Friday, Afton, mast down day, 10/2/20

Night at the Afton City Docks looking into the St Croix River
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Work and no travel day in Afton

Afton transient docks located at the outer most rivers edge of the Windmill Marina in Afton MN, not my most favorite docks to spend a night. They are city owned docks run by the Afton House not Windmill. Because they jut out into the St Croix River bay in Afton, they are susceptible to all the rolling waves from boat traffic and weather patterns. They are probably fine for their original design; 2-3 hour stays by boaters who stop for food and drinks and then move on, $5 an hour. Overnight dockage is extremely expensive and based on my 2019 experience when my boat got beat up during a night storm, I’m happy to spend only 2 nights this year so I can access the Marina’s Gin Pole to hoist and drop my mast. I’ve only found two Gin Poles between Pepin and St Paul, one at Lake City and this one in Afton so here I am at Afton. 

Planning to find a new marina for 2021, quite probably Barkers Island in Superior WI means the boat has to be transported without the mast up. Plus, taking it down every winter allows inspection, care and maintenance on the rigging and mechanical parts of the mast. I like that idea better than subjecting it to the rigors of winter. Just the way I am, I guess. 

After breakfast on the boat and a walk to the main office to be sure I can rent some space at the gin pole I motor over to the dock where the gin pole is located, tie up and start the process. Lots of cotter pins and mechanical attachments to be loosened and undone. The gin pole is just a tall pole with a hand crank winch attached and a line that wraps around the mast under the spreaders so the mast can be lifted off the deck and suspended and then carefully lowered onto the deck. This process is a bit tricky when done alone. To use this winch, you have to climb a stairway to get to the winch and then climb back down when needed as the process happens. I usually tie a line to the lower end of the mast to help control that end but because I haven’t done this in a bunch of years I didn’t get the lower line quite right so the mast tried to slip out of the upper line and almost crash onto the deck, saved it at the last moment by grabbing a spreader and some rigging just in the nick. 

After that, the rest is just disassembly and strap the mast to my temporary winter storage deck mounts. 

My wife, Vera came down to collect some of the extra gear off the boat and have lunch which was nice. A little more room to move inside the tiny cabin and a few less trips to haul gear once I get to Watergate Marina. 

Next up, check fuel level to make sure I can make the full trip to St Paul. I was surprised to see that there was only 2-3 gallons left after a hearty trip up from Pepin. Most fuel I think I’ve ever used in that short a time span. 

I motored over to the fuel dock only to find they had no diesel fuel even though there is a giant sign advertising both gas and diesel. Not good, no diesel at Prescott either. That means my only option is a gas station about 2 miles north of the marina and I have feet for transportation. Off I start walking and about 45 minutes or more I’m buying a 5-gallon diesel fuel container and 5 gallons of fuel. The walk back is not fun, 50 pounds of fuel and a long walk. Thankfully a Subaru stops and asks if I would like a ride, why YES! As I get in, the driver says he just finished a joint, hope you don’t mind the smell. I can only chuckle to myself and say hell no. He drives me back within about a block of the boat, closest parking lot and drops me. As we were driving, he introduced himself, his name is Christian! 

The rest of the afternoon was boring, tidying up for tomorrows long trip to St Paul, light dinner snack, some journaling, reading and off to sleep hoping for a calm, restful night. 

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