Monday, June 14, 2010

a bloody great hole in the leg, or, how to launch the Monomoy single handed

This morning I am still hurting from the weekend, as we had a neverending stream of things to do. First and foremost was Harborfest, our second event of the year with the Monomoy Pulling Boat. It was there that my fun started for the weekend.

The boat ramp in Harbor Park is difficult to find - it is literally just a concrete slab one lane wide that descends at a perilous angle into the water, where huge rocks and debris clutter up its end. There are no docks of any sort and the nearest place to embark is a wrecked pier some 20 yards away from the launch ramp. Where better to try launching the boat single-handed, right? Well first you have to understand the progression of events here.

First, I was 90 minutes early with the boat, earlier than my usual hour. I had the boat ready to go within about 10 minutes, and decided to more carefully examine the ramp with the trailer. Backing slowly, I stopped every few feet to get out, examine the trailer on the ramp, then back a little further. The plan was to just "examine" the ramp's suitability. But by the time it was clear that 1) the trailer would in fact fit down the ramp, 2) there was nobody around to whine that I was taking too long, and 3) I have rowed the boat single handed before, I thought what the hell - I cast off the straps, then jumped in the car and lowered her all the way down.

Now on this ramp, all the way down is a technical term. Basically it means until the stern is floating, the ramp being at such a steep pitch that its unadvisable to try to get the whole trailer in there. When set, I locked the brakes on the car, put it in gear and shut down the engine. Then I jumped out and manned the winch, lowering the boat off the trailer and into the water. She slid easily down without a problem and in about 10 seconds flat, she was afloat. I then took a moment to chock the wheels of the truck to prevent it from going anywhere, then approached the boat to jump in. And that's when disaster set in. Not thinking about the slimy ramp, I took one step and slid under the trailer, punching a nice hole in my leg and bruising the crap out of my back as my leg went careening under the trailer and my back onto the keel rollers.

Taking a moment to recover and survey the damage from this absolutely DUMB mistake, I pulled myself onto the bow platform and broke out the first aid kit. I got the hole patched up with a little disinfecting medical adhesive, and swabbed up the blood, both off my leg and the side of the boat (save it for the Pirate Festival). I then unhooked the bow and sitting atop the stowed mast and sail, grabbed two of the 14' ash oars and rowed the boat clear of the trailer. An onsetting wind helped me get the boat to the makeshift dock, at which I tied myself up, and went back to park the car.

So all in all, a very interesting launch. Could have ended very badly, but didnt thanks to the well-equipped boat. Next time, I just need to make sure I stick to the 'two person integrity' rule.


The remainder of the event went well, and was nothing if not an exercise in what a few well-trained sailors can do. When the appointed hour rolled around, only two crew members had shown up. Remember, this boat has a standard crew of 10 - six people hadn't shown. So after waiting the requisite 15 minutes, we decided to work into the river with just the three of us. NHS Seaman Reese took the steering oar, while NHS Seaman Jones and I pulled for him on the three thwart. Once out into the river, we rigged the leeboard and hoisted sail - just the three of us - and sailed into downtown Norfolk for the festival.

I have to say, without the weight of the full crew sailing is TIGHT. The empty thwarts start 'talking' and the mast strains against the collar. With two people required to top up the halyard, the coxswain has to hand the sheet as well as the steering oar. But considering that all three of us had made the trip across the Chesapeake, this proved to be no problem. She heeled with the freshening breeze as we three crowded the weather rail to balance the boat. We made it to Nauticus without a problem, and astounded our fans waiting on the dock (yes, we have a few fans, mostly friends and family). We tied up and disembarked (debarked, in Navy speak) and set out to enjoy the festivities.

Here, I should note that next year we need to get involved with the other events. They had a "quick and dirty boatbuilding" competition, a "dock dog olympics" and other events we could easily compete in.

By about 1900 the skies had started to darken and the wind began freshening. With only the three of us, we lacked the ballast for stability we'd need in foul weather. So we made the decision to set off back up the river for the recovery site. Once we'd worked out into the river, we made excellent time sailing, reaching the ramp before 1930. Haul out went much smoother than I'd hoped for and we had the boat recovered and heading home before 2000.

Special thanks to NHS Seamen Reese and Jones - you guys were SHIT HOT out there and really made an otherwise bust event a great time! You rock!


The remainder of the weekend was spent hauling trash and debris out of the dockyard and searching for signs of infection. All those old fence posts, chain link fencing and the debris from the Framing Bay tearout have been removed, and the leg seems to be healing nicely. The Framing Bay expansion is on schedule to be finished by Wednesday's meeting and the whole thing should get a new coat of paint soon after. This looks to be a very exciting week.


Weekly meeting Wednesday at 1900, free beer, soft drinks and snacks.


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