Thursday, March 16, 2017

My Great Uncle's Chesapeake Bay Model Boats

UPDATE 2: March 27, 2017, Dr. Richard Rodgers (veterinarian) on the museum's board picked up my uncle's boats today. I look forward to visiting the museum and the town of Deltaville, VA this summer. I'll post on it when it happens.





UPDATE: As of March 22, 2017, the Deltaville Maritime Museum has enthusiastically agreed to accept Mr. Massenburg's collection of indigenous Chesapeake Bay work boats! This is to be celebrated. I am certain that Unk would be thrilled.
I didn't mention this in the original post, but Unk actually had the goal to build each one in a evolutionary progression, from the log canoe up to the deadrise. I should have arranged the pictures in order...alas, that's why I'm donating them to a responsible museum!

As part of our project to downsize, I need to part ways with my treasured collection of model workboats that I inherited from my great uncle, George R. Massenburg Jr. (Unk).  This blog post is a brief summary of how Unk cultivated a passion for the Chesapeake Bay and boat building, and how I inherited his boats. It is my sincerest hope that I can find a safe home for these treasures of the Chesapeake region.


Unk, who was born in the 1920s, lived in Hampton, Virginia almost his entire life.  As a child he spent most of his days on the waters of the Hampton Roads and the Chesapeake Bay where he crabbed, fished, and raced log canoes.  Unk was a true waterman from a very young age.


Once he graduated from Newport News High School, he attended Virginia Polytechnic Institute (VA Tech), after which Unk came home to attend the Newport News Shipyard Apprentice School where he was trained as a hull draftsman.  Unk worked at the shipyard until he joined my grandfather, John L. Richardson to open Dy-Dee-Service Inc. in the 1950s.  Unk retired from Dy-Dee-Service in the 1980s.  


During his retirement, Unk spent much time building balsa wood model workboats of the Chesapeake Bay.  He built a few from kits but most he built from pictures.  I always admired the patient detailed work that he invested and we would often discuss the real versions of his models and what their jobs were on the Chesapeake. I will always treasure the memories of these times and our conversations about these fascinating boats


After Unk passed away in 2010, he left the boats to me.  They have had a rough time in our home with dogs, kids and too much traffic.  It is my sincerest hope that I can find a museum willing to accept Unk’s boats and a picture or two of him.  I also hope, that in the process of going through things, that I eventually will find his shipyard apprentice school completion certificate.  I can also refine and expand upon this story for a prospective exhibit.

The boats will need a few repairs from bumps and moves, but I personally feel that it would be a worthy investment for these treasured works of art. Thank you for your consideration.




Unk and me in the spring of 2003. He lived almost his entire life in Wythe of Hampton, Virginia.




This is the Chesapeake Bugeye, which was a predecessor to the Skipjack. It was bigger than the skipjack and was used to harvest oysters before oyster numbers dropped.



This is the Pungy Schooner thought to be named for the Pongoteague region of Accomack County, Virginia. It was developed after the pilot shooner, was capable to go on the ocean and its principle use was to move freight.


The Chesapeake Bay Buy Boat is the boat that would purchase the seafood from the other fishermen's boats.


The Chesapeake Bay log canoe was originally a fishing boat but was phased out by the skipjack and the bugeye.  Mostly it was known for being a racing boat.  Unk raced log canoes as a boy.



This is an actual shot of Unk racing in his log canoe! This goes with all of the boats in the donation.



Dead-Rise.





 Little sailboat.





 Crabbing skiff.



The skipjack needs help.













Sunday, March 12, 2017

Less is More - The Adventures of Purging our Possessions

Purging is Peaceful

When pondering retirement, we have come to realize that it’s a good thing that we like our jobs! Given our current budget, the idea of retirement is laughable.  Our jobs are fulfilling but raises are rare, so to avoid selling our souls, we have decided to cut spending.  This requires many lifestyle changes, including; not eating out, mapping out our drives to save gas and adhering to a strict budget.  But one of the more interesting and satisfying ways to cut spending has been the purging of our material items that we don't need. We are only in the beginning of the process, but the preliminary results, so far, are liberating. The ultimate goal is to downsize our house, but for now we are downsizing our stuff.


My wife, Adrienne, is an amazing teacher. She loves what she does and she works hard to give her students the best learning experience possible.  I am a marine ecologist.  My job is awesome, but I make about as much as Adrienne.  So we are fortunate to be solidly in the middle class. We have a house and two old, but paid for, cars.  We have a dog and a kid in middle school.  By all accounts, we are living the dream.  We might save a little at the end of the month but not nearly enough to comfortably retire until we’re in our 90s.   


