November 14, 2010

Finishing the Move

A Readers' Advisory (for both of you): This entry is constructed from talk-over-supper hearsay and pictures I didn't take. 

Truthfully, this post is a reconstruction because, on the first pass, my laptop threw an uncharacteristic hissy fit -- or maybe suffered a burp of indigestion -- and pitched an 80% completed first draft into some uncharted quadrant of cyberspace, where a cyber archeologist generations from now might find its artifacts and marvel that in the early years of the twenty-first century, people stepped outside their pods and experienced the world aboard tangible conveyances.

Recreating prose is a demoralizing task. It's taken me a week to sit back down here, wondering what the hell I wrote earlier, doubting I can express it again, and keeping a suspicious eye out for another anarchistic episode from my crotchety PowerBook G4.

So, to get on with the story: Two days earlier, in the hinterlands of 60617, Smitten was lowered onto one of Great Lakes Marine's ass-kickin' long-haulin' trailers to begin her 700 mile journey east on I-80 to 10464 and the Morris Yacht and Beach Club.

I wish I could've seen her flying down the highway!

Oh balls, who am I trying to kid. I'm so glad I couldn't. As it was, I spent the entire two days she was on the road cringing for her safety. Some primal fears Zoloft just won't touch.

Here she is at the south end of City Island taking a little peek at the Long Island Sound waters she'll be zig-zagging across in six or seven months:

She's cooling her heels in the City Island Avenue middle turn lane, awaiting the all-clear to enter Morris. She looks so tiny on this behemoth:

With the yard's machine- and manpower in place, she trundles down the club's driveway to meet them.

Oversize Load, my ass. Smitty's 10' beam is girlishly petite compared to the rig she's riding.

Once she's positioned in the yard, the traveler lift rolls up behind her and, slings secured under her hull, pulls her up off the trailer. Swingin' free, just as cool as a cruiser in a hammock. Remember, tricked-out for comfort as she is, Smitten weighs in at about 9,000 pounds.

Set delicately back down on a second sturdy trailer, she's creeping across the yard to be maneuvered into the narrow slot that will be her winter home. The stepped mast and rigging will be stored in the Stepped Masts and Riggings closet for the duration, and remounted in the spring. (Which reminds me of that acronym B.O.A.T -- break out another thou$and.)

Voila. Snugged in with her winter neighbors. Til April, darling. Have a good winter's nap.

September 12, 2010

The most nerve-wracking aspect of moving a household is enduring your imagination's natural inclination to inventing scenarios in which the process goes horribly wrong. I'm not talking about things going wrong with stuff you can replace at Big Box -- I can forgive an otherwise-diligent moving company an oops! or two if it only means losing a keyboard drawer or a coffee Thermos. I'm talking about the terrible vulnerability of moving the dear things, the things we are so fond of that we assign them anthropomorphic qualities, the things that make relocating a you're-going-lose-most-of-your-sleep-for-the-next-few-months proposition.

For some relocating parties that thing is kids (note: not necessary to assign anthropomorphic quality to kids, it comes standard). For some, including Dave and me, it's pets. For others, and we fall into this category too, it's possessions that lie outside the conventional "reasonable and customary household goods," to use the language of one nationally-recognized moving company.

Specifically, Reader, "reasonable and customary household goods" does not include this five ton party girl:

The only scenario more daunting to Dave and I than moving the cats is the one that involves moving Smitten. And apparently to move her, as far as the corporate relocation company is concerned, we're on our own.

We're not on the other side of that story yet. This weekend, Dave is coordinating the final steps to prepare her for the journey. He'll sail her to Crowley's (with a big party of Guys on Board) where she'll be lifted out of the drink, winterized, her mast brought down (they call that stepping the mast), shrink-wrapped, set aboard a tractor-trailer, and transported across 730 miles of east-bound interstate to her destination here:


Let's back up. It happened like this:

Dave, bless his eagle eyes, spotted this geographical feature during a final descent into LaGuardia back in January:

And as it was January, picture this island blanketed in white, not green. Even absent the floating watercraft though, Dave recognized it for what it is: a nautical playground.

He had no idea what he was looking at, but he did a quick, mental, only-sailors-should-try-this-at-home triangulation, studied some local maps and concluded he had flown over City Island dangling off the south end of the Bronx. He filed the information away with a personal promise to visit the island to check out possible accommodations for Smitty.

That visit come on an unusually warm Saturday in March when he followed his nose to the southern tip of City Island and found Morris Yacht & Beach Club. He met the right guy, asked the right questions, returned on a similarly warm Saturday in April with the missus bearing a checkbook, and we joined up -- breaking Groucho Marx's cardinal rule.

