Toxic Tension

Saturday, 1/20/07

0720 the first call comes in. The industrial marine biz in this port hits the phones right after 0700, seven days a week. No sleeping in for this birthday girl. It’s John of Amorica, Paint. He’s returning my call about the lead paint issue. I tell him I’m thinking of calling the dockmaster from H&R who docked the Whalen in 1991 and asking him about what paint was used. I’m not liking losing a whole weekend of good weather waiting for the lead paint testers. H&R is long gone, but I know where the guy works now, a new dry dock outfit on Richmond Terrace, but I don’t know his name. With that John says “I’m sorry, I should have thought of that yesterday. When was her last haul out? 1991 at H&R? I would have done that job… I’ve done every boat around here for 20 years… they weren’t using lead paint then.”

I experience a flood of relief. I’ve had no time to organize a birthday party but the no-lead paint news is the best present I could receive. I call Ernie, yard supervisor of Dry Dock #1, right away. Ernie, ever on-duty and ever-amiable about it, says “great… Blasting will start tomorrow night.” Charlie Deroko calls soon thereafter and says he can start surveying tomorrow at 0730. The weekend WILL show some progress after all. I begin to unwind.

Birthday calls roll in throughout the morning. My boatbuilder uncle Ross Gannon is particularly interested in what’s going on. I tell him about “the tulip,” the wickedly deformed prop. He asks if that could explain how the drive shaft was damaged, could it have been a grounding that nailed them both? I realize I don’t yet have the story as to why the Whalen went out of service.

The fallout from the Exxon Valdez ultimately would have put her out of work. That accident lead to the OPA90 (the Oil Pollution Act of 1990) and one of it’s many mandates is that “single-skin” vessels would be phased out of the fuel-moving business and be replaced by boats with double hulls. The idea being that if they were hit, only the outer skin would breach and the inner skin would prevent an oil spill. That rule has retired many noble old tankers around here, whereupon they go to the scrap pile, get sunk as artificial reefs or get spirited away to Latin American where the rivers are many and the regulations few.

I argue with Outlook some more and try every form of workaround to get the laptop version to work or get the data from the desktop up into Earthlink’s cyberspace mailbox. No go. Clearly, I will work in splendid isolation while in Dry Dock #1.

I finish my first post and realize I’m too tuckered out to swing more. I reassess the Lulu plan. She was almost named Limpet for her proclivity to stick herself to me. It’s endearing when she plays parrot and sits on my shoulder while I’m typing; it’s a molestation when I’m trying to sleep and she’s wrapped around my head like a tight, fidgety hat. She hadn’t been bothering my sleep for weeks, but I realize that’s cuz she’s been stuck to John’s dog Sophie. Lulu is infatuated with Sophie. I need my sleep on the Whalen. I think Lulu may not make the trip back with me…