Monday, January 15, 2007

Let me tell you a little about the past year and my new boat

I just logged onto to my account to write a new post and ended up reading a post written a little over a year ago and cried. That’s not what I intended to do when I logged on, but the whole crying thing just snuck up on me. It was the last sentence. I had completely forgotten about being in the church that day.

While my life has changed dramatically the past year with the birth of my son and all the happiness and work that comes with having a child, not much else has. I still went to the Mummer’s parade and drank beer on the street, the Eagles are still not in the Super Bowl, the Flyers still bum me out, and the summer and baseball still feel like ages away. And of course, I still adore my wife, who is hot and loves me back.

But, I do have a new sailboat. And if it didn’t need so much work, the summer and sailing would feel like an eternity away. The boat is a 17’ VandeStadt and McGruer made Siren with a cabin big enough to accommodate two for a weekend.

She needs some work though and all I’ve done so far is back her into my garage and hang the mast from the ceiling. Thursday my sister’s boyfriend is going to come over and give me a hand. I’m taking the triage approach in refurbishing this boat. Now that I’m a dad, I can’t fuck around for hours like I did back in the day. Here is the list of what absolutely must happen between now and May 1 when I move her to the Chesapeake for the summer.
1. Remove deck hardware, clean off old sealant, and if time allows do minor deck repairs. If not, reinstall hardware with new sealant. The deck leaks even in a light drizzle.
2. Remove keel swing bolt and keel locking bolt and reinstall with new watertight seals. Don’t know exactly what I have to do here yet. These two bolts are below the waterline and the seals have totally given out. On my trial sail I took on over a gallon of water in an hour.
3. Repair hull damage. There are a few small dings and scratches that go below the gelcoat that need repair.
4. Make two new handrails for the cabin top. The old ones were in bad shape. One was destroyed beyond repair, the other won’t last the season. These things are critical as you need something to grab onto when you move forward to work the sails while underway. Also, I don’t have lifelines on the boat so you’re really close to going in the water once you leave the cockpit even with the handrails.

Other than to buy a reliable outboard, that’s it for the list of things that must be done. As for the work I’d like to do – there isn’t enough time tonight to write.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Sailing a small wooden boat you build yourself

I built a small wooden sailboat a number of years ago. The design name is Teal, by Bolger and Payson. Here's a post from the message board I frequent on how to sail a boat you've built.

I've gotten good at sailing my teal. I've gotten even better at knowing when and where not to sail my teal. I don't have jib, just a single unstayed main, but some of what I write will apply to those with bigger boats who do.

First off, after several initial unintentional jibes, I don't ever jibe in my teal intentionally unless I need to and I've never needed to. If I'm heading downwind, like on a broad reach or run, I'll tack the 290 or whatever degrees rather than jibe. Even in calm winds. Just a practice I follow.

As for how much wind is too much wind? I find 10 mph makes things interesting, as I approach 15 things get frustrating. For instance, since I can't reef the main I heel too much. When I heel too much, I ease the sheet out a little to dump some air, but the result of that is you lessen your heel but your sail luffs and slats and makes a lot of noise. This is bad for the sail. Also, I don't have any blocks or tackle so the sheet is difficult to hang on to because the big sail really pulls. If you don't ease the sheet you heel too much and make very little forward progress. It's frustrating to be in that much wind and moving sideways rather than forward.

When I run in this much wind the boat surfs and that's a lot of fun, but I also don't feel like I'm in control. Actually, I'm in very little control when there's that much wind at my back.

It also makes a difference where you sail. A 12 mph wind on a local lake is much more sailable than the same wind coming up Barnegat Bay. Let me tell you, that was a frustrating hour not made any simpler by the personal water craft morons. The worst thing about those crafts is they are inherently boring unless you do dangerous things on them, like ride in circles to jump your own wake. Back to sailing, on a bay or bigger body of water, white caps pop up and they're really difficult for small, light crafts like ours to tack through. As you luff to move through the eye of the wind the bow just keeps getting pushed back. So, you end up having to resume your previous course, pick up more speed, and anticipate the water.

In medium airs though, I really love my teal. The only thing I wish I had done is build a kick up rudder. I say that every time I sail. Anyway, when tacking, I found the best way to get through the eye of the wind is to commit to the tack and really push that rudder over. The authoritive push gives the bow that little extra something to make it through the eye w/o stalling. I've done the backwards sail myself more than once. In subtle ways the sailing performance of these flat bottom little boats is unlike their fiberglass counterparts. But you pick up on it. Like the rudder push. It take a little more to get my boat through the eye of the wind, I guess because I don't have a curved hull. There is very little of my boat's hull under the water. It wasn't until I started thinking of that in relation to how I sail my boat that I started to get good at sailing my boat.

