Origins and Relations

Apparently the last name ‘Lipps’ has as one origin a shortening of the family name ‘Phillips’ or Philipps’ depending on the source language and country.   My grandfather explained to me that our family name was changed at one point from ‘Lips’ to ‘Lipps’ to differentiate between two families in competing businesses in the same neighborhood in Chicago.  Both were said to be in the upholstery business and there was confusion among their customers about who was who.  Because my familial line was the better one, we got the extra ‘P.’

Another story was that the name was longer and reduced to ‘Lips’ during the immigration process.  I’m not sure if either is 100% factual but both make for a good tale.

In any event, the name ‘Lipps’ is not very common.  The name ‘Todd’ ‘Lipps’ is even less common.  I know of one other man with our name.  He is the semi-well known banker I refer to in my introductory post.

I don’t know him but he has reached out and tried to contact me.  As an intro, he asked me, “What was it like growing up with the name Todd Lipps?”  I answered him, but the answer I gave him was a sarcastic response about growing up in a rich and influential family who spent summers in luxurious vacation spots, private schools, gated communities and jetting to a home in the Hamptons.  None of it was rooted in truth.  In fact, the truth was completely opposite.  I didn’t mean anything rude by it.  At the time I didn’t think much about it, and didn’t consider that receiving that from someone he didn’t know would come off as incredibly dick-ish.  In time I realized that it did.  He didn’t reach out again.

From everything I can tell, he’s a lot like me – about my age, a professional in his field, has a family and kids, may like some of the same things I do.  Sorry, Todd.  You were the better man.  I wasn’t very nice.

Louis Lipps played wide receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers.  He’s probably the most famous Lipps.

There is an island in Antarctica named Lipps Island after researcher Jere Lipps.

My wife is Lisa Lipps.  But not that Lisa Lipps.

There is the unincorporated community in Wise County – Lipps, Virginia.

German philosopher Theodor Lipps was an influential university professor who inspired Sigmund Freud.

Lipps, Inc.?  Funkytown?

There are some Lipps’ in directory listings in a number of areas.  There are a couple of us in the FAA pilot license database.  There are three of us in the Ironbutt ride database – all Americans.  All riders.  We’ve never met.  We may or may not be related.  One rider stands out above the rest.  Earlier this month Erik Lipps finished fourth in one of the most difficult motorcycle events in the world – the Ironbutt Rally.

The IBR is held every other year on odd-numbered years, usually attracts close to 100 of the best long-distance riders in the world, and the top finishers usually ride about 13,000 miles over 11 days.  There is some confusion that the rally is a race – a two-wheeled version of the Cannonball Run – but nothing is further from the truth.

The riders have a set starting point, two staging locations about 1/3 and then 2/3 of the way through the event, and a known finishing point.  This year the start, the end of stage one and the finish were all in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  The end of stage two was in Kingsport, Tennessee.

There is no pre-established route for the riders.  The IBA gives every participant a list of bonus locations.  Each location is worth a specific number of points.  The riders individually decide on the most efficient route to scoop up as many bonus points as they can.  Faraway locations may carry big points, but several closer ones may have a larger cumulative point total.  There are several catches, though.

The riders have to check-in via phone at specified times or they are docked points.  The riders have to check-in at each stage-ending checkpoint during a two-hour window – not making it in time means a DNF.  It’s after this check-in time – usually less than 10 hours – that riders eat real food, shower and sleep for more than a couple hours at a time.  On the road the riders are in the saddle for 20+ hours per day over the 11-day event.

The riders are not without sleep.  The IBR organizers offer bonus points for sleeping between checkpoints — usually more points than a rider could have gotten had he or she ridden on to other bonuses.  Because it is not a race, speeding and dangerous riding is not encouraged.  If a rider gets somewhere too fast it can mean trouble with the organizers.

