Boater gets fitting start to season

OUTDOORS

April 05, 1994|By PETER BAKER

The laying up of the old boat had been hastily done, what with rockfish season blending quickly into hunting seasons for ducks, geese and deer -- and then the weather turning abnormally cold.

Late winter and early spring had brought about fitful, episodic cleaning, rebedding, replacing, compounding and waxing.

The wooden base for the console seat had been replaced by a stainless steel bracket fabricated by a good friend who runs a boat shop in Annapolis. The fiberglass fuel tank, on which the console seat rests, had been reset on a bed of teak to replace a makeshift plywood shim that had been installed by a previous owner and during the years had come to just short of dust.

The hand-held VHF radio had been replaced by a proper unit, which had been mounted out of the weather in a console box; the decade old Humminbird fish finder had been replaced by a depth sounder-navigation unit that also would display speed, water temperature and perform a variety of other functions.

The single battery mounted high in the console had been removed and a pair of new batteries had been installed lower in the boat and wired to a battery switch that had been mounted inside the console.

The gasoline fuel system had been checked for rotting hoses and leaks and updated with a new water-fuel separator to replace a model that was supposed to have been used for diesel engines.

Amid a couple of dozen other tasks, the spark plugs had been changed, the rotor and points checked, the oil changed, a few gallons of fuel added to the dry tank, and the decks, coaming and console cleaned of oily finger prints and footsteps.

The freshwater flushing system was hooked up, and the engine turned over. First time, like clockwork, varoom. If only for a minute or two.

The exhaust was dry. Somewhere between the freshwater hookup and the stainless exhaust tippets in the transom, the system was blocked.

Check the water pump. Inlet hose intact, impeller OK, outlet hose cold. Check the thermostat. Trash it (make a note to buy a new one) and check the channels in the cover. Dirty, but open. Clean and rebolt.

Go to the risers. Remove the exhaust hose, loosen the four bolts on the port side unit, remove the starboard unit. Both trash (make a note to buy new ones).

Go to the headers. Barely serviceable.

Go to the phone and order new risers and headers -- and waithrough the weekend and into the middle of the next week for them to be shipped from Pennsylvania. While waiting, buy new a thermostat, a couple of feet of three-inch exhaust hose and alter a pair of old bronze exhaust tippets to be used to join the extensions of the exhaust system.

With all the parts on hand -- the day before the Orioles' final exhibition on April 2 at Camden Yards -- the old boat was rounding into shape.

The headers and the port riser had been bolted in place and three of the four bolts in the starboard riser had been tightened. While working on the fourth riser bolt -- kneeling, neck and back bent until the top of head is nearly touching waist -- the wrench slipped and disappeared, bouncing away into the depths of the engine compartment. Or so it seemed.

After a few minutes of feeling blindly under the engine and into recesses of the engine compartment, the wrench was still missing. And then there was a disturbing thought.

At the rear of the engine -- just aft of the manifold, just beneath the after end of the starboard riser -- lay the open end of three-inch exhaust hose.

Deep within, where the hose made the bend under console seat, which sat in its new stainless bracket, which sat atop the fuel tank, which was firmly screwed to the newly installed teak bed, there was a glint of metal, which could only be the half-inch crescent wrench.

Remove the console seat. Loose the fuel tank from its bed. Disconnect the steering cable bolted to a flange of the fuel tank. Pull the tank. Lift the exhaust hose and recover the wrench.

Then -- like any perfect boating fool in April -- put it all together again.

Varoom.

Finally.

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