Thursday, April 19, 2018


More than a year ago Deb spotted a tiny pin hole in the metal exhaust pipe connected to the exhaust manifold. We were far from anywhere repairs could be made, so we wrapped it and clamped it and basically forgot about it. I noticed it again when I started to mount the new heat exchanger and decided this would be the perfect time to do a more permanent repair. The first thought was to replace the 5 inch bit of tube with one that didn't have a hole in it. That thought faded away when it was discovered that the shop didn’t have any such thing in stock. The offer was made to weld a patch over the bad spot, something that would take about an hour and leave me with the possibility of getting the boat done by dinner.


Pipe welded, JJ, Christopher, and I set about reassembling the Beast. It went pretty well right up until we filled the new parts with coolant. When bright green liquid starting dripping past the newly installed flange gasket at the base of the exchanger, we set about disassembling the Beast. New new gaskets replaced the old new gaskets, different and more robust hardware in the form a larger washers replaced the original, and a layer of gasket sealer was added to the install. By then Grampy T was well and truly spent. The reassembled unit was left on the bench to be hung on the Beast the following day. My young crew was delighted at the prospect of having another day of “real engine work” to do.

Come morning the Beast was assembled once again. Part of the fun of this install is the four nuts that help support the exhaust manifold. The only way to get the them started on the studs is to uckum sticky them to a long thin screwdriver, hold them against the stud end, and try to get them started using the edge of another long, thin, screwdriver. It is actually a pretty standard technique for working around an engineering wonk, but not exactly “boat mechanics 101.” All was going well until the very last nut to go on got started a little cross ways, buggering up the stud threads. So we had to back up a bit, removing the manifold to reach and dress the stud. Count that as having to do half of a removal.

The boys were delighted.

Stud threads dressed, the manifold was set in place for the third time. The boys insisted that they could handle the screw driver trick and wanted to give it a try. I’m not sure you could call it a true solo flight, but they got most of the way around the pattern; much to my delight.

Engine buttoned up, this time with the coolant system full and not drooling, Deb prodded the Beast to life while the boys and I looked for leaks. Almost immediately water started flowing from a set of clamps at the tube that was welded. A quick shut-down and some additional torque would cure the minor glitch, no problem. On the second start the clamps held tight but, a few moments later, water and mist could be seen seeping enthusiastically out of the weld repair. Problem. We would have to back up and start all over.

The boys were delighted. Grampy T? Not so much.

For the third time on this repair, fluid was drained and hoses undone. For the fourth time on this repair, the exhaust manifold was unbolted and lifted off the Beast. The boys insisted on trying to remove the nuts and washers, employing a magnet to catch all the bits as they came off the stud, thus avoiding having them cascade down the engine and into the engine pan. A pretty standard technique but not exactly “boat mechanics 101.” Nine and five years old, they handled it with little trouble, and were delighted with their prowess.

The heat exchanger / exhaust manifold assembly is at the shop waiting on a new chunk of exhaust tube to be delivered and installed. Since I am no longer an official employee of the yard and it will likely take a blow torch to get the parts apart, I suspect no one’s insurance would be happy with a DIY. Besides, the boys would likely insist that they could handle the torch, so this is an “out” for Grampy T.

When it comes to puttting the thing on for the fourth time though, I may just sit back and let them have at it.

They would be delighted.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Young hands

Parts for the WesterBeast’s heat exchanger repair finally started to show up. It took a while to find the required gaskets, which were then shipped via the slowest boat to China ever commissioned. Or maybe the second slowest? The gasket arrived before the new heat exchanger, though the heat exchanger was ordered first. Both ended up being about a week late.

“Why a new heat exchanger” you ask?

The original one was, well, original. We have already had it repaired once. This time the yard's engine guru took a peek and told us that it had been repaired at least once before that. New seemed better. But a new factory bit proved hard to locate and was rumored to carry, should one actually be located somewhere, a price that bordered on astronomical. A new one "manufactured to the original specs” could be had at slightly less than a week’s wages. Yes, I had the same misgivings, but ordered it anyway. And yes, I wouldn't be surprised if we had ordered a "factory new",  they would have gone and bought the same one we did, stuck a factory price tag on it,  and then shipped it to me.

The heat exchanger showed up today, packaged professionally, glistening in a Westerbeke red, and looking good. All the fittings were in the right places and of the correct sizes. The new end cap is clearly superior to the original rubber one. And it had a certain amount of heft to it, a good thing with something that is a serious chunk of metal. Seeing as it was after lunch already, tomorrow seemed like a good time to start. Five year old grandson JJ, however, was of a different opinion. He wanted to help in the worst way, this being “engine work”. Grampy T bowed to the inevitable and changed into work clothes.

One might normally cringe at the idea of“marine diesel heat exchanger install” and, “five year old” being used in the same sentence. True maybe, if that five year old isn’t JJ. It didn’t take long to find a job needing done that he could do. This heat exchanger hangs off the exhaust manifold, requiring 3 new gaskets for the install. Old gasket bits needed to be throughly removed before the new ones are installed. JJ insisted that he could handle the task as long as I could find him a piece of ScotchBright. I did.

And he did.

New gasket installed, we went to place the heat exchanger in place and…remember that “original spec” claim? Apparently that did not include placing the slots for the mounting bolts exactly where they needed to be. Fortunately bronze is pretty easily worked, they were only off a few hundreds of an inch, and we own a Dremel tool. I really couldn’t explain to my five year old co-worker how the people building the heat exchanger managed to screw up the one measurement they really needed to get right to make the thing work. Dremel tool humming, I did get the chance to explain that taking off a little bit at a time, seeing if it was enough, then taking off a little more, is a far better option than taking too much off the first time around. He is a little too young for the sarcastic “I cut it off twice and it was STILL too short” quip. I’ll save that for when he is in his teens.

Mounting slots now properly located, we once again attempted to mate the heat exchanger to the exhaust manifold, and found a second place where the “original spec”, wasn’t. The body of the heat exchanger was fouling against the ends of the mounting studs, though the original one fit fine. I don’t know which original spec was off. Maybe the new one is of a slightly larger diameter than the old. Maybe the new mounting flange is slightly thinner. Either way the studs were too long.

The Dremel tool wouldn’t be much of a match for the hardened steel studs. But we also own an angle grinder with a cut-off wheel.

