Friday, April 8, 2016


Something that goes “under the RADAR” as it were...being a Worker Man means doing a lot of, well, work. Just today I climbed up on the “roof” (not sure what they call it) on a Sport Fishing boat to check out why the port spot light doesn't work. Turns out it is the bulbs, at $123 EACH. There are two in each light, $246 worth of bulbs will be what it takes to fix that thing. (Which is why I don't live on a Sport Fishing Boat.) Then I climbed down into three different places on that same boat, one in the salon, one in the engine room and one in the aft lazarette, in order to check out the bilge pumps. With that job squared away, at least until the bulbs arrive, it was off to an Island Packet and its new house and start battery install.

The Island Packet is on the hard, meaning up the ladder, and down, and up, and down. It needs custom cabling made for both the hot and ground sides of the new house and start battery bank. It also needed a big new hole drilled and finished between the two battery boxes and, of course it needed the three new batteries hauled up from ground to deck level, and one old battery hauled back down. (Boss New tasked one of the younger members of the team to help me with that one.) I didn't count how many times I went up and down that ladder before lunch today, maybe 10? When not on the ladder I was working up-side down and inside-out, moving batteries, pulling cables, and drilling holes all in the aft cabin of one of the smaller Island Packets.

Right after lunch I got pulled off the Island Packet to go up the mast take a second try at fixing the anchor, steaming, and deck lights. The first try, yesterday, had the fixture falling apart in my hand while swinging in the Bosun's chair some 30 feet off the deck. The second trip aloft was to replace the light fixture with a new one. The latest, greatest is an LED thing made of PLASTIC. Sounds cheesy but is actually a pretty good bit of kit. Drill the old one off, drill a couple of new holes, and rivet the new one one in place. Not quite as easy as it sounds while hanging aloft, but not bad either. One should be careful to rivet the new one in place so as not to have it positioned wrong side up, with deck light illuminating the top of the mast. (Yes, it is embarrassingly easy to get it wrong, even if it is only a 5 minute fix. Boss New, keeper of the crane controls, got a good laugh at that one. My guess is I'm not the first one to have to do it twice.) New light in place – properly oriented – and tested...still no lights.

Rats'n – frats'n.

At this point one needs to look for voltage at the new light fixture, but the crane was needed to step a mast a few slips away. I was assigned, (since I was already on that side of the basin) to help. So, back on deck, undo all the do's needed to go aloft, and help wrestle a mast in place. Then, after said mast was once more supported by stays fore, aft and top, relocate crane, redo the undo's, and go aloft yet again; this time armed with a volt meter.

No volts could be found, even though there were volts there the day before when the fixture fell apart in my hand. Consensus? Mast wiring is shot with either voltage or, more likely, ground, being a hit-or-miss kind of thing.

Back at ground level and run to the parts counter for a roll of 14-3 wire and some ring connectors. Gather up stuff and tools that need to go aloft and store / secure in such a way as to make sure they stay aloft, and get lifted back up the mast. A light bulb, as it turns out, will float for a while if, for some reason, it doesn't manage to stay aloft. (You can guess how I know that and I am sure glad it wasn't one of the $123 ones.) Un-rivet new fixture, pull old wires out of mast while pulling new wires into mast. (Next time get Boss New to lift one a bit higher so pulling wires up isn't being done over one's head. Twenty-seven feet of 14-3 wire being dragged straight up a mast, and through all the other junk that is in a mast, gets surprisingly heavy.) Run new wires, re-rivet fixture, strip and connect new wires, and try lights...yes, light! As it happened the floating light bulb was the same as the one in the old fixture, one that was perfectly willing to shed lumens when provided with the proper voltage. It is better to be lucky than good, and I didn't have to make a separate trip to the parts counter.

An aside, the man who runs the parts counter is utterly fluent in both English and Spanish, and is very good at what he does. Which means he is an absolute Nazi when it comes to accounting for everything that goes on a customer's boat. He wants wiring measured out in inches, every connector accounted for, and counts out rivets, screws, nuts and washers one-by-one. He has stacks of books full of parts lists, and will find anything that can be found if it is used on a boat. As an ex-Director of Maintenance, I love the guy. If you are a customer hoping to be treated fairly on your bill, you will love the guy as well.

Of course the deck light came on with the steaming light switch, and the steaming light with the deck light switch. With no wire code on the boat side harness, and all power wires colored red, it was a 50/50 shot at getting it right the first time. It was an easy fix that didn't require going aloft yet again. Once done the floor could be closed at the base of the mast, the boat could be locked up, and it would be called a day.

So today I was in and out, and on and off, of four different boats, spent close to two hours aloft, and tangled with wiring, rigging, and plumbing. Yet, given the experience level of some of the other people in this yard, it isn't likely I was even close to the most productive one of the bunch today.

In my old world of fixing and flying airplanes, being “perfect” was just barely good enough. I wasn't perfect today but, fortunately, a quick re-rivet and one replacement bulb isn't too bad. And now it is the weekend, something that doesn't mean a lot to cruisers but is sure a nice thing for a Worker Man.

NOTE: If one has to work aloft, sitting in a Bosun's chair that is hanging off a crane is the way to go. Boss New wanted to know if I was comfortable with heights. Comfortable? For the first time in days I was sitting easy while working on something. Of course dropping a 2 pound drill on a customer's deck from 30' is a concern. But, as they say, everything in boating is a compromise.

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