Wood of Life
25 February 2012
After ten days of relaxation, socializing and general debauchery in Marathon, Judy and I decide to cast off and start a slow but deliberate journey north to eventually work our way home to be with our families as a new generation is being welcomed into this world. We've had enough grief and loss in the past two years and replenishing the McKendy/Wakeham lineage is an emotionally balancing notion.
Yesterday, we worked frantically (well, maybe more like determinedly) to prepare for our northward trip.
With heavy hearts we leave Marathon and in particular our friends Blair and Laurie and others but we need to get moving. We decide to take the "inside" route back to Miami so we can explore the Keys as we work our way North. We did this trip two years ago and while it is "nail biting" given the skinny water depths, it is almost remote and close to the experiences we would have in the Bahamas.
Sea Sharp is full of provisions, fuel, water and ready to get going. We drop the mooring at 7 o'clock sharp and wend our way out the harbour, under the seven mile bridge and head east along the "inside route". This part has plenty of water (if you don't mind one foot of freedom below your keel) so we motor along boisterously right into the wind, of course. After about two hours, I notice the speed starting to drop off and I get Judy to take the helm. She looks astern and remarks that the exhaust appears to be "smoking". Well, it ain't smoke but it's steam, meaning that the motor is starting to overhead. Fortunately we're in an open area and Judy takes the helm, we shut down the motor, proceed to drift while I try to diagnose problem. There is a lot of stuff (weeds, pine needles and other junk) floating on the surface and I instinctively know that the raw water part of the cooling system has been blocked by detritus. Quickly I remove the floor boards, clean the strainer (it was plugged with reeds and needles) and then ever so carefully open up the seacock which normally allows a boisterous flow of water into the engine but in our case today is jammed with a plug of stuff. As soon as I pull the offending stuff out the water spouts out into the boat like a geyser. A bit scary but relieving as I know that I've solved the problem. And away we go again.
Our destination is LignumVitae Key, some 40 miles east of Marathon. We arrive at this State Park around 2:00, pick up a free mooring (many of these parks provide free moorings for boaters so they will not anchor and disturb the sea life). In contrast to Marathon with several hundreds of boats, we are the only boat in sight here and while Judy swims I read and decompress from the day.
Now to the name; Lignum Vitae is Latin for Wood of Life. This is a very, very hard tree which has legendary properties including being so hard that it was used instead of metal for such things as insulators and shaft bearings. Indeed on the Janka Scale of Hardness, which measures hardness of woods, lignum vitae ranks highest of the trade woods, with a Janka hardness of 4500 lbf.
So what does this mean? It's mighty hard wood! But what I find interesting I that there is a scale of hardness and it is a simple but effective measure of how hard various species of woods are compared to others. I am a bit of a woodworker and under the tutelage of my great friend and master craftsman Harold Raper, have made a number of reasonably impressive items. Most recently I made "bandsaw boxes" for each of my three nieces who have just had or will soon have children (being mentioned more and more frequently in our blog).
So this guy named Janka devised this measure to figure out how dense various woods are. It's simple but elegant. You place a .444 inch diameter steel ball on a piece of the particular species of wood and push down on it with a press. The pressure it takes to push the ball half way down the wood is the measure. So for Lignum Vitae, it takes 4500 pounds of pressure to push that aforementioned steel ball half way. Consider by comparison that white oak is 1360, eastern Red Cedar is 900 Eastern White Pine is 380 and poor old light weight Balsa is 100 and you get the idea of the tenacity of Lignum Vitae.
But, I digress..... We had a very pleasant late afternoon and evening off Lignum Vitae Key surrounded by absolutely no boats with a fabulous unimpeded sunset; in stark contrast to the congested yet poignantly pleasant circumstances we just left in Marathon.