Even in Grampy T’s work shop five year old’s don’t tangle with angle grinders. Still, JJ stood near enough to see what was being done, and to remind me not to cut off too much. It is always fun to tell kids that the sparks flying off a grinder are hotter than the sun. JJ wanted to know how that was possible and so learned something about friction and heat…and not to touch the part just cut without gloves or a rag. No, I didn’t. I sent him to get a rag.

Mounting slots modified and mounting studs custom cut to size, the heat exchanger and exhaust manifold could be properly introduced and joined together in engine cooling bliss. The only hitch in the ceremony was the lack of space for slipping the two all the way together before installing the mounting washers and nuts. But with a pair of 5 year old hands working along side a pair of 62 year old hands, exchanger and manifold were ultimately torqued firmly together.

Tomorrow they will take up residence in their permanent home, the move likely to be aided by boat mechanic JJ.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Hell is 3mm wide

It was almost exactly a week ago. I took a shower and went to bed with a book, but I couldn't get comfortable. I tried pillows and moved from one side to the other but I was increasingly uncomfortable. I got up to go to the bathroom. It didn't help. After a bit, it became apparent that something was seriously wrong and it was getting worse. I told Tim I thought it was time we saw about getting some transportation to the emergency room. He ran up to the guard shack and the guard on duty quickly handed him his keys. We were off.

Image courtesy of
The pain was getting worse at a rapid rate. Tim was stopping at red lights, looking, and running them. We were in the emergency room in just under 12 minutes, and not a single minute too soon. The staff there was professional, courteous, and efficient and happened to have some greatly improved sick bags handy, a good thing as I almost immediately revisited our excellent dinner from earlier in the evening.

Within the hour, a Cat scan revealed the cause of the misery, a 3mm kidney stone which was lodged just above the bladder. The photo at the right is so you can get an idea of the size. It's amazing that something that small can bring a human to her knees. Pain meds were administered, which finally brought some blessed relief. After a while, they allowed me to leave, pain and nausea prescriptions in hand. I slept the rest of the night, all of Monday, and Monday night. I completely lost a day, which I guess isn't really out of the ordinary for a cruiser who usually doesn't even know what month it is.

The next three days I was pain-free. I read the handout the emergency room had given me which stated that should you be pain-free for more than 24 hours, it was likely that the stone had broken up or passed unnoticed and you were in the clear. I was buoyed with hope, but unfortunately it was in vain.

Friday night (yes, Friday the 13th,) as I left the shower, I had a twinge in the exact same place. By the time I tried to lay down in bed it became apparent that I was headed the same road again.This time we didn't wait. We had a rental car that we had picked up for weekend errands and we quickly left. By the time we got to the hospital, I was in as much pain as the previous visit, not able to sit comfortably in any position, not able to stand, not able to lay down, and revisiting dinner again. A small word of advice - if you have any inkling that you might be getting ready to pass a kidney stone, enchiladas in red sauce is probably not the best choice of dinner. A couple hours, some kidney performance tests to be sure the kidneys were functioning correctly, and a blessed dose of pain meds, and I was once again in the land of the living.

The doctor was really sweet when I asked her whether she thought the stone was going to pass soon. She said she wished she was a fortune teller, but just couldn't say. So we're now left with a decision of how long to stay put. Hurricane season is closing in fast and we need to go north, but the idea of getting down to the anchorage in the Everglades and having to tough it through that level of pain without medical assistance is frightening to me. Of all the difficulties that cruising brings, the issue of needing medical attention when out of range is the one that bothers me most, especially as we age.

A lot of cruising spots are named "Hell Gate" or some version of it. We've been through the one in New York on a small sailboat, and we're going to attempt the one in Georgia in a few weeks but, truly, the worst Hell Gate I've navigated is this passage of a kidney stone. My wish for you this evening is that you never have to go through it.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Not where we hoped to be

The Kids rowed out to Kintala last evening for the final hugs and good-by. No tears, since we will be meeting up again in a few weeks. This morning dawned perfect for the first run toward the Keys. It felt good being up on deck setting the rigging, pulling off the sail cover, running the sheets. We were cruisers once again, heading back out to where the rest of the tribe lives. It had been a long time since I felt that good getting about my day.

Kintala hasn’t been completely stationary lately, having been out to the anchorage a couple of times as well as making runs to the pump-out. In fact she has been riding to her anchor for the last ten nights while we Dinged in each day to help with the final prep for Blowin' In The Wind to be on her way as well. There was little thought of touching a dock for weeks, and then just for fuel. Everything has been checking out okay, so I gave little thought to Deb doing the engine checks last while I finished up the deck and got ready to pull the hook. 

When she called up from below to ask me to come look at something my good mood vanished. I could tell from the tone of her voice we likely weren’t going very far. In spite of the checks being completely normal for the last couple of weeks, this morning Ye ‘Ol WesterBeast appeared to be adding engine coolant all by itself. It was hard to say for sure. There is no overflow tank, Kintala being an antique when it comes to marine coolant systems. So checking the level means peering down into the actual coolant tank and judging that the fluid is where it normally is. And it certainly appeared to be higher than we are used to seeing. Deb also thought that the color was wrong and I took her word for it. My color sense was never very good and hasn’t gotten any better with the passing of decades. Still, that is some pretty sparse evidence of there being a problem, and the very idea of having to fix yet another thing on the boat was setting firecracker thoughts off in my brain, none of which should ever see the light of day.

After some debate and a call to the shop to see what the engine gurus might suggest, (as if I didn’t already know), we pulled the hook and headed to one of the face docks inside the yard. A pressure test on the coolant system would tell the tale, and the tale it told was the we were definitely not going anywhere. The gauge confirmed that the coolant system is breached somewhere, that somewhere being a place that lets raw water in where raw water shouldn’t be. About the only place that can happen is in the core of the heat exchanger.

The WesterBeast’s heat exchanger was overhauled about 5 years ago because the engine was overheating. Of those five years we have spent nearly 2 tied to the dock here at Snead Island. That seems a pretty limited service life for a unit that isn’t particularly modest in the price department. My joy at being on our way was long forgotten. In its place was my opinion of the mechanical side of the marine world in general, and the WesterBeast in particular, falling to its normally abysmal low. But, what else to do? It has to be fixed. This is a far better place to get that done than somewhere 50 miles from the nearest shop. And Deb caught it on some very thin information; one quarter inch or so of too much fluid, and a slight color change. I don’t think I would have noticed.

