Friday, April 04, 2008

finishing and launching our first yacht

After a very good coffee by “Juice” in the morning, I walked on over to the boat where I inspected second load of lead. It looked good and once the others came along we worked to get it out of the mold. Most of it was going to be cut up and put inside the bilge as extra ballast, but we needed one section cut and holed to go under the greenheart keel as the one the day before. Getting this load of lead out proved much more difficult and it took way too long before we managed to get it onto wood supports. Once it was out we had the same process of moving it, cutting it, putting holes in it, and finally attaching it. Once attached, it was quickly tarred and then coated with anti-fouling paint. While this was being done, work continued up on deck with painting, sanding and some minor wood work. The stainless steel bits that I brought down had to be attached to the stem to keel joint as well as the stern post keel joint. We worked hard all day on Friday and had the lead shoe properly in place by the end of it. Saturday morning we worked frantically on last minute finishing to get the boat floatable and looking worthy of a launch. We also hired a few village characters to help clean up the beach and surroundings so that the place could be somewhat presentable to the masses who would turn out to help the launch and join in the celebrations. I had to buy 21 cases of beer, some scotch, rum, a bottle of wine, two sheep, a pig and all the other smaller things we needed in order to throw a big launching party. Tradition is integral part of the boat building process in Carriacou and apart from sprinkling rum around the ground, blood had to be spilled on the deck, the day before a launch. I have to admit that I wasn’t interested in seeing any animals get slaughtered on or around the yacht, so I skipped that part. I did get photos of the blood on deck afterwards as the sun set. By the end of the day some beers were brought to the boat for the gang to enjoy and simply look at the vessel. She was beautiful and although the boat wasn’t totally finished, it was ready to be launched on Sunday as tradition mandates.
On Sunday morning I woke up early and took this photo. As you can see from the opening photo, it was a lovely start to the day and although we had plenty of work to be done before the launch later in the day, I felt quite at ease with the level of accomplishment and the amount of work still ahead. Luis, one of the guys working with us, had a small boat and helped us get a huge tree trunk from up the coast where the work on my other yacht has been put on hold. This was later going to be used to build the rudder. He also had to get some old utility poles which we would use to roll the boat into the water. Anyway, as work was being done that morning, the church service up the road came to an end. As has been the tradition for hundreds of years on launch day, the priest came down to bless the vessel with holy water and some prayers. That was an interesting process and I am glad that I was there to be part of it too. Shortly after the priest arrived, the parishioners followed. They assembled early around the vessel and while some sand, others played instruments. About 7 people all volunteering started cooking in huge pots. IT was going to be a massive feast. David took the ferry over from Grenada to help out and enjoy the feast too:
The beers and coolers arrived and things started to get exciting. We had to dig a hole for a anchor pole in the ground as this would stop the vessel from going into the water too quickly once a rope had been attached to the stern. Four or five logs were cut from the forest to be used as supports for the vessel. In a process filled with tradition and ceremony, these supports would be slowly chopped down from the bottom in order to lay the boat on its port side atop the rollers. IT's called a chopdown:To avoid any damage to the hull a “bilge board” as they called it was fastened to the hull at the exact spot where she would rest. Block and tackle with a huge anchor was set up in the sea in order to pull the vessel down the beach, but there was plenty of pushing too which made a huge difference.
People came out of the woodwork to join in the process and i saw why a party is part of the boat building tradition. “Juice” and his friends from church played lively pieces to keep the crowd’s mood up. Once she lay on her side, the vessel could get the final two pieces of greenheart keel put in front and behind the lead shoe. Once this was done we were ready to push her and pull her into the water. By 2 PM the yacht was resting on its keel and floating on its port side. The anchor was pulling too which meant that we couldn’t get her out far enough for her to properly float. A freighter skipper called “Cardinal” quickly went out to his boat and helped pull Ocean Nomad into deeper waters. The new boat was finally launched long after the first trees had been cut for her frames. Everyone was happy to see this yacht launched and despite many people thinking the boat would never be launched she sat there proud for all to see. It was a tough day and although we could rest and be happy, there was still plenty of work to be done for her to be ready to sail.