Friday, August 24, 2012

Dog In The Rigging
By Michael

Oh crap, what have I done.
Well, it was characteristic me: not a whole lot of forethought, not the best outcome.

An hour had passed since we left Petaluma, motoring slowly down the river, watching the marsh go by. My in-laws were aboard for the trip: Windy’s folks, her brother Paul, his wife Pao, and our two nephews, A.K.A the O-boys, Otis and Oliver. It was warm, everyone was fed, and it would be another few hours until we reached San Francisco. Windy and her mom and brother sat on the bow with the boys. My father-in-law was at the helm and the girls played down below with their Auntie Pao.

Two-year-old Oliver willingly handed me his beloved stuffed puppy when I encouraged him to let me show him something.
“We’ll haul Puppy up the mast, it’ll be funny, what do you think?”

He nodded approvingly and I was happy he was game. In retrospect, all he clearly understood was that I was smiling, I was promising something funny, and not having spent too much time with me, did not yet have a reason not to trust an adult he knew.
Oli and Grandpa Paul
in happier times,
off the boat.

I let him help me tie the spinnaker halyard around Puppy’s soft belly. When I noted a bit of concern on Oli’s face, I waved little Puppy’s arms and rocked his body side-to-side, as though the creature was pantomiming his excitement about going up the mast. This helped, but didn’t completely erase the unease. I imagined what must be going through his little two-year-old mind: “I trust you Uncle Mike, and while I may be nervous and unsure, I know that once you haul my puppy up that mast, I am going to get such a kick out of it I will probably laugh my head off. Carry on good sir!”

In retrospect, I think what was really going through Oli's two-year-old mind was: "I trust you Uncle Mike, but what the hell are you doing with Puppy?”

Now there is not a sailor alive who would knowingly haul the bitter end of any halyard up the mast because it’s not going to come down on its own and retrieving it can be a big pain in the arse. Of course, if something is attached to that bitter end, no problem, simply let go of the halyard and it will come crashing back down to the deck. Of course, to be effective, that something must weigh more than a four-ounce stuffed animal.
When I saw Oli on the verge of tears after hauling Puppy ten feet up, my response was to hoot and holler and haul Puppy another ten feet up, to where he could get a good look at our new Furuno radome and delight Oli to no measure. This didn’t go over well. I let go of the halyard to get Puppy back into the arms of his distressed owner on deck. Puppy didn’t move.

I wiggled and jiggled the halyard for several minutes while apologizing to my nephew.

“Oh, I’m sorry Oli, we’ll get him down, he was just going on a ride. Look, he’s smiling!”
In the end, I was saved by Windy’s genius. By duct taping a pasta spoon to the end of our extended boat hook and climbing up to the top of the sail, she was just able to fish Puppy down. (Click here for a video of the exciting finale.)

I have several older nieces and nephews who all bear emotional scars from similar encounters with Uncle Mike. I saw in Oli a chance for redemption, a clean slate. Now it is just Otis left.

The girls rode the outside of the cable car up and down
the streets of San Francisco.
As we headed out the Golden Gate Bridge, a couple of teams
practicing for the Americas Cup World Series blasted in front
of our bow with hulls flying, their chase boats alongside. These
45-foot cats feature rigid wings in place of a conventional
mainsail. The black Oracle boat was also a fixture on the Bay
while we were there.

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