Wrapping it up

By Erik Dolson

(Jacqulyn Mincheff at CRC. Photo by Keith Scott pnw-racing.com)

Weather for the Columbia River Classic car race in Portland was appropriately British. The event was paired with a large collection of Mini’s, MG’s, old Rovers, Jaguars, part of the All-British Field Meet. Dark gray clouds rolled over the city, threatening to dump rain by the barrel.

A lot of us in the big engine cars don’t like racing in the rain. Yes, we do know that the best racers shine brightest when the track is wet, but the risk / reward ratio for us is a little high with all that torque. It’s not like we’re 20 something and invincible, or racing on somebody else’s dollar. Plus, parts get tired over a season, and little things ignored tend to mount up. There are big races later in the fall, investments you have to prepare for.

Swede’s paddock wasn’t there, which meant that Falcon, Canuck, and BlueZen were out, either saving themselves for a national race in Texas or just done for the season.

Cowboy’s Corvette was without an engine, something locked up his sump pump at the last race in July and the engine was not back from the builder. Ceegar did not come down from Seattle, and there were rumors that he may be done, the fun gone out of racing because he was tired of being punished for things on the track he didn’t do, and tired of seeing others, meaning Team Cobra, not being punished for what they did.

I asked around. In fact, the Team Cobra driver, Snake, received a 13 month probation for aggressive driving from SOVREN during the Pacific Northwest Historics in Seattle, which was shared with groups that the Seattle organization affiliates with. If there is an infraction in that period of time, they will immediately be put on the trailer for that event and face further consequences.

This whole thing is a little weird, from my point of view. Ceegar and Snake have both ruffled feathers with their driving style, partly because they are the most aggressive drivers out there in our bush league racing. Certainly, Snake is the more aggressive of the two. The two best races I’ve ever run were against one of them or the other, and both times I came in second.

I really hope Ceegar comes back, and so does everybody else. I don’t think he knows how we value his contributions to the sport and to the charities we support. SOVREN has flowed millions of dollars to the Seattle Children’s Hospital, even before a $60 million bequest from the estate of Bruce Leven, a racer of legend known for his occasionally over the top aggressive racing. Leven hit every racer I know at least once, me twice. I probably deserved it.

Ceegar is more subtle, but very important to our dying sport. Plus, he’s fun.

I started at the back of the pack in the race late Saturday afternoon, because we missed the previous race altogether. Mule, my mechanic, had topped off my oil twice while preparing the car back at his shop, once more than needed.

Saturday morning, the overfill pushed at least a quart out and onto the nose of Mr. Polished’s Corvette right behind me, rude and dangerous. There wasn’t much time between the morning race and the first race on Saturday afternoon. We didn’t get the excess drained in time — Mule also works on the three Polished family Corvettes. To his credit, I suppose, Mule had warned me earlier in the season he might not be as available at the track as he used to be. I’m hoping that gig works out for him. On Saturday, it meant that we started last in the final race of the day.

Coming into Turn 7, in second gear and foot easing into the brakes, I was setting the car up for turn exit, at the limit of traction, ready to power down and run like hell to Turn 8.

Then YellowJacket went lifeless. She had popped out of gear into neutral, coasted into the turn with the engine at little more than idle.

At that point I stopped setting up to get through the turn, stepped on the clutch, shifted back into second (Yes, I could and probably should have just matched revs and pulled back on the stick, but I don’t like the sound it makes if that goes wrong), steered with one hand and tried to find the sweet place between traction, driving line, and acceleration.

In about a half second.

I didn’t quite make it. YellowJacket pushed right through the turn and out onto the grass, losing all the ground I’d gained coming up through the pack like a banshee with attitude, trying to catch Mr. Polished. I checked my mirrors, waited for a good moment of reentry. It was not fun, limping along with a transmission that randomly decided if it would stay in second gear. Aside from causing the one off-track excursion, there was a loss of the confidence needed to take things closer to the edge, which is where I like it.

And it was my fault, going for a few years on a crucial part which should be refreshed every year. I spent more on the failed weekend than I saved by putting off the rebuild.

I decided not to run on Sunday. Even though the weather cleared up for the morning race, a good portion of the field had gone home. Some friends, family really, were going through some personal turmoil. My head wasn’t into the game, and this is not a sport for the distracted.

