Tag Archives: Jimmy Mellen

It ran great in the driveway…Part II

So, next day, Sunday, I woke up bright and early, checked ML’s Southpoint weather gadget  for the wind speed (before actually getting OUT of bed…no need to ruin a chance at turning over and going back to sleep). Saw that the wind was nice and low, got up and dressed to head out, and saw that it was super foggy. Heavy sigh.

So, I took a ride to Hoppy’s Landing and confirmed that it was pea-soup thick. Talked with Captain Sakwa for a bit, then headed to Mackatan General Store for a coffee (and a donut…I have the willpower of an ant). Saw a neighbor, talked some politics, and we went our separate ways.

And, lo and behold! By the time I finished my impromptu visiting, the fog had lifted and the wind was still low.

So, I decided to head out on the water.

I grabbed the plastic tub that has all my emergency gear in it, the crate with the life jackets, dropped it all into the boat. Then I threw a black door mat and a black indoor-outdoor carpet over all those signs and goop. My little boat looked like luxury, almost.

I checked that shift lever, too. It was still stiff, but moving. It was late by the time I got out, just a few minutes before 11 a.m., usually the time I’m coming back. But, all I needed to do today was get the thing in the water and make sure everything was working okay.

I launched….no drama. Phew. Even got some help from Todd the Harbormaster deputy.

I pulled out. Had a little trouble with the lever, but not much. I figured it was just something I needed to get used to.

Slowly me and my Little Water Buggy jugged out heading south past Hoppy’s Landing. The wind and surf were picking up a bit, but not much. I really just wanted to give the motor a little workout. But, oh, it was glorious. My little motor chugged along, pushing that old patched-up boat just as if we both knew what we were doing.

“Thank you, Jimmy,” I thought, remembering  my old friend who gave me the motor.

I only went south for about 5 or 6 minutes, then headed back. I just wanted to be able to crank the engine for a bit, make sure it had some power. Put it through its paces, so to speak.

But it’s the other direction I like puttering around in best, especially with mom. She likes buzzing around the mooring field and Bella Vista Island. So, I turned around and headed to the other side of the causeway. Because mom really wants to go.

I got through the causeway and noted that I didn’t get that shaky feeling at all this time around. Although I was nervous, it was the good kind of nervous, the kind that makes you pay attention better, not the kind that makes you mess up (I hope).

I buzzed around the mooring field, at no-wake speed. Got to the near side (south) of Bella Vista and felt the engine do a kooky little jump. A first I thought I’d hit a rock, but I was in the middle of the mooring field. No rocks there.

Then it happened again. Then it started spitting and coughing and pushing me forward and then almost dying out; the way an adolescent might try to dump you off the boat (or Hoppy).

I made a B-line for the causeway. By the time I got there, I thought it would stall for sure.

I got through, now with a very worried look on my face, waved to the same guy fishing.

The dock was full. Boats all around and one launching. I saw a small spot on the dock and decided to try for it. I figured when I got close enough, I’d just tell them I was having trouble and they’d help me. Then I reached back to put the motor in neutral and couldn’t move the lever. Shit.

Pulled back around and figured I could just shut if off if I had to. But then I was able to get it in neutral, but I kept cutting out too soon (oh, the incompetence!). Next thing I knew, the dock was full again. Then the motor conked out, for good this time.

I was near the rocks and close to the dock, so I was bummed, but not really stressed about it. The wind was still very light and the current was gentle, too, so I just kind of floated towards the rocks on the causeway. I used my pole to keep from hitting them. No damage to me, no damage to the boat, no damage to the rocks.

I knew that I was in a spot where I could just jump out and walk it to the shore or dock if I had to, so I was okay. No need to call my pals at TowBoatUs New Bedford (this time).

A couple walking on the causeway stopped and gave me some ideas on starting the motor, but it just wouldn’t take. He did notice, though, that the prop was not moving when I thought I had it in gear.

Then Todd showed up, with Tim the Harbormaster. Todd climbed down the rocks and into the boat. He managed to get the motor running, but it wouldn’t behave well enough to motor it onto the trailer. Tim stopped people from launching and cleared a spot on the dock for us, and we got close enough to tie up.

Then the two of them used the lines to pull it along the dock. Now, that’s a bit more complicated than it may sound. Hoppy’s Landing is a commercial dock, so you can’t just walk along with the line. There are two huge poles in the way, holding up the winch that pulls up the gangway, so, it’s a little tricky. But, I got the impression that these guys have done that before.

9196HoppysDockNorthSide6300 HoppysRamp_Cropped

We got the boat on the trailer, I got home, rinsed it off, took a shower, and decided it was still a really good day on the water.

Honest, I’m not just saying that. I was a bit surprised myself. Looked in the mirror and thought, “Gee why was that so satisfying? That was still fun.”

