The Great Loopers Chapter 17. DIY

“Look at me, I am old, but I’m happy.” Cat Stevens

From the log book on Sunday September 10th 2017. Written by the XO.
8:04 AM Bilged away from Port Austin. Light and variable winds, waves 2′ or less.
12:10 PM Bilged at anchor in Tawas Bay, NE corner. Mantus is back!

The XO mentioned the bilge twice. I guessed it was time to tighten the stuffing boxes. These are holes in the boat bottom that the shafts go through. Ginger Lee has four. Two for the rudders, and two for the propeller shafts. They’re basically threaded tubes stuffed with graphite or Teflon infused rope that’s wrapped around the shaft. A big nut on the end squishes this rope tighter around the shaft to seal it, but not completely. It’s should leak a little bit in order to lubricate the shafts as they turn. Five drips per minute is about right.
That’s right, there’s always water coming into the boat, but there’s a pump connected to a float switch. When the water level inside the boat reaches a certain level, the float switch turns on the pump and the water leaves the boat. It’s an old-school system but reliable. If we notice the pump turning on too often, it’s time for me to contort my old bones into the bilge and make an adjustment.

A stuffing box.
The tool for adjusting a stuffing box.

Plan A was to head northwest from Port Austin to Harrisville, crossing Saginaw Bay, but the waves, though not terribly large, were hitting us the wrong way. As always in boating, your direction is dictated by the conditions. After a half hour or so of picking stuff off the floor, we set a more comfortable westerly course, pushed ourselves into beautiful Tawas Bay, and dropped the anchor.

Tawas Bay sunset.

From the log book on Monday September 11 2017 Written by me.
8:15 AM or so weighed anchor.
1:10 PM Arrive Harrisville Harbor
1288 to 1326= 38 miles

When we got to Harrisville Harbor I adjusted all the stuffing boxes, and while between the engines, I checked the oil, transmission fluid, and coolant levels. After topping up the four starting batteries with distilled water, I adjusted the belt tension on the starboard engine. I noted the engine hours at 1,720. These engines have run nearly 300 hours since we left home, that’s about four times more than they usually run for a typical New England season.
Gosh darn it! It was the dreaded oil change time. First one on this trip. Those suckers need 24 quarts. Not only did I have that much oil on board, I also carried enough filters for the entire trip, and a gizmo that sucks the oil out of the engines.
“Hey Rick. What did you do with all that used motor oil?”
“So glad you asked.” At the time I had no friggin’ idea. It turned out that any marina with a repair facility will take it if you ask nicely and tip handsomely. I asked a young dock hand and he brought over a cart and took it away. Worth a twenty buck tip any day.
I wish I could just pull her into Jiffy Lube.

They gave me a free hat at this place.
Between the engines.
My messy workbench with lots of filters.

There are those that say the prudent Looper should be past Chicago by this time, ya know, to keep from freezing your butt off. But there we were, still heading north in mid September.
There was some concern. It was almost October, and in Massachusetts, October can sometimes be awful. Snow is not unusual, and our latitude was way more north than our home in Cape Cod, in fact, it’s about the same as the northern Vermont border. Yikes! But as usual, I had a guardian angel on my shoulder. The weather was spectacular.

In our travels, we met a very nice cruising couple. Not Loopers, but they noticed our Massachusetts registration, and we noticed theirs, also from the Bay State. We started talking, and over cocktails aboard their gorgeous sailing catamaran, Rogue Angel, I discovered that they were very fortunate indeed, because in their lifetime they had amassed enough money to be able to sail their boat between their homes in Massachusetts and in Florida. They were what us New Englanders call snowbirds. They spend their Winters in Florida and Summers in Weymouth. A couple of childhood sweethearts who married young and worked hard most of their lives, they were just two years older than me.
The next day at the marina they had a mechanic aboard their boat, and after he left, I asked my new friend if everything was okay. He said yes. It’s just a minor drip that needed to be tightened. He opened the starboard engine hatch to reveal a tidy little engine compartment. I asked him why he just didn’t do it himself. After all, he looked trim and fit and was obviously no stranger to the tool box. His answer surprised me:
“Because I no longer possess the agility.”
It stuck with me and made me think. How much longer will it be before I am saying that?

Ginger Lee and Rogue Angel.

We all know somebody who doesn’t own a screwdriver and has everything done for them. I’m not putting you down, brothers and sisters, one day due to the unstoppable aging process I may walk among you, I simply wish to say that it’s not my choice. Either way there is always a cost. Some pay with money, others like myself, pay with aches, pains, and skinned knuckles. Who is wiser? I say the one who is happy.

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