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On Living Aboard

Patty O’ has been on the hard for several weeks while repairs are being made after hitting an unknown object on the way home from Block Island. Both shafts, both propellers, one skeg and possibly the starboard gear box were involved.. The insurance survey was in our favor and the only money we were out was the deductible. I had ordered all the replacement parts the day after the event, once I had taken a good look. The surveyor agreed with my decision to do this. In the meantime, I completely stripped the bottom of all paint. This hadn’t been done in a few years and this was a good opportunity to get it done. My friend Ritchie, the master wood craftsman had inspected the bottom after the crash, and After looking at it again with the paint stripped, he recommended replacing the plank that had taken the brunt of the bent starboard skeg. This proved to be a wise choice because the frame above the plank was cracked. I never cease to be amazed by Ritchie’s sixth sense when it comes to wood and things made of it. The surveyor also recommended that the starboard gear box be rebuilt. This wasn’t something that was going to be easy. It would mean the starboard engine would have to be removed. There is really no way to remove the gearbox with the engine in place. When diesels were installed in place of the Chrysler gas engines which came with the boat when she was new, the year after we acquired her, I had done a major rebuild of the deck in the salon. The whole deck is now capable of being opened, half to each side. It’s not something that is easy, nor was it meant to be. To do so requires everything in the salon to be removed. Once opened, it’s very difficult to get anything out of the galley, or the forward stateroom. Discussing this with my wife, the Blonde, she made a list of everything she thought we would need for a few days. We had moved into a motel room the day after being hauled which was indeed getting old. Once the salon hatch was opened, I arranged with Ray, the yard foreman to have the engine lifted out. It took me several hours to get the engine ready to be removed. I took off both belts and the alternators, (there are two), as well as the main water pump. I did this to assure that there would be no damage due to the engine coming into contact with anything on the way out. Ray came over to look over the situation and agreed with my decision to remove things. He returned with the yard crane along with two helpers. The crane is an articulated unit and he raised it to the height needed to move the boom into Patty O’s salon. The two yard workers crawled down into the engine room, and guided the boom over the engine. It took less then ten minutes to have the engine out and on the way to the shop. With the engine out it gave me the chance to do some cleaning under both engines. Ritchie came by to look closely at the bottom from this side. I was delighted to hear him say, “Everything looks good.” When he was finished. In the shop, Ray and his men removed the gear box from the engine and I called and made an appointment at the shop the surveyor had recommended. They couldn’t give me a time frame for completing the job, which was partly my fault for not calling them beforehand. Telling them I would be bringing it to them the next day, they gave me directions to their facility in Rhode Island. The engine would be checked out when the gear box was finished. I felt out in left field with all this. I do not like being in limbo. When doing any work on the boat, I usually have an Idea how long it is going to take and plan accordingly. There were many things I can get done while the engine room was opened like this. With all the underwater parts delivered, it didn’t take long to get everything back to normal under there. The Blonde left for Phoenix, where she attended a conference. She’s an architect and as a main trouble shooter for her firm, it’s necessary for her to keep up to date with everything in her field. This was good for both of us. As I mentioned above, motel living was getting on our nerves. Her, because all her stuff was in a state of disarray. Me, because I was not in control of what was going on with the boat. For a fleeting moment I was tempted to fly out with her and let the yard tend to all that needed to be done. The moment didn’t last long because I knew I most likely wouldn’t be able to sleep, wondering how the project was going. Sitting at the helm seat on the bridge, I tried my best to compose a list of things I could do while the engine was out. Most of it had to do with cleaning. It was also much easier to change the oil on the port engine and the generator, not that they needed it, but it was something to do. Two of the do nothing days were taken up by Ritchie, who needed help on cabinet jobs. He makes his living building custom kitchen cabinets and furniture from exotic wood that he stockpiles. Both jobs were located in condominiums, one on the third floor and one on the second. The cabinets in both cases were too big to fit in the elevators and had to be mulled up the service staircase. We’re both used to this and other than having to use muscle power, the biggest effort was to prevent damage to the items. He uses moving blankets that are strapped to the cabinets to prevent scratches. All seven cabinets reached their destination safely. When the Blonde finished her meetings for the day, we chatted on the phone and I brought her up to date on what was going on with Patty O’, and she gave me a dissertation on how the world of architectural science was going. It took a week for the gear box to be delivered back to the yard. Ray and his guys reinstalled it on the engine and then set it up in their test rig. They started the engine and engaged the gearbox. Everything worked just fine. The following day they put the engine back where it belonged in Patty O’. It took me a day and a half to get everything back to where it was before the ‘event’. With Patty O’ back in the water, and everything back to normal, I started both engines and ran them in gear for a half hour, watching the temperature and oil pressure. Everything worked as it should. Then, I took the boat out for a run on the sound just to make sure. No vibration; everything working as it should. It took another day to get the salon back to normal. I took particular pains to get this done because the Blonde was due back the following day. Picking her up at the airport, we drove to the boat. She was delighted to find it back the way she liked and we moved out of the motel that afternoon, and then we went out to dinner to celebrate. Life living aboard does have its ups and downs, but so does every other lifestyle. This works for us and we are happy with it.

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