Book Review – The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown

I just completed a few weeks of travel and spent a lot of time on planes and in airports.  Especially the day Hurricane Patricia came ashore and disrupted most flights in the western US.  I didn’t mind all that much because I got to visit with CapnRehab family members in southern and western US. Another benefit was that I got to read, read, read!  I leave out the books not worth reading, and I actually started a few and stopped after a few chapters.  Being able to check out electronic copies for free makes it real easy to stop reading a crappy book.  I tell you about only the best.  (Just for you)

Boys in the boat book cover

Boys in the boat book cover

If you decided to read “Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand (perhaps because of my excellent recommendation)  and liked it, then you’ll probably like this one.

The story blends personal history and perspective with significant historical events.  The style is very readable and quite interesting.  This book was recommended to me but I didn’t think I’d be interested.  I didn’t know much about rowing and considered it a rich person’s sport.  That’s all changed for me now.  I would definitely read any other book by this Author.  That goes for Laura Hillenbrand too.

As you read you delve deep into the heart of what rowing is about, the skill, strength, stamina and guts it takes to do it.  You marvel at the hardships the main character went through growing up in the grip of the depression.  You come to admire him and the team, and what they accomplished.  This is a true Olympic journey from obscurity to world champions.

If you’re in or from the Pacific Northwest in general or Seattle in particular you’ll probably identify with the weather and the localities mentioned, but this isn’t a local story.  I’d say it’s not even an American story.  (Although this is about a US Olympic team)   This is a human story, well told and well worth reading.

A couple of side notes.  The book has two  (probably unintended) ties to “Unbroken” and Laura Hillenbrand. When talking about the nutrition program the coach has the rowers on, the author tosses out a comment about the owner of the race horse Seabiscuit hearing about it and wondering how he might change the diet to affect the race horse’s performance.  You may not know but Laura also wrote a national bestseller about SeaBiscuit.   Also, when discussing events at the 1936 Olympics in Germany, the story mentions the main character in Unbroken, the athlete Louis Zamperini.  It was interesting having already read “Unbroken” and realizing what else was in store for the future Japanese prisoner of war.

All in all, I liked the book very much.  You probably will too.

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Capn NoHab

First, there was captain Ahab and his quest for the great white whale.

Then there was Capn Rehab and his quest to bring a boat back from the dead.

Now there is Capn NoHab who said, “I’m working two jobs and have too many projects on the house, there is no way I’ll be able to put the Catalina 22 by in the water by spring”

And there is Mrs. Capn NoHab who said, “Why don’t you buy a boat you can sail now, then you can fix the 22 later.”  (Is that a great wife, or what?)

Then my truck died and the mechanic said it wasn’t worth fixing.

I turned my attention to craigslist to find a truck, and while I was at it created some alerts for “trailer” in the sailboat section of all the locations around me.  I still want a trailer-able sailboat, because there are so many places around the Chesapeake to go, I didn’t want to be stuck to one location.

I’ve been on the lookout for a Catalina 25 because for those extra 3 feet you get a lot more room than a 22 inside.  I also like that so many of them were built, and that I would still have a lot of community support.  I just didn’t see any show up that were in my price range and seemed interesting.   I did go see a Catalina 22 that was in “great shape ready to go sail”.  Ha!  It’s keel was in worse shape than mine when I started.

After 2 months of looking and a lot of false starts, I found a great truck.

new (to me) truck

new (to me) truck

After looking at it I told the owner I needed to leave, because we were going to see a boat.

PO:  “Oh, I have a boat for sale”.
CapnRehab : What kind?
PO: “A Catalina 25”
CapnRehab: “Oh really, do you have a trailer?”
PO:”Yes, want to come see it?”
CapnNOhab: “Sure!”

By the way, the PO stands for “Previous Owner”

So here is my boat, a 1995 Catalina 250.  Water Ballast, 90lb swing keel.  Draws 21″ when up, 6 feet when down.

Nuthertoy

Nuthertoy

I’m going to get to sail it a couple of times before winter shuts me down. (Maybe)  I must have brain damage.

No, I haven’t given up the Catalina 22.  It’s not like my repair progress can go any slower is it?

Catalina 22 keel eyebolt repair progress report

Finally making progress, although it will “grind” to a stop for the next few weeks.  Not seeing much boat work time available in October.

First, let’s do a recap.  If you recall, the keel lifting bolt  was rusted away, and couldn’t be saved.

uh oh - exposed threads

uh oh – exposed threads

While the welder was here fixing the pivot pin bushing…

fixed!

fixed!

He also cut away the metal around the old lifting bolt …

No eye bolt

No eye bolt

And we attempted to re-tap it.

Tapping the keel

But no joy.  The inside of the existing hole was rusted and the threads were pretty much missing down one side

Not so well

Bad thread day

I had originally planned to bore a bigger hole (slightly bigger diameter)  and re-thread it for a bigger bolt, but when it arrived I realized it was just too massive and not the right solution.

compare old and new keel bolts

compare old and new keel bolts

So I abandoned that idea.  After some advice from swimfly, and after calling a well known Catalina parts dealer, I decided to do more cutting away and to re-drill and tap another hole.  I went ahead and bought their drill and tap.

Before we started I heated it up for a few hours.  That’s just a reflected red glow – no it’s not red hot.  2 heaters blew the garage light circuit, but one heater was plenty enough heat to warm it up.  It did get too hot to touch.  I had to let it cool a bit before we could get started.

Heating the keel

Heating the keel

I had a mechanical engineering friend with some metal work experience come over to help me through the last  (well, almost the last) step before sandblasting can be done.  First we leveled the keel such that the drill hole was near vertical.  Surprisingly this meant the rear of the keel was raised quite a bit.  That 2 ton engine hoist I bought from harbor freight has sure come in handy.

Leveling the drill hole

Leveling the drill hole

Then we cut away the metal.  This was my first attempt at using a grinder and it turns out it is much better at shaving off a layer of metal than at cutting out big chunks.  We worked a couple chunks on both sides and were able to knock them out with a sledgehammer.

Grinding

Grinding

Notice the use of safety glasses.  Quite a bit of cutting later (we both got lots of grinder time) and we had this.  Notice the nose of the Catalina 22 peeking out of the garage.

Ready for drilling

Ready for drilling

Notice that there is still a drill hole.  It was deep enough to just barely go beyond where we needed to cut.

Next was the really exciting part.  We used a bench top drill press, took off the bottom plate and turned it around.  Then propped it up to just the right height.  It barely fit.

Drill press setup

Drill press setup

Yes, that is a drill press on top of 3 boards stacked on a milk crate.   No that wasn’t all that sturdy.  No, I wouldn’t recommend it.   Yes, it worked.  Here is an action shot.

Drilling Action

Drilling Action

Final view:

Ready for tapping

Ready for tapping

At this point we had run out of time and had to stop, plus I didn’t have anything resembling a tap handle that could fit the tap.  I’ve since bought one and am ready to go.  Based on my upcoming schedule it’s going to have to wait a few weeks.   I’ll try to coincide the tapping with a trip to the soda blasters.  After that it’s sealing and shaping time!

I want to stress the importance of wearing eye protection while working with metal.  While grinding we were both wearing safety goggles, but in all the setting up of the drill press I took mine off and forgot to put them on again before drilling.  Yep, got two specks in my right eye.  Talk about painful!  Made it to the eye doc the next day and she fished them out with a needle.  They had already started to rust and she cleaned that out.  No lasting damage, but definitely a lasting lesson.

This once and for all settles the debate of whether or not stupidity is painful.  Yes.  Yes it is.