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Thursday, July 07, 2011

July 7, 2011-The Reincarnation of Osler Marie

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Osler Departing

It’s howling out tonight as it has been for three days and cold and I’m sitting here listening to the wind and feeling Wings shake in the gusts and thinking of Osler out there sailing.

I watched the 54 foot Osler leave on Saturday with the paint still wet and gear stacked on deck and though it was calm on that day I feared a little for them then and more so tonight. The coast of Africa is a harsh environment for an unfinished boat and a raw crew and this cold wind and rain that came in means they are probably having a rough time of it.

Two months ago it was just a cold iron hulk moored in the slip next to us with 6 inches of barnacles on the hull. The steel ketch, looking like a derelict, was called Osler Marie back then. It seemed like just another of the many big, strong and silent steel boats you see in South Africa. They remind me of the big, strong and silent steel Afrikaners who build them.

Then Villem and Johan showed up said they had bought the boat and were going to take it to Madagascar in July for the dive charter trade. People around here didn’t give them much chance of making it to Madagascar by July but things started to happen on Osler Marie. For one it was no longer silent. Day after day the sound of grinders and chipping hammers told the story of work being done on deck and down below, as did the stream of broken parts being carried out; windlass, engine pieces, electrical bits, and interior furniture. The deck became a war zone and I’d guess the inside always was.

The deadline was impossibly tight but I thought they might make it. For one thing they never gave up, never slowed down, and never let any obstacle stop them. Villem is a pusher, that's for sure.

When the boat was hauled out and the bottom cleaned they cut massive holes into the hull and welded in new steel. They had a table saw on the deck and a carpenter was cutting plywood for the inside. The deckhouse was removed, modified, and then re-installed. A hole was cut in the foredeck for a new hatch. The work was almost ‘round the clock’.

They re-launched late at night on the third of June, the painter spraying the hull as it moved towards the water and there was a lot of work left to do besides painting.

Then the crew showed up, kids really, dive instructors with no sailing experience. They were to go north with the boat and I think they were a little shocked when they saw Osler. Other than a shiny hull it still looked pretty much like a wreck, and in fact it did until the day they left but the kids pitched in and worked day and night.

But by July 1 Olser Marie had been re-incarnated into just 'Osler' and Villem said, “We just must go”. They threw below the rest of the equipment and food and pulled out some old sails. Villem went up the mast to secure one of the stays and Johan installed the autopilot control. I helped them rig the sails and tie down some equipment and gave them some charts and with two big dive compressors tied on the aft deck they untied the lines and left, finished or not.

We waved goodbye.

Now, with this weather, I wonder how they are doing. Without a long distance radio on board they can’t check in or even call for help, but at least they are heading north, going downwind with it, and maybe the big iron hulk of Osler will be all right, trundling toward Madagascar.

Maybe we’ll get an email from them. I hope so.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, South Africa

wingssail images-fredrick roswold
Osler Crew
Clockwise from upper left:
Johan de Jager, 67, Johannesburg, SA, Danielle Smit 25, Mnandi, SA, Villem Straus, 49, Pretoria, SA, Ruan van Wyk, 19, Pretoria, Jason Squires, 19, Mtunzini, SA

Click here for more photos of Osler

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