So, it’s rare that the old girl tricks me… but this time, the big blue Buick laughed all the way to the bank…
I recently rebuilt the air conditioning system of the Buick, and just last weekend I finally got it charged with R12. It is the first time that car has has air conditioning it probably twenty years. Blows reasonably cold, but has a quirk that the belt squeals with the AC on. The AC switch was pretty much a squeal on squeal off switch. As soon as you turned on the AC, instantly the belt starts squealing. Obviously it must be the AC belt even though it was already tight as fifty motherfucks.
The plan was to drag The Mermaid behind the Buick up north, drop off Amateur Sophist, pick up my dad, then head toward Montana. First though, the Buick needed a trailer hitch… I know putting a trailer hitch on a 76 Buick Electra is like making a supermodel work as scullery maid, but sometimes the right tool for the job is the wrong tool… or at least the tool you have in arm’s reach.
A-S was all about cutting up the chrome on the bumper and bolting on a a chunk of iron like some kind of god damn barbarian! Luckily I stopped this atrocity of cutting up my girl and we found an incredibly elegant solution to attaching the hitch… Though it is sort of a physical puzzle like those two horse shoes and a chain you occasionally find on people’s desks. I’ll buy anyone a glass of scotch who can figure out how we got it on there! Sort of a sword in the stone problem but instead of getting to be king of England, you get a drink.
Anyways, the Amateur-Sophist and I took The Mermaid and the Buick up to the north to start toward the headwaters of the Missouri River. As we were driving up, suddenly the alternator light came on. As I was slowly rolling off the road, the sophist pointed out that on the broken water temp gauge that the coolant temp was also rising steadily. Well shit… obviously the water pump/alternator belt had slung.
As we lifted the hood, it was indeed the case. As luck would happen, we had literally broken down 200 yards from an autocrats store! Damn, the world is a wonderful place!
Oh… well… shit… memorial day weekend. It was closed. Next nearest parts store was only 14 miles away. Should be no problem. We simply had to make a new drive belt out of some rope or twine or shoe laces. Then drive to the parts store and get a new real one.
I know what you are thinking, “wait a minute, it was your alternator belt that broke, but it was your AC belt that was squealing?” Well that is the trick she played! When the air conditioner came on, the additional draw on the electrical system made just enough resistance for the spinning alternator to slip, so that is actually the belt that was squealing! Hell of a trick!
fast forward about three hours. (umm… don’t read to much into this, but it is unsurprisingly difficult to make a drive belt out of some shit you might have in your car…)
Great success! We made it to the auto parts store and installed the new belt and didn’t blow up the engine in the process. Water pump and alternator back on line! This is when we found out that the AC belt, was the exact same size as the pump alternator belt… so… much like Dorthy in the Wizard of Oz… we had the way home the whole time. It was literally move one belt two inches over and we would have had everything working except the air conditioning… and could have slept the night in a bed of Milwaukee instead of a parking lot in Kentucky.
Now up in Gladstone Michigan. Final phase of sea trials: When I arrived, my dad says to me, “Nick, you know your uncle and I are going to break your boat.”
This seemed a pretty aggressive statement from a guy who the only way to make him mad is to put mayonnaise on his hamburger. What he was saying though is that it was going to be some serious testing.
The only notable deficiency found was it is a pain in the ass to row into the wind… which pretty much blows in any boat every made so nothing can be done. Advantages… it was able to sail under full sail and speed in 6 inches of water! Practically unheard of for any sailboat!
In all, some tiller and minor rig changes, but in general all the old guys were very impressed… no one had ever seen a boat that could sail in such shallow water!
One added safety feature is to drag about a 50 foot rope with knots in it behind the boat while moving under sail. That way, if you fall off you can just grab onto the rope and pull your self back to the boat as it continues sailing away. If you don’t have this, then the boat just continues to go on it’s happy way and you just tread water watching it disappear.
What they hadn’t told me was that when you grab the rope, and the rope instantly accelerates you in the water to 6 - 10 knots… the water pressure rips off your pants and underwear!
Apparently it was common knowledge…
You have never seen a bunch of old guys laughing hard, till you have seen them telling stories about having their pants ripped off! Who would have known that literally all of my family had been pantsed by Lake Michigan! It was after that they told me the second trick… to spread and bend your knees as you grab the rope.