The Story of Kim, Part I: Cleaning Eggs

Kim Home . . . Part II . . . Part III

7/23/00 (from a note about a family reunion):

All children are encouraged to bring sponges and scrubbrushes to help clean off several layers of seagull leftovers on Kim, the boat that's currently on the outer mooring. I will gladly lend my rowing expertise to the enterprise, to ferry workers back and forth as we excavate, and I'll be happy to get some buckets out there to help (mainly I think my part of "helping" involves making sure the buckets are used to cool the workers early and often).

Grownups are expected to remain on the beach, sharing in supervisorial duties. Maybe we'll let Franklin and Jess help, if they promise not to act too mature.

7/24/00 (from a note to a friend):

I took [a visitor] over to [Kim], which was also a chance for me to inspect Kim. Kim has been visited by many seagulls but still looks seaworthy. When my family is all down next week, I'm going to have to put some nieces and nephews to work cleaning Kim up so we can get her back into a regular exercise program.

8/7/00 (from a note to a friend):

The thing I didn't get a chance to do all week was get Kim up and running. Kim is one of the sailboats my uncle left behind when he died a few years ago. Kim has been tied up for about five years with nobody on her but seagulls. Two of my cousins feel all Kim needs is a couple sticks of dynamite, and then she'd be out of the way. My other uncle feels Kim is perfectly sailable, if someone would clean her up a little. Having spent a little time on Kim, I can say the truth is somewhere in between.

I had told my sisters to tell all the kids to bring scrub brushes with them and plan on a few work days to get Kim up and running. My sisters said they'd rather sail a boat they knew worked. That's why we ended up taking the Hobie out instead. But my nephew and I both wanted to get Kim up and running. He and I headed up to the plant early one morning to pick up an engine that's up there that belongs to Kim.

We brought it down, and a gas tank to put aboard, and at the end of the day, after sailing around in the Hobie with everyone else, he and I rowed out and put the engine on the boat. Kim is a sailboat (about 24 feet long), but it's good to have an engine for tight spots. I also wanted to see if we could charge up the battery on board Kim. If we could get the battery running, I could put an electric pump aboard, which would help a lot with cleaning. Right now we're doing it all with buckets and a little hand pump that squirts a little water around.

Anyhow, he and I, with great effort, managed to get the engine aboard, and we scrubbed a bit, with some brushes I'd picked up. But still nobody else was interested. One sister rowed out far enough to confirm that she wasn't interested in a boat that smelled like so many seagulls had been aboard. She complained that some of the ropes weren't solid enough to raise the sails, and she rowed home.

So the ropes need replacing. That's easy enough to do.

My aunt, meanwhile, came through with keys for Kim. My nephew had figured out how to get aboard through a tiny crawl space, but we still wanted to get the main cabin door open, which would make it easier to get everything fixed up. It would be nice to keep tools inside and outside, to be able to lock them up when we leave at night, and so on. My aunt said she had some keys that might fit the lock on Kim's main hatchway.

Today everybody left. I went down late in the evening to see my sister and her kids leave, and as soon as they were gone, I got down to the beach, dropped the rowboat in the water and headed for Kim with the keys. Sure enough, the one marked "sailboat" worked. So I spent another hour or two cleaning, while there was still a little light. That's a lot of bird crap. I got some of it knocked off. There's lots more loose, that only wants a bucket and a brush to knock it loose and wash it off the decks. Then there's the tough stuff, that's baked onto the decks in the sun all these years.

Anyhow, Kim should start smelling better soon, and then maybe I can talk someone else into going there to work on her with me. She's a good little boat, with bunks for two and a little galley kitchen. You might not want to take her around the world, but she'd be more than adequate for a few rides out to Catalina Island, maybe some overnights to the Channel Islands. She still needs a lot more work, getting all the electric gear back up and running, ropes replaced, drainage holes unplugged. There's also a lot of algae on the bottom of the boat that probably ought to be knocked off--but you do one thing at a time, and she'd sail fine even with all that green stuff down there.

8/10/00 (note to Saroja, who has a similar, somewhat larger boat):

I haven't had time yet to give you the whole Kim story, but the short version is that this weekend I'll be going down to do more scrubbing. Lots of stuff is fine; some things need a little work. We do now have the key to get into the cabin.

