Monday, June 28, 2021

The Coolest, Most Perfect Gig

Mast coming down

The coolest thing just happened but I have to catch you up to that. 

I’ve been working really hard on the boat and got lots of stuff done in June. The mast is down and I’ve started the rigging project. The lower shrouds are built and waiting to be installed. I wrestled and wrangled the cap shroud terminals into the masthead. The bowsprit is now completed with a new cast bronze stemhead and the bow roller back on. It is sitting on the bow waiting to get installed. I installed brackets on the stern railing for solar panels, serviced my winches and the binnacle steering, gave away my furling genoa, pulled wire down through the mast, and re-installed a couple chainplates. I’m still waiting on some backordered parts, including the terminal ends for the forestay and backstay, and the hose I need to reconnect the mixing elbow on the engine exhaust.

I’ve also been working with a temp agency to find a little work to pad my nest before the boat gets launched. The first gig was delivering building materials like vinyl siding, doors, and windows. That was real work, man. Everything was either heavy or bulky or both. We had to hand unload and carry the stuff across lumpy job sites where houses were being built. I went through three shirts and almost a gallon of water that day. It was fun, however, when the crew and I finally talked enough for them to find out how old I was. They, all in their twenties and early thirties, were amazed that I had literally been keeping up all day! That was pretty cool for an old, fat guy like me. Then another half a day’s work unloading more vinyl siding for a different company from a storage trailer to a gooseneck trailer; another hot day.

The gooseneck trailer arrived behind a great big pickup truck driven by an honest-to-goodness, badass Carolina farm girl. She is some kind of manager for a construction company, but arrived in a miniskirt and cowboy boots. We were in a yard full of storage trailers next to a Costco store. I said I’d go get some gloves and my jug of water. She said all right, I’m going to put some pants on. No nonsense. All business. I walked across the yard and paused to be polite. She changed her clothes by the drivers door of the truck; not caring one bit about anything. We had her vinyl siding out of storage and onto her trailer way faster than she anticipated. She was super happy with how it went and how I went. I had a harder time keeping up with her than the boys at the first place. I got a farmgirl handshake, her blessing, and an offer to be my reference any time I needed one. That was a good day -- morning actually. I really pushed myself on both occasions and was happy that I’ve still got it, kinda, mostly. Or as the country song says “I’m not as good as I once was, but I’m as good once as I ever was.” 

And then things opened up in the weirdest way. Wednesday I had an interview through the agency that I thought went really well. It was a receiving job at a warehouse. More building materials and likely as hot, but not in the sun and not heavy, bulky stuff. Then in the afternoon, I had an excruciating interview with a trucking company. The manager, also wife and co-owner, was trying to get me to say exactly how long I was going to be available. I was trying to be as honest as possible while also not telling her exactly how long I thought I was going to be available. I didn’t really know how long I wanted to be available -- that is until I got done avoiding saying so. Now I know, I don’t want to be in Wilmington more than 6 months; only three if I can help it. There ... I said it. 

The agency was having some trouble finding work for me. I was playing with all my cards on the table and said out loud: I don’t want temp-to-perm, I want temporary and I only want it for about three months. In this new economy, many many companies are using temp agencies for recruiting and to cover what used to be a probationary period. The company brings in temps and can keep any good ones, while just letting the agency tell the mediocre ones not to come back. Several companies thought I looked like a good candidate, but they wanted someone who was going to stick around. Case-in-point: the first building materials company said no to a few months, but then they needed an extra pair of hands, a strong back, and a weak mind for a day or two.

This morning I got an email that the warehouse had chosen someone else. Then another email for another interview; one that sounded really interesting. Then yet another email that they had a check waiting for me for last week’s work. At least that's a positive. Cool.  

I was actually a couple minutes late to the interview. Market Street, Wilmington, on a Thursday afternoon was amazing and kind of stupid. I could see the sign where I was headed for nearly ten minutes before I finally got there. I was a little sheepish when I first arrived. It didn’t matter. I explained that I was stuck in traffic and it was nothing but a chuckle. I think I had the gig before I walked in the door. I certainly had it before I regaled them with any stories about where I’d been and what I’d done. I do know that they liked my past involvement in process improvement. They especially liked when I told them how I had learned to ask the rank and file people about what they were doing and what they were used to in order to develop a system that everyone would buy into. I consider it an arrogant mistake to walk into a situation like this one and develop a system from scratch without consulting the people who were going to use the system. 

Also, a side note on resumes; especially older people’s resumes. I forget the fancy name for the format, but the top half of my resume is a list of my qualifications. It is written like advertisement about me. My qualifications are split into five categories: Commercial Truck Driver, Customer Service, Technical Skills, Process Improvement and Documentation, and Supervision. Each category has two or three lines highlighting specific examples of those qualifications. Then the bottom half of the page is my employment history; one line for each job, except for one company where I had grown through three positions. Each listing is just the basic facts: company, location, job title, and dates. This format has been very effective for me in the past. 

These guys were looking at the very bottom of my resume -- ancient history. But they were driven there by the qualifications at the top and they liked what they saw. And two crusty mechanic shop manager types were very curious about my boat project. They had a project of their own, one that was probably only a couple months of work. Perfect.

