Midsummer's Eve

Part II

The Launch

Reginald Rabbit was responsible for making the sails for the boat. Bartholomew had given him detailed sketches. There were three sails, one mainsail and two foresails. The largest was about fifteen feet high. He ordered a lightweight canvas material, and it had already been delivered. The widest piece that the swans could carry was three feet. Reginald would have to cut and sew the material together to create the large sizes needed. That was not an unusual practice in sail-making, but it was the first time he would be doing it.

A special heavy duty thread was to be used. His sewing machines were not powerful enough to handle the thread, so the sewing would have to be done by paw (hand).

Rhonda was in charge of the dyeing. She gathered the ingredients necessary to make a large quantity of dark red dye. It was primarily cranberry juice.

It was early June, and the weather was perfect for working outdoors. Reginald spread the canvas pieces on the ground near the flower garden. He made three separate groups. Then, with a pencil and measuring tape, he outlined the shapes of the sails on the canvas.

Shortly after he began, a bumblebee flew by and landed on a fence post not far from Reginald. Three more bees followed the first. They lined up on the post, left to right, and looked at the canvas pieces. Reginald knew something about bees and noticed that the four bees were queens. In all likelihood, they were from Rhonda’s garden.

Reginald acknowledged them but continued working. Every now and then, the bees would leave the fence post and hover over a piece of canvas for a while. They certainly were showing interest in the project.

At the end of the day, the bees left and flew back to their nests. They returned the following days and continued to watch as the sail-making progressed. Reginald thought that was interesting but had no idea about their purpose. As we shall see later, the bees did have a purpose in mind.

Reginald continued cutting and sewing. Rhonda helped, also. After three days the sails were finished and ready for dyeing. This operation required the whole Rabbit family and more. The neighboring Squirrel family (Sedgewick, Sofie, Shane, and Seely) was recruited to help.

First, the sails needed to be stretched out flat on the ground. The mainsail looked something like a large tilted rectangle. The other two were smaller triangles. The nine animals surrounded one of the triangular sails, grabbed its edges, and pulled. Then, Reginald pulled one corner over a peg he had pushed in the ground. The other two corners were also pegged. Everyone took a small paint brush and soaked the sail with the dark red dye. That went pretty well. They did the same to the mainsail.

Then, they began dyeing the remaining triangular sail. As they were finishing, Rhonda saw that one edge was not flat on the ground. She asked the squirrels if they could straighten it. The four squirrels lined up and yanked on the edge. It moved a little. “Just a little more, please,” Rhonda requested. One more yank. Splang! Flap!

The far corner slipped off its peg and flew towards them. It didn’t reach them, but the dye did. Splat! Splat! Splat! Splat! Four bewildered, cranberry-coloured squirrels stood there dripping dark red. The rabbits tried not to laugh.

Then, Shane licked his lips and yelled, “Hey, this stuff tastes pretty good.”

The others licked their lips and completely agreed. A lot of licking followed. It was the most delicious bath the children had ever had. Their parents felt the same but wouldn’t admit it. After licking, the squirrels were still pretty sticky, so they went down to the water and took a quick dip. With some shaking and more licking, they were “bright eyed and bushy tailed” again.

While the squirrels were cleaning up, Reginald repegged the loose sail, and the rabbits put more dye on it.

“I think we’re done for today,” Reginald said. “Let’s let them dry, and we’ll do the other sides tomorrow.”

The following day, the group assembled again and completed the dyeing. All went well, but Shane was hoping for another cranberry bath. The sails dried beautifully and were very impressive. Reginald sent a message to the ducks that the sails were ready for transport to the cove.

The following morning, the ducks arrived with the raft. Together, the ducks and rabbits were able to carry and load the sails. The raft was just big enough. The ducks pushed off from the dock and headed across the pond with their important cargo.

Bartholomew and the beavers were on the dock when the raft and sails came into view. It was an impressive sight. This was going to be the most beautiful boat in the world. The mast and sails had been the main parts that remained to be completed. With the sails now finished, they could be assembled with their beams and rigging.

The beavers helped the ducks unload the sails, and they placed them in a safe location. Morris Muskrat’s cottage was only a short distance away, and he came down with tea and pastries for everyone. After the snack the ducks left as they had other pickups and deliveries to make.