So, I sat in the stands and enjoyed watching Ms. Polished win her first race of 2019, overwhelming a Porsche in the final two laps for an exciting and well deserved victory. For this weekend, at least, that was enough.

SVRA Portland Historics

By Erik Dolson

The SVRA race in Portland is already something of a blur. I should have taken notes, but sometimes life itself feels like driving through a rush hour on a six-lane highway capable of funneling cars at 70 o 80 miles an hour but regulated to 60, the shear volume of traffic reducing speeds to 30, then 20, then 10, and now zero, inching along,

Three in the lead. Photo by Austin Bradshaw, flyingbyephoto.com

unable to get off, unable to do anything besides sit there, barely moving and barely conscious except for awareness that hours of life are being lost that will never be regained.

I didn’t know then I was already showing symptoms of a bug that would dog me all weekend, and lay me low in five days. It didn’t affect my racing, I don’t think, just my attitude. Of course, I’ve always hated rush hour. Read more…

The wheel comes off.

This video, taken at the Pacific Northwest Historic Races earlier this month, would be hilarious, if it didn’t depict a life threatening situation for at least five people. The impatient should start at minute 6:30.

First is the driver of the Mustang, Bob Hooper. His wheel came off at the fastest part of the race course, and he was traveling well over 100 miles per hour.

Second are the people in the worker stand. To me, it looks like that wheel is headed right at them. But I think it bounced over them, instead. Thank you folks in white for being out there!

Third is the driver of the Jaguar from which this video was filmed, Gunter Pichler. All of a sudden there’s a wheel bouncing twenty or thirty feet in the air over his car, while the Mustang is going sideways through the gravel in front of him. He just down shifts and keeps driving. Thank you for sharing this, Gunter.

By the way, Hooper and friends went out on the course, found the wheel and axle some place in the weeds, repaired and bolted everything all back together and kept racing that weekend.

No wonder we love these people!

Rose Cup

By Erik Dolson

We all got together again the following weekend in Portland for the Rose Cup races. Seattle officials were still debating what penalty, if any, Snake would be given for aggressive driving.

Cowboy came by my paddock and said, “You need to go talk to Armadillo. They’re talking about giving them a life-time ban.” Armadillo is president of the Seattle club.

“That’s not right,” I said.

“That’s why you need to go talk to Armadillo.”

There were all sorts of ironies in this situation. To begin with, I promised myself decades ago that I wouldn’t get involved in politics of racing. I’d had enough of that for a lifetime at my real job. Racing was my refuge.

I also live alone on a hill top in MiddleofNowhere, Oregon. Cowboy has a ranch so far out they named his town after a city in India. It’s not like we’re members of a homeowner association. We also each race a Corvette, and this was a dispute between two guys who love Fords.

Not that it matters.

But Cowboy and I are not opposed to speaking up, on occasion. We agreed that a lifetime ban was too severe. At one time, great drivers like Garbage Man were told to pack it up early and just go home for the weekend when they drove far more aggressively than Snake.

So I wandered down to the end of the paddock where Armadillo was selling helmets and gloves and fuel to racers. I sat on the floor of his trailer to rest a hip that had just about had enough of standing around on pavement, two weekends in a row.

Armadillo asked me what I thought about the situation. I told him Snake made some passes in the Seattle race that I would not have made. That there are situations where a small mistake could hurt someone else.

But Snake comes from different level of competition where everyone is more aggressive, and his finishing position is certainly more important to his “people.”  The passes probably seemed acceptable, to him, I said to Armadillo.

“There are some who want to give him a lifetime ban. They say they’ve talked to the Cobra guys over and over,” Armadillo replied. “But I have a problem with that. We’ve never penalized him before.”

“Then where’s the due process? Maybe you need to get their attention, and I don’t know if that’s five points or whatever, but not a lifetime ban. A lifetime ban is too much.”

Then I remembered something from the days when it was often said that we were supposed to “take care of each other out there.”

“I think race officials have the the power to fix this in about one minute,” I said to Armadillo. “Use the black flag. Bring a driver in if his driving is too aggressive.”

A black flag would be more effective than concerned conversations, especially with all of us Type A personalities. A black flag brings a driver in off the course. The penalty is right now, and that impacts your finishing position and hence your starting position for the next race. It’s a penalty that even a 12-year-old can understand.

