The Life of Boats

By John C. Harris
September 2011

The yellow beast slid into the water on September 24th, 2011, a design that started as a Polynesian sailing canoe and ended up as a shiny fast Westernized sailing machine.  "Madness" the proa now has its own web page with a lot of photos, drawings, descriptive text, and a cool video, here.  You can skip ahead to on-the-water photos here.

Needing help to launch, I announced a launch party for the 24th, establishing what turned out to be an arbitrary but hard date for completion.  The boat had been sitting since July, shining like a bright penny, unsullied by a single bit of hardware, while I did paying work.

Geoff Kerr offered to drive down and pitch in for the last week of pre-launch push. Seven valiant 14-hour days later, with underwhelming help from myself, Geoff had sorted out and attached enough bits and pieces that we were plausibly ready for launch.  (Notice whose hands aren't busy below.)

We assembled the boat in the CLC parking lot to figure out all of the hardware.

We did eventually get the mast up for shroud measurements, between heavy rain showers.  Actually, the Friday before the launch it rained anvils and church bells.  A tent erected over the assembly in the CLC parking lot collapsed several times.  It was NOT FUN mounting hardware in the pouring rain.

The rain parted on Saturday morning in time for a dangerously long list of last-minute rigging and set-up work. With just hours to go, Geoff and his daughter Glynna started fitting the Spectra trampoline.

The assembled launch partiers helped stretch the tramp into place.  I experimented with PVC tubes to line the edges of the tramp, an experiment which in the youth argot would be termed an "epic fail."  The PVC wasn't stiff enough to tame the tough Spectra and an hour or two after launch we were already re-rigging it.

The outboard sled was mounted, here having its hoisting tackle rove by John Pollard, another guardian angel who seems to appear whenever I have a big, late project.  The tide was by now 30 minutes past its peak....

The dean of multihulls, Jim Brown (right), was in attendance with Andy Zimmerman (left).  It was amazing to have Jim and Andy on hand for the launch.

Bill McIntyre, also no stranger to crazy-big-hectic-overdue John Harris projects, touches up the bottom paint.

The graphics were stuck on almost as the boat was sliding into the water.

Kerry Harris, eight months pregnant at that moment, christened the boat "Madness." 

Launching off the trailer on the river bank wasn't great.  Next time, simple rollers.  Geoff, Glynna, Austin, Steve, Steve, and Jim all plunged through the marsh, being astonishing good sports about the poison ivy lurking around the perimeter, and the depth of the mud.  The heavy rain had turned the water extra-soupy, too.

The boat floated on its lines, so John knocks back a few.  Actually, with four adults aboard there's a lot of bottom paint showing! The trampoline is still incomplete here.  Clockwise from the Heineken bottle:  Myself, Geoff Kerr, Austin Johntra, Nick Schade.

The cake made by Matt Cave's girlfriend, Caroline, was one of many high points throughout the day.  Served, of course, on a sheet of BS1088 okoume marine plywood.

Geoff Kerr, who endured with grace and good humor so many indignities the week of the launch (from carbon fiber shards in his skin to the muddy launch), suggested we go for an evening paddle on the calm Wye River. 

And so we did.  Like an old Polynesian canoe, it paddled pretty well...

Continue to Part 2

Go straight to the Madness Proa web page and video