The dead trees had provided some very good wood for the boat. However, the mast required the best possible piece, and the straightest tree was saved for that honor. After two days of cutting and sanding, the new mast was ready for installation, perfectly straight and twenty feet long. It tapered from a six-inch diameter at the base to four inches at the top. It would be a delicate job moving the big mast into position and securing it to the boat.

The mast was rolled to the dock and placed parallel to the hull. Bartholomew went to the hoist, turned the handle, and lowered the hook to the ground. Burton connected the hook to the top of the mast, and Bartholomew slowly turned the hoist handle clockwise. The mast end began to rise. As it rose, its base slid along the dock. The beavers made sure that it slid in a straight line, still parallel to the hull. After about two minutes the mast stood straight up and resting on the dock.

“Great!” Burton said.

Next Bartholomew raised the mast higher until it cleared the side of the boat. The beavers kept it from swinging and guided it to the center of the boat deck. Now, Bartholomew lowered it through a hole they had cut in the center. The beavers pushed the base into a special fixture in the bottom of the hull. Then, they secured it to the hull and boat deck. For extra safety the top of the mast was tied to two trees.

The animals stood and gazed at their boat. How wonderful!

Bartholomew said, “This is an important accomplishment. Thank you everybody. Let’s take the rest of the day off, but please be back at 8 bongs tomorrow morning.”

The next morning, Bartholomew was the first to arrive, he thought. When he walked over to the design plans table, he found he was not the first. The same four queen bees were sitting next to the plans. Bartholomew was not too surprised to see the bees because Reginald had told him about them. Still, this was not something that happened everyday.

He said, “Good morning, Queens. Welcome!”

Then, he began to look at the day’s schedule. The bees didn’t move and continued to watch.

When the beavers got there, Bartholomew mentioned the bees to them. They walked over to the table and stared at the bees. The bees stared back at them. They were wary of each other.

When Bartholomew said, “Okay, let’s get to work,” the staring contest ended. It was a tie.

The next three days were spent preparing the boat for the mounting of the sails. That involved attaching beams, rigging, and other fixtures. The parts were already made, and the hoist was a great help again.

The bees stayed and watched as the work progressed. Occasionally, they flew around the boat in order to get a better view. Each evening they flew back to their garden and returned in the morning. Late on the third day, the rigging was complete. Tomorrow, the sails!

In the morning, the sails were rolled up, lifted into place, and secured with ropes and ties. Since they were to be operational, that meant that they had to raise, lower, and rotate. Installing them proved easier than expected, and that task was completed by evening. Each sail was raised, lowered, and rotated several times, and they performed perfectly. They were then left in the lowered position.

Essentially, the boat was finished (except for some furniture, etc.) and ready for launch.

The team began the launch attempt the following day. The plan called for making the dock very slippery with oil and sliding the boat into the water. Earlier, the swans had brought a quantity of cooking oil. The beavers spread a generous amount where the boat made contact with the dock. They did the best they could to push it underneath. Then, they placed planks on each side of the boat to keep it from tipping as it moved.

“Okay, good,” said Bartholomew. “Now let’s get behind it, and try to push it into the water.”

Morris, Bartholomew, and the five beavers got behind the boat.

Bartholomew yelled, “Push!”

Nothing happened.

“Push!”

Nothing happened.

It wasn’t going to move. There was too much weight and too much friction between the boat and the dock. The bees were not impressed.

“Unfortunately, this is not going to work,” said Bartholomew.

Everyone was disappointed.

“I don’t know if it is strong enough, but let’s try to use the hoist to raise the boat off of the dock. We can then dismantle the dock and lower the boat into the pond.”

There were openings in the railings along the sides of the deck. They connected four ropes to these openings and ran them to the hook of the hoist.

Bartholomew went to the hoist handle and told everyone to stand well clear. He turned it, and the ropes tightened. He kept turning, and it became obvious that everything was straining. The boat lifted slightly. Snap! Snap! Snap! Snap! All four ropes snapped at the same time. The ropes flew up into the air, and the boat went in the opposite direction. It crashed onto the dock, cracking it in several places. The good news was that the boat was now two inches closer to the water than before. The bad news was that the dock was a mess, and this method had also failed. At least, the boat was not damaged and was still held securely by the planks. The bees were not impressed.

