Monday, March 15, 2010

Idling in Georgetown - Fixing Someone Else's SSB - Sometimes More than the Waves Come Up Short

March 9, 2010
Georgetown, Exumas, Bahamas

Frankie Five Fingers was pretty sure his short wave radio was out of order. The clues were that he could neither receive or transmit anything from or to anyone. Seemed obvious to Frankie that something was amiss.

Luckily Frankie knew a guy.

With a moniker like his you can imagine that Frankie knew a lot of "guys". Frankie's talent in life was getting things done. Not doing things. Getting things done. The difference between these two concepts is as broad as the chasm between fishing and catching.

As it turned out the "guy" that Frankie Five Fingers knew, Wanker Wade, was a guy quite familiar to and well liked by the Budget Committee and me. His life partner, Princess Diane, was also known to, and probably better liked by us. The Princess you see cooks a mean meal in short order.  She is also quite a bit better looking.

Wade acquired his name from "Babykiller Randy" in an email war conducted between them over my Chartplottter escapade.  Wade called me a powerboater for ever even trying to connect my chartplotter up the autopilot.  Randy, a powerboater, took umbrage.  It was all in good fun and the best part was twofold: I got two decent nicknames with which to taunt friends and these guys have yet to meet.

Wanker and the Princess are our connection to this short tale. Meredith first met this indomitable pair for a couple of days in May of 2009 at Bock Marine in Beaufort NC. They sail a 53 foot steel hulled Roberts hull which they built themselves. Quite literally. First they formed the steel and welded the plates. Then they proceeded to outfit their new home. With a Jenn Aire grill and Miele washer and dryer and a few other basic amenities. After our initial meeting we did not see them again until 3 days ago.  You can tell that Babykiller and Wanker are similarly directed in life.

Wade is the guy you want to know if you have a technical problem. Military training and an engineering degree combined with a full machine shop on board leave Wade uniquely equipped to solve almost any problem. All the tools, all the parts, all the hardware you could ever want can be found somewhere on the 53 feet of this unique vessel. Wade has the personality to share all he has with anyone who needs it.

Wade and Diane suggested we stop by Frankie's trawler in the afternoon. It sounded good to us.

Frankie Five Fingers is actually named Larry. You would never guess this by looking at the guy. He has Frank written all over his face. He owns an immaculate trawler of uncertain vintage. Frankie's boat is so spotless you doubt he has ever left dockside. Except of course the trawler is tied up to the dock in Georgetown, Exumas.

I call him Five Fingers because he pretends to have no opposable thumbs. His play is to express total helplessness in matters technical and stand back while his techie friends get to work "helping" him sort out boat issues. A former hospital administrator Frankie is about as helpless as a black widow spider. He recognizes that the techies are happier having free reign of his vessel and with his impeccable management skills he stands back and makes it available.

Often this works.

While Wade tended to the "work" aboard the trawler Frankie made the women drinks. Tall cool pineapple drinks with little umbrellas in really cool glasses. The Princess and Budget Committee cooed their appreciation of Frankie's bartending skills and settled in for an afternoon of lounging in the full length deck chairs on the upper aft deck of Frankie's trawler.

The men tended to the work. Well, Wade did. Frankie managed and I theorized. My contributions to most projects tend to the theoretical rather than the practical. Not to say I am lazy exactly but then, not to say I am not either. Wade did not necessarily appreciate all of my theories.

Troubleshooting the radio required we trace the full connection path from radio to antenna and then from radio to counterpoise. The job included removing panels, cushions, floor plates and resulted in a huge pile of stuff in the middle of the formerly spotless control room (notice that I do not suggest Frankie had a pilot house, on his boat it was a control room). Wade checked continuity, removed corrosion and he and I theorized at length. Wisely I limited my contribution to theorizing.

At one point in the sorting out of the HF radio the three of us: Frankie Five Fingers, Wanker Wade and Capt. Curmudgeon decided we needed to inspect the antenna installation on a neighbouring boat. You can tell from this how the troubleshooting was progressing. (Apparently I am not the only guy whose best ideas come not from inspiration but from other people. )

As we walked down the Boarding Ladder, (I am not kidding - a six tranche boarding ladder leads from dockside to the upper deck on Frankie's trawler) I had cause to turn and observe the scene. It hit me like the cold smack at the end of a long fist. I was looking at a perfectly staged movie scene: two vivacious women lounging on the aft deck, fruity drinks in hand, three guys working on a manly project in the upper control room. Frankie was so slick we could not even tell he was working.

As the sun started to lower Frankie terminated the work party by asking if we would like a beer. There is only one answer to such question, even if you don't want a beer. Personally I am not sure what it feels like to not want a beer but I hear there are some people out there...

Standing in Frankie's control room we were struck by two things: we were adrift in a sargasso sea of cushions, panels, wires and other materials of indeterminate description and the radio was not receiving anything from anybody.

All I can say is the Budget Committee and I had a great afternoon. Oh, yes, and none of it was my fault. Wade did all the work. I have a theory about what he should do next

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