I know this because, in the old days, when I was 11, I received a couple of rolled black flag warnings that modified my behavior.

“That’s an idea,” Armadillo said.

It would put a lot of responsibility on officials and turn workers, but we already trust them with our lives out there. Maybe a few cameras at key points along the track to resolve disputes, I don’t know.

But I did know I didn’t want to be any more involved in the discussion. I’d made that promise to myself that I would stay out of the politics. It was time to go racing. This was the Rose Cup!

Racing gods have a sense of humor, though. After qualifying, I was third, again. We line up two by two when we start a race, so there were two cars in front of me.

One was Ceegar. The other was Snake.

They had a clean start, and Snake just drove off and left me and Ceegar to battle it out for second. I did everything I could, too, to get by Ceegar but I couldn’t do it. My lap time was 3/10ths faster, but he did to me exactly what I’d done to the silver Corvette in Seattle. Ceegar’s TransAm Mustang was always exactly where I needed to be.

I tried to dive underneath him into the corners, but he was there. I tried to squeak by on corner exit, he was there. I thought I had him a couple of times, but he was right there and I couldn’t go around. It was great fun trying.

After the race, I was going to drive through his paddock and give him a high five, but I noticed that my clutch didn’t disengage the engine and the car didn’t slow, so I went over to my own trailer. The transmission wouldn’t shift, either.

We made a quick adjustment. When we went to start the car to test it, the engine did not turn over. No sound. Nothing. Mule, my mechanic, grabbed a volt meter to test if it was a switch or the starter.

’‘Funny, I just told someone ‘We never have to work on your car,” said Mule.

“You what!?!” I was amazed he would invite the racing gods to strike us down. “You NEVER say that!”

Mule replaced the starter with one we had in the trailer.

“It’s been used,” he said. “I don’t think it will work, or we wouldn’t have taken it out.”

“No, we took it out and replaced it several years ago at this event, before we realized that the master switch went bad, and we saved this starter as a spare,” I said, hoping my memory was better than his.

I was lucky, the replacement starter worked.

So now we could attack the clutch problem. Jakester’s mom brought cheeseburgers from across the highway for dinner. We kept working. Rather, Mule kept working. My job was to hand him wrenches and pry bars and whatever else he needed. Cowboy came up with a stack of clutch plates we could use to rebuild the clutch in the car.

The car was on jack stands, which gave Mule less than 18 inches of clearance as he lay on his back on a sheet of cardboard I’d put in the trailer for exactly this purpose. The cardboard made it easier to slide under and out from under the car.

Mule had his “creeper,” a wheeled cart to lie on while wrenching under the cars, but it raised him several inches and didn’t give him enough room for his elbows. Once he put his head down to rest. He’d slid part way off the cardboard and his head hit the hard pavement with its scattering of gravel. I brought him the foam pad I stand on in the trailer to change into my driving suit.

Mule also works on cars for Mr. & Ms. Polished. She’d broken the rear end of her Corvette. Their crew arrived with a new rear end just as it got dark. Mule told them he would put it in in the morning, that he wanted to get my Yellowjacket up and running. They seemed disappointed.

It wasn’t a cold night, and thankfully it wasn’t raining. Mule struggled to lift the transmission, but eventually it came free as he complained he wasn’t as strong as he used to be.

A man came over and asked us to turn the generator off that was providing light to work.

“Can’t do that,” I told him.

“It’s ten p.m., isn’t that quiet time?” He asked.

“I’m not going to argue with you. We’re going to keep working, but I’ll move the generator as far away from your van as I can,” I said. Jakester and I set the generator up on the other side of a trailer that had a much louder generator running, and surrounded that loud one with cardboard so the couple could sleep.

Eventually, I told Jakester to go home. At 12:30, I told Mule we needed to call it a day. The transmission was out, we could install the clutch in the morning. I told him to get the rear end in Ms. Polished’s car first, though. They depended on him too.

That job took longer than anticipated, and we didn’t get our clutch wrapped up by the race Saturday morning. So I missed it and that afternoon, started in 25th position instead of 3rd.

When the green flag came down, I carved my way up through the pack. What a rush! Diving inside of one car, to the outside of the next. Barely hanging on around the long sweepers, braking as late as I dared at the end of the straights. I love to play chase, and this was to get a shot in the final race that would be held the next day.

