On the Hard in Seward

Where Next?
Bob Williams
Sun 7 Sep 2014 05:23

Ashore at Raibow Boat Yard, Seward
Weather: sunny, windy, and mild

Sylph is once more high and dry having her bottom looked at. Once she had been water blasted I attacked the suspect area of the hull with a hammer and an old screwdriver and after a little prodding around managed to poke two holes in the hull about a centimetre in diameter. The metal around the holes, while thin, is still strong, so I could probably have sailed on for quite a while yet before the wasted steel became a real issue. Nonetheless, it would of course have been unwise to have continued sailing with a known problem but of unknown extent, so I feel that I have done the right thing in hauling out to fix the problem properly. Tomorrow I will break out the angle grinder and start cutting out the wasted steel and see just how far the problem goes.

Yesterday, while sitting alongside waiting for today, our haul out day, to arrive, I had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of a colourful local sailor by the name of Tim, and his boat Sea Wolf. Sea Wolf no doubt reflects her owner's character well; an old timber ketch with nice lines, painted bright red, but, while everything looked shipshape, she was definitely not what one would describe as Bristol fashion. Patches in the heavily applied paint work abound (as does Sylph's paint work at the moment), with numerous brush marks and runs. Clearly the idea of a yacht like finish is not something uppermost in Tim's thinking. Nonetheless, equally clear was that Sea Wolf had a pedigree for she was a finely designed and built yacht. I introduced myself to Tim, also a single hander, on the basis of wishing to learn something from his local knowledge of sailing in these regions.

Tim was of medium but solid build, he wore a smoke stained walrus moustache, and a three day stubble, above which his bright blue eyes shone from his crinkled weathered face, long wisps of unruly fine white hair poked out under his ball cap. His fingers were thickened with a life of hard work, and he spoke in a deep sonorous voice, made raspy presumably from a life time of smoking cigarettes. On my initial acquaintance on board Sea Wolf he invited me to sit on a folding camp chair as the cockpit seats were a little grimy, though both of us pretended not to notice this fact, yet alone mention it. During the course of our conversation, continued later in the evening after dinner within the relatively comfortable confines of Sylph's saloon, I learnt quite a bit about Tim.

Tim, at 57, was only a year older than me, so while our life experiences perhaps could not have been more different, in many ways we seemed to have arrived at a similar outlook. Tim had grown up in the wilderness of Alaska and learnt to shoot from his father at what must have been a very early age, for his father died when Tim was six. He has two grown up sons from his first wife who are apparently doing very well for themselves, and a thirteen year old daughter from his second partner. I gathered that he primarily makes money as a mechanic, but that he is a bit of jack of all trades, including surviving out in the wintry wilderness of northern Alaska, hunting and trapping, while running sleds and wild dog teams. More recently, about five years ago as I recall, he bought Sea Wolf in large part as a means of getting away from the cold of Alaska's interior. With no previous sailing experience he promptly got himself in all sorts of scrapes, but managed to come through each one unscathed, which in these waters is no mean feat. He had just returned from three weeks out in Resurrection Bay, primarily it seems to avoid marina fees. Now he plans on spending the winter in Seward, and he needed to find some work.

He spun yarns long into the night about his life (and I shared a few of my own), lubricated with spiced rum from a hip flask style bottle, and a few glasses of my finest red wine. It was three o'clock in the morning when Tim eventually returned to Sea Wolf, I confess that as the the small hours approached that I found it hard to suppress some tired yawns, but I certainly felt that by evening's end I had gained a real taste of the wilds of the remote north, along with the harsh life that such a land demands.

All is well.