Many rituals can be conducted to launch a boat. When Andy Bike and I took Row Bird out for the very first time, we invoked the names of several gods and, in lieu of an alcoholic libation, emptied a bottle and asked the good Lord to accept the most valuable beverage we could think of: clean drinking water.
I took the boat out a few more times after that, but considered Row Bird officially launched the afternoon I spent with a bunch of friends on the river. We cruised along, eating and drinking, my 12-year-old son doing most of the driving, enjoying a civilized and leisurely afternoon. We waved and exchanged words with some of my old dinghy racing friends who were out doing the Sunday afternoon races in their one-class boats.
In light wind, we soon learned that an Arctic Tern is slower than a Laser (Mike literally sailed circles around us like a hungry shark), slower than a Thistle (but heck, with all that sail, what isn’t?), slower than an Annapolis wherry (OK, not a fair test, but it still passed us handily), and at least as fast as a Lido 14 (goodness knows we should be faster than something!).
If I’d found more time before this to sail the boat and tune the rigging, I wouldn’t need to confess that almost every piece of rigging on it is temporary. The mighty Prusik knot is hooked up on various spars and blocks until I figure out exactly where things should sit permanently. It makes a great temporary binding that stays put under pressure. A few observations about the boat so far:
- It moves confidently and smoothly in winds from 3 to 15 knots. In light air it doesn’t feel sluggish and it doesn’t feel like it will get away from you when the wind picks up.
- There are lots of great places to sit comfortably, even for four people. I set the benches a little lower than the plans called for and I’m quite happy with sitting in the boat, versus sitting on the boat. It’s a subtle, but important difference.
- The push-pull tiller works just as well as a normal one, as long as I sail by feel alone. Looking at it is like listening to my own voice on a recording: it’s weird.
- “Mist gray” paint is really just another term for white. I painted the cockpit with this shade to reduce glare, but it didn’t work. A little dirt will fix that.
- Despite putting in a hundred hours or so doing painting and varnishing, I started out thinking of this as a working boat, and it’s a good thing I did. Everything seems to be getting bumped around and scraped up. I feel better about it when I tell myself that it doesn’t matter, precisely because this is a working boat (repeat indefinitely).
- The flotation tanks are awesome storage places which allow the cockpit to remain relatively clutter free (except for those dang oars, which I’ve strapped down between the mast and the centerboard trunk).
- I’m still not sure where the yard and boom should set, but I’m guessing that will come to me with time.
I know many of you tune in for the tales, but you boat geeks out there can check out the Nerdy Details page for more scintillating minutiae .
Many of my friends on the river that day asked me about the boat’s name. I called her Row Bird partly because sailboats look like strange, wonderful birds to me, and this one rows. And it’s partly named after my mom, Roberta, who was physically disabled. Since she couldn’t get out and do a lot of things, I like to think that her spirit is with me on my adventures.
Thanks to Aussie Steve for the on the water photos.
[Next week we’ll get back to the Seattle to Port Townsend rowing stories…]