A Modest Proposal 4.8


Dan’s plan

“My grandparents had a little place on a little lake about half way to the Canadian border from Seattle. I remember, we started going there about the same year my high school and college car (a ’53 Chevy Bel Air, 4 door, 235-straight six) was born. “

Wood. Water. Time.

My grandparents had a little place on a little lake about half way to the Canadian border from Seattle. I remember, we started going there about the same year my high school and college car (a ’53 Chevy Bel Air, 4 door, 235-straight six) was born. That’s also the year I got my first at-sea command (an 8-foot flat iron skiff rowboat). The boat and the car are long gone. But, Lake McMurray still looks just about like it did back when Eisenhower got sworn in. And the four bedroom house that the original one-room shack morphed into ain’t changed a lick either. I know this, because, I was there about 3 years back.

The reason I mention this, has to do with an unplanned experiment in wood deterioration rates that started back then; and is still in progress. Or at least it was three summers back when Lady Bug and I stopped by on our way to launch, farther up the road, on Lummi Island, and then transited out to Sucia Island for the summer rendezvous. I even parked in front of the little store and went in to see if I knew anybody. I was only about 15 years too late. Not bad, as these things tend to go. And, if you squint, you’ll see that the original PHONE BOOTH was still there.

Here’s the deal.

My Grandpa was a man of few words, but some rather entrenched opinions. He was REALLY OLD. Maybe fifty, or so. I doubt I ever questioned a single thing Grandpa said. Being so old, and wise, and all. People were a lot older back then, than we are now. But, what I’m leading up to is a story about a tree.

Whenever the topic might come up, Grandpa would point out that his waterfront lot was supposed to have water on two sides. Not just the one side that I always knew about. Seems – according to Grandpa – the guy who sold everybody that string of waterfront lots decided that he could have at least one more to sell if he just pushed the dirt from the tops of the dozen or so “real” lots into the lake and make a “bonus” lot. That’s how this long-term experiment with wood deterioration began. It’s also how Grandpa never really forgave the neighbors for being his neighbors. This is a really deep, and really COLD little lake. Even before I knew better, that was a tough lake to swim in. And, I suppose the water temperature has something to do with this experiment. Maybe.

The nefarious lot-seller-guy apparently pushed an exceptionally large tree over, and then proceeded to pile dirt on it to “make” that extra building lot. For as long as I can remember, about 75 feet of that tree extended from the (modified) shoreline and across the front of this (unwelcome) neighbor’s property. You could walk on it. Tie boats up to it. Dive in off of it. Clamber back out of the water on it. At first, the limbs were still on it. After a while, somebody came along with a chainsaw and trimmed the sticky-up limbs away. Then, the tree was sort of a dock. It just floated there. Decade after decade. If I had to guess, it was probably an alder, or poplar, but maybe a cedar. After a while, trees started growing in it. Saplings at first. Later a small seed-log forest growing like a hydroponic garden.

That summer that I happened to visit the old homestead, I paddled my kayak across the lake from the launching ramp and happened to meet up with the current resident of my Grandpa’s house. It’s a really, really small world some times.

Grandpa’s house is the second from the left. The interloper’s cabin (now ten-times larger) with the log floating across the front is on the left, here.

Except he was initially pretty suspicious about the stranger (me) drifting around in front of his house in a rotomolded kayak. As our discussion progressed, I asked about The Log protruding from his front yard and off across the front of the neighbor’s house. I asked him if they had cut the floating forest down. “Nope. Those trees just got so tall, that it capsized one day.”

Sort of, every three generations, this old tree rolls over and shows a new side. Still floating. Still sound enough to walk on. Still there. Grandpa’s been dead for fifty years. His tree is still floating. Which brings me to the real topic of our tale.

I’ve already lamented, at considerable length, about rotted wood and entrapped moisture in Gypsy Wagon’s innards. And, I probably already admitted to leaving a bunch of the detritus “for later.” This has caused a pretty big problem this week. Much of the left-behind stuff is the ex-engine pan and the engine bearers and ancillary framing. This stuff is for the most part made up of layers of 2×6 fir, overlaid with a pastiche of chopper gun and mat and way-too-little polyester resin. It’s a real mess. Just about all the lumber that might have helped stiffen the hull in the current project has long ago returned to dust and random fibers. Except for the part that I managed to drill a hole thru the hull under, that is. For some GOK reason, the transverse portion of the engine mount is made up of about 3/8″ glass covering some quite-sound lumber. Soaked to the point of squirting. But, not rotted. And, of course, that small portion of the pan was rather well secured to the hull. It’s really no coincidence that since Murphy joined the crew, stuff like this happens quite regularly. But, if I didn’t have to kneel in a lousy place and try not to cut any more holes in the bottom of the boat; this would be real interesting. And, here’s what I think has (not) been happening.

This cross-member is what should have been the “dam” between the bilge sump and the rest of the hull that was adorned in plywood floors and FOAM. Covered all over in moisture-retaining vinyl. Tons and tons of very WET foam, as I discovered. I’m gonna’ have to bet here. But, I’m gonna speculate that these particular pieces of doubled-up 2×6 fir never really dried out. Maybe, hardly ever. Maybe, not since it was beehive hair, miniskirts, button-down collars, and wing tips.

Being moderately chastened about cutting more holes, and equally uncomfortable with extending the whole proposition any longer than absolutely necessary, I tried to remove it with my trusty angle grinder. No way! About all I did was polish the damn thing. And, that was with a new 30-grit disc. The Sawzall literally made the boards squirt. It was a mess. That chunk of fir tree and polyester fought back for about an hour. And, it made quite the pile of splinters, granules, and muck.

All, because I drilled a hole in the bottom of the boat.

I’m just wondering. What would Grandpa think?

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