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December 12, 2014

Got Plans for Christmas?

The splendid schooner Eros transits Panama Canal locks in company with a massive container ship. Several days ago she arrived in St. Thomas, her base for the winter season.

© 2014 Barbara Churchill / Eros

Got plans for Christmas? If not, you might consider chartering one of San Francisco Bay’s most elegant charter yachts: the 105-ft schooner Eros. She recently arrived in St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands, where she’ll be based for the winter season — and she’s still available over the Christmas holidays.

For owners Bill and Grace Bodle of Pt. Richmond, this escape from the harsh weather of more northerly latitudes is like coming full circle. They first arrived in the Caribbean back in the mid-1960s aboard their first schooner, Nordlys. As explained in the pages of Latitude 38, they’d bought her for a song here on the Bay, and set sail for sunnier latitudes with much more wanderlust than experience or money. By the time they got to St. Thomas, the engine was kaput, and their cruising kitty was frighteningly low. So they took the advice of some new sailor friends and got into what was then a fledgling chartering industry. 

Back then, of course, there were no megayachts, and the crème de la crème of available charter yachts were big, luxurious schooners. The Bodles had a splendid run of chartering each of their three big schooners over a couple of decades on both sides of the ‘pond’, and even did a circumnavigation with occasional charter parties aboard. 

After an 18-year refit, Eros has graced Bay waters often in recent years. 

© Tom Brichta

Fast forward to the present, and they’re at it again with Eros. (For charter inquiries, email Grace Bodle or call 510-232-4282.)

Breaking the Pink/Blue Color Divide

Debbie atop the mast of Yesterday’s Girl, doing what has been traditionally considered to be a ‘blue job’.

© 2014 Terry Ray

While it may not fit the progressive narrative about equality of the sexes, it appears there is something of a natural division of labor on sailboats. In the overwhelming number of cases, men do most of the sailing and the mechanical chores, while women do the cooking and cleaning. Blue jobs and pink jobs.

There are exceptions, of course. Liz Baylis and Melinda Erkelens, for example, are outstanding helmswomen. Dawn Riley worked the pit in her America’s Cup syndicate boat. Ashley Perrin has run the bow on a number of racing boats. Doña de Mallorca changes the engine and transmission oil on Profligate. And on the male side, a lot of men are great cooks. We’ve even heard rumors of a few men who wash dishes and clean.

One of the tasks done the least by women is going up the mast, which is why our interest was sparked by a photo of Debbie Hayward-Sciarretta atop the mast of her and her husband Mark’s Zigzag, Oregon-based Santana 30/30 Yesterday’s Girl. Mark sets the scene:

"Last winter some birds broke the Windex atop our Columbia River boat. While I’m usually up for going to the top of the mast, my chemo treatments for prostate cancer have resulted in a 25-lb weight gain along with a serious loss of both muscle and stamina. As a result, I couldn’t haul myself up the mast as I’d done in the past, nor could I grind Debbie up, nor could she grind me up. As I’d recently purchased a Winchrite electric winch handle online for $465, this was almost the perfect opportunity to check it out. I say ‘almost’ because our proper boatswain’s chair was hidden away in the garage, so we had to use an REI rock-climbing harness that I hadn’t used in years. Debbie was a real trooper to go up using that."

A regal looking Debbie stands by while a mischievously smiling Mark straps her into something that looks as though it may have been purchased at Good Vibrations rather than a chandlery. 

© 2014 Terry Ray

38: Debbie, how long were you up for?
Debbie: About 45 minutes.

38: Had you been up a mast before?
Debbie: Yes. Before we were married I’d gone up on Mark’s Lagoon 380 cat Younger Girl. But that time I didn’t have to be up as long because I had a proper bosun’s chair. I didn’t like the REI climbing harness from the get-go, as it was uncomfortable, and it made the job take much longer. Make sure you have a proper bosun’s chair before going up a mast.

38: Did you drop anything while replacing the Windex?
Debbie: Just one screwdriver. It missed Terry Ray’s head by about 18 inches. Nobody should be beneath somebody working up a mast.

38: Do you have a fear of heights?
Debbie: No. But you do have to trust whoever is in charge of the halyard. And I trust my husband. I’d go up again if we had the right chair. Not bad for a woman of — ha, ha, ha — 47, right?

38: We’re very impressed. Do you know of other women who have gone up the mast?
Debbie: My friend Terry Ray, who took the photos and who is a 50-Ton Coast Guard Master. Jane Roy. There have been a few others.

38: You’ve gone up, but have you — and we know this sounds terrible — gone down, as in cleaned the bottom?
Debbie: I’ve done a little of that, but we normally hire people to do the bottom.

38: Mechanical work?
Debbie: No.

There are two times when women going up the mast have really stuck in our minds. One of them was when we were crewing on Roy Disney’s 86-ft Pyewacket, when Ashley Perrin was going up and down the mast of that huge machine like a yo-yo. We were not the only ones who were very impressed. The other was when Heather Cosaro went to the top of Profligate’s 90-feet-above-the-water masthead. Part of what impressed us was the swagger and fearlessness with which Heather went aloft. The other part of what impressed us was what Heather was wearing at the time — a pirate outfit complete with high-heeled, thigh-high boots. You don’t see that too often. Too bad the photos were blurry.

If you’re a woman who has gone to the top of a mast, we’d like to hear about it and recognize you. What were the circumstances? How tall was the mast? Any tips? And would you do it again? If you’re an ‘Up and Down’ sailor, meaning you’ve gone up the mast and cleaned a boat bottom, all the better. Send replies to Richard.

Those 5,000-ft mountains in the background make it unlikely this is a photo of Florida.