Setting Up
August 11, 2015


I've been slow to put into the rivers this season to sail. Part of reason is that the river currents have been quite high for the earlier part of the summer. That precluded sailing then. After that in late July, I taught a summer school in Tuebingen. Perparing for it and the doing of it took a lot of time and then left me worn out from jet lag and hard work..

Finally I am starting to admit to myself that I have less enthusiasm for sailing on the rivers than I did in 2009 when I started. Then it was a great challenge. The idea was enchanting. A small sailboat is kept on a river bank. On a whim it is slid into the water for a quick sail at one of the most spectatcular riverfronts in the world!

The common wisdom was that it was a difficult thing to do; unlikely to succeed; and worse a dangerous thing to do. There are barges and locks, all of which can kill you, and, as I enquired further, they seemed to take on a malicious, active will to do so.

That meant that each successful sail was a triumph. I have enjoyed the repeated triumphs. The returns are diminishing, however. The successes are becoming more routine, while the effort needed remains the same.

The demand for that effort now came in full force as I headed off today to set up my Hobie Bravo for river sailing this season. The boat had been lodged on its trailer and set against some foliage along the river trail at the Newport Marina. I'd check on it now and again when I'd run the trail. Over time, the boat had become overgrown with creepers.

overgrown boat

So the first job was to haul the boat out. I pulled the creepers off as best I could and disengaged it from the canoe that had been hurled on top of it. I had real trouble moving it. It just wouldn't budge.

After a lot sweating and grunting, I realized the problem was a flat tyre on the trailer, which let it sink into sand and debris around the boat.

flay tire

Eventually, inch by inch and then foot by foot, I hauled the boat out. Phew!

boat freed

It could then be rolled down the ramp onto the grassy flat where the boat lives in the summers. I started to haul off the tarpaulins and other coverings. It turns out that several ant colonies had found nooks and crannies in which to live.


It took quite a while to sort all this out. I found a hose. Some strong water blasts made the job easier. (I later found when I fully unfurled the sail while docked at the Convention Center, that another ant colony had take up residence in the sail.) Eventually I had everything cleaned up and the boat ready to be rigged for the water.



Now came the second problem. The winter had been especially harsh on the marina. Ice floes down the river had torn things up pretty badly. These docks, for example, had once connected with the main dock. Now they stood isolated and inaccessible.

torn up dock

The ramp from which I launched my boat also suffered. It was quite broken up and unusable.




I'd talked with folk at the Newport Marina about an alternative. That came, it seemed, in the guise of a floating dock anchored at the point at which I launch. Or so I surmised. I am not eager to store the boat on such a dock, so I set up some driftwood on the bank where the boat could sit. It could then slide over other pieces onto the dock and then into water.

wood for the boat

This arrangement is not as elegant as the ramp. But, I soon found out, it worked and worked quite well enough. With the boat stored the old way on the sloped ramp, "stepping the mast"--that is raising it vertically--had become the worst part of the sailing day. I had to somehow shove the mast uphill. It was just barely at the edge of my strength to do it. With the boat now stored horizontally, the stepping proved to be much easier.

Here's the boat set up and ready to launch.

boat set up

Getting there had turned into hours of hot, sweaty work. That is the truth about boats and sailing: lots of work behind the scenes, all for the exhilaration of those moments when the boat flies over the waters!

Now, will I sail today?

John D. Norton


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