At the finish, riders have drained the adrenaline that’s gotten them through the last days, out of energy, sore, just plain exhausted.  Most have endured in the same riding clothes for several days and because the IBR is held in any weather, most are suffering from some form of rash caused by wet conditions and dirty clothes.  None compete for a cash prize.  There isn’t one.  The winner gets the biggest trophy.  Other finishers get smaller trophies.  All finishers get an IBR license plate frame and a three-digit IBA number.  To put into perspective how difficult the event is, consider that a little over 500 riders have finished the rally in its history.  About eight times as many have summited Mount Everest.

A rider receives the bonus list near the start of each leg and begin route-planning.  As stated above, each location earns a rider a specific number of points.  Proof that a rider has been to a bonus location is usually established via photo – the rider must snap a picture of his or her towel with their competitor number on it at a specific location like a sign or sometimes with an obvious landmark in the background.  Sometimes a receipt with a time and date stamp is necessary.  Group photos in a very tight time window that earn points are peppered throughout the rally.  Some locations only reward a rider points during daylight hours.  Far off bonus locations carry big points – Key West, Prince Edward Island and Alaska are typically available, and all are probably doable mathematically.  The question will come down to the max number of points per mile ridden, however, and so riders may stretch their legs over great distances, or stay within a days’ ride of the next checkpoint, in an effort to get a max number of individual bonus locations.

Each year the IBR has a theme that ties most of the bonus locations together.  This year it was National Parks.  In order to be credited as a finisher, each rider had to gather points at a minimum of 50 different bonus locations in at least 25 different states.  Riders went as far south as South Padre Island, Texas, and some ventured north into Canada for the points available there.  For the most part, bonus locations encouraged routing east of the Rocky Mountains and very few riders picked up points in the western states.  On the last day of the event some riders were still 1100+ miles away.  Most rode through the night continuing to collect points, finishing shortly after dawn on Day 11.

The motorcycles all start out as bikes that are used as vanilla commuter or touring bikes every day.  Most are then highly-modified to suit the needs of the riders.  Most have some form of custom seat that is comfortable hour after hour, day after day.  Most also carry additional fuel up to the IBR max of a little over 11 gallons.  Auxiliary fuel can be as complex as remote tanks that feed the main tank via an electric fuel.  Some tanks are gravity fed.  Some riders carry extra fuel in the form of a plastic gas can that can be purchased for $20 at Wal Mart.  Most bikes have multiple GPS units, some radar detectors; some are so electronic-laden they rival a modern jet.  Almost all have additional lighting to give better viewing of the road and to make the riders more visible at night.

Recently the Yamaha FJR1300 has been a consistent high finisher.  Honda’s Gold Wing is well represented.  BMW is a popular bike though recently a number of mechanical failures on BMWs contributed to DNFs.  A number of Harley Davidson motorcycles are ridden each rally.  The winner this year, Eric Jewell, rode a Honda ST1300.  He arrived at the finish with a failing fuel pump.  Had it completely died, even a few miles from the finish, he could have DNF’d.  Many of the bikes complete the rally on the same set of tires they started on.   Some rears get changed after the end of one of the legs.  Most go without an oil change over the course of the rally.

Some years the “Hopeless” class is packed.  These bikes, usually older, or smaller, have a much greater chance of failing to finish due to mechanical issues.  In years past, a rider finished higher on a 250cc scooter than he had in a previous attempt on a Gold Wing.  This year Kurt Worden finished 37th on a Kawasaki 250 Ninja with 90,000 miles.  As I understand it, he rode on the stock seat.  This class, though not competitive with the top riders, is very interesting just because almost every rider on one will have some bike-related difficulty to overcome.

Al Holtsberry, 79 years old, is the oldest finisher of any IBR.  2015 was his fourth rally finished and he rode nearly 1300 miles during his last day in order to make it back to Albuquerque in time.

Erik Lipps, one of the three Lipps’ on the IBA finisher list, was a rookie in this year’s event and because he is an experienced rally rider, was expected to finish well.  He was not expected to finish as well as he did, however.  He ran a fantastic Leg 1, finishing third in points.  His second leg was a bit of a setback and he dropped several spots after the points were totaled.  His third leg was extremely efficient, extremely quick, and by the time it was over, he had finished in fourth.   Rookies don’t generally place anywhere near as high.  Erik spent much of early 2015 prepping a newer FJR1300 for the rally when his old bike’s reliability began to be an uncertainty.

