After an entire season (is it even still a season?) of getting to the shore late, I finally got up at a reasonable time, made good speed toward the shore, and…was still completely rushed. About a week out from the winter solstice, the days are suspiciously short.

I wanted to get up early because I was expecting the task at hand to take a while. As mentioned previously, my experimental Night Tape mission was unsuccessful. The cover on Fortuitous was torn, and I was not able to do anything to help it with safety pins and Sail RIPair Tape in the dark. The real solution would be to sew a patch on it, and fortunately, Jenn knows how to sew. Unfortunately, to sew it, it would have to be removed from the boat, which is an enormous pain.

I have never attempted to remove and reinstall the cover in a single day, much less only remove and replace half of it (it’s in two parts). I wasn’t even positive that the aft half could be put back on with the front half fully tensioned—I’ve only ever done it when everything is still loosey-goosey and there’s some slack available when zipping the two halves to each other. The one thing that I thought I had going for me was that we just put the cover on a couple weeks ago. I usually completely forget what I did to put it on by the time I’m taking it off and wind up being surprised at all of the puzzles and traps that I leave for myself.

It turns out that I devote zero mental energy to remembering how I put the cover on, and it is not simply an erosion of memory over time. I climbed up onto the boat and attempted to untie the first knot that I came to, and was completely dumbfounded. It was as if someone went up there, untied my orderly square knots and thirty-seven-half-hitches, and then had a cat play with the ties until they somehow became nests of fuzz bound upon themselves. I was about to simply cut it apart with Occam’s razor when I was reminded of those old books of knots with all of the hand-drawn illustrations of monstrous entanglements of rope. So here you go, an official Double Dirigible Flemish Sheepshank Bend [inverted].

Ye Olde Knot, Made to Look Like an Old Photo
I made it Sepia for Ye Olde Authenticity

Once I got a few preliminary “knots” untied, I could at least stand in the cockpit and observe the rip in the fabric. It hadn’t really gotten any worse since the Night Tape fiasco. At least not that I could tell.

Ripped Cover

The rest of the cover (the aft half, anyway) came off pretty easily, although the boat looked absurd Porky Piggin’ it.

Half of Cover In Place

With the cover on the ground, Jenn could investigate the rip in more detail and formulate a plan for patching it.

Closeup of Rip

It was then time to break out my Reliable Barracuda, aka Bobo Sailrite, which is a portable sewing machine that is theoretically capable of sewing heavy materials like sails or multiple layers of canvas. If there’s one thing that barracudas are known for, it’s their reliability. I use it infrequently enough that every time I do, I have to watch a video on how to run the thread through the approximately 400 fairleads, capstans, swing-arms, turnarounds, and tensioners. After some initial consultation with Jenn about the doodads that had given me trouble in the past, including the little Sputnik that holds the bobbin and needs to be placed in the guts of the machine in a specific but unpredictable position, she mostly took over the repair portion of the activities. I technically know how to sew, but she’s way more experienced than I am.

All of the picnic tables at the marina are in storage for the season, so we brought a small folding table and chair so that Jenn would have a place to work. The table was only slightly larger than a Reliable Barracuda. I bought a bunch of Top Gun (while I certainly feel the need: the need for speed, the fabric is actually called that). That’s also what the cover is made of, but I either chose the wrong color or the cover is extremely dirty. Jenn was concerned that the edges of it might fray and undermine the stitching, so she cut the patches large and hemmed the edges.

Hemming the Patch
Sewing the Patch On

She actually made two patches, and sewed them on above and below the tear. This might have been overkill for a simple patch, but I was glad for it to have a little structure, since it tore at an inherently weak point where it’s getting pulled in a few different directions. It was difficult to align the two patches perfectly, so in order to make sure everything was secure, Jenn also ran some zigzags across it. I immediately wanted it to look like the John Hancock Center in Chicago:

The John Hancock Center, Chicago
Joe Ravi, CC-BY-SA 3.0

…but when attempting to sew a patch on half a boat cover in one continuous run, there comes a time when you need to pass the vast majority of the cover through the throat of the machine, which is ridiculous (but apparently possible). I settled for “a lot of stitching.”

Completed Patch

I briefly left the marina at one point to run out and get us drinks. My car said that it was 64°F. I don’t always trust my automobile to tell me the weather, but I confirmed that nearby Miller Air Park recorded a high of 65°F. That is crazy for mid-December in this region.

Dashboard showing 64 Degrees

When I returned, Jenn had mostly completed the primary patches, although there were other problems. The zipper that closes around the topping lift was also broken, so Jenn replaced that too (which I wouldn’t have even attempted on my own). Additionally, there were a couple sections where the cover gets pulled taut at the corners of the transom where the material had worn through. I called the local sail/marine canvas guy and asked if he had any scraps of plastic that I could use to reinforce those areas. He wasn’t at the marina, but said that if I could find a guy on a large blue boat, he’d let me into the shop and help me find something, which somehow worked. That was really nice of them. While Jenn was sewing the zipper, I cut out patches of clear plastic and more Top Gun to go over and under those abraded areas.

Piece of Clear Vinyl

I started to get a little antsy about the remaining daylight. The sun now goes down at 4:32pm local, which would still be during the early bird special at the local diner if the local diner was still open. I was not interested in an Operation Night Cover, and may have over-communicated this to Jenn. I think she felt rushed toward the end (despite my eventual attempts to overtly not rush her), but even under pressure, she did a better job than I would have.

As soon as the repairs were complete, we started to put the cover back on. It turned out that it wasn’t a big deal to attach the back half to the front half, even with the front half tied down, and we got the difficult parts completed with ambient daylight to spare.

I crawled around on the gravel for a while, connecting the tie-downs from port to starboard. When I finally crept past the keel and could see a sliver of sky from below the hull, it was all fire and jewels.

Sky Under Keel

I couldn’t believe it got that good that fast. The sunset continued to evolve for some time, and we lingered to watch it as we packed up the stuff.

Pink and Orange Sky
Orange and Yellow Sky
Red and Orange Sky

That’s probably too many photos of essentially the same thing, but the progression was interesting to me.

Most importantly, the cover is repaired and back in place. And just in time.

Cover in Place on Fortuitous

The National Weather Service in Mt. Holly is currently going bananas about a potential winter storm, and has issued a gale warning, a storm watch, a small craft advisory, a gale watch, a winter storm watch, a coastal flood watch, and the catchall “hazardous weather outlook” for different parts of the area. I think the shore will be spared most of the snow, but it’s nice to know that the cover is now ready for whatever will get tossed at it.

Sky Well After Sunset

"Prepare to fend off the bridge abutment."

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