No, I was not out early on Monday hauling traps. I was out having smelled a not so good smell and seen a little erratic electrical activity on the volt meter. I was out listening to the engine not running and very glad the breeze was blowing away from the bluff as I waited for a tow back into the harbor.
I didn't know it yet, but I was going through alternators like Frank Sinatra and wives. All I knew was the engine quit and the key wouldn't even muster its formerly annoying but now very comforting squeal. The whole thing was unresponsive and in need of major defibrillation.
My ignorance of diesel motors-with their hulking cast iron, pipes, hoses, wires, rust, ooze and such going all ways incomprehensibly-is vast. I knew there was a breaker panel, but had not a glimmer of awareness that there was an engine circuit breaker ("port side aft of the cylinder head" "ok, what's a cylinder head?"). It didn't help that whoever spray painted the engine entirely obscured the breaker button and box.
What ensued was an unbroken sequence of paddling off the boat, driving home, calling the boat doctor, driving back down, paddling out, trying this or that diagnostic or remedial procedure. The result was ordering a new alternator.
The low point, or if you will, the boilover of my sympathetic nervous system and anxiety juices occurred this afternoon, when I tried to go the extra mile and disconnect the main power cable to make sure it wasn't fried and likely to fry another alternator. I'm no macho man, but I managed to break off a very unusual and specialized looking brass bolt from the starter. This was despair on par with Pooh getting stuck in the honey pot down in the heffalump trap, but far less endearing and full up with curses. Fortunately, the boat Doc thought I could just crank what was left together and be fine. Me, I was thinking an odd, specialized and expensive bolt must have a particular purpose. I liked his answer.
Bless the good boat docs at Art's Marine for taking all those frantic calls and getting me the new part just as I was surrendering and flying off for a couple of days of office work. Those plans got reversed in a hurry.
I had great focus and determination which withered rapidly when I got the new part mounted and could tell something was wrong. The fan was loose and flopping.
There were the tense moments of holding a tiny nut in an impossibly cramped position over a yawning and inaccessible bilge and trying to get it started with two fingers before the washer slips off, along with fervent appeals to patience and fortune. Then I had to take it off without losing it when it was clear something was amiss. And then put it back on after Clayton figured out that the washer they sent with the new unit was a few thousandths too thin and used the one off the old unit.
Many trips to Clayton's shop, requests for advise, tools. Many calls and drives to the airport. Many feelings of helplessness and of being the village idiot.
Now the crickets are chirping, kids are doing what they're supposed to which is run around outside as dusk turns to dark.
The peapod I could just row, bail out and put on a little trailer for the winter. The solar setup was simple and easy to fix. There was no engine circuit breaker anywhere aboard.
Sunday, August 17, 2014
This past week, without much forecasting hype, we had a hell of a blow. My sailing instructor acquaintance called me and said several or her boats came undone and that their float had been damaged. I began stewing and made some calls about my own vessel, but couldn't get any enlightenment. I got busy with office work and thought no more of it until I got aboard and saw my tool box tray had launched itself across the cabin. She must've been buckin' somethin' wikkid.
In August, the grass slows down. The lobsters pick up. On this Sunday morning, my muscles and I are grateful for the prohibition against hauling on Sundays from June 1 to August 31. There is time for a solitary walk around the southern shore. There is time to sit on June's porch with the brain trust and go over electronics, the physics of boat propulsion, and the convergence of law and old fashioned island lobbying efforts having succeeded on behalf of a good family in peril of losing their place.
There is time for just about my favorite and saddest downtime activity- getting rid of stuff. Fragments and broken bits of a different phase in life get carted off and recycled.
A plastic truck Ryan used to enjoy, but which is now bleached to a pale yellow on one side.
Kites that will not fly on account of aerodynamic inadequacies and missing spars.
My dead vhf marine radio, probably all functional except that it makes no sound.
Outgrown books and beach toys.
Broken things I meant to fix, but now know I won't.
Shards of the gazing ball that came from the mainland and was not appreciated except by me, and then blew off its pedestal probably to my spouse's satisfaction in an 80 mph gale one February. I dutifully picked up each and every sliver the next morning, which freakishly turned out to be sunny and placid and 50 degrees. That morning there was also a channel marker-meaning a 16' iron bell buoy designed to handle the North Atlantic- that had hopscotched its way up into the harbor and nestled, wobbling around in the surf, against a couple of shop wharves. I helped reset a metal chimney segment that had come loose. It was a beautiful morning.
The pickup truck filled up very quickly.
Tomorrow morning I expect most every boat will be out of the harbor early. I'll be out just a little after that, but I won't be the last.