Friday, May 27, 2016

What Was I Thinking?

So, the time came to pull Galactic out of the water and give her a new coat of bottom paint.  It had been a year and four months since we hauled out in Valdivia, Chile, and we were pretty sure we didn't want to haul out in the Caribbean, which will be our next chance after South Africa.

I enquired at the boat yard here in Simon's Town, and found out that in a week their lift would be going out of service for two months.  They could get us out of the water.  But we'd have to do it that very afternoon.

Well!  Normally we plan our haulouts weeks in advance, giving us time to go through all the steps of locating the necessary supplies in a country where we know nothing, and then blocking out the time for me to do the work. (More and more, as Eric gets older, Alisa has also been able to help in the boatyard.)  But just then, I was buried in science work.  Haul out today?  It seemed impossible.

But then - deus ex machina - there is the cost of unskilled labor in South Africa to consider.  One side of this is a lesson about mastery that I am not keen for my sons to internalize: black people work on boats, white people sail them.  Another side of this is that we could haul out Galactic and I could continue to work at my science obligations while someone else painted the boat for us.

This is a very common approach for some yachties.  Really it is a cultural divide in the sailing world. Some people paint their own boats, others have them painted.  This one bit of information about a boat owner is all that you need to make all sorts of inferences about their approach to the grand adventure of sailing the world.  We are very much of the paint your own boat world.  I like to think of Enki as our great friends from the other side of the divide.

So, after a flurry of quick strategic thinking, it was on.  We would come out on the tide, with only four hours' notice.

We came out.  The tractor pulled us up the ramp.  I climbed down the ladder to look at Galactic's underbody, exposed to view.  And I was a little dismayed at what I saw...

I will pause here to note that there is another divide in the sailing world - between those who haul out regularly, and other people, like the wonderful crew of Mollymawk, who, if I have it right, last hauled out seven years ago.

Once again, there are all sorts of inferences that you can make about someone's approach, and their budget, based on which side of the divide they fall on.

We are on the regular haulout side of the divide.  But this time we took it too far.

It turned out that the one patch of bottom paint that we had assessed from the dock when wondering if we should haul out or not - peering down into the water from the dock at the side of the bow in the sun - that one patch turned out to be by far the worst bit of growth on the whole hull.  And it wasn't bad at all.  The bottom paint looked fine.  We could have gone another year without hauling out, no problem.

Later, I had the leisure to reflect that this is exactly what we should have done.  But we were out of the water now, and the boat was being set down, and we let the momentum carry us along.  If nothing else, we reasoned, we would be resetting the clock with a fresh paint job.

Someone else painted the boat while I was working on my laptop.  It turns out that I didn't really like having someone else do the job.  I found the painters about to make one big mistake, and from that point on I was torn between needing to keep an eye on things and not wanting to seem like I was always looking over their shoulders.  (As an interesting tidbit, it was in the yard that I learned about immigrant labor in South Africa.  The workers I asked were all from Zimbabwe or the DRC.)

When the job was done, we went back in the water, wondering if we were any better of than when we came out.

One of the things I love about people sailing the world on a shoestring is how tough they are about money, how resourceful they can be about not opening their wallets to get things done.  In this instance, we rushed ourselves into spending money needlessly, and I'm sure we would've acted differently if I wasn't working, and we didn't have money coming in.

So all our friends on the cheaper side of the spectrum can reassure themselves with our experience.  There's one more reason not to like work - it makes you spend money!

I, meanwhile, have resolved to be a more savvy yachtie.  I've got to be able to hold my head up the next time we see Mollymawk or (God forbid!) Ganesh.

The side story is that the timing worked out that we were on the hard for Eric's sixth(!) birthday.  There were three other foreign boats in the marina, none of whom we knew very well at the time.  They all rose to the occasion.  I don't know which one of them heard that it was Eric's birthday, but the word spread and they all came by with presents.  Meant the world to little fella.  And reminded me, yet again, of how much I like your average traveling sailor.

That's a dassie ("duhssie") on his cake.  Closest living relative of the elephant, size of an outstanding guinea pig.  They've been our favorite African mammal so far.


  1. Happy birthday Eric!! I can't believe you are 6! Have the most wonderful time in SA - dassies are fantastic little critters! Miss you all, MA xoxo

    1. Hey MA! We've thought about you a lot while we're here in SA...

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  3. Galatic looks great! Alisa looks great! I'm dabbling in sail boats too these days...

  4. You know what they say - nothing as fine as sailing on someone else's boat!