Let me tell you about my grandpa, old man Stoner. He had so much money handed down through the family that he didn't know what to do with it. Every time I heard about his new project I just shook my head and tried not to cry. You see, he had the legendary heart of gold but in his later years he was two bottles short of a six-pack. Yup, he didn't have a lick of sense.
His investment and trust team kept him out of trouble most of the time. They kept the taxes paid, the bills taken care of and all that. However, he had full discretionary power over his money and, God help us, he spent it!
The old grown-over farm in Wisconsin that he bought and gave to the scouts was a serious good thing, but making one half for the girl scouts and one half for the boy scouts turned into a real hot potato when the holiday camp-outs rolled around. Personally, I wondered if "Be Prepared" included packing in a case of prophylactics ... Did they offer a merit badge for that?
He bought the land and put in a water sculpture and picnic park down the road in London, Ontario. That got donated to the city, but nobody wanted to take responsibility for it. Well, the first good freeze took care of that problem. Scratch one administration, too.
It just went on and on. Most of what he did looked wonderful at first bloom. It was when you knelt down to smell the flowers you realized that it had just been fertilized with fresh pig shit.
I always wondered if he did this out of whimsy or not.
I'm telling you all this to "set the mood" for what Uncle Eugene bought me.
I was well into my forties, and had accumulated over one and a quarter million dollars in day trading, frugal living and hard work. I wanted to retire and figured that I had the bucks to do it. I talked it over with Uncle Eugene while eating at a nice dinner club in downtown London.
"Eugene, I think I'm ready to pull the trigger. I'm not a machinist any more. I'm a manager of machinists which really sucks if you hate paperwork as much as I do."
"What are you going to do with yourself, Karl? You can't just stop and hang your self on the wall, waiting for something to come around. I know, I tried that. It damned near drove me nuts."
"I've been researching something completely different. I'm going to finance a big boat, maybe fifty feet long, and live on it. That way I won't be tied down to one place if I get bored. With a passport and enough cash for fuel I can pretty well call my own shots."
"Hmm. With your background you no doubt can handle the day-to-day repairs. Did you know that back in the fifties I did the same thing on a sail boat? The repairs like to drove me to distraction, but the quiet, the motion and the smells of sailing on blue water were worth it. From the sound of it you want to buy a diesel?"
I nodded. "Yup. Give me two days with the engine's manuals and I can pretty well guarantee that I can rebuild it. O'course that means I'll have to carry a decent spares kit and some tools. A steel hull shouldn't give me the blister problems that a fiberglass hull could, and I won't touch a wood hull. I'm not a carpenter."
He firmly nodded to himself, as if he'd just come to a decision. I began to sweat. "I'll look around for you, Karl. Maybe I can find something you'd be interested in." With that we departed. As usual, he paid the bill while I left the tip.
Three weeks later I was relaxing at the house, having just finished my retirement paperwork. I'd taken care of such things as obtaining personal health insurance and tuning my investment portfolio to be a bit more conservative. I'd made sure to shift a half million into a form that I could liquidate on demand. I'd found a nice three-year-old steel hulled tug boat yacht by George Daicos. It was shorter than the fifty feet that I originally wanted at forty two feet long overall but it had a generous beam of thirteen feet six inches. It was fitted in dark cherry throughout. It was wired for an auto pilot and had all the fittings laid in for a genset. All the tanks were stainless steel. At three hundred and fifty thousand dollars I thought it was a steal. I was in negotiations with the owner at the time. I still had to perform due diligence by having the ship surveyed by a professional and that would require having it dry-docked.
I heard a car horn blare out in front. I wondered who the hell was making that racket at eight o'clock on a Saturday morning. It was uncle Eugene. He was grinning from ear to ear. This did not bode well. He motioned me to take the passenger seat. "You're smiling, Eugene. That usually means somebody's in deep shit."
He looked pained. "You wound me, lad. Why, I've just done you a grand favor! Come, I'll show you." He drove us down to Port Dover on Lake Erie. There, sitting at the quay was a forty foot long grey trawler that looked about 7/8 built. What the hell?
