The Halon Tragedy


Power & Motor Yacht - - BOATYARD -

First of all, my boat is old, okay? I mean, de­spite the brand-new­ness of all the sys­tems I’ve in­stalled over the past year, her essence stretches back to 1988. And so, maybe, just maybe, the old girl gets a lit­tle can­tan­ker­ous oc­ca­sion­ally. Maybe she’s got her good days and bad days. Maybe she sports a few quirks and hot but­tons and re­ally doesn’t care to camouflage them with pleas­antries any­more. Shoot, man. I can iden­tify.

Some­times I get testy my­self these days. Like, for in­stance, on a re­cent Satur­day evening. It was about six o’clock and I was hun­kered down with my back to the for­ward fire­wall of the Jane II’s en­gine room, en­dur­ing lev­els of heat and hu­mid­ity that, while I’d slaved away in the cramped space for the pre­vi­ous six or seven hours, had pretty much boiled all the wisdom, pa­tience, and in­tel­li­gence out of me.

“You know, Bill,” I re­mem­ber telling my­self just be­fore tragedy struck, “you’ve been work­ing down here in this freak­ing hole since this morn­ing. You’re ex­hausted. You’re hot, you might even say roasted. Per­haps you’re not think­ing straight, get­ting emo­tion­ally un­sta­ble. You should cease and de­sist. Fin­ish to­mor­row.”

But did I heed this sage ad­vice? Shoot, no! In­stead, I tuned into that louder, more will­ful voice, the one that spells trou­ble. “Oh no, Billy boy,” it bel­lowed. “Hang tough, man! Stick with the plan. Just pull that hose off that sea strainer, cut it to length, and slap it back on—you cut it too long in the first place, dummy. It’ll be per­fect. It’ll be lovely. It’ll be per­fectly lovely!”

Here’s the deal, though—the hose wouldn’t come off. No mat­ter how hard I pulled or how many times I pulled, it re­tained a ver­i­ta­ble death grip on the bronze barbed fit­ting em­a­nat­ing from the sea strainer. So, I be­came re­ally, re­ally frus­trated, de­scend­ing into a venge­ful state of mind which un­for­tu­nately con­ferred upon me su­per-hu­man strength and, si­mul­ta­ne­ously, ren­dered me even more sus­cep­ti­ble to the machi­na­tions of the will­ful, loud-mouth voice.

“Come on, Billy Boy, pull that hose off there!” it yelled at me. “What are you, buddy? A man or a jel­ly­fish?”

Now, be­fore I con­clude this tale of woe, let me briefly re­view a re­lated is­sue. On the for­ward fire­wall of Betty’s en­gine room (right be­hind my back) was a brack­eted halon bottle rigged to both man­u­ally and au­to­mat­i­cally de­ploy. And, to be truth­ful, I can’t tell you how many times over the pre­vi­ous six or seven months, while en­ter­ing or leav­ing the ER on one er­rand or an­other, I’d snagged a tee-shirt or a belt loop on the de­fuser wheel at the top of the bottle, al­ways telling my­self I should in­stall a “head guard” to pre­vent an in­ad­ver­tent dis­charge and al­ways fail­ing to fol­low through.

As you’ve prob­a­bly guessed by now, I ul­ti­mately pulled the hose loose from the sea strainer with a tremen­dous, en­raged ker­poweee, a de­vel­op­ment that sent me fly­ing back­wards into the halon fire ex­tin­guish­ing sys­tem, which promptly dis­charged with a great whoosh­ing sound, en­velop­ing me in a cloud of halon gas and con­cur­rently low­er­ing the tem­per­a­ture of my over­heated der­riere with the speed and ef­fi­ciency of a top-notch flash-freeze ma­chine.

Just as I erupted from the en­gine room (with con­sid­er­able drama, I might add), my good friend Patty was walk­ing past Betty’s tran­som. “Bill? Bill!” she shouted in alarm, star­tled by the plume of halon burst­ing forth from the open salon door. “Are you all right?” “Yeah,” I replied, as the gas be­gan to dis­si­pate. “But I do be­lieve it’s time to shut this project down for the day, Patty. I think maybe my boat’s mad at me!”


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