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Sunday, October 30, 2011


Having made it my life's work playing with boats, I've come across some pretty dumb and sometimes dangerous things. The picture above was during the filming of Walt Disney's popular boating movie, "The Boatniks". While filming on a windy day inside Newport Harbor the director wanted the boat pictured, to be heeled over more. A couple of the actors climbed up the mast and started rocking the boat. On one final big rock, the boat rolled over, filled up with water and sank. Filming had to stop while the boat was raised, pumped out and made ready to sail again. Having big boats and little money I depended upon high school kids and "work-a-ways", (you work on my boat and I'll take you sailing) for cheap labor. One day I was forward varnishing the cap rails of Shearwater when the engine started in reverse and at full throttle. As I ran aft, cleats were being torn from the dock, the shore power cord ripped out from the outlet box on the cabin side and by the time I got to the cockpit and slowed the boat down, we were in the center of the Newport bay. No one got hurt, the damage was minimum and as I investigated this unusual departure, this is what I found. I had instructed my latest high school kid to varnish the wheel box which was already sanded. The big gear shift lever which is usually in the neutral position was in his way so he shoved it aft. The little racheting throttle lever he had varnished around and had shoved it forward into the full speed position. He then decided to do a little exploring? He lifted the big teak lid to the wheel box and deciding to do a little varnishing around the back side of the starter switch. When the metal band on the varnish brush hit the + and - terminals on the starter switch the engine started and we were UNDERWAY !!!!! Speaking of starter switches. While anchored in a small bay north of the Cape Of Good Hope one of my $10.00 dollar a day (they pay me for food) crew members did a little varnishing the day before our second attempt to get around the Cape. I asked my first mate to start the engine and warm it it. He had done it before and knew how to do it. He started the engine but it had a VERY UNUSUAL sound. Soon heavy black smoke was pouring out from the engine compartment. I ran aft, jammed the throttle to the kill position and still it wouldn't stop. My god I thought, the boat's on fire. Then, I looked at the started button. The crew member the day before had varnished it and it was STUCK in the start position. I was quickly able to un-jamb it and stop the engine. An inspection of the starter showed that it was TOTALLY FRIED!! Luckily, I had a spare starter aboard and we only had to delay our departure for Cape Town by a few hours. While racing an 83 foot schooner in the Newport to Ensenada race back in the late 70's. A bit of damage ocurred. I was at the helm as we were setting up to jibe. The owner of the boat came on deck and saw a sheet chafing on his freshly varnished cap rails. He got all upset and insisted that we re-lead the offending sheet. I told him that we were going to jibe in a minute or two and that after the jibe the line would no longer cause a problem. "Just the same", he said, "I'm going below and get some carpet and tape it on the cap rail". While the owner of Serena was below we jibed. A crew member somehow led a sheet or after-guy under instead of over the aft life lines. As the huge main boom came across the center of the cockpit there was a loud crash as about 35 feet of beautiful teak cap rail complete with stanchions and life lines was ripped from the top of the bulwarks and laid out on deck. A few seconds later Serena's owner came on deck with his carpet and duct tape and looked in shock at the carnage we had made of his beautifully varnished cap rails. I guess I was a bit of a wise ass, but I then said to him, "see, I told you there would not be a chafing problem after we jibed to the other tack".....

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