Logbook: Summer Reflection

Dan Harding reflects on leaky impellers, the too-short days of summer and the moments with family when it finally all comes together.

I had impossibly high expectations for this past boating season. This summer would likely be the last one before Karen returned to the work force full-time and our young son, Connor, enrolled in day care. At the risk of sounding overly sappy, having them, and my loyal companion Salty, as my office mates the past two years has been pretty darn magical. This past summer, with as much time as we could possibly spend aboard our Bertram, was to be the sprinkles on top.

What I hadn’t expected was a litany of engine issues that reared their head starting with our very first trip of the year. The engines would stall intermittently and often be difficult to restart. There was also an incident where I left the dock with the seacocks closed, which thankfully only really damaged my pride. During the first couple months of the summer I probably spent more time crouched between the engines than out cruising.

My prolonged mechanical trials and tribulations can be largely blamed on ego and frugality. Instead of hiring a mechanic at the start, I used the trial and error method of mechanics. I swapped batteries, spark plugs, impellers, coils, starters and fuses. I moved air supply vents and tried running the boat on hot days, cold days and everything in between.

I cursed, swore, cursed, cut up my hands and bruised my legs. I remember one particularly hot and humid morning where I was upside-down, straining to replace a hard-to-reach impeller, when a transient in the slip near me firewalled his blender and blasted Jimmy Buffett’s “Cheeseburger in Paradise.” “Son of a b****, it’s only 9:00!” I groused.

Summer flew by as it’s wont to do. Work trips, family obligations and life in general snatched up weekends with reckless abandon while I endured a master class in engine mechanics. Truthfully, as painful as it was, my engine issues forced me to learn how to maintain and troubleshoot them. It was a necessary education that will make me a more confident boater, even if it wasn’t one I particularly wanted. With summer fleeting and Karen’s return to work only a couple weeks in the offing, I put up my “out of office” email and we finally headed out. Blasting across Long Island Sound to Shelter Island listening to Billy Joel’s classic “Down Easter ‘Alexa’” with Connor sleeping soundly in Karen’s arms, I let out a sigh of relief. This is the good stuff.

The days that ensued were exactly what the doctor ordered. We went for dinghy rides, enjoyed some great meals, walked without a destination, fell asleep to the gentle rocking of the boat and the sound of water sliding against the hull. One morning, Connor and I took the dinghy to shore, just the two of us, as Karen straightened up the boat and began to prep a pancake breakfast. At this point Connor seemed to be learning a new word everyday but he also had this cute habit of repeating everything like a broken record. We motored slowly into the dinghy dock as he proudly pointed out every boat in the harbor.

“Boat … boat … boat … ohhhh big boat … boat,” he exclaimed pointing excitedly. Once ashore he clasped my finger in his hand as we walked together, my eyes searching for a coffee shop. “Car … truck … truck … truck … big truck … ohhhh big truck.” You get the idea.

We finally did find a coffee shop, and as I waited for my order I spoiled him with a chocolate milk—his favorite. He babbled away on the seat next to me enjoying the cold drink.

It was a short adventure for the two of us—just an errand, really—but he made it fun in his own way. Just shy of his second birthday, I know he won’t remember little outings like this or how much better pancakes taste when served alfresco in a cockpit, but maybe subconsciously he’ll remember those happy feelings. I know I will.

We pulled back into our slip in Essex just minutes before a summer squall. Connor slept most of the way from Long Island. He woke up, saw we had arrived in Essex, started jumping up and down in excitement and exclaimed, “Yayyyy, Dada’s Boat!”

At that moment all the hours spent contorted in an engine room were absolutely worth it.

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This article originally appeared in the November 2022 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

Source: https://www.powerandmotoryacht.com/blogs/logbook-summer-reflection