But the real performance was by Snake in the Team Cobra car. He turned a 1:20:001 in that race. I had the second fastest time out there, and I was three and one-half seconds behind him! I’d like to say it was because my clutch was still a little raw, that that the tires were a little greasy, but no.

He also had 120.099 that weekend. These are unheard of times for vintage “production cars.” Granted, the Cobra was never a “common” car, but neither were ZL1 Corvettes like I drive.

I should say that “they” had a 120:099. The reason they were able to turn that time was the harmony between an outstanding driver, an extremely well performing chassis, and a powerful and reliable engine. That’s the only way to get it done, and that’s how it was done.

Ceegar was held in the paddock because he was running two cars in separate classes, back to back, and he couldn’t get to the starting grid in time to start in his earned position in our race. In the final race on Sunday, he had mechanical issues and was only able to finish 7 laps, but turned in a good time.

I went after the Cobra with everything I had in Sunday’s feature. I jumped him and the Porsche from Seaside on the start, and actually led for a couple of laps. It was close racing, but he could have run away from me at any point. That is what it is.

It’s a remarkable to see a car like that Cobra dance in the hands of a driver so skilled. The car looked as if it barely touched the ground, and only then to change direction. The rest of the time it seemed to float on a thin crackle of its own energy, like a bouncing ball of lightning. Watching Ceegar is like that at times, when his car lifts one or both front wheels off the ground, or when the back end chudders first one way then the next, clawing for grip.

After the race, on the podium, Snake had his hands full of roses and water and the checkered flag that I offered to hold for him, with a smile. At the end of the ceremony, they presented me a trophy for upholding the spirit of vintage racing.

I don’t know.  On any weekend I can look around the paddock and see others who deserve it more. Like Cowboy, who 25 years ago talked me back into this absurd sport that saps my income and consumes my summers. Or Mr. & Ms. Polished, who have resurrected important cars from the past that would have been forgotten and possibly destroyed. Personally I would name P.I. Tiger, who always has a smile and a good word and whose honesty of soul shines as brightly as the car that he’s rebuilt more than once after being hit and never his fault.

But, humbled by other names on that trophy, all I could really say was thank you. And then worry about getting a new clutch ordered and some new brake pads, decide whether to spend another thousand on tires for the next couple of races, and pray the engine would last until the end of the season because when it breaks, we’re done.

Even when the race weekend is over, parts are broken and repairs need to be made, and late nights are followed by early mornings and then by hours of hauling a heavy trailer home, it’s still not enough. It’s never enough.

Passing on the inside

By Erik Dolson

Over the July 4th weekend, my qualifying run on Friday morning at the Pacific Northwest Historics in Seattle felt pretty good. I was glad I’d practiced the day before, and had done a few sessions the month before in karts. Maybe I hadn’t lost it.

Okay, so I was on old tires, and not as smooth as I could be, and hadn’t quite figured out the new exit at Turn 3B. They’d repaved half the track, and some parts felt different. Different grip, different line. But overall, it felt pretty good.

Until the time sheets came out: I’d qualified 9th.

9th.

Two seconds behind cars I’d been several seconds faster than for years. Read more…

Getting there

By Erik Dolson

In Portland, I moved the car forward about two inches in the trailer. That seemed to settle it down as I drove north on I5 toward the track in Seattle. Getting the weight distributed on the trailer axles, and the hitch of my 8,000 pound Excursion, was a balancing act.

I thought I had it right last year, when I moved the car back the same damn two inches.

Google Maps said it would take about two hours, forty-five minutes to get to the track. That seemed about right. I’d be there just before 1 p.m., drop the trailer, get set up for the Pacific Northwest Historic race. Practice on Thursday, race over the weekend. I’d been in the kart a few times, but not raced in almost a year. Read more…

And So It Begins

By Erik Dolson

Cowboy was already at the garage when I got there. Mule was finishing up his car, I call her “Ruby” because of the fantastic paint job, she’s a jewel.

“Hey, do you know anybody who works on transmissions?” I asked Cowboy. The automatic in the Ford I use to tow Yellowjacket to races had been acting up, making a spinning noise with maybe a metal on metal screech.

“Call Gitterdone,” he said. “He’s having the transmission done on his Dodge. He researched all of them, and says the shop he found is the best.”