"Lad, it's all yours! It's newly-built and ready to go!" What could I do, insult the poor guy? I thanked him very much. Then I asked him if he'd had it surveyed before handing over the cash. Nope, he'd taken the broker's word that it was one hundred percent ready to go. "Uncle, I have a suspicion that you've been taken. Let's take the cook's tour, shall we?"
I started at the wheelhouse. "There's no radio. This vessel is not even legal to take out on the water." I stuck my head out the door and looked up. "No navigation lights either." As I pulled my head back in I noticed the glass in the windows, or rather the lack of it. I took a good look. "This is only 1/4 inch thick glass. A good heavy sea will blast right through this crap." There was no radar, no GPS, nothing but a compass. The breaker rack was minimal. Where were the battery gauges? Where was the charging display? Where was the inverter? The galley boasted the smallest refrigerator that I'd ever seen short of a dormitory. There was almost no stowage in the galley. Again, all the big square windows were made of 1/4 inch thick glass. This wasn't a vessel, it was someone's idea of what a vessel looked like. It was a dock queen. We went below. The head had no separate shower--you were supposed to sit on the john and use a hand shower. That was nasty and hard to keep slime molds under control. We went amid-ships below. There were no fuel filters and but one oil filter. All the tanks were plastic. There was no genset, no battery farm, no inverter, no charger. Then I looked around. There were no fucking bilge pumps! I furiously wrote all this down as I discovered each issue. Some were simply cost-cutting measures. Some were quite dangerous and the builder could be held negligent. Some were totally illegal and immediately actionable. It was enough to get a lawyer into this, and quickly.
"Uncle, you've been screwed, blued, tattooed and abused. About now your asshole should be hurting from the treatment you just got."
He sat down with a thump and laughed. Then he roared. "Goddamit, I'm gonna buy his company just to fire his ass!"
I did my best to calm him down. "Tell you what, Let's get a good shark of a lawyer involved. Let's make shit flow uphill. Just suing the agent won't do much. We have to go after the assholes that built this piece of shit. The return from the negligence suit should keep both of us in spending money for a couple years and skin the bejesus out of the builder!"
We had to get our ducks in a row. First we needed evidence. "Let's get out of here. We need to have a licensed surveyor document all this, then have a Coast Guard inspection done, then we'll have a case. You got any pet sharks on retainer?"
"Oh, boy, do I!"
"Good. Let's get the ball rolling. First let's go find the local port authority and have this vessel put under guard to sequester the evidence. Then we'll take his advice as to finding a bonded, insured surveyor."
The port master looked like a very angry bear by the time I finished listing the defects I'd found during a quick pass-through. We had guards on the ship and a surveyor poking and prying about by noon. By three we were sitting down with the surveyor and the port master. The surveyor looked grim. "By selling this thing as seaworthy and ready to sail someone is guilty of homicidal negligence."
The port master spoke up. "That's it! That's all I need to hear, Henry, but I'll need your write-up for the provincial prosecuting attorney. I'm making a few phone calls. I can assure you that several people shall be spending at least overnight courtesy of the local constabulary."
I looked over at my uncle, snapped my fingers and said, "And that's how you skin that cat!"
Everything was spinning down to a dull roar. It was two months down the road from our little discovery. Uncle E was going to get his money back, times three. He was kind of pissed off because it meant he had more money to get rid of. I had just paid for my new ship and had signed the paperwork, received the keys and the ship's title. I'd gotten her insured and had paid for six month's lease on the slip while I got everything together. I'd had the name of the vessel changed from a numeric builder's code to "Fancy That". I was in the process of dumping the contents of my house and getting it ready for sale.
We were at the dinner club in London again and had just finished a wonderful meal. Uncle Eugene was looking at me strangely. He suddenly exhaled, reached into his jacket for a checkbook, scribbled a bit, tore it off and sailed said instrument across the table at me. "There. You obviously know much more about this field than I do. I'd like to see what ship you eventually purchase."
I picked up the check and looked at it. I blinked and looked at it again. Yup, it was for a million five. My eyebrows searched for my hairline. "You sure about this?" I squeaked out.