Which is by way of saying that if for some crazy reason you're looking for a chance to scrape the seagull shit off someone else's boat, I'd be delighted to host you and the boys--and this time we really and truly have the Hobie daggerboards (I sailed it last week).

Or if not, there's always other weekends (and your boat, which is clean!).

8/13/00 (from a note to a friend):

I was down at Kim again today. Yesterday I scrubbed the rest of the easy bird crap off the boat, so you can walk around on it now. I also found about four or five rotten eggs in the sail. Phew! I scrubbed the sail as well as I could and brought the smelly sail cover home to wash--it needed it anyhow. Took that back down today and put it back on the sail, then pumped all the water out of the cabin, finally. Now the boat is cleaner and drier than it was before. It still needs more scrubbing, but it's livable. It's much less smelly, now that the rotten eggs are gone. It probably has a leak somewhere--I'll go back down soon and find out how fast it fills up with water again. But it's in much better shape than it was a few weeks ago. After I replace a few ropes, Kim should be getting ready to sail again.

After fixing up Kim a bit, I went out rowing for another hour or so as the sun went down, tooling along past big ships and small boats, people sitting on the backs of their boats sipping beer, a couple whose dog had lost its ball in the water (I rescued it), some fishermen. Came back home, put the raft back up on the catamaran where it goes, and came home.

8/22/00 (note to a writer friend from NYC):

Dear Ms. Writer Lady:

When are you coming to California to do a reading? (They have bookstores out here, you know. The occasional coffee shop too.)

Out here the sun goes on rising every day, same as New York City, except the shadows look more like palm trees and less like oblong buildings.

I've been cleaning bird crap off a little boat named Kim that belonged to my uncle and hasn't been touched for four years. Guy's gotta do something to keep in shape. I row out, unlock the cabin and take out the scrub brushes. A Sunday ago I sat in the afternoon sun pumping gallons and gallons of water out of the algae-covered cabin, another thing that needed to be done before the boat becomes sailable.

Last weekend I learned (whew!) that some bird(s) over the years had made a nest of the loosely covered sail. I was scrubbing the deck when I bumped against the sail, heard a pop and soon after caught a whiff of one of those unforgettable scents. Perfume companies would have you believe that vanilla or bergamot or night-blooming jasmine are unforgettable scents. Rotten eggs are an aroma I won't soon forget.

So I unfurled the sail, doused most of it in the water and scrubbed it clean, brought the sail cover home in the back of the pickup for the washing machine. My nephew, 13, was down here a few weeks ago and was also interested in cleaning Kim. Together we found a bird's nest in the stern of the boat, back where the engine would be. Two eggs were in it. He nicked one of them as he threw it overboard. "Man, did I do that?" he asked as the sulfurous bouquet of rotten egg came up to greet us. A few buckets of water had that one solved. I sent my sister a note to tell him about these.

Anyhow, Sunday was pumping day, and I left the bottom of the boat dry. I was gratified this week to get back to the boat and find her still dry. Good news welcome in any measure.

After pumping, got back in the rowboat, and toodled along past fishermen on docks, past couples floating along on a Sunday afternoon, past a dog who'd lost his ball in the water (I fetched it). There are sailboats and pleasure craft of all sizes in Newport Harbor; I whiled away summers here growing up and drop back into the pace the way a tooth sinks back into a cob of corn. Some things you never forget. There's a continuity of purpose. I rowed along the bayfront for about an hour as the sun wandered toward the horizon, dodging under bridges and skirting little beaches both public and private.

Back home then, a half-hour drive up Pacific Coast Highway a little after sunset, surfers returning home, jaywalking across the highway to where their cars are parked. In the '50s they just stashed their woodies here; today they park Celicas at meters the city has installed. But time hasn't changed the core of the beach, the water, the waves, the salt sand. (I smell the salt air blowing through my apartment, maybe five minutes up the hill from the beach in Long Beach.)

I was going to swing by the Persian restaurant to finally sample their vegetarian fare, but they'd closed before I got there, so I settled for Sushi Saurus instead. In NYC on 23rd Street it was Monster Sushi; my standard order was a New York Roll and a Godzilla Roll. (The place was named Godzilla Sushi when it opened, but the lawyers at the Toho company sent a stiff-necked letter and forced a name change.) In LB today it's Sushi Saurus on 2nd Street, down by the water, and the rolls I favor are Stinky (garlic, onions, etc.) and Crunchy (California Roll with tempura).

