Looking for daylight

Monday 1/29/07

0715 I return to the Navy Yard from Oyster Bay to find a perilous cake of ice all over the place. No plows in operation here! Debby Romano is coming to borrow the pickup, and I warn her about my old tires.

0730 Boyfriend John Gladsky arrives in the Yellow Rose, his ex-Port Authority utility truck, with more steel plate. GMD has generously let us bring our own steel (squirreled away by John over the years) rather than make me buy it at new steel rates. China is gobbling up the world’s scrap steel supply, and prices for new steel ratchet up relentlessly.

1000 Erica Reynolds, PortSide wonder, is coming to tackle some office stuff. She was an amazing find at a Pratt Internship fair a year and a half ago. Her last job before art school was running a $2.5 million dollar Brooks Brothers store in Dallas. In addition, she has strong design skills, works as a contractor, and she can weld. A PortSide kinda gal! I pick her up at DUMBO’s York Street F stop. She laughs at me. “You look like a miner.” My face is covered in coal dust. I didn’t know.

Erica’s first task is to combine the various GMD estimates, from pre-haul out through discoveries of bad bottom steel, into one Excel document. Yup, we’re at max. I won’t be adding to the punch list. She’s also picked up a new digital camera and will set it up and give me pointers. The loaner camera has been overexposing and suffers from slow shutter. The photo record has been scanty as a result.

The spudwell pipe that will hold the spuds (internal pilings) is inserted in the forward deck hole, tomorrow they’ll trace where to cut through the bottom and let it down. There are some gaps where the spudwell meets the deck. Boyfriend John won’t be happy. He’s been coming almost daily to check in. I know it’s hard for him to let anyone else do steelwork, but sometimes I do wish he’d lighten up. I thought I was a perfectionist, but he’s intense.

Ernie comes in to report that the bottom steel under the forward engine room is not as bad as he expected. We go down together for a look see. The watertight compartment under that engine room floor was clearly not serviced for years. Rust mud must have sat at the lowest points and slowly oxidized the bottom and bulkhead (structural wall). It all gave way under the pressure of the ballast water put into the forepeak and the weight of the boat herself once she sat on the blocks.

GMD clearly expected the boat to be fragile or a mess because they put an awful lot of blocks under her. This spares any one section of the hull from carrying too much weight, but it also means blocks will have to be moved to get at the steel repair. We’ve been waiting three days for the dockmaster Bobby O’Connor to come by and approve block movement by the forepeak, and he finally does come, and does approve. Not a surprise, just news I was plenty ready to hear. I won’t know the full extent of the financial hit until we can see all the mess.

Ishmael begins cutting open bow steel, and I and go prowling for a hole I suspect exists. I had one of those jolt-me awake thoughts the other morning, a few days after we found the lower rub rail on the starboard side all wasted. “There must be a hole behind the wasted starboard rail!” Lying in bed, I remembered how one time last September, I came aboard after several days of rain to find two feet of water in cargo tank S4 (aftmost tank on starboard side). There had never been water there before; there were no holes cut in the deck above that tank as there were in S1 and P4 in anticipation of a spudwell hole. I pumped S4 but never saw water there again, and couldn’t figure out at the time how it got there. What occurs to me this week is that the week of rain lowered the boat just enough to put a hole under water, and we’d never seen daylight coming through the hole before because it must have been behind a hollow guard rail.

I enter tank S4 with Freddy looking for daylight. Nope, not behind the guard rail; but there it is higher and more astern, a small glint, too small to get a welding rod through. So small we can’t see it from outside even with a screw pushed through it. I descend into the tank again and insert a coiled pink Post-it because the pink shows up against the black hull. This works. A week after sandblasting, and we are still finding steel to repair, and yes holes this small are significant. Freddy and I check P4 for good measure. Nothing.

1630 I take Erica to the train. Next, the Red Hook post office to get a PO box. PortSide and I are in postal limbo. We left Beard Street because the landlord said he needed the apartment for his son (though we’ve just learned that he was using an old ploy; it’s not a relative with his name on the bell); but the tanker isn’t yet usable for sustained periods. We are camped out at my boyfriend’s in Oyster Bay--with a lot of stuff in storage. Time to get a PO box until we have full-time offices aboard the tanker and some pier address.

To return my pick up, Debby and I agree to rendezvous at Pedro’s in DUMBO, my new home away from home. How this hole in the wall, or hole in the ground (it’s below street level) has survived the gentrification of DUMBO I don’t know. Coffee is still 50 cents, and a hefty plate of pork, beans and rice at lunch is $5. Conveniently, it is a block away from the York Street F stop, so I decide to have all future visitors stop here for warmth and a coffee while I drive out of the Navy Yard to get them.

After dinner, I find trash from RR Framing, a barrel of wood slats, perfect kindling for the potbelly. I return to the Whalen for a night with plenty of heat but another criminally slow internet connection. Email is a snail; Blogger won’t upload. Will I ever get caught up on blog posts?