Be not afraid.  Easier said than done. After a lifetime of being on the water in small boats things were about to change – big time.  My runabouts, 14 and 18 footers got me through a lot of tough spots.  Spots I probably should never have gotten myself into.  Storms I could not even believe, including one wicked thunderstorm coming back from Charity Islands with my young son in the middle of the night. “9 foot seas” the Coast Guard told me when I called them at midnight to report we’d made it back to the dock. Wicked.  I thought I knew fear.

Now here we were, taking possession of a 34 thousand pound twin-engine 42′ long boat.  Home.  It was now our home.  Having sold everything we’re moving aboard and this is it.  All we have.  I pull up the hatch to the engine room and crawl down to survey the space.  It’s a factory down here.  

Diesel Fuel center
Fuel Distribution Manifold


Two massive 250 HP Cummins diesel engines, transmissions, a diesel generator, hot water heater, fresh water pump, fuel tanks, batteries – Oh My God the batteries. Must be ten of them.  Filters and piping, a fuel manifold.  A what?? You’re kidding.  The fuel doesn’t just go one way to the engine and done? Apparently not.

For the most part, I consider myself a relatively capable mechanic and handyman. But now I’m getting nervous.  When the boat was out of the water during the inspection the surveyor pointed out all of the ‘through hulls’ we had.  A through hull is an opening through the underwater part of the boat (the bottom) where sea water is ingested into the various necessary cooling and other functions onboard. Things like engine cooling – there’s three engines with the generator and all need cooling water.  Then there’s the air conditioning systems.  Sea water is used to cool those down.  Weather deck wash down pump, refrigerator cooling, water maker inlet and more.  We have eleven. Eleven holes in the hull below the water line.  Nice.  That alone will keep me up half the night.  Good grief.

And pumps.  Pumps to pump water to the faucets from the tanks.  Pumps to pull all that sea water into the boat’s mechanical needs, and pumps to move water out of the boat when too much accumulates.  Two of those.  Four if you count the shower sumps.  With switches that stick and fail either leaving the pump running dry – or sticking closed meaning the pump doesn’t come on when the water rises in the bilge areas.  And of course, pumps to move the poo.

Oh, then there’s the hoses.  My guess is, something like 34 miles of rubber and plastic hoses and pipes. Hoses that move the water coming into the boat and for moving water out of the boat.  Hoses that connect to the three fresh water tanks in the very stern and hoses that move diesel fuel to and from the engines.  Does that make sense??  Hoses to and from the hot water heater, to the A/C units, the heads (bathrooms with, yep waste hoses) sinks and the faucets.  Some hoses go nowhere, they just end – cut off and apparently replaced with newer shinier hoses.  Black hoses, white hoses, grey plastic water lines, big hoses and itty bitty hoses.  I traced two red hoses thinking “these look cool, wonder what they do?”  Windshield washer fluid heating hoses – so why did my car up north never have this?  I guess they come in red so you don’t mix them up with the drinking water.  Danger – Danger!!

We won’t go into the electrical wiring.  Not one, but two complete systems.  One AC like a house the other, DC like your car.  Enough wire to wrap the entire boat in red, blue, yellow, green and white stripes from top to bottom.  

So here I sit, down in the engine room taking it all in.  That was the day I developed a random stutter. At the dock, rocking gently in six feet of water with the current or boat wakes this all seems rather benign.  But we were getting ready to move out.  Head out into the wet blue yonder.  Deeper water.  As soon as we left the dock on our maiden voyage all I could think about were those 11 holes in the bottom of our boat and all those hoses.  Our first night in Coinjock I barely slept. The creaking of the dock lines against the hull. Motors whirring in the night.  It was a cacophony of pending disaster to my 8 channel stereo Technicolor imagination.  Surely something was failing with all this racket.

It took a long time.  The fear of imminent disaster faded to familiarity with the sounds, like hearing the ice drop in your freezer or the dryer buzzer coming on. Finally, after months of cataloging all the noises and 13,000 trips down the hatch “to check on things” I got beyond abject fear and moved to prevention, maintenance mode.  The hoses need to be tight and in good condition.  Seacocks need to work and pumps need to keep on pumpin.  And they do.  The fear of failing to keep our house safe finally died out.  I actually enjoy going through the drills, readying us for travel, checking everything out to be sure no new leaks or issues have come up.  It’s easier to relax now.  Easier to Eat Life.

– – a post script to our readers.  Thank you.  Over 900 new subscribers to our story in just the last few weeks.  I wish there was a way to thank each and every one of you for taking the time to visit with us.  Once I figure out how to include some way to respond to emails without the spam, I hope to meet many of you. God Bless.

Grandpa Pickers