After the first and second time my boat tried to kill me, we got along fine, she and I. For awhile. I thought we were bonding; I couldn’t understand why things went sour. She had to know – from all the effort I put into giving her a pretty paint job – that I lo- . . . lo- . . . that I lo- . . . hold on, it’s coming . . . that I LOVED her! There! I said it!
And I did work hard all summer. My daily routine was pretty much this: start at sunrise, work until my head hurt, rest in the shade, work until my head hurt, rest in the shade, all day, until dark. Not only was it a hot summer with a few record-setting days, my boat was now on heat-absorbing gravel, nosed up against the wall of a heat-reflecting building. There were days I drank more than two gallon jugs of water and lemonade and didn’t visit the little room! A man just doesn’t work this hard, for no pay, for something he doesn’t care about madly, truly, and deeply.
So why did she try to kill me, again?
I did a very good job on her. I helped her regain her strength, inside and out. Without a doubt I’ve had my hands on every square inch of her, every curve of her hull and topsides, working life back into her. When you look closely at the paint job, you can find imperfections, but she passes the ten-foot test with flying colors. There’s a boat brokerage next door, so there are often visitors walking through the boatyard, talking boats, and several times people were amazed that my boat was nearly 40 years old. From the looks on their faces I’m sure their comments were genuine. So, yes, I am proud of making her look so good, so fine, so pretty.
I upgraded her portlights, too. I had strong Lexan plastic custom cut just for her, my baby. It was when I was installing them that she tried to kill me again.
My work area . . .
It was late in the afternoon, almost early evening, and the clouds above were building and growing darker. I didn’t care if it rained a little later, but not just yet: I still had one more portlight to install. It was one of the big ones, on the side deck. I was crouched on the side deck applying goop for a watertight seal when it started to drizzle. If the rain held off another 5, maybe 10 minutes, I’d be done. I wasn’t the least bit concerned about myself getting wet, and most of the side deck was painted with non-skid, so I’d be okay. Well, crouched on the side deck, I shifted my outboard foot and found a spot that was wet and slick from the light drizzle, and that’s when she did it, with perfect timing. Somehow, someway, even though my boat is up on the hard, on blocks and jack stands, somehow she must have ducked one side to roll me over the edge! Ya, she just dipped her shoulder, so to speak, and over I went.
Again, it never ceases to amaze me how quickly the human brain works when it is jazzed up by a jolt of adrenalin. In a fraction of a second I thought YOU’RE SLIPPING / NO, YOU HAVE SLIPPED – YOU ARE ON YOUR WAY DOWN AND THERE AIN’T NO STOPPIN’ YA / MINIMIZE DAMAGE! / IMAGES OF LANDING ON MY BACK ACROSS THE PLANK ON CONCRETE BLOCKS OR ON VARIOUS TOOLS AND STUFF ON THE GRAVEL / INSTANT SCENARIOS OF HOW MY LOVED ONES WILL DEAL WITH THIS, etc., etc. Adrenalin amplifies your senses, for sure: the individual drizzle drops, the clatter of my goop gun as it hit the deck, everything was – for just a very quick instant – all there in detail like a fight scene from The Matrix (those of you who’ve been in similar situations KNOW I’m not making this up!) And once again, I don’t know how I did it, but from somewhere deep in my brain came the proper commands for my body, not completely bypassing but just sort of glancing by my busy consciousness. I was airborne, but I was able to snag the toerail with my fingertips – that’s finger TIPS, mind you – to stop my rolling motion off the boat and onto my back. I landed on all fours at old man Don’s feet, who had been there talking with me. He took a sip of his beer and quietly said, “That was pretty good, better than watching TV, but next time, just use the ladder.”
I am not particularly afraid of heights, or of falling (I’ve jumped out of perfectly good airplanes just for fun), but landing safely on the ground is everything. I do not prefer – but do not mind – a landing that hurts me; what I very much want to avoid is a landing that damages me. If you haven’t noticed the accompanying photos, look at the bench / walkway under the boat – how would you like to land with your back across that?
Afterwards, a few weeks later, I figured out that my boat wasn’t actually trying to kill me. No, she was just trying to motivate me to finish her refurbishment and get her into the water where a lady like her belongs. (See Launch Day!)