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On Living Aboard

Changing the oil on Patty O’, our 42 foot Huckins sedan cruiser’s twin Cummings diesel engines as well as the generator, is not performed on schedule. What we do is take a sample from each engine, which is sent to a testing lab, and the results determine if an oil change is warranted. I take samples at fifty hours on the main engines and just piggyback the generator. I get raised eyebrows from some people when I mention this, but it works for us and after several thousand hours of problem free engine performance, I see no reason to do otherwise.

With COVID on the mend, the Blonde, my wife, was back at her office. She’s an architect, and her specialty is troubleshooting problems wherever they pop up. She does a good job and is well thought of by her firm. She was once offered a partnership, but that would have meant a move to Albuquerque, New Mexico. That would have put an end to our living aboard Patty O’. She does travel a bit, but we work around that.
Now that the salon, where she had set up her work from home office, had been returned to normal, whatever that is these days, I wanted to take care of some maintenance issues that had been put off because of that. First on the list was to have the oil tested.
Due to my everlasting effort to make procrastination work, I had put off getting the test sample sent off. Not that I couldn’t have before, there is egress to the engines just under the main doorway to the salon for normal checking. Anything more than that and the deck in the salon bat-wings up allowing complete access to anything in the engine room.
I like to keep one sample tube ahead, so that I do not have to wait for one to arrive in the mail.
Drawing the samples, they looked just like all the others I’d ever taken, and they would soon be on their way to the testing facility. The usual turnaround is a bit less than a week.
Checking everything, I decided that the belt on the starboard engine, where the big 100 amp alternator is located, was close to the end of its useful life. While I do keep spares, I would much rather change it at my convenience rather than while rolling and bobbing halfway to somewhere. The spare was placed into service and a new one took its place.
That chore completed, I did a complete wipe down of all three engines. I do like to keep things clean in the engine room, as this is far easier to catch potential problems on clean engines.
Once the salon was all put back together, I turned my attention to Mustard, our little Century runabout tied up in the next slip over. Just about the only thing original on her is how she looks from the outside. She had been stored for a long time before she came to us, and like Patty O’, has been extensively updated. Drawing a sample from her is a lot easier: just lift the engine cover.
I had just about finished when I got a text from Ray, the yard foreman. “Can you stop by the shop.” it read.
Walking over to the shop, I tried to think of a reason Ray wanted to talk with me. My slip was paid to date, and there had been no issues with any of our dock mates.
“Hey Ray, what’s up?” I asked.
He proceeded to introduce me to a tall man, who looked like he worked with his hands. He was a new hand hired a week ago.
“Jim is going to be with us a while,” Roy said. “He’s going to be living in his camp trailer that we’re gonna keep inside the main shed, so it’s out of sight. We don’t want to have people thinking we are an R/V park too. Thing is, he wants to plug into power. I told him he could plug into the welding socket. He says it won’t work.”
“Sure won’t,” I said. “If he plugs into the welding socket, it’ll blow everything in his camper.”
“The plug’s the same, ain’t it?” he asked.
“Nope,” I replied “It may look the same but it’s not. The welder takes 220 volts. The camper’s fifty amp service takes two legs of 110 volts. I’ll get and install the correct receptacle.”
“Hmm,” Ray mumbled. “Didn’t know that. Go for it, gimme the bill.”
“Thanks.” Said Jim. “I wasn’t sure, but I didn’t want to blow all my electrical stuff.”
“Not to worry,” I replied. “It’s a common mistake.”
Actually, while the plugs look alike, they are different. Picking up the correct receptacle at a local R/V store, it took about an hour to complete the job. Some electricians wire it wrong, and 220 volts are dumped into the unsuspecting camper. Just because someone has a license does not mean they know what they are doing.
Finishing up, I found Ray and gave him the bill.
“Thanks.” He said, “I think you’ve saved us some money.”
“Not a problem,” I said.
It was a nice afternoon and the Blonde was at work. I couldn’t think of anything that I really wanted to start, so I hopped aboard Mustard, cast her off and headed out into the sound. It would have been nice to have had the Blonde along, but sometimes, it’s just nice to be alone.
Being the middle of the week, there weren’t many other boats out and about. I had given thought to take a trip around Fishers Island but after thinking about it for a minute, it would bring me back to Patty O’ long after the Blonde got home from work. While that may work for some, it doesn’t for us. We do enjoy each other’s company and unlike some couples, do not like spending a lot of time apart when it can be avoided.
As usual, she called before leaving to see what was up for dinner. We enjoy our meals together and do our best to keep them interesting. We split the cooking, and before the pandemic, tried eating out at least once a week, sometimes more. But sadly, that has become a thing of the past. At least until this virus business is behind us. We tend to be conservative in things that have the potential to affect our health.
“I took out a couple of filets this morning,” she said. “Wondering if you could give ‘em a rub maybe? I’m ready for something unhealthy.”
“I can do that,” I replied. “How soon will you be here? Oh, and maybe a nice glass of red?”
“Oh, that sounds wonderful. Baked potato and broccoli?”
“You’re on!” I said.
Yup. Life is good.