Are Erik and I related?  I have no idea.  Was his family name derived from something else or changed when they came to America?  Did his family compete with another for upholstery business in a Chicago neighborhood shortly after the turn of the century?  I don’t know.  Related or not, we are brothers.  Congratulations, Erik.  You did well.

See additional Rally Reports and photos by viewing:  http://www.ironbuttrally.com/IBR/2015.cfm .

Regrets

Alex is a Deep-Snapper. He’s pretty talented and as a sophomore he snapped for his high school on the Varsity squad. I taught him what I could – I was a deep snapper in high school, too, but I found that the technique used today is very different than the technique used 30+ years ago, and I had to pass him along to others to allow him to get really good.

He’s good enough that he’ll likely have a chance to snap for a college team in two years.

Because he excelled, and because football is a big part of our family, it has taken priority the last few years. We’ve attended camps and Alex has played in too many passing league and 7-on-7 tournaments to count. It has been worth every minute and I won’t ever regret any of the time invested in youth football. It is, however, one of the reasons I allowed myself to sell the Excalibur.

There were other reasons, though. Tommy, a liveaboard on the gangway I used to slip on, would regularly come up to me and say, “Todd, so many people come down and take a look at your boat and when I come over to check them out, they say, ‘What a pretty boat.’ Why don’t you sail it more?”

It was hard to justify the expense of keeping her in the water in Southern California without enough regular use. I liked the fact that I could go down to her and relax in the cockpit and watch the sun set. The marina was rarely really hot even when the temp inland was triple digit. Alamitos Bay is not well known but it is a beautiful place to slip a boat.

It still cost a fixed amount every month and every spring I had a number of things to freshen and update. Occasionally something would break. The sails, fresh, bright, clean and new a few years ago, no longer looked virgin white. The lifelines needed attention. Interior wiring, even as simple as it was, needed to be redone. I wanted to build a self-bailing drain in the motor well, and even though I knew what I wanted to do, it never seemed like I had the time to do it.

So, in July 2014, I found myself earning smaller, then even smaller, paychecks than I’d made in a while. I was still able to afford to pay the slip fees and keep up with the maintenance. My bills at home continued to get paid and I still put some away for later. The cushion that I demanded for myself was getting smaller and smaller, though. I told myself that the car business tends to work in cycles and that I would likely see a rebound into a more comfortable position before too long, which I have.

But a voice told me to put the Excalibur on the market and see what happens. I knew I shouldn’t. I resisted the voice through July and into August and finally drafted a Craigslist ad. I received a number of inquiries, showed the boat to a few people, had a sail with a few other potential buyers, and thought I had it sold once. By the time Mark came along, I had almost changed my mind. He was looking for a first sailboat and the Excalibur and Mark made a connection.

He, a friend of his, and I went out for a sail into Long Beach Harbor on a nearly windless day. We made slow progress towards the Queen Mary and eventually tacked back and crept into Alamitos Bay. A few times Mark asked if she sailed faster than the 2 knots or so we were drifting but every once in a while I found a little puff and we’d begin to accelerate. I thought the ride was slow enough that he might decide to back out.

He didn’t. He made the transaction very easy. He paid in full for the boat, three months of slip fees, transferred the ownership immediately and had the boat insured. There was no backing out.

One of the hardest things about the sale was seeing her sitting in the slip and knowing she wasn’t mine anymore. I regularly rode down to Alamitos Bay just to look at her for a while. One day, towards the end of December, she was gone. Eventually another sailboat appeared in the slip and my rides down to Alamitos Bay halted.

I wish I hadn’t sold her. It was a dumb, rash decision and I miss her.

Another Excalibur won’t replace hull number 75.

So, to the people that have commented on this mostly idle blog, I’d say to enjoy your boat. You have a sweet sailing boat that’s just better than others — I don’t need to explain further. You know.

I regret selling the Excalibur but I don’t regret how I’m spending my time. Please visit the excalibur26.com site. If you are an owner, let Charles know. I’m sure he’d like many more names on his owner registry.