That’s the thing about gear head Big Bore Bad Boys, and probably all the others too, in different cars, Porsches and BMWs and Lotuses and such. They’ll all be in Seattle over Fourth of July weekend, running in what may be still the premier vintage road race in the Pacific Northwest. We race against each other out on the track, but help each other get there, too.

“It’s the people, as much or even more than the racing,” Cowboy said to me once. He’s right, but then, he usually is.

But it’s the racing that has had me researching brake compounds for three weeks, trying to find a brake package that will stop a 3,000 pound car doing 160 miles an hour in time to make a 90 degree right turn, followed by a 130 degree hairpin left.

Oh, you can always stop, if you put the brakes on soon enough. But a good portion of racing, or at least winning, is in putting the brakes on as late as you possibly can, just at the moment when you know it’s too late and are about to spin the car into the fence or into another car or just bust through the turn and sit there waiting for a chance to get back on the track and finish behind those you wanted to beat.

We’ve all done it. Cowboy more than most, but that’s just a matter of style. “The crowd loves it,” he says. It’s also because he has crammed more motor under the hood than the tires can stand, but that’s another story.

It’s the racing that has had many building new engines over the winter, new transmissions, finding something lighter to replace something heavier. Because we want to beat those other racers. But we want to beat them out on the track. If somebody breaks something they don’t have a spare for in the trailer, someone else is likely to give them what they need for the weekend.

It’s the racing that has me trying to find brakes that don’t fade away at the end of a race when I need them the most. I call others to see what they’re using. This time, the answers are not so easy to come by. This has to do with being out there on the track, and we all have our secrets. We all want to win.

It’s weird, in a way. The guys who are toughest to beat are the ones I trust the most. Let’s face it, it takes trust to drive through a kink in the track at 160 mph, concrete dividers on either side, with another car so close you could open his door if you dared take your hand off the wheel. I trust who they are, trust their ability.

For sure, I won’t do that with every driver out there, and not even with every front runner, because for some, how they win isn’t as important as winning. But I will with most, because I trust them.

That’s one of the things I love most about this sport. That contradiction right there. That we’ll do what we can to beat everyone out there who wants to beat us just as bad, but we’ll do what we can so that  they can be out there, too.

It’s why at this time of year my heart beats a little faster, my priorities change, why I spend more time thinking about how to spend money on chunks of screaming steel than I do on how to make that money in the first place.

It’s not about prize money, there isn’t any. It’s not about bragging rights, those fade too fast. I suppose it might be about proving ourselves, but only to ourselves, because we don’t care that much about what others think.

We do it because it’s not just what we do, it’s part of who we are. It’s all of it. Finding the parts, making hard decisions, being with friends, spending the money, competing to be the best. It’s stupid fast speeds in cars 50 years old that were never designed for this level of performance, painting them glorious colors, making them more than they ever were.

And, we’ll do it long past the time when we probably should have stopped.

Because it’s never enough.

Put him up against the wall!!!

By Erik Dolson

Cory Booker and Bill De Blasio have shown us their outrage. As if, somehow, that qualifies either to be president. It worked for Trump, so perhaps it would work for them.

But using outrage as a weapon is like using a grenade in hand-to-hand combat. (I suggest this song to Donald Trump, Cory Booker and Bill DeBlasio).

You see, last week Joe Biden said he used to work with segregationist senators in the Senate, and he named two. Here is the actual quote:

“You go down the list of all these guys. Well guess what? At least there was some civility. We got things done. We didn’t agree on much of anything. We got things done. We got it finished,” he said. “But today, you look at the other side and you’re the enemy. Not the opposition, the enemy. We don’t talk to each other anymore.”

DeBlasio and Booker, who are running against Biden in the Democratic primary for President, sensed an opening. Booker, who is black and DeBlasio, whose wife is black, misused Biden’s comments in a display of outrage.

Taking a page right out of Donald Trump’s playbook.

DeBlasio even used the word n*gger in his response, I guess to prove his bonafides. Mr. DeBlasio, how many Democrats do you think really want four more years of a chronically outraged guy from New York as president? You’re done. Go home. And to quote a favorite ad, don’t use your family like that. It’s shameful.

Mr. Booker, Biden later said you knew better, and that outraged you, too (and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who asked what does that even mean?) It means Booker took Biden’s words out of context, making them into something they weren’t. Which is another form of the lying that we are all so tired of in America, Mr. Booker. Biden was saying you knew better than to lie, and hopefully you do. You’ll have another chance. But now you’re done. Go home.

