Copyright (c) Marc Dacey/Dark Star Media unless otherwise indicated. Above photo (c) Marc Dacey. Powered by Blogger.

2014-05-05

Wrenching decisions, or torquing about a revolution

The phenomenon of tool lust is a side-effect of boat restoration.

Now that I've got your attention, it's important to acknowledge that I went about 35 years with only a small collection of multi-head screwdrivers, a hammer and a crescent wrench to show my manlier side outside of the actual bedroom. I didn't have a particularly handy father, despite his early years in a hands-on trade, and I didn't take more than one year of what used to be called "Industrial Arts" and now is called "Advanced Tweeting for Do You Want Fries with That".

Then I bought an old house.

Then I bought an old boat.

Clearly, I needed to step up my game. I got old books describing the function and non-maiming use of the various classes of tool, the sort of books with the words "Home Handyman", "Mechanics' Institute" and "Reader's Digest" on the spines. I slowly expanded my collection of tools, fasteners, and many, many bits and pieces. I learned to braze copper pipe, to rivet, to solder, to bed and to scarf. My efforts are rarely beautiful, but considering I've been seriously using tools for more than "just fix it until the man (or occasionally, the woman) can come and do it properly", which was the case some 15 years back, my "fixes" usually remain intact.

Tools have been acquired through inheritance, Craigslist, and sales at Canadian Tire. The wooden boxes of hand tools once the pride of dead grandfathers, including very rugged near-museum pieces, have been sourced for a pittance at yard sales.  Strategic chunks of cash have been laid out for "proper" contractor-grade power tools, as I have learned the hard way that while you can pay very little several times, if reliably long service is the goal, paying more just once is the best policy.

It's probably been because of my self-consciousness at having no formal handyman/boat restorer skills that I try to be careful and methodical. My hands bear evidence of moments lacking in attentional rigour, but generally, it's been a stepwise progression.

Everyone these days owns a diesel, but it turns out that if you motor for 10 minutes and go head-to-wind, a reliable gas engine makes more sense. But sailboats aren't about sense, usually.

A couple of years ago, I was asked to diagnose a problem with an Atomic 4 inboard. I freely admit I blew up, figuratively speaking, my first one in 1999, but the resulting time fixing my novice mistakes gave me some useful tips. So now I try to pay it forward with said tips, particularly as there are still a lot of boats with these venerable 1940s-looking motors in them, including Valiente. Now, Atomic 4s were, from approximately the 1950s to the early 1980s, the sailboat engine of choice in the 27-35 foot range. In fact, they were so very nearly ubiquitous, that one can buy a new one, or at least a new cast block, just as you can buy a new Twin Otter if you wish.

Back from the dead, or the 1960s, if you prefer.

Some things, despite the age and often because of the simplicity of their design, endure. This includes hand tools, of which I now possess an inordinate number, if "three more or less complete sets" may be considered inordinate. These are distributed as follows: 1) Old house, 2) Old boat, and 3) Less old boat, and the locus of the more specialized objects of toolish desire.

Torque, torque, torque...CLICK. Good.
This is a torque wrench. I did not, until the weekend past manifested a Canadian Tire sale awaited with the sorts of patience a vulture shows an impala with an infected hoof, possess such a purposeful tool. I did have a beam torque wrench, which looks like this and was sufficient for dogging down the head bolts on my Atomic 4 (to 35 ft/lbs., if anyone's still reading), but during the installation of the AquaDrive last year, buddy Capt. Matt of S/V Creeation fame whipped his out and I admired the Teutonic precision of the dialled-in torquing values.
The beam-style torque wrench, as favoured by mechanics with cataracts, evidently.
The fact that it's considered "idiot-proof" is just a bonus, although I suspect I'm supposed to be insulted. No such luck!

A "breaker bar". Why it isn't just a "really big non-racheting wrench thing" remains a mystery.
I also have picked up at deep discount such related items as fully unmetered breaker bars. These use leverage to "unseize" lug nuts (or engine mounts) sufficiently to switch to racheting wrenches, which might suffer damage to their racheting internals if one, say, steps on them to "get that nut loose". Oh, the places you'll go! Anyway, I like it as it is a Serious Tool.

What a thrill/'Tis to drill/And make fresh perforations...
Another tool of little humour that I have wanted for some time, but the cost of which I have not been able to justify, is a smallish drill press. I've grown accustomed to using my boat club's one (we have a fairly nicely equipped workshop), but I can see a lot of use for it aboard, particularly in the context of welding, die-cutting and forming backing plates and the like out of metal "stock". A drill press is usually slower-moving (and therefore more controllable and easier to clean out as it cuts) and clamps and the moving work plate (the circular thingie with the perforations) allow a lot of fine movements, unlike a hand drill. I was fortunate to have a friend who is selling his house and going condo; he has neither room nor need for his, and I'm giving it a new home...and maybe taking it on a long sea voyage. We'll see.

Yes, I will clean the topsides...at some point.
Enough tool talk: the point of tools is repair, and this was the scene this morning (cool, foofy wind, high cloud), a repaired and charged Valiente ready (two weeks after I last had the time and co-operative weather) for her 41st season.

Grubby, but functional.
I was gratified (particularly as I was alone once the boat was splashed) that the Atomic 4 engine I dote upon started "at first crank", and that the oil pressure and water throughput and the quality of the now-elderly gasoline I stabilized last fall were sufficient to get me the 20-minute putt-putt to my "other" dock at Marina Quay West. Which is, to mention in passing, so bereft of boats in docks that I have to wonder if the winter we've had actually killed some sailors as well as delaying myriad launches. I consider May 5 to be appallingly deferred a date to start the season, but the boatyard in which Valiente overwintered was still about 85% full, and some of the boats were still "buttoned down" with shrinkwrap and tarps, as if they have yet to have been visited by their frost-struck owners.
Coiled for your pleasure.
So after a mercifully uneventful transit, I met up with dock neighbour and good friend Jeff, and he and If went for a first sail in his new-to-him early 2000s Dufour 36 Classic, which is a very civilized ride and which I suspect will provide Jeff many years of happy sailing. The wind was light and cool and didn't want to come down to the water, and some of the strings and pulleys were so logical as to prove confusing, but it's a sweet boat and one of the cleanest and newest-looking used sailboats I've ever seen. So it's a good day when you can safely launch and then go for a boat ride on a deserted Lake Ontario.