Friday, March 26, 2010

More Boatyard

[Kyle]After a week of glorious (finally) weather in the U.S., I arrived back in Scotland to freezing temperatures and rain showers. Maryanne met me on the Oban side and by the time we got the ferry to Kerrera, I was pretty much cold-soaked.

As the afternoon wore on, the clouds started to break and the sun came out. For a brief time (with layers on) it felt like the Spring it was supposed to be. I took advantage of the dry weather window to touch up a few thin spots on Footprint’s bottom paint and get as much done as possible so that she would be ready to be put in the water a couple of days later. (The next day’s forecast was for very heavy rain and wind so I doubted much would get done then.)

On our evening excursion to the bathroom block, we were intercepted and befriended by a long-haired ginger tom, who I later took to calling Socrates because of a syllogism I had just read: All cats die; Socrates died; therefore Socrates was a cat. Socrates was, in fact, an adorable cat who insisted on following us home and cuddling up on our warm boat, all while purring enthusiastically. He was clearly somebody else’s cat as he had on a collar with a bell and seemed well fed. After giving him a good warm-up, we put him out to find his way back home.

The next morning was dreadful as predicted. The rain and wind started just before sunrise and didn’t let up for hours. Eventually, I lost the argument and was nominated as the person to crawl out of the nice warm bubble that was our bed so I could get the heat going and the coffee on. As soon as I walked past the cockpit door, I heard a loud meow. There was Socrates, sitting on our cockpit seat inside the enclosure, looking very pleased with himself for finding a place out of the wind and rain. Later, when the clouds broke again, he even had a sunny spot for himself to stretch out.

We talked to the yard guys and they said tomorrow was good to go in first thing. Since the weather was clearing up a bit, I decided to use the free afternoon to take an exploratory run around the island. The map at the marina office indicated that every road on the island could be covered in a four hour walk. I figured that would be about an hour and a half’s run. Perfect.

Boy, was I wrong. Kerrera’s roads are set up as a big loop around the island with a single road branching off at each end; one to the marina, the other to the castle. What isn’t mentioned on the map is that there are a total of three flat spots on the island of about a dozen paces each. The rest is up, really up, really really up, or falling. After reaching my halfway point by time, I had still not reached the road to the castle. Before me was an ever steepening hill. I decided to go out a little further figuring that if I got to the top, I would at least be able to see if it was best to turn around or continue.

Scenes From Kerrera Island

At the top, the road did seem to meander its way toward the other side of the island (all while still managing only to go up). I continued on and, sure enough, eventually found myself at the top of a cliff looking way down at the road on which I had recently been running. I guess this was supposed to be the falling part. Not wanting to backtrack all that way, I managed to scramble down a cattle path past some very confused and irritated looking cattle and return to the road, which now, remarkably, seemed to be all up back to the marina. How is that possible? I was so wiped out from this run.

After a little bit, clouds started to roll in. I knew that I had already had an amazing run of luck by being out in the Scottish weather for almost two hours without being rained on, so I wasn’t even upset when the drizzle started. Soon, though, it started…stinging! The drizzle was turning into larger and larger hail. There was no shelter around, so my only defense was to pull my shirt up over my ears and run downwind so as to minimize the horizontal component of the impact and focus on my useless brain. The way I figured it, my brain was asking for it for getting me here in the first place. I came around a corner upon a very protective looking bull standing the middle of the road and in front of the rest of the herd, hailstones bouncing harmlessly off his highland shag and pinging off his horns. The road was the only way through without getting shin deep in water. He looked very peeved at me for being in his road and showed no signs of moving. It is difficult so slink by such a large animal meekly, particularly when it’s glaring at you, all while getting pelted with hail, but somehow I managed and successfully made it by. At the next farm, a bunch of adorable young kids were cowering under any shelter they could find, mostly their mothers, who stood squinting against the hail as the balls stuck to their wool. The only shelter big enough for me that wasn’t filled with sheep was an open henhouse. After thinking about it for a bit, I decided I didn’t want to be the guy responsible for scaring off all of some poor farmer’s chickens on an island small enough for everyone to know about it ten minutes later so I ran on.

The storm ended just as I staggered exhausted into the marina and over to Footprint where Maryanne met me in the cockpit with a look of sympathy, an outstretched towel and an Irn Bru. Socrates just squinted at me and purred.

Later that night, just before bed, I was making the walk to the bathrooms in miserable weather to brush my teeth (man, I’m getting sick of that routine) when I heard a plaintive meow. On the way back, I shone my light around and was met with two bright beams in the distance. I walked over to find poor Socrates huddled on a piece of 2x6 not much bigger than she was under a monohull, which was much too far up on its long keel to offer much protection. She was surrounded by deep puddles and I swear she was deliberately trying to look trapped and miserable. Being the big softie that I am around animals, I scooped her up and walked her to Footprint high above the wet ground. Inside the cockpit enclosure, I made her a bed on our cockpit seat out of clean rags and coils of rope. I put another layer on top of her and once she was warmed up, she fell fast asleep while I scratched her ears. We got up just before the sun the next morning and she had gone. By the time coffee was made, she was back, looking happy to see us and purring away.

The yard guys came with the lift and picked Footprint up off her blocks. Socrates wouldn’t move. Maryanne tried to get her to leave but she just sat on the bottom step. Eventually, there was just too much commotion and she jumped off. She followed Footprint for a while but there were just too many puddles for her clean/dry paws to navigate, so she slunk off to the side underneath another boat...poor thing.

The cat we named Socrates made a comfy home for herself aboard Footprint, while I'm sure her local family were worrying about her. And yes, we know female gingers are rare!

Footprint went back in with relatively little drama. There was about a minute or so before cooling water came out of the exhaust, causing a flurry of valve checking and diagnosis. It turns out the sea water intake was in the flush position instead of sea water intake. The other thing that happened that I didn’t even notice until later was that the log reset to zero during the engine start. I thought I was looking at the trip log which starts every time power is applied (or is reset), but when I went to fill out the logbook at the dock, I realized that all of our 11,085 nautical miles had been erased and we’re back to zero. Ouch. {Maryanne: This reset itself back again on the next trip, so I’m not quite sure what happened}

Boy, it sure feels nice to be back in the water. Being on a boat in the yard is like having a car with no wheels. You can recline the seats and listen to the radio all you want, but you can’t GO anywhere. Even though we don’t really want to go anywhere in this weather, it’s so nice to know that we could. We’re not trapped at the end of a long, muddy walk until business hours waiting for a bunch of guys who may or may not be able to get around to us that day. Being in the water means we are, once again, in command of our own destiny.

Oh, the mud. I had to get rid of the mud. The dock we’re using at Oban Marina is right next to a spigot, but there’s no hose. The next spigot has a hose that just reaches the nearest corner of Footprint, except the water pressure is so low that the trickle that comes out of the end of the hose gets completely blown away by the wind before even reaching the boat. Undeterred, I started filling buckets. It took about 20 minutes to fill a three gallon bucket, which I would spend using another bucket full of suds to scrub a big patch of deck. After a couple hours on my knees getting soaked in the wind, I was freezing and tired, but thrilled to have Footprint white(ish) again.

Tomorrow, we’ll take Footprint over to Dunstaffnage Marina on the mainland side. That way, we won’t be restricted by the ferry schedule and I’ll be able to go straight to work without stopping at a hotel first, then Footprint will wait until next month, when hopefully the weather will be a bit nicer, before we continue on.

1 comment:

Deb T. said...

Socrates is the perfect name for the cat - the look of the eyes and expression in the photo say it all. Glad to be following your adventures again.