I also have become better at learning of the shape of my sail. Like, how much should I ease the sheet, how close should I pull it in? The way I learned is by picking a nonmoving target on shore or in the water, like a flagpole or buoy. I pick a target then sail for it. That's a really important thing to do that sailing books don't advise learners to try. Pick a place and sail for it. Now, after you pick a target and start sailing for it, then play with your sails. Let the sheet out too much to see what that looks and feels like, then bring the sheet in too much, see what that looks and feels like. Then, keep going back and forth trying to find the place where the sail and boat are happiest. All the while make sure to stay on course. For me, my sail has this little bubble near the luff (front edge along the mast) when I've got the sail set right. It happily pops in and out saying, "Hi, how are you, I'm a content little sail."

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Beyond Boat Building

I work with a small population of special ed kids labeled as having emotional disorders: depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, ADHD etc. I've got a great amount of freedom in what I teach. Right now I'm teaching Social Studies, Art and PE, but I'd rather build boats with my kids. I've got to figure out a way to sell it to the district because I'll need a lot of money to get the project off the ground. We don't have a shop area in the school so I'd pretty much be starting from scratch.

What I'm looking for is this:

How do I sell it to the higher powers? I can't just call it "Boat building." That really lacks practicality in my district of high earning professionals. What I need to do is incorporate lots of edu-speak into my proposal. Like, "applied this," "integrated that," and "practical such and such."

Here are the points I'm looking at expanding in my proposal:
cooperative learning
practical problem solving
team building
applied math
integrated studies
therapeutic creativity
interdisciplinary learning

Help me out. Please add to my list in the comments section.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

I wanna piss on you

This is how you know a kid belongs in your emotional support program. This is how you know a kid isn’t misdiagnosed. As I’ve written before, I teach emotionally disturbed high school kids in an affluent Philadelphia suburb on the other side of the river. It’s the type of town you’d move to if you were Donovan McNabb. The type of high school where cars in the student lot are more expensive, exotic and infinitely faster than those in the teacher lot. But, that doesn’t mean the rich don’t suffer too. In their own ways, the rich suffer.

This girl walks into my homeroom, on time for a change, but boobs heaving out of her shirt as usual. “My dad’s a fucking asshole,” she exclaims to the only other kid in the room --the kid who waits outside my locked classroom door before even I arrive because he’s petrified of the crowded halls. No one but he is ever punctual. But today this chick is here and spitting fire. “What happened?” this boy is forced to ask because I don't. She spills all over the place, “He woke me up early. He woke me up at 6am! I don’t wake up at 6am. I wake up at 6:15.” My timid boy reasons, “You should thank him. You’re here on time and no detention.” But she yells, “I should piss on him. I’m so mad I could piss on him!”

In my you’ve crossed that line voice request, “Please, don’t say that ever again.” But she says it again. She looks right at me, puts both her hands around an imaginary jar then lowers it past her groin and says slowly, “I could piss in this jar and throw it all over his face is how mad I am.”

I say nothing, but immediately think that someday, because of her heaving bosom, a chronic masturbator with low self-esteem, a man much like my only punctual to homeroom boy, will make the biggest mistake of his life and marry her.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Follow me down to the Mummer's parade



I woke up around 11, made coffee, fired up the wood burning stove, brushed my teeth then took the train down to the parade. It was a drunk train. I got to the station about five minutes before the train and the platform was packed with people drinking or already drunk wearing either Eagles jerseys or mummery. I had in my backpack a bottle of wine and a bottle of scotch. The whiskey was a present for Jack. The wine was for us to drink at the parade. I opened it on the train and took a few pulls. Happy 2006 I said to the drunks next to me. They raised their cups and said, “Rabble, rabble, rabble!” and we drank to the New Year and I recorked the bottle and stuffed it back into the bag. As soon as I got off the train I bought a hotdog and ate breakfast on a bench.

I met up with Jack and his wife at the 13th Street subway stop after eating a second dog with mustard and kraut. I was happy to see the two and immediately opened my backpack to give him his gift. It gives me great pleasure to give gifts. He loved it. He loves whiskey. Then he gave me my gift, a small box of fine cigars. I never expected a gift from him. It was touching. Jack’s mom died Tuesday and was buried Friday. When the hell did he have time to go out and pick me up a gift? But now that I think about it, maybe his wife did the shopping. I’m starting to think she’s really thoughtful, but quiet and doesn’t let on about much. At the funeral I overheard two women I didn’t know talking about how Jack’s new wife went out and bought everyone presents so there would be Christmas at the house on Christmas morning.

I can’t imagine the sadness they all must be feeling. There is so much about her death that breaks my heart. And me, I’m just a guy who only knew her for a long time. I think about my friend Jack, and his brother, and his sister, and his sister’s kid, and especially Jack’s father who lost a wife he loved a great deal. Everyone else has someone else, but Jack’s dad is now alone. I shudder when I think of the new emptiness in his life. I also think of my family, of my mother whose death I can’t comprehend, of my father who would be crushed, just like Jack’s dad, if my mother were to suffer and die in a few short months. I also think of my wife and how I don’t ever want to lose her and be alone.

