It’s been almost 18 months since the boat was last sailed. And WHAT a sail it was. I decided to stay home with our 3 month old while Adam went to Oriental, North Carolina, where our boat resides, to sail the Frog with our friends Paul and Jeanine. They sailed that boat hard, and at one point while the starboard rails were in the water, every one heard a ‘pop’. Turns out the chain plates (the steel channels bolted to the inside of the hull supporting the mast) popped off the wood which it was bolted onto for support. Everyone is lucky the mast held up! I’ve heard stories of masts actually toppling over after similar events. The chain plates on our boat were designed to fall about 8 inches short of the fiberglass hull. We all kind of scratched our heads at that. Had the chain plates been just another couple of inches longer, the mast would have been supported by the entire fiberglass hull of the boat, preventing this separation by adding exponentially more support. But, I wont let JBoats take all the blame. Another great prevention would have been to keep the wood dry and free of rot. Needless to say, Adam left the boat feeling overwhelmed by this daunting repair which he knew was necessary to safely sail the boat again. That, and a newborn, is the cause of our delayed return to the Frog.
But back we went! And conquer that repair we did.
Okay, I say ‘we’, but really, Emilia and simply I watched while Adam and Paul did their magic: extending the chain plate down to the fiberglass with a steel reinforcement. We feel 90% confident to continue inland sailing with this repair. The weight of the mast is now supported by the fiberglass hull and not solely on a thin piece of plywood (duh). Although I will say that I keep my ears peeled for ‘popping’ noises while we are on a port tack.
This was our first trip back to the boat in 18 months, and we had only a few days, May 7th-11th. We spent the first day letting the overwhelming tasks before us sink in, and the second day cleaning mold (all the colors of the rainbow) and re rigging our sails which were taken down by the marina during the last few hurricanes. Day 3 yielded successful repairs of the chain plates! And after, that, the only thing left to do was check the current mood of our diesel engine. Usually we have to hear about it when we leave the boat for an extended period of time. But not this time! She started right up, as my dad would say: “Like a god damned sewing machine.”
Day 4: go time!
It was Emilia’s first sail. She waited patiently at the public town dock in Oriental while Paul and Adam motored over to pick us up.
The day was beautiful with light winds, a perfect first sail for a 2 year old.
I will say that Adam was a nervous wreck while she was on board.
All of the unreliable attributes of our boat flooded through his daddy brain, and rightfully so! I could pretty much see him re-living every hair raising event we’ve ever had on the Frog while sitting next to our precious new cargo.
Needless to say, we have intentions in our sailing future to move onto a more family friendly boat. Something with a little more reliability, and space!
But until then, day sailing is perfect for us.
This was a short but successful boat trip. We were all surprised to get the repairs done in time to actually get out on the water. We took a short reprieve to get back to life and work and came right back, two weeks later.
On May 27th, we went back to the Frog for a week of sailing adventures, baby and friends in tow! Paul accompanied us, and our friend Rachel, another water creature who can’t keep her feet dry for too long without immediate existential consequences.
I think that pretty much sums up our abysmal commonalities.
There was a tandem sigh of contentment as we all got our water fix at the docks and on the boat.
There’s nothing like a pandemic to toss you a live wire of reality and perspective. The title wave of death and affliction across the globe and on our doorstep has left mortality at the forefront of our psyche. Not a terribly bright landscape, but nonetheless it brings our raw desires to the limelight.
And of course, theres nothing like a little tropical storm named Bertha to get you good and wet. The weather called for 100% rain pretty much every day of our planned trip. But we held true and barreled right through those Debbie Downer weather forecasts.
We were soaked on our first sail. It probably wasn’t the best day to be going out, given that we could see storms on all sides of us, but we had a small window on the radar and we jumped on it. Adam and Emilia stayed behind on this sail due to the tropical storm conditions, but he witnessed the best of it! After we motored through the channel and raised our sails, Rachel looked back and said: “what is that bright flashing light on shore?” I looked back to see two bright blinking lights at the pier. I immediately checked my phone and saw Adam’s text confirming my suspicion. He was signaling his FOMO in morse code with the lights of our SUV. Most parents would agree that kids and ‘missing out’ go hand in hand sometimes.