I guess the twenty minutes of a working motor beat out the rest of it.

It reminded me of that bumper sticker that says something like a bad day fishing is better than a good day at work.

Then, my old pal ML Baron posted it all on Facebook, saying, I “ran up against the rocks,” causing all kinds of visuals that made it much more dramatic than it was.

My sibs and mom thought I had motored head on into the rocks. Geesh.

No damage to me, do damage to the boat, no damage to the rocks. It was the gentlest of landings, truly.

We’ll get it fixed and I’ll get out there again, eventually. The question is: Will anyone go with me? I used to go alone because I liked to, now, I suspect I’ll be going alone because no one’s crazy enough to go with me: Except ML, of course.

Motor Guy has been working on, figured out which parts need replacing, and he’ll get it up and running in no time. And, at least i know the damned thing always runs great in the driveway.




Little Water Buggy: The Acquisition

First posted on 8/19/12

Before I get to the boat trip with my 82-year-old mother who had never been in a boat besides the Nantucket Ferry, I want to tell you how I got this thing in the first place, and, of course, how I got it ready to go in the water.

I’ve already mentioned my good friend Jimmy Mellen who died last October (see blog 1: The Launch).

Well, about 10 years ago, Jimmy stopped using his boat due to medical reasons. I became the proud owner of his motor, for a deal (exact payment arrangement to be kept secret until the end of time….or until I change my mind).

At that time I had a 16-foot Evinrude tri-hull, circa 1966, known as a “Sweet 16” in the driveway. It had been sitting there for a long time already at that point, acquired the year I was a commercial quahogger (definitely a separate blog post…or two). My friend Dave C had grabbed it for me. We picked it up at a house on West Island. Dave had said not to pay for it, but that didn’t seem right, so I threw $50 on the table before we left. No one was home at the time we took it. It was sitting on the lawn of a back yard at a house on the beach side of Balsam Street. The guy who had it said he had bought it to cut the trailer out from under it. I should’ve listened to Dave and not left any money.

Dave C assured me he could repair the boat. Suffice it to say, that boat never got in the water, it got junked.

And the motor stayed in my shed. And stayed in my shed. And stayed in my shed.

Well, Jimmy got sicker and sicker, then into the nursing home, at which point I was his main contact with the outside world and his liaison/advocate (read: pitbull) with the medical types. I took the money he had saved and put it in a safe deposit box. Whenever he wanted money, I’d take it from the box and give it to him. It was too dangerous to keep it at the nursing home, and he was only allowed to have $2,000 maximum in his name anyway. Jimmy made it clear that the money was to be used to cremate him and he wanted me to have what was left. Honestly, as time went on I didn’t think there would even be enough to cremate him. I envisioned myself at the bar taking up a collection from his friends.

Jimmy died in October of 2011. I learned then, that in Massachusetts, the closest relative has to give written permission for a person to be cremated. That was Jimmy’s son, and they had not spoken to each other in more than 30 years.

Several days went by as Jimmy’s body stayed in the morgue at St. Luke’s. I had a conversation with the social worker who told me Jimmy’s son refused to sign. I asked what would happen if no one could talk him into it. She said that Jimmy would have to be buried. I said who’s going to pay for that, I had $2,600 to cremate him, no money to bury him. She said the $2,600 might be enough. I laughed: that money was to cremate him, not bury him, and I would not give up a penny of it for something that he expressly did NOT want done.

The money was, after all, in cash, in MY safe deposit box. The health care proxy and power of attorney both died with him. So, for all legal purposes, that money was mine to do with as I pleased.

I said, “I’m gonna buy a boat! Do you have any idea how much boat I can buy for $2,600 in these parts?”

The social worker didn’t say anything.

“Jimmy would be so happy to buy me a boat!” I continued.

Ah well, the son eventually signed, sort of. He signed for his aunt to be able to sign and for me to take the ashes and dispose of them as per Jimmy’s wishes (at Hoppy’s Landing off the floating dock, of course).

Anyway, at the memorial we had for him, I was entertaining people with the story of the son not signing, the boat, etc.

“For about an hour on Tuesday, I really thought I was going to get a boat,” I told anyone who would listen.

Hoppy was there, drew himself up, looked down at me and asked, “You want a boat, Beth?”

I said, “Yeah, I had that beat up thing in the yard for 10 years…” like, why else would that have been there?

“I’ll get you a boat,” he said.

Yeah, right, I thought.

Well, I’ll be damned, he did.

A couple of months later he said he found a boat for me. I had about $600 in the boat fund at that point and was planning on getting about $1200 before I started looking for a boat with a trailer.

