We navigated to Port St Lucie to prepare for the mast raising of S/V Lotha. Mic had already called a local boatyard for an appointment to have a crane scheduled for the project.
Willow and Tom were ready for the project. “One and done” Tom said. They did not want to pass up the opportunity to get the job complete now that a crane would be ready and waiting.
We anchored just outside of the channel to stage ourselves close to the boatyard. We had an island to ourselves for the night with a bonfire, hammocks and cold drinks. We we’re ready to relax before they started their project.
We woke up to a beautiful day! Within a few seconds we realized we were bumping ground. What a great way to start the day!
We headed out through the companionway to assess the situation. We quickly realized It was low tide. Tom yelled out and asked “Are you aground” to respond with “Yeah, me too. I’m soft aground”.
We weren’t so lucky. Within a few minute we we were hard aground. Luckily, it was low tide and would be back up soon. Willow didn’t want to wait and take a chance of damaging the keel, or ending up closer to the nearby island. So Willow jumped into the dinghy to “walk out” the anchor.
After Willow got the anchor repositioned, he used the dinghy to push the boat farther from the shore. Tom came over on his dinghy to help out. Once we were free, Willow pulled anchor so we could move closer to the channel and away from the shoaling.
Then, the time came to head over to the boatyard. We all jumped aboard Lotha to motor over to Riverside Marina. We were only about a mile away from the marina, so we didn’t have too far to go.
The marina channel is very shallow, putting Lothas’ keel in the mud. It was probably the most narrow channel I have ever seen. There were boats rafted up all the way down to the slip. Not to mention the turn was tight.
Lotha was maneuvered into the concrete slip before the crane arrived. With the boat secured into place, we waited. Mic received a call that the crane would be late. Around 4 pm. We waited. Tom said again “one and done. We’re doing this”.
A squall was moving in and the guys questioned whether the mast raising would need to wait until morning. It was suppose to hit hard but pass by fast. The crane operator, Richard, arrived to advise there was another delay in the equipment arriving. It would now not be here until after dark. Richard advised he will continue with the job and stay until it is complete.
Sure enough, the crane and crew arrived with the squall shortly after dark. Everyone was excited. This was Willow and Toms first mast stepping. After dark during a storm didn’t stop their determination to get the job done.
The rain was pouring down as the crane lifted the mizzen mast out of the way. The visibility was poor, even with the headlights and lightening strikes. The crane was a 60 ton machine with a 110 foot boom. It had the power to raise the entire sailboat so no doubt was present in its ability to raise the masts.
Luckily, there were extra hands on deck to the guys with grabbing tag lines, rigging and helping get the mast stabilized into place.
It is a dangerous task to have an aluminum mast hanging in the air with wire and metal rigging dangling around it. Darkness and a storm with lightening striking didn’t help with my comfort levels at this point.
Once the masts were stepped into place with rigging attached, Tom was hoisted up each mast to complete a few extra tasks. By then the squall had passed. The entire project took almost 4 hours.
It was perfect job! Even the marina owner, Tim, congratulated them on completing such a task. He said “You guys just stepped two masts, in the dark, during a squall with no one getting hurt!”
Willow and I met back up with Tom and Mic aboard Lotha this morning. They still needed to tighten the rigging and install the booms. After a freckle hours of working, they realized more hardware would be needed.
So, we all loaded up into the dinghy and headed to the marina to grab an Uber. We headed down to Ft Pierce in search of a hardware store, West Marine and lunch. We strolled a few blocks to get some land time and enjoy the beautiful day while we were out.
Willow and Tom worked hard to accomplish their goal of helping a friend in need while also gaining experience. Crew and locals advised it wasnt normal procedure to step a mast after dark. Add a squall and lightening and it made for something almost unheard of.
Seeing a mastless sailboat was a sad sight. S/V Lotha is now a real sailboat again. Mic seems excited to sail again and has stated he will never remove the masts again. That was a “One and done” as Tom says!
“When your dreams include service to others- accomplishing something that contributes to others- it also accelerates the accomplishment of that goal. People want to be part of something that contributes and makes a difference”.