Tom Tweed's Boatbuilding Pages

Page 11- Sailing

After the crunch of getting the boat ready to launch, paying for the transport and the boatyard fees, and the rigger's services, I was beyond broke- I was in debt and scrambling to make ends meet. It was almost a year later that I finally got to actually sail the boat for the first time. Until then, we enjoyed it a little, taking it out motoring around the bay a bit (Maryann especially liked to do this at night, when the lights of the city came on and it would be dark out on the water). But Tolerance wasn't a motorboat, and there was still a lot to be done before she would actually sail. The standing rigging was there, but the running rigging and the sails were still to be acquired.

I slowly gathered together stuff when I found deals on hardware and could afford it, and installed winchs, vangs, running backstays, mainsheet, a self-tending staysail club boom, cleats, etc. Eventually, I ordered a minimal suit of sails from Elton Ballas, a sailmaker on Pt. Loma who had been a glider pilot with my Dad and was the one who sold him that 16' sloop we started out with in 1960. Just a mainsail, staysail and jib, to start with, but enough to get her moving under windpower alone, finally.

And she sailed like a witch. It was incredible. She was so well balanced she almost sailed herself, and if there was half a breeze, she would walk away from 35-footers. In light winds she was no match for the raceboats, which could accelerate on every puff, and she wasn't as close-winded as the fin-keelers, but when it started to blow at 10 knots or so, you could crack the sheet and bear off a little and she would heel over and start moving like a freight train, like she was on rails, shouldering aside the seas. Very stable and confidence inspiring.

It was a nearly spiritual experience for me to see something which I had made out of a pile of sticks, glue and metal take on a life of it's own, becoming an integrated part of a natural system of physical forces, water and air, and transforming that energy into motion. It was effortless. It was what she was made to do. I will remember that moment like the birth of a child.

It was another several years before she was equipped well enough with ground tackle and safety gear to venture offshore, but finally we made it out to the Channel Islands. The pic below is Tolerance moored at the west end of Catalina Island.

Although I have every confidence she could have taken me anywhere I had the guts to sail her, the South Pacific milk run that I had always envisioned never came to pass. Life intervened, as usual, especially when you give it as long to come up with hooks and twists as I had. My "Significant Other's" needs were not to be denied, and I was deep into a mortgage and a "real" job by this time. There was no more chance of me taking a couple years off to sail to Tahiti than there was of walking on the moon.

In a fit of weakness and monetary need, I sold the boat to a young Czech fellow named Vlad, back in 1992 or so. It was like selling my daughter, or at least like raising her, watching her grow up, get married, and move to another state. Vlad still had the dream I once had and was chasing it hard. The last I heard from him was a postcard that he was shoving off for Hawaii. I have seen or heard nothing since about their whereabouts. I hope she served him well...

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