A week ago, freshly minted membership cards in hand, we made another visit to reinforce in our minds that this is really where the girl is going to live. This is our new Monroe Harbor. (It pinches my gut to write that. I think MYBC will be many things, but it could never replace the camaraderie we enjoyed with the harbor staff and the tender captains, and the friendships of our luvly neighbors on the moorings of South Monroe Harbor. Sniff.)

Okay, toughen up, grrlfriend.

Here's the "beach" part of "Yacht & Beach Club":

You don't have to own a boat to join, you just have to want the access and the community the membership offers.

Six or seven years ago, the original modest clubhouse burned to the ground. This is the permit board for the new immodest clubhouse:

Certificate of Occupancy is imminent. A swank, new clubhouse is almost beyond my fathoming. When I walk onto the property, I see its soaring new profile, but I can't imagine the luxuries that lie within. Something more than Monroe's mildewed concrete block shower stalls? I'll have to see to believe...

Here's the tender dock and the fishing pier beyond:

I was carrying the wrong lens, and it was a hazy day, but still you can see Manhattan in the distance behind our mooring field. If you take off your glasses and squint real hard...oh, bah, forget it, no one can squint that hard without getting a major facial cramp. I was hoping I could point out the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building, but I think I need to shoot with different equipment on a better weather day.

Here are Morris's swanky neighbors:

I need to point out that Morris is nowhere near a pretentious yacht club. The majority of members are sailors, and if you are unfamiliar with the, er, frugal nature of the typical sailor, just ask my brother-in-law, the motor yacht captain, to describe it to you.

Look, a happy guy:

August 4, 2010

Where's Em?

This summer, boys and girls, we're taking a different tack.

With all due respect to Little Miss Smitty Pants (who still floats -- I hope -- in Monroe Harbor) our story takes an abrupt right turn to the East Coast. New York City is hammering us (don't worry, in a good way) with sensory overloads that won't be brushed aside.

Little Smitten will always provide the structure for this blog, but I need to talk about all this new NYC stuff.

I gave the Rebel a new lens for my birthday. I know, I know, so selfless. It's a Sigma 70 - 300. It's, um, big, to use a polite-company word. I took it and the Rebel out for a walk the other day, just so they could get to know each other a little bit, and found myself...well...see if you recognize where I found myself.

Here's the first clue:

Uh-huh, pretty cryptic, I agree. Try the next clue:

Hint: Upper East Side...

I love this shot:

Hint: That bad boy Frank Lloyd Wright was involved...

Here's a gimme:

This should bring it home for you:

Yes! I'm at the Guggenheim Museum on Fifth Avenue at 88th. I'd show you a full wide shot but to do so, without the other well-hung lens in my bag -- the Canon 10 - 22, which was inconveniently left at home -- I'll have to direct you to this stock shot if you want to see what the whole elephant looks like, not just these individual parts my lens -- like the proverbial blind guys' hands -- singled out.

By the way, that stock shot? I came of age in a Chrysler Newport just like the one that's beached like a whale at the curb. But that's a different blog.

August 5, 2009

Wait, Wait! One More Thing Before We Sail

I was all set to start this post writing about and showing you pix from the delightful sailing excursions we've had recently with family and friends, old and new, when I got sidetracked by these pix I took a couple of mornings ago.

You see, it's our routine during these short Chicago summers to spend as many Saturday nights as we can aboard Smitten. We usually arrive at the boat late afternoon on Saturday, putter around for a while, cook a farmers' market supper, enjoy the Saturday night Navy Pier fireworks, then retire, according to our own clocks, to bed. I usually lead the way, turning in early to read for a few pages, then pass out with the book on my face. Dave follows a couple hours later, after another Becks and that infernal cigar, removes said book from my face, and crawls in after me.

All very civilized.

But, what really makes the Saturday night routine special, is Sunday morning. It's sooooo peaceful to float there, on one of god's biggest waterbeds, listening to the slap of water on the hull, the birds bwawking their wake-up squabbles, the distant hum of traffic on Lake Shore Drive. I usually pop awake at first light. The other morning, presented with a fairly dramatic veil of clouds, I decided to haul it out of bed, grab the Rebel, and take a few pix of Monroe Harbor just before sunrise:

This one's looking east. That's our neighbor Private Eye in the foreground, awash in the delicate morning light.

Here's the view to the west. I could insert some snarky comment here about the ownership change at Sears Tower and the name change to Willis Tower, but that would be inconsistent with the generally peaceful vibe of this sunrise moment, so I will let it be:

And here, I think, is the money shot: my luvly floating neighbors backdropped against the museum campus:

At this point I put the camera down, climbed back between the covers, and resigned myself to another peaceful, floating 40 winks.

