A Season Saved

By Bob Throne - Willow Grove, Pennsylbania - USA

It is a cold Winter in Philadelphia and after Thanksgiving I pulled the 4hp Yamaha, the 40# MinnKota, and the battery out of the 'Terry Jeanne' to store in the basement. A new tarp was fastened all around. The half hour this took started me reflecting upon the season just past, my third now. Two thoughts stick in my mind. I'm still in a state of some wonderment that I pulled it off: my Wanderer was a first-time design and build by someone who hadn't sailed for two decades and who had no training or experience in either end of the project. Only by the grace of the Duckworks community did it happen at all. And given various afflictions I encountered last Spring and over the Summer it is a surprise that I have wound up with such deep satisfaction for the 09' season.

The first outing was a cool March day at the state Neshaminy ramp on the Delaware River. Steve Bosquette was with me, having worked hard over the winter to restore my prized Merc 4cyle 3&1/2 from the oil leak sprung in late 08' when it over heated. Just before we gave it a pull I stumbled on the dock and fell, wrenching my left shoulder and puncturing my belly. I was sore, and a little embarrassed, but I pressed on … we were going to go sailing. But that wasn't the worst of it. The Merc promptly sprouted oil out what had been the visual check plate. Several attempts to plug it proved futile. We salvaged our dignity – or told ourselves we had – by puttering around the slips of the marina with the MinnKota. One doesn't challenge the currents and tides of the Delaware with flukey winds, at least not in a boat with as much windage as I have.

A couple weeks later, after Steve wrestled mightily with it, we concluded that the piston or cylinder were scored and it was pressurizing the crankcase; I had to sell it for parts. And I had to spend what was essentially the rest of my season budget to purchase a 25 year old Yamaha 3&1/2. It was nearly two months before I got on the water again.

Merc 3&1/2 4-stroke 'RIP' … a lovely little motor, but useless.
Friend and engineer Steve Bosquette repairs the 4 hp Yamaha shifter .. 1st time

By then the pattern of sunny weekdays and rainy weekends that became a perpetual gripe had set in. So the Eastern Messabout in late June was the first real opportunity to sail. There were only five of us with seven boats but sail we did, puttering out the Rancocas to the channel, hoisting sail, and living the high life. At least on Friday afternoon and Saturday. All was right in the world again. Until the Yamaha starter spring sprung loose. After a brief thunderstorm and cookout, six savvy heads couldn't get it reinstalled. But I had had four or five fine sails, run aground for the first time ever (and gotten off by shifting weight & sail set), and I had towed someone in for the first time. My spirits were restored.

Eastern Messabout 09' .. after the thunderstorm
I added a handy 'bridge deck' w/ cup holders … cheap rub rails to be replaced.

But the rainy weekends persisted. I was able to get in three more sails in July by sneaking out weekdays and starting the Yamaha with a pull rope .. it rarely takes more than a few pulls. And in early August I sailed at Lake Nockamixon with just the MinnKota, and only a few minutes of that each time. In fact one windy day sailing single-handed was particularly satisfying not so much for how far or how fast I sailed, but because I had reinstalled a club on the jib to make it self-tending .. and in order to adjust the position of the eye pads I had to sheet the mizzen tight, leave the main and jib sheets loose, and head her up several times as I stood in the cabin to move them. She just sits there weather-vaning on the mizzen and drifts back very slowly. A very reassuring feeling even in a bit of chop.

The weekend weather continued to be uncooperative throughout July and August, which was just as well because I contracted a nasty sinus infection that spiked my blood pressure and took a third antibiotic to cure. This after a surgeon had pulled 1” piece of wood out of my belly in May, and I had pulled another piece out mid-July … and I still couldn't raise my left arm above my shoulder. Steve Bosquette and I muttered incessantly about the weather. And the ##!!XX ! plastic shit lever on the Yamaha snapped off. I jury rigged a push-pull substitute that gives me forward and neutral .. the Merc didn't have reverse anyhow … don't need or miss it. But in spite of my persistence, insult was added to injury. When the weather cleared up the weekend before Labor Day and we met at Nockamixon, I rigged her up only to realize I was too sick to sail … I had to settle for a gentle cruise aboard Steve's “get through the season plastic run-about”. The day was salvaged, but my frustration was deepened.