Bartholomew said, ”I’m sorry everyone. It’s getting late. We will try again in the morning.”

They said goodnight, and the beavers and bees left. Bartholomew and Morris stared at the boat. After a while Bartholomew said, “Perhaps we can saw the dock away. If we start removing the horizontal boards in front of the boat, eventually, it will have to slip into the water.”

“Yes, but will it happen the way we want it to happen without any damage?” asked Morris.

They pondered the potential problems for a while:



The next morning everyone was there by 8 bongs. Bartholomew told them of the new plan. No one had any objections or a better idea.

Step 1: They ensured that boards and ropes were in place to prevent the boat from tipping

Step 2: They spread additional oil underneath

Step 3: They attached additional ropes to keep the boat from floating away

Morris and Burton did the sawing. The bow was not in contact with the first three boards. These were easily removed.

When they cut away the fourth board, it splashed into the water and a couple of creaks were heard, but that was all.

When they cut away the fifth board, the bow sank slightly, and there was more creaking.

The sixth board — the same.

The seventh board — the same.

The eighth board — the same.

The ninth board — the same.

The tenth board — not the same.

Just after the tenth board was cut away, the boat began to move on its own, down and forward. The remaining boards of the dock split in slow motion, and it slipped into the water.

Everyone cheered. The bees, who were on the boat, fluttered up and down and then flew off towards their garden.

The HMS Ballymore had been launched, finally.

Even though floating among broken pieces of dock, it was still beautiful and an impressive construction feat.

The team cleaned up the shattered wood and tied their new boat to the piers. Bartholomew stayed with her the rest of the day. As a matter of fact, he slept on the deck that night. It was the best night’s sleep he had gotten in a long time.

Early the next morning, Bartholomew was awakened by Morris. Morris and Birk had made the furniture for the boat. It was Birk’s first furniture assignment, and he did a great job. Morris was bringing pieces to the boat.

He was surprised to see Bartholomew already there.

“Bart, you certainly got here early.”

“Good morning. I never left,” laughed Bartholomew. “I always wanted to sleep on a boat and now I have.”

“How was it?”

“Quiet, peaceful, gentle rocking,” he answered. “Perfectly wonderful! I would recommend it for anyone.”

Bartholomew helped Morris place the furniture on the deck. When finished, the two friends slowly walked back to Morris’s cottage for breakfast. They couldn’t help but look back several times. Only one more week remained until Midsummer’s Eve.

That night, Bartholomew was on his rounds. It was warm for June, and he glided easily. The boat was finished except for a few minor details, and it had been successfully launched. That was a major accomplishment for Ballymore, and he was very pleased.

As he approached the northeast corner of the pond, she came into view as expected. However, he was surprised to see that her sails were up. As he got closer, he also saw some figures scurrying around the deck, and one of the rope ties had been taken off its buoy. He flew to the boat, dove, and landed on the deck. As he did, two figures ran behind some boxes. He spotted one tail sticking out. It looked a lot like a weasel tail.

“Wilde and Wilder come out here right now,” he said sternly. At first nothing happened, but then both weasels crawled from behind the boxes and stood before him with their heads bowed.

“I know you are very interested in the boat, but do either of you know how to sail?”

They shook their heads, no.

“Just as I thought. A lot of work has gone into building this boat, and it would be a shame if it were damaged by inexperienced sailors. Don’t you agree?”

“Yes, sir,” they both answered.

“After the boat is officially presented next week, we will offer sailing classes, which you are most welcome to join. Then, you can learn how to properly operate the boat and enjoy it with everybody else.”

“Thank you, sir,” said Wilde. “We didn’t know about the classes, and we didn’t mean any harm. The boat is so beautiful.”

“Yes, she is,” said Bartholomew. “Wilder, retie that line, and Wilde, help me lower these sails.”

In short order, the boat was restored to normal.

“Now boys, go and continue your legitimate duties,” said Bartholomew.

“Yes, sir,” Wilde said, and they left quickly. Bartholomew smiled and thought how he too would enjoy sailing the boat. All in good time. All in good time.