April 17, 2011 in Flotilla
by Jurgen Braunohler
THE MOOSE sneaked up behind me, while I worked on the boat in Elliot Lake. If I hadn’t made an inadvertent loud noise, she might have poked her nose over my shoulder to see what I was doing. But the startled animal, boxed in on three sides by fences, panicked and bucked like a bronco. Suddenly, hooves and broken bits of fence and tree branches flew in every direction as I ducked behind a parked van. She ran off and five minutes later the property owner drove in (nice of the cavalry to arrive). But my comment that a moose had demolished the place was met with looks of disbelief.
That encounter with the moose set the tempo for the first major work on my new boat, the Sea Venture. She is a 19-foot, Mariner Class sloop with a small cabin and a cast iron centreboard. She was a cheap and lucky find but the hull left much to be desired: a broken through-hull fitting and a hole, a serious gouge, major corrosion and the need of a paint job. This meant building a cradle to elevate the boat high enough to remove the trailer and to get at the damage. It was easier said than done.
First things first however. The summer of 2010 was spent cleaning her out, after dealing with another animal visit: a beehive in the trailer frame. I don’t know what it is with boats and animals : my Bonita at our club has hosted raccoons, skunks, wasps, even a beaver who tried to chew down the aluminum mast while I slept aboard. Years of filth and mold were removed from Sea Venture, in some places nearly deep enough to plant a garden; and with a time limit when the boat has to be moved. But the results were satisfactory when I finally moved aboard and switched on the cabin lights.
The Mariner sloops originated in Maryland as the 19-foot Hurricane Class — an open dinghy designed by Phillip L. Rhodes after the Second World War. Keels and cuddy cabins were added to create a local one-design, before George O’Day bought the hull-building molds. A gold medal Olympic sailor, George founded the renowned O’Day Company and used the molds to make the popular Rhodes 19. Bunk beds and modifications for family cruising later resulted in the Mariner Class : a cabin yacht in a dinghy-size hull known as a pocket cruiser (the smallest of these are known as micro cruisers), many with centreboards and all with flotation.
I spent much time in creating several designs for the cradle, before getting it right. Trusting my life under the boat to four wobbly columns of cinderblocks and spindly timbers, simply would not do. Nor could I rely on sufficient funds to buy the right stuff. But I couldn’t account for the personalities that reside in Elliot Lake and the now steady stream of human visitors – as opposed to animal ones — who gravitated to the big green ship in the driveway. My kind landlord gave me the old wood from our re-planked back porch, a welcome help. But it was still a lot of work, and time was running out, including the vessel-hoisting process, a major operation if one can’t afford a crane.
One night, the local guys showed up to give me a surprise work party, complete with lights, drink and music. Suddenly, I ran my legs off measuring and rushing lumber to the circular saw they brought. Even threaded rod was whisked out of my hands, and with a “here, step on this!” was promptly hand-cut. It could have been a scene straight out of Farley Mowat’s novel The Boat Who Wouldn’t Float. But Mother Nature paid the final visit by unleashing the first major snowstorm just before I finished and was able to cover Sea Venture again. My mother approached the boat with a camera, greatly amused by the caricature of the giant snowcone that covered the Skipper and his vessel, madly bailing it overboard in a swirling cloud with a bucket. Laughing, she said: “Isn’t that something you’re supposed to do during the summer?”