Thursday, October 6, 2011

Bad Things Happen - Part 4 Heat, Humidity, and Gravity

The "Sagging Backside"
This could also have been given the title "Storage fail in San Antonio", and while it's based on a phone conversation, and I didn't see the boat with my own two eyes, this sort of thing has happened elsewhere.
So for the sake of fairness to the good people of San Antonio,
we'll call this one an "urban legend".

The captain of a classic Alden schooner once told me that
"a wooden boat is the closest thing to a living, breathing thing that man can build".
Living things need to be cared for, and if they're not handled and maintained properly, well, bad things happen.

The canal waterways of San Antonio, Texas were literally designed with gondolas in mind, and for the longest time San Antonio had a gondola -
a real Venice-built beauty that had a story of her own (a subject for another post).  Each year the boat would lead a certain parade,
piloted by a gondolier. 
As time went by, the boat spent less and less time in the water, until she finally settled into a once-a-year launch, parade, and haulout routine.
My understanding of the situation is that as time went by, there were fewer and fewer people who understood her maintenance needs as well.

The boat was being kept on a trailer, and one year after she'd done her parade duties, the San Antonio gondola was hauled out and parked in a storage yard just as she had been before...except this time, they didn't get her far enough onto the trailer. 
Much of the stern of the gondola was hanging off the end of the trailer.
A few weeks of this improper placement would probably have been ok,
but a year?
A lot can happen in a year.

Having visited San Antonio many times, I can tell you that the place is not lacking in the areas of heat and humidity.
One might describe the climate of the second largest city in Texas to be a "perfect environment for warping wood".
Seasonal temperature changes, rain, and the ever present force of gravity also joined in.

By the time someone visited the gondola, (probably in order to get her ready for her launch, parade, and haulout routine) the back of the boat looked very different. 
The guy I talked to said that it
"looked like the back third of the boat had melted".
The tip of the tail, which is supposed to be the highest point on a gondola, was about even with the rails at the front of the passenger area.
The San Antonio gondola didn't lead the parade that year,
and never saw the water again.
Very sad.

A hundred-year-old gondola in Miami met with a similar fate when she was bought by someone who had little or no knowledge of how to store a gondola. She was hung from the rafters of a warehouse by two straps.
This storage method "accentuated" the crescent shape of the boat,
but she was never the same.

Why am I sharing these tragic tales with you?
It's not to mimic the "Series of Unfortunate Events" stories, it's to educate and share what I've heard and seen.
Such an awful end should never befall a boat as special and unique as the gondola.
As I tell me daughters:
"learn from the mistakes of others, so you don't make them yourself".

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