boat moving: the saga

Thank goodness that’s over. What a stressmare.

On Wednesday I received the following email from one of the rowing coaches:
“Hello Paula

I have been announced by the government that all the boats have to
move away this week or they will move by themselves, because of
dragonboat festival.They will put it back after that.”

(He meant the city government would move the boats themselves. We have not yet achieved self-propelled rowing shells, unfortunately.)

Now, this is progress, because any of the other times the boats have been moved we were not informed in advance. However, this year we’ve met Henry, another local rowing coach (from a school) who is both very nice and speaks good English, so he was being kind to send this notice along. However, every time the government has moved our boat they’ve come back with new dents and dings – the last time, Ted’s Empacher needed repairs to be even rowable.

My boat was not a problem; One of Henry’s kids borrowed it and scratched the paint, so he’s taking it to an automotive place to get the scratches repainted. He’ll just leave it there during the festival. Also, as an open water boat it’s sturdy as rowing shells go and has an excellent cover that completely surrounds the boat. Ted’s Empacher prima donna, though, is more fragile and has a sucky cover that leaves the top deck exposed. (Boats are usually stored upside down.) Ted reallyreally didn’t want the government to hurt it again.

Ted, may I point out, is also in the Netherlands racing the Elfstedentocht this weekend.

Moving the boats would have been no big deal in AZ, where we had a good rack, a Hummer to mount it to, and a big back yard, though. Here, though, my assets included a rack we’d never used, an SUV wth built in rack whose bars are way too close together to support a 27′ boat well and which are too wide to fit the U-bolts that came with the boat rack, and no yard. There is no way a truck with boat on top could get through the snail-spiral entrance to our apartment garage – I probably couldn’t even carry it down – and nowhere really to put it in the garage. However, I did have one other asset: lots of people willing to help.

I panicked a bit and was tempted to let the government deal with it because no other options seemed really feasible, but Ted was very worried about his boat. Fortunately he has one guy in his group who is both very handy and very familiar with our logistics and warehouse facility, and they’d talked about possible boat moving an storage options. Further, I have to meet a few people in my group at our office this weekend, to give them a ride to a group barbeque, so I’d have extra hands to help unload the boat. I talked to one who agred to help, and later asked another about the legalities of driving with something sticking out over both ends of the car. (He googled around a bit, but didn’t find much.)

Just when it was beginning to look somewhat possible, it turned out that when the Taipei city government said to move the boats this week, they meant THIS WEEK, as in before the weekend. Henry found out Tuesday and the boats were originally supposed to be moved Wednesday (apparently they told his school and the school didn’t tell him). The boats hadn’t been moved by the time Henry left the river Wednesday (he told me in subsequent emails), so he thought they’d actually be moved on Friday.

So now I had one day to get the rack assembled and mounted and the boat moved. Also, it’s really not easy to get a boat on a cartop single-handed; when you’re my size it’s not really possible without the risk of a few more scratches.

That’s where the people asset came in. The guy in Ted’s group, R, took me to talk to the logistics people who own the warehouse. The manager suggested a place for the boat had someone in her group email me the proper “Non-Inventory Storage Form”. (Are you counting? That’s six people helping so far.) R spent a lot of effort (and scrounged a few parts), figuring out how to mount the rack on the car (it had come missing a few bolts – apparently the Chinese (China-Chinese, not Taiwan) company I bought it from concentrates their quality control on the actual boats,
which at least is the right priority). He went off and got things ready, then we spent a sweaty hour or so assembling and mounting the rack. I left work early – with my boss’s permission since we don’t have flex-time here (Seven people) – and drove to where the boats were stored by the river, listening for creaks and watching for motion in the rack.

I was pretty nervous by then, knowing that the trickiest bit of driving would be getting from the river to my apartment – narrow roads, lots of turns, rush hour. On the way home, though, I saw one of the most vivid rainbows I’ve ever seen, and about the first one I’ve seen here. When I first saw it, it ended spectacularly right at the Taipei 101 building. That made me feel a lot better – whether you view rainbows from a purely religious viewpoint (a promise from God that everything will be all right) or a purely secular one (a reminder that there are wonders in this world) they are calming.

The rowing coach (I already counted him) met me there and helped put the boat on the rack, clearly as much of a veteran at this as I am. He showed me a way out of the park that didn’t involve crossing three lanes of traffic and making a U-turn, and followed me home to watch the back end of the boat nad keep anyone from getting too close. We got there to find part of the street closed but fortunately not until after my building. I parked on the street in a spot that’s legal after 8. It was only 6 PM but it’s a tiny steet and the building guard (eight) was there to watch. Henry explained the boat thing to him, and then left.

After all that I erged, so I could get up early and not have to do it this morning. I was on the road before 6:30 – not only less traffic but fewer cops. I parked in back of the office, diagonally across a few spots that are usually empty, then worked until people came in. No one in my group had seen either a rowing shell or the warehouse area, so five people came with me to get the warehouse people (who only speak Chinese) to open the door and help carry the boat in. (Nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen – fourteen people helping, counting the warehouse guy.) We got the boat in and the rack dismounted, I returned a wrench I’d borrowed from R, and got back to my desk – just in time to wash my hands, get a drink, and go teach a class to some of Ted’s people. (Never marry a manager, they make you work. Remember that this was not my boat.)

I’m sure this was all tiring to read. You can imagine what it was like to live. Now at least it’s all done for a few weeks – after that we’ll load up both boats and take them out to store in the boathouse at Ilan. It’s an hour’s drive away but there’s a boathouse and a real dock so at least we’ll get on the water sometimes. At least there will be two of us for that operation; somehow this stuff always happens when Ted is away.

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