This week Santa Maria made her way from slip to cradle, via a magical flight expedited by a crane. For long-time readers of stillvoicing, this has been described in earlier posts. In fact, I have likely written about it many years, as I do again this year! In part, this is because the sight of a boat floating through the air is quite unlike anything.
Since our marina is a not-for-profit club, members assist on lift-out day. This year I was part of the compound sling crew, a first for me. I have now cycled through all of the volunteer positions on the dock. This crew receives the boats and assists them as they land in the cradle, a metal structure holding the boat upright. Fittingly, my shift began with the arrival of Santa Maria. It was nice to see her settled for a long winter’s nap.
Owners of boats are asked to tie four lead lines to their boat, two at stern and two at bow, about 15 – 20 feet in length. As boats soars from lake to compound, these lead lines stream from the boat like strings from a balloon. My job was to grab one of the lead lines, along with three other sailors-come- dockhands. We would pull a boat this way and that as the crane operator and his helper communicated by radio. Often we would need to spin the boat 180 degrees to get stern straight and bow in place. I have to say that it is an incredible experience to grab a lead line and move a boat thousands of pounds, suspended in the air. It is as easy as a pushing a partly full wheelbarrow, even though I know that this boat would pulverize me were it to fall from its slings.
Once the boat is nearly in place, the cradle was fine-tuned left and right, back and forth. After the keel touches the base of the cradle, the cradle pads are raised to an inch from the hull of the boat. Then the crane operator lets the boat come down with all of its weight and the boat meets the four or more pads. One of us would then jump on the boat to release one side of each sling so it could come out from under the boat. Another would guide the slings as the operator raised them up to the sky to make their way over to the next boat.
A couple of time I remember staring at these slings slipping away into the cerulean sky speckled with spectacular clouds, and my breath simply left me. It was so beautiful, utterly transfixing.
Yesterday we returned to the boat to wrestle the motor off the stern of the boat. This was more of a Sisyphean effort. The gentle tugging at the lines of an airship on their way to their cradles on Wednesday seemed so far removed from Saturday’s cradling a motor close to my core as I pried it from its summer station and eased it into the wheelbarrow for its journey to my house, its winter home.
I am struck by how different these two labours were, and yet they were both labour – both blessing me with the gift of living into my body and being reminded that movement, and sweat, and satisfaction, and even momentary frustrations are gifts of the Spirit that sustains both the strenuous grunt and the bewildered gasp.