Starting in neutral

Before and after sanding.
Before and after sanding.

I had two interviews today and got the one I wanted, by Skype, while I made muffins and soup. Verily a man for all seasons. The result is that next Tuesday will see a big change in my life, doing something I’ve thought about doing for two years, admired people who’ve done it for about ten times that and never heard a bad thing about doing it, apart from the wages and that seems to depend a lot on where you are and how you do it.

It’s an odd time of year. It looks sunny and warm but while it definitely is sunny most of the time and the smell of Spring is on the wind, it isn’t really warm out, or at least I’m not. It’s the time of year when everything seems to be starting but at the same time some things are coming to an end. I’ve been trying to write about the end of the war in a village in Germany in 1945 for two years now and this time of year always makes me think of how people still, with what we now know to be less than two weeks of this terrible war left, lots of people still had no idea when it would end, or if they would be around to see it. This time last year I walked through a little forest to Aldeburgh with a friend’s dogs for the first time ever. I’d never found the path before. I doubt I will walk that way again now. Things change.

Except on the water. I went down to the boatyard to think, to sit on my lovely wooden Folkboat. Time seems to stop there. It always has for me, as soon as I get on a boat. I don’t know why it is. It isn’t as if it’s even in the water yet because although it’s now ready to go back in the yard crane has started slipping so badly that nobody wants to use it and I don’t want two and a half tons of my hard work falling off a crane. Apart from destroying the boat it might well destroy me if it did. You wouldn’t be getting up in a hurry, certainly.

Apparently it's an anode.  Probably. It does magic stuff.
Apparently it’s an anode. Probably. It does magic stuff.

I made do with putting the lovely chrome safety rails up, the ones that look great but actually pitched an inch below your kneecap are just high enough to turn a stumble into an Olympic-style double back-flip into the North Sea. But they do look good. Some people have said that counts for too much in my estimation.

I thought as I ate some bread and cheese cut with the same kind of knife sailors used on the Mary Rose, a simple, unserrated, wooden handled blade that just does pretty much everything onboard. Chiefly I thought I’d go for a walk and not paint the coachroof outside, because it looked as if it was going to rain. Naturally, it didn’t, but that can wait for another day.

I thought I’d have a look at the electrics and see if the engine would start. I connected up the battery I’d charged up two weeks ago with no great hopes. There was a red switch in the engine compartment and a green lever on a pipe at the bottom of the engine. There was oil in the sump when I pulled the dipstick to check, so I turned the key. Two quick turns of the engine and it started, quiet and without missing a beat. The bilge pump kicked in and water started pumping out of the boat, just the way it should. The only slight snag was that the engine was going to blow up within the foreseeable future for two reasons I knew and could see immediately. Engines on boats are cooled by water. Boats float in water, so they pump that up and circulate it round and the heat is exchanged into the water and the water is pumped out and everything is lovely. If the boat is in the water. But all I’d wanted to do was see if it started and while I didn’t really think it would it had, beautifully.

It wasn’t the onlhy snag though. The other snag was that I couldn’t turn it off. I turned the key but that didn’t do anything. I turned the red key but it came off, as it was supposed to do and it had the same effect as removing the leads from the battery which I did next, namely nothing at all because it was a diesel and you only need the battery to start it anyway. And apart from that, I didn’t know how to switch off the engine. I turned the lever on the line that I presumed was a fuel line, but there seemed to be loads left in the injectors and north of the fuel valve, if that’s what it was.

I went down the ladder without falling off it this week after nearly busting some ribs the last time I came to the boat and found a friend who luckily knew that there was a little lever to pull. It probably vents the cylinder is my guess, so there’s no compression. Whether or not, the engine stopped at once, before it overheated and siezed.

So I have an almost fully-painted boat with an engine that sounds 100% and starts. All the electrics worked onboard too, with all three cabin lights coming on including the awful ugly flourescent that is coming out when I get around to it. The thing that doesn’t work is the depth guage, which is important here where you can run into 10cm of water a mile out to sea which will do you no good at all.

It isn't warm yet. It's just beautiful instead.
It isn’t warm yet. It’s just beautiful instead.

I removed the corroded thing that had three wires running into the top and a black wire running into the bottom of it and showed it to a man at the engineering shop on the quay on my way back to the car. After the young Irish guy with a van who had sold him a set of knives (“best knoives in tha world sor,’ he said, ‘Swedish steel. But they’re made in China..”) then tried to sell me a generator I don’t have any use for whatsoever, he told me it was an anode. It’s supposed to dissolve. And there are no electronics in it. It does something to the electric field that might corrode and dissolve the copper nails in the boat maybe possibly, so screw it back on and connect all four wires back onto it. Then the depth guage readout might work.

And it might not, but it’s worth a try. And a better day than yesterday.

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