October 7, 2010

Diesel con brio

EVERY NOW AND THEN I see Carter Brey, resplendent in evening dress, on PBS television. He is the principal cellist of the New York Philharmonic, and internationally acclaimed as a virtuoso. And every time I see him, suave and debonair up on stage, I wonder how he must look when he’s pulling his sailboat engine to bits.

The first thing that amazes me is that he would do it at all. Surely a performing artist’s delicate fingers are his fortune. How would one play the cello if one’s fingers had a nasty accident while trying to remove the starter motor?

Carter Brey seems totally unconcerned about such a possibility.

A while back, knowing that he had the same Westerbeke 13 diesel engine in his Sabre 28 that I had in my Cape Dory 27, I e-mailed him, asking if he knew how to change two hidden fuel filters.

Sure enough, he did. “You’ve come to the right shop,” he said. He kindly sent me detailed instructions on how to get to the lift pump filter and the injector pump filter. And he added:

“It seems unreal that as recently as a couple of years ago I viewed auxiliary diesels with fear and trepidation. A month ago I found myself becalmed in the middle of Block Island Sound, no land in sight, with an overheating engine.

“I tore the entire raw-water circuit apart until I got sea water circulating again. I mean, I even got into the heat exchanger to look for blockages. It not only got me home, I felt like Robert Mitchum and Mr. T combined. Too bad there were no women around to admire my manly skills. Then again, it’s incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to strut in the cockpit of a small sailboat.”

Mr. Brey is, of course, an unusually talented man. Besides sailing his Sabre 28 and performing sublime music, he is fond of ballroom dancing and marathon running. But his willingness to dig into the innards of his ancient diesel engine is a lesson for the great many of us who still experience the fear and trepidation that he once did.

So listen up, now. If a ballroom-dancing New York cellist can summon up the courage to tear a diesel engine apart, so can you.

Today’s Thought
Excellence is the perfect excuse. Do it well, and it matters little what.
— R. W. Emerson, Journal, 1862

Boaters’ Rules of Thumb, #104
Compass light color. A very low intensity white light on a compass doesn’t affect your night vision very much, but the old rule of thumb is that there is only one color for a compass light, and that is red. It can take up to 20 minutes to develop full night vision, and it’s destroyed in a flash by bright white light. Luckily, red light has almost no effect on night vision. If you’re on watch at night and have to go down below where it’s brightly lit, wear red ski goggles. Or else keep one eye tightly closed all the time you’re down below. The other will retain its full night vision for when you go topside again.

A man e-mailed a country hotel, asking if his dog would be allowed to stay there. He received this reply:
"Thanks for your query. I have been in the hotel business over 30 years. Never yet have I had to call the cops to eject a disorderly dog in the small hours of the morning.
"Not once has a dog set the bed clothes alight through smoking in bed. I have never found a hotel towel in a dog’s suitcase. Your dog is welcome.
"PS: If he will vouch for you, you may come, too.”

(Drop by Monday, Wednesday, Friday, for a new Mainly about Boats column.)

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