James and Patricia Hampton came over for a game of pool Monday night, and before we went inside they were admiring Hunky Dory, who sat in the yard on her trailer. The oarlock blocks are made of pinewood, with a coat of epoxy that gives them a golden hue, the dark streaks of grain creating a tiger striped look. James said, "Those oarlocks are awesome," and I basked in the glory of being mistaken for an artist. Turns out, that will be the last compliment those blocks ever get.
Tuesday morning I set out on my morning row, right around sunrise. The clouds were mixed shades of white, gray and red, drifting across pockets of blue sky. I started out easy so as not to make my back hate me, rowing into the wind, the bow rising with the wave crests and popping down into the troughs in that steady rhythm that soothes the soul.
About five minutes from shore, I heard a muffled pop and I didn't feel any resistance in my right arm. It took a few moments to mentally bring myself back from my celestial wanderings into the seat of my rowboat. I looked at my oar, which was lying across the side of the boat. At first I thought it has slipped out of the oarlock, but then I noticed the oarlock was still attached to the oar, along with half of the beautiful, tiger striped block. It had broken off the gunnel.
About ten years ago, I made the block from three pieces of pine epoxied together, and one of the epoxy joints had failed. It took a minute to process the information. Over the past twenty years or so, I have epoxied lots of wooden things and never, ever had one fail, despite being left outside and abused. Now my oarlock block was broken. And without an oarlock block, the whole rowboat is broken.
I tied the oar to the side of the boat, creating a pivot point, so I could row back to shore. Safely high and dry, I took a closer look. Sure enough, the epoxy joint had failed, prompted by water intrusion from the hole I drilled to accept the oarlock socket. I must admit I am a little baffled by the failure. Marine grade epoxy has never failed me before.
These tiger striped beauties were the third set of blocks I've put on the boat. The original plans called for oarlocks to be mounted directly to the gunnel, but the gunnels are tilted outwards because the side of the boat flares outward. That made the oars rub against the inside of the gunnel, so I made some blocks to level the oarlocks. Later I made another set to raise the oarlocks, because in rough water you have to lift the oars high out of the water to prevent them from digging into the waves on the return stroke. I don't remember exactly why I got rid of that set, but I think they may have rotted from water seeping in through the socket holes.
Now the plan is to remove both oarlock blocks, make new ones and get on with it. While I'm at it, I'll build up the gunnels so they are level with the water, not tilted out like they are now. That will make future block replacements a lot easier. And I have ordered some edge-mount oarlocks, so I don't have to drill a big hole into the block.
The Hunky Dory has really found her niche in the choppy waters of Storm Lake, and I enjoy taking her out for a cruise early in the morning. This downtime is going to be no fun at all.
After I broke my boat, I spent a normal day at the office, then covered the City Council meeting in Alta, which lasted well past my bedtime (8:30 p.m.) Normally, I take my two dogs, Toby and Rena, for a walk after supper, but we missed it because of work. When I got home after the meeting I walked up to the back door and heard a sound that melted my heart. Toby and Rena were on the other side of the door, yelping because they heard me drive up. They weren't just yelping, their voices were pitched an octave higher than normal - they were really, really glad to see me. I often wonder if they can tell time, or if they even know how many times a day we walk. Both questions were answered with a resounding "yes." It was like they had been winding themselves up tighter and tighter while I was away, knowing when I got back I would be powerless under their urgent stares. When I asked them our standard question, "Toby, Rena, do you want to go for a... Walk!?" they nearly jumped out of their skins with excitement. Thirty minutes later when we got back from out walk they were their regular, lazy selves.
Old Dog memories.
Last week they poured cement over Lakeshore Drive when they had finished the utility work there. When I was a kid in North Carolina, my Labrador retriever Charles learned several ways to deal with the summer heat in Dixie. He had a wallow in the red mud under our house, and he learned construction crews of new houses would eventually pour a cement driveway. He loved to wait 'til the crew had smoothed the surface before he trotted into the middle and rolled around to cool off. Many's the time I saw him trotting down the road, dripping cement, followed by a mob of cursing construction workers. Either they never caught him, or he thought the punishment was worth the crime, because it remained one of his favorite hobbies in warm weather.