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The Yankee Mechanic

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The Long Run, by Capt. Bill Pike (continued)

Scott Smith in Zope's Engine Room

So what’s the problem, Dr. Smith?

“Beautiful sight,” said Bruce. We were all standing in the wheelhouse, BJ and I near the centerline helm seat and Joan off to starboard at the chart table. An immense ketch under full sail was swooping south, not too far off the port bow, with Greening Island over her stern.

Spirit of Zopilote hummed cheerily along in an easterly direction, closing on the big ketch. We’d only recently departed our slip at Dysart’s Great Harbor Marina in Southwest Harbor for a week’s worth of adventuring. Things were going good, good, good!

“That’s Rebecca I think,” said Joan, as she studied the ketch through her binoculars. “Yeah, that’s Rebecca.

Then Joan cocked her head. I heard it too. The pitch of our venerable old 300-horsepower Cummins NT855-M diesel (with 11,000 hours on her hourmeter) was changing quickly, with nary a throttle adjustment. We were losing speed, too. “Something’s up—don’t know what,” said Bruce calmly, pulling the throttle back and shifting into neutral as he gazed at the dashboard gauges.

“Are you okay,” a helpful soul on board Rebecca radioed across as she swept past, her sails drawing powerfully.

“We’re fine, thanks,” Bruce answered, stepping briefly outside to offer a wave and a smile.

And we were. Thanks to a timely cellphone call to nearby Hinckley Yacht Services back in Southwest Harbor, a Hinckley Picnic Boat soon arrived with Hinckley’s head mechanic on board, a big burly fellow named Scott Smith. Toolbox in hand, Scott jumped aboard with the agility of a cat and, within minutes, had entered the engine room and diagnosed the problem—our propeller and shaft were no longer properly functioning because a worn snap-ring had malfunctioned, allowing a piston-like “spool” to pop out of our transmission’s selector valve assembly.

Ah, the Yankee mechanic! After finding the snap ring in the bilge (a feat in itself), Scott pounded it flat, thereby extending its life long enough for us to make it back to Southwest Harbor for a more conclusive repair the next day. As Bruce spun Zope within her own length upon our return to Dysart’s and then sidled her sideways into the berth we’d departed only hours before, Scott remained in the engine room, hovering over the tranny, ensuring that the spool—and the snap-ring—stayed put.

“To Scott Smith,” Bruce thundered at dinner that evening. Four glasses shot up, initiating a toast we’d continue to raise throughout the rest of the trip, whenever the dinner bell rang.

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