Anarchistic musings from a SE Alaska harbor
By Ed Sasser

A Little Something Extra
for the
Assistant Harbormaster

Eddy’s Chuck, Alaska -- Winter is a special time in our harbor. It would not be unusual to see the Christmas lights go up early and stay late. Folks aren’t rushing or extending the season so much as they are just seeking some light. Of course, harbor folks had a Christmas spirit this year—even if the reason for the giving might have been a little self-serving.

Only the true live-aboards stick it out through the entire winter what with snow measured in feet and winds that would be alphabetically named were they to hit in the lower latitudes. But there are winter thaws in the maritime climate of the panhandle. The thaws in Eddy’s Chuck can last several days or even weeks, often resulting in avalanches, floods and a massive run-off of fresh water. The fresh water then freezes more easily at the first cold snap since the fresh water is floating on top of the salt water in the harbor. Even so, a mid-winter thaw in January or February is a welcome opportunity to redistribute the inventory gathered over the long, dark stretch, take a first stab at trying out a new outdoor Christmas present, move a boat or two, or even launch one.

Bud and Bev had been plotting their next boat launch for months. As long-term married couples go, they were seldom apart. When they were together the Postmaster called them "2B" and when one of them showed up alone she would call the survivor "not 2B". In her mind 2B or not 2B was never a question. The reason they were always together is they had a major project. That project was a new sailboat they had built in a shop "out the road". They used mostly hand tools to build both the boat and the shop that covered it. They had a generator for the few power tools they used and had more persistence than any two other folks I know. Their boat was a George Buehler double ender and, with the boomkin, measured 41 feet six inches. Their old boat was 39 feet six inches. That extra two feet was a big problem.

The Harbor Board charges folks here abouts by the foot---that would be the profile length counting all appendages, kickers, boomkins, anchors, flying sprits and sleeping mizzens. If it took up space, you paid for it. Well, the moorage Bud and Bev currently had allowed for a boat 40 feet or less. They could replace their old boat with a new boat as long as it was under that 40 limit. Otherwise they were doomed to "The Waitlist", an eight-year purgatory punctuated by transient fees and poor electrical service. They had been plotting how to beat the system for months. Stan, Candy and several others of us who lived in the harbor more-or-less full time were aware of the problem but weren’t sure that anything could be done about it.

Christmas was a friendly day this year as always. Gift giving was kept to a minimum but the passage of food from boat to boat seemed magnified from previous years. There also seemed to be a greater variety of gifts going to Bruce, the assistant harbormaster. Bruce had saved several boats this past year and gifts were frequently passed to him during his dock walks as either a "thank you" for some favor during the past year or as a subtle reminder to double check the springlines during the next storm. Most of these gifts came in a fifth bottle or were edible but this year there was at least one notable exception. The 2B’s gave the assistant harbormaster a Stanley 50-foot Commercial Grade Tape Measure. Bruce was amazed and delighted. He carried it proudly and showed it off to the Harbormaster during his weekly inspection of the marina.

When launch day finally came for the 2B’s, everyone in the harbor was on hand to watch the crane barge from the mainland come and move the boat off the hard near the tank farm. Bev and Bud motored to their slip—proud as new parents. Their plan was to finish the rigging and take it for it’s first sail April first.

Bruce the assistant harbormaster joined the group shortly after Bev had tied off. Bud was giving a tour to us, six at a time since that’s all that would fit below. Stan’s face fell when Bruce hollered: "looks a little longer in profile than your old one. Mind if I measure it?" Bud and Bev glanced at each other and Bud said with full confidence, "Have at it."

Bruce lined up a 2 x 4 perpendicular to the end of the boomkin and walked up the finger pier. He stood square to the end of the bowsprit and declared: "Son of a gun; looks like it’s 39 feet, six inches—same as the old boat. Good to go!"

Stan breathed a sigh of relieve but then he and I took Bud aside and Stan asked: "What’s up? We helped loft this critter—it’s just under 42 feet."

Bud giggled like a school girl: "It’ll always be 39 feet six inches with THAT tape," adding "If he ever has to measure an eight to ten foot dinghy, he’s going to get mighty confused though, ya bet."

Bud took Stan and me below to his work area where another Stanley 50-foot tape lay on the bench---this one went from one to eight feet and 10 to 50.

"Hated to sacrifice this other tape just to borrow two feet but it’s gotta be cheaper than eight years on the waiting list." We were sworn to secrecy.

Now, so are you.

(*Eddy’s Chuck Alaska is a fictitious harbor populated by real Alaskan Noodlers.)

Copyright 1999-2000 by Ed Sasser. All rights reserved.


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