This summer, before any of us, other than Jack’s mom I can only assume now, knew the cancer had returned a third time, I saw her at Jack’s wedding and thought it amazing that someone who had been so sick and stared death so closely in the eye twice before could look so beautiful. I remember the exact moment that thought came into my mind. I was sitting at my table, sipping a gin and tonic, watching her smile and dance with Jack’s dad to Sinatra. This time I really thought she would do it again. I thought, just like the other two times, she’d come out alive. But she died in five swift months. That last time I saw her my wife was two months pregnant and morning sick for weeks on end. She told my wife about how sick she would get when she got pregnant. And now she’s dead and my wife is still pregnant and will be pregnant for another two months.

The day of the funeral was one of those late December days where the sun shines brightly but never makes it far over the horizon. By mid-afternoon the temperature peaked at 45 and long shadows were cast across the cemetery. Preceding the long procession to the cemetery the funeral mass lasted a little over an hour. It took place in the church where I was baptized, in a church where I experienced happy events, and remember sad moments, but not any as sad as this. These days I don’t care much for church, I find it tedious and uninspiring, but her mass was beautiful. The church was packed, maybe three hundred people, we sat in the second to last pew, and at the end of the mass, before the men of the family wheeled her coffin out of the church Jack’s dad spoke a few soft words. Over his words you could hear the muffled sounds of three hundred people quietly weeping.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Divine Intervention

This summer my wife and I are selling the two houses we own and buying one big house. Everything about it is good except that we have to cancel the first week of our three-week vacation on Chincoteague Island. I called the Chincoteague rental agency and got "the new guy" who told me call back in an hour and, "Ask for Jen or Angel." So, I checked my voicemail. Eddy’s mom left a message for me to call her back. I did. Figured that was a good way to eat up some time. This woman’s been calling me with the same problems since September. I don’t like this woman. Not because she has lots of hair on her chin, or because she hasn’t worked in 16 years, but because she’s an ineffective mom. Her kid never comes to school. He can’t get out of bed because he stays up all night on the computer playing games. And, he hasn’t been to a dentist since he was seven. And, he suffers from severe depression which mom can’t even fucking comprehend. Mom usually calls and is like, “I don’t know what to do? He won’t get out of bed. He was up all night last night on the computer.” I always suggest, “Take the mouse and keyboard. Give ‘em back when he comes to school for three days in a row.” She argues, “But he’ll get mad,” and does nothing.

Turns out the reason she called was that the thunderstorm last night served a devastating blow to Ed’s computer and X-box, rendering them lifeless. "What's a surge protector?" mom asks.

Anyway, mom continues, "I was calling to see if the school provides computers to families in need? I just thought if there was any program to get computers for kids who don't have a lot of money…" I told her there was no such program at the high school, but to call Sarah Abovebeyond, the district social worker, because she might be able to help. I told her this knowing full well she wouldn’t call the social worker because the only thing that this poor person hates more than work, is social workers.

Reader, I shit you not. The computer blows up, and she wants the district to give him a new one! This is as close to divine intervention as it gets. I mean, you'd think this woman would be dancing in the streets because the HEAVENS opened up and removed the biggest material obstacle her kid faces in getting to school. Her kid was late or absent over 100 days this year because of that machine. God killed the computer. WITH A BOLT OF LIGHTNING! And she's focusing her energy on trying to get someone to give him a new one. The woman hotly rejected the free mental health services we struggled to arrange for her kid and now this, a godsend, is what she thinks is a need. This is her advocating for her son.

Which is why I lied and told her there was no such program that provides computers to families in need.

Friday, March 18, 2005

The night before my wedding

I’m listening to bluegrass music and drinking a small glass of whiskey. Girlfriend, soon to be wife, is out for a walk with E. She has more sense and therefore more stress than I. The walk with E will calm her. This time tomorrow we'll be in a black car heading south to the airport.

Getting married is this thing that I always wanted, but could never imagine happening. A few months ago I asked the woman I love, “Will you marry me?” She said yes, and tomorrow we will be married and she will be my wife and I her husband. To sit here and know that I want nothing more than to be married at the end of the day and for the rest of my life is the most calming feeling I’ve experienced. Seldom are things this clear. Rarely do I know precisely what I want. Even less frequently do I experience absolute fulfillment. I love her. I love her now. I’ll love her forever.

This is the beginning of the longest part of my life. When I close my eyes I see the years to come stretched before me. The years are like a map holding all the possibilities that I sought as a kid when I spent hours pouring over road atlases spread across the kitchen table dreaming of the day I’d leave home. Even though I left home years ago and followed the lines on the maps across this country and then across several others, tonight I feel the greatest excitement. Tonight I am happy before leaving home and tomorrow will be an explosion of ecstasy. I can't wait to enjoy every minute of it.