Sailing Into New Adventure
by Scott Andrews

Trying something new is both exhilarating and frightening. It is the unknown, and the unknown can be disarming. But if we are to really live, then we need to experience the unknown. Sailboat cruising was unknown to me. However, that didnít stop me from learning or dragging my wife Barb along with me. Bonus!
Scott Andrews climbing his mast with the help of the ladder.

I had a dream since I was a kid that I would sail the oceans in a real sailboat. I would save my paper-route money and buy Sail magazine and read about exotic places in the sun. It was the pictures that always kept me hooked. Beautiful people in beautiful places on beautiful boats. It was the way I wanted to spend my life. As the years went by, reality won out over the dream and Jimmy Buffett ended up living the life I wanted. Yet dreams never die and 30 years later, the dream was becoming reality.

For the previous dozen years, we had enjoyed kayak camping on the islands of Georgian Bay and Lake Superior. Small, deserted islands are a magical place for us, a place of relaxation and self-discovery. They are also places where Barb and I can spend a week completely alone, re-discovering each other. It was during such a trip that we were camped near a small anchorage where a few small sailboats were waiting out rough weather. I decided then, that I was going to save some money over
the next few years and buy a small cruising boat. As spouses often do, Barb acknowledged the comment, but knew that it was just another of many wishes, not something that would actually come true. Three years ago I surprised her by announcing that that was the year that I would buy my boat.
I researched the internet for suitable boats in the 22-26 foot range. It had to be big enough for comfort and with a shallow draft to access the small coves we liked to find with the kayaks. I then traveled from Bay City, Michigan to Penetanguishene, Georgian Bay, Ontario looking at dozens of boats. Ultimately, I ended up with the first boat I looked at, a Chrysler 26. It was 26 feet long with a swing keel, but needed some TLC as it was 27 years old. It was delivered late in August, backed into our yard and awaited a new life. I then started on the repairs and changes that would make it ďourĒ boat.

First on the list was getting rid of the kitschy, but torn, 1970ís green plaid cushions. I wisely let Barb pick the fabrics as I didnít trust my judgment in the area of interior design. I would have been content with any color except black or purple. I then started removing the teak trim for re-finishing over the winter. Re-enforcing the cabin sole with fiberglass was a sticky treat that was finished just before winter set in. I must confess, one of my favorite activities of owning the boat was the purchasing of gadgets and nautical stuff. There is no shortage of wondrous paraphernalia with which to stock a boat. Things like hanging baskets for fruit, folding dish racks and mini barbeques made excellent Christmas and birthday gifts. There is even something called halyard silencers.

Apparently, we must have silent halyards! One truth about boat stuff is that it will cost at least twice as much as the normal household product they imitate. I suppose the manufacturers figure that if you own a boat you must be rich. What they donít realize is that most of us donít buy new boats, we fix up old ones. Still, I ended up with what I consider the necessities such as a GPS, fish/depth finder and assorted spare hardware.

Reading and dreaming about sailing was a perfect winter pastime. I took the Power Squadron Seamanship course by correspondence and searched the internet for every piece of information I could find on the Chrysler 26. I didnít know how to launch or rig a sailboat so I needed to see how other people did it. I filled a binder with information, some of it contradictory. In the end most of the information was not used.

The following spring it took four attempts to get the boat in the water. We donít have a vehicle big enough to tow it so I hired the owner of a local garage. Due to bad weather, incorrectly made parts and miscommunication, we finally got it launched without a problem on Motherís Day. It took another 4 days to get the mast up. Not knowing how to do it myself, I introduced myself to Bernie and Dave, who were working on Bernieís boat. They quickly agreed to help. After an embarrassing bit of motoring, I got the boat over to the mast winch. The mast went up quickly but in all the work, we did not notice one of the halyards snaking up the mast and lodging at the top. There would be no way to get it down except by going up. Bernie and Dave chuckled and said it happens to everyone sooner or later. Mine just happened to be sooner! Not having a strong enough pulley to use a bosunís chair, we decided that the best course of action would be to use the manual mast winch to hoist me up the mast. We also decided to wait until the week-end. I quietly decided there had to be another way. I again showcased my rusty motoring skills as I docked her for a few days. Lessons learned included a) 5000 pound boats have a lot of inertia b) body and facial contortions do not help steer the boat in the right direction and c) boat people are very patient and helpful to each other.

Two days later Barb and I carried my new idea out to the boat. Although Barb did not like this idea, she liked the mast winch idea even less. I decided to do this during a week-day evening, when there were fewer people about to witness my possible ďmisadventure.Ē They would probably have said that sailboats and extension ladders do not mix! I tied the base of a 24 foot ladder to the mast, tied every fourth rung to the mast as I climbed and pushed the extension up. I went through a lot of rope. At the top of the ladder and the final tie-off I realized the ladder was eight feet too short! I carefully descended and went to the chandlery to purchase a longer boat-hook. The lady behind the counter asked what I was up to. After I told her, she asked me to wait another five minutes until she closed. She didnít want to watch or hear me fall! After I re-assured her that the water was much too cold for a swim I returned to the task at hand.

Not wasting any of my bravado, I scaled the ladder once again while Barb took, what she hoped, were not the last pictures of me. At the top of the ladder, I tied myself off with dock-line knowing that if could hold a boat it would surely hold me. At that point, Barb decided she wanted to hold the ladder ďjust in case.Ē As she stepped aboard, the boat started rocking and I started swinging like a giant human metronome. Barb quickly jumped off and I slowed to a halt. Now that was exciting! I reached upward with the pole and within 30 seconds I had the wayward halyard in hand. I pulled it down and Barb grabbed the end. As I descended I untied all the rope and lowered the ladder. The whole job took less than an hour. We packed up and left before any of the real sailors could see us.

The boom and mainsail went up without a hitch and we were getting very close to our maiden voyage, which we had planned for the end of the week. The first time was a hectic, adrenaline pumping experience but no one got hurt or embarrassed. Even more important was that the unknown slowly became the known. The worn adage may say that you canít teach an old dog new tricks but, occasionally, the old dog can teach himself.

Scott Andrews sails with his wife Barb in Georgian Bay. He sailed his new boat, a Hunter 33 from Bay City, Michigan to Wiarton, Ontario. Scott lives in Sauble Beach, Ontario on the shores of Lake Huron.

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