If bad luck comes in threes, the Masked Marvel is not looking forward to next February.
The Masked Marvel is Ed Goddard, who used that pseudonym for years as a villian in professional wrestling.
He's 61 now, though he doesn't look a day over 40 and his hobby is a 63-foot Newfoundland baldheaded jack schooner. Every February it puts him in a pickle.
Last year the boat ran aground off the Washington Sailing Marina and sat like a giant beached whale for three days. This time it was the ice that did him in.
Last week a big chunk of frozen Potomac broke off and hauled Goddard's boat, two anchors and all a couple of hundred yards from its mooring off the marina out into the river. Along the way the anchor lines fouled in an old tree stump and dragged that along.
Goddard's engine hasn't worked for a year, so he was helpless to move that boat back. On top of that, he's in a row with Government Services, Inc., the company that runs the Sailing Marina, and they don't want him hauling the old wooden vessel into a slip to make repairs.
So he tied a line the 100 yards or so to a tree on shore. Now he's battling GSI and National Capital Parks people about that. There are threats of arrest and impoundment of the boat, according to Goddard.
The Maksed Marvel is not the guy you'd go looking for if you wanted someone to push around. He's a huge man with a temper. But there's an old song that warns: "The sea careth not for any man." The ice, it appears, careth even less.
The rest of the boat-owning world may not be in as bad shape as Goddard, but owners who have been lulled into false security by the fact there was nothing they could do for a frozen boat should look out now.
Having your boat locked in ice generally comes as a shock. Owners race around for the first week fantically asking "What should I do? What can I do?
The answer is nothing, as long as the ice is solid. One of the best lessons is to avoid boarding the craft altogether. There's no point in working the boat around in the ice. Just let it sit.
But when the ice breaks up ther's a real chance for trouble.
The freeze can put holes in any boat, wooden or plastic. As long as the water inside and outside the boat is frozen, the holes don't matter. But when it melts, great fountains may erupt and down your vessel can go.
The point is, now is the time to check your hull, vigorously and scrupulously.
The Boat Owners Association of the United States offers a 10-step program to protect against sinking and points out in its leaflet that almost without exception marine insurance policies do not cover losses from ice damage.
Basically, BOAT/U.S. recommends thorough checks of all through-hull fittings (sea cocks, head valves, rudder post fittings, etc.) for cracks and disconnected fittings, and inspection of all hoses and exhaust lines. It warns about making sure swim platforms and trim tabs are clear of ice when you take off, so they won't tear off the transom.
The organization recommends checking wooden hulls for caulking displaced by ice in the bilge and inspection of engine blocks, manifolds, freeze plugs and water and holding tanks for cracks.
One old salt's temporary solution to leaking wooden hulls from caulking displacement is to bring along a bushel of sawdust.
If you find a seam that's leaking a steady stream into the bilge, pour a coffee-can full of sawdust into the water around the crack. The stream will carry the wool chips into the seam and when they swell up the leak will stop. Boat builders used to pour 50-gallon drums of sawdust into the water when they launched a new boat to keep her dry till the wood swelled.
Another thing to watch out for is thin ice. It's much more dangerous than thick chunks, according to the folks down at Shady Side Marina because it can cut righ through a wooden hull. If the ice gets thin and razor-sharp and the wind kicks up it can eat a hole right through the waterline. It happened to me last year.
You're into praying, pray for a slow, gentle rain and a gradual warming trend.
But most of all, keep an eagle eye on your boat. The next two weeks will tell the tale.