Transitions

I’ve waited a while to write and post this entry because I wanted a little time to process what I did.  The long and short of it is that I don’t own the Excalibur 26 anymore.  I sold her.

She hasn’t vacated her slip yet and I have driven down to Alamitos Bay to check on her.  The new owner, a man named Mark, was enthusiastic about the purchase and I believe she’ll be in good hands with him.

Like many boat owners, I was unable to find enough time to spend on the boat and in the water.  Like many automotive Service Managers, I was without the required energy to spend a day on the boat on the few days that I actually had time.  So, for the first time in a number of years, I am without a boat of some kind.

It’s tough to gybe in a howling wind if you don’t have a boat.

I do still have my Goldwing, though, and have a number of half-day, full-day and 24 hour rides on the horizon.  I’ll be posting about those here.

My riding partner and I last completed an Iron Butt ride in April 2013 – a ride of a little over 1500 miles. 

When riding that distance in a short a period of time, the long stretches of miles in which nothing happens is completely erased from the mind.  What sticks out are the highlights that make the ride memorable.

We left in beautiful Southern California weather but two hours later were fighting 30+ mph headwinds in the Central Valley.  Our planned fuel stops were abandoned because the wind cut the fuel mileage on each of our bikes by 10-15 miles per gallon and added an additional, unplanned stop on the north leg.

North of Sacramento, with the winds finally dying down, I was startled by a pop from between my legs.  My fuel tank had buckled inward from the vacuum created when a pinched vent line let no incoming air into the tank to displace the fuel that was being sucked out by the fuel pump.  A fuel stop planned for 15 minutes doubled in time as I removed my fuel tank at the filling station and corrected the vent line routing.  (For those of you astute enough to know that the fuel tank on the Goldwing is plastic and located below the rider, preventing such an occurrence, I was on a different bike for this ride.  Fortunately, some carefully applied compressed air to the tank popped out the dent after the ride was completed).

We experienced our first cold weather while climbing on Interstate 5 on the way to the summit of the mountains west of Mount Shasta.  My grip heaters and extra layers helped, but we shivered all the way to Grants Pass nonetheless.  Once there we calculated our time and found that we could still be back in Westminster on time since the wind would either be reduced or on our backs on the way back.

The return trip began well.  We made it 250 miles before I led us into a radar trap and we were both detained and ticketed by two California Highway Patrol troopers.  They were initially preachy, but mellowed considerably when both our papers checked out and they realized that we weren’t a threat to them.  Both officers had questions about the ride but mostly just shook their heads.  That seems to be a pretty common response.  It’s the only ticket I’ve gotten while on a motorcycle.  The last one in a car was over twenty years before then.

The last six hours had few highlights.  We stopped for gas a couple times.  I fought sleep in the southern part of the Central Valley, we hit traffic after midnight on the grapevine and a complete freeway closure six miles before the end of the ride.  We had ridden 1509 miles in 23 hours 40 minutes, beating our goal of 24 hours by 20 minutes.

I’m asked why I ride these rides.  Usually the person asking is almost angry because they don’t see the point.  They see no reward for the amount of risk.  I can only tell them that I ride these rides because I can’t play football anymore.  There is no league for out-of-shape 47 year old Service Managers.  My knees and back and shoulders couldn’t take it anymore.

I do, however, miss the physical and psychological challenges in lining up across from an opponent and beating them.  Sometimes you beat an opponent by being stronger or faster.  Sometimes you beat an opponent by being smarter.  I get the same level of satisfaction beating the clock on a tough ride that I used to get playing football.

I really enjoyed the time I spent with the Excalibur.  Owning it allowed me to become acquainted with Charles Olcott and Neil Fletcher and Neil Porter.  I traded e-mails with Webb Chiles.  I learned a lot about the history of sailboat manufacturing in the 60s in Southern California.

I’ll likely own another someday.

I was never a poor weather sailor, though.  I never intentionally took the Excalibur out into storms and searched out frothing blue water to crash over the bow.  I never literally sailed through a turn with gale force winds on my stern.