We moved the boat to a more permanent pier, one less exposed to the wakes coming in off the river. It is a good bet that we will be here a week or more. It was at least a week the last time the heat exchanger came off the boat. Though it was late in the afternoon, my mood grim (to put it mildly) and my head filled with thoughts of meeting my daily limit of alcohol intake as quickly as possible, it would be best to pull the heat exchanger with the hope of having it in a shop before the weekend. Cruising clothes were shed, work clothes were dug out of the locker, tools located, and boat parts removed.

I remember the last time taking off the heat exchanger as being nearly 8 hours of continuous hurt and frustration. Whomever it was that decided pulling the exhaust manifold was a perfectly acceptable first step to reaching the heat exchanger should be flogged repeatedly with hot coolant lines. He should also be forced to pay for the $100 exhaust gasket required as part of the job. Practice makes a difference though, and this time the heat exchanger/exhaust manifold landed on the work bench barely two hours after the engine covers were pulled. Ten minutes later the heat exchanger was free and ready for the shop.

Ten minutes after that I was well on my way to meeting that daily limit of alcohol intake.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Trying to get going

So there we were, within 36 hours or so of pulling the hook out of the Manatee River and heading off. There was a last day to be spent getting the mast lights on Blowing In The Wind squared away, and getting some play time in with the grand kids. I had long dreaded that last day of play, knowing the heart break that would come with those final hugs before we took the Ding out to Kintala. Best guess was that it would be three days of tears and at least another week of shaking off a grey cloud of wondering just why we needed to be away. After that there would still be intermittent bouts of the grey, bouts that would fade as the months wore on, though never going completely away. But, as it turned out, they were not thrilled at the idea of seeing us sail off over the horizon while they stayed tied to a dock, and so decided to leap in the cruising life themselves and come along.

How cool is that?

Because Kintala can’t fit through the Okeechobee, and Blowing In The Wind’s Captain and Admiral wanted to have a little easer “first go” than running through the Gulf of Mexico to the Keys, the two boats will be taking different paths for the first few weeks. After meeting again in Stuart our little family flotilla will head north.

Kintala was due to leave first with the plan of spending a few days hanging out in places we like to hang out, and meeting some people we would like to meet. So there we were, within 36 hours of pulling the hook out of the Manatee River and heading off.

Right up until we did the morning’s routine battery check. The check doesn’t amount to much, just running through the monitor menu to verify each battery’s voltage. The fancy Xantrex monitor does a whole bunch of other stuff as well, all of which I review, and none of which is very useful. Individual battery voltage displayed on a digital read-out to the hundredth off a volt will tell you everything you need to know about battery health. In the five years these batteries have been in Kintala the morning voltage checks have always been within a couple of hundredths of a volt of each other. This morning…

Battery 1 =12.16v.

Battery 2 =13.23 v.


The first step in troubleshooting is to verify what one thinks is wrong actually is wrong. In this case that would mean opening up the battery box and putting a volt meter on each battery. Alas, since we had been working on BIGW’s mast lights yesterday and left the tools on that boat for today’s efforts, my volt meter was back on the dock and not with Kintala out here in the anchorage. A quick run in to say “good morning” and grab the meter ensued. Sure enough, checking with an independent meeter confirmed, battery 1 was down an entire volt from battery 2.

Five year old batteries on a full time cruising boat. One really can’t complain. We started making plans to replace the batteries, figuring we could get back on the dock for a couple of days. Better to do it now than face the music somewhere along the East Coast. But…

Deb kept asking, “Why?” Why this sudden drop. Why today? And I kept answering, “Everything works right up until it breaks.” We are trying to get going. This is a boat. Of course it is broken. Boats are always broken. It is just a matter of how broken.

The second rule of troubleshooting, after verifying the problem actually exists, is to figure out the most likely cause of the problem. And, when it comes to the most likely cause, one might as well start with the last thing someone touched that might have something to do with the system wonk now messing up the day.

Since I wasn’t aware of anything being done that would jostle the electrical system into a wonk, and since the batteries are five years old, and since we trying to be on our way; I just fell into the conclusion that the batteries had decided this was the perfect day to file for retirement. But clearly Deb wasn’t convinced. Even while using the internet to check the prices and availability of various batteries she kept asking, “Why now? Why today?” After a bit she disappeared in the aft cabin and started poking around.

“Found it.”

Found it? Found what?

Working on BITW’s electrical system had her rummaging through all of the various bins and cubby holes on Kintala yesterday. Places where we stash all kinds of do-dads, like wire and connections and tools not often used. Stuff needed to fix BITW’s lights. It is a bit of a pain. Actually, it is a major pain, not being able to just reach into a tool box or easily accessed storage cabinet to get something. I often claim that, should I ever loose my mind and move back on shore, it will be to avoid having to spend 20 minutes digging though cubby holes for the stuff needed to do a five minute job.

Kintala’s battery master switch is located in one of those cubby holes. We rarely touch it. In fact, it probably hasn’t been moved in a couple of years. In the process of searching for stuff Deb had bumped the battery master select switch with a box full of cable, moving in from “BOTH” to “ONE”.  It was late. It had been a long day. She was tired. And the cubby hole was dark and stuffed. As a result last night’s entire electrical load had been sucked out of just one battery.

Of course it was low. We had selected it to be low. We just didn’t know that we had selected it to be low come morning.

So, here we are, within 36 hours of being on our way.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Aye Captain

As was alluded to a few posts ago, Kintala is now crewed by Coast Guard approved Merchant Mariners; OUPV - Operators. It is the bottom of the totem pole so far as CG licenses are concerned, but it is enough for our purposes. Exactly what those purposes might be is still a bit of a question. But for now it is enough to have it done.

Apart from accumulating the required 360 days of underway experience, it took 2 months of effort to jump through the hoops. Six, ten-hour days of class spread over two weekends made up the primary effort. Then there was test day. Yes, we both passed with solid scores. Yes, Deb took less time than I did. And yes, she had the slightly higher score. She was (as usual) much more motivated than I. After years of government tests, all I really care about is scoring a “pass." It isn’t like they put the test scores on your license for everyone to see. Also, my long experience with tests issued by government agencies has led to the suspicion that much of what we were being required to know would have little to do with actually operating a boat in a safe manor. A suspicion that proved accurate. 

There was also the mandatory drug test, a physical, and another day given over to the first aid class. All I will say about the first aid class was that it was about 20 minutes of information crammed into a ten hours of instruction.

Oh, and don’t forget the effort to get a TWIC card. I had one of those as a professional pilot. For some reason that one doesn’t count for professional mariners.

