SPLASHDOWN!

Almost SplashdownThe day of the lift was bright and sunny, unusual for here when there are tourists around.  Being the morning of the launch there was absolutely no way I could stay in bed.  Have you ever found that getting up early to go to work was an impossibility, but getting up at the crack of sparrow for a boat or to catch a tide wasn't even inconvenient?  Suffice to say I was at the yard before eight o'clock, a full hour before the first lift was due.

I had decided to lift the cat opened out, just as it would be in the water.  This involved a huge flatbed lorry and a couple of steel beams across the way to take the width of the cat.  At 14" 6' it was going to hang over the sides of the lorry by several feet.  People started turning up to help, the lorry and the crane both arrived, all within minutes of each other.  The slings went on, the warps were fastened to cleats and the crane took up the tension...  It lifted clear of the ground with many a creaking and was placed safely on the lorry.  Once it was tied down we would be ready to move. 

The width of the cat and lorry meant that we had to have a police escort through the town, they had also stipulated the early start to avoid the worst of the traffic, and we set off with them in the lead winding our way through the back streets of Stornoway, heading towards the quay.  I was impressed with the boldness of the Police car driving around the first roundabout the wrong way and terrified by the alacrity with which the lorry driver (and my boat) followed him.

The gates to the harbour itself proved to be a tighter squeeze than I had imagined and I was expecting to have to lift the cat over the wall, but the driver barely hesitated; one look and he said 'We'll make it', driving straight for the gap. Anxiety level 100%.

We lifted the cat onto the quay and sat it in its cradles.  This was the start of a mad rush to finish all the wee jobs that had to be done before it hit the water, putting on the rudders, the outboard, fenders, all sorts.  Naturally we forgot most of them in the rush.  Anxiety level still 100%.

The Crane driver just decided to leave the crane where it was, there was nothing else doing and it would be in position for the lift in the afternoon.  By lunchtime the wind was blowing quite hard and it didn't look like easing for my 2.00pm launch.  Anyone who regularly launches their boat knows that there is a moment when the strops tighten and the heart starts to beat that little bit faster and you wonder if everything is going to work all right.  Even just waiting for the start is a real knicker gripper.  Anxiety level still 100%.

The manager of the crane company turned up at 1.30pm to tell me that the crane driver was drunk.  Anxiety level 110%!!

Luckily he found another driver fairly quickly and we were still on time.  The wind suddenly dropped at 2.00pm and we went for it, the various people told which rope they were on and what was happening and Donald White from the Twister 28, 'Menlough' hurried off to get to sea in time to catch us if anything went wrong.  Champagne cork flying

 The last job was purely theatrical, I took off the tatty overalls that had done me so well over the last years and put on a brand new straight from the packet pair and threw the old ones into the skip.  The boat was ready, I was ready!

 The strops tightened and we had one last check before the lift itself.  With the cat hanging in the strops and just resting on the cradles, out came the champagne, the cork flew across the crowd and my Mother tore away the strips hiding the name, 'CORNALARI'.  I poured a wee bit of champagne over each bow and, despite the Harbour Board's ban on the consumption of alcohol, had a wee swig myself.  I was even more surprised when my Mother took a small silver collapsible cup from her handbag to bag her share!We were ready!! The chains tightened and every man had his warp, the cradles were kicked away from underneath and the cat lifted.  Too anxious to even speak as £17,000 and 1,415 hours of work over more than 3 years is gently lifted into the hoggin and it floats.

One small step for Man...The awful weather meant that I had to get the rudders down, the engine started and get the boat away from the quay before it got bashed to bits.  I stood on the quay just looking at MY boat, just choked.  Ian McCulloch gave me a nudge, 'Get in then!'  I scrambled down the ladder and stood on my own deck, the crowd cheered and all was perfect.

This is where the fun really starts.  The first thing that happened was that I broke the pegs holding the rudders down.  I left them poking out two inches each side of the stocks and when I turned hard, the ends broke off.  The rudders stayed down right enough but I couldn't pull out the pegs.  The next was that the outboard doesn't turn, the bracket is too narrow.  It also holds the engine too near the water.  I forgot to put down a dagger board and crabbed off across the harbour in the strong wind.  Once under the lee of the inner harbour wall though, all went well.  Well, almost.  Guess who put the top roller of the reefing gear on upside down?

Once the mast was up, I was able to motor over to the pontoons and load some of the rest of the gear.  I had put seat cushions and scatter cushions on board prior to the launch just to make the thing look good when my guests looked down the hatch or through the windows.  Things like the anchor, however, I decided to put on later, from the pontoon.

'It was in, it floated the right way up and it was secure for the night.  It was too windy to go for a wee jolly and I decided that a quick bath and a party were now in order.'

 

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