‘Gybing in a howling wind’ has always been a metaphor.

Everyone should find their wind to gybe in.  Risk gives meaning to what you do.  The level will vary from person to person.  What I do scares the members of my family sometimes.  Things other people do regularly terrify me.  What it is doesn’t matter.  How benign or extreme it is doesn’t matter.  What does matter is that is raises your heartbeat and takes your breath away….temporarily, of course.

‘Gybing in a howling wind’ will remain the title of my blog as it transitions from a sailing blog to a riding blog.  Imagine, instead of a sailing boat, a lone rider, leaning into a desert wind that is pushing across the highway, the rider struggling to remain in his lane, riding westbound, while the sun settles down into storm clouds only minutes before being enveloped in the darkness of a night without the moon.

The Galley Is Out…..

For the last two years I have been trying to finalize the cabin configuration I wanted in the Excalibur.  I don’t consider my boat to be anything other than a day-sailer or weekender.  I’ve never used the icebox.  I have a cooler.  I don’t need the sink but it does work nicely to hold cleaning supplies.  The drawers are useful, but as I found out today, most of the things in them aren’t really needed for the kind of sailing I do.

So, I’ve thought it through and settled on the following design for my new cabin layout:

Dinette -- Cinverts to Single Berth

I’ll build a convertible single berth in the place of the quarter berth and galley and add storage shelves to both sides along with a dedicated radio and electrical panel on the starboard side.  The far forward section of the single berth will include a removable rack to hold my cooler in place even if we’re healed over.  The hanging locker will have three shelves added to it for my tools, extra hardware and rigging gear, and the life preserver bag.  In front of the hanging locker will be a small magazine rack to hold my document book.

Alex and I went down to the boat with the tools I’d figured I needed early this afternoon and got right to work.  I planned to use my Dremel tool with wood/fiberglass/plastic cutter to cut the fiberglass strips holding the galley to the hull while Alex held the shop vac as close to the working area as he could.  We were prepared with masks and glasses but I figured we’d still get enough fiberglass to make things uncomfortable.

This worked well….for about five minutes.  I had cut about 10% of the area I’d need to cut when the Dremel started blowing out smoke and seized up dead.  Even after we unplugged it it continued to smoke.  It wasn’t coming back.

Because I didn’t have a back up plan for a not so old Dremel that died prematurely, we had to run home and get my grinder with the thin cutting disk.  We returned to the boat and continued my plan.  It worked pretty well but there were several areas that were glassed in that I couldn’t see previously and that I couldn’t get the grinder to, so we improvised.

I used the radial saw to cut the face and aft side off the galley and then we literally pulled it apart.  There was a quite a bit of termite damage to the areas that were made of plywood rather than hardwood and some of it literally fell apart.  We found some live termites and killed them before removing all of the wood from the boat.  Some of the plywood in the aft quarter berth is pretty soft, so it will have to be removed and replaced as well.  I will be sure to glass in any wood I use that isn’t termite resistant hardwood to prevent this from happening again.

When we left the house I told Alex that we wouldn’t be leaving the boat tonight until the galley was out of the boat.  As it turned out, we were done well before it got dark and actually got to walk around the marina a little before we left.  Alex decided we could sell our house and cars and buy the 50’ Beneteau slipped in the big boat section.  I gave him a choice between the Beneteau or In-N-Out Burger for dinner.

I had a double-double.

Heroes to Zeroes…..

Saturday was one of those days when everything just goes right.  I’m still mapping out each step to take to pull the galley out of the Excalibur, and think I have a good checklist put together to do it, but I want a second person with me to assist by vacuuming up the wood and fiberglass shavings as we cut it out of the hull.  Alex is the logical choice for the second person, but he had plans on Saturday morning, so I took a little ride.

I haven’t mentioned it much here because I consider this a sailing blog, but in the spirit of giving up a little bit about myself every once in a while, I’ll talk briefly about my other hobby.  I ride motorcycles.  I commute on them, tour, and ride for pleasure.