I have discovered an interesting blog on the topic, called Mr. Money Mustache.  MMM had a good job, lived a frugal life, and then retired at the age of 31, about the time that he and his wife started having children.  Now he has a very popular blog, with an almost cult following where he chronicles his frugal-life adventure. I think we drank the kool-aid.


MMM developed an algorithm that found that if you save 64% of your income then you can retire in 10 years.  I’m not sure if we can achieve that level of savings, considering our occupations, but we’re taking steps in that direction.

The other catalyst motivating us was a movie that we saw the other night on Netflix called The Minimalists.  It’s about these two guys, Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus who traveled the nation helping folks learn to lead meaningful lives with less.  They assert that materialism is okay as long as the material items “bring joy”.  We have commenced our quest to dump everything that doesn’t bring us joy. I am now a regular at several thrift store donation centers. Our home is becoming more open and it already feels like a weight has been lifted off.  Another effect is that while clearing out, we regularly come across items that do bring joy, Things that we long ago lost track of, like a journal that Adrienne kept when Caleb was a baby.


Also, the stuff that we have donated to thrift stores can now bring someone else joy.  Additionally, the sale of these items can benefit battered women, the children's hospital, and the Goodwill charity. Finally, we can write these donations off on our taxes.  

So far the purged items have been mostly clothes, numerous nicknacks, and other chock a block chotchkies from so many Christmases past.   We have also donated 25 hats that I never wore and more than 50 books (many cookbooks) that we no longer read. We’ve bid farewell to  X-Box games, Leggos and toys, including an antique kalidascope.  My apologies to my family for the gifts that we let go, but now that they’re in the thrift stores the might become gifts again.  The quest continues.  

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Dog Walking Adventures in York County, Virginia


Most weekends, when we are in town, we take the dog on long walks. It’s the best he gets all week! There are nice parks in the region but they require longish drives on bad roads, the burning of more gas and longer times staring at the windshield.  So, we sought out a walk closer to home.  One park that I knew of is behind the York County sports complex and is called Harwood Mills.  It’s a little park, near the reservoir, the power lines and some tree farms.  Then, Adrienne mentioned a green space with power lines behind Grafton High School.  There’s also woods near a main road called Denbigh Blvd. with several access pull offs.  It’s kind of an extended part of the road, where the cars drive fast.


We went to Harwood Mills and walked those paths several times. They wind through the woods and my understanding is that they were cut by the local mountain biking association.  The woods are fine and the paths are too, although they’re very convoluted for walking.     

Then one day, we went behind Grafton H.S. and walked the powerlines. I mentioned to Adrienne that I was pretty sure that those powerlines could take us to Harwood Mills.  We walked in that direction and sure enough, we made it to the park.  Trouble was, we walked the causeway over the reservoir and were thus on the other side of the reservoir.  We walked along the water on the other side, but the water never went away, even when my gps said that it should be gone. Instead there were wetlands and a braided stream in the woods.  It was a beautiful, warm February day, the setting was lovely, and we even saw a water snake!  Ultimately, to get back to the power lines, we had to go all the way to Denbigh Blvd to get over the water.  That ended up being a 5.1 mile walk in the woods and we were pretty thirsty by the end.

So the last two times we went to the pull-offs on Denbeigh and walked through the tree farm and back over to Harwood Mills.  That walk, at times took us close to the PHF airport depending on how we went.  There are also ways, we’re pretty sure, to connect with the National Park, and I’m pretty sure we’ve already touched on Newport News park.  We’ve definitely been to those two parks on other days entering from those areas.

Anyhow, the point is, there is a lot of really great walking and bike riding areas right here in lower York County.  My one word of caution, though, is this.  When we walked through the tree farm we did notice some smelly piles of what I thought at first, was horse dung.  It was pretty funny looking though and later, when I told my friend, Wes Hudson, who did his PhD work in local tree farms, he let me in on a little nugget of wisdom.  He said the interesting thing about that particular tree farm is that it is the place where the county sprays it’s biosolids, also known as the stuff that is at the end of the sewage treatment process.  It’s supposedly a very nutritious fertilizer, but farmers generally don’t want it.  Certainly it’s not full of pharmaceuticals or anything nasty like that, is it??  Anyhow, I guess the take home lesson is that when walking through the tree farm, keep the dog on the leash!

My only other concern is the close proximity of the biosolids tree farm to the drinking water reservoir.  I guess they’ve implemented the proper BMPs.  Who knows, maybe there's an interesting project for someone to study!



 This is actually a lie because this pic was taken at Queens Creek.  We were, however, walking the dog and it was a Saturday.

This is the first big walk (red line) where we had to go to Denbigh (top of the pic) to get around the water. Denbigh also borders the tree farm.


