Friday, February 12, 2010

There's nothing like boat soup to start your Friday off right

Even as the Monomoy sits freezing and thawing on her trailer out in the weather, she speaks. Out on the water, you can tell the boat always wants to go fast, turns quicker if you ask her nicely and is one tough chick when it comes to those high breaking swells. But even sitting still on her trailer in Norfolk, her personality still shines through.

Now it might be an odd notion for a landsman to consider a boat as a living thing, but regardless of the method by which it is constructed, it is. The various little nuances in performance, durability and longevity that differ in boats of the same class are great reminders of this. She seems to respond to you, ever so subtly, and remind you that any seagoing venture is a partnership between sailors and their boat. Take care of her, and she'll take care of you. One hand for the ship and one for yourself. And so on and so forth. This is a recognized phenomenon among mariners, often discounted by the land-locked.

The Monomoy likes to remind me that she wants to go fast. The water dripping off her cover landed squarely on her trailer chocks, causing them to rot and crack when the water in them froze. This might seem ordinary for a winter of freezes and thaws, but there was no rhyme or reason to the flow of water to the chocks - on both sides; they arent under the lowest part of the sheer. The boat wants the chocks off.

This morning I treated her to a fresh bucket of boat soup - that odorous concoction of pine tar, linseed oil, turpentine, beeswax, japan dryer and tung oil. It's an age old mixture for which there are literally hundreds of recipies (all using more or less the same ingredients) that is proven to prevent rot, mildew, mold and keep water out of just about any solid substance. We apply it regularly to the Monomoy's teak gunwales, which are more than 60 years old. The soup soaks in and darkens the wood, leaving it smelling perfectly 'salty'. Less than 10 minutes after the first coat, which is applied with a rag or a sponge, water beads are seen forming on what was (seemingly) perfectly dry wood - all of it moisture that had worked its way inside. When wiped down after three or four coats have exhausted the pot, the gunwales have a distincitve sheen unmatched by any modern finish. Repeat at regular intervals, and the Monomoy is one happy boat, and pretty too.

When the weather warms sufficiently we have new paint for her interior ready and waiting in stores. The coat of 'spar' we applied last November will be overpainted with at least two more, and the tank tops will be pressure washed and painted 'blue-gray'. All in all she'll look much better than her last dressing in International Orange. Her new mast - being manufactured in the bird's mouth technique - is waiting to be assembled, and her rigging is on the stretch in the rigging cage. All we need is warm weather.

So for now I'll keep lathering her up with boat soup every other week, airing her out on dry days and knocking the icicles off when it turns wet and cold. And of course, I still have four to six weeks of finger fight club left tabling and roping the sail.


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