The adventures of Lorilee, Part III
This post is sort of a “retroactive” blog. Before Alex invited me to PBS, I was writing my story on a legal pad. So here it is:
Written on January 22nd, 2015
I don’t think it has quite yet hit me that I actually just bought a yacht – a Westsail for that matter. It has been a completely insane past couple of days. I’ll try to write everything to the best of my recollection. I’m on the return flight to Houston and finally have a moment to get my thoughts together. This is going to be a long post, so hang in there folks.
On Monday the 19th, after my last post, I met up with the previous owner of Lorilee at the Long Beach Yacht Club. With her boyfriend and me as deckhands, she motored Lorilee over to Marina Shipyard for the survey and quick haul. A marine survey is much like a home inspection when one buys a house. The surveyor reviews the overall condition of the boat, the structural integrity of the hull, the equipment inventory, and all the major and minor intricacies that go into a sailing yacht. Bud Taplin, the former GM of the Westsail Corporation, only lives twenty minutes from Long Beach and is still doing surveys. His knowledge of the Westsail knows no bounds. I was so fortunate to have him do the work. He found the boat to be in especially good shape for her age, and equally as such for the price. There were a couple of major findings, however:
- The exhaust needs a total overhaul. When the previous owner installed the engine over the summer, the exhaust system was installed with haste. It needs a water lift muffler to prevent water from siphoning back into the engine. That could be very, very bad. Right now the hose is shaped somewhat like an upside-down U, with no siphon break or check valve.
- The prop is not only almost totally gone from corrosion, it is also the wrong rotation. So the original engine was a Volvo Penta, which had a left-handed rotation and as such had a left-handed prop. The replacement engine has a right-hand turn, but the prop was never swapped out. Essentially, the transmission cables are reversed, so when Lorilee is steaming forward, the prop is actually spinning backwards. Wrap your head around that.
- The marine head does not function, but the biggie is that it is plumbed directly overboard. This is a HUGE no-no with the Coast Guard and can result in a pretty serious fine. One way to maybe get away with this is to zip-tie the seacock closed so that it is deemed “unusable”. This is only a bandaid fix for the larger problem at hand.
Bud gave me a laundry list of other minor issues to address, but I found one pretty big problem yesterday while taking the headliner down to unstep the mast. I’ll talk about this later.
After the survey, we pulled the boat back to her slip at the yacht club. The owner and her boyfriend collected the remaining personal items and took Bud to lunch. I spent a few hours scrambling for boat insurance quotes, while the owner went to have her father sign the Coast Guard document (kinda like an auto title transfer). It was so cool to be alone on the boat for the first time.
And late Monday afternoon, the owner returned with her father, who hand-crafted the boat from a bare hull. He is nearly disabled and hasn’t seen Lorilee in many years. The look in his eyes was something in between sadness, nostalgia, and contentment. He asked me all sorts of questions, and we talked boat stuff for about half an hour. We exchanged contact information, the Coast Guard document, and I handed them a nice big check. Lorilee was officially mine.
Something that will resonate with me for the rest of my life were his parting words: I’ll give you one piece of advice: Go Now. Do not wait until you’re old and crippled like me. None of us are guaranteed tomorrow.
This has been my mantra for the last six months, but until then it had only been something I’d read on the internet. To hear him repeat those words back to me, almost as if from recitation, hit me like a thunderbolt.
I decided immediately that instead of going back to my roach motel up in Long Beach, I’d spend my first night on the boat. I rushed over to the nearest grocery store, got a cold cut sandwich, a couple of pieces of fruit and a six pack of Dos Equis. I went to a sporting goods store, bought a sleeping bag, and headed back to my Lorilee.
I lit up the soft little cabin lamps, turned on some Bach, kicked back, and soaked it all in. In less than a year, I have gone from being an aimless drone in middle-class America, to taking the first step to a real positive change in my life. I am actually following my Dream. After a few beers, I turned into the forepeak for some shuteye. The next day was going to be tough.
Bright and early on Tuesday, the rigger and his crew arrived at Lorilee to help me begin the arduous process of prepping her for shipment. We basically had to bring the boats overall height down to 12’6” for interstate transport. This entailed a long list of things to do, but here are the highlights:
- Undo all the standing rigging, and unstep the mast.
- Removing the boom gallows, bow pulpit, and mast pulpit.
- Stowing and securing everything
Things were moving right along until we hit a pretty serious snag. The tabernacle-hinged mast pin was corroded solid inside of the mast, so that option was out. We had to totally unstep the mast. The maststep through-bolts couldn’t be easily accessed from the cabin top. So I got to work pulling the plywood headliner. About two hours and over a hundred flat-headed screws into that project, we were ready to move the boat over to the yard for the crane to lift the mast. Holy sh*t. I had to move the boat.
With only one day experience of moving this 13-ton, 40-foot ship around, I was scared out of my mind. And to add to the nerves, I hadn’t received confirmation of insurance from my insurance agent. So here I am, at the tiller of an uninsured yacht (I told NO ONE), motoring in one of the wealthiest harbors in California. Coming into the yard, I came in at too sharp of an angle and nearly hit one of the docks. Luckily one of the riggers, Mike, was onboard to help me enter the slip safely and with no damage to the dock or the boat. With a big ol’ sigh of relief, I went back to work on the cabintop, and the rigging crew got right back to work pulling the mast.
This is about when I discovered something pretty serious. When I pulled one of the headliners down, I found active termites. Goddamnit. Things were going too well. I knew before buying the boat that she had termites before. They’re all-too common in Southern California. The previous owner told me that she had treated the boat before, so I was hoping I wouldn’t find any. However, the location where the bugs are eating is rather integral: the compression post and the cabintop arch. I am pretty freaked out by this. If it were anywhere else, I wouldn’t be so worried, but they’re gnawing their way through one of the most structurally important spots on the boat. So this will be a big priority once Lorilee’s back in Texas.
The rest of the day went rather well. The rigging crew pulled the mast and took off for the afternoon. I stayed onboard and continued dismantling her. After calling it a day, I rewarded myself with a gigantic bacon and blue cheese burger down in Seal Beach. (I highly recommend Seal Beach by the way. Totally cool place).
This morning I checked out of my roach motel and headed back to the yard, ginormous coffee in-hand. I removed the boom gallows and finished my part of securing the boat for transport. With my flight approaching, I took off down Highway 1 to take the “scenic route” back to the airport. And here I am on the plane, finishing up this post with blistered hands covered in fiberglass. The adventure has only begun, so I do so with a smile.