did you ever think of bringing tools with you?

my last post reported about my first “problem” of the trip — my port antenna.

One of my two antennae began to list to the left yesterday.  Instead of standing ramrod straight up, the antenna on the port side of the boat began to wobble and weave in the wind.  the reason for this is that i had mounted a radar reflector on the antenna so that other ships can “see” my little 17′ Boston Whaler with their sophisticated radar systems.  this radar reflector weighs enough to cause the antenna to bend a little more than its counterpart on the starboard side of the boat.  you can barely make out the radar reflector at the top of the port (left) antenna on the boat in this picture on the left. the picture on the right shows as of today my boat has no port antenna.

it is one thing to have a problem, it is another to know what to do about it.

yours truly is not known for his mechanical skills and abilities.  wait to you hear this story.

given that the port antenna is dangerously listing, once i arrive at the marina in Kingston i set out to fix the problem.  the antenna is held up by a locking device as shown in the picture below, which is held together by two screws.  i figure if i can re-tighten the screws so that the locking device has the antenna standing straight up, then i will have solved the problem.  I just need to re-tighten the two screws, i say to myself.

at this point i begin to realize that i have no tools to do so.  i have NO tools on board.  nothing. nada.  it never occurred to me to bring tools on the trip.

why?  because i know that i have no chance of figuring out how to use them to fix something.  why would i bring tools along if i have absolutely no idea how to use them?

so, given the situation, what do i do?  i walk up the dock to the Port of Kingston office and ask if they have any tools that i might borrow.  they say they do.  they ask what i need.  i respond, “some kind of a tool that turns a screw which has six sides to it.”  i get this disbelieving look from the dock master.  i add, “it is not a screwdriver, but i can’t remember the name.”  he offers that what i may be talking about is an Allen wrench.  i respond immediately, saying “yes, that is it.”

he then asks what size do i need?  and whether it is metric or not?  and, of course, i have absolutely no idea about what the answer is to either question.  he says he will try to find a complete set of both metric and non metric Allen wrenches for me to use.  he does so.

now i am at my boat testing different Allen wrenches to find out which is the right fit for the screws that i have to work with.  i find it!  step one, done, i say to myself.

i then proceed to tighten the screws in order to re position the antenna in its proper upright position.  i turn the Allen wrench one turn.  it tightens somewhat.  i turn the Allen wrench another turn, and it tightens even more.  but i want to make sure that what happened today with the antenna leaning and listing does not happen again.  so, i tighten the Allen wrench one more turn.  POP!  holy cow!!  i just broke the screw in half.  i tightened it one turn too many.  now, i have a real problem. not only do i have an antenna that is not securely mounted, but i have a locking device that is totally unusable because i have a broken off screw preventing any way of tightening the device.

not only that, but i have jammed the Allen wrench into the head of the screw so much so that it is impossible to disengage.  i wish you could have seen the face of the Port official. he is aghast.  now, he realizes that his Allen wrench set has been decimated.  he is not a happy camper.

at dinner that night Bill and Sandy Bell’s son in law, Aaron, who is mechanical engineer by training, in addition to being handy and competent, asks me “did you ever think of bringing tools with you?”  i told him what i said above.  it never occurred to me.

this story has a good ending.  Aaron very kindly offered to help.  so, the next morning at 0600 hours he, Bill and I get in the pick up truck and head for the boat at the marina.  and Aaron brings his tool box.  he has the right Allen wrench.  he has the right pair of pliers to unscrew and remove the broken off screw.  with his help, i was able to take the antenna down, unscrew it from its locking device and identify the screws that i will need to find and purchase along the trip to be able to possibly reattach the antenna to the boat.

stay tuned.

4 thoughts on “did you ever think of bringing tools with you?”

  1. Great description of your process with the screws and wrenchs and observers. Hilarious, Neil.
    Ps- thinking ahead……Did you bring a first aid kit? And the other 10 hiking essentials?

  2. Wow, I never thought to ask if you had tools with you!! Also, these kind of hosts of yours went above and beyond! Can’t wait for the next installment!

  3. We were very happy that we could help, but know that if you reconsider and try again next summer, no one will feel you are less adventurous.

  4. I would never think to ask you if you have tools. As you said you have so much mechanical ability but you do have so many other abilities. One is to find a friend who was able to help you with the problem. Even if there wasn’t a friend around you have the ability to talk anyone even a total stranger into assisting you in you hour of need. Hope you are able to find the part you need and a proper tool when you try to install the antenna. Have you thought about changing from an Allen screw to a Philips or even a straight blade screw. Will you now have a small tool set as you continue forward? Good Luck and stay safe!

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