Thursday, February 23, 2017

Grunge Rock Hero to Homeless

I’m hitting the road hard lately; saving boat money. To that end, I am only home three or four days a month. If someone gave me a car, it wouldn’t be worth paying insurance or getting plates on it. Nevertheless, I still need to haul stuff around.

My world is actually pretty small when I’m in town. My storage unit is right up the hill from the marina. Pictured above is my garden wagon. The real work was the trip up the hill with a cumbersome rolled up inflatable dinghy topped with Emma’s mainsail. I didn’t get a picture of the trip up the hill, but the sight of this stuff reminded me of the morning I was knocked down from Grunge Rock Hero to Homeless.

Twenty six years ago, I was starting a business in Sarasota and I used to tell people I was a biathlete. I was living aboard a small sailboat and had sold the old car that had defaulted to me in the divorce. The boat was anchored off Bayfront Park in downtown Sarasota. Each morning I had to row to shore and then ride my
bike to work. The same lock and chain kept the bike and then the dinghy attached to a palm tree.

I always had an army surplus knapsack on my back; with a change of clothes, a book or two, and room for grabbing groceries on the way home. It was dirty work in the shop, so the change of clothes allowed me to go out with friends after work, or accept the occasional dinner invitation. It was always worth it, but going out usually meant leaving the bike at the shop to ride along with someone. The next morning would be complicated as I had to ride the bus as far as I could and then walk into the shop,

We were working our asses off in the shop, so my standard uniform in those days was a t shirt, cut off BDU cargo shorts; topped with a flannel shirt in the winter. My business partner, Don, had a couple kids. His daughter was into the lateset music and thought that I would fit right in with the Grunge Music scene coming out of Seattle. Flannel and Army Surplus were all the rage.

It was a similar uniform that got me into some amusing trouble. After one of those evenings, when I left my bike at the shop, and then got dropped off at the boat after dinner with friends. The next morning I walked to the bus and rode it north out of town. The last bus stop on US-301 was in front of an old motel turned apartments with an ancient trailer park out back. From there I had to walk about a mile to the shop. US-301 was a divided highway with a wide median and lots of weekday morning traffic. I sauntered into the shop, a little late, greeted my partner and got a cup of coffee for our morning planning ritual. Not long after sitting down, the shop phone rang.

“Pro Form Technologies, this is Todd.”

“Three people this morning have told me about my ex-husband walking down the highway looking like a homeless person!” The all-too-familiar-voice of my ex-wife filled my ear and half the room. Don smiled.

Before I could stop her, I heard all about how my walking down the road in my best Grunge Rock Hero look was ruining her life. When she paused for a breath, I said “You don’t get to do this anymore” and hung up the phone.

Well, that’s the way my ego-infused, fallible, human-male brain remembers the day. At this stage in my life, I can understand her frustration. She worked in a large office; the software division of a large accounting firm. We had attended several corporate events together so a lot of her coworkers knew me and I knew how nasty the office politics could get. On top of that, she had moved to Florida to be with me and neither of us had any family or close friends in the area. Just a few years later and now she had no reason to be where she found herself. I get that, now. And if I really did hang up on her, I feel bad about that too.

Eventually we got to be friends again and for a time we spoke on the phone every month or so. Life has a way of moving on. It dissipates and it complicates. Each of us had got into a situation where we haven’t been able to talk for several years. Just recently though, I heard from her long enough to discuss that life was pretty good for each of us and that neither of us had any regrets or hard feelings.

I’m good with that.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Emma's Engine! Emma's Engine!!

I was in town for the delivery of Emma’s engine and had some time to kill. The anticipation had me up early anyway, so I hiked over to the boat with some tools I’d bought. First order of business, the sloppy caulk all around the cockpit well. As I was scraping at the caulk, my gaze fell on the crappy lines on Emma’s mainsheet traveler. The traveler adjusts the lateral position of the line that controls the mainsail; the main sheet. A line from each side runs through a couple blocks, so that the traveler can be adjusted under load. The faded, fuzzy red lines were probably the oldest pieces of rope on the boat, and the port side had an ominous duct tape patch. Emma deserved better and I had to remove the eyesore. 

Just beyond the traveler, hanging off the aft corner of the cabin, was the staysail sheet; the second oldest piece of line. I walked forward to loosen the other end. While I was up there, I snugged up the staysail boom and tied it tight. Back in the cockpit, I pulled the sheet through the blocks and flaked it at my feet. It occurred to me that I needed to measure all these lines for replacing them. The long staysail sheet could be used for something but the ratty traveler lines were pitched over the side and onto the ground. 

I sat and contemplated the scattered knives and scrapers that I had been de-caulking with. Over my head, the mainsail was still flaked and covered on the boom. When Hurricane Matthew threatened Emma last year, I had wrapped the mainsail cover like a roman sandal with a good piece of line. Looking up from where I sat, I wondered why I had left it all baking in the sun. With that I was resolved to take in the sail and stow the good line. Once I got started, all the running rigging, including the halyards, came down. The mast will be brought down for inspection and repair in a few months anyway. Emma is under bare poles now. 

I hung the mainsail cover, damp with dew, over the lifelines at the bow and decided to break for lunch. My food was in the truck, so I walked out to the front of the marina where I had parked and made a peanut butter sandwich. Just as I was cleaning up, the phone rang and Emma’s propulsion had arrived. The courier/mover guy had pulled into the gate and dialed my number and when I looked out the window, the engine was right below me. 

The guy I hired to pick up the engine describes himself as a Craigslist Entrepreneur. I got a couple quotes but just had a good feeling about this particular guy. In fact, his wife came along on the trip. Her sister lives nearby, so they have often driven past Riverside Marina. They would like to buy a sailboat and sail around once they retire and had always wanted to look around inside the marina. Now they had an excuse, and were getting paid to come!  

I was really happy to finally see Emma’s engine in person. It is a beautifully repainted and rebuilt Perkins 4.108. The Perkins is old school simple and rugged. And even better than that, the couple who brought it to me are super nice people! We spent quite a while chatting about boats and sailing; and wandering around the boatyard. They walked all the way back to see Emma and I explained my reasons for wanting her and why everyone has their own reasons. Different boats are for different cruising/sailing styles.  

It was after they had left when I finished stowing my mainsail and all the lines. I also took a bunch of
measurements of my engine bed inside the boat and the motor mounts on the engine. It’s not going to just drop right in but it will fit fine. Nothing is that easy; although this engine was an option on later models.

Later that afternoon, I celebrated and rode over to my favorite joint for a beer and my favorite: blackened mahi sliders; that’s three little, fancy fish sandwiches for you yankees up north. On Thursday, I went up to Marine Connection Wholesalers to look at fuel tanks and then rode over to the grocery store. By the time I took a nap and hit the road again Thursday night, I had probably done 6 or 8 miles on the bike. Lord knows I could use more miles like that rather than sitting on my ass in a semi truck. 


Now I need a couple fuel tanks and a transmission. Well, and an updated drive plate too. The fuel tanks have to go into the boat before the engine or they won’t fit. I bought the engine four or five months too soon, but it was a great deal on exactly the engine I wanted. Also, it was a hobby project of a dedicated mechanic. He tore it down completely, sandblasted and repainted individual parts before putting it back together with new gaskets and seals. It’s practically like having a new engine; pretty too.  

If you’re watching the narrative on the blog lately, this is exactly the engine I wanted to install in exactly the boat I wanted. I don’t know if I’m stubbornly patient or patiently stubborn. It may have taken me ten years(!) but I am lucky to be right where I am, doing exactly what I want to be doing.
Won't be long, honey!