A while back I began coaching Pop Warner football and coached the line for four seasons with the team that Alex played on.  Getting back into football at a level way beyond that of a casual fan awakened a desire to compete that had been pretty well dormant for the twenty years or so since I had played .  There aren’t many venues available for mid-40s men to resume a career playing football and my body wouldn’t last very long back on a field taking and giving hits, so I had to find something else.

It turns out a guy can still compete against himself using a motorcycle.

The Ironbutt Organization – www.ironbutt.com – recognizes individual achievements in long distance riding and organizes rides in which participants gain points by efficiently navigating and riding from point to point.  I got involved a few years ago when a friend and I rode from Westminster, California to Benson, Arizona and back in about nineteen hours.  That first ride totaled 1078 miles.  I completed it on a 2006 Suzuki DL1000 V-Strom that I owned at the time.  Rides start at 1000 miles or more in 24 hours or less and grow from there.  Another popular ride length is 1500 miles and riders can complete it in 36 hours, or 24 hours if the rider can get the right combination of route, weather, luck and drive.  The rides can be as short as a single 24 hour period or as long as ten or more days for the really advanced riders.

The rides are physically challenging, but the mental aspect is much tougher.  The rider has to stay on point and continue to push on mile after mile.  Preparation is very important and most riders know exactly where they’ll stop for fuel, food and rest as the ride progresses.  A few days before I leave for a ride I begin to wonder how tough it’ll be and will often think back eight or ten hours in the current day and wonder if I could ride for that time straight.  I’ll wonder if I can do it.

Once I’m on the move, though, I don’t think about the total time on the bike.  I push from one fuel stop to the next, never thinking ahead further than a single stop, usually not more than three hours away.  The first third of the ride is exciting and relatively easy.  The middle third can be the toughest, and usually the last third is spent talking to myself to stay alert, but having an end in sight gives the motivation necessary to push through to the end.

I’ve completed multiple 1000 mile rides and one 1500 miles ride in 24 hours – some solo and some with another rider.  I sold my DL1000 shortly after the first ride to purchase a more touring-oriented motorcycle and completed a 1000 and the 1500 mile ride on it, a 2012 Kawasaki Voyager.  After I abandoned a subsequent 1500 mile ride on the Voyager, I decided that in spite of it being a nice bike, it wasn’t the right bike.  I traded it in on my current ride, a 2013 Honda Goldwing.  It is the right bike.  It does everything I want it to do and is by far my favorite bike.

In early June I’m planning to ride to Denver, Colorado for two days of Lexus meetings.  The distance from Westminster to Denver is just over 1000 miles.

So, with a few hours to kill on Saturday morning, I mounted my camera to the bike and took off for a little ride through Long Beach, up to Torrance Airport, around Palos Verdes, through San Pedro, across the Vincent Thomas and Gerald Desmond Bridges, and used the 710 and 405 freeways to get back home in Westminster. 

Alex got home in the early part of the afternoon and I asked him if he wanted to get in a sail that afternoon.  He said, “Sure.”

I explained to him that I wanted for him to be on the tiller as much as possible and start getting a feel for what the boat was doing as we changed direction and sail trim and how it affected the experience of being on the helm.  A year ago he would have said that he didn’t want to, that he was good with just going along for the ride and working a winch a little.  Now, at 15, he was good with controlling the boat on his own.

We worked as a team getting the Excalibur ready to sail, and were ready to back out of the slip less than 30 minutes after arriving at Alamitos Bay.  A slip neighbor came over and asked us if we wanted him to help back us out.  I was happy for his help and Alex steered us up the slip row out towards the channel.  On the way out we had to dodge a radio-controlled sailboat whose owner didn’t realize we were approaching his little boat.

We gave him right-of-way because he was under sail alone and we were being pushed out by the Tohatsu.

In the channel, we dodged a number of one-design boats heading back into the Long Beach Yacht Club slips after their race and once clear, raised our main, released the topping lift, unfurled the genoa and shut down the outboard.

The weather last week up until Friday evening was miserable.  Most of Southern California was near or above 100 degrees and Santa Ana winds blew from the north across the desert and into the bowl that houses most of Los Angeles and Orange County.