We took a class rather than doing the course online for a couple of reasons. The primary one was of motivation. I have trouble with online stuff, quickly loosing interest. Having a room full of experience to share, as well as a set timeline to meet, was a better option. What came as a surprise was just how little experience there was in the room full of people seeking a Captain’s license. 

The class was large, 20 or so. Most were people who worked as deck hands on fishing charter boats who were looking to take up residence at the helm. One was a young lady who works as a deck hand on a big schooner doing day charters somewhere. She was working toward a 100 ton license. Only a few of us were gypsy sailors.

The first hint of just how thin the collective experience was, came early on day one. The class started out with the lights and shapes that commercial boats show when doing their commercial kind of stuff. There were also the rules on the lights all boats are supposed to show, and when they are supposed to show them. Our instructor asked how many of us had ever seen such lights out on open water. Three hands went up, two of them being Deb’s and mine. Class-wide there was virtually no experience with being under way or anchoring at night. 

As it turned out, there was very little experience with a lot of things. Virtually no one had any understanding of navigation that went deeper than punching a waypoint into a chart plotter. True as opposed to magnetic was a revelation to most, as was deviation as opposed to variation. Deb and I spent several hours tutoring those around us during the navigation practice sessions. I am fine with chart plotters. Kintala has nary a paper chart on her anywhere. But a deeper understanding of just what those chart plotters are doing in their little brain of chips is a good thing. Should that little brain go on the fritz it is likely some indication can be seen on the screen, so long as one knows the difference between what the thing is supposed to be doing as opposed to what it is doing, a situation familiar to anyone who has faced down the antics of a savvy instructor in a full motion simulator. Lest one believe that to be a "training only" kind of situation, it is also one I have seen many a time in an actual cockpit on a dark and stormy night. Yet there was not a single mention of using chart plotters or the various ways those things might lead one astray. It is a safe bet chart plotters are the only navigation anyone in the class is likely to use.

There was no mention of emergency navigation options, not even so basic as where Polaris might be found in the night sky, and what it actually means when one says, “The sun sets in the West.” About the most informative warning we got on navigation was to not trust that the position of channel markers as shown on the chart would be where they were actually located out on the water.

Yep. Got it.

I was getting a bit concerned about what would happen during the sessions on weather. Surely it was going to take days to cover the weather basics for people who likely had little clue. As it turned out I needn’t have been. The weather portion of the class consisted of how cold, warm, stationary and occluded fronts were displayed on a weather map. There was no discussion of what weather might be expected if one happened to be under one of those fronts as they passed through. Then there was a two minute review of the types of clouds, which wasn’t entirely accurate. That was it. There was not a single mention of isobars, lows, or highs. To be fair, the Coriolis effect was mentioned, but not a word was spoken as to how that led to air flowing in parallel to the isobars, with the result that air does not flow directly out of a high and into a low. Indeed, there was no mention at all of what a “high” or “low” was actually measuring. In a Captain’s class on weather there was not a single mention of the structure of the atmosphere, or how that structure evolved into the conditions we were expected to handle with aplomb.  

Though in Florida, there wasn’t any discussion about hurricane season or what powered those storms.  There was no mention of the NOAA hurricane center, nor of prog charts, marine weather via VHF, buoy reports, GRIB files, or any other source of weather information. Apparently OUPV - Operators are fulfilling their responsibility to their passengers by watching the weather forecast on the 6 O’Clock news.

Time was  spent on general boat issues. What seemed most important was how dangerous a line under stress can be. There was a video of body parts flying, it was mentioned many times in the review tests, and the actual test asked the same question about three different ways. Apparently a Captain getting a leg torn away by a parting dock or tow line is a true embarrassment. Maybe that’s why Captains are expected to stay in the wheel house and away from the deck. Another point of emphasis was that boats tend to back to port, and how to get a twin screw powerboat off of a dock. Apparently that is a “thing”.  (I wonder how one can garner 360 days of sea experience and not know that boats tend to back to port?)

Emphasized the most was navigational rules of the road. That seemed okay, but most of that discussion focused on whistle communications to set up passing scenarios for various situations. Interesting, to a degree, but two things occurred to me. The first was that a large percentage of the boats around us for the last five years were clearly being driven by people who had no clue that there were “rules of the road”. The second was that virtually everyone has a radio. All such whistle communications are optional so long as the crews involved talk on said radios. What are the chances that someone so unprofessional as to take to the waterways without a radio, is going to be professional enough to know what whistle signals are appropriate? In the half decade we have been full time on the boat, I have talked to dozens upon dozens of ships on the radio. Never once have I heard a whistle. 

All in all one might be curious as to just what filled those 60 hours of class time. Truth to tell, I haven’t a clue. We got through it. We passed the tests. That was the purpose of the exercise. So, was it worth it?

If nothing else, for several weeks we concentrated on little more that what it means to operate a boat in a safe and professional manor. Operating any vehicle safely boils down to two things. Know what is going on around you. Make the machine do what you want it to do. The details are less important than the attitude, the attention paid to the environment, and the commitment to get it right. A lot of the information was interesting, if not imperative. Some of it was archaic and mostly irrelevant. But all of it helped focus the attention on being the Captain, and not getting anyone hurt while doing so.

So yes, it was worth it.

But it could have been so much more useful, so much more informative. And it should have been a lot more interesting.  

Monday, March 19, 2018

Wake me not

Friday evening after work Blowin' in the Wind, home for Daughter Eldest and Family, dropped its dock lines and joined Kintala in the anchorage for the weekend. There may be, somewhere in the world, something better than having a family boat raft up that includes a gaggle of grand kids, but it is hard to imagine what that might be. Little ones scampered back and forth between the boats (with close adult supervision), there was that special, little one laughter over pelican antics, and the adult conversations centered about how much joy could be found just a few hundred feet off shore. The weather was quiet, the sky clear, and the water placid. It was a perfect evening and the start of what promised to be a wonderful weekend.

Saturday morning arrived cool and quiet, right up until the powerboat brigade started. The designated anchorage was off Pt McKay on the Manatee River, not very far from the boat yard. Anchoring there, as it turned out, was like pitching a tent in a perfect little meadow on Friday night, only to discover on Saturday morning that little meadow was smack in the middle of a Rally Car track. Within minutes the two boats were periodically banging into each other as an endless parade of wakes surged past, ricocheted off the shore, and struck from the other direction.