He smiled like a self-satisfied cat and nodded his head. I cleared my throat to get my voice back down into a civilized register. I've already purchased a ship that I've fallen quite in love with. As soon as I hit the bank tomorrow, " I waved the check in the air, "let's take a plane to Oakville. It's a lake-side suburb of Ontario. I'll show off my new baby!" We agreed on a departure time and parted.
As soon as I got home I called the local airport to reserve an air taxi at about nine to get to the Toronto airport. I had a briefcase in one hand and a stuffed canvas grocery bag in the other. I met Uncle Eugene in the departure lounge, then we were carted off to the private departure area. Within a half hour we were touching down in Toronto. A taxi got us to the harbor. We stopped at the head of the slip to admire the crisp lines of the bright cream-yellow and dark green tug boat style yacht.
"Well, come aboard, then!" We crossed the gangplank and I unlocked the door into the pilot house. He remarked, "All this wood is beautiful! It's like being on the inside of a giant jewelry chest!" I smiled. All that wood meant more than a little care with lemon oil once a week. He looked over all the gauges and instrumentation. "Quite a difference."
"Yes. Regrettably it was all purchased and installed piece-meal. Nothing is integrated. It'll all come out and be replaced with an integrated package by Furuno that combines radar, charting, ship locator information, GPS, a depth finder and an auto-pilot. It's about a twenty thousand dollar package installed, but that includes a 150 Watt radiotelephone. I'll add a couple more specialized radios after that, and maybe a satellite phone if I get ambitious. Did you know that Sirius operates a contract weather service for ships, just like Sirius radio?"
Eugene shook his head. "It's amazing how far the state of the art has changed in sixty years or so. We shot the sun at noon and used a rope to check our speed, just as it had been done a the time of Christopher Columbus, and that was in 1958! There was nothing electrical but a flashlight aboard a thirty-six foot sailboat. We cooked over a one burner alcohol stove."
We walked down to the galley. It was well laid out and had a gimbaled 3-burner propane gas stove with an oven. Nice. A granite counter-top was illuminated by lights mounted under the overhead cabinet. A four-foot granite-topped island jutted out from six inches below the kitchen's counter top. It serviced a bench seat on the starboard wall. "This bench seat and counter sticking out are going away. In their place I'm putting in a chest freezer. To make it look nice I'll have a carpenter cover it with a wood sheathing similar to what we see here." I looked around the salon. "It's lacking in shelves for books. I do like my books." I put down my briefcase and opened up the shopping bag. Within were a roll of toilet paper (just in case), a dispensing air freshener, a pack of batteries and a can of citrus aerosol air freshener designed for the dispenser. I assembled everything and set it out on the counter, where it would spritz a bit of citrus stink around every six minutes or so. At the bottom of the bag were a roll of paper towels, a spray bottle of 409 cleaner, an old T-shirt of mine and a new bottle of lemon oil. I put the cleaning supplies away in a lower cabinet. I took a towel, toothbrush, shampoo, toothpaste from my brief case and the toilet paper in hand. "Let's go find the bog, shall we?"
A passageway next to the helm led to a set of stairs down to the bunks. On the centerline of the ship lay a short passageway with two doors off the starboard side, an alcove holding a tool chest to the port side and one door at the end. The first door was the head, where I left off my supplies. The next door hid the shower. The door at the end was water-tight and led to the engine compartment. It was quite a busy little room, yet I could see where a space was reserved for a generac. (motor/generator), the exhaust, water lines and the power lines for it. I'd figure out how to shoe-horn in a little water maker. I spotted a 30 gallon gas water heater. I pointed out that all the tanks were made of stainless steel. There was a long narrow space next to the hull that accessed the are under the steps up to the wheelhouse. You had to watch your head in there as the height was only five foot six.
On the way back up Eugene noted, "This takes me back. This is just like we had on The Sparrow--V-berths. But these are roomier!"
