Descent into Madness

Categories Maintenance Log


“The monkeys.” The words were deliberate and slow, like Brando as Kurtz.

“The monkeys?” I asked nervously.

“The monkeys. We can make a raft from the monkeys. We can get back to shore.”

This was my first time sailing without my priest, and there was no red phone to God on this voyage. My buddy and I had borrowed a 420 from our college’s racing club and were becalmed somewhere deep in the backwaters of Cecil County. The limp sails provided no shelter from the noonday sun, and our suitcase of Busch was dangerously low. The madness already had us in its grip.


I have previously hinted at my belief that there’s a connection between the sea and becoming unhinged. I have no idea if it’s apocryphal or even a widely held idea, but I think that I experience it in reverse: I get frayed after spending too much time on land. It’s now mid-May, and I’m nearing monkey-level insanity.

The weather forecast was terrible all week, with predictions of thunderstorms and high winds. That wasn’t really enough to make me call it off entirely though, and I remained hopeful that we’d be able to address our remaining maintenance tasks even if we couldn’t sail. Our marina’s weather station has a live feed, and I got up early on Saturday to check it out. Between that and the amoebae of angry yellow and red storms oozing past on the radar imagery, the situation looked untenable.

I’m in the fully irrational stage of this non-sailing game though, so I continued to stare at the radar for the next several hours, trying to find a weather window. Around 1300 it became gloriously sunny at the homestead and the Trixie’s telemetry was showing a reasonable 12kts of wind. I woke Jen up from her nap, thinking that we could be down there around 1400 if I maintained 25% over the speed limit and didn’t stop for any red lights. Of course, there’s a certain amount of ritual to Jen leaving the house and even in the throes of land fever, I can’t drive that fast. We arrived around 1530 to a bay the color of blued steel with a raw southerly wind.

It didn’t really start raining until the boat was launched, and the lightning held off just until I started messing with the electronics. I guess we technically splashed by some measure, but this was no pleasure cruise. I was trying to mount the transducer for the depth sounder—it’s a “shoot through hull” model, which can listen through fiberglass but not through air. You need to find a place to mount it where you’re reasonably sure that it will work before you permanently glue it to the hull, which means that the boat had to be floating and I had to crawl around with the transducer in a sandwich bag full of water to see if I could get a reading. This turned out to be a complete failure, I think because of the highly textured bilge. It just can’t sit flat. I’m going to need to sand a spot or maybe smash some wax into it to get a test reading, but I should probably do that on a day when I’m not in an active electrical storm.

Jen was glad that I woke her up, since she stayed in the cockpit, in the rain, to see if the depth gauge was showing anything. I suggested that she get in the cabin, but I think she just wanted to get it over with and made the most of it by scrubbing the seats with rain water while I shuffled and cursed around the interior.

As that band of storms passed we put the boat back on the trailer, and that was it. It was not our finest day on the water, and I was probably pushing too much.

The only thing that’s keeping me from going completely off the rails is racing. Sailor Steve and I had a fantastic race on Revolution on Tuesday, despite an initial start that involved several collisions, a protest, and a coup d’état in which one of the race boats installed itself as the race committee. The usurpers declared a general recall and started a new race. We didn’t have a good start the second time around and were 9th over the line, but we raced hard and wound up finishing 3rd on both straight and corrected time in a shortened course, which was a remarkable comeback for us that felt really good.

We will try again with Fortuitous next weekend, and hopefully I don’t wind up making a raft out of all these monkeys.



"Prepare to fend off the bridge abutment."