You never know what kind of little breakdown a boat will throw at you, or when. This is why every boater should be able to channel his inner MacGyver, the ’80s TV hero, or Jason Bourne, the more-recent movie escape artist — guys who could, in a pinch, build or fix anything with whatever was lying around. They made it look easy, and it is — with a little imagination and some freethinking. To give you an example of creating on the fly, here’s the story of a cruise that could have been a disaster but was saved by a few clever ideas.
Mike and I were contracted by the new owner of a four-year-old express cruiser to bring it down from annapolis, Maryland, to his home near Charleston, South Carolina. The previous owner had assured us that the boat was fully equipped and ready to go. However, when we got on board, we found that he had cleaned it out, taking everything that wasn’t bolted down and some things, like the chart plotter, that left very little. But we needed the money, so the trip and the adventure were on. Mike first tried to get the weather on his laptop but couldn’t tap into the marina’s Wi-Fi, so he rigged a kitchen-strainer antenna.
He cut a hole in the bottom of a metal strainer, put the external Wi-Fi receiver in the hole and led the USB connector/wire to the computer’s port [A]. The strainer acted like a satellite dish, focusing the signal. It doesn’t always work, but this time it did — and helped my cell phone as well.
Meanwhile, my job was to stock up the galley, but the refrigerator wasn’t working because the door’s rubber seal was missing. I thought I’d lug some ice aboard, but even that went awry when the rusty wire handle on the bucket cut my hand on the first load. So, I rigged a bucket handle from a wrench. I inserted the open ends of a long wrench under the bucket’s handle and held onto the nice, thick wrench instead of the rusty wire bale.
I still wanted the refrigerator to work and was going to buy a new seal, but there was no tape measure, so I made my measure using quarters, because each 25-cent piece is a hair under an inch in diameter — which was accurate enough. I then headed ashore to buy the seal and some hydraulic oil for the stern-drive. When I returned we found that there was no funnel for the oil and that the reservoir was almost impossible to reach. Scrounging in the galley, Mike came up with the idea for an aluminum foil funnel. you can form it into any long or convoluted shape, but it’s good for only one use.
The last problem we had before leaving was that I had forgotten my Top-Siders. Not wanting to slip and slide, I fashioned some Band-Aid boat shoes. Stick one Band-aid on the ball of the shoe’s sole, one at the heel — same as you would with broken blisters. The gauze helps keep a slippery layer of water from being trapped between the shoe and the deck. The problem was that I didn’t have extras to change them out every hour or two.