Well launch day finally showed up after seven weeks of long days sawing and sanding and gluing. I’m suffering from a mean case of chiggers after an expedition into the country with the locals searching for cactus tops – a painful business in itself – and cocolitos, “little coconuts”, a kind of palm nut which we found scattered throughout the jungle and fields mysteriously far from any palm trees. Mysteriously that is until it was explained to me that these nuts had already been swallowed by cows and expelled either through the front end or the rear; it was unclear which but I guess I am rooting for the former. If you don’t know what chiggers are trust me you don’t want to find out in any way other than academically via Google.
But I digress. Launch was a quiet affair attended only by the usual assortment of government officials, heads of state, foreign diplomats and royalty. I heaved her down to the shoreline on her insane wooden axle with its creaking medievil wooden wheels. It was nice to be moving my own boat for a change; I am getting tired of the endless hauling of the locals’ lanchas up and down the sand. I tied on a few last bits of rope which I thought might come in handy then a couple of small boys helped push me into the surf and I shot out to sea, rather pleased that the new rudders appeared to work splendidly. I won’t bore you with all the details, that is for the proa nuts for whom I promise I will write a decent report when I have had more experience aboard.
Changes to the boat include: New crossbeams of laminated Alaska yellow cedar, new rudders, new deck, 3 hatches, masthead, ama attachment system, capsize recovery system, 2 new sails, 2 carbon spars, rub rail, entirely new platform and reel mount, keel line reinforcement, new tackline system including new main hull-ends of zapote wood with relieved holes. The interior foam has been removed to save weight and the ama strengthened with an extra coat of glass.
So I dithered about in the ocean for a while. The wind was way too brisk for the sail I was using which is my biggest – I couldn’t be bothered to change down but I seem to have gotten the hang of not capsizing all the time. I also seemed able to point within around 50 degrees of the wind, this with an oceanic lateen sail… oops I’m going technical. Shunts were not too horribly difficult. The ama (outrigger float) flew above the waves and he (for Pacific flying proas are traditionally male, I can see why for this boat is gangly, angular, fast-moving and has no vagina) was easy to balance and fairly flew along on reaches. I got around just fine, steering easily, the deck a bit slippery but everything in control, until…
I was about a half-mile offshore when it all went pear-shaped. Suddenly there was a bit of a clunking noise and everything went all tilty. the deck leaned downwards towards the outrigger at a desperate angle and I slid into the water, where I found that the outrigger float had separated from the ends of the crossbeams and was hanging around, only held from floating away by one of my extra bits of rope. I had not lashed it on with enough pieces of rubber… this was deliberate because the design is supposed to be a bit flexible, but really the two hulls of this boat are supposed to stay attached together and if they separate, well, it is most inconvenient. The mast and sail came down on top of me. and things started banging around a lot in the waves, of which I was now an integral part.
I wasn’t worried, the waves weren’t bad and the wind would eventually wash me up down at the next village somewhere. There are no rocks. All the same I didn’t want the embarrassment of being rescued by the locals. I struggled in the water trying to to reattach the float but it was impossible with everything moving around and nothing at all to stand upon. I saw one of my bits of inner tube lashing sinking way down below so I dived deep for it and came up minus a contact lens. Eventually I figured the only thing I could do to rescue myself was to pull the ends of the crossbeams up – they were pointing almost vertically down, with the main hull floating on its side and lash them undeneath the ama so the boat was sort of together but with main hull and deck still leaning severely. This was not easy to do, compounded by the way I was hanging in deep water knowing the white soles of my feet were flashing down there and just waiting for something to bite them off. I do not enjoy this feeling. Anyway it worked. I got the mast back up and limped to shore, where I ran her up on the beach then promptly capsized because due to onboard tangulation I could not release the mainsheet in time.
Amazingly, there was no damage at all. I could get used to this.
Oh this boat. I could do with something just a little less challenging. But it is much better than last time, so far, provided nothing goes seriously awry with the rudders. Oh dear that happened this morning when I damaged one this morning on land, idiot that I am. But I have discovered that anything can be fixed with enough epoxy resin and string.
Despite the long hours at the workbench life continues dreamily pleasant here and I would not trade it for anything right now, though I know it cannot last for ever.