This is one of our other walks where we began at Denbigh and walked south towards the airport.


This is a zoom out showing a good chunk of the Peninsula and our walk in red for reference.


Ahh, the lovely tree farm...


I think this is a biosolids storage structure.

Oh yeah, and this is the dog, after a walk, of course. His name is Hampton. We call him "Ham".

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Learning to Fly!

We have been involved with the Boy Scouts of America for 6 years, ever since our son was a Cub Scout in the 1st grade.  He’s had so many cool adventures, and as an assistant scoutmaster, so have I!  Now as a First Class Scout, he is learning leadership skills, making connections and gaining amazing opportunities, one of which occurred in early February.  


One of our former scoutmasters, Mr. Joe Harvey is a retired U.S. Air Force officer and accomplished pilot.  The other day he let Caleb fly his Cessna 172, Skyhawk II.  We departed from Newport News Williamsburg International Airport (PHF) and headed north to Mathews County, specifically the New Point Lighthouse.  During the flight Mr. Harvey and Caleb performed an “engine failure” drill and a “controlled stall” at altitude.  The engine failure drill included a spiral pattern over the New Point Lighthouse.  Turns were up to 60o, which was pretty fun!


When we returned to PHF, they did two touch and go “options” before the third landing for a full stop. Mr. Harvey let Caleb set up the approach, adjust the flaps and bring the plane almost to the ground where, Just before touchdown, Mr. Harvey resumed control, touched down, and then powered back up.  By the final landing it was nighttime.

It was an amazing experience for the whole family but the best part were the views!  It could have been much more exciting but we declined. Mr. Harvey said that our flight was considered a “level 1” out of a 5 point scale.  He said that a “level 5” includes flips!  I think I need to work up to that.

Time to earn the Aviation Merit Badge!






This is the view across Newport News, VA towards the James River.


Our lives in the boys hands!


Gloucester Point, Virginia.


Mobjack Bay in the foreground, the York after that and the James way off in the distance during an epic sunset!


Another view of the sunset.


I'd guess about a 40o turn...


New Point Comfort Lighthouse in Mathews County on the Mobjack Bay.


The Coleman Bridge, Gloucester Point, and the sunset!


The first touch-and-go..


The final Landing of the evening.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Time Lapse of Cold Clouds

I love to watch time-lapse photography and so I set up my Go-pro on the roof at work to take a picture every 5 seconds for 45 minutes and this is the result! I used Movie Maker for production.  I shoot from the hip (blind) to get the camera pointed in the right direction because I could never get the app on my phone to sync with the camera, hence the reason you can see so much roof hardware.


Here's another one from a window at work taken with my GoPro.  Laid a track from the Movie Maker free tracks called Monplaisir...  which creates a dystopic scene at the VIMS. Actually the sun came out right after I took the camera down. Again it's a frame every 5 seconds for 1 hour and 25 minutes compressed into 51 seconds.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Johnson 115 4 stroke - hole in the exhaust manifold

I have a 19' center console with a 2003 115 hp 4 stroke Johnson (Suzuki) that pushes her well and hasn't given me any trouble until the last year. It started not idling well, especially after it was warm. Then, it really started acting badly!  I almost got into trouble near the outflow of a certain nuclear power plant, when I lost power, and then was almost swept into some of the local infrastructure.

I took it to Newport Marine in Newport News, VA. They looked it over and couldn't figure what was wrong. They were extremely fair about it and said that they wouldn't charge me since they couldn't diagnose it. Now that's admirable! Scott at Newport suggested Sports Marine on 17 because they're a Suzuki dealer and they have the computer that could interface for diagnosis.

So, reluctantly, I went to Sports. The guy told me that my wiring harness was fried and he replaced it with a used on. He also told me as an afterthought that I had a hole in my exhaust manifold but that he slapped some Marine Tech in there which "should hold up for a good long time".  So I paid him the $500+ and went on my way. It worked fine for about two runs and then acted up again. It idled terribly and then when I slowed I smelled burning plastic and so I shut it down and got towed in. Good thing!

I went back to Newport and told them about what Sports told me and asked them to check it out. They did and said that sure enough, I have a hole in the manifold and no Marine Tech to be found anywhere!  They charged me $30 for this look and gave me an estimate of $1000 for parts and $1000 for labor. Said that the power-head had to be removed to do this job. Okay, so now we're getting somewhere. This actually sounds very fair since this is a major job.  Newport Marine is a great outfit and I'd love to have them do the work, but, I did't have 2 grand lying around.

