As usual the school vacation week on the islands gives the impression that more than half of the inhabitants have gone to America. More than a few of the essential businesses are closed for the week. Everywhere you go there are empty parking spaces. As my doctor listened to my lungs with a stethoscope to confirm my suspicion that I have pneumonia, he remarked that school vacations have a great interrupting effect on illnesses in our community. Keeping the school children apart for even a short time breaks the cycle of transmitting germs. As I drive around the islands I am impressed by how much of our off-season activities are associated with the school system. It seems that half of the people that I know either have kids in school, work in the schools or have family members who do. Teachers especially have my admiration. I think you have to be pretty brave to face a roomful of school kids 180 days a year. Just getting their attention long enough to teach them math is a modern day miracle to me.

It also seems that half of the people I know are affected by cancer, either their own, a family member’s or a friend’s. So here’s a chance to make a contribution. On Friday, March 17 the Martha’s Vineyard Cancer Support Group will once again celebrate daffodil time. They will be selling bunches of daffodils for $10 each to raise funds to help patients with medical expenses and the cost of transportation, lodging and food when they have to travel off-Island for treatment. Volunteers will be on hand starting at 9 a.m. at Vineyard Haven Cronig’s, Oak Bluffs Reliable Market and Edgartown Stop & Shop and starting at 11 a.m. at the MV Hospital while supplies last. One hundred percent of the money collected goes to the cause.

Last week I asked if anyone noticed something different at the ferry landing on the Chappy side. The hint was: they come in pairs, weigh 3,000 pounds each and are shiny. That could describe a couple of marine mammals of some sort or even a pair of his and hers DeLorean automobiles. The objects in question are actually inanimate and not as mobile as a sports car. I’m referring to the new counterweights that hold the loading ramp up when the ferry is gone. The old steel plates that make up the counterweights got terribly rusted from being exposed to salt air all the time. That actually decreased their weight. Steel is expensive stuff. As part of our ramp upgrade project my son in law Erik Gilley fabricated stainless steel containers for the steel counterweight plates. He made the containers air-tight to isolate the steel from the elements.

So I ask you engineering-degree types out there if you think that the following is true: once the oxygen in the airtight containers is consumed by the oxidation of the steel plates, the rusting process will cease. I’m thinking about the remains of steel beams that we pulled out of the bottom when we rebuilt the bulkheads under the ramp last year. The upper end was nearly completely disintegrated but the other end that had been deep in the mud still showed the original foundry markings. No oxygen, no oxidizing. Painting and galvanizing are just a couple methods of keeping oxygen away from the iron molecules. They are both expensive when done properly and both eventually fail. The goal of our maintenance and repair program at the ferry is to endeavor to have to fix things just once more. I think Erik is on the right track.

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