Wrestling sailcloth into position. Check out my awesome farmer’s tan!
Ahh, the Florida Keys. To most folks, the Keys speak of tropical breezes, miles of imported sandy beaches, and inevitably Key West’s famous Duval street. Of course the reality is somewhat different, with a lackluster economy heavily biased towards seasonal tourism, the Keys are inhabited by a relatively small year-round population (disproportionately representing the midwestern US in origin) who do their best to make ends meet any way they can in the doldrums between tourism peaks. I’ve had the privilege to meet a number of these folks who are truly wonderful people, many of them even brilliantly talented in one or more diverse subjects or skills. And of course there are those for whom the Keys represent the easy slide to the bottom of life, living bottle to bottle or high to high. Those in between these two are usually college students or recent graduates working in the service industry in order to stick around and enjoy the coast, the fishing, or the island lifestyle for a while before moving on. Some of them get stuck, some of them don’t.
Having been to the Keys a few times, my first impression was that they are tremendously depressing, with a lot of rundown infrastructure and people with very broken lives. The major entertainment around here is to go to a bar and drink. So coming here this time I decided to make my experience different, deliberately. Of course like most folks I enjoy a good beer with friends, and I always enjoy meeting new people and making new friends. But I was determined to find the scene that lay under the surface here - people worth knowing, and to put effort into creating or finding experiences that would be worthwhile.
So far, I can report this new effort has been a rousing success. I’ve had a crowd of folks over on the boat, jamming on guitars and cooking kebabs in the cockpit. I’ve met the aforementioned lovely people, too many to say hello to by name here. Some of them are Parole Officers with kind hearts and wise counsel, foreign affairs advisors to high government officials, congressional advisors who really Get It, tremendously talented tattoo artists and musicians, National Geological Service cartographers, and more pilots, divers, surfers, and paratroopers than I can count. Of course it’s not what your chosen profession is but who you are that counts, and there are many folks who defy easy description that are in the list of people I’m glad to have met as well. Some are passing through, some are staying and contributing to the community. It’s been really wonderful meeting these folks and through their networks finding more groups of like-minded individuals. It’s the community within the community, and it’s worth finding wherever you are; even in the most low-down, beaten-up, forgotten side-road towns there are people who Think Different, as the ad said.
When I haven’t been the social butterfly, I’ve been keeping myself busy with repairs to Aletheia, as she has needed some major work and I’ve had a mind to change a few things during the trip. Thus, I am attending to a short list of priorities on that front as well. The biggest items on the list so far are:
- Finish making the new Jib
- Install the replacement wind generator
- Pull and re-bed the starboard cap shroud chainplate as it seems it is leaking slightly (this worries me big time)
- Thoroughly inspect all of the standing rigging, re-tension the shrouds, and check everything for proper torque or chafe issues.
- Replace all brass hanks on the primary sails (jib, drifter, storm, and maybe the 110 genoa) with either soft shackles (most often used sails) or Wichard snap hooks (which I already own, and will put on sails I use less often).
The jib is coming along swimmingly. I’ve been working on it for only two days and I have all of the patches sewn in place (head, tack, clew, reef tack, reef clew, reef pennants) and all of the panels sewn together. At 10 feet away it looks wonderful! Of course my sewing leaves much to be desired in terms of precision, as this is my first major project with a machine, let alone my first sail. But I am learning and the stitches are solid if not perfectly aligned. The nice thing about making your own sail is that you can add reinforcements where you know your boat likes to chafe the sail, or extra stitching where you feel it is needed. A big shout out to Sailrite for the excellent kit, and to Tom Allen who helped me get it all sorted. Tom had to leave for the Bahamas and left me with some wisdom about how to get this sail assembled and so far his advice has been spot on. Sailrite really knows how to put together a heavy air sail and did not skimp on patches, cloth, or hardware. I’m very impressed and will do business with them again in the future.
It almost looks like a sail!
Which one is the clew again?
The other projects shouldn’t be hard, per se, as much as they’ll require a bit of time. Making all of the soft shackles will definitely require some time, as it currently takes me about 20 minutes a shackle, most of which is working the diamond knot tight. I’m a bit concerned about the leaking chainplate, as I rebedded it extremely well, but hey, it’s leaking so I couldn’t have bedded it perfectly or it wouldn’t be leaking. So… that’s about a day gone right there, but that’s how it goes.
One day at a time, though. And in the meantime I’m really enjoying myself so it’s part work, part play and that’s a good thing.
I also got myself a fun new item for the galley, check it out!