I laughed. Enjoy the view while you can. I'm taking apart the port side berth for engine room stores and large tools. I'll be putting in shelves and cabinet doors and plan to put a small generator in there too. I've still got to figure out where to put the washer and dryer!"
My uncle scratched his head and said laconically, "Why not put the freezer on the aft deck and use that corner for your washer and dryer. Re-purpose that counter top. That way you'll have a nice counter to fold clothes on as well."
I looked over at him. "I always knew you were smarter than you let on. I thought that your thing with the Scouts was brilliant."
He gently smiled. "I must admit that one came off much better than I expected."
I had a thought. "Do you have a passport?"
"Why yes, I've had one for ages. Why?"
"The two of us get along pretty well. How would you like to take a trip down to the British Virgin Islands over the winter? I've got a few months of classes to take to get my captain's papers, secure my own passport and get my house sold. I'd like to have a few things worked on here aboard ship as well before we depart. How about it?"
"Umm, where would I bunk?" I blinked and smiled. We were back in the salon. "See that bench seat over there? Looks like a good candidate to be converted to a first mate's box bed, don't you think?"
"It has all the privacy of a glass house, but I'm no shrinking violet. Deal, but only if I get to pay for the changes. I've got too damned much money as it is. By the way, how much did you spend on this thing?"
"This will frost your ass. Three hundred fifty thousand flat."
"Good Christ, they did see me coming, didn't they?"
"Afraid so, afraid so."
That's when the contractors went to town. The port bunk below was refitted into drawers and cabinets. A small water maker and a genset were fitted into the engine room. The water maker was modular and was secured to the bulkhead. A Furuno navigation and control stack was installed in the wheel house, built around a Furuno 1934C/NT plotter/chart display. It had integrated AIS, Sirius satellite weather display and an auto pilot. The C-Map NT Max chart modules were amazingly expensive but they certainly helped out when we came into a strange port, which was everywhere we planned to go.
I took my courses and eventually got my captaincy papers. When I returned I found the mate's bunk was built out with a tapered foot so you could get up the steps to the helm. The washer and dryer were installed and covered in wood paneling and a twelve cubic foot 110 volt/propane chest freezer was installed and bolted down on the aft deck up close to the salon. The washer and dryer had the stone topped counter moved to cover them, to extend the counter space. I thought that was a nice trade-off. It gave more open space to the salon. There had been a second head in a small enclosure at the starboard stern corner of the salon. I had that torn out and turned into a storage locker. I couldn't help but notice the six-seater motor launch that sat atop the salon roof where the crane could latch onto it and lower it to the water, or the reverse.
At the same level yet closer to the mast and wheel house was a new block of something mechanical. I investigated to find a heat pump. It vented down into the salon and would either heat or cool as desired. It would also dehumidify damp cabin air, a definite plus. I'd have to install a few 12-volt fans to move the treated air around the ship, including below decks.
The propane stores had been moved to a new locker between the centerline door at the stern of the salon and the port side-passageway. It was ventilated and more than quadrupled our propane storage. We went to four fifty-pound cylinders chained up on two levels so that the locker remained shallow. When I signed for the ship it had two twenty pound reservoirs.
I got hold of Sysco, a big ship's chandler and restaurant supply house out of the states, to kit out our galley with top of the line grub as well as china, linens, emergency survival brownies and cleaning supplies. A lot of little stuff came aboard that had been in storage from the closing of my house. I made another walk-through with the contractor to site book shelves. I was looking for twelve running feet of shelving. I also had the galley overhead lighting replaced by high efficiency LED clusters that worked off of the 12 volt system.
I'd been warned during my classes to take aboard a respectable set of firearms. I stayed true-blue to the family name. Uncle Eugene had samples of everything the Stoner company factories churned out. I picked up an SR-25 sniper rifle with a low-light scope, an M18 with a 40mm grenade launcher, two Smith & Wesson .357 revolvers and two Remington 12 gauge marine shotguns in stainless steel. The bench seat in the wheel house was worked on until the seat would lift to reveal a cache suitable for long arms and ammunition, along with the spare light bulbs and the windshield wiper arm replacements that would be available quickly on the bridge when they were needed. The bulk of our ammunition went into a cabinet beneath the engine room spares.