My father-in-law, Steve, a retired nuclear pipe fitter was convinced that we could do this job so, I ordered the parts. MarineEngine.com had all the parts for $1149 total. I also had to borrow an engine hoist to pull the power head. Oh boy, this makes me a nervous, but what the hell. I can't afford to pay to have the job done so might as well go for it!

Here are some pictures with the lower engine covers removed:

Starboard side. The exhaust manifold or adapter or whatever is the large piece in the middle between the powerhead and the lower unit.. This is the undamaged side.



 Port side, you can see the damage, just about in the center of the photo there's an allen plug and the hole is around that. You can also see the melted (second) wiring harness. It's not completely melted through (Thank God). It seems that only the tape melted, however it's hard to tell because some of the wires are melted together with the tape.


Port side backed up to see the entire powerhead that was lifted off.  You might also notice that the exhaust manifold attaches the motor at it's upper part.  I thought we might also have to remove the lower unit. Ultimately, we had to secure it on it's top portion once the manifold was removed.


Port side. Close ups of the damage





 Valve cover on rear of motor had to be removed since it overlaps powerhead and exhaust manifold.
 Overlap shown here.

The Seloc manual has nothing about an exhaust manifold, which I find baffling since it's such an important and significant portion of the engine. So, I ordered an OMC service manual ($75 with shipping).  That was money well spent!  

6 April Update:
The Johnson Service Manual had it all. It showed specifically how to remove and replace all of the parts. There were lots of steps, but the detailed manual gave me more confidence to tackle the task.  One thing that I found funny about all this were the discrepancies in the nomenclature.  In the service manual the main part that I need is called "the engine holder". On the Marine Engines. com website where I purchased the parts the same part is called the "exhaust adapter".  Go figure.

10 April Update:
I started the motor one last time before the repair job. 



15 April Update:
Last week we broke it down. It was nice to have good people helping with this.  We removed the intake manifold, the fuel injectors, the valve cover, spark plugs, and all of the electrical and physical connections and then we lifted the powerhead and the pesky piece of you-know-what "engine holder" that caused the problems in the first place.  Here are the picture proofs.  The only snafu we had was a large bolt that went through the engine holder in the vicinity of the damage that threaded into the powerhead. This bolt came free of the power head but was stuck in the engine holder. It took Sam, Steve and I using a map-gas torch, a hammer, Kroll Oil, a punch, and a ratchet simultaneously for about 45 minutes to free up the bolt that also had to be replaced to the tune of $10, for a bolt!









and since I didn't have the parts yet...I took Sunday and went fishing...in a lake!

found some interesting reading on the subject.  Seems to be a pretty common problem. Also, I need to look carefully at my oil pan...

April 21, 2013
I kind of did a freak out double take when I got the "engine holder"!  Got the new part and it looks identical except for a major difference that I wasn't expecting!! There's a hole with bearings that isn't in the old one!  
Here are the pictures:
This is the old one:
...and here's the new one. Notice the bearings on the left side? This means the crank case will be open to the environment!  I called Boats.net where I ordered the part and stayed on hold for 45 minutes. I thought I would have to call the credit card company.  I checked the part numbers and the replacement part numbers. I bugged Robert who is the mechanic at VIMS, and I bugged Scott at Newport Marine. Both of these fellas are awesome and I really appreciate their time.
Anyhow, I got home and Steve came over and we looked at it and pondered it and looked through the other pile of parts that I had ordered and then I started to think about one of them that looked like it had a sealed allen bolt that looked like it would fill the hole in the bearings. Then Steve was looking at it too. We both got very quiet and started fiddling with it. Next thing I knew, I said, "maybe I don't have to stop payment on the credit card, do I?"  Yep, there's another design change.  Not only is the steel plug absent, but also, the shifter linkage is configured totally different! On the previous model it was bolted to the bottom of the engine holder and it was all exterior. On the new model the splined shaft links with the female component that is screwed into the bearings that are bathed in the crankcase oil above.  I think this is actually an improvement after all!  




Also, here's the redesign where the steel plug used to be.  That steel plug has caused a lot of heartache for owners of the 90, 115, and 140 HP models from 2001 to 2005.  It's a damn shame for OMC, and the hundreds of people with this same drama that I've been having.
So, we put it all back together.  It was easier than I had imagined. I labeled all of the wires, which I recommend, but they were almost dummy-proof because each plug was unique.

Ran it on the hose and shifted through the gears. I gotta hand it to Steve for pushing this through to fruition!  We started at 9am and had it all together and running by 4.  Great day!  As Steve said, "not bad for a couple of dudes who don't know what they're doing!"
Video Proof:
and with the covers..
and finally, I took it for a spin yesterday. It runs better than ever!
If you have the same problem, and fix it yourself, I wish you all the success!!