Friday, December 23, 2016

Launched at Last

When Dawn and I got back to the boatyard after landing in Charleston on Tuesday afternoon, we were pleased to find that the chainplates were back in the boat, however the stem and stern iron was still not installed and the mast still had significant assembly required before it was ready to go back up. So the hope that the rig would be ready to go up Tuesday afternoon proved to be inordinately optimistic - pretty much as expected. We only spent maybe two hours at the boatyard on Tuesday, most of it spent unpacking and stowing all the Amazon/Defender/Jamestown Distributors treasures that arrived in our absence.

When we arrived at the boatyard Wednesday, one of the workers was just finishing up installing our new Garmin triducer (it required a slightly larger hole than the old airmar depth transducer). I set about riveting the gooseneck assembly base to the mast, having finally procured the correct size of blind rivets (1/4" x 5/8") from Fastenal. Unfortunately our rivet gun broke on the first rivet! They're stainless steel and a real bear to "pop." So we borrowed the boatyard's heavy-duty riveter to do the other seven. Meanwhile, workers installed the stern iron and prepared to install the stem iron. The riggers arrived and started reassembling the mast at a rapid clip. Dawn and I worked inside the cabin reassembling trim that was covering the aft chainplates (the cabinets disassembled to access the forward and mid chainplates will require a carpenter to reassemble, and he's not able to do it until after Jan 1st). Suddenly, there was a whole bevy of problems: the riggers discovered that the mid chainplates had been drilled too small for the pins that secure the upper shroud turnbuckles; the stem iron had been bent too shallowly for the bow rake; one of the welded spreaders had redeveloped a crack. It sounded to me like our slow trawler would never again sport a rig to harness the wind.

But solutions appeared just as quickly. The boatyard manager called the machine shop that has fashioned the chainplates and stem iron, and within 30 minutes two machinists appeared, drill in hand to drill out the appropriate holes (I was skeptical about using a handheld drill on stainless steel, but they did a really nice job). They left with the stem iron to be rebent at the machine shop. And the boatyard manager said he would drive the cracked spreader to and from the welder's (90 minutes each way) that very night, and it would be painted in the morning. Rerigging and launching was still possible on Thursday, he said. Nearly three months of delays fueled my skepticism. In any case I would be gone Thursday, beginning a three-day trip that ends on New Years Eve day. No worries, he said; they could launch without me.

And so it was via a series of photos texted to me by Dawn, Dan and Isabelle, and the boatyard manager that I followed today's progress. The stem iron was not completed in time, but no matter; the spinnaker halyard made a suitable temporary headstay. The spreader was rewelded and repainted, and the rig went up in mid-afternoon. Shortly thereafter the Travellift lifted Windbird from the jacks that have supported her since October 3rd and lowered her into the Wando River. When I turned my phone on after landing in Seattle, I nearly jumped for joy at the sight of Windbird afloat and tied up to the boatyard's docks.


So now we are waiting for the stem iron to be reinstalled, for the rig to be tuned, for the cabinets to be put back in, and above all for Tidal Marine Electronics to replace all our lightning-fried instruments & gizmos. Rerig the boat, finish a few miscellaneous projects, move the remainder of our stuff from our beach apartment to the boat, do some reprovisioning, and we can head south to Florida. That kinda sounds like a lot, but it's really not compared to what we've already done. Right now I'm just thrilled to be back in the water.

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