The combo of the hot weather and winds created the perfect environment for the local pyromaniacs to crawl out of their basements and set fires.  Dozens of homes were lost in Southern California and San Diego County had more fire activity than they’ve seen in a long time.  Most of the fires were set intentionally.

On Friday night, though, the winds shifted and started coming in from the west and the temperature dropped dramatically.  The west winds gave us an opportunity to tack out of the harbor and into the Catalina Channel.  We would have been able to sail a single tack for a long time, tack once and return to the harbor downwind, but that wouldn’t have given Alex much of an opportunity to practice different points of sail, so we worked on tacks, the occasional gybe, and made our way back to Alamitos Bay.

Alex on the tiller:

 

We decided to check up on the Excaliburs we discovered last year and work our way through the bay.  Because the weather was so nice, the surface was covered by kayakers and people on stand-up paddleboards.  Several times we had to tack away from one of them in order to avoid running them over but still maintain some type of wind that would allow us forward progress.

We tacked onto the course used by one of the Gondola pilots and crept up behind him.  Our speed was greater than his.  The driver continually looked over his left shoulder, growing increasingly concerned.  We tried to acknowledge that we knew he was there, but the sails and rigging blocked enough of his view, that I don’t think he did.

When we were close enough for him to admire the newly-finished wood on the Excalibur, we tacked away again, setting us up for a line close to the dark green Excalibur.  It continues to be neglected.  The tarps that were fairly fresh the last time we saw her were beginning to shred allowing loose strands to orbit above the cabin in the breeze.  It did have a few features that I didn’t notice the last time I went looking for it.  Typically, the Excalibur has a single thru-hull above the waterline on the stern for the bilge pump exit.  This Excalibur had two.  In addition, it also had what looked like an engine exhaust port very low on the stern, barely above the waterline.  To my knowledge, no Excaliburs were equipped or fitted with an inboard engine.  Could this be one?

The navy blue Excalibur remained tied to the same dock as before, only this time it was covered with additional tarps.  It does not appear that it has been used since we saw it last, either.

The sun was falling to the horizon and we decided to head in.  I asked Alex if he wanted to sail to the slip rather than lower the sails and motor in.  He didn’t really understand the significance of us doing that, so he shrugged his shoulders and said he was fine with that.  We furled in the genoa and made our way to the slip row under main sail alone.

The breeze was about 5 knots, steady, and directly on our stern.  With the main sheeted way out, we crept up to the entrance of our slip row.  The same group of men that were piloting the radio-controlled sailboat earlier had their little boat out again at the mouth of the slips but this time saw us coming and steered their boat well clear of us.

I had told Alex that since we wouldn’t have an effective way of stopping, it was important that he be ready to jump off the starboard deck onto the dock and get us slowed down enough to prevent us from crashing into the dock head.  Alex stood up on the cabin top and one of the men gave him a “thumbs up” as we passed by them.  A little further down the row two men were in the cockpit of another sailboat and one hit the other in the arm and said, “Hey.  They’re sailing in.  They’re sailing in.”

I told Alex that I would be turning the boat from port to starboard several times to de-power the main and create drag to slow us down a little before turning into the slip.  He nodded that he understood and held onto the outer starboard shroud, ready to jump off as soon as we turned in to the slip.  I made the turn in and released the main sheet to further de-power the main.  Alex jumped off the deck and had us stopped almost immediately.  He walked us forward and we tied the Excalibur to the dock with the lifelines we had left on the cleats.

One of the spectators walked over and said, “Very impressive.  Nice job, boys.  I’d’a slammed it into the end wall.  Very impressive.”

“I’m sure that wouldn’t have happened,” I replied.  “ But, thanks.”

With the boat tied down and the main still sheeted way out to port, we readied to lower the sail.  When I raised the sail, I’d coiled the halyard line and hung it from a mast cleat.  I partially uncoiled the line and pulled the main down a little to begin flaking it over the boom.  Alex was trying to do as much of it as he could, but because the sails are still relatively new, they are very stiff, and don’t flake very well.

