It's a Hard Life on the Hard -
August 1, 2002
John Hornby uses a spirit level to ensure Little Gidding is blocked properly at the Coan River marina
and salt take their toll
(E. Quinn, The Hard)
Yes, it's that time of the year again. Time for the crew of Little Gidding to get hot, grimy and grumpy. Time to regret we had put off all those "minor" boat maintenance items over the past few months. Time for us to spend money on stuff we never planned to spend money on. Time to wish we had a smaller boat. In other words, it's annual haul-out time.
Last summer, we sweated and toiled in a boatyard in Trinidad. This year, we're in a yard near the mouth of the Potomac River, just off Chesapeake Bay. The list of boat projects is depressingly similar. Lots of scrubbing and sanding and spreading of toxic substances. The temperature isn't that much different either. The heat wave in the Chesapeake Bay area which we wrote about last week is persisting. When we were in Washington, DC, however, we could seek refuge in any of a number of air conditioned public institutions. The only air conditioned equivalent here in the Coan River marina is the yard's restroom. There's a limit to how long you can linger in a restroom before people start getting suspicious.
Being on the hard anywhere isn't fun. Despite the heat, life on the hard at the Coan River marina is less miserable than most places we've been. It's a true do-it-yourself yard, something that's becoming rare these days. Many yards require you to hire their workers and charge you extra if you bring in outside contractors. Often you must buy all your materials through them. Some yards prohibit you from working on your own boat or assess a daily fee if you do. Now that's got to be the ultimate irony - paying someone else so you can inflict pain and suffering on yourself.
John and Linda Hornby at the Coan River marina not only tolerate do-it-yourself boat masochists, they encourage them. The first time we visited their yard, John gave us a tour of his work shop. John is a power tool junkie. He's got gizmos we've never seen before. We couldn't believe our ears when he told us we were welcome to use anything we wanted. "Just put everything back where you found it and try not to break anything." In most yards we've been, you risk a fate worse than death if you go anywhere near their tool shop.
When we asked about access to a hardware store or supermarket, John pointed to his somewhat battered pickup truck and said, "No problem - there's the truck if you need it." (We later discovered there are few idiosyncrasies you must master to drive John's truck, but that's another story).
John and Linda's easygoing approach doesn't manifest itself in poor yard practices or any neglect of their facilities. In fact, it's just the opposite. The yard is kept scrupulously clean and tidy. John personally oversees the blocking of every boat that's hauled. He's so meticulous, he uses a spirit level to ensure everything is perfectly aligned.
But the best thing about the
Coan River marina is the people. It's a small operation and within a few
days we knew all of the staff and most of the other clients. We're best
buddies with Barny, the yard dog. It's the kind of place where people
help each other out. At the end of the day, you get off your boat, have
a shower and head for the communal picnic table and barbecue grill. Over
a drink or two, you compare notes with your neighbours, and life on the
hard seems almost bearable. Almost.
Cheers, David & Eileen