Now some might think that a newly minted Coast Guard Captain would have anticipated such a situation. After all, the Manatee River is pretty much a boat highway from multiple marinas to the Tampa Bay playground. I have been in such conditions many times before and should have known better. But, as the saying goes, “If I was perfect they would have to pay me more.”

We stuck it out by tying the boats tightly together with a solid layer of fenders in between. It worked, though a couple of hits were dramatic enough to be a bit scary. Not for the kids. They were hooting and calling out “Wake Hoe!” when spotting the bigger swells rolling through. The adults kept cautioning the little ones to hold on and sit down.

I try to be a live-and-let-live sort of person. Well, maybe it is more that I get as far away from most people as I can. That way they can live however they want without being much of a bother to me, and I can do the same without being much of a bother to them. The power boaters were just out having fun. Some were going fishing. Some were heading to a beach somewhere. And some were thrashing around just to thrash around. Nothing really wrong with that. We used to thrash around on massively overpowered motorcycles just for the shear exuberance of it all. I suppose the same can be said of powerboats. On the other hand…

After repeated bashings it was clear that there wasn't near enough space between Kintala and the power boat parade.  My imagination started seeing the blunt, weird looking shapes zooming by in a less than flattering light; loud, smelly, and banging across the water with the apparent haphazardness of those not caring much about anything except being loud, smelly, and banging across the water. There were no dolphins in sight. I hope there were no manatees about, they would have had little chance to survive. Pelicans and  cormorants fled the scene. At one point I took the little ones into shore so they could ride bicycles rather than get tossed around the cockpit.

Things settled down come evening. Pelicans and cormorants returned to do a little fishing. There might even have been a puff or two as dolphins nosed around to see what kind of damage had been done. It was a bit surreal that this was the same place it had been just a couple of hours before. It  seemed the wise decision to pull out first thing in the morning, before the Sunday madness erupted.

I was on Blowin' In The Wind when the lines were tossed, riding along for a run to the pump out station a couple of miles up the river. It was only their second time getting on an unfamiliar dock so having an extra pair of adult hands on board, just in case, seemed like a good idea. It turns out I was completely superfluous, unnecessary baggage. The grandsons (nine and five) are excellent line handlers and soon after leaving the pump out, Blowin' In The Wind was secure in her own slip. Deb picked me up in the Ding, we loosed Kintala’s hook from the river bed, stopped by the pump out as well, and returned to our old slip. (That the new head configuration pumps out so much quicker and easier than the old was was a pleasant surprise. It shouldn't have been. The new hose run is about half as long as the old one, with about 270 less degree of bending.)

Today it was back to addressing the few minor items, like the 2.5 inch hole in the foredeck left after removing the deck fitting that is going to find a new permanent home in a different spot. Right after laying down some glass Old Boss Not So New called to see if I could make a road trip to check the rigging on a boat. (The yard is pretty busy.) The long and short is that the "road trip" ended up being done in a 300 HP center console fishing boat.

So there I was skimming along the Bay with Old Boss Not So New's Boss at the helm, doing close to 30 knots, and leaving a pretty good wake behind my sailboating self. Since the whole purpose of this trip was to get somewhere to fix something before the weather moves in tonight, not to mention that two of us were on the clock at a combined rate north of $100 / hour, such speed seemed totally reasonable.

Live and let live.

Friday, March 16, 2018

At last...

After way too many days, weeks really…well, to be honest, months, Kintala is riding to her anchor rode once again. We got off the dock a couple of days ago, went out into Tampa Bay flying the jib, tacked up toward the bridge then back to the mouth of the Manatee River. Once there, it was a sail change and an easy, 4 knot deep run on just the staysail up the river and to the anchorage not too far off the boatyard. The kids can wave at us from the shore which is really kind of fun. Setting the hook must be one of those things that you don’t forget since the Mantus went down and dug in with little ado.

Though friends up north will laugh at this, a brisk north wind and temperatures in the low 50’s made it a chilly evening of sitting in the cockpit. Hot buttered rum was the perfect celebration of being out on the water once again. Though it isn’t the usual practice around here, Kintala’s conch horn echoed across the wavelets as the sun touched the horizon.

Though the water was pretty calm, stutter steps and grasping at hand holds was clear evidence that legs can forget what it means to live on open water. I kept bumping into things that were suddenly in my way, door jams, walls, and cabinet bits. And, truth to tell, I think my inner ear might have forgotten some things as well, like how to ignore being in a moving, swinging, bouncing house. Settling into the v-berth came with a slight sigh of relief though, within minutes it was clear that another thing that had been forgotten was the symphony of noises that a boat at anchor makes bow into winds gusting to twenty plus knots.

Which I am going to use as the excuse for doing absolutely nothing since the hook went down. Some stuff gets read, other stuff gets written, music fills the headsets and naps appear out of nowhere.. And yes, that is our new hammock strung between the mast and stay. 

Another delight has been the appearance of wildlife. Even though we live closer to the natural world than most even when in the marina, just a few hundred feet off shore it feels like the cosmos ignores the fact that humans are around. Yesterday evening a gaggle of a dozen or more pelicans went into a feeding frenzy just off the starboard side. It was a parade of the big birds all but hovering 10 to 20 feet off the water, then twisting and bending their wings for a kind of feathered cannon ball crash into the water. Some kind of tern were also in on the action, landing on the heads and backs of the pelicans hoping (apparently) to make off with a meal. I haven’t seen that happen before; it seemed kind of a bold move to me. The pelicans didn't seem to mind, which didn't surprise me. Pelicans are the stoics of the Aves family of animals; unruffled, capable, content, and completely at home in their environment.

In the next day or two we will be heading back to the dock for one more short stint. There is nothing major needing done to the boat, but we are going to help with the little ones as Son-in-Law needs to be away for a couple of days. 

Back to cruising. At last.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Once again

If you can’t point to something and say, “this is the problem,” when trying to fix something, the chances are pretty good that the something isn’t fixed.

Ed Note: We did in fact get off the dock today
and had a really nice sail in Tampa Bay.
That's what that white thing is for...
And so it was with the head modification. The first configuration should have worked, did work, but did not seem to be working very well. So the configuration got changed. It also worked, seemed to work a little better, and was a decidedly more elegant solution to the hose runs than the first one had been. There is a certain amount of wisdom in the idea that, “If it looks right, it is right”. The new configuration certainly looked a lot more “right” than the old one. It was enough to stoke the hope that the problem had been solved. Still, the more thought that went into it, the less likely it seemed. This is a low pressure, low volume fluid system. The things that were changed were 99% cosmetic. From the point of view of fluid flowing through lines, the first configuration was as “right” as the second. Still, it had been a longish work day, the project had already taken two more days than planned, and yours truly was just getting tired of working on the boat. The system had worked before the modification, the new “look” was better than the old, and I really, really wanted the job to be done.

