Moving boats, always at night.
Maybe it’s just me but I seem to spend a disproportinate amount of time moving, going to or leaving with boats, at night. Wednesday night was a classic of the genre. I moved the Mini up to the Hinckley Yacht Services yard in Portsmouth preparatory to erecting the shed around her and the Ranger so I can continue The Quest to get the Mini sailing again. The night was drizzly wet, misty, dank and generally raw. It was the kind of night to sit by the fire with a good who-dunnit and a glass of Shiraz. The dankness and the weak yellow flood lamps reminded me of the first time I saw the rebuilt 12-meter Australia, in July 1979.
The fellow who had recruited me to be the boat captain, Lee Killingworth and I drove into the industrial area in which the refit had been done. The shed was your basic industrial put-it-up-in-a-day steel shed. It and a few clones were inside a 10-foot tall wire mesh fence in a neighborhood populated with similar homages to the rigors of small business manufacturing
July is mid-winter in Australia and Perth is on the water. The prevailing weather is from the west and southwest and so brings the harsh storms blowing up from the Southern Ocean bringing lots of moisture with them. And it is cold, raw moisture.
There was no sign on our shed. Warren Jones the Man Who Made It All Happen, in 1980 and particularly in 1983, had wanted to keep the boat invisible where possible. The dark/fog/mist/drizzle atmosphere was winning the battle of light versus dark against the yellowish lamps purportedly illuminating the parking lot.
I opened the gate and we idled up to the side door of our building. I can remember that scene as though it was yesterday. Just the two of us, long disciples of the Aussie Battle to win the America’s Cup, the atmosphere was full of expectation. It felt like the beginning of something no one had ever done, beat the yanks in the America’s Cup.
Tonight, at Hinckley it was the same kind of wet, chill, dank, bleak night, something out of Dickens perhaps. I towed the Mini up the Burma Rd. to Hinckley and pulled in along side one of the huge sheds they have. These storage sheds are the larger brothers of the ones in Perth all those years ago. I wonder what it is with the lighting that goes with these sheds? It is always this pale anemic yellow. Weak enough that you feel if you looked at it too hard the light would just dribble away, mingling with the runnels of water covering the ground and and simply extinguish itself.
Again as in Perth, the whole scene reminded one of a 1930’s Raymond Chandler gangster novel. You know, something like…..
There were no headlights on the black shape as it inched closer. It looked like a Caddie, but with street lamps few and far between here, it was that kind of neighborhood, it was hard to be sure. Then again, at this time of the early morning who else was it gonna be? The President?
In the dark it was hard to make out any particulars of the guy in the car. The one street lamp between him and the tenement was that sickly, anemic yellow color that the lamps down on the ship docks show. The car had stopped just outside the circle of yellow light drifting down from this lone lamp. The drizzle let up for a moment, but that really made no difference. The cloud cover was at about 3 feet anyway, so rain or not, everything was wet and the late fall air was chill. The entire scene was dank and depressing. At length he got out of the car.
He stood there, big and bulky, dense really, 250 lbs and 200 of it was not anywhere near his belt buckle. His hat was pulled down low over the eyebrows and the collar of his long black over coat turned up. The black of the coat matched the darkness of the street, as though they came from the same bin of blackness. So dressed, he was almost invisible outside that weak circle of yellow pinch-hitting for light. For fully a minute he stood quite motionless. He not so much looked around, but rather as if he was sniffing the air, taking in the mojo of the scene. If he were a cat, his whiskers would be twitching. At length who, or what ever, was at Twitch Control must have given him the all clear. He started walking, slowly with steady steps towards the decrepit and dim tenement.
There was no other human on the street but that was not a surprise. 2637 Broadview was the last, more or less inhabited, tenement on the block. It was so well known to the cops, they never did need the number. Just “Disturbance on Broadview”, said it all.
He stopped some feet from the door. Twitch, twitch. Slowly, very, very, slowly he unbuttoned his overcoat and pulled the lapels apart, just a smidge. He reached inside the overcoat and unbuttoned the three buttons on his suit coat. Very slowly, twitching all the while.
He raised his right hand up under his left armpit, and I don’t think he was reaching for his Lucky Strikes.
It was that kind of night.
So here we go again. This time I have the Ranger AND the Mini going into the Vince’s Bush Boatyard Plastic Hoop Shed, albeit with 12 feet of extensions on it to accommodate the Ranger. Maybe after I get her done and sailing I will be able to move boat boats around in daylight, sunny, warm, you know, a normal kind of day for sailing…
Back in “The Day”. On the mooring in Newport Harbour after the New England Solo Twin, 2003