Dooley shared with me that his mother had a saying, or motto really, “Don’t apologize. Just finish”. As near as I know this was offered to young sailors who were disappointed in their performances. But Dooley accepted it as part of his life’s philosophy and offered it to me when it seemed appropriate, most assuredly when I apologized for how long my work was taking. You have nothing to apologize for, just finish the job. I suspect this philosophy was handy when it came time to get Leda ready for the water.
The hull had to be caulked, seams puttied, primer, paint, hatches built, toe rail and cap. The list is pretty much endless. I won’t try to tell it all here. I don’t really have a timeline as to when major events took place. I don’t know if bolting on the keel was half way through the 28-months or at the 24-month mark. I do know that when they bolted the keel on that the shed was knocked down, and the hull was moved and so in the least the deck would have been ready for weather.
Additionally the mast had to be built. Seventy feet of spruce spar, glued with Aerolite glue. It was a fairly new product at the time and was apparently sourced from contacts in the air force (Dooley had served in the air force during WWII). I would learn years later what this process is like. I’ll talk more about how the mast was built in the section on restoration.
Eventually, there comes a day when its time to jack up the boat, place it on a trailer and take it to the water. There was a large macrocarpa tree in the backyard of the home that had to be cut down to get Leda loaded on the flatbed. I discovered that Dooley was not one to let such problems impede progress. Kit commented that it was actually a lovely old tree. Dooley’s opinion was that it was “only a macrocarpa”. Which I find rather humorous. Trees were either good for building Leda, or they were in the way. This one was clearly in the way. As near as I know the California Cypress (macrocarpa) was introduced to New Zealand. They are protected in California but probably seen as an invasive species in New Zealand. Regardless, the tree was cut to clear the way. The timber probably came in handy for the process of moving Leda by jack and timber to the truck. I have some cabin sole forward in the boat that may have actually been made from it.
Leda made the trip of three miles to the Birkenhead Wharf in a parade of spectators. Roads where closed, a batten fastened forward to help push powerlines above her deck. I have read reports of schools closing so that the children could be taken on a field trip to watch the launching. Amid all of this hooplah, some of the Wilsons’ friends got the duty of getting the mast to the harbor.
Here they are huffing along with the mast on a two-wheel cart. They must have been good friends indeed. But it would seem that all of New Zealand was lending their support to this effort. I suppose someone had to tend the shops, but apparently everybody else wanted in on the launching.
The boat was lifted with Dooley in the cockpit. What a ride that must have been! It was placed in the water, she floated to her marks and the crowd cheered. The mast was then lifted and laid on her deck. It would take a couple of weeks work before the mast was stepped and the rigging was all in place.
The photo below is of Leda’s inaugural sail. It is the one that seems to pop up in in lots of places, but I’m going to show it again here without apology.
It turns out that it took about a year to get Leda’s interior finished. I’m not surprised. It isn’t like the boat sat unused during this time. These would have been busy months indeed. Sailing, racing, working on the boat. I assume at some point Dooley must have gotten a job. It never really occurred to me to ask about it. Dooley and I talked about things he did to earn a living, all of it related to building things, but I never did establish a good timeline in my mind for it. It was somewhere during this busy time that Sandy met and started courting Erica. If I ever knew her maiden name it is lost to me now, but she reported that Leda was in the water and actively being sailed by the time she “came on the scene”. In fact all I can really say about that right now is that by the time 1951 rolled around they were husband and wife.
Next: Gone Sailing
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