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About In Boats
by Robb White
I write this, an old, old friend of mine is writing something, too.
He is sitting on a little stool in a sunny spot in his yard writing
"Rescue Minor" on the stern of my boat...in 14 karat gold
leaf. You know, a man who is apt to pontificate about his opinions
sometimes has to put his money where his mouth is, and I have strong
opinions about the naming of boats. For one thing, I do not usually
name them at all but the old Rescue Minor has named herself (or
was it some departed soul). There is an old rule among us yachtsmen
of the old school and that is that the proper way to put the name
on a varnished transom is in gold leaf.
You know a man
who lives in abject poverty has to have a little something to boost
his ego. It is sort of like the big shiny SUV parked in front of
the trailer with all the trash and scratching dogs lying around
in the yard. It is just a matter of priorities. At least I don't
have a gold stud in the side of my nose.
I decided to do this was that I love to see a good man at his art.
If I could afford it, I would own a bunch of beautiful things that
artists made. I have some wonderful little paintings that friends
of mine have given me, and every time I see them I am delighted.
You know. as an aside, I believe that it is best not to hang such
a thing right smack in the middle of the living room because you
get too used to it to get the full goody out of seeing it again.
I know this is an exaggerated comparison, but it is a little bit
like sex. You don't want to be like a craven, self indulgent convict
with nothing to do and alifetime to do it in...ain't no joy in that.
It is best to space it out into special occasions.
This sign writer
friend of mine is a sure enough artist. He has maintained a pure
monopoly in the sign painting business in this town ever since I
was a little boy. He can stand on the top rung of a 40' ladder and
free hand a sign in letters 6' high on the side of a brick building
so perfectly that you can't tell it wasn't projected from a slide.
He painted a sign advertising the wonders of Florida with a woman
in a bathing suit so well done that it caused a bunch of car wrecks.
I won't go all
into it, but he is so good and quick that nobody has ever been able
to compete. He has had apprentices who were so eager to learn that
they worked the ladder for him for years, and though he took them
by the hand to show them how, they had to move away to make a living.
He is just plain an artist at what he does and I'll be delighted
to own a little piece of his work.
I'll haul it
down to the little Apalachicola Antique and Classic Boat Show on
Saturday, April 26, too. There will probably be some precious jewel
inboard boats down there with varnish jobs so perfect that the owners
keep the two ply (canvas and flannel) cotton covers on them except
during the judging. I have seen boats so pampered that you could
run a white handkerchief 8" up the tailpipe and not bring out
any smut. They'll certainly beat me with my paintbrush varnish job
and that little hint of smut on my transom.
At that, I must
deviate a little bit. I have finally fooled around enough to get
the propeller exactly (?) right, and that's a hard thing to do.
Anybody can put a wheel on a boat that will propel it pretty good,
but a proper job takes a lot of fooling around. The diameter is
the main thing. Half an inch taken off will free up the engine most
amazingly. If it is over pitched, it'll lug, too. Old hands at it
always have a mind boggling collection of propellers and those little
nylon reducing sleeves so they can fit them to most any shaft to
do their experiments.
I have quite
a few myself, but they are mostly sailboat propellers. Rescue Minor
is the first planing inboard boat I ever built. I had to hit the
e-Bay. Though there have been a bunch of books and charts and graphs
written about propeller seleclion, they only just get you into the
ballpark. The only way to get it right is to fool around with both
the diameter and pitch until the boat will run the fastest with
the engine running up to the specified rpm. lt is okay to overload
a gas engine with wheel and if you don't inlend to use the maximum
horsepower of the engine, they'll run more economically like that,
but it is destructive to lug a diesel engine.
Right now, there
is a pitiful thing down in Carrabelle. The Coast Guard has a most
beautiful new cutter (says Seahawk across the transom, but not in
gold leaf, but it ain't a varnished transom) that is so overloaded
with wheel that she smokes out the two side exhausts so bad that
the boys have to wash lhe whole stern of the boat every time they
come in. I don't know what kind of wonderful engines lhey got down
in there, but they are fixing to kill them if they don't loosen
I know a man
in Panama City who could do it for them. too. He is kind of an artist
at it. Sometimes he'll just watch a boat lor a second or two and
say; " eighteen / fourteen...that'll be fifty bucks."
I guess it would lake an act of Congress to get the job done on
the Seahawk and they are too busy dealing with solving the roblems
generated by how the whole country is terrorized into apoplexy to
have time to get the Seahawk up on plane. I think...dang it, seems
like I would have learned my lesson by now. don't it? Anyway, I
think the way to solve the Iraq and North Korea problem is to buy
those damned weapons of mass destruction. We could put an entry
fee on Liberian and Panamanian tankers to gel up lhe money.
There is an old comedy routine us schoolboys around here used to
do when one of us got insulted or challenged in some way or other.
The offended kid would say, "I'm mo kill him. y'all."
At that, he would slick his elbow out to lhe nearest of his buddies
and plead. "Hold me buddy. Don't let me do it. Please (don't
let me do it. Hold me." That's me down at the Apalachicola
boat show. Some fool is certain to make some half-assed remark about
my gold leaf. " Hold me Jane...else I may kill this big head
son of a bitch."
I already know
Rescue Minor will win her class at the boat show. I ain't got to
worry about any polished up hothouse flower or pampered artifact.
I won't even need that gold artwork. I am too smart for them. She'll
be the only "motor launch" entered. My little sailing
"felucca" won her class last year. Well, I took a little
poetic license there. Those that run that show classified her as
a "paddle boat" and there were some inlaid canoes with
rubbed out varnish jobs. Jane had to hold me back. So, what'11 happen
after the show? Will I put lhe two ply cover on her and haul her
back to her humidity controlled shed with the pollen sucker humming
like the winner of the "Best Restored Runabout Class"
does? Hell no, I'll slide her off into the perennial diesel fuel
slick of the Carrabelle River and let her take us across the rough
salt water to Dog's Island to swing to her anchors at our little
plywood (yes, Virginia, damn your eyes...and I got to do something
about it pretty quick) shanty until we are ready to go fishing in
the morning. Maybe I'll get up in the middle of the night to see
if I can catch a hint of a flash of moonlight off that gold.