Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Repair and Prepare

This past summer, while river guiding in Jackson Hole, WY, I was faced with a question.  What to do with my winter.  Most of my friends were staying in the mountains.  The skiing, they informed me, was quite enjoyable.  I do like to enjoy myself.  I, however, am a boat owner, the proud owner of a 31' elizabethan sloop named "Strolla," and being a boat owner carries with it certain responsibilities.

Strolla had been docked all summer at my friend Laila's house in Ft. Lauderdale or, more correctly, docked at her neighbor's house because Laila's dock space has been rented out.  The boat couldn't stay there forever, couldn't stay there much longer at all, in fact.  With the summer rafting season at an end it was time to make a decision, either sell it or sail it.  Both options would necessitate a trip to Florida.  To me, the choice was obvious, time to start recruiting a crew.

My friend from college and sailing partner from last Winter, Pete Hinman, was not interested in round two.  He was happily situated in New Hampshire with a job and a girl and a new rental home.  Fortunately, a seasonal resort like the one I was guiding for happened to be a great place to recruit adventurous compatriots.  Nearly everyone there was soon to be unemployed and with a lump sum of summer savings to apply towards the next endeavor.

The first two to bite were Nate and Rebecca.  They'd started dating while working in Vail, CO and had come to WY together, her to manage the bar and he to drive for the rafting department.  Next came Mark.  He'd originally left NJ for the Rockies in order to snowboard and had fallen into river guiding as a way to pass the summer.  I think leaving the mountains just as the winter season's first snows were falling was a hard decision for him.

We took a month off after the close of the season in WY and then met at Laila's house in Ft. Lauderdale on November 10th to get the boat ready.  I arrived a day early to inspect Strolla and see how she'd weathered the last six months.

Although in need of a little love, she looked pretty sound.  There were no insect infestations and no obvious signs of decay.  They were just hidden.  When I tried to shut the valve to the raw water cooling system, the handle broke off.  It had rusted through over the summer.  Fortunately, the handle broke off with the valve open so the motor could still draw water to cool itself.  This put it at the bottom of the priority repair list.

When I started the diesel motor up it ran sweetly, then started to sputter, then choked to a stop.  Top of the priority list.  I checked the fuel filter.  It was rusted over and full of slime.  Apparently, there had been a bit of water inside over the summer.  Yes, there was work to be done.

For the last ten days, the four of us have worked on the boat, all day every day.  As we pour over the boat, scraping and painting and reworking and repairing, the list of repairs shrinks faster than it grows and the progress is satisfying.

I had a good summer on the river and so I splurged on a few luxury items to make our lives a little easier this winter.  Among my purchases are a chartplotter (with charts), a shortwave radio so we could receive regular weather forecasts, a reliable outboard motor for the dinghy.  No, the old British Seagull motor my friend Pete and I had kicked and cursed all last Winter would not be coming with us.  Best of all, I bought a little refrigerator to fit under one of the benches.  Now, we'll be able to enjoy cold beer and crisp vegetables in the tropics!

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