Free At Last

In one of Dooley’s letters he wrote, “A man could easily spend his whole life working on his boat without ever getting out on the water.  The object of the exercise is to GO SAILING”.

By July of 1998 we had pretty much exhausted all of our excuses.  Nick Wilson and his family were arriving in Juneau around the 10th of the month.  Dooley was not going to be with them.  His energy level was low and he didn’t feel up to the trip.  Nick was traveling with Allyson, his wife and two of their four daughters, Libby and Nicki.

There was lots left undone.  I don’t think we had much of an electrical system.  Daylight lasts nearly 24-hours that time of year so really we didn’t need much.  What we had was a 54-foot day sailer.  Similar in many ways to how Dooley and Sandy would have gone sailing 49 years before us.   You might notice in photos that the cap on our toe rail did not extend all the way to the bow.   There was no anchor windlass.  We did have a bilge pump at least.  

The standing rigging was in place, most of the running rigging was ready, but we waited for Nick and Allyson to put the sails on.  We needed a low tide to fit Leda’s mast under the bridge.  We can actually make it on a five foot tide but you gotta have faith at that height as you can scrape the antenna on the underside of the bridge.  We were not taking any chances and planned to make our escape from the confines of the harbor on. -3.0 foot tide the following morning, July 11th.

The morning was grey and damp, it was threatening rain.  But the forecast was for improving sun through the day with light south winds.  We collectively held our breath as we motored under the bridge, we cleared and Leda was free of the harbor for the first time in seven years.  We wasted no time in hoisting our sails and killing the motor.  We were sailing and Leda was alive.

The telling of this event is anticlimactic, despite the fact that the day was not.  All the work, preparation, worry and dreaming means little once the sails go up.  Our route was to sail south, down Gastineau Channel, then to turn west in Stephens Passage, sail around Douglas Island and northward to Tee Harbor, about 40 miles.

We didn’t have a lot of wind but good conditions for a shakedown cruise.  Leda proved herself able as we worked our way homeward.

Over the next few days we took Leda out and put her through her trials.  But since I don’t have a lot to say about this whole process, let’s look at some photos from this event.

Leda in Favorite Channel,  outside Tee Harbor, summer of 1998
Nick and Russ enjoy a beer in Leda’s cockpit
From left, Ginny, Allyson, Hercules, and Nick 
Libby and Nicki find a perch
Russ brings home the new spinnaker
Testing the new spinnaker tied to the float in front of the house
Nick and Russ test the spinnaker in Favorite Channel
Hercules looks on from his bunk
Leda with our house in the background

Dooley didn’t survive the year.  Nor did Dooley get to sail with us, but we recorded a video of our inaugural sail that went home to New Zealand with Nick and Allyson. He was able to watch it and see all of us enjoying the boat the he had put together for us, all those years before.  I got one last letter from Dooley, dated August 2, 1998.  In it he writes about watching the video, “It was like living through a dream.”  Here’s to you Dooley, sail on dreamer!

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