Fix-it frenzy intensifies at marinas

April 21, 1996|By Ellen Gamerman | Ellen Gamerman,SUN STAFF

Three things you might want to get before boarding Larry Townsend's boat: A tetanus shot, a flotation device and a good life insurance policy.

Mr. Townsend is toiling furiously at a 42-foot steel and scrap metal boat in hopes of launching this summer what looks a bit like a World War II relic.

But even this dreamer, whose self-styled nautical creation sank once when it wasn't even moving, admits the boat is a bit nightmarish.

"The whole thing is death-defying," said Mr. Townsend, 45, as he scampered over the boat's rusting deck at Shady Side marina. "It's dangerous. It's pretty holey."

Not all boaters face the task that Mr. Townsend does this spring -- although they may feel like they do as they retrieve their vessels from a wintertime of boat hibernation.

At marinas across the Baltimore area, boaters are working full-throttle. Some people have been waiting for this moment for weeks, frustrated by the lingering cold weather that has kept them away from the yearly repairs their boats demand.

Every warm weekend leading up to the summer, they grind and paint, scrape and chip, caulk and polish -- and, of course, sweat and toil.

This is a time when laboring under a corroded hull is a preferred weekend activity and inhaling poisonous chemicals is all part of a day's work. Anti-fouling paint is a hot commodity for these folks, who form friendships over discussions of mildew and mold.

"It's a sloppy, dirty, filthy, grubby, miserable job," said Norm Lerner of Fairfax, Va., as he rolled a coat of red paint on the bottom of his boat at Parrish Creek Marina in Shady Side in Anne Arundel County. "Other than that, I hate it."

Mr. Lerner won't do floors and windows at home, but there's no debate over who will do the chores on his 22-foot sailboat, the Big Decision.

"I've got to get this part done so that I can get in the water and enjoy it," he said. "It'll be worth it eventually."

Of course, not all boaters do the drudge work themselves.

Mr. Lerner suggests people buy really big boats -- that way they won't feel guilty when they hire someone else to do the work.

The marina's shipwright, Robert "Bunny" Joyce, demands no such rationalizations. He actually enjoys doing this stuff.

Mr. Joyce, 51, of Annapolis, bails out frustrated boaters for a living. But he hasn't hired anyone to fix his own vessel, an abandoned cabin cruiser he is turning into a crab boat by removing its entire top half.

The repairs on the 16-foot skiff are extensive, and a messy pile of what used to be its guts lies on the ground nearby. When the transformation is complete, the new boat will sparkle with touches of sleek mahogany and a coat of white paint.

Mr. Joyce inherited the old boat, and he doesn't get nostalgic about taking a jigsaw to it. "It was corroded," he said. "Besides, I never did like cabin cruisers."

Everywhere around the Chesapeake Bay these days, boaters seem to be in a tinkering frenzy.

Nowhere was this more evident than in Annapolis, where boaters were dashing into marine outfitting stores clutching lists of urgent items.

The Jimmy Buffett music tinkling in the background was about the only sedate thing happening at Fawcett Boat Supplies in downtown Annapolis yesterday. The store, which sells roughly 18,000 marine gadgets, is teeming with boaters this time of year.

"It's all this pent-up demand," said George Moose, Fawcett's manager. "Everybody wants to get overboard all the time. They're launching like crazy."

But it's not always so easy to get launched. The late-arrival of spring-like weather put those with boats at marinas along the bay and its tributaries several weeks behind schedule on their repair work.

Bill Kardash's boat was no exception.

"We're really behind in getting our work done," said the Annapolis advertising executive. "We've got endless stuff to do."

Mr. Kardash doesn't like to worry about sinking. He is just hoping everything works the way it should when he takes his 50-foot sailboat on a race from Newport, R.I., to Bermuda on June 21.

This year's repairs were complicated by cracks on the boat's hull, created by ice and snow over the winter.

But in all likelihood, no matter how hard people work on Mr. Kardash's boat, or their own, it's all but impossible to catch every little glitch.

"That first time out always holds some surprises," Mr. Moose said. "That's where they get the term 'shake-down cruise.' They don't call it that for nothing."

Pub Date: 4/21/96

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