Archive:  Year 2 - Tuesday, November 6, 2007 #3: "Treasure"

Progress today on the furnace!  This statement is more profound than it may immediately appear.  A furnace is a complicated organism, and a boat is a complicated organism.  It seems a given that when trying to install a complicated organism within a complicated organism, frequent problems will erupt… look at Iraq.  The complicated nature of such an endeavor is made more so when applied to a boat – always has been.


People have been searching shipwrecks since we’ve been sinking them looking for two primary things:  treasure, and oddities. Oddities because when a population of people are out to sea, their resources are immediately limited to what is on board.  What is found within shipwrecks is, many times, evidence of tremendous invention that was only conceived of and used by a very small group and for a very short time.  Such things include crutches made of whale bone, complicated navigation equipment made entirely with eyeglasses and ship twine, a guitar-like instrument that was pieced together from several other instruments... Something similar is taking shape aboard The Road.


While giving proper credit to the critical contribution of my local Menards, and Home Depot, the fact remains that you’re always sort of making it up on a boat.  There isn’t a single plumber in the Yellow Pages that can give me the first answer about my toilet – I can’t even plunge.  There is no customer service representative available to answer my questions or concerns about my electricity – my house plugs in like a mobile home.  Even the cable guy had to call someone for advice…  Instead, I turn to the marina mechanics who function simultaneously as plumber, carpenter, electrician, and inventor; and I turn to Captain D – my port-side neighbor and a 20-year live aboard.  Captain D is like Yoda if he was from Iowa and a former marine.  Captain D can make a space shuttle out of aluminum foil and floss.  I am only really useful on my own if I have a full day and night to focus on the issue, unlimited dark roast coffee, and ABBA Gold.  This is how I fixed my air conditioner this Summer.


As the seasons change, so does the equipment; and in late September, I purchased a furnace designed for RV’s – a 40,000 BTU, Suburban Furnace.  Running properly, such a thing could keep me at 90 even if was 30 below outside, and would run on propane, saving me a lot of money.  Such a furnace and its accompanying propane tank are regular fare down here, but that is where any regulatory aspects stop.  Abruptly.  


The first problem arrived when the furnace did.  I was on a job in Baltimore when Martin, the head mechanic and my go-to furnace guy up to this point, called me to tell me that Fed-Ex had just delivered it.  I found this odd immediately as Martin seldom gives me notice about anything – including the awkward morning a month prior, when five men came aboard to inspect my crippled Starboard engine…  He said the furnace looked “dropped”.  My thoughts went immediately to Jeremy Brockman from third grade who was dropped when he was two months old and said that was why he couldn’t stop drooling.  


The furnace looked much worse than Jeremy Brockman and when I saw it, I was immediately furious.  It had been a bit of a process ordering the furnace from the company to begin with, having already blown over the fact that a salesman named Roy had said, “Ya know these aren’t made for boats don’t ya, little lady.”  But this furnace was bent and broken and screws were rolling around the bottom of the box.  A slip of paper inside apologized for any “peripheral imperfections”.  I had a semi-satisfying slideshow in my mind of a Thelma & Louise-inspired trip across the country to put my boot to Roy’s throat in a demand for justice and a prompt apology.  Instead, I found out that Martin had made a quite level-headed phone call and my replacement furnace was on the way… bittersweet.  


“But there’s another problem.”


This furnace, even a properly functioning replacement, would not fit where I wanted to put it on the boat – or rather, it would fit too well.  Space is always limited on The Road and I have had to downsize my stuff considerably and find multiple uses for everything – every footstool is also a trunk.  My only “blank space” existed in the lower section of my closet, which is narrower than my refrigerator, but just big enough to hold the new furnace.  Which is precisely the problem.  I need at least six inches of space around the furnace for it to work.  The three of us stood like magis around the helm of The Road with tape measures and cigarettes pondering all solutions.  There is no other enclosed space on board that is big enough to hold the furnace, nor would you want it sitting in the middle of the room.  So we’re doing both.  Martin and his minion, Troy, conceived of a structure that would enclose the furnace, allow for the duct work that runs through the boat, including the exhaust system.  It would also be a lovely table with little doors for access.  I would need to get rid of a couch to make space (not a bad couch, but Grace will miss it more than I will), and help them scrounge for materials.  


This afternoon, about 10 days later, I went to The Compound to get my mail and was greeted by a very exuberant Martin.  


“Wanna see what Troy is workin’ on?”

In the heart of the hanger, nestled between a yacht getting it’s windshield replaced, three unattached outboard motors, and some pieces of scrap, Troy was stooping over his workbench.  He had found an old desk – like a small type-writer desk from the 70’s, when they still used real metal in furniture.  He also had a metal, retail clothes rack that was unscrewed and in pieces.  He and Martin walked me through how they were going to put the two together and I’m blown away – I’ll get some pictures of it tomorrow if I can.  


The low tonight is forecasted at 23 but so far Gracie and I are at a comfortable 68.  The chill is creeping in, however, and it’s starting to feel like a race against the Mercury…


Next Post:  November 10, 2007  #5: "Wrapped Up"

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