On Living Aboard
Winter never seemed to end, poking us in the side several times more before settling into the history books. We learned new weather terms from the talking weather heads like, “vortex” and “bomb cyclone” which, not all that long ago would have been referred to as a strong, “Nor’easter”. Mustard, the little Century runabout, is in the water with a new steering system and a new fuel tank, some five gallons smaller than the old one. Custom made of stainless steel, it fits perfectly and when full reduces Mustard’s weight by thirty pounds. This little boat is such a delight to operate and while she is now completely up to modern standards, she looks just the way she did when new in 1953. Once past the usual Patty O’s spring touchup and survey adventure, it was time to take a long hard look at what was going to have to be done to get the new heating system up and going. My friend Ritchie and I spent almost a day going over everything we needed to do to install the system according to the manufacturer’s specifications. In order to put the warranty in force, strict adherence to the above had to be followed, and the final approval would be made after an inspector from the company came out to check the installation. The representative I worked with was obviously not impressed when I said I was quite capable of installing the system myself thank you very much, and I refused to accept a list of authorized installation company’s. Once the job was completed, Ritchie and I both figured that it would have added considerably to the final cost. It became obvious early on that there was no need for the boat to come out of the water for the job. And then a bonus: the Blonde, my wife was going to be away for at least a week trouble shooting a project for her firm that was taking far too long. She is an architect with an undergraduate degree in structural engineering, and is very good at what she does, especially bailing out those who have gotten in over their heads. This time, it was to Muncie, Indiana where her company was doing the planning on a complete remodel of an old hotel, bring it up to today’s standards while maintaining its vintage look and feel. While the customer hadn’t seen it yet, the people on site could see that they were getting into trouble. Things were falling into place very well. The Monday after I dropped the Blonde off at the airport, the truck with all the furnace parts arrived at the yard a little after ten AM. It took about forty minutes to inventory all the stuff making sure everything was in order. The furnace itself was mounted in the engine compartment, next to the generator. Moving most of the stuff out of the salon made it much easier to lift the engine room hatches and after reflection, installing the furnace proved to be the easiest part of the job. There was sufficient air intake to supply the heater, so that wasn’t a problem. The difficulty was locating a place to mount the exhaust outlet. I had hoped that it would be able to be routed into the generator exhaust, but that was discouraged. After careful searching, I was able to find a thru hull fitting that isolated the heat from the furnace that was approved for wooden boats by the American Boat and Yacht Council, the outfit that sets the standards for most everything on pleasure boats. The fuel line was connected to the port fuel tank conforming to the installation instructions. All this took the better part of a day and each step was documented both in writing and with photographs. The next day Ritchie had a set of cabinets to install and inasmuch as they were on the third floor of a condo, he needed my help to mule them up three flights of stairs; they wouldn’t fit in the elevator. That was accomplished without incident and after being assured by Ritchie that he could handle the rest of the job himself, I headed back to Patty O’. It became obvious that there were going to have to be some structural modifications to keep the heating elements, also known as radiators, unobtrusive as well as efficient. After careful consideration, I admitted that this was beyond me and I decided that it was something that needed Ritchie’s expertise. Over coffee and breakfast sandwiches the next morning, we discussed how the radiators were going to be mounted. He sat at the dinette, staring at the bulkhead with his head tilted to the right a bit, as he does when he’s in deep thought. We decided that there would be two units forward facing forward in the galley, and the same in the cabin. In the salon, there would be four, two facing forward and two facing aft. Ritchie headed back to his shop to collect some tools and I began laying out the piping to feed the units. With seemingly little effort, Ritchie carved out niches for all eight radiators. Then we both worked running the copper tubing to feed them. The copper added to the cost, but I felt that the extra heat radiating from the tubing was well worth it. The next morning, I called the manufacturer to arrange for their inspection and testing. A real person answered the phone, after the usual touch tone tango to get to where you want to go. It took her a few minutes to bring up my account, which she explained by telling me about the “Huge software upgrade.” that seemed to make everything go slower. Once she found my information, she told me that she would call to let me know when the guy would be available. “I’m here anytime, so don’t worry about that,” I said. Less than an hour later she called back asking if Friday afternoon would be ok. When the Blonde had called the night before she indicated that it would most likely be Tuesday before she would be finished. “You won’t believe how messed up this was.” She said. “Absolutely no management at all. Everyone trying to do their own thing at once.” Listening to her rant I made the appropriate sounds at the proper times, having little knowledge of what she was talking about. But I have known her long enough to know that she has to let it out at times like this. We chatted a bit more and I brought her up to date on the heating project. At 10:30 on Friday my phone rang. It was the heating inspector asking if it would be all right to come over now; he’d finished his first job sooner than he’d anticipated. “Sure,” I said. “I’m on C dock. It’s a 1954 Huckins Sedan Cruiser. There’s a Century runabout tied next to her, finished bright.” I knew what was going through his mind: “Oh no, another wooden crunch job.” He told me that he was driving a white Ford pickup. Ten minutes after hanging up, I saw the white truck driving through the gates. Meeting him at the end of the dock, we shook hands and he introduced himself. He was an insurance surveyor, specializing in commercial fishing boats. Stepping aboard, he looked around Patty O’s cockpit. One thing I picked up on was that he looked at the way the mooring lines were tied to the cleats. Odd I thought. He spent about a half hour checking everything Ritchie and I had done. Asking a few questions, he made copious notes. He then had me fire the system up. He again checked every connection, every fitting, taking a whole bunch of photographs. He was very thorough. I had opened the big hatches in the salon to make access easy when he was finished we sat in the cockpit and he opened the bottle of water I handed to him. “You know,” he said, “When you told me that this was an old wooden boat, I had visions of a horror show, but it’s obvious that you have done a good job restoring this boat.” “Patty O’ hasn’t been restored,” I said. “She was in pristine shape when we bought her. We’ve just brought her up to date.”
“Well,” he said. “I have no problem signing off on this.” Looking at his watch, he handed me one of his business cards. Thanking me for the water he said, “When your insurance surveyor looks you over, tell him that he can call me regarding any questions.” “We’ve already had the yearly survey,” I said. “Should I have waited?” “Yup. You sure should have. Any major modification like this, they wanna know.” I was mentally kicking myself I asked, “I don’t suppose you do work for them…” mentioning the name of my insurance company. “Nope, sorry.” He said. “But I am going to have to put a restriction on my report that you don’t use the system until you do. For your protection.” We shook hands and I walked him to his truck. He said that he would send me a copy of his report. Calling our insurance company, I explained the situation. Clearly, the woman whom I spoke with, the same one who I worked with on the earlier survey was not overjoyed at having to deal with me again. I asked if we could use the same surveyor that did the job earlier this spring and she said she would see if he was available. She also said that the cost for this second survey would have to be borne by me. While I wasn’t pleased about that, I could understand. Also, the boat couldn’t be used until “The matter has been resolved.” An hour later, my phone rang. It was the surveyor who had looked over Patty O’ in the spring. “They tell me you added a few things.” He said. I told him the story, and he chuckled. “Yeah, they like to know about things like that. What’s the name of the guy who looked it over.” He asked. I dug the card out of my pocket and read the name. “Yeah, I know him. Good man.” Reading off the phone number I asked, “When do you think you can get out here? They’ve put a restriction on moving the boat.” “Don’t think I’ll have to. That boat is in pretty good shape, and if he vouches for the heating, I’ll just add it to the survey. Should be wrapped up by Monday.” Thanking him, I thought, “Boy, a beer would taste pretty good about now. It sure did.