Monday, February 21, 2011

Fun With Homeland Security

The gracious mansions in the Charleston neighborhood south of Broad Street. (People who live here are called SOB's)
Dragonfly docked Friday in Charleston, on the "MegaDock" at the city marina.  Spotting that name in our guidebook, we said, blah, blah, advertising hype, everything is "Mega" these days, Mega Millions lottery, Megabus to New York . . .  It's a DOCK! How big could it be?

Well. You could dock an aircraft carrier here. Land a small plane and barely hit the brakes.  I think you can see the curvature of the Earth.  In other words, BIG.

Cute kids. Can we
keep them?
Saturday was a social whirl. We visited with the Captain's cousin Julie and her clan, who live in Charleston, then with the first mate's State College skating buddy, Marilynne, who winters here.

Julie and her husband, Stephen, are a power couple with four extremely adorable children; among their many significant accomplishments, they created and now run a brace of Irish pubs in the Charleston area.

To be clear, we're NOT talkin' bar with shamrocks and a Guinness poster, but the real thing, dark wood, stained glass, cozy little snug, soccer on the telly, and (I am NOT saying this just because it's family) the best fish and chips ever, seriously.

Lynnie brought her friends Marty and Barry for the boat tour, and they, with Southern graciousness, invited us into their home for dinner: barbecue, cornbread, okra, pecan pie. Thought I died and gone to heaven. Barry, a Charleston native whose roots go back to the city's founding, coached us on Speakin' Southern so we wouldn't be such obvious Yankees.

Yes, Charleston has a skating rink
Extremely well-fed (and honored and grateful for all the hospitality), we rose at 4 AM Sunday morning to hop on a plane. We'll be in Upstate NY this week, spending time with Cap's folks. (But do keep checking the blog all this week for SlowBoat Flashbacks--adventure bits that didn't fit in earlier posts.)

Packing for the plane trip, we faced a bit of a luggage challenge: What to do about the flex coupler?  Uh boy.

If you're into diesel mechanics you know what a flex coupler is and you're wincing at the thought of extracting one from an engine.

If, like the First Mate, you don't know a flex coupler from a Flexible Flyer, it's a ten-pound hunk of bronze resembling a mega-hockey puck.  (The perfect thing to slip in your carry-on!)  It connects a couple key bits of the engine and among other functions acts a bit like a shock absorber, keeping the thing from shaking itself all to heck.

Earlier last week, while the first mate was biking all around Dafuskie Island revisiting scenes from the movie "Conrack," the Cap was down in the engine pit, smearing grease liberally across his entire physique and trying to understand WHY, despite his careful engine alignment work back in Fort Myers, the engine was shaking like Elvis in his prime.

Yup.  It was the flex coupler.  Cap consulted with our hero and personal engine advisor Peter Wiles from Mid-Lakes Navigation and made a plan to bring the thing home with us and visit the repair shop in Skaneateles.
#683 in our "Amusing Boat Names" series

We weren't sure what homeland security would say about carry-on luggage containing a ten-pound chunk of mysterious looking, intricately constructed metal that happened to reek of diesel fuel.

Is this a weapon? A bomb? Does it conceal a weapon or bomb? Would it be sent to checked-baggage purgatory?

Would it (horror of horrors) be confiscated?

Cap held the thing up to the uniformed guard monitoring the X-ray scanner. "This is a flex coupler."

The guy shrugged. "Works for me."  Then he sent the Cap'ns shoes to be sniffed for explosives.


  1. Loved the last two sentences ... can visualize the whole exchange! Jim F, State College

  2. This frequent flyer just snorked some coffee on his touchpad!

  3. Ah, every writer's goal: to make people snork! I'm a happy camper