On Living Aboard
After experiencing one of the warmest winters ever, even though the temperature did bounce up and down, Old Man Winter gave us one last slap in the face. And I’m delighted to report that the winter cover remained in place! This was mostly due to the wind keeping snow off the plastic. The biggest change this year was that I used a different kind of tape to seal the cover to the hull, the major weakness in the old system. A while back when I was flying home from a consulting gig, the plane seemed to be sitting on the tarmac for an extraordinarily length of time. Glancing out the window, I saw several mechanics doing something on the wing. Upon a closer look I saw what looked like duct tape being applied to a seam. I was astounded! Duct tape? I almost asked to get off the plane. For the duration of the trip, from Atlanta, Georgia to Hartford, Connecticut, I would gaze out the window at that patch of tape from time to time, amazed that it remained in place in spite of the five hundred mile an hour or so speed. Needless to say, the flight was quite uneventful. Sometime later, I mentioned the experience to a commercial pilot friend of mine. “Jack.” I asked. “Why in the world would an airline use duct tape on an aircraft?” He chuckled, “It’s not duct tape. It’s a special tape that’s used for temporary repair called ‘Speed Tape.’ Duct tape is never used, nor is it even stocked in our company. “This stuff is very expensive and will expand and contract with changes in temperature.” His explanation made me feel a bit safer flying. Thinking about this stuff this past autumn, I looked around to see if I could find any. Speed tape is very expensive. I saw some advertised priced at several hundred dollars for a four inch wide roll. A bit beyond what I wanted to pay. I did find some a lot cheaper, although not designed for the big planes, and I bought a couple two inch wide rolls to be used on the winter cover. I am smiling as I type this, because applying this tape to fasten the plastic to Patty O’s hull solved the problem of wind getting under the plastic and ripping it off the frame. With Patty O’ secure in her summer slip, and with the little boat, Mustard, in the adjoining slip we are ready for summer. Both boats look very good this season. Patty O’ with her sparkling topsides and Mustard with her hull finished bright can, and will, turn even the most discerning eye. The summer cruising plans hopefully will involve a trip to the lower cape, out to Martha’s Vineyard, on to Nantucket, and a gander offshore around the rips to the east of Cape Cod, then stopping at ‘P’ town for a day or so for the first time since we were T-boned by a trawler while at anchor there years ago. Through the canal and then spending a few quiet days visiting Cuttyhunk island. We’ve made this same trip before but for one reason or another haven’t in a few years. It’ll be a new experience having Mustard along, and we’re looking forward to some exploring with the little boat that was not easily done with Patty O’, or the little eight foot inflatable dingy we carry on the sun deck. I have also been helping my friend Ritchie with his boat. He has a Luhrs 32 sedan cruiser that was new in 1970. He has been slowly, over the years, giving her a complete rebuild. This is the year that he has decided to replace the original Chrysler gasoline engines with diesel, which is going to be the most expensive project on the boat to date. The Chryslers run well, but they are very thirsty and are getting a bit long in the tooth. After an extensive internet search, coupled with lots of questions, Ritchie found a pair of rebuilt Perkins 6-354 engines on eBay, of all places. They were located in New Jersey, which made it relatively easy to take a day trip to check them out. Another plus was that they came with V drives, the same as the Chryslers that were coming out. Ritchie asked me to come along, mostly for moral support. While I feel confident performing maintenance on Patty O’s two Cummins main engines, in no way am I qualified to judge older engines that have been rebuilt. For that job, Roger came along. He’s been in the diesel repair business for a long time and it would be very hard for anything amiss to sneak by him. On a Wednesday morning, at seven thirty, after breakfast at the hash house near the boat yard, we headed south. We were in Ritchie’s box truck, which was more suited to the cabinets and furniture that came out of his shop than diesel engines. As anyone who drives I-95 south knows, the closer you get to the ‘City’, the more the road shows its age, being totally inadequate for the volume of today’s traffic. Passing over the George Washington Bridge, we got on the New Jersey Turnpike: destination, Manahawkin. New Jersey does not allow trucks the size of Ritchie’s on the Garden State Parkway, which would have been nice, because the Garden State passes close to Manahawkin. Instead, we had to travel a ways cross state on secondary roads to get where we were going. After an early lunch, Ritchie called the engine guy, who gave us local directions, and then, after some discussion agreed to meet us, when he realized that his directions had the potential of getting us lost forever. After leading us through lots of turns and twists, we arrived at his shop. Roger checked both engines over and the seller started each in turn. As I said before, I am not a diesel engine expert, but on the outside these looked pretty good. The deal was settled and, with the help of an overhead hoist, we got both of them loaded and secured into Ritchie’s truck. These engines weigh a bit over a thousand pounds each. Ritchie’s truck is rated for two tons, but I don’t think I’d want to have any more weight in there than this. The trip back was uneventful, if you can call any trip through NYC uneventful. There were the usual crazies, but once past New Haven, the traffic thinned out and the last fifty miles were a breeze. Ritchie decided to leave the engines in his truck overnight and unload them in the morning. Next day, I drove to Ritchie’s house and followed him to the boatyard in his Dodge Ram pickup. Ray lifted each one out and loaded the first one into the Dodge with the yard’s forklift. Getting them to Ritchie’s barn where he has a chain fall took two trips. It was noon by the time both were secured. Heading over to the Marina where Ritchie keeps his boat after lunch, we discussed how the project was going to go down. “They told me that they would tow me over to the maintenance dock.” He said. “Then, they will pull both engines and give me time to see what’s going to be needed. Hopefully, the job won’t be too bad in as much as diesel engines, in fact these particular model Perkins, were an option when the boat was new.” I suggested that he replace the fuel tanks at the same time. We did that when Patty O’s engines were replaced and if nothing else, gave piece of mind. In our case, I’d opted for two 150 gallon tanks, mostly because at the time, the plans were to make some long trips. Those plans are still on the table, it’s just that good things take time. After some thought, and asking my opinion, Ritchie decided on a single 150 gallon tank. “It’s not likely that we’ll be heading for the Bahama’s.” he said. “I can’t imagine us being more than fifty miles or so from a gas station.” It took two days of work to get the engines out, the fuel tank pumped and removed and the whole area cleaned. Meanwhile, Ritchie took the measurements for the new fuel tank to the same fabricator that built Patty O’s tanks. There would be a three week wait. The following weekend, we invited Ritchie and Linda to join us for a Block Island weekend. We don’t usually invite guests for overnight trips, but Ritchie and Linda are special people, and know boats. We anchored in the salt pond away from all the rowdies. It used to be that the fun ramped up at the Block around the 4th of July. But it’s beginning earlier, or I’m getting older. In any event, it was a good trip. We towed Mustard and had a good time checking out all the boats in the pond. On Saturday, we ran around the northern end of the island and popped into old harbor. It was just the way it’s always been, and that’s a good thing. “That was fun.” she said, as we sat in the cockpit Sunday night after we got back, enjoying an ice tea. “It sure was.” I replied.