Shipmates and Best Buddies

I seem to take quite a few photos of ship’s cat Beryl and David together–this is largely because they are constant companions aboard the boat.  They’re pretty much always looking at the same thing. And, when I say “smile” they both look at me with similar loopy grins.  

Shipmates and best buddies stand watch together.

Beryl the Ship's Cat with David on Watch

Smile! for a photo!

Ship's Cat Beryl with David

Swanson Harbor Scene

I just ran across this June 2014 photo of Mahdee tied up at the Alaska state float in Swanson Harbor. What a lovely spot. Middle of nowhere but with great internet access. We ran our Verizon hotspot up the flag halyard in a baggie and it worked great. We were there a couple days and each day a different fishing boat or two would come in and spend the night before going out to fish again the next day. We ate well between crabbing and free salmon from visiting fishermen. Great experience. The only downside is this is the place an American Bald Eagle tried to snatch Beryl off the deck. We had to supervise all her outdoor time the entire visit to Alaska because with the number of eagles we saw we suspected she would be looked upon as a tasty meal by one. I had kitty-watch duty and, forgetting that she was outside, I was walking along the dock away from Mahdee when the eagle took his shot at her. Luckily she was hanging out under the canoe AND the dark gray Amsteel guard wires (lifelines) confused the eagle and he bore away just a few feet away from Beryl when he realized his big wingspan wasn’t going to make it through to his prey.

Swanson Harbor Alaska

Ship’s Cat and the Navigation Rules and Regulations Handbook

Life aboard can be rough if you’re the ship’s cat and Beryl, Mahdee’s ship’s cat, finds that she just cannot get comfortable because there always seems to be something in the way.  In this case it is the organizer bin that hold navigation tools, rulers, dividers, and the obligatory USCG Navigation Rules and Regulations handbook.  We’ve found that we can download the handbook here on the USCG site but we really need to keep that hard copy handy in the charthouse at the chart table.  Thus, Beryl will just have to remain a little uncomfortable.

Ship's Cat Beryl Snoozing against USCG Navigation Rules and Regulations Handbook

Master Mariners Wooden Boat Show

We love boat shows and especially wooden boat shows but lately we have had busy times and I have been very…immobile due to ankle surgery, casts and whatnot since mid-April. Boring times it’s been. I am still on the mend but able to get out and around using something called a knee scooter. Yes, it’s pretty much what it sounds like–a scooter for your knee to rest on while you go about your activities. It’s too big for the boat–so are crutches for that matter–but works well for everything once I’m off the boat. Exactly the sort of strange looking contraption that you think you’d never be seen dead near much less using. Ah, until you’re in a situation of being a bump on a log or regaining your mobility using it! I now think it’s downright beautiful. David and I had a great weekend–last weekend–that included attending the Master Mariners Benevolent Association Wooden Boat Show.

Here are a few photos of the day.

One of the best things about visiting a boat show is seeing details of construction or the ways various boaters have dealt with similar equipment and issues to those you have.  Here is a Fortress style anchor on nice wood chocks atop the cabin of Encore, a Concordia yawl owned by Bert Damner. It was great to learn that Bert, like me, loves varnishing and, like me, hates sanding prep to varnish. anchor chocks on a Concordia Yawl

When we visit a boat show, we also often see boats that remind us of one we considered buying or almost bought.  At this show, we saw the Rhodes Design No. 398, SV Nike, a 37′ cutter rigged boat built in Maine in 1937.  She was very similar to a Rhodes cutter we once considered purchasing in Maryland.

Rhodes cutter SV Nike

A really nice thing about going to the wooden boat show at the Corinthian Yacht Club is the view of the San Francisco Bay is spectacular. Across the water in the distance is the San Francisco skyline. From the yacht club we can see boats sailing the bay, the ferry and Angel Island. It was a warm and windy day — perfect for Bay sailing, too. Spaulding Marine Center’s Freda in the foreground of this photo. There is a lovely video and photos about her restoration on the Center’s website.

Freda and the view of San Francisco Bay

I suppose the boring isolation aboard Mahdee for a couple months really has made me much more appreciative of any of the sights and sounds away from the boat. No matter the reason, I really enjoyed the boat show. The day was festive, a New Orleans-style ragtime jazz band playing on the club deck with tunes familiar to David and I. Our listening began with a series of Rags skillfully performed and as we were leaving, the clarinet led the Whining Boy and I couldn’t help myself from singing along quietly and hearing the voice of David’s godfather, Frank Gillis, singing it as he often did. The music wafted over the air mixing with the other sounds of the day perfectly. The boats were fully adorned with private signals, flags, festive ship’s dress, and burgees representing participation in various classic boat regattas. The wind cheerfully whipped the colors in a really delightful way.

Flags and Burgees

Besides burgees and signals and flags, sometimes there are a few people that you meet at a wooden boat festival who mange to epitomize the event. During the Master Mariners Wooden Boat Show this year at the Corinthian Yacht Club, that person would have to be Shelly Willard. I didn’t know Shelly before the event, but I happened to see her standing alongside one of the boats in a navy blue lace sundress complete with the perfect straw hat and nautically-themed ribbon on the hat with a big bow and long ribbons streaming down her back. Perfect. I snapped the picture below of Shelly while she was visiting one of the boats. I then learned that she is an active member of the Corinthian Yacht Club, involved with their Education and Speaker Series, and is a total wooden boat devotee who is spending a good bit of time later this summer visiting Maine, a Mecca of wooden boats.

