My grandfather was a serial inventor. He died in the depression, when my father was still young, so we don't know that much about him, but the few artifacts that my family preserved over the years include patent applications for all sorts of odd mechanical devices, such as a self-sharpening can opener.
I could have used one of those last night, in fact, but I diverge...
There's no record of any of these inventions being produced, but knowing my father and myself, I doubt this bothered this earlier John. The gadget itself is its own reward.
My father was obsessed with gadgets and mechanical things. He also started out as a mechanic, fixing bikes and lawn mowers, and building go-carts for weekend races. In later life, he made big money that allowed him to give full reign to his gadget obsession. My mother indulged him, but as a teen, I found this behavior irritating. My father seemed to believe that if he could find the perfect gadget, he would find true happiness.
Of course, as a teenager in the 60s, I was irritatingly sure he was wrong.
But I had the gadget bug in my genes and so got into Ham Radio in my high school years, and went to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute for electrical engineering. When the 8080 microprocessor chip set first came on the market, my friend Ken acquired a set (I didn't ask how) and we built a simple computer, etching the circuit board in a tray of acid in the bath tub.
And for a few years, I followed in my forefather's footsteps, on the quest for the perfect gadget.
Fast forward 30 years, through a lifetime of messing with computers and gadgets of all sorts. I mostly hate them.
There are a few exceptions. I love my Apple laptop and iPhone. I like my simple Garmin 72 GPS. I have a really nice flashlight that I like. But mostly, mechanical things and I don't get along. I'm not fascinated by most gadgets anymore. I just want them to work. And when they don't work, people with delicate ears or sensibilities should stand back 20 paces or more.
This is a long way of getting around to saying that I am ready do drop my engine to the bottom of Lake Okeechobee. Yesterday, I was half-way across, motoring into a northeast wind, and it died on me. Just like that. No warning, no nothing. One minute it was puttering along sweetly, the next minute it was choking on it's own fumes and stalling.
There was no way I could beat the rest of the way across the lake before dark, and the wind was turning nasty, so I had to turn tail and sail back to Clewiston, where I'd started the day.
I'm now anchored outside of Clewiston, waiting for a mechanic to come out and take a look. I'm very, very frustrated with this %&#&@(@&$@ engine.
Leaving that aside, the Okeechobee Waterway has been been the surprise delight of this trip. I did not expect much from this leg of the voyage, but it has really been an interesting change.
The Waterway cuts through the heart of rural Florida, and gives you a feeling for what the proverbial 'old' Florida must have been like.
I'm coincidentally reading "Huckleberry Finn", which give traveling on this inland river added meaning to me. I almost feel like Huck with scenes like these...
Morning on the Okeechobee Waterway
Notice the small tarp... handmade by Helena. Saved me from the sun!
The Huck Finn Tree
Adding spice and excitement to the voyage are the many locks on the Waterway. You have to be quick on your feet to do them single handed, and I must admit my heart beats a bit faster when I see one looming around a bend. They seem to have been built for a bigger age, and for bigger boats...
But really, you just need to have a bit of courage, be light on your feet, and keep your wits about you.
I tried to do this and haven't had any big mishaps, yet. I did, on the other hand, get to see something really remarkable.
These Okeechobee locks are pretty simple. They just open the doors and let the water flood in or out. Check out the picture below. If you click on the picture, you'll see a larger version of it...
The water outside the lock is about 3 foot higher than the water inside the lock. You might wonder what happens when the lock door is opened about a foot. What you see is a wall of water, about 3 foot high, and a waterfall as it flows into the lock.
I don't know why I find this amazing, but I do... I've never seen anything like it. Two levels of water, with nothing in between them. Amazing!
Wall of water
This photo shows it even better... This water is not falling over a cliff or low wall... The water outside the lock is just 3 foot higher.
Have I been out here too long, or does anyone else think this is amazing?!?!?
Well, enough fun. I need to deal with this engine.
>>> Next Episode: Okeechobee Angels
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