Joe Biden is not my preferred candidate. I think Democrats can do better. I don’t mind a tough debate. But Booker and DeBlasio proved Biden’s point in their too-eager effort to capitalize on what they saw as a mistake by the front-runner.

“But today, you look at the other side and you’re the enemy. Not the opposition, the enemy. We don’t talk to each other anymore,” Biden said. He was saying that it was still possible to do the work, even when working with people with whom you didn’t agree on “much of anything.” He used the segregationists as an example of the worst.

And that brought out the worst in two who think they should be president.

Choices

by Erik Dolson

“You have to make a choice,” I told my daughter again, acutely aware of how many times I’d told her already, as if by sheer repetition the message might overwhelm whatever fear or reluctance that was holding her back.

“You need to have a plan,” I said. Again. She didn’t need another college degree, she needed a job. To jump into the river and become part of life’s flow toward whatever her future held.

“More school by itself is not a plan.” She’d heard that before, but thankfully did not roll her eyes. She’s such a good person, and so capable, I did not doubt that future would be bright. I just needed to convince her.

“I’ll help in any way that I can, but I won’t help you stay stuck in Central Oregon. I wouldn’t be doing my job,” I said, not for the first time. We’d just moved her sister to a house in Portland, she and her mother and her sister and I. From there I headed north toward the boat, with a stop in Port Townsend, always one of my favorite towns.

It was cold and windy, though, and walking about was hard in the chill off the water. After an expensive night’s sleep on the top floor of a Victorian era hotel where I slept in a room named after Miss Pearl, a prostitute who lived and loved a hundred years ago, I drove on to Anacortes and took a ferry to Friday Harbor where I’d left Foxy almost two weeks before.

When I woke on the boat on Sunday, the day was surprisingly benign. I checked the weather online, listened to the NOAA broadcast and made a quick decision to head down the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Victoria that morning, instead of waiting out the next storm due on Monday, which had been my plan.

The boat came together easily, so I cast off at about 10 am for a calm three and a half motor/sail to Victoria.  Foxy and I were well on the way out of Friday Harbor on the ebb tide, doing almost 10 knots down San Juan Channel to the turn at Cattle Point into the strait.

It was a bright and lovely day, little to do but look out for logs and watch for orca. I took a “project inventory” of what had been done on Foxy over the winter, and what remains to be done. It had been a productive, if expensive, winter.

There’s a new house on the boat. It improves life even more than I thought it would, providing another living area that is dry and bright, important up here in the Pacific Northwest. In southern waters, should I ever get there, the walls will come off and it will provide plenty of shade.

I’d just had a new fuel filter system installed in Anacortes. One wouldn’t think much technology goes into a fuel filter, a can of pleated paper, but new designs make changing them easier, with much less mess in the bilge and potentially in the environment.

I had the engine flushed at the same time; the silicate had dropped out of the coolant and collected in the bottom of the catch bottle. I realized it had been a few years and the previous job was only a partial flush because it’s hard to get a diesel engine up to operating temperature on the dock, heat necessary for the flush to do a full job..

I’d built the framework where the solar panels now hang, 1,080 watts of power to charge the batteries, and now the panels are properly wired. There’s a new wireless radar on the mast that works just as advertised, and the old one that shaded the solar panels has been sold, albeit for a pittance. The dinghy motor runs after the winter lay-up. Love them two-strokes.

The automated identification system (AIS) is installed and operational. I knew I needed one when, coming south from Alaska two summers ago, Irish and I hit that storm off the coast and a trawler suddenly appeared that I couldn’t identify and did not know if it was dragging long lines across my course.

Now I post my AIS location on Facebook when I take off from someplace, not so much because I think anyone cares that I’m out and about as to give authorities a place to start looking if I don’t show up. That’s assuming someone would be expecting me. I may need to work on that system.

There’s a new and yet another battery monitor that works with the solar panels and also gives me more information about, and maybe some control over, my batteries.

I wish I was a better electrician, but I’ve changed out the fluorescent lights in the galley and head (bathroom) for more pleasant LEDs that sip far less electricity; added a light to the pantry so my old eyes can see the difference between oats and brown rice, each in a container with a green lid, and avoid unpleasant surpises before coffee in the morning, and I added another light to the engine room so I don’t have to juggle a flashlight with my teeth to check the oil and water.