And home, to put Johnny Cash in the stereo, live at San Quentin and (I didn't make up the term) re-released. Uncensored, back to the original sequence, etc., perfect for sushi as my muscles cool into hardened knots. There's a jacuzzi downstairs (it's a California apartment, after all), but I settle for a hot shower and a quick call to Mom before I collapse. I stand under the hot water and think about yoga. I start out thinking my neck is stiff, then I realize the stiffness comes from my shoulders, which were doing all the work today. I found a decent class Sunday mornings, but that's a week away.


And I was at Togo's tonight, the California sandwich shop that no New York deli could quite match, and their new napkins say "Sure, kiss me now, but it's only a matter of time before you treat me like garbage."

Don't forget to write!

8/14/00 (note to Saroja):

All the loose bird crap has been scrubbed off; some hardened stuff remains, but it's not nearly as smelly as before.

The inside of the boat has been pumped dry; we'll see how long it takes to refill.

Not only was there a nest in the stern of the boat (engine compartment), but this weekend I found some bird had been laying eggs in the front part of the rolled sail, which led to a certain odor problem. I scrubbed the sail as well as I could, but it still smells a bit. I brought the sail cover home and ran it through the washing machine a few times: much improved.

Lines still need to be replaced; the engine still needs to be seated properly. We have the key to the boat, and jib and main are on board. After getting the engine in order and sorting out some plumbing issues (why the bilge pump doesn't work, why the cockpit doesn't drain), next step is to rig it and see what else is missing.

Battery came home last night, to be replaced with a new one (warranty ran out on this in '99, plus it hadn't been used, so I imagine it's shot), and I want to get some webbing to keep birds off the boat in the indefinite future.

8/15/00 (note to my sister):

Here's one for Chris: He'll remember the eggs we found in the back of Kim, and the righteous aroma one of them put out when he accidentally dinged it against the gunwale when he threw them over the side. Well, guess what I found, to my great surprise, in the loosely rolled sail? Yup, sure enough, someone had made it into a nest. No sticks or twigs, just eggs--and from the looks of things, at least one or two had hatched in there, warmed by the sun no doubt. I didn't examine the results too closely, but I saw feathers. And there were three or four other eggs in there that had not hatched. Mmmm, they smelled good!

In fact, that's how I found the eggs--I was scrubbing the deck and brushed up against the boom with the handle of my broom. I heard a little pop! and suddenly my nostrils filled with a warm, nasty, salty, rotten smell. (Remind Chris he cracked only one egg. There were three or four in here.) Immediately I grew suspicious, so I took the sail cover off and started inspecting. It only got better as I unrolled everything. Feathers everywhere, and the wind blowing that luscious odor all around. Mmmmm!

So I threw everything overboard that I could, and scrubbed down the sail real good with salt water; in fact, I just threw the end of it into the water for a while and let it soak. I had needed to wash the sail cover anyhow, so I brought it home--in the back of the pickup, mind you, not in the cab. A couple of hot cycles in the washing machine seemed to fix most of its problems.

And now, with all the loose crap scrubbed off the boat, and the other sources of foul stench tracked down and eradicated, it's a lot easier to work on her. You can walk around, first of all, without going "ick" at every step. We got the cabin unlocked and open and (now) pumped out, and I scrubbed the slimy algae off the cabin floor. We'll see how long it takes for it to refill. I have to pick up some new line for the halyard and pull it through with the old halyard. Probably there will be some other lines to replace, and there are always more things to fix--running lights to install, the engine to remount, a tear in the sail, netting to throw over the deck so birds won't sit there. But the boat's doing much better, and there's even a chance she maight sail again before the summer's over. We'll see what happens.

So give my love to everyone, and tell Chris the last one in's a rotten egg. And come back real soon!

Kim Home . . . Part II . . . Part III

Highway 127 . . . Desert . . . Town . . . Football
Balboa Island . . . Ferries and Pavilion . . . Beaches . . . Kim
New Year's . . . Bluesmobile . . . Whaling . . . The Prayer Wheel
Tall Ships . . . Santa Barbara Island Hop . . . Minding the Train

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