But 24 hours later it was clear that wishful thinking wasn’t enough to call a job finished. The system was still not working as well as it should. The main give-away was the amount of pressure that was building up at the diverter valve. A little bit of pressure was expected as it is at one end of the anti-syphon loop. Turn the valve and what fluid was in that half of the loop would flow into the holding tank. But, even after the configuration change, when the valve was turned, fluid was doing a soft kind of explosion into the holding tank. There was also more pressure on the flush pump handle than was usual. Clearly something was seriously restricting the flow somewhere, likely something we had disturbed during the mod. That didn’t help much since, during said mod, we had pretty much disturbed the entire black water / holding tank run from flush pump to thru hull.

There were several likely candidates. One was the diverter valve itself. During the work it was discovered that the valve had suffered an internal failure. One of the seals had torn and was partially jamming the thing. It had been completely disassembled, cleaned, all seals had been replaced with new, and the valve reassembled. Since it seemed impossible to put the bits back together wrong it wasn’t likely the home of the trouble. Still, it was easy to reach, another plus for the new configuration. Since the problem had not existed before we started, had existed after we finished, and the valve was the one thing that had been touched the most, it seemed the best place to start. Disassembly proved that it was, indeed, impossible to put it together wrong and that it was working exactly as it should.

The curved plastic tube at the top of the anti-syphon loop, the tube that holds the Micky-Moused little valve itself, was the next easiest place to reach. Since things tend to fall away from the top of something, there was faint hope that this would be the place to find “the fix”. On the other hand, if one skipped looking there, Mr. Murphy would suggest that was where one really needed to look. So we looked.

And found nothing to fix.

Least attractive and holding the most potential for disaster was something jammed up in or near the thru-hull. It was also the only place left where the trouble could lurk. So it was with some trepidation that the clamps were removed, the heat gun applied, and a sharp knife was taken to the hose attached to the thru-hull shut off valve. Mine wasn’t the only sigh of relief when the hose came free without water flooding into the boat. There was another sigh of relief when the valve was slowly opened and water did, indeed, flood into the boat. The hose itself? Ugly. And clogged. Clogged with sheets of calcified “stuff” clearly knocked free from the inside of the hoses as they were twisted and bent into various configurations. There was also a plain, old fashioned clog where it attached to the thru-hull, the inside diameter of the line less than half the original. Open enough that the pump still worked before we messed with the hoses. Blocked enough that the debris cascading down from the hoses being moved was enough to do it in.

Something that was clearly wrong that needed to be fixed. A new length of hose and some flushing of the thru-hull, and the head seemed (don't want to jinx it) to, once again, be working properly.

One of the most used pieces of equipment on board. A parts cleaner from
Harbor freight into which the Merc jets go for cleaning. The whole carb
body fits in there as well. Four or five cycles later the carb is sparkling
and the jets once again let the fuel flow. Best $20 we ever spent.
Kintala is buttoned up once again. The Merc, after throwing a second fit that left fuel running out of the bottom of the engine cowl, had hands laid upon it and is also docile and cooperative once again. So, as soon as this bit of weather decides what it is going to do, the hope is to get off of the dock for a good couple of days worth of shaking things out. And, in a week or two, to go cruising…once again. 

Monday, March 12, 2018

Bucket list

No, not that one. It seems a bit silly to have a list of things one wants to do before one dies for the simple reason that no one knows when that is going to be. Imagine working on “the list” and having a hammer fall from somewhere. Bang. There you are looking at the next world (whatever that may or may not be). Then The Greeter (whomever that may or may not be) asks what you were doing when the earthly lights went out.

“Working on my Bucket List.”

“Well, that was a waste of time, wasn’t it?”

The Bucket list I’m thinking of has to do with boat jobs. Even then it isn’t likely the kind of list first comes to mind. This list isn’t a string of jobs one would like see finished. That list stretches to infinity or, at least, will last as long as the boat exists. No, this list is more about the size and complexity of the job being contemplated for the day. My favorite kind of jobs are those where everything needed to do the job; parts, tools, materials, rags, etc., all fit into a single bucket. And not a 55 gallon sized “bucket,” either. Or even ten. Five gallons, max. Three gallons, preferably.

We have had a string of ten gallon bucket jobs; teak work, bottom job, fiberglass repairs. They stretched on for days, then weeks, then months. Many days started early, ended late, and had few breaks along the way. A concern was how sore the body would be come morning, when the next day’s tasks start demanding attention. The last of the ten gallon jobs waiting completion was finished yesterday when a newly installed pump started up and the level of (clean) water in the holding tank started down. Kintala is now configured so as to carry waste water in her holding tank out of a harbor or anchorage, out where the whales and dolphins deposit their own waste water, and then empty the tank without the aid of a shore side suction pump. Such shoreside aid is nigh on impossible to find in the Islands and, after Irma, not that easy to find in Florida either.

With that task done, 3 gallon bucket jobs come to the fore, and are much more enjoyable. Polishing the cabin ports is one. Each port takes about an hour to remove, 1500 wet sand, compound polish, polish, wax, and reinstall. As each one is finished, the interior of the boat gets just that little bit brighter, looks just that little bit newer. One can look out a port and actually see what is around the boat, even at night. It is an easy task as well, no contortions into constricted boat chasms, no muscle cramps, and no worm clamp slices.

Three gallon bucket jobs are often routine maintenance, usually done without chewing up an entire day. Around Kintiala we try to average out work time to about four hours a day, at least that is the goal when not in refit mode. It would be nice to keep weekends free but, honestly, we don’t always know what day of the week it is. (And often don’t see any real need to bother with it.) “Ten to Two” is the goal for the start and finish of a working day while out cruising. Ten in the morning gives us time to get up, get going, get coffee, and greet the day. Two in the afternoon leaves plenty of the rest of the day to play, get out of the heat, write, read, and just enjoy living this life we worked so hard to find. It isn’t “time clock” time. There is no need to punch in or out. Get going, get it done, call it done, relax.

NOTE: After 24 hours it has become clear that the new head plumbing is not working as advertised. The overboard pump pumps, and the water goes where the water needs to go, but there is too much pressure on the flush pump. There is something not right. Reach for the 10 gallon bucket.

