Thursday, March 10, 2016

The Long End of a Short Winter

My boat frightens me.  Not the boat, really.  What frightens me is my ignorance of diesel injection, hydraulics, gear coolers, wet exhaust and anything fancier than a pair of oars.

The fear comes from several years of expensive surprises on days when I thought I might pay a few bills. Involuntary mooring time coupled with many calls to find out when UPS might drop the part off on the mainland so it could be flown to the island, lots of paddling across the harbor, up the ladder, into the truck and up the road and back again for the weird tool I didn’t know I needed or hadn’t even heard of before, frozen bolts in impossible to reach places, long procrastinating stares down at the rust caked greasy half ton of cast iron mystery wondering what to do. 

A positive spin might go like this: I am a ‘lifelong learner’ like they say in school.

The forecast was for near 60 degree temperatures. In the context of a feeble winter and unanimous opinions among knowledgeable fishing industry types and unqualified opinionators that the lobster runs will be early this year, a 60 degree day in March seemed like a good occasion to get a jump on my many boat maintenance and repair delinquencies.

Close Enough is waiting up on Smith Street side by each with the shrink wrapped pleasure craft, runabouts, commercial vessels and a stray Airstream Land Yacht.

Off I set on the morning ferry, full of vague dread and self conscious of my being ‘differently competent’ with boat work.

Even with all my careful mental preparation and unspooling of stressful scenarios, I had a thoroughly enjoyable day.  I realized I was very content to smell rusty diesel grease on my hands again.


There’s something to be said for the peace that comes with knowing there’s nowhere to go but up. Check out Dreamer’s Blues written by the great Steve Jones.  I doubt anyone could say it better.

After feeling like 2015 was my year to crawl out of the hole, stand up and stretch and enjoy the financial sunshine, late winter 2016 punched back hard.


My hydraulic trap hauler leaked a little last summer. Clayton helped me redo the seals and that seemed to fix the problem entirely for the season. Then at the very end of the year, the hauler began dripping larger volumes than before.  The first step is to take the whole works apart and cart the hydraulic motor to qualified service personnel on the mainland.
Then it was on to routine tasks like new zinc anodes all around. I took the gear cooler apart to try and figure out why it might seem to run hot some times and not others. There were a flew flecks of shredded pump impeller from adventures past.

The main event was to start dismantling the crumbling remains of my fuel injection lines. Art took a look and poked his finger here and there making me wince as I do when I’m worried the dentist is going to find that rotten place or touchy spot at the gum line. “That’s not leaking. I don’t know why.” A few weeks after his boat call, I received a box full of twisted tubes, nuts, washers and other items. 

I had hoped having the box of parts aboard the boat would be enough to ward off the rust gremlins, but if anything it emboldened them to chomp away at my engine all the more.

Being a lifelong learner, and confronted by a corroded bracket held in place by even more corroded little bolts, I had to learn again that the Cummins 210B has metric hardware, but that I do not have metric wrenches aboard the boat.

While taking a break, I expressed some mild disappointment at the raw 20 mile an hour wind and damp air. “You won’t get 60 degrees with a southwesterly going across 40 degree water” said Foy. Lifelong learner, I tell myself. Foy fetched me a metric socket set which did the trick and started me on my journey toward sound fuel injection components. When that’s done, I can direct my prayers and curses to other parts of the system.

The rusty grease smell makes me happy. It’s been a long short winter.