So I asked him how much. He said he had sold Jimmy’s car and I could either take the money or the boat. I said I didn’t want anything to do with that stupid car, but he insisted that I had taken good care of Jimmy, one of his best friends, etc., and I deserved the money from the car.

So I looked at the boat with my neighbor Frank. We knew immediately that the trailer would not be part of the deal: it was a beauty, and didn’t fit the boat anyway. I was right, it turns out that Hoppy tried to get the trailer without the boat, but the seller insisted that he take both (that happens a lot around here, I guess). So Hoppy got the boat home, took another look at it and thought, “hey, that would make a nice little boat for Beth.”

It was a 15-foot tri-hull that had been mined for parts: the steering wheel was gone, there was a big hole in the deck, and the side boards inside had been ripped out, along with a few other things. Only the telltale signs of old screws removed, hinges, and other things were left behind to pique the imagination on what they held in place in the old boat’s heyday.

But it was a sweet-looking little thing to me, except for the name: “Chickaroo.”

I told Frank, “well, the name’s got to go, that’s for sure.”

And don’t give me any grief about how it’s bad luck to change the name of a boat. No way on God’s green earth was Beth David going to own a boat named “Chickaroo.” Period. After it was in my yard, my Portuguese neighbor told me that “Chickaroo” (pronounced very differently than expected), was a fish that the Portuguese like to catch. I told him I was changing the name anyway.


I told Hoppy I’d take the boat (it had a legitimate title and everything), but he had to fix the deck and he had to give me a useable trailer. He said he would.

The winter wore on and I wondered if it would happen. Anyone who knows Hoppy knows he’s a wheeler and dealer, so if a better deal came along, I knew he might sell the boat. I wasn’t going to put a penny into it until it was registered in my name.

One rainy day, when Hoppy wasn’t lobstering, we went to Fall River and registered the boat in my name. Of course, any trip to Fall River to register a boat and meet up face-to-face with Little Miss Personality (and you all know who I mean) is worthy of a separate post in itself. I’ll write one day on the ordeal of registering the old boat and the new.

Now, we waited for the weather to get warm enough for the fiberglass work. I kept reminding Hoppy: and a trailer, too, I need it to be ready to go in the water, that’s what I was going to buy…etc., etc.

Well, one step at a time, he got it done: put the new deck down, had it fiberglassed.

Then he came to pick up the motor with John Bowman, the engine guy…

When Bowman saw the old motor he said, “we should re-think this, Hoppy.”

It’s only a 25 HP, but it’s an old one (1981) and it’s big and heavy, and I guess he’s not supposed to lift things, per doctor’s orders, because of a heart attack.

“Nah, I’ll take the heavy part, just pick up the bottom,” said Hoppy as he proceeded to pull it out of the shed.

I grabbed the propeller end (don’t want Bowman getting a heart attack on account of MY motor) and we walked it around from the back of the house, along the side out to the truck on the street, and off they went.

Later, Hoppy told me that when Bowman took the cover off, “all kinds of mice” ran out and ran all over the place. Shoot, I thought, poor guy really could’ve had a heart attack because of my old motor.

“I’m surprised they didn’t come out when we were carrying it,” said Hoppy,

“It’s a good thing they didn’t,” I said, remembering how we walked it all around the house out to the street. “We would’ve dropped it and that would’ve been the end of it,” and possibly the end of our toes.

I never did find out what happened to the mice. In any case, it was a blessing in disguise, because the mice had chewed up all the wires, so they had to be replaced. Although that cost more, it made me feel better to know that I have new wiring inside the motor.

Now, I just had to wait for a trailer.

And wait, as summer moved along.

Then, just a few days before I was going away on vacation, Hoppy came driving down the street with my boat bouncing up and down on a trailer that clearly was not fitted to the boat.

Hoppy was done “screwing around” with the boat, he said. It was a decent trailer, but needed some work.

I was a little ticked off because I knew it meant I would have to rely on Frank and Scott to get the trailer to fit the boat. It had some clamps and rollers that needed to be replaced, the tires were too far back and the winch was too far forward. Not that I knew any of that. I just knew it was bouncing up and down as Hoppy drove along with it.

At one point, as I apologized to Frank profusely for dumping the project in his lap, we both laughed, realizing that his lap is exactly where it would’ve landed if Hoppy had “taken care of it,” anyway.

Frank and Scott are the trailer guys on West Island. That’s just the way it is.

So, they fixed the trailer, balanced it out, put the motor on, put the whole thing back in my yard, and said…now you’re all set.


Now what?

Doesn’t it need a battery, and a gas tank and stuff like that? Don’t you have to mix the gas with oil or something? And, um, how does the gas get to the engine? Shouldn’t there be hoses or something? And, er, tell me again about that “tilt” thing? Please?

Next up: Getting it ready to go in the water.