Their parts department is a mess. It has gotten out of control for a variety of reasons. They had another guy in to fix it. He had started well but didn’t ask enough questions and had gotten a little sideways, stirred up their inventory some more, and then left. They wanted, and desperately needed, someone to clean up the space, count their inventory, set up the shelves in a way that makes sense to the mechanics, reinstall the barcoded shelf tags where needed, and perhaps even write up an inventory plan to pass on to the next guy. The next guy is a service writer/parts department position that they are trying to squeeze into the budget for next year. I have no interest in that future gig, but to spend a couple months sorting and planning their parts inventory is perfect for me, perfect for my sv Ruth Ann.

And sounds perfect to them. 

By the time I left this afternoon, we were all excited. I am dusting off some ancient office manager skills (sorry, production office coordinator - that company didn’t want to pay for the word 'manager'). I emailed the temp agency that it had gone well and I was starting on Monday. She answered back “Oh my gosh. That is amazing.” 

I’m not sure how to take that.

I am getting so close to finishing the boat. There are lots of little details to take care of and I need to finish re-rigging the mast, crank the engine to test it, and put another couple coats of bottom paint on her. When the boat is ready to launch, the campervan will be sold (I think I have it sold already). However, I didn't want to run low on boat funds so close to being done; just in case. My nest needed a little more padding before launching the boat. This new gig is just perfect.  

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Housekeeping Item

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Monday, June 14, 2021

The First Month Back


After the trials and tribulations of waiting for The Moose, my campervan, I finally got back to Navassa and back to Ruth Ann the first week of May. It was so good to be back with my boat. As I mentioned last time, the yard had been very busy with hurricane damaged boats and Ruth Ann was still out in the field. 

I spent a couple days organizing, but got right into boatwork when the boat was moved into her new spot next to power and water. The first job was cleaning. Ruth Ann was dirty. Besides the usual boatyard detritus, a major construction project had started just down the road after I left last year. Lots of dust and a bit of green where the water drained off the deck and down the topsides. 


After making Ruth Ann more presentable, I got back into the wiring. There were about three generations of wire on the boat. Each previous owner seemed to have clipped the ends and ran new wire for new electronics. All that wire was still run throughout the boat. There wasn’t room in the nooks, crannies, and wireways to run any more wire! I spent a lot of time last year unwiring to make room. 

Last month I finally got down to my own wiring. I wired in the AC charger, set up the lithium batteries, wired a battery switch for the system, placed big fuses for the batteries, blew those fuses while wiring the inverter, replaced the fuses, and finished all the basic wiring that could be done. The wiring is fairly organized if I say so myself. Because of space constraints, I have two small DC panels; one for all the lights, accessories, and instruments, and the other for navigation lights. I had cabin lights and fans wired in last year, but had to trace a short on the port side. Everything works well now and I have been using the fans a lot. 

There are some electrical projects that will wait until later; like a Raspberry Pi for navigation and another Pi as a media center for my music and a few movies. Also, after the mast is down and the bowsprit re-installed, I have a couple more navigation lights to wire.

Speaking of the bowsprit, I disassembled, stripped varnish, oiled, painted, reassembled, and strengthened the bowsprit. I like teak oil more than varnish, especially for a liveaboard. Every couple months I can daub some more oil and my teak looks nice. Varnish looks spectacular for a few months but the care and maintenance is more work than oil, in my opinion. 

There were, of course, some blisters in the unpainted patches where the jack stand pads had been. A couple days in May were dedicated to grinding those blisters out. I am letting them dry a little, but will soon fill and fair them. Also, I am fiberglassing shut a hole where there used to be a throughull. I scarfed that out for lamination while I had my grinder out.

I was dreading getting to my engine. I am not yet a diesel mechanic of any value. For many months, I’ve been stewing about the engine and it’s condition. It got fairly cold last winter in the Carolinas and I hadn’t prepared the engine for freezing. Luckily, it appears I got away with it. I don’t think the chilly temperatures sustained long enough for any freezing to have happened. 

As I dug in, the engine was in much better shape than I had imagined. I cleaned up, scraped, and sanded. After a few splashes of OSPHO on the more rusty bits, I painted where it was needed. The engine looks great and I hope it is happy. On my list is to set up a water supply and run the engine to check it. 

When I moved the boat in June 2019 after buying her, I felt too much heat in the engine compartment. When I discovered an exhaust leak and diesel soot blown all over, I thought that a hose clamp had gone missing near the mixing elbow. Lo and behold, the riser that attaches the mixing elbow to the engine manifold was completely rusted and no longer even connected. The riser probably should have been replaced 15 years ago. Instead, someone had hid the problem by wrapping it up nicely with pipe insulation. Or maybe they thought they had fixed it. Further, the mixing elbow itself was cracked. 

It is actually possible that the cracked mixing elbow resulted from my failure to winterize the engine. However, the crack did not appear fresh. There was significant corrosion down into the crack itself. The condition of the riser certainly shows that this corner of the engine hasn’t gotten much attention over the years. 

That was a full month of boatwork. I have been treating this project like a job and showed up for work, seven days a week. I am proud of my progress. Alas, there have been a couple expensive surprises. The mixing elbow and riser were not cheap and before I even got here, I spent too much money sitting in Savannah waiting for my van to get fixed. I may do some temp work in the coming weeks. Nevertheless, I am committed to getting Ruth Ann back in the water this summer. It may be deep into September before I’m done, but summer lasts until the 22nd! 

Homeward Epilogue

sv Ruth Ann in Beaufort, SC, 12/23 Ruth Ann is the last in a series of boats on which I was attempting to escape. I found her when I found a...