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Sailing / Richard Buffum

Fixing a Sloop's Deck Is Tedious, Tiresome Work

October 09, 1985|RICHARD BUFFUM

Refastening, replugging and, where needed, recaulking my little sloop's teak deck has to be the most frustrating and boring shipboard job imaginable. I've lost track of of the number of bronze screws and teak plugs I've put in, but it has to be about 300 of each.

I've been at it in fits and starts for the last four months--mostly fits--sandwiched in between cruises to Catalina Island and Dana Point. The unsanded deck smeared in spots with black caulking compound and wasn't sanded off, making me ashamed to have anybody see it.

I grew so tired of looking at the sorry mess, I determined to finish the nasty job by staying aboard my Herald Bird, working from dawn until the sun dropped below the yardarm all last weekend.

I'm afraid I was ready to drop long before the sun did, but I did manage to almost finish, with the exception of sanding. Only six old fastenings remain, resisting every attempt to remove them. Their slots are hopelessly widened and battered. I've taken heart in the knowledge that there exists a screw-pulling tool which Basin Marine Shipyard undoubtedly possesses, so when I take the Bird in for her annual haulout, I'm going to have them take care of them.

They've caused me violent stress which even harbor watching failed to smooth out.

My harbor watching--between backing out the more cooperative screws, drilling the holes deeper, driving in new screws and gluing and setting in new plugs--offered a scene I'd never seen before. A flock of Western Grebes--perhaps it's a covey (my Peterson's "Field Guide to Western Birds" failed to clarify the) has taken up residence in the southern channel that leads into the Grand Canal.

I counted nine Grebes. But who can be assured of an accurate tally? Grebes seem to be constantly slipping under water with a flick of their long, curving necks and popping up again dozens of yards away. Trying to counting Grebes hunting fish is almost as difficult as that of trying to count rising trout during a fly hatch.

Anyway, there was this particular Grebe that puzzled me greatly. It kept to the surface pretty much and when it spotted another Grebe surfacing for air, it would lower its little black-thatched head and speed like a tiny motorboat at the other Grebe. During this maneuver it would emit a series of high-pitched calls.

Curiously, the other Grebe would casually ignore the "attacking" Grebe until she was upon him, then he would dive under water. There, I've revealed myself as a chauvinist! Who else but a female Grebe, hot under the feathers, would act in such a bizarre manner? Frankly, I can't distinguish between the male and female Grebe. My bird book was of no help here, either.

In all fairness, it might have been a bereaved male Grebe charging about and trying to unburden his heart to any Grebe who would listen. He, or she, approached in this fashion, with the same drawn-out lament, nearly every Grebe in the flock, and each ignored him or her by diving away.

The spectacle both saddened me, and, as I say, puzzled me. Can any Grebe expert possibly enlighten me on the meaning of this odd behavior?

Sailing Notes

Marina del Rey will be the site of the Soverel-33 Pacific Coast Championships on Oct. 11-13. The designer of the Soverel-33, Mark Soverel, will skipper one of the boats in the series. Dave Ullman of Newport Beach, Chris Corlett of San Francisco, Peter Isler of Marina del Rey and Steve Benjamin of Oyster Bay, N.Y., will be among the famous sailing names in the races. The Soverel-33 was designed in 1983. . . . A fuel dock at the north end of Huntington Harbour has been found to be the source of the mysterious gasoline leak that has threatened residents for several months. Corroded underground fuel lines, installed in 1983, were the cause. . . . A conference called "Beach Erosion--A Regional Alternative" will be held from Oct. 24-26 at the Miramar Resort Hotel in Santa Barbara. The major sponsor is the California Shore and Beach Preservation Assn. . . .The Catalina Island Yacht Club and individual members have donated $2,012 to the Avalon Memorial Hospital Foundation. . . . John Wold as commodore and a slate of other officers and directors have been nominated for 1986 terms for the Capistrano Bay Yacht Club in Dana Point Harbor. The election will be held Oct. 19. On Oct 26-27, the CBYC will hold its annual San Dab Cruise to Catalina Island. Sand dab fishing will take place in about 300 feet of water off Pebbly Beach. . . .The skipper and crew of Impact, winner of the San Francisco Perpetual Challenge, will be saluted at a dinner party at Balboa Yacht Club this Saturday.

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