When Time is Short

Breadboat on a trailer
A test-row on Psammead.

When only a few weeks were left before my departure for a long summer voyage, time management became a priority.  May had arrived with still too many things to do before leaving, and I had to put some things aside in order to fast-track the really important ones.  Those were, of course, getting Pshrimp and the little breadboats launched and ready for the family to use while I’m away, and spending a good deal of time with the family while doing it.

The breadboats are too big and heavy to fit in the back of my little pickup truck, so I bought a beater trailer off of Craigslist, then modified it slightly to take a breadboat.

It didn’t have to go far: we have access to the historic landing at the head of the Westport River.  It’s a place we often go to canoe and coracle, just a couple minutes away from the house.

We began by testing the launch sequence with Psammead, which was her first splash as well.  We wanted to figure out not only how to deal with launching the heavier breadboats, but to test Psammead and figure out her ideal rowing positions.

Is there a more satisfying thing than launching a boat you built and having her not only float trim, but be stable and row easy?  I can’t think of one.  We left Damaris in Psammead at the river while we shuttled the other breadboats over with the trailer one at a time. 

The breadboats were slightly more top-heavy, having a cabin top and mast, and rolled a good deal while we sculled them to an anchor we had set from Psammead.

The tide was too low to sail the breadboats that day, but we tested Psammead’s sailing rig, finding a few details to work out, and ended the day with the breadboats swinging to a shared anchor in the river and Psammead back on the trailer.

Several nights later I went with Damaris and Emily for a night on the breadboats.  What’s the use of a cabin with a bunk if you never sleep aboard, after all?  I had meant to sleep aboard Psammead, and did for most of the night, until an unexpected rain drove me to squeeze in with Damaris, and we remained, if not perfectly comfortable, at least dry in her breadboat cabin.

A day or so later we were able to coordinate the launch of Pshrimp, whose accommodations are perfectly luxurious for two after the tight quarters of the breadboats.  We spent the first night aboard in case she needed pumping, like she had last year, but having been stored more damply over the winter than before we got her, she barely leaked a drop.

During this final month, we also snatched a chance for a climbing trip to New Hampshire, in the last week before hotel rates double for the season.  Without a doubt, sailing is easier on the body than rockclimbing, but I can still find things to climb that are easy enough for me but still a challenge for the girls.

It was a huge relief to see both the breadboats and Pshrimp launched with time to troubleshoot. The breadboats required separating to individual anchors; sharing an anchor made them jostle a little too much, and after several days they had banged each other’s paint up pretty bad.  Pshrimp was pretty well sorted, since nothing had changed since last year, and Psammead only needed her oarlock sockets drilled and installed.  In my search for ash poles for the tuks I talked about in the last post, I had run across a wood yard that carried ash, though not in tuk-like format.  It did carry oar-appropriate ash, and failing to find pre-made 10-foot oars, either new or used, that I could afford, I availed myself of two suitable planks from there.

That project was low-priority while I had bigger fish to fry, but I whittled away at it here and there, eventually cutting out two oar blanks, then shaping them laboriously with a power hand planer, belt sander, and various hand planes, then testing them in the boat to see where the leathers needed to go, and finally getting some paint on.  They’re heavy, but they move Psammead along pretty well, and the material cost far less than the only oars I could have bought.

The rest of the time was spent sorting and preparing gear, and tidying up the shop.  A massive heap of wood scraps was piled up to cut into kindling for next winter; a bow shed emptied and taken down to promote a better view from the dining room windows, the last of the polyester resin, which would not last the summer, used up to begin another hull in the breadboat mold.

With everything as much in order as I could get it in time, we loaded up the van with heaps of expedition gear and drove to Maine, where Mark Synnott’s boat, Polar Sun, is almost ready to go.  A few days of sorting and stowing supplies, and the big trip will begin.  Danielle and the girls will return home where if all goes well, they’ll have a summer’s worth of cruising on the various little boats, and with any luck I’ll be back in time to get some cruising in as well before the summer’s out.

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