The Battle Against the Ever-Growing Ever-Multiplying ToDo List Monster

Oh god. Down to a matter of hours before we pull out of Santa Cruz. And still so much to do. And some of those problems are major problems.


Take the last element on our list. “Diagnose electrical.” We identified three separate electrical problems. 1) The accessory battery was not holding a charge, 2) the charging battery wasn’t turning over the motor (ack!), and 3) every time we plugged an extension cord into the boat, it would blow the house fuse.

Oh god.

While Benzy was focusing her artistic skill on repainting the life ring, James and I were working on the electrical. First, the starting battery. That’s a big deal. If we can’t start the motor, we can’t go anywhere. We tested the current over the battery when we tried to start it. Nothing. Not effected. The current should have dropped the moment we turned the key, and should have dropped a LOT when we turned the key to start the motor. Nothing.

We opened up the motor expecting to find shredded paper, mouse turds, and the remains of the insulation on our wiring, but the motor looked great. If it wasn’t the motor, it could be the controller in the cockpit. We weren’t looking forward to that. The MerControl is a delicate difficult-to-work on device jammed full of wires and cogs.

“It is as if,” James said, “there were some kind of safety locking out the ignition and starting circuit.”

“Oh god,” I said, “Try jiggling the throttle to see if it clicks into neutral.”

“Click,” he said. And then started the motor right up.

Well, that was 33% of the electrical problem solved.


The accessory battery kept going flat. Within a day after we charged it, it would lose charge in less than 24 hours. We tested the current over it and found it was nominal, something like 20mA. With a big battery like that, it should be able to light an LED for a year. So we took it out completely and charged it. It rapidly lost voltage. It was the battery itself!

The next morning I went to Costco and got a replacement. We’d bought this one two years ago almost to the day.


Benzy was working on the lifering. This was a sad specimen. Fiberglass decomposing. Unpainted. This was a castoff from someone’s grad school project. We repainted it and striped it and Benzy painted the boat’s name on it.

Meanwhile, we’re working on the third electrical problem. This was the 120v system. I was able to narrow it down to a single circuit. Then to a single wire. Then to a badly installed lamp. Remounted the lamp and the problem was solved.

Yes! Double high fives. All electrical problems solved. Now on to the next challenge.


I’d designed a Secret History stencil font and Benzy had cut us some stencils on the lasercutter. We mounted them to the new front window protectors and spraypainted them with Jeremiah’s help and advice (he was an expert stencil painter in the army).



With the newly painted doors and windows, newly treated deck, custom painted window protectors, and replaced roof, I thought the shantyboat was looking better than it ever had.


The night before departure, the whiskey faeries came by and brought us our favorite bourbon.


James, Benzy, Jeremiah, Hazel, and I sat around and lifted a glass (or two). Praise, Monty!


And we managed to do everything that needed doing. So now we just need to do all the non-shantyboat trip prep things and we’re outta here.


Our trip should include Bakersfield, Barstow, Needles, Kingman, Flagstaff, Gallup, Albuquerque, Tucumcari, Amarillo, Oklahoma City, Little Rock, Memphis, Jackson, Nashville, Knoxville.

For half of the trip, it will be like we are reversing the route of Highway 66. So I offer you these videos.

See you on the road.

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