The Spring Fancy

by on 25/04/10 at 10:21 am

It’s spring, and the light green sprouts on the hillside above the marina make it look as if Bob Ross has taken his great celestial brush and begun the annual creation of his legions of happy little trees. The sun is out, warmth begins to seep into the cabin from outside rather than leaking out of the inside, and all manner of birds and harbor creatures are re-appearing. It’s spring, and in times like these, a young man’s fancy turns to… boat maintenance.

Strange, and perhaps unromantic, you may protest. True, but who among us can govern our hearts when what they really yearn for is the feel of a good solid wrench to wrap the palm around, the silky bristles of a scrub brush, or the luxurious softness of a chamois cloth infused with polish? I see here today that I am not alone in feeling the call, the dock being alive with other boaters on a similar mission, queues at the water spigots, scrub brushes held at port arms.

Scrubbing the deck and cleaning the bright work is the most straightforward and perhaps least risky part of the urge, however. In maintenance, as with romance, there is ample opportunity for broken hearts, and they are most likely to crack when the engine cover is removed after a winter’s disuse or the bilge revealed in all its putridity for the first time.

In my case, it’s the engine. The hatch has been off most of the winter but it’s tucked away back next to the quarter berth, which, in another of the immutable laws of the sea, has filled up with the detritus that might more properly have been consigned to a cockpit locker except that it was always raining when we wanted to put it there. So the engine has been out of sight and largely out of mind, until today, when I find it looking sickly and rusty, despite a considerable amount of exercise in February.

The problem, as is so often the case when it comes to maintenance, is that it wasn’t maintained early enough. Normally the engine compartment stays quite dry over the winter, but this year, a leaking rudder shaft has ensured a steady trickle of water down below the engine pan on its way to the bilge. The shaft packing won’t get changed out until we haul out (sometime next month, if I ever get it scheduled), so there is nothing for it but to let it trickle. Last summer I noticed that the engine needed a fresh coat of paint, but I was either busy or out having fun or not feeling like living in a cloud of paint fumes, so I put it off, reasoning that it wasn’t likely to see much use until spring anyway.

Of course, it’s the dis-use that kills boats generally, not the use, and now I have a lot of detailed scrubbing to do before I can paint it.

Fortunately, it’s a slight enough obstacle that it hasn’t cooled my recent maintenance ardor, but I’m thinking now that it might be best today if I don’t also look in the bilge. Spring fancies can soon enough turn to summer doldrums. I don’t want to kill a good thing while it’s going.

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