Dear Stan
by Eric Schoonover

Last month, in a discussions of Micros on the Bolger discussion group,
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Eric Schoonover replied to a letter from Stan Muller as follows:

Dear Stan:

I won't dare touch this matter of blood, and virgins, and white and red wine with my five-foot gaff (though painted Interlux Vermilion RED), but I do think that you must christen your vessel in some ceremonial manner; that is, whatever constitutes ceremony in your mind.

I did NOT christen my Micro before setting sail. I did incur, as a result, the wrath of many gods, and there was no Athena lurking in the anchor well ready to bear a hand. My first mistake, THE grand mistake,was to set forth on a brief solo-sail after launching, on a sea trial of sorts. But no christening! All went well. The wind, my log notes,was from the north-east. (The First Warning.) My second mistake,after THE GRAND MISTAKE was that of inviting too many people to sail with me on the virginal voyage, to be held on the day after sea trials: Six adults, one small child. (The small child slept below most of the day.) They would help christen the boat and make it a festive, celebratory day. My daughter, the only woman, was to perform the rites. I had carefully typed out the words of appeasement to the gods together with a nod of acknowledgment to the boat's namesake.
But we didn't do it. All these years later I can't remember why we didn't do it. (Senescence setting in, perhaps even then.)

Well, we were off, pushed down the great salt pond by my very small, 1.5 Seagull motor--and a fine breeze. The wind was still out of the north-east (The Second Warning, Part 1) and was considerably more blustery than the day before (The Second Warning, Part 2). But it was bright, unlimited visibility, cool: a lovely early September day in southern New England. We sailed, the small boy slept, we ate lunch at anchor, and snoozed in the dazzling sun in that wonderful Micro cockpit, or on the cabin top, or down below.

Suddenly, fully aware that the breeze had become a 20-knot wind, I thought it best to up anchor and head back. Six adults and a child are, after all, some responsibility. I might add that none of the guests had any sailing experience, and as if to prove that point, one of them asked, "What bitter end?" And there went my brand-new Bruce anchor! (Intimations of the wrath to come? Or was this another part of the Warning? Or part of The Punishment?)


We got under way. Gosh, it was wild and woolly: spray leapt, the mast creaked in the partners, items came adrift below, and the dacron rattled and cracked when we came about. The child slept, wedged in by PFD's piled against the bunkboards. I had yet to install the clinometers, so I don't know the angle of heel. I placed the hefty guests well to the windward side. But the helm had much more weather than I remembered from the day before. How strange, I thought. And then, bang, the rudder's post broke. More accurately, it split from the top; and the bronze bolt and the bronze strapping came free and . . . and, we had no steerageway!


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Photo by S. Pollack

I lowered the Seagull into the water. "Dad, that thing's from World War I," and it was, or so it looked and acted. Its flywheel was exposed (beard snatcher), the starter rope had to be re-threaded each time one cranked and often whipped your knuckles, and it started, could only start, in gear. This particular Seagull would always start when cold. Always. When hot or even warm, it was a brute. I yanked, and yanked, and, nervous, over primed, and flooded, and . . . . But eventually it started.

It had to push pretty hard to take all of us back, and motoring a Micro against a strong breeze is fairly demanding. My guests were unfazed by all of this (Oh for innocence!), and the child had woken to the sound of the motor and was happily standing in the bunk looking at the world through the porthole. We made at best 1 kt.

And then the dock. I felt that I should kneel and kiss the pressure-treated boards. "Dad, aren't we going to have the christening?" Oh, yes. The christening. And we did, and she read the lines and broke a bottle of properly-netted champagne that a well-wisher had given me many years before when I started building the boat, I think it was that phony stuff that you can buy in the marine discount stores, yet it fizzed and foamed, and we all declared it a fine day. Well, they did. Two days later I bought a 3.5 Tohatsu motor that has pushed the Micro ever since and, I might add, through strong tides at throttle. It starts in neutral. I still have the Seagull,but I don't take six adults and child for a sail anymore,
even if the wind comes soft.

Thus, I recommend that you not procrastinate as I. That before even the smallest amount of water touches the keel, or whatever, that your vessel be well-christened. I wish you the very best in your voyages and may the gods look with favor upon your work. Oh yes, I easily fixed the split post with an epoxy slurry and hose clamps. To appease the gods, I painted THAT Vermilion Red.

Eric Schoonover
Wakefield, RI

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