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Lots of boats come to Oriental, some tie up at the Town Dock for a night or two, others drop anchor in the harbor for a while. If you've spent any time on the water you know that every boat has a story. The Shipping News on TownDock.net brings you the stories of the boats that have visited recently.

La Gitane
Breathing New Life Into A Classic Cheoy Lee
October 4, 2010
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hile crossing the Neuse River on their 1965 Cheoy Lee ketch “La Gitane”, a summer squall overcame Kristy and Travis McGillicutty. The high winds damaged their 30-foot vessel. A day later, they made Oriental. Their dream, however, remains unscathed – restore their boat and sail to a country where they can get shore power for the 220 volt receptacles aboard their vessel. But first, some sails need patching.

La Gitane: in french, it means “gypsy”
Kristy and Travis holding a solar powered light they found in the water after Hurricane Ida. They plan to use it as their anchor light.

Patching is something Kristy and Travis do well. Whether it’s fiberglassing a hole in the bottom of their boat or sewing a new panel into a blown out jib, the couple believe that cruising and repairing an imperfect boat beats waiting for the perfect one. Even if it means traveling on a tight budget. “We may not know where our next meal comes from” says Kristy “but we don’t have to worry about the rest of the stuff like the mortgage and the crappy job”.

It seems to be working. Even if it means doing more sewing, caulking and patching than other boats out cruising.

Take the storm that overtook them recently on the Neuse.

While crossing the Neuse River on their way toward Oriental, they were listening to the radio – not the VHF but NPR. “We heard there was a storm coming” Kristy says “and then the sky went from blue to black”. “Next thing we know, the wind jumps from 20 knots” Travis says “to 60”.

VHF connection: one of the first repairs Travis tackled in Oriental was connecting his VHF radio to the antenna atop the mast. This will allow for ship-to-ship communications – and better weather forecasts.

Over the next hours, events turned chaotic aboard the 45-year old vessel. The jib snagged on the mast’s spreader, tearing the sail. The port side cockpit winch, which a previous owner had screwed, not through-bolted, to the cockpit coaming, ripped loose. The mizzen halyard, which holds the aft sail up the mast, got jammed – at the top of the spar. Which meant the sail couldn’t be lowered.

While standing on the end of the main mast’s boom to clear the jam, a wave slammed into the boat, throwing Travis onto the cockpit locker – which gave way, slicing his shin nearly to the bone.

Meanwhile, other, unseen damage, was taking place.

The McGillicuttys are traveling with two dogs, Dingus and Onyx. Of pit bull descent, the dogs have been known to chew on the couple’s vessel. The grab rail that runs along the cabin house bears tell-tale tooth marks. The toe rail that runs along the top of the hull shows evidence of a mild chewing. While the couple was struggling with their vessel and squall conditions, “Dingus” Kristy says, “chewed a hole in the genoa”.

Dingus: genoa destroyer. Kristy: sail repairer

Luckily, the genoa, a light weather sail, wasn’t deployed or needed at the time. The damage was confined to a tear and a hole in the sail’s window,the plastic opening that allows the helmsman to look through the forward part of the sail.

The squall raged. And with it came the shipboard leaks – from the ports, the stanchions, the lockers. Even the decks leaked. In an effort to repair the vessel’s leaky decks, while they were on the hard, the couple had removed much of the teak decking. They just hadn’t gotten around to plugging the holes and making the repair permanent. Belowdecks, everything was soaked.

“That’s why they call it a “Cheoy Leaky”“ Travis says.

Work in progress: Though solid, La Gitane’s decks admit a certain amount of water.
Drying out at the town dock

But they made it through the blow.

After a few hours, the weather moderated and the couple decided to head for shore, look for a place to anchor. With darkness falling, and without a spotlight to look for aids to navigation, Kristy says they “waited for the lightening to illuminate the markers” leading to an anchorage in the South River. The next day, they made Oriental.

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Posted Monday October 4, 2010 by Bernie Harberts

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