July 14, 2009

An Official Apology

This just in: Our attorneys have informed us that the aforementioned winch, which I perhaps mistakenly characterized as being of dubious repute and usefulness, has threatened legal action unless I retract my purportedly libelous statement describing it as "a total bum, only along for the ride."

The evidence suggests that the sailing vessel hardware that, for the Court's purposes, will heretofore be described as Winch Number 4, provides a vital service as Capt. Dave's late-night cigar holder:

I stand corrected and deeply regret any pain and suffering I may have caused any party.


June 28, 2009

One More Geek Sailor Entry

Those of you who have labored aboard Smitten know that the winches are an integral part of the sailing system, used to provide leveraged energy to unfurl, trim and furl the sails. We've probably put you to work cranking away on one, tightening the sheets for maximum sail pressure. Or you may've seen the winches at rest, performing the more mundane chore of keeping the sheets, halyards and lines organized, as one is doing here:

I'll take this opportunity to explain the term "sheets" as it relates to sailing. A lot of people, myself included before I got some learnin', assume that "sheets" refers to the sails. Logical enough assumption, the sails are (often) white and cloth-like and long and wide. "Sheets" seems like an appropriately affectionate nickname for another valued element of the sailing equation. But "sheets" actually is an all-purpose word for the ropes that connect to and control the sails. For example, when we hand you that rope with the red thread woven through it, and ask you to pull, you are using one of the jib sheets to manipulate the jib sail from one side of the boat to the other during a tack. (Stick with me, kid, we'll make a virtual sailor out of you eventually.)

(BTW, for those of you who find yourselves described by friends and acquaintances as "three sheets to the wind" with puzzling frequency, and wonder what it means, click here.)

So anyway. Of the four winches on Smitten, we depend very heavily on two, and somewhat lightly on one. The fourth is a total bum, only along for the ride. It was the two heavily-depended-upon that we tore apart a few weeks ago for a clean and lube:

There must be 45 pieces to each one of these, all fitting together like a Swiss watch. Dave has done this drill enough to know how they come apart and go back together (with some back-tracking and second-guessing), but I admit I was baffled. So I was put in charge of the WD-40 bath we set up in that Trader Joe's coffee can. A smelly task. Not the coffee's fault. But with a little soaking followed by a good terry cloth rubdown, all 45 (x2) pieces got a thorough degreasing.

It should be noted that the yellow of my foul weather bib overalls in the picture above is the exact same color as the Porsche Boxster that I'm adamant will be living in my parking spot at some point in the future.

Now the pieces start going back together, along with about seven different types and weights of lubricant. Place was starting to look like that shelf at the Walgreen's. Oh, don't get coy with me, you know which shelf:

Then the winch stem gets a good going-over:

And everything starts to fit back together:


Hey look! A little buff-up and we got our winch back, better than new:

It ain't over til the crank test is done:

Yup! Contact!

Ok, for cryin' out loud aleady, let's go sailing.

June 13, 2009

Of Entropy, Mayhem and Tarantulas

My mom-in-law is fond of saying that when her two boys were growing up and sharing a bedroom, there was an undeniable Oscar and Felix quality to their relationship. She alludes, of course, to Neil Simon's The Odd Couple, and the diametrically opposed domestic natures of the now-iconic roommates, with Felix being fastidiously, even obsessively, neat and Oscar being a big honkin' slob. She shared the memory long before Dave and I were married, but it didn't deter me from entering into a matrimonial contract with Oscar. In retrospect, I wonder if she wasn't trying to warn me...

That Dave is, um, order-challenged, and I am so intolerant of clutter that when reading In Cold Blood I root for the bad guys, I guess it's safe to say that Dave has reconstructed his Oscar/Felix relationship in his adult married life. (And me? I just knew a great catch when I saw one. Happy anniversary, honey.)

It also needs to be noted that one of the synonyms for "neat" is "shipshape," and one of the hallmarks of a well-run ship, for a multitude of reasons not the least of which are comfort and safety, is a Felix-approved level of cleanliness, order and organization. Which is why I find this picture so hilarious:

This is what happens when Oscar has free-run of the boat.

Now, to be fair, this picture of the cabin was snapped during Dave's most intense days of hull preparation and painting. He knew I wasn't going to be around much, he had a big job to do, and he had no time for picking up glasses, emptying ashtrays and plumping pillows during this party. So I don't really hold the condition of the cabin against him.

But, my god:
Ouch! My head:


All I could do was back out slowly and retreat to the cockpit where, at the end of a hull work day, we retired over a bottle of wine and talked about floating:

And Dave did this quick sketch of me:

He did a pretty nice job, though I never suspected I look this much like Michael Jackson, and I have no idea why he drew that tarantula crawling up the left side of my head...maybe a reference to the profusion of spiders that will make their home on board during the course of the summer. But, all in all, not bad for government work.