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On Living Aboard

With Patty O’ back to normal after the repairs performed after hitting a floating object a couple months ago, we decided the usual loop we do in summer wouldn’t be such a good idea this year due to the lateness of the season. It’s not that we don’t enjoy people, it’s just that it’s too hard to do things. For example, if we decide to go out to eat, we’d better have reservations at least a couple days in advance. And forget about finding a slip at the dock. With that in mind, we took a lot of close in trips, Fishers Island, Block Island, Watch Hill and long Island’s eastern end. These are locations we’ve been many times before in all four seasons and we enjoy spending time there whatever the weather. Patty O’ did come out one more time to install the forward Sonar unit I’d ordered soon after seeing what Patty O’s bottom looked like when she came out of the water. This was after we were towed back to the yard, after hitting an unknown object south of Fishers Island. Unfortunately, the unit I chose was on back order and I thought long and hard about several others before deciding to wait. We returned from Long Island early on a Sunday because the Blonde, my wife, had an important meeting Monday and needed to prepare. She is an Architect and very good at what she does. Booting up my laptop, I saw the Sonar unit was due to arrive the following Wednesday. That being known, I arranged for Patty O’ to come out of the water on the following Monday. In the middle of summer, it’s relatively easy to pick a time to come out if necessary, unlike the rush in spring and fall. Plus, I wanted to make sure everything was there and that I had everything needed to install it. Recruiting the aid of my friend Ritchie, was important. In the meantime, he needed a bit of help delivering some furniture, something I gladly do in exchange for storing our little Century runabout, Mustard in his heated barn during winter. The package came on Wednesday as promised, although rather late in the day. I got a chance to open the box but that was all because we were eating out with friends. Thursday, all the parts were laid out on the Salon deck and I spent a good part of the day reading the very complex installation instructions. As well as looking forward, the Sonar looked to the sides as well. This meant that two transducers would be needed to be installed, requiring two holes to be cut through the hull. This is where Ritchie’s expertise would come into play. Patty O’s hull is constructed of wood, and it’s critical as to where things that need to be poked through are located. With everything ready for Monday’s adventure, we took a delightful weekend in upstate New York doing, well, nothing but sitting around a very large pool, complete with a swim up bar. Quite different from what we’re used to. Back at Patty O’ it was late so we just crashed. In the morning, the Blonde packed an overnight bag, “Just in case.” She hates with a passion climbing up and down a ladder when Patty O’ is out of the water. “Not to worry,” I said. “It’s not going to be any more than a couple hours.” I got a raised eyebrow. “I know that, but I’m taking no chances.” she said. I wisely said nothing. Patty O’ came out as scheduled and because I said it would be about two hours, Ray left her in the Travel lift slings. Ritchie looked carefully at the bow where the two transducers were to be located. He measured each one and transferred the measurements to the inside of the boat at the forward bilge. Once he was satisfied, holes were drilled into Patty O’s hull. The transducers were mounted as per instructions and caulked. While waiting for the caulk to set, we inspected once again the work done to repair damage from the crash. When that was finished, we were enjoying an iced tea from the machine in the store when a man I didn’t know walked up. “I saw the damage you had before.” he said. “If you had a single screw, there wouldn’t have been much damage at all.” Shaking his head he went on. “Personally, I wouldn’t have a twin screw boat. Way too much bother and expense.” I took a deep breath. Patty O’ has been the subject of criticism many times in the years we have owned her. Mostly from those who are amazed that we would own a boat that required, “all that scraping and painting.” I’ve learned to deal with that, explaining that wooden boats that are in good shape do not require any more maintenance than boats who’s hull is constructed with any other material. “You wax your hull,” I say, “I wash mine and lay on a thinned coat of paint. Takes about the same amount of time.” It takes them a minute to digest this. “You paint your bottom, so do I.” By then I can see the wheels turning. There isn’t really any come back to this logic. Then I add the clincher. “All the rest of the maintenance is just about the same.” This usually leaves them with nothing else to say. The twin screw vs single screw has been going on just as long. “I would never go out with only one engine.” Some say. “If one dies, I can always get back.” Single screw aficionados say, “Far too much money for little in return.” It goes on. While it’s true that if Patty O’ were single screw, there is a good chance that whatever we hit would have slid under the keel and we’d have suffered little more than a wild ride, maybe. Those who tout the safety of two engines never think of the hundreds of commercial Fishing vessels who prowl several hundred miles offshore, with just one engine. Of course, once in a while one breaks down and has to be rescued by the Coast Guard, but considering the number of boats, the chances are small. The secret is maintenance. If you meticulously pay attention to things that need to be done, no problem. On Patty O’, each engine is treated like it’s the only one. Separate fuel tanks, although they can be cross connected. Each engine has its own starting battery, kept charged with its own alternator. Expensive, well yeah. But well worth it. And the debate goes on. Ray showed up on the dot at two hours after we were lifted out and asked if we were ready to go back in. “I think so.” I said. “I’d appreciate it if we could hold in the slings a bit so I can see if they don’t leak.” “Not to worry.” He said. Lowering Patty O’ into the water, I scrambled aboard while Ray waited. Below, things were dry and after five minutes, I came back on deck and gave Ray the thumbs up. He lowered the boat completely into the water and the handlers pulled Patty O’ out of the slings. Ten minutes later, we were tied up in our slip. Sending a quick text message to the Blonde, I assured her that she wouldn’t have to open her overnight bag. The next afternoon I had all the wiring run and dressed up, the monitor mounted on the bridge. Time to give it a go. With the instruction manual in one hand, I powered the unit up. The initial operating instructions were easy to follow and it was a matter of a few minutes And I was looking at an image on the monitor. Spending an hour or so becoming used to the many options, it was interesting to see what was under us, as well as forward. Another was to see the difference between the image shown from the echo sounder. I knew it was going to take a while before I learned to get the most out of the Sonar display. I’d read that it was like Radar. It takes practice to get the most out of it. Many people who have Radar on their boat haven’t the faintest idea how to use it properly. Coast Guard rules state that if you have Radar on your boat, you must be able to use it properly. If you are involved in what is known as a ‘Radar assisted collision’, you may be found liable. Once I was familiar with the controls, I spent a day on the water learning about what I could see, and more importantly, what I could not see. For instance, the faster you go, the less you see. For this installation, a tad under seven knots seems to be the best speed for accurate information. I can see that it will take time to become proficient. Friday evening, when the Blonde got home, we headed out for one of our favorite close get away spots: Flat Hammock (pronounced ‘Hummock’ locally) on the North side of Fishers Island. We were comfortably at anchor long before sunset, and I had the grill fastened to the cockpit rail. The Salmon steaks were grilling, and all was well in our world.

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