Work on the Water

Photos by Sharon Waranius

by Sharon Waranius

Work on the water is sweet when you're sailing while you work. Sailing while you work on Whiskeytown Lake is as close to heaven's shores as you could want.

I visited there just the other day with my brother. He's an old Salt, Ken, better known as KW around the docks. Logging endless nautical miles through years of sailing experience, he is a crusty and respected fixture at Oak Bottom Marina where our fun began.

The clouds were low and heavy with no sign of sun, but we had a job to do and it was going to get done. A recently sold 30' sailboat needed to be moved from its mooring at Oak Bottom Marina, across the lake to the Brandy Creek Marina where a truck and trailer were waiting to load-and-haul for its trip down I-5.

Captain Ken and Jim were aboard Ken's boat the Kokopelli, while on the boat to be hauled, Captain Mike and I, along with the owner, made preparations to get underway.

I readied the dock lines and Mike took the helm, and the owner turned the engine key. Of course nothing happened. That's expected on the first try. And then nothing happened again, and again: Absolutely nothing; dead, very dead.

Plan B: We would simply tow the boat. So, the owner left and drove down to meet us at the Brandy Creek Marina where the trailer and the driver would be waiting.

Still aboard Kokopelli, Ken fired up her mighty Yanmar 10 hp engine and we got down to business.

Maneuvering as only an experienced sailor could, Ken was out of his slip in seconds, and at our bow waiting to pass off on the tow line. Johnny on the spot, Captain Mike was there at the ready; then swiftly, as a bandit in the night, we edged stealthily, making our way into the mist.

Mostly, the rain and early morning winds had kept at bay and it promised to be a carefree tow.

An hour later, with barely enough rain drops to wet the decks, and only meager puffs of wind flirting with our still-furled sails, we approached our destination flawlessly.

Then, performed like a ballet of boats, Kokopelli in the lead, the tow line was let go as Ken eased her out of the way and  our boat slowly drifted alongside the outmost loading dock. Ken swung wide, turned, and docked Kokopelli across from us.

So far the journey had been a success, but the job was not complete. The sailboat still had to be loaded and secured for transportation. But from the look of things, we had a dilemma before it began.

As we disembarked from our respective boats, Ken and Mike sited the truck and trailer parked above and nautically started calculating.

The draft of the keel, the lake level, the slope of the haul-out ramp, the still-standing mast, and the apparent condition of the trailer tires were variables of what could be an equation with a disastrous result.

Estimating the total length of the truck with trailer, experienced haulers like Ken and Mike, who are both intimately acquainted with Whiskeytown lake and sailboats, could see that when the truck was far enough down the ramp to get the full keeled boat on the trailer, the truck itself might get flooded.

But we never got that far. Once we were close enough to  inspect the trailer rig, it was obvious 3 of the 4 tires on one side of the trailer were low, 2 of them very low, and 1 notably flat. Uneven surface, heavy, tall load, driving down the freeway... perhaps not.

Comprehending the tire situation, the driver of the truck jumped into action, unhitched and relocated the truck next to the flat tires, took out an air pump about the size of a large Idaho potato, attached one end to the flattest tire, the other to the truck, held on firmly with both hands, engaged, and Whew! That little pump started vibrating, twerking the trucker's tanned buff arms. And finally, after 10 long minutes, with no discernible rise, the potato was removed. The tire was still flat.

That idea was abandoned for another; the tires would be removed and brought to town for repair.

Plan C. We couldn't load the boat, and it couldn't stay tied up to the loading dock, so an additionally long tow line was reattached to our boat and it was slowly pulled around the end of the far dock where the Kokopelli was tied up.

Then, the rope was given to Jim who led the boat from the sandy shoreline to a point where he could let go, and with the wind at its beam and the power of its own forward motion, the boat drifted across the large expanse of open water to the dock at the end of the marina.

With Mike at the wheel, the boat proudly turned to her breach to pull alongside, where she was secured and would remain until the trailer rig was properly prepared.

It was only midmorning and we were ready to head back, just as the surface of the water began to ruffle  and the winds picked up.

All aboard the Kokopelli, pointed north with the promise of a steady breeze,  Ken unfurled the jib. The winds heated up and ironed the wrinkles out of the sail. We lurched forward bowing to the soothing power of wind and sail. After a job well done, we headed back out onto the lake where work is always sweeter on the water!