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Messing About In Boats

Gold Leaf
by Robb White

As I write this, an old, old friend of mine is writing something, too. He is sitting on a little stool in a sunny spot in his yard writing "Rescue Minor" on the stern of my 14 karat gold leaf. You know, a man who is apt to pontificate about his opinions sometimes has to put his money where his mouth is, and I have strong opinions about the naming of boats. For one thing, I do not usually name them at all but the old Rescue Minor has named herself (or was it some departed soul). There is an old rule among us yachtsmen of the old school and that is that the proper way to put the name on a varnished transom is in gold leaf.

You know a man who lives in abject poverty has to have a little something to boost his ego. It is sort of like the big shiny SUV parked in front of the trailer with all the trash and scratching dogs lying around in the yard. It is just a matter of priorities. At least I don't have a gold stud in the side of my nose.

Another reason I decided to do this was that I love to see a good man at his art. If I could afford it, I would own a bunch of beautiful things that artists made. I have some wonderful little paintings that friends of mine have given me, and every time I see them I am delighted. You know. as an aside, I believe that it is best not to hang such a thing right smack in the middle of the living room because you get too used to it to get the full goody out of seeing it again. I know this is an exaggerated comparison, but it is a little bit like sex. You don't want to be like a craven, self indulgent convict with nothing to do and alifetime to do it in...ain't no joy in that. It is best to space it out into special occasions.

This sign writer friend of mine is a sure enough artist. He has maintained a pure monopoly in the sign painting business in this town ever since I was a little boy. He can stand on the top rung of a 40' ladder and free hand a sign in letters 6' high on the side of a brick building so perfectly that you can't tell it wasn't projected from a slide. He painted a sign advertising the wonders of Florida with a woman in a bathing suit so well done that it caused a bunch of car wrecks.

I won't go all into it, but he is so good and quick that nobody has ever been able to compete. He has had apprentices who were so eager to learn that they worked the ladder for him for years, and though he took them by the hand to show them how, they had to move away to make a living. He is just plain an artist at what he does and I'll be delighted to own a little piece of his work.

I'll haul it down to the little Apalachicola Antique and Classic Boat Show on Saturday, April 26, too. There will probably be some precious jewel inboard boats down there with varnish jobs so perfect that the owners keep the two ply (canvas and flannel) cotton covers on them except during the judging. I have seen boats so pampered that you could run a white handkerchief 8" up the tailpipe and not bring out any smut. They'll certainly beat me with my paintbrush varnish job and that little hint of smut on my transom.

At that, I must deviate a little bit. I have finally fooled around enough to get the propeller exactly (?) right, and that's a hard thing to do. Anybody can put a wheel on a boat that will propel it pretty good, but a proper job takes a lot of fooling around. The diameter is the main thing. Half an inch taken off will free up the engine most amazingly. If it is over pitched, it'll lug, too. Old hands at it always have a mind boggling collection of propellers and those little nylon reducing sleeves so they can fit them to most any shaft to do their experiments.

I have quite a few myself, but they are mostly sailboat propellers. Rescue Minor is the first planing inboard boat I ever built. I had to hit the e-Bay. Though there have been a bunch of books and charts and graphs written about propeller seleclion, they only just get you into the ballpark. The only way to get it right is to fool around with both the diameter and pitch until the boat will run the fastest with the engine running up to the specified rpm. lt is okay to overload a gas engine with wheel and if you don't inlend to use the maximum horsepower of the engine, they'll run more economically like that, but it is destructive to lug a diesel engine.

Right now, there is a pitiful thing down in Carrabelle. The Coast Guard has a most beautiful new cutter (says Seahawk across the transom, but not in gold leaf, but it ain't a varnished transom) that is so overloaded with wheel that she smokes out the two side exhausts so bad that the boys have to wash lhe whole stern of the boat every time they come in. I don't know what kind of wonderful engines lhey got down in there, but they are fixing to kill them if they don't loosen up.

I know a man in Panama City who could do it for them. too. He is kind of an artist at it. Sometimes he'll just watch a boat lor a second or two and say; " eighteen / fourteen...that'll be fifty bucks." I guess it would lake an act of Congress to get the job done on the Seahawk and they are too busy dealing with solving the roblems generated by how the whole country is terrorized into apoplexy to have time to get the Seahawk up on plane. I think...dang it, seems like I would have learned my lesson by now. don't it? Anyway, I think the way to solve the Iraq and North Korea problem is to buy those damned weapons of mass destruction. We could put an entry fee on Liberian and Panamanian tankers to gel up lhe money.

Whoo, y'all. There is an old comedy routine us schoolboys around here used to do when one of us got insulted or challenged in some way or other. The offended kid would say, "I'm mo kill him. y'all." At that, he would slick his elbow out to lhe nearest of his buddies and plead. "Hold me buddy. Don't let me do it. Please (don't let me do it. Hold me." That's me down at the Apalachicola boat show. Some fool is certain to make some half-assed remark about my gold leaf. " Hold me Jane...else I may kill this big head son of a bitch."

I already know Rescue Minor will win her class at the boat show. I ain't got to worry about any polished up hothouse flower or pampered artifact. I won't even need that gold artwork. I am too smart for them. She'll be the only "motor launch" entered. My little sailing "felucca" won her class last year. Well, I took a little poetic license there. Those that run that show classified her as a "paddle boat" and there were some inlaid canoes with rubbed out varnish jobs. Jane had to hold me back. So, what'11 happen after the show? Will I put lhe two ply cover on her and haul her back to her humidity controlled shed with the pollen sucker humming like the winner of the "Best Restored Runabout Class" does? Hell no, I'll slide her off into the perennial diesel fuel slick of the Carrabelle River and let her take us across the rough salt water to Dog's Island to swing to her anchors at our little plywood (yes, Virginia, damn your eyes...and I got to do something about it pretty quick) shanty until we are ready to go fishing in the morning. Maybe I'll get up in the middle of the night to see if I can catch a hint of a flash of moonlight off that gold.