The Bright Yellow Boat By Vincent Mendes
n line with your “Bad Luck Bob” story in the March issue, I have one about a similar fellow (or possibly the same one) on the northeast coast. This occurred in the late 1970s at a small yacht club where I was a winch grinder and tactician aboard an Ericson 39. We were a serious racing team as well as serious partiers. Our boat was a few years old and showed some signs of hard racing, although we still won a lot of hardware. One summer, along came a new member who informed us that we were about to become second best because he had just ordered a new Ericson 39. When the boat arrived, it was an obnoxious bright yellow and stood out among the pristine white boats at the club. It took the fellow several weeks to get it in the water, because he had ordered it in unfinished condition and planned to install the engine, fittings, etc., himself. During this time, he regaled us with stories of how he was going to kick everyone’s ass. When the season finally began and he didn’t “kick ass,” he quieted down quite a bit. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to everyone, the head, which had been installed by the manufacturer, had not been connected to anything since he was going to finish the interior himself
and hadn’t specified whether he wanted a thru-hull or a holding tank. The discharge from the head simply emptied into the bilge. No one noticed this oversight until the “Round Long Island Race,” when the crew of 10 spent several days aboard. Everyone wound up eating and sleeping on deck the entire time, and when he pulled into the dock after the race, no one would tie up to leeward of him. He also had to find a new crew. Nothing much memorable happened for the rest of the summer until one Wednesday night after a race he came into the floating dock in front of the yacht club after most of the other boats were in. As was his fashion, he approached at speed and slammed the engine into reverse at the last minute. Now remember, he had installed the engine himself, and he seemed to have forgotten to properly lock the bolts holding the propeller shaft to the engine. When he hit reverse, the entire shaft and propeller took off for parts unknown—somewhere behind and under the boat—and the boat kept going at full speed. The crew was more or less used to his antics, so everyone had hold of something to brace themselves as he came in. Did I mention
that the floating dock was made of foam encapsulated by concrete? The bow of the boat climbed up about three feet onto the dock, shattering the wooden rub rail on the side of the dock, before slowly grinding its way back down with appropriate noise. About once a year, someone would try to ram and sink this dock to the great entertainment of everyone seated at the second floor bar at the yacht club. The latest score was: Floating Dock 7, Sailboats 0. This brings us back aboard the boat, where the propeller shaft left a gaping one-inch diameter hole in the stern. A torrent of water rushed in and hit the hot engine manifold producing a cloud of steam that poured out of the cabin like a volcano. Someone yelled “fire,” and the entire crew jumped overboard. One of the sailors from another boat realized what had happened and hopped aboard, tore off the engine compartment cover, located the leak, then tore off his T-Shirt and stuffed it into the hole where the propeller shaft had been. This stopped the inflow of water and kept the boat from sinking. After that, the bright yellow boat and its owner disappeared and we never heard from him again.
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