I bought three very comfortable stools with wrap-around arms and well-padded seats. They quite resembled captain's chairs with stool bottoms and ball bearing swivel plates. Two went into the dinette area and one became the wheel house chair. The new larder, a rough cube taking up the starboard stern corner of the ship was laid in there as a food locker. It was the size of a small Porta-San. Just forward of that lay the entertainment stack. It occupied a rather large cabinet. It already held a pioneer stereo. I replaced that with a 100-disc CD player and a tuner/amp, both by Sony. I bought a Samsung 32" HD television/monitor/display unit which I mounted above the AV cabinet. There was just enough room left in the salon for two comfortable Adirondack chairs that normally occupied space on the stern deck, but could be pulled inside for watching movies and relaxing. It was a bit cramped when it was all indoors, but we expected that.
The rest of the space in that cabinet I filled with a rack of DVD movies and a decent DVD player.
I was ready to go! I tried to get hold of Eugene, but no joy. I took a cab to his place in Kitchener and rang the bell.
No answer. I peered through the window and caught sight of him in his recliner. I beat and pounded on the window with no result. I called emergency services and reported that my uncle was unresponsive and requested aid. An ambulance and police car soon arrived. They had to call for a locksmith to pick the lock.
Uncle Eugene was stone cold dead.
I was shattered. The one goddamned person in our family that I cared about, much less could stand to be near, had clocked out. I took a cab back to the ship. I locked the door behind me. When my cell phone rang I opened a hatch and heaved the damned thing over the side.
It was a rough night. I thought about uncle Eugene; what kind of man he was, his reputation and what he believed in. I realized that he'd want me to pick myself up and go on this trip, if for no other reason then to enjoy myself and remember him in better times. In the morning I used a pay phone at the head of the pier to summon a cab. I had us stop at a liquor store where I picked up two cases of the distiller's art in rum and bourbon. Then it was off to a grocery store for a few things, and a kiosk where I purchased three dead stupid dispose-a-phones at forty bucks per and three cards worth one hundred minutes each.
Back at the ship I hauled out my laptop and surveyed my checklists. Everything checked out. All I had to do was disconnect from shore power and water, coil my lines and head over to the service dock to get my tanks cleaned and take on a load of diesel. It was sunset. It seemed appropriate.
I followed the chart display, keeping to the shipping channel as I motored up the St. Laurence Seaway. I lined up in the queue to traverse the locks. Near three in the morning I tied up at Montreal old port. When I awoke it was nearly nine. I had a quick shower and called for a cab. My instruction was to take me to a large mall. The way he drove I suspected that I should have specified a mall in the same province. Eventually we arrived. After paying his scandalous fees I looked for a Helly-Hansen outlet. Yes, they do have outlet stores. There I bought waterproofs and a safety suit. I paid for them to be delivered the next morning to the dock, when I would be there to accept delivery. By then the bistros were open. I stopped at a likely spot and had breakfast. I supposed that I should have a suit. I entered a haberdashery and requested the assistance of a tailor. I ended up with a good black wool suit, six heavy linen shirts and four pair of wool whipcord pants. Next I found a sporting good store where I found a goose down jacket with a waterproof shell. That, some good gloves, a good hat, a neoprene face mask and two pair of goggles later I felt that I had the winter clothing covered. had a few short sleeved shirts that I liked and added a couple pair of synthetic, fast drying Bermuda shorts. I left for a bit of lunch. A large book store served me well with some reading material and several movies that either I hadn't seen or wished to see again.
