Sunday, February 19, 2012

A Brutal February

Brutal? Well no, not really.  As Februaries go, this one has to be the most temperate that I've ever experienced. But that having been said, February is the worst month of my life and my visceral dread of its arrival is such an ingrained habit of mine that even a mild month like this one is cause for an annual semi-hibernation.  Plus, well, I've been busy.

As mentioned previously, I had decided that this would be the year that I finally take the plunge and ship myself off to a live-aboard sailing school. The problem is that I decide a lot of things, but my having done so by no means indicates that the question is, well.... decided. I've never (well, rarely anyway) been the type to make high-dollar financial decisions unilaterally; the CFO would have to buy-in as well. That's something that can go either way, and experience has shown that the broaching of the subject requires precise timing. As it happened, I had a regularly scheduled visit with the family doctor and while there I asked for a prescription for a handful of sleeping pills. Naturally curious, the doc asked what I needed them for.  I told him that I'd be spending a potentially hot and uncomfortable week on a sail boat and that I might need a little help getting to sleep.

In further preparation for the trip, I also ordered a new camera. The old DSLR Olympus is too heavy and bulky for a trip like this, besides being somewhat difficult to use. I needed something small and easier to use, but I also wanted it to take pretty good pictures. Hours of research later, I ordered a Panasonic Lumix LX5.  I had the funds for that from an old GPS that Kyle, trumpet repairman for The Jackson Two, had sold for me on eBay.

It was the next day that I was confronted by the CFO, who wanted to know why I needed a new camera.  "Ah," I thought, "just the opening I was looking for."  I proceeded to describe the vacation that I had decided was hoping to take. There was a bit of back-and-forth on the topic before she finally confessed that she had known about it for a few days - she had had an appointment with the doctor on the afternoon of the day that I went and he had told her about.

So much for doctor/patient confidentiality!

Still, she hadn't torpedoed the idea and buoyed with the excitement of my pending voyage, I began making preparations. Which is another way of saying "shopping spree."  Over the last couple of weeks, I have bought a rain suit, a nice boonie hat, deck shoes, a pair of wet/dry SPF shirts, and a pair of pants made of the same wet/dry material.  

When trying it all on, I look more like a safari guide preparing for a monsoon than a mighty sailin' man.

There is also the matter of the stack of three books that I have to read in preparation for the classes. A week is not enough to teach both the knowledge and practical skills required to operate a yacht, so the knowledge has to be gained via independent study, very much like the way you take the ground school and written test before going off on one of those "10 days to private pilot" courses. The reading has taken up most of quite a few evenings lately.

Squeezed in with the sailing preparations was some parental support for young Co-pilot Egg who, having reached an age where she is allowed to make adult decisions in the eyes of the government, none of whom know her and are therefore eminently unqualified in making the determination of just which decisions she is mature enough to make, decided that she wanted a tattoo. To be fair, this was by no means an impulse decision; she has been talking about it for years. That said, perhaps my conflict-avoidance strategy of saying "You can decide that when you're eighteen" was somewhat shortsighted. But seriously, what parent ever really expects that date to come up so quickly??

In principle, I have no problem with tattoos, although I don't really want one for myself. I also, in principle, have no problem with tightrope walkers, matadors, coal miners, figure skating judges, BASE jumpers, crab fishermen, or ice road truckers. That doesn't mean that I want her to be any of those things! Nor was I opposed (in principle) to the tattoo that she had selected:

No, the problem I had with that tattoo was the same problem the Co-owner had, albeit for different reasons. The Co-owner objected to the shoulder location because the tattoo would be visible when Egg wore formal strapless gowns or halter tops. "Yeah, so?" was my reaction to that. It's a pretty classy tattoo (as tattoos go) and I didn't see that as a problem. The bigger issue in my mind was that, what with my knowing of her abject and hysterical fear of needles, she would quit after just a few lines were drawn, leaving nothing but a floating giraffe head on her shoulder. Now that would be something better kept hidden.

With her being eighteen, I can't make decisions for her, but I can plumb the depths of whatever remaining pool of vestigial parental respect she might have and ask her to take some advice. My advice was to start small and hidden, then sometime in the future, depending on how that went, consider getting something like her shoulder giraffe. She saw the logic in that and agreed to a different tattoo in a different location.

Long story made short, we spent a couple of surprisingly enjoyable evenings getting her tattoo. She bore up well to the agony of the needle, although the week-long healing process might have caused her just a little bit of regret. She maintained a great attitude, though. I think it was on the way home from the actual tattooing visit when an old Eagles song came on the radio:

"He was brutally handsome, she was terminally pretty."

"I've been referred to as 'brutally handsome' in the past, you know," I told her.

"Brutal on the eyes, maybe," she responded, in what she thought was sotto voce.

Yeah, that's my daughter all right!

With a three-day bout with the flu and a trip to the farm to do some shooting also thrown in, a couple of weeks blew by without any work being done on the airplane. Not that I was missing out on anything very interesting - all I had to do next was align the spinner which was, in theory, a pretty easy job. The idea is to prop up a straight edge next to the tip of the pitot tube and ensure that it stays within a 1/16" point in space as the prop is rotated.

This was attempt #1:

That method didn't work very well for a couple of reasons: first, the least little breeze caused the straightedge to wobble around. Second, Van's was onto something when their depiction of the process showed the top corner of the straightedge centered on the opening of the pitot. It would be a lot easier to see relative motion that way instead of trying to remember where on the straightedge the pitot was supposed to be.

Here is method #2:

It worked much better, but as you can see it was still not easy to determine whether or not the pitot was remaining fixed in space because moving the prop actually moved the entire airplane:

Once the spinner was as aligned as I could get it, there were holes to be drilled through it - there were pilot holes in the forward support plate to drill into. That required a deft touch on the drill, so I opted to use the nice, controllable hand drill that I had bought for use on the canopy.

With all of the drilling done, the spinner started to look like a very rotund and very startled cycloptic porcupine!

Then, making a mockery of the patience required to cut the back of the spinner precisely to the scribe line, Van's has us grab a hand sander to sand the back of the spinner flush with the backplate.

Then those remainder pieces cut out of the spinner are shaped to a drawing in the plans. With the weak light in the hangar, I couldn't see through the parts well enough to trace the line. Road trip to the taxiway!!

The Dremel made the first big cuts, but from there it was hand sanding to get the final shape.

And there are the big kerf gaps that I had been worried about. They aren't too bad. Unfortunately, this is one of those "craftsmen" parts that everyone will look at to see how well you did. I'll hear about the size of those gaps someday.

And then it happens again: that which is installed will soon be removed. The prop has to come off.

I'm then supposed to drill four holes through the remainder pieces. No directions are provided for the spacing of the holes. A drawing on the next page indicates a 1/4" space from the edge of the spinner to the outermost holes on these parts. With that and the 2.5" width provided to Professor Pete, he quickly determined that I'd need a 2/3" gap between the other holes. Me? I was just gonna eyeball it. When you figure that the holes I drill are never really at the spots I want them anyway, I imagine either way of doing it is going to be roughly the same as the other.

By that time, my hands were getting too cold to mess with precise measurements. It will wait until the next session.

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