Monthly Archives: April 2013

The destruction continues…

I’m counting the days until Annabel Lee emerges from the shed and returns to the realm of sunlight and tides. The quiet corner where she’s dwelled, once solitary and serene, has over the last few months become a somewhat hellish place of earsplitting noise as compressors, grinders and sanders all tear into hurricane damaged hulls, and a constant layer of gritty white dust that coats everything and everyone. These days, I can’t even hear the passing freight trains — I only know they’re rumbling past when the boat begins to shake.  But progress continues. The bridge is solid, smooth, and sealed up tight as a duck’s rear end. Likewise for the transmission, along with much of the other leaks in the engine room. The salon windows will receive some temporary attention until we can focus on them further. But as our days with the boat indoors, under a roof and out of the weather count down, there’s one last region of leaks I’d intended on eradicating, and though I knew it wouldn’t be pleasant, it had to be done. The forward and side decks.

I’m sure thirty-five years ago these decks looked lovely and seemed like a good idea. True, they had their charm, but at present they weren’t far behind the bridge, and left unattended I knew only too well where their advancing leaks would lead. It was time to be ruthless.

It was painful, ripping the first planks up. But before long I was discovering how many fasteners were all but gone. These decks were on their last days, with or without my help. And in short time, I’d already cleared a large area.

Once all the teak is gone, I’ll strip off the bedding, drill and fill the holes, and this time around it should (theoretically) be a simple case of laying down some biaxial cloth with yet more epoxy, and finishing it off with some non-skid.  After the structural issues entailed in reconstructing the bridge, this should be a whole lot simpler, easier, and faster. At least, that’s my hope, but whatever the case, it needed to be done. I’m just looking forward to the days when I’ll have more time to focus on my writing, aboard a tranquilly floating, dust-free and relatively leak-free boat.

One Flew Over The Keyboard…

With each passing year that I’ve spent writing, the more I’ve come to conclude that this pursuit is something that suits those a bit –uhm—shall we say, off-kilter from main-stream humanity. I’m not saying all writers are crazy, or even most of ‘em. That’s not for me to say. And perhaps it’s a chicken/egg conundrum…does insanity lead to writing, or writing to insanity. That’s something we could debate at great length. But certain element s of writing fiction are un-debatable, and seem to go hand in hand with a certain degree of questionable mental reasoning. Let’s look at the facts.

We (okay, let me rephrase that. I. Me. I’ll speak for myself.  If any of you see certain similar behaviors, or others I don’t touch upon, feel free to chime in) spend much of our time alone, in a semi-distracted state, mumbling to ourselves about imaginary people. Imaginary people that we create in our heads. But it’s not enough simply to create these characters. We create entire worlds for them. Lives, back-stories, likes, dislikes, quirks. We can even hear their voices in our heads, and the more real they become, the more they won’t shut up. We try to make them likeable, or at least relatable.  Then we proceed to wreck their tidy little lives. They start off happy, but our goal is to make them suffer. It doesn’t matter whether they are the hero or villain – the worse off they are, the happier we are. We build worlds just to crush them.  And furthermore, we destroy/kill them in the most creative ways possible. Spray-foam, anyone? Every time I hear something unspeakably awful, I get a gleam in my eyes that makes others uneasy, and a corner of my brain starts dancing with perverse delight – ‘Hmmm? Could I kill X that way?’ What does that say about me?

People wonder where we get our ideas. But as writers, it’s more a case of where DON’T we? Ideas are everywhere, bombarding our brains at every waking hour, and creeping through our dreams even as we try to sleep. Then we take those ideas, and build a world of lies around them. In most areas of polite society, lying is frowned upon. But as a fiction writer, it’s a vital talent. It’s critical to our survival. Truthfully, the truth doesn’t make for compelling stories, at least in my book. But fiction…what is fiction, really? It’s a writer telling a story completely made up of made-up stuff. And  what is made-up stuff? It’s lies. Nothing but lies. And the better we tell them, the better our stories are for it.