But Autumn has always been my favorite season, and this year was no exception. Steve, chief engineer aboard the 'Terry Jeanne', had fixed the starter coil, and the self tending jib was working just fine. I had raked the mast back about 4” at the top, eliminating a slight lee helm which had crept in when I reinstalled a bow sprit back to make the jib self tending. The Wanderer design was proving to be a very adaptable and capable wanderer.

The second Saturday of September we had been invited by Ted Kilsdonk to the annual TSCA Delaware Chapter Messabout at Union Lake, down in Southern N.J. It being Saturday, it was raining when I woke up, drizzling as I uncovered the boat and put the trailer on the old Cherokee. I nearly stayed home. It was raining when I met Steve over in Jersey and it drizzled the whole two hours it took to drive down to Millville; the muttering grew louder. But when we pulled in to the sailing club the rain stopped … for the rest of the day. There was a large and varied fleet of home-built and tenderly restored sailboats, row boats and canoes, including a Michalak or two. My boat looked 'sort of traditional' and definitely well used amid all those fine craft and I had three or four sails with various parties aboard. Union Lake is a fine small boat water that we'll be going back to. We left well sated in the early evening … and it was raining by the time we got to the highway and rained the rest of the drive home.

Showing her 3 seasons .. the only self-designed boat .. only time ever beached.
Maybe ½ of the boats at the Delaware TSCA Messabout .. Union Lake, NJ.
A variety of crafts and some real beauties! Lovely Adirondack Guide boat.
Ted Kilsdonk rowing his very able Michalak Oracle .. a few of the fleet across.

I sailed with Steve once and by myself a couple of times in September and October. Not as often as the grand plan for the season called for and we never did get to over-night, but enough to restore ones spirit. In late October a life-long friend, Ross Edwards, came visiting from Quincy, MA and we finally got in a a long, cool sail under light and variable winds. This had been one of my 'design requirements'. Ross just retired and we will take that overnight voyage of Lake George in 2010.

And then one early November Saturday the Goddess of Wind and Sail appeared at Nockamixon. On a sunny Saturday there was a steady 6 -10 knot wind out of the North at the lake (NW – SW is more common). Steve and I rigged and launched with the ease that comes from three seasons, sailed off the dock, and proceeded to delight in a reach of five miles or more without coming about. This is what it's all about! We stopped for lunch at a by-then deserted state rental dock, then lazily reached all the way back to the Tohickon ramp under a lighter but still persistent breeze. Four hours of reaching and running, the sparkling water with mild temperatures and the remainder of Autumn color to set it off. It might have been enough to call it a season.

Ross finally gets aboard and takes the tiller … we're running wing-a-wing, 3kts.
That balmy day but only one other sail on the lake .. Steve B. & I talking boats.

But the 'icing on the cake' came just two days later, the last week of November, the day before our 38th wedding anniversary. The weather was cool – in the 40's – but sunny with a 2 – 5 knot breeze. And my wife Terry Jeanne agreed to a celebratory sail, her first this year. Now you have to realize that Terry had a nasty post bypass surgery stroke six years ago, and has persistent neurological pain from shoulder to toe on her right side – only partly mitigated with pain meds. And she broke that right ankle a year and a half ago, further limiting her mobility. She also has some expressive aphasia which drives this friendliest of all women nuts. She never met a person she didn't enjoy getting to know. So she's going to be stuck with me, alone on a sailboat, bundled up scarf and all, for a couple of hours. I brought along some tasty treats to distract her and after watching me with a patient, bemused look as I rigged and launched, she found herself steering us out of the Nockamixon marina while I stepped into the cabin to untangle the jib sheet. And we sailed and motored for the next two hours, reminiscing about our children and grandchildren and our times at Trout House on the northern basin of Lake George. And planning sails next year with friends .. after I make the # 1 priority upgrade to the boat - a couple of short steps in to the cockpit and a rail on either side of the cabin roof to make it easier for her (and me).

Terry was tickled pink and driving home couldn't wait to call family and friends and share her day. And my season, which started so shabbily and suffered too many stumbles, literally and metaphorically… my season was saved .. on this day, gloriously successful!

Terry warm and happy .. on a cool day the cabin is warmer.
Yours truly at the helm and very satisfied with 'a season saved'.

Bob Throne



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