Spring ritual without the elbow grease


It’s a welcome ritual.

Well, some might argue otherwise. They define it as work, lots of work.

Fortunately, so far this spring, I’ve been able to embrace the harbinger of summer without taking on the work. Over the past couple of weekends, I’ve gotten to visit Pleasure Marina, where my boat is kept on “the hard” for the winter, and chat with the springtime regulars painting and polishing their craft.

I’ve been doing the talking and they’ve been painting most of the time.

I get to see the boating gang, catch up on the news of the past year [usually boat stuff, like the trips they took last summer and what they are planning this year]. Then we don’t cross paths until the following spring when some of the same stories come up again. The exception is out on the bay when we exchange a wave as we cross courses.

The work side of boating can be both tedious and pleasurable. Either way, it’s always expensive; that’s part of boating.

But this year I’ve gotten all the good with none of the pain of the spring ritual. Actually, I’ve had it pretty good for several years now.

The answer is John Cavanagh.

Every boater needs a Cavanagh.

John and his family live in Barrington, which doesn’t make it convenient to drive over to Oakland Beach to spend time at Pleasure Marina fine sanding and painting the bottom of a 30-foot sailboat. But he’s been doing it for years, and like the cormorants that are starting to return, he migrates to the boatyard, his Jeep stuffed with tools. He’s sure to have a power washer, vacuum, saw, grinder, polisher and drill with him. Strapped to the top of the vehicle is a ladder, and somewhere he’s also carrying WD-40, acetone, paint thinners, cleaners and certainly dust masks, rubber gloves and protective eyewear. John is super attentive to safety … a good thing.

“It’s going to have three thin coats,” John said Saturday when I showed up at the boatyard before covering the area Special Olympics games being hosted at Hendricken.

Last I inspected the bottom of “Good News” – which is showing her age at 31 – barnacles coated the prop and drive shaft. The bottom was flaking and a nasty green and black stain oozed from a crack running fore and aft of where the keel joins the hull. The boat was in need of some serious attention. This was not going to be one of those years where you give it a quick touch up and let her splash.

John, with help from his son, Jonathan, and crewmates Dave Greenhalgh and Stewart Walker, had sanded out the bottom, and John proudly reported he had dug out the crack and injected it with West Marine system. The bronze prop was sparkling, as was the shaft.

On Saturday, Stuart was on topside working on the bright work and Dave was waxing the side.

“We’ve taken off a hundred pounds of paint, easily,” John reported.

That’s music to serious racers … anything to get the boat to go faster.

So, how does this work?

John was a crewmember for years of Thursday night cruising class races run by Narragansett Terrace Yacht Club out of Bullocks Cove. When I started racing smaller Rhodes 19s, John took command of the 30 on Thursday nights. He has a powerboat, which he keeps in Bullocks Cove, so he zooms across the bay with his crew for the weekly race.

For a time, John flirted with buying “Good News,” but neither of us was especially serious. The arrangement has worked out and this year, more than others, John has taken on the spring project.

This got me thinking.

Boats bond people. Cars, unless they’re classics, don’t do it. So what if you drive a Ford Taurus? So do thousands of others. And Ford owners don’t find a common bond with the owners of Cadillac, Toyotas, Chevys, VWs and Audis just because they are all cars. But whether you own a stinkpot, what sailors call powerboats, or you’re a “rag-bagger,” as stink potters call sailors, you’ve got stories to share. Size, age and make of boat don’t make a difference. You’re all [poor pun] in the same boat.

There’s camaraderie between boaters.

The good news for me is that Cavanagh enjoys the spring work and I get to tell the stories.

I highly recommend every skipper have a Cavanagh. Arrangements like this just don’t get better.


No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment