Over the years, I’ve found that three things depress people about work: their boss, the commute, getting laid off. One of the intriguing things about work is people who actually manufacture something. There is something robust about Made In America, and it makes people proud.
On a day blowing 12-16 mph on the York River, Michael Sage of Caseville MI appreciated the irony of a stiff wind. As we left port, his wife Teri pointed to a sailboat with twin wind turbines on the aft. “I make turbines,” Mike explained. “Our company manufactures the turbine towers to 100 meters tall, which is 360 feet. The blades extend 160 feet across and weigh several tons. Each of three blades has to be within 200 pounds of the others to be properly balanced.
“People object to the birds getting hit, but we like to say that more birds die from flying into three-story buildings. The blades used to be made in Argentina but now they make them in the Dakotas. The operation is good to 25 or 35 miles per hour winds, but at 45 we’ll stop them to avoid topping over.
“Other critics objected to the red strobe lights atop the towers as too bright. The new ones are activated by approaching planes. When they get within ten miles the red lights come on, but only then. So 98 percent of the time the lights are off.” His background in wind informed Mike’s sailing as he cleverly spilled wind by close-hauling when gusts approached. That’s the stuff of experienced sailors.
Deb & Andy Archut
Deb and Andy Archut of Davenport FL don’t make something concrete so much as they make America safe. They are retired from the FAA as air traffic controllers and managers. She said, “The academy is five months, and the training is five years. After that you’re on your own. We came out of the Air Force, so we knew more about it than the average person.”
The next day the wind was considerably light and positively serene. Ronnie and Rob Rovenelt of Danville PA took their three children sailing in shifting breezes.
“I’m a draftsman,” Rob said. “I’m now working for a company that makes drums for cement trucks. For all these years they built them from memory. Now they want drawings for more precision and duplication. The drum turns as the truck drives down the highway, and to my surprise it turns backward. That’s a better to mix the cement and water.
“I used to work for another company, but they consolidated operations and I didn’t want to move my family. The kids have all their friends in high school. It’s too bad because I would have worked there forever. They blamed it on the shareholders, got to make more profits.”
I asked if he worked in CAD instead of pencil drawing and he smiled as if to say yes. It was like asking me if I worked with typewriters.
Ronnie Rovenelt works in the lab for a 450-bed hospital handling all manner of blood and other fluids. I mentioned that a lab tech recently cited the centralization of labs by the corporate giant Quest into just three centers nationally. She had said that Quest loses thousands of tubes a day.
“Yes, that happens to us too. We also get them mixed up. Once, we had an elderly woman in a nursing home who supposedly tested positive for marijuana. The residue was left over from the previous tube.” Manufacturing has its flaws, but all five people were as proud as they could be of their work.
As we returned to port, a small pod of dolphins were lazily swimming in the turn at Sarah Creek. They were hardly the hazard to navigation presented by a string of crab pots laid a few days earlier. I called VMRC and they got the pots moved.
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