Author's Note: I leave it to the reader to find the glaring error written into the beginning of this story.
I'd been out of the town I grew up in for years but things kept pulling me back in to the maelstrom. This time it was news that my "uncle" Jack Frasier had passed away. He wasn't really my uncle--he was best buds with my dad. Jack was a roly-poly guy with a ready smile and spoke in a deep basso profundo; the kind of voice you'd expect to hear coming out of Andre the Giant, but calming. His voice was almost hypnotic. Jack sold real estate for a living. As the years went on he learned to despise his family. His kid threatened to start doing drugs unless dad paid him off. Rather than submit to blackmail dad packed junior off to a rather strict military boarding school. That was the end of that. His wife considered it the straw that broke the camel's back when her precious little darling got sent off for an attitude adjustment. She unleashed her inner "Super Shrew". The poor guy's home life degraded into a death spiral.
I suppose that's why he bought into a forty-eight-foot steel-hulled custom cabin cruiser that he had docked in Jacksonville Florida. Six months after Jack died his estate executor sent me the title, the slip contract and the keys along with a short letter explaining the legacy. Needless to say you could have knocked me over with a soda straw when I read it.
Soon I had my car packed up and arranged to take my year's vacation in one big slug. I dreamed about the possibilities waiting for me as I made my way south in the middle of October. Just avoiding the onset of winter in northern Illinois would be a real treat.
When I pulled up to the dock I immediately saw that something was wrong. The boat was listing to one side. The rather expensive contract with the yacht club stated that the boat was to be kept ready for immediate occupation at any time. I made my way aboard and unlocked the stern hatch. When I pulled it open I gagged from the stench of the mold and mildew. It covered everything. The boat's AC must have been left un-powered for months during a Florida summer for it to get that bad. I followed the power umbilical ashore to a service box. The T-breaker was missing!
I walked up to the office. A younger guy was behind the counter, chain-smoking cigarettes like a chimney and reading the sports pages. I dropped my contract on the counter on top of his newspaper. "What the fuck happened?"
He gingerly spun it around with one finger to read it, then picked it up and tore it in two. "New management, pal."
By that time I was past angry and to hell with the consequences. I roared out, "Wrong Answer!", reached over the counter, grabbed his shirt collar with both hands and proceeded to give him a thorough Glasgow kiss. Then I began banging his face against the counter, leaving wet red marks all over the dog track page. When he stopped fighting me I let him loose. He slid the to the floor where his head bounced off the concrete like a melon. I stared at him for a bit while I reigned in my temper, then I walked around the end of the counter to find his phone and the local yellow pages. I found a listing for a corporate investigative attorney whom I put on retainer with my credit card, then called a marine clean-up company to get a quote on sterilizing the boat. Only then did I call for an ambulance to come get the idiot. I made sure to take all of his newspaper out to the dumpster to camoflage his face's impact sites before the ambulance got there. By the time they had their gurney on the ground I was back down at the slip taking pictures. Many, many pictures.
Fred, my lawyer found that the previous owner of the club, Al, had died almost at the same time that Jack died. They were both walking back to their car when they were cut down by a car full of MS-13 gang members that were out indiscriminately killing pedestrians. The property devolved to Frank, the little snot that I'd used to take out my frustration. He'd promptly fired the property manager, taken possession of the corporate checkbook, voided every contract that he could find and vaccuumed clean the corporation's working capital account. Since this broke several covenants built into the corporate structure the corporation was legally defunct while all assets--and debts--devolved directly to Frank's person.
Junior was in deep shit and didn't know it yet.
With the full knowledge and approval of Fred I signed the contract to clean the ship with a goal of getting it into habitable condition. It would cost me some eight thousand dollars for the first phase.
The county clerk and the state's attorney were notified of the case against the party responsible for intentionally voiding my ship's maintenance contract and it was put on the docket. Frank was served with papers.
When the cleaning team hit the dock I discovered their plan of attack. All fabrics would be removed and disposed of, including the carpets. The wall panels would come out. Everything would be sprayed with an industrial fungicide, wiped down and sprayed again. Part of their job was to replace all the wall panels with two inch thick Thermax heavy-duty wall panels. I measured all the drapes and cushions then sent out to an upholsterer for replacements. Then I used TSP (Tri Sodium Phosphate), bleach and hot water to scrub every remaining surface, inside the frames, all sides of the drawers inside and out, the bed frames, the chairs, tables, walls and floors. Once clean I sealed the wood. After a thorough drying I liberally coated all wood surfaces with lemon oil and left it to soak in. Only after a wet trap left on the kitchen counter showed no mold over four days I brought in the new curtains, cushions and mattresses.
Cleaning the engine compartment and inside the wheelhouse console took the longest time because each individual wire and control line had to be wiped down with an anti-fungal compound. The carpets were ripped up and the surfaces ground free of the adhesive applied to hold it down. Then the floors got two coats of epoxy paint. All the ductwork and the plenum was cleaned by an industrial service with a TSP solution and rinsed, then a long-term fungicide was sprayed into them. The air filters and fans were replaced too, of course.
The cavity beneath the bridge console was the best sealed space on board. I was very happy to find no mold within it. I just gave it and its contents a thorough wiping down with fungicide. I made sure to not miss a nook, cranny or joint before sealing it back up.
While swabbing down the inside of the cabinet with fungicide I found a three foot long plastic tube with screwed-on endcaps glued into one corner. Realizing that it had nothing to do with any ship's function I carefully used a razor knife to free it of the rubber cement before screwing the facing panel back on. What was it? Some sort of marine Lo-Jack? I un-screwed one end to find a curled-up piece of drafting mylar with what appeared to be random words and sections of a chart on it. There were standard printer's cross-and-circle registration marks at all four corners. Jack, just what the hell did you get me into?
I couldn't get the stink out of the refrigerator no matter what I did. I replaced it with a $1,400.00 unit that would work off of either propane or 110 volts. The stove/oven combination unit was in the same condition. That cost me $1,200.00 to replace. The 42 inch flatscreen and stereo were infected as well. There was no way in the world to clean the electronics without destroying the unit. The insides of the ice maker was a horrible mess. Likewise it all got replaced. I found another tube mounted next to the bolts holding down the galley sink.
What little of the zincs that I could see from above told me that they needed replacing.
I bought a little gas engine hooked up to an air pump and a hose. I tied a couple wrenches to my belt and secured an over-the-shoulder canvas bag with new zincs inside, then slid on a face mask and bailed over the side with a rope and the air line. It took a bit of trial and error to get coordinated, but using the bright sun overhead for illumination I replaced the zincs in two lines down the hull and two on the rudder. It worked so well that I bought a spare set and stowed everything in the engine room. It saved me the price of a haul-out as the bottom paint was still in acceptible condition.
This was neither a quick nor an inexpensive project. Two weeks into it I sent a letter to my boss saying that it would take longer than expected to resolve, and sent along a small packet of photographs to prove why. At four weeks and four days after my vacation started I recieved a certified letter from them. I was let go. My first words on reading it were, "Fucking bitch!".
I'd started this venture with $47,000.00 in the bank and a clear credit card. As the bills mounted up I kept eying my bank account with trepidation. My lawyer, however, was of the opinion that being reimbursed should have been the least of my worries. He was marshalling his arguments for a multi-million dollar penalty settlement, of which he had contracted with me to get forty percent. Of course I agreed to it! A sixty percent return on anything was better than one hundred percent of nothing!
I gave him certified copies of all my bills and receipts, including the bills for my jaw-droppingly expensive apartment. After all, if the boat had been in the shape which I had expected it to be in when this circus began, I'd have been living onboard.
.... There is more of this story ...