Boatyard Cure for the Blues
By Tom Neale, 3/15/2011
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Depressed? Feeling low? Thinking that life and the world is ganging up on you? Well, I’ve got good news. There’s a cure. And it’s not pills or seeing a shrink or even smelling the flowers of springtime (which give you allergies). If you want to make yourself start feeling good again, just spend some time hanging out in a busy boat repair yard. You think you got problems? Wait’ll you see the problems there.
Take, for example, a magnificent trawler we noticed one fall. It was built by a well known company, its lines were beautiful and it looked solid as a rock—even when on the hard. But lying on the hard next to the hull were its struts. These had been built massively to be far more than adequate to take the immense thrust as the diesels turned the huge wheels. They had looked fine when the boat was hauled, just for a bottom job, before continuing south. The owner had noticed a slight vibration when running, but then what else is new with boats. Perfection certainly isn’t, and I’ve learned that whenever I think there’s perfection in my boat I’d better duck for cover. A sharp yard guy took a good look at the struts. They were rotten inside and out with electrolysis. They had to have new ones built.
Rotten worm board.
I love beautiful classic old wooden boats. The cut of their lines, the way they can slice through the water, the very feel of them just makes me feel good. I was admiring one such boat one day, waiting for some hull work. We all know that old wooden boats need constant attention to ward off those evils of rot and loosening fastenings and popping caulking. You have a boat like that, you just do it—yourself or a good yard. So this owner was doing it. I thought: good for him. But then as my eyes swept admiringly along the hull something caught them and drew them in like a snake to an egg. It was the worm board. This is essentially a strip of sacrificial wood at the very bottom of the keel. In the olden days it was there to sacrifice to the worms that always came for dinner, although worms are seldom that discriminating—they’d go for any part of the boat they could get. These days a worm board still comes in handy as groundings have a tendency to grind off anti fouling paint. But this worm board had been neglected for too long, and it was riddled with worm holes and rot to the extent that it was literally falling off the boat. And the worms and rot hadn’t just stopped there. The mess had migrated into the hull timbers and the scheduled maintenance job was going to be a major rebuild job that would probably cost far more than the boat was worth.
I was planning to finish this by pointing out how other people’s misfortunes can make you feel better in a boatyard. But instead I’m sitting here in my boat thinking, “Hmm, maybe I won’t ever haul her again.”
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