When confronted with the book store's medical section I realized that I had been negligent. I didn't have so much as a band-aid aboard (other than the field expedient--paper toweling and electrical tape). I took the first cab in the line and requested a stop at a medical supply house. I always carried that damned brief case as it had my passport and bona fides within. Once we reached my destination I explained to the young man behind the counter that I was the captain of a brand spanking new blue water ship and needed kitting out with a first responder bag, coagulant bandages, inflatable casts, fire rescue blankets and a portable oxygen cart. He suggested a few more things as well, such as a fingertip pulse oximeter, a contact thermometer, a surgical stapler, a few quarts of butadiene solution, dry ampoules of penicillin, disposable syringes, two dozen yard-square triangle bandages, a fat bag of roller bandages, a back board, a urine collection flask and a bed pan, hair nets, scrubs, masks and gloves. I took the salesman's suggestion and added an automated blood pressure cuff and a stethoscope. They had some rubber sheets and I picked a few of them as well. Eugene's berth was going to be my medical berth. A good light was needed as well. I'd have to investigate that, as well as how to mount it. I planned to store most of that stuff in plastic tubs beneath the berth, covered in stretch wrap. I planned to paint all that storage space in thick white enamel before the stores went in.
Next came a trip to a military surplus store. I bought four surplus French litters, several good wool blankets, a case of combat rations, two dozen combat pressure bandages and a few knives that struck my fancy. He had a 3rd generation low-light monocle behind the counter that was designed for use with a helmet. I bought both the helmet and the monocle. The spare batteries weren't cheap, but I bought them as well. He had some green-colored goggles for use in combat where laser range-finders were in use. I bought a pair. I had an idea. I asked the proprietor if there was a trustworthy gunsmith anywhere close. He shrugged and gave me a phone number that was written down beside the cash register. The litters were stored in the engine room beneath the stairs. I hung the helmet and monocle next to my berth.
Once back at my ship I called the number I was given. I explained that I wanted targeting lasers for a large frame revolvers and marine shotguns installed. I preferred units that required 123A batteries rather than wafer style batteries. They held more mAH (mili-amp-hours) and were much more readily available. I offered him an extra hundred bucks to come to me so that I didn't have to risk moving about town with firearms. He promised to come the next day. I had to stay in town for three days anyway while my tailoring was finished. I searched long and hard for a powerful cold-tube short-UV lamp. I found one that ran off of 110 Volt mains. Wearing a long sleeved shirt and rubber gloves, I took a hint from the last time I'd been in an emergency room. I staged plastic pans with various kits for wound debridement, bandaging, intubation, suturing and stapling. I placed all these kits in the pans and turned on the UV, then turned over everything in the sterilizing light. After seven minutes or so I turned off the light, removed my goggles and covered everything with cling film, then gave it another blast of UV to make sure the cling film was clean. I labeled the ends with a magic marker and stashed them away. I used cooking parchment paper in between the pans so that the cling film wouldn't stick.
Once I stored all my medical supplies I did a trial run, so to speak and attempted to stage a surgical emergency. I had no way to keep my instruments or bandages at hand. Also, I was either on my knees or cramped up bending over the subject. I needed a rolling stool, a swing arm lamp and an instrument cart. Now, where the hell could I store the things? There was a slot remaining between the aft bulkhead and the side of the washer/dryer setup. It was about thirty-two inches wide. This was as good a use for it as anything. I found an instrument tray that looked like a hospital mess table and a rolling stool that would fit beneath it. I had hooks in my spares kit that I could screw into the ceiling above the berth to support broken limbs if necessary.
I spent the rest of the day reading. For dinner I pulled out an IQF lasagna serving and nuked it. I cleaned up and went to bed.
That morning I took delivery of my heavy weather gear. Until I figured out where to stow it, it lived on the bench in the wheel house. I pulled out one of my older towels, spread it out on the breakfast bar then brought out my shotguns and pistols. After insuring that they were unloaded I sat back and read, waiting for the gunsmith. He showed up about an hour before noon. He made short work out of installing the lasers and demonstrated how to operate them as well as how to load fresh batteries. I was quite happy with his work and gave him an extra fifty for his trouble.
I called my investment and trust people. I let them know that I was going to be out of touch for a while, perhaps as long as six months. I reminded them that they had a limited power of attorney in my name, and admonished them that anything done would be reviewed by a third-party agent. I arranged for my mail to be redirected to them and hung up. I reviewed my book collection with an eye towards cooking and baking. I found my selection to be unacceptable. I summoned a taxi to take me to a "large" book store. Once there I found the cook books I was after as well as a book on emergency surgery. Wandering around I picked up a PDR on CD (Physician's Desk Reference--a drug compendium) and the biggest Gray's Anatomy that I'd ever seen--it was an oversized coffee-table book! I found a few more movies and a few more albums.
