It’s been hot–really really really HOT. I feel like an ant under a magnifying glass in this sun. The seasons shifted while I was away. The trades no longer dissipate the intense tropical heat. Instead it lingers about you like you’re constantly standing in hot soup. By 8am it’s blazing and it doesn’t let up until quarter to six. Nonetheless, my return went smoothly. I made it through about half a day in the boatyard before I had grime under my fingernails and sweat in my eyes. My ‘California polish’ quickly wore off as I bit into a hearty helping of the boatyard. It was back to life at the top of the ladder–no refrigerator, no toilet, no privacy, and no hugs from mom. It was just me, a whole lot of work, and two gray cats that meow CONSTANTLY.
Despite a warm welcome from the yard crew, the first night a fierce lightning storm passed close enough to Swell to make me cower under my sheet and never want to go to sea again. Day 2 found me barefoot on a scooter, balancing a 5-gallon jerry jug between my legs in order to get my surf transport up and running again. By Day 3 I had a fresh reef cut in my shin, I’d pierced my left thumb with a screwdriver, and grinded the skin off my wrist with 40-grit paper on the power sander. The heat was unbearable to me but the mosquitos inside Swell rejoiced in the windlessness with fresh new meat to chew on. My two-month California sabbatical had nearly turned me soft. My arms had lost their prior strength and stamina and my mosquito bites actually itched!
During the days, I focused on getting Swell back in the water, while evenings were spent sifting through Swell’s interior disaster. And when I couldn’t lift another finger, I curled up on the floor beside my tools on my Norwegian Cruise Lines pool mat #266 (earned in trade in Kiribati) and spent the sweaty nights sealed under my sheet to hide from the evil winged bloodsuckers.
I soon found a rhythm. I worked tough and fast. I got the lightning plate reinstalled, fared and fiberglassed the bottom of the rudder, patched and coated the transom of the dinghy, changed out the garboard keel drainplug, and taped and painted two waterline stripes (with no help from a thunderstorm that arrived after the second coat of lime green, adding a day of wetsanding and repainting). With surprise help from my friend, Bernadette, two coats of antifouling paint went on. Swell looked like new! Well, almost. The following day I polished the white part of the hull in the blazing sun until I went delirious.
By three o’clock that afternoon heat was incapacitating but I kept on. I looked around for someone to help me raise the scaffolding plank to the higher level, but all the guys were working on the other side of the yard. So I tried alone. I got one end up, then bent down to pick up a screw that had fallen out of my shirt pocket. Meanwhile the huge, heavy plank slid off the metal rung and fell right on my head. It squashed me down to a seated position, but luckily caught on the lower rung of the scaffold before pressing me totally flat. While I remained there in the filthy gravel, tears ran down my cheeks. Not really because of the pain, but because I was so hot and tired and sweaty and sick of the back to back days of grueling work. I gingerly fingered the rising lump on my head, but no one was around to give me sympathy, so I got up and proceeded again to raise the scaffold plank. This time more carefully.
Then, after two horrendously frustrating and futile days spent hooking up my new solar charge controller and having halyard at the top of the mast (neither project battle has been won), I left everything as it was and spent Valentine’s Day looking for heart-shaped barrels in a full day of light offshore, backside bliss. I paid dearly for the midday sessions under the cloudless sky, though, forced to remain inside Swell today, lathering on aloe vera and getting organized for tomorrow, when Swell will be lowered into the Pacific again!