Don’t it always seem to go – you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone. Or so I’m told.
Did you know that Seattle is a boating mecca? Because I knew it, but I didn’t really know it. Everything a boater could ever want is in the vicinity of Seattle: an abundance of water; harbors; islands for exploration (or racing if you’re crazy), and a serious supply chain for all the maintenance and repairs that inevitably have to be done to all of the boats. As Craig and I prepped Small World for the Big Left Turn, there were multiple occasions when we would get frustrated while trying to find a specific part. We would hit up at least half a dozen different stores trying to find some obscure piece that would inevitably cost hundreds of dollars.
But that was nothing in comparison to the challenges we have faced in every other location we’ve been since leaving the PNW (that’s Pacific Northwest for those of you less fortunate who don’t live up there). From what I can figure out, Seattle’s pleasure craft owners should be thanking their lucky stars for living near a major port for the fishing industry. The stores cater to the fleets of very efficient fish killing machines, and the rest of us are scavengers for the remainders. And let me just say, the first person who points out that the most popular store in Seattle for boaters is called Fisheries Supply is not invited to join us in exotic locations. I don’t need that kind of negativity in my life when someone points out obvious things I should’ve recognized in the very first instant rather than years later].
So far, Newport is the next best spot for finding all the things that keep Small World in ship shape. There’s not a huge fishery here, but they have the biggest West Marine I’ve ever seen. That store hasn’t had most of what we need, but they have a lot of nice toys in there and we can order anything from their full catalog. And Minney’s is a local (and probably national) legend among the DIY boating crowd who are always on the hunt for a bargain. If you haven’t met Craig, he loathes paying for anything, even at a discount. But when we scored some flopper stoppers (no – that’s not a fancy name for bras or thongs, but you can borrow the term if you want) for $40 instead of the $240 retail price, he could hardly contain his joy. Pro-tip: if you ever want to see a grown man giddy to the point of jumping out of his own skin, go bargain hunting for obscure boat parts with Craig.
So, while we have acquired some of the things we need, finding the space to do the projects has been damn near impossible. The entire reason we made sure to stop in Newport was to replace our bowsprit. If you’re not familiar with boat lingo, it’s the front pointy end of the boat that sticks out over the water where everyone goes to spread their arms and say, “I’m king (or queen) of the world!” Yes, everyone does it. Right after they sing about how they’re on a boat and they brought their flippy-floppies and right before they sing the first verse of “It’s a Small World After All” because they don’t know any other verse.
Taking off a giant chunk of metal from the front of the boat is not something I care to do while attached to a mooring ball. I’m sure my fellow boaters understand what I’m saying, but for the rest of you, let’s say it’s similar to doing car repairs while the car is in motion. It doesn’t feel like the safest option.
After calling all the marinas (that refused to let us do any maintenance while in a slip) and boat yards (that didn’t have availability for the next several months) we drove Zubie around the harbor and asked random people if we could use their private docks. Shockingly, we didn’t find any takers. In a last-ditch effort, I insisted that we go to the American Legion Yacht Club. Grampa Wally was a member of the Legion for decades and the people I met there had always been kind and generous. I hoped that they would let us pay to use their dock space even though we weren’t members of the Legion.
As we approached within a few feet of their dock, I stalled the outboard motor. Because of course. As we drifted further and further from the dock, I couldn’t get the outboard started again. Because of course. A guy on their dock started watching us and giving some advice that didn’t quite apply because we have a new age gas can and I was feeling super embarrassed because this was not how I wanted the American Legion to see me when I was trying to portray myself as a serious boater.
Fear not dear reader, for I was still charming AF.
Actually, Dave is just a really nice guy. We chatted for a bit and explained our quest and he was willing to help. We went inside, grabbed a few drinks, and made a plan. Basically, I was almost in tears for our entire first interaction. If any of you knew my Grampa Wally, you knew that he was a man of action and always on the move. You also knew that the American Legion was his second home and he dedicated a serious chunk of his time and energy to all their efforts. Personally, I knew that no matter how much time he dedicated to the Legion or to fixing cars or to bowling, he was in my corner and would help me out if I asked. Here I was, driving around Newport Beach, literally asking anyone I came across for help. Finding this post, finding Dave, and finding a piece of home where I felt welcomed was overwhelming.
With Dave’s help, Craig and I were able to take the bowsprit off and load it into Bud’s car. Several weeks later Dave helped us get the shiny new bowsprit back onto Small World. Bud, who worked for the company that built our boat back in the 70s, coordinated a lot of the efforts to get the new bowsprit made. This section of the post doesn’t feel very funny and that’s probably because I was an emotional, stressed out maniac freaking out about our mast falling without the support of the forestay every time the boat swayed.
Even though the project took longer than we had hoped, it turned out great. And even though we missed our window to head south to Mexico, Newport Beach isn’t a terrible place to land for remainder of hurricane season. We’ve made some friends, found some waves, and landed some jobs. As it turns out, Small World is the slow (racing) boat to Mexico.