The confluence of the Chesapeake Bay and the Potomac River can be a little sporty, to say the least. About 10 years ago, Alison and I were anchored in a small creek on the Potomac. We were tucked around a point and snugged into a marsh where red-winged blackbirds swooped through the tall reeds. The water only rippled where dragonflies briefly touched and lifted off. It was a still night, and we were awake early to see the sunrise flood the creek with an orange brilliance.
We started the motor, and I worked on deck to get things lined up for an early departure. Alison moved to the helm as I hauled in the anchor by hand. Just as she engaged the throttle, a high pitch alarm sounded from the engine control panel.
“Shut it off, Shut it off,” I yelled as I dropped the anchor and climbed across the deck of our Hunter 35.5. Alison pulled the fuel shut off valve as I slid down the companionway stairs and lifted the engine hatch. The problem was immediately evident with metal shavings littering the engine compartment. A flywheel had disintegrated on the old Yanmar diesel engine. An engine that had over ten thousand hard hours on it, and needed to be replaced. A flywheel was chewed apart, a belt was limp, and there was no way to drive the cooling pump required to stop the engine from overheating and ultimately, self-destructing.
Down below, we rummaged through our tools looking for anything that could lead to an idea of how to rebuild a flywheel. I pulled the tension nut off of a hacksaw and was able to fit that over the center of the flywheel with significant torque. Unfortunately, the center of the flywheel was so destroyed that I needed a substantially thick spacer to place between the hacksaw nut and the remnants of the wheel. We hunted through the tool boxes and spare parts again, but there was nothing. We were screwed or so I thought.
“Yeah?” She said from the cockpit.
“I need to use your wedding ring to fix the motor.” I paused wondering what would happen next. Seconds later she handed it to me. A minute later, I had shaped the gold into the extra thick spacer that we needed. A dab of epoxy, a crank on the wrench and the flywheel was operational.
The good news was that the motor was working and wouldn’t self-destruct. The bad news is that we had used up our morning to fix the engine and was now faced with sailing the Potomac in wind sustained in the high 20’s but gusting to the mid 40’s.
It was Sunday, and we had to be at work on Monday.
There was no way around it.
The Hunter 35.5 handled the conditions well. We were under a sliver of a jib with steep waves crashing over the bow. Just a few hours earlier, the river was calm and easy, but a cold front changed that scenario.
As we entered the winding creek channel that took us against the wind, I said a silent prayer, started the engine and pushed the throttle to full power. We threaded the channel and entered the calm creek just as the sun began to set behind us. It was beautiful. It was beautiful until I noticed that our instruments including GPS and chart plotter stopped functioning at some point across the Potomac. “Maybe it was when that avalanche of water filled the cockpit,” I thought. “I’ll fix it next weekend,” I told Alison as we pulled into the slip.
Fast forward to the next weekend.
I’m standing in my cockpit dissecting a rats nest of electrical wire ( Our Hunter was an old dogged out charter boat) when I think I can hear someone walking down the pier. The dock that we were staying on was built decades ago, and the boards had a tendency to pop or crack under the weight of steps.
I’m befuddled by a random blue wire when the stereo kicks on to the classic Men at Work Song Down Under. Right as the song hits the lines:
He was six-foot-four and full of muscles
I said, “do you speak-a my language?”
He just smiled and gave me a vegemite sandwich.
I looked up to see a six-foot-four dude that could clearly bench press a Buick.
I think “This guy has his own theme song.”
“Hey,” He says.
That’s how I met Jason Hull.
8 cars, 7 boats, 2 apartments and 1 house later – collectively. I stood under a white tent and said
“My name is Sean Sayers, and I have the privilege of being Jason’s best man.”
It was because I was standing out in our cockpit on that hot summer day rewiring the instruments that I met Jason.
And it was through Jason that I met Pete.
A few months into our burgeoning friendship, Jason invited us over to a small shindig at Pete’s house. Pete and Jason met through work, and their love of sailing was an instant 5200 bond.
Alison and I pull into a driveway and take a moment to absorb the better homes and gardens scene before us. The house and garage were flanked by a perfectly manicured lawn that was seamlessly accented with flower beds. We followed a brick cobblestone style walkway through the gardens and up a few steps to the threshold. Before we knocked on the massive glass doors, Alison and I shared a glance. The glance said, “What are we doing here?”
A second later, Pete opened the door. “Hey, guys! I’m Pete. Come on in.” The handshake was firm, and the smile was broad. Inside, we were greeted with an embassy event level spread of hors-d’oeuvres.
By the end of the night, the ladies were bantering in the living room and Pete, Jason and I were sprawled across several deck chairs. The conversation revolved around boats, life goals, and past experiences. It was clear that the three of us were destined to become framily.
Through the years, boat shows, sailing trips, road trips, sunscreen, misadventures, mischief and occasional holiday explosion; I’ve always stepped away from each conversation, each experience with these guys as better.
On Friday, I took a personal day from work to attend a ceremony in which Pete was promoted to Captain. We sat in a conference room with a small group of friends and family and watched a constant precession of naval officers fill the chairs behind us.
The room was suddenly hushed as an Admiral entered and the much-anticipated ceremony began. We listened to the touching remarks, swelling with pride at the list of extraordinary achievements and occasionally wiping a tear away. It ended with an astonishing salvo of thunderous applause for Captain Pete.
So when a naval officer asked me “How do you know Pete?” after his pinning ceremony, all of this rushed through my head. I paused and then smiled wondering how I could quantify or explain any of this.
I said “Chatrooms.”