I own one LED not yet installed for the master stateroom and three more for corners in the engine room. I need two more after that, one for the closet where the life jackets hang and another for the aft stateroom. That should be good enough. We’ll see. It’s a boat.

Still not done is replacement of the propane system. That’s the last of this winter’s major projects. The hose that runs from  tanks in the stern locker is 30 years old and cloth covered, and the plumbing of that, like most of the other plumbing on the boat that I’ve removed, redesigned and reinstalled, was not done very well.

I have to change the position of the solenoid that, with a switch in the cabin, cuts off the gas. While I’m at it, I should probably swap out the old pressure regulator and old pressure gauge.

It took a week to get hold of the man I’d hope would do this work, but he’s has to fix an expensive boat that hit a log crosswise at 25 knots, damaging a whole lot below the waterline. So I’ll probably do this one myself. It may be propane, but it’s just plumbing, right?

I dropped the old lifelines off at my chandlery to be remade, tough new stainless lines around the deck to replace old vinyl covered ones that had at least a few cracks where corrosion was seeping through the covering. Lifelines are not something you want to fail when you put your weight against them, intntionally or because you lost your footing.

Oh, as soon as the weather warms a bit and I can sit comfortably on the foredeck, I have to polish the cones on the anchor windlass so the anchor falls to the bottom at a controllable rate. And install my wireless windlass control, so I can put the anchor down under power or pull it back up while I’m at the helm in back, with steering and throttle controls. That’s a consideration when single-handing a boat out in the bays and anchorages.

This is all part of the plan: Prepare the boat for this summer, and maybe next winter, too. After March surprised Central Oregon with 30 inches of snow in three days, I do NOT want to spend another winter there. No. Just no.  Maybe Mexico.

When I pulled into Victoria, docking was bit tricky. The wind pushed me away from the dock, and when neighbors came to help, I gave very poor instructions. It’s different looking down at the lines than standing on the dock looking at the boat, and I communicated poorly.

There was no damage, it was all good, but I hate being incompetent and had to give thanks and make some apologies for asking the impossible. This being Canada, apologies were gracefully accepted.  I still need to come up with a better plan, and maybe shorter lines, for docking in difficult conditions.

Afterwards, when I was sitting back with coffee, I checked in with Irish to make sure she was okay after traveling back from her dance contest in Indiana. She surprised me with news that she was getting another dog the next day, a puppy.

It was an arrow well placed. I hate it when significant news is kept from me, even when it doesn’t directly affect me. A little hangover from an unpredictable childhood, I suppose, but I had no right to question her decision, and Irish pointed this out. And that caused me to ask, what the hell, why is this an issue for me?

It took an hour or two. Her desire for a dog has been deep and long standing. Keeping her from getting a dog was a major guilt of mine last summer, when we were still together. She brought it up often, but a dog, and those responsibilities, weren’t part of the plan.

It wasn’t the tipping point in our breakup, certainly, my guilt not the dog, but it was a factor. It was something she wanted so badly, and she’d suffered so much. And I wanted a dog pretty badly myself, since I’d lost mine in the divorce, but I’d made a choice and had a boat, instead.

Her being able to get the dog she wanted should have brought me joy, but instead made me feel lonely, small and selfish, because it highlighted, or underlined, the fact that she’s not here in Victoria, and I haven’t had a dog in a good long time, either. Now that I write this, I think my childish reaction came from the realization that by acquiring this dog, she is finally ready to move on, as I have urged her to do often enough. Now I am proud of her, happy for her, but still miss her, too. I’m allowed my contradictions.

Decades ago, when I was chasing adventure around the world for a couple of years, I wrote my father that “Loneliness is the price of freedom.” Sometimes the choices are not easy, even the ones we put off as long as we can. We still choose. That’s what I’m trying to tell my daughter, we choose even when we don’t, even when we hide from the consequences.

It’s all good, I told myself after a day or two.  I’ll get the propane locker plumbed and the tank refilled, and I’ll fix the BBQ while I’m at it, install the new lifelines, and then I may just take off. That’s a decision I can make, after all.

There’s no reason to overstay in Victoria, as much as I love this place, when there are places I haven’t yet been. As I used to say, what seems like long ago, it’s time to Rock and Roll.