For those of you who have stopped by my place on a regular basis over the last couple of years, my love–hate relationship with the sport of boating is known and has been well documented in this space. I realize now that the words I have written regarding this subject are just so much blather and that the fantasy vs the reality of boat ownership can be neatly summed up in the following two photo’s and the acronym below them.
Break Out Another Thousand
Once again, the sirens of the sea have lured me onto the rocks of poor judgement and this past spring I purchased a “fixer upper” that would surely, this time, be the one to provide me with endless hours of relaxation in the sun, floating on the blue green summer waters of Puget Sound. Before I took her out on our maiden voyage I thought it might be a good idea to have a mechanic friend take a look as a minor precaution. Just in case there was an item or two that might cause a bit of inconvenience once underway. No problem…surely.
After hearing the engine run for about a minute, the mechanic casually advised against me ever taking her further from the dock than I was willing to swim. He also informed me that in his opinion the wiring was of such ancient vintage and poor quality that merely turning the key had caused him to involuntarily flinch and close his eyes tightly, as the old steel fuel tanks had started to rust through and spill gasoline into the bilge. In the space of five minutes I had gone from the mountainous heights of maritime ecstasy, the purchase and maiden voyage of a new boat, to the depths of my bank accounts valley. “Let me know if you think she’s worth fixing.” he said as he skipped back onto the dock, tossing the keys in my direction and leaving me standing there feeling very alone. “I’ve got about a six week back log and might be able to get to it around mid-June.”
Topping off the brand new stainless steel fuel tanks I turned the ignition, which carried a spark through the born again electrical system to the completely rebuilt and refurbished 302 cubic inch Chevy providing power to the recently serviced out-drive. It jumped effortlessly to life and as I motored back to my moorage, I thought of the joy and pleasure that would finally be mine in just two short days, anchored in the middle of the bay on a warm summer evening with a cool six pack of my favorite brand watching the city sponsored Fourth of July fireworks display. Life. Is. Good!
Arriving at the dock around eight so as to have plenty of time to warm up the engine and find a suitable anchorage from which to watch the pyrotechnics, I hopped aboard, opened the cabin hatch, and was met with a strong smell of gasoline. Flipping open the deck hatch and looking below, I could see about two or three inches of greasy gasoline sloshing in the bilge, and the only piece of material below decks that hadn’t been replaced in the last two weeks, a six inch run of rubber fuel line, steadily dripping more. For those unfamiliar with the characteristics of gasoline when sloshing around in a confined space, it tends to vaporize and become extremely explosive. Even a small spark would have the potential to transform my small watercraft into the most spectacular display of the evening. About then, a group of kids on shore about thirty yards away set off a volley of bottle rockets in my general direction. On any other day of the year I might have done the environmentally responsible thing and carefully pumped the escaped gasoline into plastic containers to be properly disposed of. On this particular evening with bottle rockets and fire crackers zipping and popping, I chose the course of not blowing myself up and without delay activated the overboard bilge pump and into the bay it went. All was going well when unfortunately for me some tree hugger in a kayak spotted my impersonation of British Petroleum and reported me to the harbor master, who as luck would have it was a veteran of long years in the service of Greenpeace and took a dim view toward my act of self preservation. The fine was substantial. By the time I soaped the bilges down and got everything cleaned up, the fireworks display was long over and I was again left wondering just what it is about boats that, like women, keep me coming back no matter how shabbily I am treated.
Sometimes I think that if a campaign were enacted in which all boats forever more were to be referred to as he rather than she, they might be magically transformed into objects requiring little to no cost or maintenance, and be forever ready at a moments notice to provide a no questions asked platform for the excessive drinking and smoking activities of their fellow men. Until then the she’s that come and go in my life will demand acceptance of that which I will willingly, if perhaps secretly defer to.