Ocean Watch
Susan Scott

Friday, July 22, 2005

Not too busy
to take on
another boat

While sitting in a doctor's office recently, a magazine article about the pace of life in the United States caught my eye. In spite of all our labor-saving devices, the piece said, countless Americans feel they are too busy to enjoy their lives. But slowing down is hard for a lot of people; they don't know what to give up.

The writer had some suggestions. No. 1 on his list: Sell the boat.

This article came to mind last week as I stood on the deck of a sailboat in Lahaina Harbor and stared up at its rigging. I was dirty, sweat-soaked, anxious and already exhausted from the to-do lists in my pockets.

I'm out of my mind, I thought. I already have a boatload of work to do on our 37-foot ketch, Honu, which I sailed to Tahiti last spring and then left there. Having the boat in French Polynesia is fine for sailing adventures, but maintaining her systems and arranging repairs from here is a challenge all its own.

But if we leave Honu's slip in the Ala Wai Boat Harbor empty for more than a year, which is the current plan, we'll lose it. And this is Honu's permanent home.

The answer to our dilemma came recently in the form of a run-down but fundamentally sound boat called a Ranger. We decided to purchase the Ranger and gradually fix it up. The rub was this: The boat was in Lahaina, and the seller would not deliver it to Honolulu.

Nuts. After all my big talk about being a boat captain, I now had to sail a boat with ragged rigging and broken instruments across two Hawaii channels in seas whipped white by summer trades.

I offered two of my best sailor friends one-way air tickets to Maui and a sailboat ride home. Never ones to pass up a sailing adventure, they accepted.

The good news is that Rangers are fast and well built. The bad news is that this one had been neglected for years, and nearly all its systems were defunct. "If we get this boat to the Ala Wai with the mast still standing," my friend Gerard said as he reinforced the rusty wires with ropes, "we'll have done a fine job."

After spending an uneasy night with the resident rodent, which explained the box of rat poison under the sink, we rose at 5, and I backed the boat from its Lahaina mooring.

Oops ... the controls didn't work the way I expected, and the boat fishtailed. Since I didn't hit anything or foul the propeller, we declared the launch a success and headed toward home.

This was my first channel crossing on a boat other than Honu, and I found some things different, some the same. Honu is a high, dry boat, but this one's low, rear cockpit let in the waves, salting the grapes and soaking the crew.

Sailing was similar, though. The boat glided smoothly down those big waves the entire glorious day, and when I drove her into the Ala Wai Harbor 13 hours later, the mast was still standing. We were three tired but happy sailors.

Like a lot of people, Craig and I are sometimes too busy. But sell the boat? We just bought another one.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Marine science writer Susan Scott can be reached at http://www.susanscott.net.

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