Homer weather changes every two hours and usually for the worse. So, if the sky clears, drop everything and do the outdoor tasks.
How often has a sunny morning encouraged me to begin work in the anchor locker that afternoon only to find that after lunch I am rained or sleeted or snowed into the cabin?
In a word, often.
By this time I’ve practiced all the archaeology upon the boat’s main cabin that I can. Every cupboard and locker has been emptied; every tool, spare part, emergency aid, length of rubber hose and clamp, engine belt, shackle, pin, toggle, and fastener has been sorted, photographed and cataloged. None of the boat’s interior spaces remains unexplored, save the vast anchor locker and stern lockers, which are only accessible from on deck.
Yesterday a deep, 964 mb low passed over (from the north and east!) blowing a gale in the yard. Gjoa rocked in her cradle, a contraption made of blocked up 2x4s that reminds disconcertingly of egg crates. Water sloshed in the sink; the boat vibrated as though she were housed inside a bass drum. Heavy snow fell.
Just after my 12 o’clock ham sandwich, the wind died and the sky cleared. I dashed forward and slammed open the anchor locker. But by the time I’d got the beast unloaded of its two large headsails in wet bags, four water jugs, a bucket of spare chain, a moving dolly, six fenders, three sets of oars, a near infinity of thick mooring line and an anchor remaindered from the Queen Mary, I could see a gray wall coming up the valley.
Within moments it was raining hard. This was followed in short order by sleet, then snowflakes the size of silver dollars. They felt like cool, wet kisses landing on my cheek. Slush began to build up in the locker. I had to retreat.
Next morning, rain and then sleet, but it cleared to blue sky by two in the afternoon, so I dashed again to the anchor locker and within an hour I’d emptied it and rolled 400 feet of anchor chain over the bow and down onto a tarp awaiting on the ground.
The whole point of this exercise, by the way, is simply to inspect those parts of the hull interior that can only be accessed from this locker.
No boat locker has yet been designed that allows the easy access of a human adult, and big as they are, Gjoa’s are no exception. Wide of mouth, the anchor locker quickly narrows as you descend such that entry is reminiscent of squeezing into a child-sized pair of lederhosen while performing a hand stand with a flashlight in one fist and a camera in the other and exhaling—only exhaling.
The hull interior below waterline and under where the chain sits looked in good shape. Full of water, as one would expect, but the interior paint down low was holding.
I attempted to remove the water with a pump I assumed for that purpose because it was in handy reach of my pretzelline, head-over-heals position. I eased it gently from its hook and, with some difficulty, maneuvered it into position with the hand that wasn’t holding on, one knee and a free elbow. I pushed the lever and got bubbles instead of suction, and in this way discovered the storage location of the pump I’ll, in some future month, use to inflate the rubber raft.
Extracting myself with care, I went below to warm up. But by the time I’d made coffee, it started to sleet, so I quickly reeled in the chain and threw down the locker lid. Then it started to snow. Then it rained.
When it cleared for the second time that day (what luck!) I dove into the port aft locker. Here is stored more mooring line, a gas generator, 100 feet of shore power cable, another bucket of chain, a Johnson Series Drogue that, in its bag, is the size and weight and rigor of a recently deceased linebacker; below this, a BBQ, a collection of rubber hoses, tins of epoxy in various colors, mounds of spare halyards and sheets and a large coil of standing rigging.
Once at the hull interior, I found some lifting paint, not surprising in a boat of Gjoa’s age, and enough of a concern to become a line item on the to do list when the boat is in a warmer climate.
Ran engine today for four hours. Batteries were down to 87% of charge, and though I should be able to take the charge down to 50% without harm, I just couldn’t stop myself. But as I looked up from checking the oil, I saw a man peering in at me through the cabin window.
Northern Enterprises Boatyard, my current home, contains some 300 vessels lined up like soldiers, only three of which, including Gjoa, are sailboats. I am not only the only person living aboard, I’m usually the only person here, except for the night watchman who ascends his tower at dusk and is gone by the time I wake. Thus, to see a face in my cabin window was unexpected.
For both of us, apparently.
“Who are you?” said the face.
“It’s my boat,” I said.
“But where’s that couple from Canada?” said the face.
“In Canada.” I said.
The face looked confused.
“I’ve bought the boat,” I said.
“When was that?” asked the face.
“Just now,” I said.
“Nice boat,” the face said, smiling, “You’re a sailor! I have a Joshua. Name’s Adam. Snow today.”
Invited below and over two cups of coffee I learned that Adam is another native Homerian, a fisherman by trade, a sailor at heart. He’s explored the east coast of Greenland in an old Colin Archer and wishes, above all, to freeze in for the winter far north of here. A self-avowed loaner but gregarious as all get-out, Adam knows every adventurer I’ve ever heard of, all of whom, it appears, have passed through Homer at one time or another. And generous to a fault. Soon I’d been offered the kinds of assistance I couldn’t have imagined the hour earlier—access to his shed and tools, introductions to every local welder and blaster. And that’s how I met Mike, who will take Gjoa into his shed next month and sandblast the bottom.