What a surprise to find a family or 5 examining Suva Saturday afternoon. I asked if they expected to go sailing. “Well we saw there was a sailing at 4PM?” I explained pointing to a the looming cloud roillng up from the southeast that there was but had been cancelled. Then the young woman with 2 young girls introduced me to her 81 year old grandfather. “He used to sail her.” The man a bit of a wissened elf bent a bit by years had bright eyes and an engaging grin. Said his name was Gary Gaffner. “I was the master on her (he wasn’t the skipper. He had been given the designation out of appreciation for his efforts I suspected. Told me he had sailed Suva from 16 till he was 25. He was in charge of the engine a 6 cylinder dual ignition beast which because of his size was well suited to care for. The loving eyes and touch he examined her with as well as the tone of his voice reminded me of why we refer to vessels as female. He recalled the manual windlass which was operated like a railroad handcart and the time it took to raise the hook. ” It would take us half an hour, ” he’d said with a grin. “We didn’t have a wheel outside. Oh no, there was a tiller and it took a considerable effort to fight the weather helm when the wind got up. We didn’t have have any of this either” gesticulating at the bow pulpit and lifelines. “Oh she’d round up if you fell over. You could catch up to her in a half mile or so or you’d better swim to shore. Never did either fortunately.” He talked about how warmly the rich passengers treated him, “with defference” he said. they’d take him with them to the horse races and set him up as banker being given the insurance money should they lose. ( an early version of credit default swaps I suspect). They did it to make him feel that he had outwitted them always leaving him with a profit. After 40 minutes his daughter had to literally pull him away. He refused help disembarking. Asked me my age. “Guess”, I said. “Oh you must be in your 70s.” Old flatterer. I’m 64. “i live in Seattle and get to Coupeville about 4 times a year. I said we’d treat him to a ride when he came back. His family was from Spokane. They are hoping to move to Whidbey.
He had a number of other stories about the caulking, the love of the skipper for hemp over dacron lines (“they left slivers in our hands”) how many crew they needed to sail her, the visitors, where they’d go, the time the propeller ate the painter and he had to dive repeatedly to hack it away. that was a good one. “Took over an hour maybe 2. I had to spend time in a blanket between dives. They gave me hot chocolate.” The best times were on a sunny day, not too hot, with her sails full and trimmed just right.” A look in his eyes and you could see the scene he’d described…Preview attachment DSC03145.jpg
“I must go down to the sea again, to the lonely sea and sky, and all I ask is a tall ship to steer her by.” Sea Fever