It is far too early in the off-season for me to be exhibiting signs of land madness, but there’s no telling when you’ll be called upon to execute a Night Tape mission.

The day started out innocuously. I had to go to my mom’s house to help her purchase a telephone. Before I left, I was reminded that the boat cover ripped last week. I may have actively blocked out this memory (along with the memory of blocking it out). It definitely didn’t show up in last week’s boat log, and I have been known to have a certain talent for incredulity.

For example, in 1991 my family went to see a matinee of What About Bob? in the theater, and were informed that there would also be a sneak preview of The Rocketeer immediately following it (because there’s obviously a ton of overlap between audiences interested in movies about violations of the psychiatrist/patient relationship and art deco jetpacks). When What About Bob? was over, I got up to leave, and my family informed me that we were staying for the sneak preview. The thing was, I thought that a “sneak preview” was something like an extended trailer, and it irritated me that we were staying for an advertisement. When it was over and we left the theater, I remarked that I couldn’t believe that it was night already, and my parents said, “Well, we watched two movies,” and I said, “No we didn’t, the second one was only a sneak preview.” I believed so fervently that it was going to be a 10-minute ad that I convinced myself that only 10 minutes had elapsed, despite having sat through the entire 108-minute film. I didn’t even remember the plot.

I think I may have similarly Rocketeered the rip in the boat cover.

As soon as I was reminded, however, a spate of suppressed memories became accessible, including my abysmal attempt to repair it in situ with the only thing I had available at the time: safety pins? Now, since we’re already a full four days after the end of the most active hurricane season on record, it’s clearly time for a nor’easter. Considering that the safety pins didn’t quite work under ideal conditions, I was pretty sure that they weren’t going to stand up to a gale.

…GALE WARNING IN EFFECT FROM 6 AM EST SATURDAY THROUGH LATE SATURDAY NIGHT…
SYNOPSIS: LOW PRESSURE WILL STRENGTHEN ACROSS THE CAROLINAS OVERNIGHT WHILE A WEAK DISTURBANCE MOVES ACROSS THE GREAT LAKES BEFORE PHASING WITH THE SOUTHERN LOW. THE RESULTANT SYSTEM WILL BRING WIDESPREAD RAIN AND WINDY CONDITIONS TO THE AREA INTO SATURDAY BEFORE THE LOW LIFTS OFF TO THE NORTH AND EAST.

So in addition to my scant knowledge of modern telephones, I set out with a step stool and some sail repair tape so that I could attempt a slightly less ridiculous (yet still quite ridiculous) repair in lieu of a correct repair. Purchasing my mom’s telephone took longer than anticipated, and in addition to all of the other things that I can’t seem to keep straight, I also keep forgetting that the sun goes down at 4:30 now.

But it was fine. I’ve been re-watching The Americans, so I’m pretty sure that if there’s a completely impracticable, high-anxiety mission, I’m in the best possible position to accomplish it. And thus, I began Operation Night Tape.

It started raining in earnest as I approached the marina under cover of darkness. Does sail repair tape work when applied wet? Does sail repair tape work at all? Who knows. It’s entirely possible that this tape is from my first ever West Marine run, ca. 2009, when I attempted to purchase everything I’d ever need for owning a sailboat (knowing nothing about owning a sailboat) and got into an argument with the clerk about a “nautical chart” that was more like the placemat from a seafood restaurant. For all I know, this tape exceeded its viable shelf life a half a decade ago, and it wasn’t until I put it on the wet rocks of the boatyard and took a flash photo of it that I realized it was actually called Sail RIPair Tape, which made me almost throw up.

Box of Sail RIPair Tape

GET IT? IT’S FOR WHEN YOUR SAIL “RIPS.” Well, I got it. I pressed on.

I put the step stool under the boarding ladder and climbed up onto the boat. Because the cover is on, it was difficult to actually get into the cockpit, so I had to stand on the wet transom, ten feet in the air, in the cloudy darkness, in the rain, in, I don’t know, 40°F, and try to reach the tear from wherever I could kind of balance while clutching the backstay.

Photo of the Tear in the Cover

Having never used sail repair tape, and certainly not Sail RIPair Tape, I didn’t realize that it had a paper backing that needed to be peeled off. Since there wasn’t enough ambient light to get smacked in the face by a pun without the assistance of flash photography, it proved exceedingly difficult to get to the theoretically sticky side of the tape. I pulled my knife and tried to separate it on the blade by sense of touch while pondering someone in a much worse situation, whose sail has ripped while getting blown into a lee shore, confronted by the pants-pissing hilarity of “Sail RIPair Tape.”

I somehow got a small strip of tape prepared. I stretched from my absurd perch toward the tear, pulled the canvas taut with more force that any tape could ever reasonably hold, and, with urgency, stabbed my hand into a steel cactus of opened safety pins. I have no idea how they got open, but I now chafe at their sense of safety. If I could have gotten another piece of tape separated from its backing I’d be eligible for beatification, so at that point, I gave up and descended intentionally before falling off. The cover is going to get more ripped, and I’ll have a bigger repair to do, and it’s going to require almost completely removing it to get it on a sewing machine, but that is just the reality of the situation.

Night Shot of the Marina with Weird Green LIghts

These photos make it look like it wasn’t that dark, but they’re all either with flash or with my telephone’s crazy “night mode.” I don’t know what night mode is (I assume it’s some kind of long-exposure/HDR thing) but it requires that the camera be held reasonably steady. In order to get the above shot, I was crouching down on the ground, using Elenora’s dock box to steady a shot. Since I’ve been re-watching The Americans, I was aware that someone was creeping around behind me—and that it probably looked a lot like I was trying to pick the lock on the dock box. Fortunately, it was just the marina owner keeping an [appreciated] eye on things, and unlike The Americans, it didn’t turn into a brutal punching situation. This was perhaps the closest I came to success during Operation Night Tape.

Land Madness has come early. It’s going to be a long winter.

"Prepare to fend off the bridge abutment."

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