…to get home quickly!
We pulled into Riverview Marina in Catskills shortly after 9 am on May 16 and spent the first day scrounging their scrap wood pile (made up of south-bound cruisers discarded mast-carrying frames and structures) to build a sturdy structure on our boat to carry our mast – above our bimini and solar panel at the back and pulpit of our bowsprit in the front. While Steve played at carpentry, I did laundry and blogged a little. The day passed smoothly. We sauntered into town in the evening, pleased with our progress, to eat at a recommended Italian restaurant. However, our next day was horrid!
The wind had picked up and was gusting over 20 knots. We were up before 7 am, and the wind did not cooperate as we struggled to remove our sails. The foresail jammed and we had to quickly refurl it. I winched Steve up the mast and he applied great effort into whaling on it to get it unstuck. Once Steve was safely back on deck we pulled it out again and started to drop it, only to have it jam again one third of the way down. We called in help – a kind cruiser from a Quebec boat next to us (also preparing for un-stepping their mast) and a young lad from the marina held the sail in the gusting wind while I put Steve up the mast again. Hanging precariously out at an angle, Steve acrobatically tried everything he could to loosen the stuck sail, finally managing to unscrew the shackle and drop the sail without the halyard coming down. This all set us back 2+ hours.
With two of us working flat out, we managed to secure the sails, unhinge the boomvang, remove the boom, secure it to the deck, tie up all the running rigging, and remove all the cotter pins from the standing rigging. I went below to unscrew all the wiring connections from the foot of the mast (for instruments, radar etc) while Steve started to loosen the turnbuckles on the stays. With the unexpected delay of the stuck foresail furling, we raced against time and were finally ready to move onto the crane dock early afternoon.
Once again our favourite resource, Active Captain, came through for us. We had selected Riverview Marina in Catskills for the task, based on favourable cruiser comments. We were glad we did – they were very considerate to us first-timers! Owner Mike was more than helpful and the crane crew was great. We breathed a huge sigh of relief when our heavy, keel-stepped mast was resting snugly in its newly built cradle, radar disk facing down and suspended over our foredeck.
We were exhausted – especially Steve whose stomach muscles screamed from his trapeze artist stints to release the stuck foresail while hanging precariously from the mast. However, we had a few more hours of work to do to tether everything securely to the deck. We decided to stay another night at the marina, and took our time, finishing the task at sunset.
Dying for a hot shower, one of the main deciding factors in staying another night at the marina, I made my way across the docks only to find that there was no hot water 🙁 Once again, Skipper Steve came to the rescue, opening a closet to find a reset button on the hot-water heater! We trudged back to the boat for an hour to wait for the water to heat up and finally, we were both able to enjoy restorative hot showers.
We had been naïve and unprepared for the amount of work and level of difficulty in un-stepping the mast, and I am not looking forward to the re-stepping process at the other end of the canal. We had avoided all of this on our southward journey by taking the long route down the St. Lawrence. Despite the challenges of that journey, there were times during the day when we wistfully wondered if it was the easier option. But this two-day pain saved us a 3-month trip on the St. Lawrence/Eastern Seaboard versus 4 days on the canal. I guess it is worth it. All I know is after the stress and work of the day, I just wanted to go to sleep like Rip Van Winkle, and wake up in Toronto, with our mast back on.
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