Haulout

Excerpt from Centennial book, page 101 :

The harbingers have been there for the last few weeks - cooler evenings and steadily shorter days led to a final sail on a golden Thanksgiving weekend. Now the spectre of haulout, inescapable since the first day of launch, has become as real as a calendar.

Yet even as the Algonquin Queen pushes aside mists half hiding the lagoon's mastless fleet, the calendar blurs as past and present blend once more in the yard.

As the first passengers of the day head to lockers for coveralls and gloves, Fred Mayerhofer or Pat Walton are already greasing the winch and car, even as Bobby Norton or Harry Smith might have before them. Bruce Robinson assails latecomers as "peckerheads' while near the fire tended by Barry Hardy, the infectious laugh of Ernie Middleton still seems to echo across the yard, assuring all that the "butter" will be ready to be swept onto blackened ways, today by Jim Miller or Gib Speight as cheerfully as Harry Altman would have yesterday.

Butterboard. King plank. Cross-haul. Ways and sleepers. Words once mysterious and arcane have become familiar. The sounds of the yard, once a day-long cacaphony, have become discrete elements - the drone of the winch, the rumble of the car and the whine of Peter Broecker's chainsaw, cutting retired cradles into stove-sized bites.

" Crowd her north!" "Where's the butter?" "Everyone on the pointy end!"

The chant, repeated spring and fall, directs a brutish activity. Yet almost obscured are subtler images - Ian Douglas helping push his father's cradle, a symbol of succession. Or Herb Pitcher, pointing out to a new member what he means by the "tennis court" or the "float". In lulls, Tom Nimmo, Ray Lye and Bert Barraclough recall John Walsh, Al Rae, Tom Tomblin, George Annand and a hundred names woven through unwritten stories to be filed in memories as lore of the future.

" Clear the track!" "Follow the car!" The shout, as it has each day of haulout, punctuates the late afternoon air. Bobby Peat, on hand most of his life, readies the hook that guides the last prow into a cradle.

As Bill Eckersley flags signals to the winch, the final, dripping boat emerges, clumsily larger in its cradle than in the water. It trundles up the track to be slid awkwardly to winter rest. The cheer goes up and the yard chairman is toasted before groups break into individuals to join spouses already tending to the myriad mundane boat chores to be done before dark.

The trip back to the city is quiet. Fatique, perhaps. Or maybe the natural sadness of season's end. But there is satisfaction, too, in having shared in the physical task, impossible alone, and at the same time having glimpsed once more the very soul of Queen City.

by Wayne Lilley
Copyright 1991
ISBN 1-895161-01-0
Excerpts and photos with permission from Wayne Lilley and Steve Manley