We do things most sane people might question. For example, consider our dietary habits. I once went three weeks on mostly Cheez-Its. It wasn’t pretty. And don’t get me started with caffeine. Our work areas can be somewhat telling as well, and I’m not just talking the empty snack-food wrappers, half-drained coffee cups, and dog-eared copy of the Anarchist’s Cookbook. Look around your computer. Worse yet, ON your computer. What sort of disturbing things – things that at minimum might bring you under the scrutiny of some government watch lists – have you bookmarked, and consider what people might conclude if you couldn’t qualify it with that happy explanation: “But I’m a writer.” See what I mean? Perhaps we’re drawn to writing because others accept, and even expect, that as writers, we’re not *quite* right, in that intriguing, somewhat eccentric way. “It’s okay… she’s a writer.”

Finally, consider WHY we write. Is it for the money? Seriously? We might be crazy, somewhat out of touch or even delusional, but we’re not *that* crazy. The hit and miss, feast or famine nature of royalties isn’t enough to justify what we put ourselves through.  There are plenty of easier, far more lucrative ways to fill a bank account.  No, those of us who truly love writing write because we’re compelled. Our imaginations don’t have an off switch, and the only way to purge that backlog of ideas, lies and mayhem building in our brains – the only way to truly shut those voices up, at least for a little while – is to put it down in words. We weather the erratic income, the insomnia, the idiosyncrasies of the publishing world, scathing reviews from readers with a poor grasp on punctuation and grammar, all because it’s what we love to do. And I won’t even touch upon the other facet of my other insanity, the still-not-floating one, or I might start digging out cab-fare for a one-way ride to nice, restful Bergen Pines.

Writing. It’s madness, I tell you. Pure madness.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

A dirty subject…

Dirty, oily, messy. Leaky.

Sadly, those were the words I’d use to describe my boat’s engine. She came that way, and it was something that bothered me to no end. While some people think of an engine room as that place where the nastier workings of a boat are tucked away, out of sight and out of mind until they misbehave, that’s not how I see it. The engine is the heart of the boat, especially in a powerboat, and should be cared for with the honor and respect it deserves. The engine is that critical piece that should be there for you, humming along contently, or on the ready when all hell kicks up, and it should be cared for with the proper reverence and respect it deserves.

Alright. I’ll admit it. I’m a bit fanatical when it comes to engine care. But a clean, well-maintained engine is (at least in my eyes) a thing of beauty. A sound engine is one you can count on, and a clean engine is one that will readily reveal if any area develops a leak or other issues. In my opinion, the engine room above all else should be the cleanest part of the entire boat. And while the deck-glassing project proceeds, the engine overhaul has been moving ahead at a steady pace. I’m happy to report at this point I’m able to wipe the engine down from end to end with a white rag, and it remains white.

All loose paint has been scraped and wire-brushed off, and the entire engine treated with a pre-primer prep.  It won’t be long until this whole thing is gleaming Ford red, and fitted out with new hoses, belts, lines, filters, and so on.  And while much of what people see on my boat awaits cosmetic attention, the engine itself will, indeed, sparkle!

UPDATE: And shown below is what I’d define as a vast improvement.

shiny engine

Still awaiting installation, many more sparkly bits, including the beautifully refinished Econ-O-Power Manifold, (Yay, Linden, NJ!) breathers, expansion tank, oil and trans coolers, fuel lines, hoses, belts, and more.

more engine parts

Transmission, transformed…

From this…
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to this…
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followed by some heavy duty cleaning…
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disassembly…
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soaking, cleaning, and, for some areas, sandblasting, (other parts included)…

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followed by new seals, bearings, and very careful reassembly, and a few coats of primer…
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and finally a nice coat or three of classic Ford red…
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No more rusty, oily, leaky tranny. The transmission is all set to go back into the engine room, along with new motor mounts, hoses, lines, belts, filters, and more. More leaks banished, and best of all, the engine room will SPARKLE!