Shelly Willard Corinthian Yacht Club

We saw boats big and small throughout the show. Most were in the 30-some-foot range but we even saw a cute little 10′ tender originally built by the Stone Boat Yard. It is the sort of tender that would have been provided to an owner of one of the big yachts built by the famous Alameda-based boat yard. The tender at the show was restored by Bill and Grace Bodle, former owners of the Stone Boat Yard and who now own and operate the Sugar Dock in Richmond.

Tender built at Stone Boatyard and restored by Bill and Grace Bodle

Another small boat that was on display, Roy Fox, a cat-rigged ketch, had the cutest little interior. A footwell of a seating space with wood stove, a v-berth, and a single burner galley co-existed happily inside. This was a boat with a place for everything and everything in its place.

Roy Fox

Roy Fox

Tiny Galley

Roy Fox tiny saloon with wood burning stove

The Liars Table

Some things contribute to the experience of living aboard and sailing Mahdee more so than others.  At the San Diego military marina Fiddler’s Cove, there’s a Liars Table made up of military retirees: veterans who have served their country during war and peace. Many of them have not only decades of service but also service-related injuries or are recipients of a disability retirement.  These vets sit at an outdoor picnic table under the overhang of one of the marina buildings. The digs aren’t comfortable but functional in that familiar way of minimalist military MWR facilities.  The spot garners a view of the entire mooring field, marina, pump out and courtesy dock.  With the view, thoughts quickly turn to the unattended boats moored here waiting for their deployed active duty owners to return from long sea tours in the western Pacific and Indian oceans or land tours in Afghanistan.  The spot catches the smell of the Pacific ocean across the Silver Strand roadway to the west with the occasional sound of surf or sounds of the Navy Seals training on the beaches there.  To the east the hazy view across the south San Diego Bay shows battleships, cargo ships, and the distant National City skyline.

Rain or shine, the veterans gather around the Liars Table in plastic lawn chairs or on wooden benches under the awning and they talk for a few hours every morning.  About their boats, the fishing, weather, the visitors from a high school ROTC sailing program, the boat that broke free of its mooring just the other day, the Navy Seal training that occasionally wakens the marina inhabitants at dawn with the sound of machine guns and grenades, or about the Osprey living atop the mizzen mast of a boat moored at the marina. Stories include which boat is for sale, which boat just sold, or which boat should be given up on.  Stories of fish–big ones, little ones, and all the ones that used to be here to catch.  Tsunamis and tides are afforded many hours of discussion.  Climate change and sea level rise, islands and dreams, everything is fair to discuss at the table.  In among the current affairs comes a story about a famous World War II vet who visited his boat here just last week, or one of the vets now jokes about an old war injury flaring up–for the last 40 years–and the next surgery to deal with it this year.  All ages may gather at the table but the younger ones seem to have places to go and people to see whereas there is a tendency towards Vietnam or earlier era veterans to linger and watch the morning unfold and the marina come to life with children’s classes in the summer or just the downpour of rain and the dockmaster checking lines for those deployed military absentee boat owners in the winter.

When we re-launched Mahdee, we kept her at the courtesy dock for a couple months.  These were months of working on the rigging and deck fittings.  Putting it all back together again.  I spliced lines and wires.  I have no idea what those at the table talked about as I did my work but pretty much every day one or two or three would individually come down to the boat and chat a bit before or after making their way to the table.  One, a veteran who’d graduated from the Naval Academy in 1953 at the end of the Korean War–retired Navy Commander Gerry Laughlin–brought me flowers and lemons from his garden in nearby Coronado and shared sea stories about his coastal exploits aboard his Grand Banks, Marjak.  Others at the table shared bits of advice and many words of encouragement as David and I went about the tasks of getting Mahdee to a seaworthy state again.  One of the fellows, Steve, gave an antique water pump to us that had been originally installed aboard Mahdee but given to Steve by Mahdee’s previous owner.  He brought it back to be used aboard Mahdee once again.  The same fellow lent us guide books for the Pacific Northwest and Alaska when he learned about our planned trip there.

When returning to Fiddler’s Cove Marina after a few days anchored in the San Diego Bay or after a lengthy coastal passage, we tend to come in and approach the mooring or the courtesy dock in the morning hours before the winds come up.  The timing is perfect for the Liars Table to be full of spectators watching the approach.  Early on–silently they watched.  I wondered if they were waiting for the crash of Mahdee into the dock as I, the woman aboard, was typically at the helm because the stronger and more nimble David was playing line duty.  On later approaches, as no spectacular crashes seem to have materialized, they would watch us with smiles and waves and cheerfully called out compliments as I brought Mahdee in between the other boats at the dock or as we’d row in from the mooring field and walk up to the marina.  The Liars Table definitely contributes to our enjoyment of the experience of Sailing Mahdee: life aboard a 1931 schooner.
Fiddler's Cove

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