With Nick onboard as my mechanic, the first order of business was to change the oil in the 871 Detroits.  He informed me that this is standard practice when purchasing a new boat, and I quickly learned that it’s also an expensive one.  Officially, this was the beginning of chapter one in my maintenance education and the first of many dollar investments required to keep the Papagallo properly serviced.

I was learning first hand, as the saying goes, that:

Owning a boat is like a hole in the ocean you pour money into and that anything with the word “marine” means break out another $thousand. 

My only experience with oil changes before owning the Papagallo had been limited to taking the car to be serviced at a quick lube.  This ran between $30 and $50, depending on sale specials – a proverbial drop in the oil pan compared to what I learned these engines would require.  Each 871 engine would need seven and a half gallons (that’s right, gallons, not quarts) of Dello 100 oil at a cost of roughly $21 per gallon and another $35 for the oil filter.  That works out to be $192.50 each or $385 total just for the oil and filters.  And we’re not even talking about labor yet.


Nick’s first instruction was that I remove the deck plates next to each engine.  He was checking to see if there was a drain line fastened to the bottom of the oil line that would make the removal of the oil easier.  I did this.  No such luck.  There was no drain line.

Moving on, we were ready for Step B:  pumping the oil out through a dip stick port at the rear of the engine.  After a quick visit to his truck, Nick returned laden down with five gallon buckets, tubing, electric pump and an extension cord.  Everything we needed, proving that nothing is ever as easy as it looks when it comes to maintaining a boat.

While the engines were idling (they needed about ten minutes to heat the oil prior to the pumping extraction) it dawned on me why Nick’s clothing was covered with grease and oil.  My shirt and blue jeans would soon be christened with petroleum lubricant and suffer the same fate.  There was no way around it.  Changing the engine oil on a yacht is a messy job.  What’s more, it takes a couple of hours to complete.

When it was done Nick explained that we now had a bench mark to refer to that  would indicate when the next change was due.  And in spite of the oil and grease, the nicks and bruises to my knuckles, and stiff cramps in my knees, I felt good.  Really  good.  I had successfully completed my first action step in learning the systems onboard.  It was a great feeling.  I could do this.  I knew it.

Action feeds and strengthens confidence.  Inaction, in all forms, feeds fear.

As I worked with Nick on this first project, I had paid close attention to every detail, no matter how small.  Wrapping up, I asked Nick what I owed him.  He gathered up his gear and shrugged.  “I’ll catch you next time,” he said.

It was a comment I would hear many times on our future dealings.  When he completed work, you would have to force payment on him.

Changing the oil that day was the beginning of a wonderful relationship between Nick and me over the next three years.  I will always be thankful for that time and our association.  I’m not really sure what Nick saw in me, but early on, it became apparent he was more interested in seeing me succeed than in charging for the work he performed.  Somehow, something on that first day just clicked between us.

It is rare indeed to encounter a person like Nick along life’s journey.  We would go on to spend many mornings onboard the Papagallo enjoying coffee and conversation before either of us started our work day.  Nick not only extended a helping hand with his guidance and teaching, but also a hand of friendship.  The action phase of my training would move into high gear, and I knew that success, moving ever closer to reality, was within my grasp.

“Success requires heart, soul and effort.  You can only put your heart and soul into something you really desire.”  – Author Unknown

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