Darrel (right), a 20-year veteran of Berkeley Marina’s J Dock confirms that Perfect High had not been sailed in 20 years.

Of Boat Baths and Broken Backstays

“A ship in harbor is safe — but that is not what ships are built for.” — John A. Shedd,

Whenever possible, you should always set deadlines on projects.

In blogging, the deadline is always “now.”

If you wait too long, the trail goes cold and you lose the inspiration. When in doubt, hit publish, go sailing, get on the road — the cost of not seizing the moment is too great.

This is especially true when it comes to fixing up old sailboats, where monthly slip fees are your tuition and leaving the boat in the slip is like skipping class.

I was a bit skeptical when my friend said he was taking on a “free boat” that by all appearances had been sitting in its slip, untouched, for the past 20 years. It was moldy — no motor — and the halyards were covered in dirt. But beneath the grime he saw a diamond in the rough.

Perfect High is a 1971 Nightingale 24, built for racing by hall-of-fame yacht designer Tom Wylie. The Wyliecat website says this about her:

“With more than half of her 4,200 pounds of displacement in the keel, the boat proved to be slippery through the water and a winner on the race course”

So, Jon was right and I was wrong.

Last night we put the sails up for the first time and half an hour later we were lining up at the start line for the Friday Night Chowder Races, a weekly event sponsored by the Berkeley Yacht Club throughout Spring and Summer.

I had been pushing Jon from the moment he signed his pink slip to race her ASAP.

I had a hunch that the whole project of fixing her up would take on a new dimension after experiencing the boat (named “Perfect High”) in her proper environment. Plus, a good whipping in 20 knot winds is the equivalent of a salt-water bath. After racing, PH’s deck was sparkling, her bow was smiling, and her bottom was probably cleaner than it’s been in over a decade.

“Feels good”

Sailboats were meant to be sailed. That should really go without saying, but there are an unconscionable number of boats laying “fallow” in marinas around the Bay Area — covered in moss and bird droppings — while race ledgers remain nearly empty.

Jon and I have spoken at length about the Green New Deal, and I’ve written about the problems and proposed some alternatives (see here and here).

What does this have to do with restoring a 40-year-old fiberglass sailboat to seaworthiness? Well, the Green New Deal people always seem to have a sense of urgency about their mission to decarbonize the economy. In fact, it’s so urgent to them that they feel the need to jet-set around the world to various symposia to discuss ways of forcing people into their post-industrial schemes (the math never quite seems to add up, but I’m sure that a few more symposia will solve that).

Freud talks about “cathexis” — i.e., the concentration of mental energy on one particular person, idea, or object (especially to an unhealthy degree). I don’t mean to psychoanalyze our world leaders, but perhaps their fixation on command-and-control solutions to climate change would be better directed at restoring old sailboats — the original zero-carbon mode of transportation.

Wylie even suggests efficient sailboats as method of commute.

Considering that manufacturing new “green” buses, trains, airplanes and automobiles takes more energy than is offset by their use in most cases, repurposing old hulls and sails maybe be the best foundation for green transportation in the Bay Area. Have you seen traffic across the Bay Bridge lately?

In case you were wondering, we were in last place from the starting horn, and we didn’t quite complete the course — although we made it around the first mark, two miles down the pier.

As you can see in the photos, the boat’s backstay is being held in place by a nylon strap. Jon’s first big fix will be re-installing what was once an adjustable backstay, so we can bend the mass backwards while heading up-wind and hopefully gain an advantage on other boats next time around.

I’m setting a deadline of the end of June for placing something other than last place on Perfect High.

Seastead solutions.