Monday, October 11, 2010

Made it by the skin of my teeth.

I pulled it off. A few marathon days, a couple of pounds of coffee (more than a few adult beverages) and quite a bit of slogging through some pretty tedious, but necessary, tasks and I got Dark Secret in the water. I got her in on this afternoon's tide.

It would have been sooner, but I had an incident with the varnish on the sheerplank. I masked the rail for stain and sealer. When I pulled the tape I lost a bit of varnish. DO NOT USE FINELINE TAPE ON VARNISH. I misunderstood the instructions from Kathy, the varnish queen at Manchester Marine. I was only supposed to use the fineline tape along the edge where the transition from stain to natural occurs. Chalk that one up to experience. Fortunately, the stain was not disrupted, so I was able to repair the edge of the varnish and apply a few build-up coats. I'll block the whole thing down flat when she gets final finishes.

But that's enough negativity. What a great day!!! I got up early and handled the last batch of pre-launch punch list items. I gave the ballast/keel joint a final once-over to fair everything in, hit a coat of red lead on any bare spots, and then hit them with bottom paint. I assembled the floor boards (I LOVE the way the stain turned out on them) and seats. I rigged up a quick sling so that I could launch with the fork truck, and then I went home for breakfast and to wait for the tide. When I got back to the yard I made a quick set of turn buttons to be sure that the thwart didn't kick out from under me, tied off the oar lock horns, and in she went.

I purposely kept the event low-key. I have been told that it's bad Ju-Ju to do do any kind of a launch "ceremony" more than once. I don't want to deprive Dark Secret's ultimate owner of the privilege of making a production of the launch, should he so choose, so I am referring to today as a sea-trial. One of my co-workers was on site so he operated the fork truck while another co-worker looked on. I would love to have had my wife there, but today is not a holiday for her.

I gathered up some gear (bilge pump, life jacket, anchor, VHF), double-checked to be sure that the water was staying on the outside, and took her for a row. Unfortunately, the longest oars I could muster up are only about 8 1/2 feet. That being said, Dark Secret rows absolutely beautifully. It's pretty blustery here today, and my rowing technique leaves much to be desired, but she goes right where you point her and tracks straight as an arrow. Even beam to the wind (as long as she is moving) she goes where you want. I was going to head for the outer harbor but it was getting a bit fresh for me. I stayed inside and picked up Strider's mooring for a break and a sip of rum for me and Neptune. Incidentally, 2010 is the first time since 1971 that Strider did not sit on her mooring. I got to use it for about 20 minutes this season. The row back up the harbor was dead upwind. I was concerned from the get-go about the windage in the bow. That beautiful sheer line has to come at some price, right? I was amazed at how she stayed pointed where I directed her.

I look forward to obtaining, or making, a right and proper set of oars for her. I was initially thinking 9' would be plenty but I'm not sure now. If anyone in the Cape Ann area has some long oars that I can try, I'd love the opportunity to test drive them and make an educated decision.

She'll stay in the water for the remainder of the week. That will give me a chance to get some photos of her underway, and to stage a nice shot in the marsh for the "Launchings" page in WoodenBoat. I'll be heading to work early every morning to get in a row while it's calm. I think this week is probably the last of the decent weather. When she comes out I'll handle top coats on all the interior surfaces, obtain and install the forward set of oarlocks, and bore the bench and step for the mast.

I am heading back to the yard to get some more pix now that the sun is lower in the sky.