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It was the weekend. The two-year revamp of the Betty Jane II was virtually complete and, in triumph, I jumped into her cockpit, ready for a little cruise maybe or a relaxing afternoon spent dockside, puttering on small leftover projects. You know, like finally securing the screw-in deck plate over the fuel sender on the port fuel tank. Or figuring out all the programming options on my new, high-falutin’ stereo.

But then, whazzat! I heard a strange bump, bump, bump coming from Betty’s interior. The sound stopped me dead in my tracks, at least for a moment. Then, with mounting angst, I threw open the salon door, lunged in, made my way to the galley, from whence the bump, bump, bump seemed to emanate, and soon settled my eyeballs on the obvious culprit.

Yikes! The thing I’d been dreading since I’d bought Betty in 2016 had apparently taken place—the soul of her 30-year-old Norcold undercounter refrigerator had either departed for that great reefer roundup in the sky or was in the process of doing so. A puddle of water on the galley sole offered mute testimony to this, as did the humid warmth I smelled when I opened the door.


Man oh man! I couldn’t help factoring the cost of a new fridge into my tapped-out future as I fiddled with the Norcold’s controls, trying to nix the bump, bump, bump. No dice. Then I flipped the pertinent switches on Betty’s electrical panel. Nada!

There was one last ray of hope. I determined to extract the reefer from its undercounter home so I could check the compressor and other components at the rear. Maybe there was a bad electrical connection, or a leak that I could easily fix.

I loosened some screws, pulled the Norcold out and again came up with nothing, a finding that triggered a gloomy attack of self-pity. Gone was the day I’d so lovingly envisioned. My plans for that little cruise? Trashed by Fate’s fickle finger. The leftover projects I’d anticipated? Cancelled by the sea gods. And the immediate future? Overhung by the need to get an old, croaked refrigerator ashore. But how to do this?

As I discombobulated both AC and DC hookups, I held a conference call with myself. “Now, I could,” I opined, “see if I can find somebody around here to help me get this baby off the boat. But then again…”

An idea popped into my head that has often popped before—it’s a bad idea but, I gotta say, an enduring one. It goes something like: “Bill, you’re one helluva guy. Why bother traipsing around asking for help from every Tom, Dick and Harry when you can simply get ‘er done all by yourself? With way less hassle. And way more finesse.”

Of course, I heartily agreed. And after lifting the big, unwieldly, box-like reefer aloft, I carried it in my arms through the galley, up the galley steps, through the salon and across the cockpit, where I tried transferring it to my tightrope-thin finger pier without wasting a whole lot of time snugging Betty up close with stern and spring lines.

This was a bad idea. More to the point, doing the split, with one foot on the boat, one foot on the pier and me and a 62-pound monster suspended above the drink, proved overly challenging. So, I back-tracked briefly, snugged Betty up close, accomplished the transfer to the pier with a great heave-ho, jumped onto the pier myself, lifted the reefer into my arms again and set off for parts unknown, with sightlines forward totally obfuscated.

Can you believe—I made it! After almost dumping both myself and my charge into the depths when I glanced off a short, stocky piling I’d forgotten about, I lowered the Norcold into a dock cart with a dramatic, ego-satisfying thunk.

“You pulled that thing off the boat all by yourself?” accused my friend Jerry while passing by only moments later. “Are you nuts?”

Well, yeah, maybe.

This article originally appeared in the November 2018 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.