I asked about the availability of encyclopedia in electronic form. I was suggested to purchase a small dedicated computer and load the downloadable form of Wikipedia on it. It sounded like a winner to me. My next stop was a computer store. I bought an HP laptop and had a 256 GB SSD (solid state hard drive) installed. I paid the guy two hundred and fifty bucks under the counter to put an OS on the thing and load Wikipedia on it. I came back the next morning to pick it up. He looked like he hadn't gotten much sleep but he was happy as hell to get my money. I was happy to get the loaded laptop! I downloaded the biggest dictionary that I could find and the biggest available thesaurus onto it as well. Let's face it--we all get brain-lock while writing once in a while, and the only way to power through it is with the kick in the pants a good thesaurus can give you.
I gritted my teeth and bought a mixer. I laid out the pros and cons, then bit the bullet. Finding a storage space for that big bastard sure hurt, though. When all was said and done I ended up storing it on top of the clothes washer in the corner. I used it two or three times a week so after a while I stopped fretting.
While waiting for my suits to be delivered (I had bought two on general purposes. Dry cleaners could be few and far between where I was headed.) I pulled out the manuals for my engine and my generac. The generac was a simple little diesel that you would be hard pressed to kill without a bullet. The main engine, however, was a mess. It wasn't designed to run at sea and a lot of trade-offs had been made that I found obvious. At least to me. I much preferred the Caterpillar engines, having worked with them before.
I made a few phone calls. I was told to moor at the Silver Street wharf in Portland. I was to call a number when I was tied up and I'd be met. I contracted to have a marine Caterpillar diesel installed which was much more dependable than the piece of crap I was running at the time. I packed a sea bag and headed for a hotel. I didn't need to put up with the bullshit that went with an engine refit. First, though, I screwed a hasp to the weapons locker next to the wall where it was inconspicuous and put a padlock on it.
Four days later I returned to my ship. I found a wood crate on my stern deck. A heavy wood crate. It held the spares kit for my new engine. I was happy to trade out the old spares for the new. No surprises. I did some in-house maintenance such as wiping down all the wood work with lemon oil before I shipped out. I made my way down the coast. When the diesel tanks got low I filled up and kept motoring on.
The replacement engine was a model 3056. My power curve changed quite a bit. I had doubled my horsepower, doubled my cruising RPM and gone from 6.8 to 8.4 gallons per hour of diesel consumed at cruise. I had five hundred and twenty gallons capacity for diesel so that defined my cruising range. I'd gone from nine to fifteen knots cruising speed. Sixty two hours cruising time (scraping it down to the bone--bad idea!) at fifteen knots. That gave me about 930 nautical miles range (neglecting real world conditions such as weather and currents), without the use of an auxiliary fuel bladder on deck.
I soon found myself at Nassau customs. I refused to attempt to justify my existence. After a cursory inspection of my ship and papers I was released upon the unsuspecting populace. Naah, I wasn't really belligerent. I was just tired and not willing to take any shit. I was off to the Nassau Yacht Club.
The next morning I was sitting in a bosun's chair hanging over the side with a can of paste wax in my pouch over the shoulder and a random orbital sander on an extension cord. It was tethered to my chair I was slowly going over the hull. I stopped at four feet from the waterline. The rest I would cover from my dinghy. I heard a shout. "HI MISTER!" I looked over. It was a teen girl in a bikini and a tan. She was no doubt under aged, over-sexed and checking out the new meat. I had a simple method of shutting her down.
"Hi, kid. What'cha know?"
She visibly deflated. Good. She didn't get brassed off. "Not much. It's been a slow season. The regatta people are gone and the snow birds haven't shown up yet."
I slowly stretched my back muscles. I'd been at it since dawn. "How's the fishing around here? I've never really tried it."
