Sunday, May 18, 2008

It Seems Like an Ignominious End

"Narrow Escape" was powered by a two-cylinder Swedish-built Albin gasoline engine for 39 of its 40 years.

Serial No. 1 of that engine was built in 1925, according to the parts manual. Mine was serial no. 47542, built in 1967. I had lavished several thousand dollars and a lot of time resurrecting it to service. And I succeeded, for awhile. For 110.6 hours to be exact. That's better than the last two prior owners of the 1968 Ericson 30, each of whom spent a lot of effort and money trying to get it to run reliably.

My motive was partly nostalgic. It was a funky engine, huge flywheel, 12 hp at 1500 rpm, magneto ignition. And a factory parts distributor from whom I was able to buy a brand new cylinder head in 2006. It reminded me of the single-cylinder two-cycle Stuart Turner engine in a native-built fishing boat I owned years ago during a sojurn in Grenada.

My effort was misplaced. If I combined the money I spent on the Albin with the money I've spent on the new Tohatsu outboard and mount, I would have a new diesel in the boat now.

Still, there was a pang of regret when I had the engine block and transmission lifted out at the boat yard last December and then walked away leaving it lying there like the corpse it was. One of the yard crew admired it, calling it a classic looking engine. In different circumstances it could have become a museum exhibit. But the guy in San Pedro who has a small display like that, didn't want any part of it.

There were two plastic containers of parts that I had stripped from the engine prior to having it lifted out. That was necessary for me to be able to muscle and lever it off its mounting rails and into the companionway from which it could be lifted.

I put the containers in my storage unit and have spent the intervening months moving them out of the way every time I needed to get something else out of or put into the unit.

The other day, knowing I would have to move them once more to put my 11-ft inflatable back in storage after it served as a potential liferaft for the Ensenada Race, I finally called a scrap metal yard to find out how to sell the remains.

The containers were heavy. One contained the thick cast iron flywheel and its guard. The other contained the manifold, exhaust riser (aluminum, $175 in 2005), the irreplaceable French-built magneto, and various brackets.

Together, the two containers sat in the backseat of my Mustang convertible and I drove them to the scrap yard. It turned out to be a big industrial facility. I sat in a line of box trucks and overloaded pickups awaiting my turn on the entrance scale. While waiting in line, I had to move to make room for an exiting 18-wheeler tractor-hopper trailer rig that needed the whole street to turn out of the yard, having emptied its load.

After getting the weight ticket at an office window, I was directed "over there" and cautioned to watch out for damage to my car. "Over there" was an area where a huge electro-magnet on a crane was lifting junk off the asphalt and dropping it on top of a 25-foot tall pyramid of junk.

I looked at the pavement carefully for things that could puncture my tires, parked quite a ways out from the magnet machine -- it could easily have lifted my car -- and put down the top of my convertible. There was no way to get the heavy containers in or out of my backseat without having the top down.

I didn't bother trying to lift the containers out. I just opened each one and took out the pieces one by one. I laid them in a haphazard pile that was ludicrously small given the surroundings. Then I drove onto the exit scale, which could easily have contained five Mustangs, and went back to the office window.

"What name do you want the check made out to?" the clerk asked. I said it and spelled it. He knew what an apostrophe was, which puts him in the best-educated half of the population in Southern California. But I had to repeat the rest of it twice while he retyped. Those vowels, the double L and the Y give lots of people trouble with my last name.

He handed me a letter-sized sheet of paper. The bottom portion was my check for $7.10. At the top I learned that my car weighed exactly 3600 lbs when I drove in and was 60 lbs lighter now.

I drove away sad, yet happy that I would be able to tell my wife that I had finally gotten rid of that "junk".

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