Friday, April 23, 2010

Hangin' In the Hanging Locker

Some days you just have to take the good with the bad and keeping going. Besides, its still April. I shouldn't even be able to work on the boat yet - in Michigan. So I had a frustrating and stupid day at the boat on last Friday. Bad Boat Karma.

In order to let the Sun come up for a while before we arrived, Dad and I waited until mid morning to head down to Douglas. I had a couple things to check on. And, though it is never hard to convince Dad to come along, I especially needed him this week to hold a screwdriver on several bolts on deck while I contorted myself into the hanging locker [closet to you landlubbers] and remove the nuts on the other end. The bolts are those that hold the chainplates, and ultimately my mast. Cape Dory employed a unique system that avoided some of the disadvantages of modern chainplates jutting through the deck or cabin of a sailboat. The system, of course, has a few compromises and disadvantages too.

The first problem I encountered, and should have anticipated, was the length of the bolt. Once I climbed into the locker, I realized that my sockets weren't deep enough to reach the nut. To get into the locker, I had to hang from two door jambs, put my feet inside [put left foot in and the left foot out . . . ] and twist my hips and then my shoulders to fit inside the opening. Spare tools were on the shelf above the closet, so I was often blindly reaching out and over my head to retrieve some other wrench.

The boat is only a half hour from home. Why we didn't just head back to go through Dad's extensive collection of deep sockets, I don't know. It was my decision and I decided to go look at the local hardware; five minutes away. The town of Douglas is small, the hardware store is an appropriate size for the given population. The only deep sockets the store had were a couple spark plug sockets; neither the right size for my bolt.

The Hardware store did, however, have a set of wrenches with ratchets on the box end. I decided to buy the $25 ratchet wrench set rather than looking somewhere else for a $4 single deep socket. Or, for that matter, heading to Hudsonville and borrow one of Dad's. My cruising kitty is doomed to bankruptcy.

Back at the boat and back in the closet, I was reaching up into the small space near the hull and deck joint. The wrench was flat like a typical wrench. The ratchet on the box end tightened from one side and, flipped over, it loosened from the other. The package claimed that it could work with as little as 5 degrees of swing. A good thing, because that is about all I could muster in the small space where my hands were. Clicking back and twisting in a small swing, I began to realize that taking these nuts off was going to be an arduous task. Just then, the wrench flipped out my fingers, up in the space I can't see, and tumbled between the hull and the closet liner; down toward the keel.

One of my most often used tools is a shop mirror. The extending handle allows me to peak into all kinds of spaces. I reached blindly above my head and felt around for the mirror. Deploying the mirror with my safety light, and with a flashlight, from all angles and contortions, I could not see the wrench. I tapped around on the liner but couldn't really decide if I heard any sounds a lost wrench might make. I tried laying on the floor and shining the light up from the bilge. No wrench.

An unused new toy, I mean tool, came to mind. On inspiration, I grabbed the cheap knock off Multi Cutter, a vibrating blade tool that cuts through all manner of things. I lined off a rectangle with a pen and straight edge and cut a whole in the closet wall. No wrench. I tapped some more and cut another hole in the vicinity of a wrench-sounding tap echo. Nothing. Two more small holes and twice more - no wrench. The hull is really close to the liner where I was cutting. The wrench must not be this low, I decided to make a long cut a bit higher. And . . . no wrench. In a surreal game like Whack-A-Mole in reverse, I tried spying with the mirror from the large holes while stabbing the flashlight randomly in the other holes. Um, no wrench.

You just don't know what a purely hateful feeling it is to be standing in a boat, pissed off, with a wrench just inches from your toes yet inaccessible. Not only that, I can put up with a lot to be on a boat. The nature of boating is mechanical frustration in beautiful settings. However, I'm pissed off with a lost and brand new wrench in a boat that is sitting on the solid ground, fifty yards from the nearest water. My next poorly conceived management decision was to call Lunch. My intention was to drive up into Holland, get something to eat and go to Menards for a deep socket. Once again, I can't tell you why I didn't call lunch in the vicinity of Dad's toolbox.

We drove up to Holland and I got my 9/16" deep socket. I ignored this odd feeling that I should buy 1/2" and 5/8" as well. From Menards, Dad and I found some lunch at Wendy's and headed back to the boat.

To top the day off, I had Dad holding the wrong bolt! I crawled and contorted my way back into the hanging locker. With my brand new deep socket, I called out to Dad, "OK, the forward bolt of the forward fitting." I started turning. At times, Dad was trying to turn the head of the bolt with a large slot head screwdriver. I got the nut off of each of the two bolts and tried pushing them up and out. Luckily, the previous person to touch the bolts had used a lot of sealer. When I went up to see if we could turn the bolts or pry the fitting up, I stopped to look at the slope of the coach roof and the placement of the ports near where Dad was sitting. I jumped back down the companionway and peaked out at the fitting near Dad's feet. All that time, he had been holding the bolts on the fitting I told him to, but I was loosening the nuts on the next fitting aft. I called Supper.

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