Alex struggled and asked if we could switch places.  I began arranging from the clew and Alex pulled down on the luff.  Out of the corner of my eye I saw the still-coiled halyard begin making its way up the mast.

“Whoa.  Stop,” I said to Alex.

It was too late.  The coil was several feet over our heads.

“Oh boy,” I said.  I looked around us to see how many of the previously impressed spectators were pointing at us and laughing.  None appeared to notice yet.

“Quick, Alex.  Get down in the cabin and grab the pole with the hook on the end.”

He couldn’t find it at first and I attempted to look casual as people walked by on the sidewalk 60 feet to port.  One of the men with the radio-controlled sailboat was making his way towards us.  Alex was still below and I made eye contact with the man as he got closer, willing myself not to look up and give away what had happened to us.

He might not have noticed.

“You guys looked good out there.  The boat’s real pretty,” he said.

“Thanks,” I said.  “It was a great afternoon.”

He walked away and I thought I was in the clear until he turned around.

“If you need to borrow my pole to retrieve that halyard, let me know…”

A Growing List of Projects……

We haven’t sailed much this winter.  It wasn’t a matter of cold weather like much of the rest of the country.  We were busy with other things and on the few days when I‘d actually planned on taking the Excalibur out, either the wind was dead calm or a last minute problem popped up that prevented me from going.

Not sailing often didn’t equate to neglect in the slip, however.  Several things got done.  All of the Excalibur’s external wood got refinished – sanding, more sanding, bleaching and then multiple coats of Cetol.  New halyards, new jib blocks and cars, a rebuild of the Guzzler bilge pump, and a new windex after birds and/or high winds made a mess of my then current one, all got done.

She is ready to sail.  I can go anytime I want, but the list of things that need to be done seems to grow longer.  I want to relocate my battery.  In doing so, I’ll want to address a few wiring concerns and will probably end up ripping up the majority of the wiring in the process.

There is some evidence of termites in my galley wood that gives me a good excuse to rip out the galley and replace it with an extension of the quarter berth.  I do not use the galley as a galley so much.  The icebox houses the radio I use down at the boat when it’s not in use.  The sink houses a mixture of cleaning products.  The galley drawers hold a hodge podge of plastic and silverware, a pocket knife, small supplies, extra hardware and sailing rig stuff (basically three junk drawers).  It takes up a lot of space below and I want it to go.  I’ve spent time trying to put together a check list of what it’ll take to remove it and get it out of the companionway.  So far I’ve found that it is both glassed in and screwed in.  On the one day I had the whole day to remove it, I went sailing instead.

My lifelines could use replacing.  I could take them down to West Marine to have a set made up using the current ones as templates, or I could go another way and make my own.

A previous, temporary, next door slip neighbor use to sail single-handedly every time he went out.  I never saw him go out with a group.  During the summer he would leave work at 1600, drive down to his boat, exit the harbor by 1630 and be back as the sun set.  He did this almost every day and he and I had several talks about his techniques for solo sailing.  He felt that having people with him got in his way.  He could perform any maneuver on his own and he even made docking on his own look easy.

We talked a lot but never sailed together on his boat or on the Excalibur.  He wanted to race against me, but it never worked out and after a while his slip, in another basin that was under construction, was completed, and one day I got there and he was gone.  I haven’t seen him since.

The one item he had that made single-handing easier was a tiller lock.  I tried lashing my tiller with little success and so began looking for a tiller lock.  I researched several different ones and purchased the Tiller Clutch.  I installed it on the tiller but then broke a brass bolt when re-installing the tiller on the boat, so couldn’t try it out yesterday.

I’m also planning on setting-up a sheet to tiller steering system to use at times.  More stuff to do.

So, my list shrinks and grows and shrinks and grows.  That’ll continue.

As I packed up my things yesterday to leave the boat, I noticed movement in the water near me.  A mother porpoise and her baby swam up the slip row, reached the Excalibur, then turned around and headed back into the main channel.  Seeing them regularly off the coast never gets old, but seeing a pair casually swimming up our slip row was extra cool.

A couple pictures from yesterday – the Excalibur looking forward to summer.

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