Hello. It’s been a while. Let the hoopla begin.
Winter is the non-sailing season around here, and Fortuitous spent it uneventfully on land—“uneventful” being preferred in this context. In the past, I’ve sometimes tried to cobble together a log entry or two during the off-season, rambling about trips to check on the boat cover or some general musing on the sailing scene, but this winter I spent my entire time budget of “writing things on the internet that no one will read” by building out a website for my guitar effects and instruments: dunningkrugerfx.com
It turns out that I love building guitar pedals. And making jokes about them that could only possibly be funny to a handful of people who are deeply into pedal technology and lore. I posted a link to my Germanium Switch on the r/diypedals subreddit for April Fools Day (there’s no such thing as a germanium switch), which seemed to go over well, but it’s probably proportional to how familiar someone already is with the standard canon of pedal hype. I suppose it isn’t that different from attempting sailing humor (“Hoist the punchline!”), but as they say: go niche or go home.
I have not traditionally visited Reddit and generally find it chaotic to look at, but it seemed like the place to talk about pedal building. It is constantly trying to guess at my other interests and sends me an onslaught of suggestions for other subreddits to join. One of them was related to Philadelphia, and I saw a post there where one user was requesting examples of “Philly Hoopla.” Most of the responses were meta-conversation about the premise or validity of the question, although there was some quality hoopla in there, like a story about a hobo laying on the ground and meticulously dropping slices of bread through a sewer grate. I briefly considered wading in, because I have witnessed some genuine nonsense around the city, but I was mostly interested in the use of the word “hoopla.” I feel like this word doesn’t get used enough.
While driving to the shore to take the cover off of Fortuitous, I specifically had the thought that this activity was not going to generate enough hoopla for a log entry. That thought was quickly displaced, however, when I learned the hard way that the album version of Billy Ocean’s “Caribbean Queen (No More Love On the Run)” is seven minutes and fifty-five seconds long. That is ridiculously long. I think I’d only ever heard the radio edit before, and was unable to concentrate on anything else once I heard a complete sax solo before Mr. Ocean even got around to whispering in British, “She’s simply…awesome.”
I didn’t expect there to be anyone at the marina on a Tuesday afternoon, but the weekend weather has been fairly terrible, and I guess I wasn’t the only one trying to take advantage of temperatures in the 70s. In fact, there was a guy working on the powerboat directly next to Fortuitous. His truck was parked where I’d normally park, and there were more cars in front of that, so I parked a dozen boats away and walked back with my stepladder. The powerboat guy was there, listening to War’s “Low Rider” on a Bluetooth speaker, and he greeted me and repeatedly asked if he needed to move his truck. I don’t think I was scowling or anything, but maybe I have a naturally irritated look, so I made sure to smile and assure him that he was completely fine. It truly wasn’t a big deal. We don’t have assigned parking, and it’s even more of a free-for-all when the boats are on the hard. It’s also not like I was a mile and a half away. I did mention that I might double park for a minute to load the cover in and get some sails out of my car when I was ready, but that he definitely didn’t need to move.
I untied the cover from the ground and then went up on the boat and started unzipping the bits that go around the stanchions and rigging. As soon as I got the aft half mostly off, I did a quick assessment to make sure I wasn’t doing anything insane and noticed the main halyard floating in space above the cockpit. Fortunately, it hadn’t gone up the mast, which would have been a nightmare. I could just barely reach it by hand and tried to pull it down, but it was wrapped a thousand times around the backstay. I grabbed a piece of scrap line and ran it through the shackle so that I could wrangle it without having to reach so far over my head and risk losing it, and found the shackle to still be locked closed. I have no idea how it could have come undone. I don’t always splurge for the expensive versions of things, but my halyard shackle is a forged Wichard, because it has such pleasing heft and a satisfying, positive lock. Here it was, still locked, but not connected to anything.
Using the scrap line trailing from the shackle, I unwound the halyard from the stay. It was still wrapped around a bunch of stuff at the mast, but I couldn’t do anything about it with the cover in the way, so I secured it to a lifeline and continued unzipping. The cover came off without difficulty, and I pushed it over the leeward rail so that I could assess the halyard. This boat has external halyards, and somehow the side in front of the mast had become tangled around the deck light and spreader.
Because it was fouled in two ways, it was difficult to simply whip it off. I extended the halyard again with the scrap rope and tied it off at the boom to give me the maximum amount of slack to see if I could shake it loose, but it wasn’t close. A boat hook was also too short to reach it…but I have multiple boat hooks.
In some ways, I find the concept of taping two boat hooks together to be an overt admission of failure, but then again, solving emerging problems with the materials at hand is an integral part of sailing. What I had on hand was two boat hooks and a roll of duct tape, and as they say: If you can’t duck it, try to find a more appropriate solution. No more appropriate solutions came to mind. I did immediately think back to 2010, when I intentionally raised the swivel of my Catalina 22’s jib furler all the way to the top of the foil “for safekeeping” and was forced to use Trixie’s extra-long boat hook with the [quite flexible] PVC extension taped to a twin-barbed harpoon to get it back. I was pretty sure that I could pull this off without involving any PVC, and therefore chalked this up as a mild form of progress.
Of course, my powerboater neighbor walked by while I was wielding the Megahook on the foredeck. While I don’t necessarily want to perpetuate powerboaters’ image of sailors as helpless kittens all tangled up in fluffy yarn balls, I was, in fact, playing the part. I offered up, “If you ever want to know when it’s all gone to hell for a sailor, it’s when they start taping boat hooks together.” He chuckled at this and asked if he could help. He may have even offered to move his truck again. But the Megahook was plenty long enough and I was able to unwrap the halyard from the deck light and get it all secured properly. I still have no idea how the shackle came free in the first place. This is the nature of hoopla.
I got down off of the boat and went into the office for a bit to talk about a schedule for launching. I still had to put the cover in my car and put the sails on the boat, so when I was done in the office, I backed my car up and kind of crammed it into the available space since I was only going to be there for a couple minutes. The powerboat guy asked me again if he needed to move, and I told him again that he was fine, but he hopped in and pulled his truck up 18 inches anyway. I pulled forward approximately 9 inches to make it seem like I was taking advantage of the space and got out of my car. I then asked him a question that I don’t get to ask much: “Is your wheel off the ground or is that an illusion?”
It certainly appeared that his tire was hovering about 2 inches off of the gravel. He looked at it for a while, then got on the ground and said “Uh-oh.” He got back in the truck and pulled it another foot forward. He had driven over his Bluetooth speaker. At first, I was pretty excited, because you can apparently park an F-150 on that particular model of Bluetooth speaker without crushing it, which was impressive. Then I saw that under the speaker was his telephone. You cannot park an F-150 on a telephone. Well, you can, but it will look like it got hit with a shotgun.
I think we both experienced that sort of “immediate and final” sensation, like watching a winch handle go over the side of the boat. I felt bad, because he was only moving his truck for me (even though I told him many times that he was fine where he was). There was nothing that could be done though. We observed a moment of silence. I quietly loaded in the sails and packed up the cover. I did share my condolences and thanked him for trying to help before I left. I still had some weird guilt about it, although I was marginally less embarrassed about taping two boat hooks together.
So much for a hoopla-free start to the ’22 season. We still need to wash and wax the topsides and paint the bottom, but if the weather holds out, we’ll be in the water soon. As they say: hoopla springs eternal.