Let’s Roll.

Next came the blocking of the keel. Paul told me that he needed a minimum of 14” below the keel in order to slide the bars underneath. Two “6x6” and one “4x6” pressure treated posts added up to a real 15” when stacked, so my assistant Dale and I incrementally jacked the cradle --first the front an inch, then the back, alternating and stacking safety blocks until the required height was reached. This allowed the insertion of the 24” long cribbing under the keel. We had to keep a keen watch on the boat stands and keep them well aligned and chained, because as we let the jacks down and the weight came to rest on the wood blocks, the boat stands would provide the balance. This is not an abnormal arrangement (it is done this way in boatyards daily) but it still takes some getting used to, having 30,000 lbs balanced on a narrow keel.

With all of the stands secure I then cut the cradle in half along the starboard side of the keel. Cutting the six doubled channel beams with a plasma cutter that had decided to go on strike wasn’t fun, but eventually I got the steel apart and we dragged the ton of cradle parts away from the boat.  Now we were on our way!  Helacious looked eager standing tall like that. I whispered  “Soon, soon!” to her as I passed.

The roof panels on the shed came off easily enough, and I determined that the only structural beam that needed removal would be the edge purlin. Dale and I cobbled together a temporary support post, but waited to remove the purlin as it meant cutting the electrical supply conduits to the lights and outlets in the shed. With a week to go before the scheduled arrival of the truck I had time to make some last minute repairs to the driveway and do a final branch trim. It’s amazing how fast the trees grow into the open space above the drive! I also decided, after much dithering, to spread a thin layer of #4 limestone (the stuff they use on railroad sidings) on the field where the truck and trailer would need to maneuver. When dry it’s as hard as concrete, but summertime in the Mid-South brings sporadic torrential thunderstorms that can drop an inch of rain in 20 minutes, a scenario that would be trouble.

Sunday, June 24, 2016      Paul Welles is on his way from North Carolina! The weather is very hot and humid but has remained dry. I spent the day securing the interior items onboard and cleaning the area where the trailer will back in, removing old concrete anchors and sweeping. We are ready!

Monday, June 25, 2016  I removed the edge purlin from the building early in the morning before the sun rose above the trees. The humidity was extremely high -- I knew it would be a multi-shirt day.Paul arrived right on schedule at about 11:30. He drove the truck with the sleeper cab -- it’s huge, and the trailer is mega-massive, but I judged enough turning room. He wasted no time in wheeling around onto the field and backing into position. I’m glad it was dry as his front wheels were 5 yards further forward than I expected. After a bit of trailer wiggling and measuring it was really rather amazing to watch him back the rig under the boat -- that cab had no rear window either. Obviously he had done this a few times. After about 20 minutes of fine tuning the trailer’s position to center the keel, we slid the cross bars under the keel, raised the hydraulic support arms and then inflated the air bag shocks to lift everything up. After looking at the load on the tires Paul decided to move the boat forward a foot or so. Down it went back onto the blocks and stands,  the trailer repositioned to our mark, and then back up. Perfect!

Paul then pulled the trailer forward out of the shed so we could attach the mast to the brackets on the trailer. For the first time I was able to see the true size of Helacious unencumbered. She looked gorgeous- and long! As we were strapping her down tight to the trailer, thunder could be heard rumbling to the west. I suggested to Paul that it would be prudent to go ahead and drive the rig across the field and get onto the main driveway, which he did. 5 minutes later the heavens opened up and it rained cats and dogs for half an hour. Whew, that was close, we must be living right. And that boat ceremony may have been more than just a show!

I convinced Paul that leaving the shop at 3PM and driving to the marina in the heat of the afternoon only to spend the night in the parking lot was not the best course of action and invited him to be our guest for dinner and to spend the night in our guest apartment. Despite his eagerness to get back on the road, he assented and we had a very fun evening hearing about his Sunfish racing exploits. Sailors and blacksmiths, two of the nicest groups of people one is ever likely to encounter. Tomorrow is the big day!