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Power Play -

 September 19, 2002 

The Coan River team hard at work

Last week we helped our friend Jeff move the engine out of his 46' Morgan, Boundless. Actually, half the people in the boatyard helped Jeff. It's no simple task relocating 800 pounds of iron from the cockpit of a boat, past various intervening obstacles, to the flat bed of a pickup truck. It's good to have lots of friends.

Jeff and his wife Liz take school groups for educational charters on Boundless. The nature of their business requires that they be at certain places at certain times regardless of the vagaries of wind and waves. They didn't feel their 23 year old 62 horsepower Perkins diesel was up to the challenge so they bought a bigger engine, brand new. A couple of weeks ago, Jeff brought the new engine to the boatyard to show everyone. It's a 90 horsepower Perkins. It's blue and shiny and filled most of the back of his pickup. Then Jeff disappeared for several days. We're not sure, but we suspect he was sitting in his engine room trying to figure out how he was going to take out one large engine and replace it with an even larger engine. At any rate, when Jeff reappeared, he had a PLAN.

The morning of the big move, there was a light breeze. By the time a bunch of us assembled on the dock in front of Boundless, the flags were flapping and a nice chop was beginning to build out on the Coan River. The boats in the marina are tied perpendicular to the dock, between pilings. Jeff's plan was to use two inflatable dinghies with outboard motors to manoeuvre Boundless out of her slip and around to the end of the T dock. Tied securely alongside, Jeff could then lift the engine out of the cockpit using his mast and boom as a gantry. Lucy from the trawler a few berths away asked, "Don't you think it's a bit windy?" Jeff looked nervously at the sky and replied, "I think it will be okay if we get underway right now."

Lucy's husband Jim was in one dinghy and Ed from a nearby sailboat was in the other. Lucy stayed on the dock to catch lines. The rest of us were on board Boundless with vague responsibilities to cast off, fend off and offer conflicting advice. As we backed out of the slip, the wind was dead on our stern. We gradually gained speed. Jeff said, "Okay guys, now it's time to move forward before we hit the shoal behind us." We continued moving backwards. Jeff repeated, a bit louder, "Okay, time to move forward." Both Ed and Jim had their dinghies pushing against the stern, full throttle. We continued moving backwards. "Forward! Forward!" Jeff yelled. An engineless boat weighing 38,000 pounds has a lot of momentum.

Finally we stopped just short of the shoal. Jeff sighed. Then we started moving forward, the wind behind us. The dinghies stopped pushing. Boundless increased speed. The T dock loomed ahead. Lucy (who probably weighs all of 95 pounds) was waiting for us, wide-eyed. As we came alongside, Jeff steered away from the dock to avoid a major collision. From six feet away, David leapt over the side with the amidships spring line. He tripped, embraced a piling to keep on his feet and fumbled desperately with the line. The line held and the boat stopped. "Wow, what a hero!" Lucy announced. "Eileen never says that," David responded.

Getting the engine out of the boat was actually fairly easy. Jeff had a two-ton chain hoist suspended off his boom. He had measured all the clearances just right and inside of a few minutes, the old Perkins was sitting on a wheeled dolly on the dock. Some of us were feeling like the job was over. Jeff said cheerfully, "Good work everyone, now it's time to move the boat back to the slip". The wind had not diminished. We climbed back on board, some less enthusiastically than others.

With the practice we had gained earlier, everything was under control for the first part of the return trip. Unfortunately, the final approach to the slip was now downwind. David was at the bow with a fellow boatyard inmate, Michael. As we neared the dock, David looked ashore and asked, "Who's that guy up on the roof of that house with binoculars?" Michael replied, "That's Dick. He owns Kona."

Kona is a vintage 40' Hinckley yawl in the slip next to Jeff's. We were heading straight for its immaculately varnished stern. The slip on the other side of Jeff's is occupied by a cruising sloop named Tropic Bird. David and Michael screamed at Ed in his dinghy, "Push us towards Tropic Bird!" A voice from the cockpit countered, "No, no, NOT Tropic Bird!" Michael asked, "Who's that guy beside Jeff who's so upset?" David looked around. "That's Bob. He owns Tropic Bird."

By skill or luck or a combination of both, we ended up back in the correct slip on the second try. Nothing was hit and no one was injured. Jeff exclaimed, "What a team! You people are great! Now we just have to move the engine off the dock and up to my truck." We looked along the length of the dock and up the steep gravel path to the parking lot in the distance. Eileen suddenly remembered she had to apply another coat of Cetol on Little Gidding's trail boards. David said, "You guys start without me. I'm going to run back to the boat to get my camera so all of this is properly photo-documented for posterity." He began walking very slowly down the dock.

By the time David returned with his camera, the others had pushed the engine on its dolly to the crest of the hill and were almost at the truck. There was a lot of wheezing and perspiring happening. David said, "Smile!" No one smiled. At that moment, Alan, one of the yard employees, drove up in the yard's small tractor. "Need a hand?" he offered.

Jeff gratefully hooked the hoisting chain on the engine to the front bucket of the tractor. With Michael and Jim standing on the tractor's rear hitch to keep the wheels on the ground, Alan lifted the engine and set it gently in the back of Jeff's pickup. Everyone smiled.

"Thanks a lot, guys!" Jeff said. "That was a good practice run. In another week or two, we'll be putting the new engine in." We looked at each other, our smiles frozen. "Uh, Jeff, how much bigger is the new engine?" someone ventured. "Oh, it's only about 300 pounds more," Jeff answered.

Cheers, David & Eileen