's a working-persons marina, low key. We like this. But apparently, that also means that time-tables are very flexible, and 'next week' could mean anything from 'some time this month' to 'maybe I'll get around to it before the fall'.
The owner is very big on customer relations ... or at least, that's what he'll tell you. "If the customer says they want their boat in the water on Tuesday, you have to get it done," he says. "It's all about the customer. That's just how business works."
So after we had painted the bottom of Freedom Four-Two with anti-fouling paint, we told him our boat was ready for the water. "I should have it in by the weekend," he tells us. But when we show up to do some more work that next weekend, the boat's still on its cradle. Hmmm. Mike finds the guy and asks what's up. Well, the forklift had some issues and the parts only came in on Friday, so once the breaks are all fixed up, he can get back to boat launching. We had seen the forklift problems, so OK, seems a legit excuse. We later learned that this pretty much happens every year. Anyhow, he promises he'd have us in by the next weekend, which was the May long weekend.
With this hope in mind, Mike and I book the week off work, planning on familiarising ourselves with life on the water. We show up on Saturday and ...
Boat's still on the cradle. Needless to say, this did not impress Mike at all. The owner is busy sailing on his own boat this weekend (it's a beautiful weekend, so where else would he be? Certainly it's too nice out to do his job and get others' boats in the water when he could be out sailing instead), so our boat is not getting in. We do some cabin painting and cleaning. We sit around chatting with some of the other folks in the marina, each distressed to learn we had taken the week off and, after all the work they'd seen us doing the last couple of months, still land-bound. Some even suggest we demand some money back as we'd already paid for insertion and docking fees.
We catch up with the owner as he comes in for the day and he lets us know that he'll try to get the boat in on Wednesday. This does not impress, but neither of us wants to get into any big confrontations. So we head off to visit friends and commiserate.
We decide to try for Tuesday; at least show up and do some work even if we can't get in the water.
This man is a machine, as one of the other guys there says. (He reminds me of my grandpa's neighbour, whose name is Wayne, so sometimes I catch myself calling him Bruce Wayne by mistake, luckily not to his face). Bruce suggests that Mike go tell the owner to get our boat in the water, then changes his mind and says he'll tell the man himself. The excuse that he doesn't have enough helpers, as they are off that week, is made moot by the fact that Bruce and another guy named Doug, along with Mike, are more than willing to help out. So the owner gets his forklift going, moves the two boats blocking ours out of the way -- the first he puts in the middle of the street (it's a public access connecting parks that grounds-crew along with many pedestrians use constantly), and the second he moves toward the crane for later insertion. Then he gets out of the forklift and wanders away. I'm sure he had somewhere important to go, something important to do, though I have no idea what. I just know that for about 10 minutes, we're waiting for him to come back, that one boat still blocking traffic. Doug wanders off to get some work done (he's trying to get electricity to a group of docks, which I think the owner pays him something for, but I wouldn't bet on it), telling us to call him when the owner gets back.
Eventually, the owner gets our boat on the forklift and takes it to the crane. We get it hoisted up (by we, I mean Bruce, Doug, Mike and I -- the owner's gone off again, I think to get the offending boat out of the roadway), and now it's time for the finishing touch of paint. While on the cradle, boats are held by four cushions, for lack of a better term. When you first paint the bottom, these four patches are inaccessible. Those putting the boat in the water are supposed to go over them before moving the crane. This fell to me. Mike had left a little paint in the can for this job, and when he said a little, I assumed I'd be scraping it out. So I had some paper towel ready to scoop up as much as I could. Turns out there's a good 1/4 inch of this black tar-like substance in the bottom of the can. But the boat's hanging in a crane and I can't get aboard to find a paint brush, so I'm stuck with my dumb idea of the paper towel. The guys laugh as I scoop this stuff out, getting as much on my hand (and shirt sleeve) as on the towel, and wipe it over the unpainted sections. Mike and Bruce joke about how we also should have found me some gloves, and the owner, when he comes back, jokes how we didn't just spring for a 50 cent paint brush.
Anyway, painting done, they swing us over and lower us into the water. Finally! The owner, upon leaving, says "Tell Mike I like Bacardi White," as though we should give him something extra for a job he had promised to get done two weekends ago. What a shmuck. But then Doug points out that, in all his time there, he has never seen the owner do this kind of favour for anyone, coming out special to put one boat in the water. Somehow, I cannot summon up a great deal of awe for this favour.
Now, we just need to get the mast up.
Again, we have super-Bruce to thank for that. He had to head out for a couple of hours of paid work, but assured us that we should get the mast up that evening and that he would help when he got back.
We started around 7:30 that night. "There's lots of light left, and if it gets dark, we have spot lights we can use," he says. So we get our mast moved over to the mast crane, put on the spreaders, check all the stays and lines, making sure that nothing is tangled. We get the mast craned over and the base pinned in. Now the stays. There are 3 metal lines (stays) running from the top of the mast to each side of the boat and attached to the deck with turnbuckles, one to the aft (back), which is then split into two (one for each side), and one to the bow (front). Our bow stay is actually a furler, which is where one of the sails (the jib) is wound around. You attached the forward and aft stays first while the mast is held mostly in the correct position by someone (aided by the crane), then the side ones are attached after. I'm the one holding a side stay, trying to keep the mast vertical, while Mike and Bruce work on the furler, having already attached the aft stay.
Problem: we're a couple of inches short. And it's getting dark. And colder, and windier. By this time, I have on an ear-warmer and gloves, my teeth are chattering, and when at one point I hold the flashlight for Mike, my hand shakes so much the beam looks like a strobe-light.
Maybe if I could get the mast straighter, they say when I'm holding the side stay, and have me haul on the stay harder. I'm pretty much hanging off the side of the boat at a 45 degree angle trying to shift a huge pole that weights more than me, and it's not budging. Someone comes along to help, and points out that two grown men adding their weight to the front of the boat will tip the bow lower. So Bruce stays at the front while Mike and I move to the back to balance the boat more, and our new helper, Mark, stands off to the side with the stay now in his hand where he can actually put some weight behind it. Still not enough.
"We're almost there," Bruce tells us. "We could take it all down and try again in the morning, but we're so close. You'd hate to stop when it's just a few more minutes' work. But it's up to you." We keep going.
Mike starts fiddling with the aft stay connector, the one that splits. Mark says all turnbuckles turn counter-clockwise to tighten, see if adjusting that helps. Apparently, ours is the exception and Mike barely manages to grab the escaping stay before it gets out of reach. So they try it another way, Mike hanging on to this aft stay for dear life while Bruce, who now has enough slack, quickly gets the furler attached, then comes back to help get the aft stay back in place. Mike is a little over 6 feet; Bruce is shorter. Mike is almost on his toes on top of the seats with the stay while Bruce tries to get him the split connector and they determine that, yes, our turnbuckles are counter to the norm, and hard to line up in the dark.
Anyway, it does all work out in the end, all stays attached properly, the mast no longer dependent on the crane, our boat a true sailboat and ready to go. It is a few minutes shy of midnight. Bruce is our hero. We take him a bottle of rum a couple of days later.