She got excited again... "Really? Aw, man! it's a blast! Bonefish fight like hell, but by law you've got to take them while wading on the flats. There's big areas on the south side of the island set aside for that. Deep sea fishing around here, you never know what you'll catch."
"Tell you what. Give me a few more days to finish this job and you can help me buy into some tackle. Then, if your folks agree, we'll go out and see what we can catch."
"Brutal!" She turned to run off.
"Hey! I need to meet your parents. Everything hinges on that. Understand?"
She nodded like a mad thing. I guessed that she at least thought that she had her folks under her thumb. Sigh. I kept waxing and buffing. I finished one side by three that evening. I'd worn out four sheep's wool pads. I was wiped out.
The next morning I set aside some time to make some fresh bread. I wasn't out there to finish a goddamned race. I was there to savor each day. I didn't intend to wring every essential bit of enjoyment out of each and every day, either. It was a matter of acceptance and appreciation. Fresh bread, sweet butter and hot tea. Add a good book. What more could you really ask for?
I had about another hour's work on the starboard side of the hull when I heard "Hello the ship!" Fuck. I was almost done. Oh well. I hand-over-handed myself up to the deck, put on a shirt and called down. "Ahoy the dock. Come aboard if you're friendly."
A man and woman dressed in, god help me, tennis whites, came up the gangplank. The man shook my hand but the woman looked at me with scorn. She said, "So this is the old fart that wants to bonk my little Emily?"
What reflexively came out of my mouth was incredibly rude. "Bitch, I said come aboard if you're friendly, not decorative."
"The man laughed and laughed. He couldn't help nor control himself. She looked at him as if he were dead meat. Rotting dead meat. I observed, "You may wish to sleep here tonight to avoid a dagger between the ribs before morning. She looks capable of it."
He smiled at me in honest appreciation. "I have no fear for my daughter's honor in your presence. You have my permission to take her fishing." He turned to his wife. "As for you, I can't take you anywhere. Shut up and let's go home." She winced and turned away. I had to say something. "Please don't worry about your daughter. I don't assault children." I could see something in her eyes. She almost smiled as she turned away and descended down the gangway.
"She doesn't socialize well, does she?" "No, not especially well. Sorry." I held up a hand. "Don't apologize. Something caused it. We simply must cope with the fallout."
He sighed. Soon we parted.
I finished the starboard side that day. The next day I polished the cabin and micro-waxed the windows. The next day I used my small boat to wax and polish the hull down to the waterline. I was finished by noon. I went out to buy spares to be able to repeat my wax job.
Emily showed up at about 8:30. She was dressed in light green baggy shorts that went almost to her knees and what appeared to be a yellow silk sleeveless blouse. She wore what looked like a bikini top beneath it. For her, it was modest dress and I was thankful for that. I got my morning dose of hug after which our summoned taxi arrived.
My ship didn't have a fighting chair or anything like that. I had the yacht club arrange for a reinforcing double steel sheet over a part of the stern deck, drilled out for carriage bolts. The bolts went in threads-up to secure a column mounted chair. Once the chair was mounted to the sheet then the whole thing was secured to the deck with copious amounts of construction adhesive so that no water would be trapped between to layers to cause later havoc. My stern deck was getting pretty cluttered. I sort of 'donated' one of my Adirondack chairs to the club by toting down to the end of the dock and leaving it there. It would make a nice fishing chair for any kids or land-based fishermen.
We picked up a fighting cup. It straps around your hips and gives you a place to keep the rod butt other than atop your genitals. Then came two long handled ten foot rods, each with a huge reel loaded with fifty pound test and a good selection of weights, hooks and wire leaders. I thought that a bait bucket was mandatory as well as a long gaff hook. Yes, I did need a license. I already had a hose and a nozzle aboard ship to clean off the deck. I thought that it would be a good idea to pick up a lightweight pair of long pants and a long sleeved fishing shirt that would protect me from the sun. I picked up a similar shirt for Emily as well. Adding a tube of high SPF sun block and a small tackle box to keep everything organized meant we were good to go.