Saturn Rising

The weather arrived with a salvo of dramatic wind shifts, and a howl screamed through the rigging. We listed towards starboard and comfortable dock living became reminiscent of being underway in the North Atlantic. White chop ripped and frothed across our little cove, frost formed on hatches and the landscape was suddenly barren of life. Everything was sheltering including us. It was Sunday, we were warm inside Caprica despite the ferocity of the gale outside which coated the piers with layers of frost and the frozen dock lines chewed through the stout pilings. Eleanor colored, I read, and Alison baked. The fantastic aroma of Alison’s boat galley baked bread was quickly overwhelmed by the alarming sweet smell of diesel heater failure. My head spun to the heater control panel. The same fault code blinked at me just as a month-long headache formed in the back of my skull.

When Maintenance Ends the Dead Boat Yard Begins

It’s usually when I’m crouched in a tiny compartment enduring a sporadic back spasm when my wrench slips off of a frozen bolt and my knuckles rip across some sort of cast iron housing that I ask myself if all of the maintenance is really necessary. From bow to stern, there are dozens of complex interlinked systems that are critical is every application. Each system requires careful inspection, disassembly and a rebuild of surrounding hardware or panels to access. Twenty-minute jobs turn into three-day circuses with multiple trips to the assorted stores for hunting/gathering improvised engineering projects.

The Weight of Snow

“The weight of the snow… ” I said to Alison and looked over at the closest pine tree that was bending and straining under the piles of wet snow that collected on its boughs. Around us, cracking could be heard every so often as tree branches buckled and fell. Moments later, the ripple sound of a thunderous crack jolted Eddie into a panic as a cascade of limbs tore away from that close tree just yards away from us. The branches fell in slow motion, just to the left of our two cars. Another shredding crack emanated from another close cluster of trees.

Things That Go Whirl In The Night

The water pump-pressured, purred and grunted briefly with a whirl, then clicked into silence. Was there a leak in a line or tank? No. The pump would have continued to run. The water lines in the back of the boat could have a slow leak. Maybe the work that I did on them before winter failed. I spent several hours in a space the size of a kitchen cabinet working with power tools at hard angles next to fuel lines, a furnace and our autopilot a few weeks prior. Was water slowly seeping out of the line and collecting somewhere in the stern? Again, No, I thought. It was a difficult installation with low light and I could have easily missed a step. I should inspect the water lines this weekend and add new clamps at the junctions. I bet the water tank control quadrant is ready to be replaced. Then a new thought seeped into my brain. The water pump might be on its last legs. We have a spare but is the circuit rated for 10 amps or 15 amps? What was the PSI of the spare pump? I waited a few minutes, listening intently for the water pump to grunt and whirl. Okay. All Clear. It was just pressuring up. Eleanor rolled over and planted a cold foot on my lower back.

The Wisdom of Hankus Pankus

The wasps would fire out of their dark cavern, darting and swooping in black madness while Hankus Pankus gazed about the marina with a look of total zen. He would disembark onto the thin wobbling finger pier and return shortly with a case of Yuengling and a smile to disappear until the next sighting. For all of his eccentricities, Hankus Pankus was friendly, wise and caring. Our conversations taught me important lessons without the pain of personal experience.

Hard Aground and the Inflatable Armada to the Rescue

On deck, the skipper nervously paced knowing that he would be there until the next high tide or the local harbormaster called a tow boat. Towboats are expensive and on occasion have been known to claim that a soft grounding is actually a salvage operation; a small check in a box on a traffic ticket type carbon copy paper that essentially gives the tow boat operator rights to your boat unless you pay up.

The Cost of Heat

The rep handed me a bill for $500 and said: “You’re in a different class of boater now.” Apparently, heat is a status symbol. And if that is true then our marina community is a perfect juxtaposition.

Scheduling Time, Tide and Weather

Our boat speed began to tick upwards as we slid between the colossal corps of engineered breakwaters. The water swirled and hard-boiled around us. Caprica’s bow lifted and dashed through standing waves that had suddenly appeared. I clutched the wheel as the rudder was yanked hard over by an eddy then looked at the breakwater to judge course.