I’m writing this less than 10 days before Halloween and I just had something that was very scary, and very amazing at the same time, remind me of the oft-quoted line from the old Scottish verse above – “Things that go bump in the night.”
When you run a fishing charter biz, your cellphone is your lifeline. Because of that, and because of the rigors the job can put a cellphone through, I wanted and bought something advertised to be very sturdy and water-resistant – a Kyocera Brigadier Android. I’ve had it for about 10 months and it had previously withstood getting wet in my pocket in rain, and at-least a couple 8-9’ falls from the flybridge to the cockpit deck below, without issue. I did crack the screen once when I accidentally fell against a metal engine mount in our engine room, but my “insurance” on the phone covered that repair and, overall, I’ve been very satisfied with its sturdiness and operation. As the old Timex ad used to say: “It takes a licking and keeps on ticking” and it has kept me in contact with current and potential customers.
That’s what made what happened on October 18th so scary. Our boat hadn’t been operational for about a week as we were trying to diagnose, and then fix, a hard–to-pinpoint cooling system leak on our starboard Detroit Diesel 8V92 engine. I spent a lot of time speaking on the phone with mechanics and other boat repair types trying to find someone who was the right guy to diagnose and solve the problem. As with charter captains, some boat repair people are better at one thing than another. Almost more importantly, the good ones are often so busy that you have to wait up to two weeks or more to have them available. That turned out to be the case here. Initially, Max and Matt, multi-talented boat repair guys from Mobile Marine Repair Services on Stock Island, were able to respond quickly and found the source of the leak I had misdiagnosed. I had pressure tested the cooling system and thought it was coming from a hose off the outboard side of the block where, at my age and size, it was practically unreachable. Max, who is smaller and MUCH younger than me, was able to get to that hose, only to feel a drop of water hit the top of his hand as he touched it, indicating the leak was coming from somewhere above. Sure enough, after contorting himself further, he was able to see that an engine block drain plug in a very tight area between the block and the exhaust manifold--a rather large, heavy engine component--was the source. The good news: he identified the problem. The bad news: fixing it looked like it meant removing that manifold to get access to it. He attempted for about an hour to get the plug out, trying a variety of tools and positions to get additional leverage in a very tight spot without success. His partner, Matt, came back the next day with more tools and spent another three hours trying to budge it without success. As I watched them strain, contort, mumble and curse to themselves, I felt almost sorrier for them, than for myself. Nothing worked and we mutually agreed that I needed to call in the Detroit Diesel specialists with the heavy equipment to do the job of, most probably, removing the manifold. A call to Key West Engine Service revealed it would be a week or more before they could get to our boat. So, I had to accept the fact that we’d be down for a while and decided I would use the time doing projects in the engine room and elsewhere to make the boat better.
A couple of days later, I called another captain I know who is a former diesel mechanic to pick his brain about something I wanted to do. I had the phone to my ear as I approached the marina laundry room when someone just coincidentally opened the door, so I just walked right in with the phone still to my ear. I was sure I put the phone back in my pocket after I walked in. However, two hours later after returning to the boat and spending time both in the cabin and engine room, I went to take my phone out of my pocket and it wasn’t there! I assumed I had laid it somewhere in the cabin, so I had someone ring my number - and heard nothing! An exhaustive one-hour cabin search also revealed nothing, so I then thoroughly searched the engine room and the above-mentioned laundry room, again having someone ring my number. Nothing! A check with the Dockmaster, the Marina office and the White Tarpon Bar and Grill behind the boat, also proved fruitless. So, two hours after I discovered the loss, I decided the phone had to be considered gone and reactivated an old phone I still had from five years ago that worked, but lacked the bells, whistles and capacity of the newer phone.
In the meantime, a mechanic arrived to work on the raw water pumps in the engine room. I told him that I would clean up down there when he was done. Another couple of hours later, while doing that cleaning with my reactivated old phone in my pocket, I heard a couple muffled “bings” – the type you hear from a cell phone in your pocket when you get a notification of some type. I pulled out the phone and saw no notifications. A few minutes later, there was another “bing” that I thought came from that phone but, again, no notifications. I then moved to another area a few feet away and, even later, heard another “bing.” This time I left the phone I was carrying on the floor, to see if something was happening to cause those noises. Several minutes later, multiple “bings” again got my attention but, this time, I was able to pinpoint the general area of their source, which was behind me and in front of my starboard engine. I made another thorough search of the area and found nothing. Just as I was about to give up and decide some “gremlin” was playing games with me, a series of “bings” came from beneath the floor directly under me, in a recessed well in the bilge where my air conditioner raw water cooling pump is located. Because we had recently drained the starboard engine for the service items we needed to do, that bilge area was filled with about three inches of dirty, slimy, brackish water. I had previously looked in that area under the floor and could only see the dirty water but, this time, when I reluctantly stuck my hand back and under into the murky sludge, much to my surprise, there was my lost cell phone. It must have fallen out of my pocket and slid down into that well earlier in the day as I was preparing the area for the mechanic to arrive. If so, by the time I found it, it had been under about 3” of water for more than five hours. Yet, it was till “binging” and the “charged” light indicated it was still powered. I immediately turned the power off; wiped the water, oil, and grime off it; took it up to the cabin; opened the ports; put it under an A/C vent; and let it dry for an hour. Believe it or not, when I turned it back on it functioned perfectly. My internet browser and apps all seemed to work just fine. So, I then reactivated my phone service and that worked perfectly as well! Relief would be a mild description of what I felt at that moment.
I guess sometimes you just get lucky. If I hadn’t have gone back down in the engine room to clean it up, I wouldn’t have heard those muffled “bings” and the phone could have remained submerged indefinitely--especially after the battery would have ultimately run down and those sounds would not be made. I guess I’m also lucky that Kyocera made a phone that actually lives up to its “shock-resistant and water-resistant” billing. So, here’s a big shout-out and a big thank you to Kyocera for providing just what they advertise. I also guess that my “Christmas present” came early this year in the form of not having to get a new phone. Finally, I guess I’m just plain lucky that some things do “go bing in the day!”
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