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What Happened Next

February 8, 2012

November 8 through December 11

The disappointment of finding myself alone in a familiar harbor quickly evaporated.  Peter and Nansy arrived before I’d switched off the engine, Nansy carrying a Ti leaf lei and Peter a broad smile and a handshake.  That they had not met me earlier was my fault, I now recalled.  Predicting the transit time of a small, wind-driven ship is futile, so I’d promised to alert them by phone as we made landfall.  But Murre’s jockeying with a cruise ship at the harbor entrance distracted me, and I had failed to keep my part of the bargain.

Greetings were immediately followed by breakfast at a local restaurant where stacks of scented pancakes, eggs and bacon and endless hot coffee erased any memory of missed expectations.  The sun shone, and a warm wind smelling of flowers ruffled the palms.  I was on the dry land of an island I called home.  I couldn’t stop smiling.

“Our house is yours–stay with us as long as you like,” they had said, and I wonder now if they later regretted such an open invitation.  Because I moved right in, digging deep into the luxury of a real bed with soft, clean sheets, hot showers that required nothing more than the opening of a faucet, and home cooked meals, rich soups with fresh breads and brie and pickled herrings marinated in dill as accompaniment (the latter reflecting Nansy’s Norwegian heritage).  From their lanai I could gaze out to the south and the ocean I’d just crossed; to the west was the bold line of mountains above Nawiliwili under which Murre relaxed in her berth, and to the north that range whose cloud covered peak, Mt. Waialeale, I knew to be the wettest place on earth.  It was delicious.  I stayed a month.

Peter and Nansy's home on a hill


With a view toward the ocean

By design it was a busy month.  After so long on the go and under the hot tropical sun, Murre was the worse for wear.  Her toe rail varnish, entirely neglected since leaving San Francisco, had baked or blown off ; the paint of her coach roof crackled and curled; the beating mainsail and its batton pulled paint off the mast in chunks, and a year of rock and beach landings had worn down the dinghy to bare wood.  During the passage to Hawaii, two of the five solar panels had ceased to function; the bracket holding the engine’s oil filter in place snapped, and deck leaks had soaked many of the cabin’s cushions, which now smelled of mildew.  Maybe most importantly, weather on this leg north emphasized the need to protect the cockpit hatch from breaking waves.  The list went on and on…

The varnish had baked or blown off


Coach roof stripped and patched

Luckily the welcome of my in-laws included the offer of power tools and their proper, open-air shop.  Peter is a sailor and a boat builder in his own right.  Years ago, Nansy and he constructed a river barge of forty feet outside their home on the Deben near Woodbridge, England.  Here a gleaming but empty black, steel hull gave rise, as if by magic, to decks of varnished teak and an elaborate interior designed for entertaining, as if by magic because while these two were building this boat on the hard, they were also rebuilding the house it sat next to.  This was before they retired.  Once completed, the barge became Albertine, and on it they cruised the canals of France until there were none they hadn’t seen.  Kauai’s waters are no place for a barge.  So when they moved to the islands, Peter switched his focus to the traditional craft of the tropical Pacific.  In his shop was a twenty-five foot proa nearing completion.

Peter's proa in build

The shop began to look like Murre had also moved in.  The cushions for steam cleaning, their slats for painting were scattered haphazardly about.  The dinghy and her oars pushed the car into the drive, and here they were sanded down, reglassed and brightened with fresh gloss.  The storm windows, knocked uncleverly from plexiglass at the dock in La Paz, were trimmed and neatened.  As to the cockpit hatch covering, I was of several minds, but consultations with my two hosts landed us on a small, tough cuddy with a canvas hood, which soon began to take shape from a single sheet of plywood.  

The cuddy takes shape

My previous work on Murre was, I liked to think, extensive and well executed–a cockpit rebuilt, a length of deck relaid, a bulkhead removed and renewed.  But all this work was confined to replacing things that existed.  The old was the pattern for the new and so my imagination had remained mostly untaxed.  The cuddy design, however, needed inventing from thin air, and I was frequently at a loss how to proceed.  As I stood befuddled over the construction table, I’d often find that Peter had softly sidled up.  “Yes,” he would say, “I can see where you are going with this.  The top will be nicely strengthened with the epoxy fillet and that extra rib,” neither of which I had yet contemplated. 

We rose early each morning and gathered, coffee cups steaming, on the east lanai to chatter softly about the coming day and to watch the sun rise.  Once it was so clear we could see the hump of Oahu above a sharp, slate-gray horizon, but usually a sweet haze prevented seeing such distance, or towering cumulus filled the ocean and required the sun fight its way through.  Trees along the near bank  also obscured its rise, and often Nansy talked about which should be cleared in order to improve the view.

Peter at his garden

Then, before breakfast, we would dash to our tasks, I to the shop and Peter to his garden, or they two would attack the offending arbors before the day got too hot for hard work.  Afternoons were reserved for books and napping, evenings for parties.  Time flew.

Out to dinner with Peter and Nansy

For those interested, included below are more pictures of the cuddy in build.

The basic idea was to build a small cover over the companionway hatch with a hood that would allow me to sit under it, dry in all weathers.


First fitting to the boat. Would it work at all?


The hoops that would support the hood were made of several layers of 1/4" ply cut to into 1 1/2" wide strips and laminated into their correct shape around a frame of shaped 2 x 4s.


Once knocked up and hoops built, a second fitting to the boat, the purpose of which was to get right the height. I sat under it to make sure before cutting the top and hoops to final length.


Back at the shop, tabbing in the hoop base.


Detail of hoop attachment point.


Detail of hoop attach point.


Cuddy built and ready for paint.


Painted. Unsure, the car keeps its distance.


One last test to ensure I could sit comfortably below the hood before having the canvas made in town.


Canvas installed and cuddy complete.


Final detail of hoop hinge. Note spacers to allow for bagging of canvas when the hood is down.


The cuddy creates a small but "complete" protection from wind and waves.

  1. boslter permalink
    February 15, 2012 3:52 am

    excellent cuddy, strong work there.


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