The rest of our sail was a pretty mixed bag of wind, no wind, rain, and scary looking skies.
After we wrapped up our sail and pulled into the dock, we heard the town sirens go off. It turns out there was a tornado in New Burn, pretty much around the corner from where we were sailing.
The next few days produced more of the same: torrents of rain broken up by intermittent washes of bright blue sky. We had all been stuck inside way too long, and we weren’t going to let little Bertha do you know what on our parade. We still played on the water, sail or no sails. Allow me to introduce our second favorite boat: the African QueenShe is the Titanic of all canoes, but unlike the Titanic, our Queen here is unsinkable. She goes everywhere with us. And that little motor on the back lets us zip up and down pretty much anywhere for fishing, manatee swim alongs, dolphin watching, you name it and we’ve done it with her.
Check out these matching banana suits Adam and Paul scraped up for our rainy canoe ride.
Paul didn’t catch any fish.
But we ALL caught at least one sting ray.
In fact, I’m pretty sure that’s all there is in Oriental. Sting rays and fanciful delusions of fish, but no actual fish. Oh, and Eels! Adam caught an American Eel with his cast net. I cant believe he still gets in that water with his snorkel gear to scrape the barnacles off the hull. Impressive.
Despite the lack of biting fish, this trip has ignited a curiosity towards Oriental that I really didn’t have before. The area embodies an unmistakable flavor of the North Carolina Coastal regions. The wildlife is incredible, and the swampy estuaries are breathtaking. It’s hard to describe, being more subtle than the actual beaches which most tourists flock to. It feels absolutely wild and even a little pernicious.
Our next sail was met with some malfunctions. Frankly, I was surprised something didn’t break sooner.
It always starts the same. Something unusual happens, and Adam tries to tell me it’s ‘probably nothing.’ At which point I have to calmly explain that smoke doesn’t usually come out the back of the boat. Oh, and look, there’s not much water shooting out of the coolant exhaust either. Hmm… clearly something is amiss.
Luckily we were past the first few channel markers so we raised the sails and turned off the motor and the boys went to work.
It didn’t take Adam long to find a few of these impeller vanes floating around in the hose of the sea water pump.
The impeller is missing a few fingers, but it works ok for now! We had a great sailing day thereafter. Rachel took the wheel, and tried her hand at sailing a boat for the first time.
We were accompanied by plenty of other boats playing on the water. Always a good sign.
Our last day of sailing yielded the best winds we had thus far. The weather was perfect. The air had that purified post tropical storm glimmer to it.
We did have quite the hairy ride going underneath the bridge to the channel however. The two days prior generated some strong winds from the North East, which blew the water in from the sound, creating Oriental’s only Tidal shift: a wind blown tide. It was so intense that it actually washed sea water over the main road that comes through the town. It was kind of adorable, there were schools of tiny fish and small crabs scuttling across the street in 18″ of water. But that wind blown tide on top of an already high water level gave us a questionable bridge height to clear.
This was our last day to sail so we wasted no time popping up the sails and getting that boat moving. The wind was still blowing from the North East so we couldn’t stay out too long for fear that the bridge would have even less clearance when we got back. The wind had us moving today!
And since the end of Paul’s joke got cut off from the video, I will retell here:
‘Only two kinds of people stand in the hatchway: Admirals and Assholes.’
There was some pretty great joke telling on this trip.
On our port tack the rails would occasionally hit the water, and we all had our ears open for those chain plates.
So much creaking! But the chain plates were silent. And strong.
It was a great day to be on the water.
It was harder than ever to leave this go around. I guess with everything going on in the world, this little reprieve was especially meaningful.
Now that I’m home and writing this, I can tell you we will be back in no time. I’m already planning the next rendezvous. If everything goes as planned we will be back in two or three weeks! And it’s looking like it will be a girls adventure. Rachel and I got the low down on how to bleed the lines in the motor, how work on the impeller if that thing happens again, how to finesse the moody outboard in case the inboard dies on us, and a few other things that I’m embarrassed to say I haven’t actually taken the initiative to learn till now. Fingers crossed we will back on the water in just a few weeks!