Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Tough Week

Given that we have only taken one day off this month, I do not think of weeks in the normal sense. My scale and frame of reference is all wonky. Most people, more or less, think of a work week (Monday through Friday) plus a weekend (Saturday and Sunday). I, however, am a little more flexible with my definition of a week. A week in my mind is usually 7-10 days with no specific days of the week attributed to it. When discussing my "week" with friends over drinks, it may very well contain two Wednesdays. Or when I tell a customer I am going to work on their job next week, I might actually do it tomorrow. Time looses scale and meaning when specific days fail to hold unique meaning.

It is with this frame of mind that I tell you last week was rough.

We work in very shallow water most of the time. It is not unusual for us to be working in less than two feet of water with one of our sides pinned against a cliff. We beach the barge routinely and purposely. For those of you not familiar with boating, that is not a common practice with a 32' boat. Many experienced boaters would look at us like we are crazy when we drive our barge right up on the beach or push our bow against a ledge. And they would be right, we are a bit crazy, because as a result of our behavior we have to repair fiberglass annually and our propellers look terrible. It is not uncommon for us to ding our props on ledges. My dad boasted 13 prop repairs in one year. Ouch!

We ordered brand new props for the barge and they arrived this past week. I don't think the barge has had new props since it was new in 2008. It has had many many different modified and repaired props but we were excited to put two identical props on our engines.

Three of our old props with one of the brand new ones
David installed the new wheels and then we headed over to the wharf to load up materials to install two new moorings. After loading up gear we took her out for a test run and pointed her towards our job site for the day. Cruising through a channel that is well known for ripping off lower units, at 18 knots, I hit a ledge with my starboard engine.

We ding props at idle. We hit rocks in reverse. We don't hit ledges at speed going through gutways we travel every other day. It was a newb mistake and I paid dearly for it. My prop (less than an hour old) was shredded, I ripped off my skeg and blew a whole the size of my hand in the lower unit.

Brand New Propeller
Yeah it was a bad day to say the least. We limped home on one engine, accomplishing nothing but destroying my gear. The next few days we were forced to work out of the Maritime while I moped over my busted engine.

Luckily (or unluckily) our starboard engine will not die. Last year the powerhead died, but was re-machinable and rebuildable, which David did this spring. A few weeks ago we thought the lower was going to kick it, but it turned out to only be a bad shifter cable. This week I put a window in the lower unit, but David was able to weld it up. So as much as we want to repower the barge, this engine keeps on kicking and we can not justify the expense while we still have "working" engines. I think I might paint an Energizer bunny on it.

Today we were able to work from the barge. David did a nice job repairing the carnage. She isn't digging reverse after the repair and we were only able to get her to 18 knots (21 knots is her usual max speed), but she is still getting us from Point A to Point B in a reasonable fashion.

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