NOTE to NOTE: After much ado we could not find a single reason why the system was acting as it was. Low pressure, low volume fluid was going where it was supposed to go, when it was supposed to go there. But it was going with much reluctance. So the system was reconfigured to send the water to the exact same places, using the exact same fittings, in the exact same diameter hoses. All that was done was to turn things around so one angle of flow is now slightly straighter and there is about 2 feet less hose in a configuration that likely still has more than 20 feet of stuff. As a result, and for reasons that are a complete mystery, the system now works much, much better. But I still have no clue as to why that is.

Some days I really hate boats. The good news is that fixing whatever it was that was wrong turned out to be a 3 gallon bucket job. Which, all things considered, is a pretty good day.

Saturday, March 10, 2018


For any of you who have read the years past of this blog, you may remember the travails of our oldest daughter and her family and the Little Boat That Couldn't. It was a time in both their and our lives we try not to think about much. It was as hard as hard gets.

Today we were finally able to put that chapter to rest as we motored out the gate of the boat yard in their new-to-them Ericson sailboat and headed into the river for its maiden voyage. Everyone had huge smiles on their faces and there were a few whoops and hollers from the bow as the kids urged Papa on at the helm.

Thanks to the excellent care given to this particular Ericson by the previous owner, and his graciousness in allowing them to buy it at a fair price, the family has once again found a home on the water, a life that few but us can understand, a life that resonates with them, a life that brings joy. It was indeed a day of redemption.

Ever try to get three kids to smile at the camera at one time? Then you'll understand this photo

Grandbaby #10 spent most of the first sail of her life sleeping

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Mutually Exclusive Muses

                                            - - random political muse - -

It always seemed likely that it would be the women of the nation that would save us from ourselves. Wasn't it inevitable that, at some point, they would rebel at the assaults on their civil rights, on restricting their access to health care, to discrimination in the areas of equal pay and insurance coverage, and to the constant threats to the health and welfare of their kids? But it is starting to look like it will be the kids themselves who save us from ourselves. Or, more accurately, the kids are moving to save themselves from us while dragging society to a better place, one we should have found a couple of generations ago.

Works for me.

                        - - don’t really care what goes on in the world / boat muse - - 

The last batch of teak is finished. The first batch was the dorade boxes cockpit seats, floor grate, and entryway pad, ten individual bits plus the keyboard of slats that make up the seat at the helm. Slats screwed and sealed directly to the fiberglass…not the best idea anyone ever had. The next batch included the port, starboard, and aft toe rail, just three bits but a lot of area. Another batch was cockpit table, drink holder, and cabin top hand rails. The last batch was the companionway / hatch bits, six that came off the boat plus the one at the top of the companionway, and three more odd bits at the storage shelves and engine panel at the back of the cockpit.

That is a lot of bits. 

Each of those bits was sanded clean of old varnish using 80 grit, repaired as required, and then smoothed in steps of 120, 220, and 320 grit. About half also got the 400 grit wet-sand treatment. Then there was a coat of prime, eight coats of clear with at least one session of 320 or 400 wet-sanding in there somewhere, one last session of 320 or 400 wet-sanding, and a final clear coat to finish it off.

(Note to self - if there is "another boat" in the future, pick one with a little less wood, maybe a lot less. Or maybe no wood at all. One must admit it sure looks pretty but even some rich people can't afford to keep it looking at that way by paying someone else. Hundreds of hours at a hundred dollars - or more - per hour?  Two slips away from Kintala lies one of the biggest and certainly the  prettiest boat in the yard. It is owned by a friend who has oodles of "resources" beyond anything most people can imagine, and he has been working on his teak for several weeks now. The next time a big, teak-glowing-in-the-sunset sailing yacht appears in an anchorage, remember there is a good chance the owner's hands show the callouses of making that happen.)

While doing the companionway, there was a gelcoat repair needed where the hatch slides on the house top. Thirty plus years of sliding back and forth had ground through to raw fiberglass on both hatch and cabin top. It opens much easier now.

The day when the last of the big projects is done and Kintala becomes a cruising boat once again is tantalizingly close. A young friend from the yard went to the top of the mast to fix the topping lift / back stay woogle. As it turned out having the topping lift crossing the back stay wasn’t much of a deal. Apparently there is little motion up there, the topping lift line wasn’t damaged at all. What was an eye opener was that the pin holding the bracket that holds both the back stay and topping lift to the mast head was missing the cotter key that stops the pin from falling out. Nearly five years since the mast went up, thousands of miles covered, with some of those miles in rough, pitching seas that made the rig shudder. It is anyone’s guess as to why that pin stayed put.

A missing pin
There is still reconfiguring the holding tank system to finish. Getting it done requires moving Kintala to a pump out since modifying a full holding tank system is a thought too ugly to consider. There are two options. One is a few miles away at a place called Regatta Point. It is a tight fit for a 42 foot boat. Well, tight for a 42 foot wayward wondering modified full keel boat without a bow thruster and driven by the likes of yours truly. Depending on the tide it is also a bit thin for a five foot draft.

The other option is a day’s sail to the north-north-east away. Then, of course, it is another day’s sail to the south-south-west back. There is a three day window before the next front comes through. Sure enough the wind is going to back half way through, which will put it directly on the bow going both directions; and blowing 20 knots.

It looks like Regatta Point, tight fit an all, will get the nod.

It has been a while since daily tasks included making nice with Mother Earth before attempting something as simple as finding a pump out. It has been a while since the daily life included anticipating when the water would run out, when the batteries might need a little generator support, how much range remained in the fuel tank, and where would be a good place to toss a hook with regard to tide, wind, and incoming weather. All part and parcel of living the life of a boat gypsy.

A life that doesn’t really care about what goes on on land.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Another go

Kintala went back in the water the other day, drawing many a comment on how good she looks as the travel lift rumbled along. She does look pretty good. Even better is that the good is more than just skin deep. Her hull is buffed and polished. (Pay no attention to the battle scares on her starboard side, they are just cosmetic.) Her bottom is blemish free, barrier coated, and sporting new paint. A noticeable leak and weak point on the starboard toe rail is repaired. Cockpit wood and toe rails are protected with layers of hard finish. We know the rig is solid and some new running rigging is in place. (Replacing running rigging is an ongoing kind of thing. A traveler line here or running back blocks there. Wherever lines go on sale we tend to pick the oldest “something” and replace it.)

