“Anticipation is making me late, is keeping me waiting.” — Carly Simon

All of a sudden, launch day seems just around the corner.  It’s funny how that happens, isn’t it?  Amid a record-breakingly snowy Northeast winter, it often seemed to me as though summer and sailing would never come, despite the hours of armchair dreaming and reading sailing books by the fire.  As Uffa Fox wrote of long winters: “So, by starting to prepare for our spring launching from the day we haul out in the autumn, all is done quietly and steadily and makes a winter amusement.”

On the Hard - For Now!

Swan Song – On the Hard – But Not for Long!

Wouldn’t you agree, all you sailors here in the Northeast, that this abysmally long winter gave us way more than enough time for the “winter amusement” of getting ready for launch day?  And I suppose it would have been helpful to have been able to actually get to the shed where the boat was housed, right? However, my back driveway was impassable with several feet of snow from mid-January until early April.  And now, despite the fact that technically it’s been spring for more than a month, it’s often been near freezing at night, a bit too cold, still, for the varnish can.  But today it’s May Day, the weather is warming, and Tiger Tale will launch in a little less than three weeks.  We’ll have just enough time to get everything ship-shape before racing begins at the end of the month.

How do I get organized for that long winter’s nap, while poor Tiger Tale’s confined to the shed?  In the fall, on that sad, no good, very bad haul-out day, I come armed with plastic zip-loc bags and sharpies to label things for easy storage and to keep things organized for launch day in the spring — when you can’t possibly remember back to last fall and where you put everything.  Organizing things with bags and sharpies and duct-tape-labels saves lots of searching and wondering where that little piece went, or what this line went to, or just to keep necessary things from getting lost at the bottom of the bag. For example, my spinnaker blocks and screws, topping lift, and sheets are all in a big bag together, labeled.  My mainsheet is coiled and duct-tape-labeled, as are the jib sheet and all the halyards.  Spending hours trying to identify sheets and halyards is not a good use of anyone’s time – especially when you could be on the water that much sooner.

As I organize everything, I also make a list of stuff I need to order to be ready for next summer.  It’s surprising how long these things can take sometimes.  This year I needed new sailing gloves, new shrouds and forestay, a new mast cone, and new cleats for my peak and spinnaker halyards. If you don’t plan ahead, these things can really hold you up, especially if it’s a crucial piece of equipment.  It’s also a good time to be thinking about ways you can improve your rig for next year’s sailing season.

Checking the Mast Hoops Before Launching

Checking the Mast Hoops

On launch day I like to have extra supplies on hand, like cotter rings, and electrical tape, and lace line.  My giant mainsail is laced on to the boom, as is the jib, and of course, it’s nice and easy if you can use the same piece of lace line as last year, but more often than not, things are worn, and you need to replace them.  Make sure you have extra! As for cotter rings, I can pretty much count on dropping them — usually into the water —  so I always have a little bag of spares.

My Sailing Bag!

My Sailing Bag!

My tool bag is surprisingly small and simple: a screwdriver with an interchangeable head, a small and large pair of vice grips, a VHF radio, a good knife, lace line, white electrical tape, yarn for tell tales, aspirin, and bandaids (I once bled all over my sails – Ugh! – the stain doesn’t come out).  And – I almost forgot – a  tiny flask of scotch, single malt.  I prefer the Balvenie. (It’s my Sunday sailing partner’s favorite, too.) Only then, once the little pewter flask is stowed in my bag, does the boat feel really ready.  Sort of like the finishing touch — a “christening,” if you will. And lest you think me irresponsible, the Balvenie’s for aprés racing only – I find it’s always nice to have a celebratory swig on the way home after racing, especially if you got a bullet.

And so, in anticipation of launch day, I’m gathering all my stuff, getting everything in order, replenishing supplies, and counting down the days.  Stepping the mast and bending on the new sails will take some time, but the added benefit is that we can check over the boat with care, before she’s back on the mooring, which I really like to do.  So, please send a prayer to the weather Gods — I’m hoping we have a beautiful, blue-sky day, with a nice breeze, so we can sail around until dinner time!  I can hardly wait for that first sail together – to feel the tiller come alive in my hand as her sails fill with wind – always a nice bit of magic, don’t you think?

Oh, one more thing: I’ll be sure to alert the launch drivers at the Club before I make my first mooring approach of the season.  It should be a good one. . . (!)

Deborah Bennett Elfers
I was practically born on a boat, though on a working lobster boat rather than a sailboat. In my early days, I sailed quite a lot on a Sunfish, but not very elegantly, as in our little neighborhood “fleet,” the boat was primarily used as a weapon in a wildly popular game of “kill the other guy!” Who could have imagined way back then, that one day I’d become so passionate about all things sailing?
Deborah Bennett Elfers
Deborah Bennett Elfers

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