There are only two areas where the boat still lacks a bit. One is the WesterBeast. It runs okay but is old, tired, dirty, noisy and drips. To a mechanic an engine is like a bank account. There is only so much power saved up in those blocks, pistons, rods and bearings. Every time it runs some of that power is withdrawn and, one of these days, that 36 year old account will be empty. We try and stretch it out with meticulous maintenance and sailing as much as we can, even when it means going really slow rather than the sailboat normal slow. It helps that we really like sailing and don’t usually mind going slow.

Kintala’s other weak point is the auto-pilot. This old airplane driver longs for a fully integrated system with multiple modes and programable way-points. The wind vane is cool in a touchy feely “look at how natural and Mother Earth friendly we are” kind of way.

It is also a major pain in the ass even when it is working

The rest of the boat's "navigation suite" is modest, to say the least. We navigate on I-pads with an old Garmin 4 inch screen GPS at the helm for cross checking and reference. Which is the way we like it. I am a big fan of modern navigation insofar as it means instant knowledge of exact position, speed, and current track. But having that information shouldn't interfere with looking out and around for general position, changing weather, traffic conflicts, and channel information. Visibility from the the cockpit of a sailboat is poor enough without having some big screen chart plotter nesting in an obtuse instrument pod mounted over the helm, dominating an already compromised scan. 

Kintala and I have never had the kind of relationship that some people seem to have with their boats. For the most part I describe our time together as "dysfunctional". But I have to admit that, watching her settle into the water, the old girl is growing on me a little. She is a great sailing boat, but sailing is sailing. Pretty much any sailing boat will do for our purposes and this one is still soft in the bilges, too narrow aft, and lacking in storage space. But she is paid for, ours, and almost ready to go.

And that makes her pretty near to perfect.

The family in their sailing dinghy
We have been here a long time. It has been a good time with family nearby. (This will likely be the hardest of all the hard good-bys that are part and parcel of this life.) We have had the chance to get the boat up to speed once again. I have logged another year of boat tech work, expanding my own skill level to the point where I am pretty comfortable with the hardware/mechanical side of this world. 

On the operations side Deb and I will both be licensed Captains as soon as the paperwork works its way though the paperwork mill. Now, if I could just figure out how to make the boat go backwards with any kind of grace…

It has been10 years since we first started looking at living on a boat. Eight since we bought Ye ‘ol Tartan. Going on five since we first left Oak Harbor. So far our cruising life hasn’t had a lot of the “fair winds and following seas ” everyone wishes on you when you head out. But at this point it is hard to imagine living any other way. 

And it is near time to toss off the dock lines and give it another go.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Strange kind of day

Work on Kintala continues. The cockpit is looking good with teak gleaming.  The bottom of the hull is also looking good, the last coat of black going on today. The bottom took a bit longer because, when it comes to being a customer rather than an employee, I can  be a real pain. The first coat of red was done and my friend doing the bottom paint started opening up the rest can of black. I asked, “How much red is left in the can?”

“About half a gallon.”

“Half a gallon? I live on the boat. Where IN the boat am I going to put a half gallon of paint, and what do you think I’m going to do with it? I’ve already paid for it, put it ON the boat where it will do me some good. I don’t want to take this thing out of the water again for at least two years.”

He laughed, put the black away, and started to spread the left over red on the keel and waterline. The same will happen with the black. It is likely to cost a bit more but, as usual, this job lurched out of control a couple of weeks ago. There is no use worrying about digging out of a hole until you know how deep the hole is going to be.

But that isn’t what made it a strange kind of day. While the bottom paint was going on I was sanding on the board we use to secure jugs at the rail. It takes a real beating hanging out on the edge of the deck as it does. Not only was it looking bad, there were some cracks and small chunks missing that needed attention. As I was sanding away on the first coats of primer another friend, who was working on the boat on the hard next to us, walked over to see what I was doing.

Apropos to nothing, the boat he is working on is a one of those go fast powerboats with a forward leaning arch over the cockpit. Though that arch is only a couple of feet taller than someone sitting at the helm, the owner/driver still managed to smack a bridge with it…at some kind of serious speed no less. He didn’t manage to tear the thing completely off, but the damage was pretty extensive. The name of the boat? “Sudden Impact.” It just doesn’t pay to tempt fate.

Anyway, when he asked how it was going, I told him I was just sanding down the primer coat. He will be doing the same on a gel coat repair soon so he smiled and went back to work. Just then, out of nowhere, a memory from more than 50 years ago overwhelmed my workbench and nearly took my breath away. It was of my Grandfather. We were down in the wood shop in the basement of his house in Rockford where he was showing me how to run a sander and explaining that it wasn’t unusual to sand most of the first coat of primer off of a project. “Take your time” he told me. “Do it right, because the finished work can’t look any better than the base coat.

It was my first schooling in the art of finishing wood, floating up from the distant past. I think my Grandfather would find the work being done on Ye Ol Tartan acceptable, though I have no doubt that, in his day, he would have gotten it done both better and faster. When we were not working in his shop or garden, he had a classic wooden power boat that we would use to go fishing. It was pretty much my only exposure to boats when I was young. I suspect he would be surprised to know that I live on a boat now, as I doubt a liveaboard lifestyle was one that ever occurred to him. Rockford, IL is a long, long way from big salt water and I can’t say for sure that my Grandfather ever got further away from that town than Pittsburgh, when he traveled to visit us.

My grandfather, grandmother, and four of the five of us kids
in front of their house in Rockford, IL
From that memory flowed another, that of attending my Grandmother’s funeral now many decades ago. I don’t remember just how old I was then, late teens maybe early twenties. Nor do I remember many of the details. What I do remember is thinking that I had never seen a man as deeply hurt as was my Grandfather that day. He clung to my Dad like a person completely lost, and he never recovered. It was barely a year later when his broken heart gave up trying to heal. Up to then I had never suspected how deep love could go.

Oddly, right up until today I never thought about how important I might have been in his life. I can’t say for sure that I was. I can’t say for sure that I wasn’t. He lived a long way away and we didn’t see each other more than a few days a year. But I have my own grand kids now, ones that I only see a few times a year, Not a day goes by that I don’t think of each of them, wonder what they are doing, how well they are growing up. Was it the same for him?

An echo from his life has been hanging around all day. It is a good echo, even tinged as it is with a bit of sadness that the memories are so few and faded.

Maybe he would have liked big water after all.