Category Archives: humor

We’re here to fish…

Every so often, one of us will say or do something so notoriously noteworthy that our friends and family will never let us live it down. Sometimes a simple statement will live on, years, even decades later, haunting us, taking on a life of its own. My husband made one of those infamous quotes, and it’s gone on to embody a certain philosophy our family holds to, especially at times like these: the holidays.

It wasn’t long after we’d met; we were both still in high school at the time. It was one of those perfect summer days: the sun was warm without being hot and there wasn’t a trace of humidity. The sky was a flawless, cloudless cerulean blue that went on forever. It was an ideal day to go fishing. With his kid brother along, we slid his flat-bottomed boat into the bed of the pickup, loaded up our tackle and headed up to a nearby lake. How could anything go wrong?

Well, to start with, upon arrival we discovered the battery for the trolling motor never made it from the garage to the truck. Frank had asked his brother to load it; his brother thought Frank had grabbed it. But we had oars and we had rods and tackle, so we forged ahead.

It wasn’t long before it became obvious the fish weren’t biting. Obvious to his brother and I, at least. But it was a beautiful day and it was peaceful just drifting in a little boat on that sparkling lake. I put my rod aside, leaned over and trailed my finger in the cool water. Frank’s brother leaned back and gazed up at the sky, soaking in the sun’s rays. But Frank refused to accept defeat. He continued to cast and reel with great determination. I watched, bemused. Cast, reel. Cast, reel. Cast, reel. At last he finally paused, regarding me and his brother, our rods down and towels clearly thrown in even as we enjoyed that summer afternoon and he uttered that memorable quote:  “Damn it, we’re here to fish, not to have fun.”

No sooner than those words left his mouth, a look crossed his face as his brain processed what he’d said. I promptly burst out laughing and he shook his head in defeat. “You’re never going to let me forget that, are you?” he said.

I haven’t. In fact, that statement’s gone on to symbolize whenever the quest for fun turns into an epic battle. When doing what you love becomes more of a chore than a pleasure, you’ve reached the ‘here to fish’ moment. We’ve all been there: we get so wrapped up in what we’re doing that we lose sight of why we’re doing it to begin with. Most anything we do for pleasure can gradually turn on us if we’re not careful. Vacations fall victim to the ‘here to fish’ mindset; the hopes and expectations are so high, the time limited, and people make themselves crazed in an attempt to do it all. And it happens a lot this time of year, with the pressure to have a perfect holiday often overriding the point of the holiday to begin with. But whatever you’re doing, be it celebrating with family and friends, or fixing a boat or writing or even fishing, always remember why. The object of the game, plain and simple, is to have fun.

Happy Holidays, and a safe and healthy New Year to all!

But how did you get here??

Last week I mentioned cruising aboard the little cuddy-cabin my husband and owned back in our twenties. And as I said, we had many good times aboard that boat. But there’s one in particular we still laugh about – our arrival at Block Island. It was right after that two-day stop-over in Mystic, and wanting to squeeze in as much time as possible on the island, we departed the Seaport before dawn had  begun to tint the horizon. We had our course plotted, the engine was running perfectly, and off we ventured into the darkness.

The passage went smoothly, with nothing but miles of wide, flat rollers while the engine hummed and the blackness gradually gave way to a murky fog-bound grey. We stayed on course, and right on schedule, we reached the red bell buoy marking the entrance to the Great Salt Pond. We motored slowly through the crowded anchorage and made our way to Payne’s Dock, where we had a slip waiting at the floating dock with the thirty foot and under crowd. It was still early; the sun was starting to burn away the gloom, people were just beginning to stir, and the fellow on the 28’ flybridge Carver we were docking beside paused from his mug of steaming coffee to give us a hand tying up. And then he asked the strangest question.

“How did you get here?”

Huh? I looked to my husband, he looked to me, and we both looked to the boat we’d docked only moments before. The answer seemed fairly self-evident. But maybe not. Carver asked a second time, as though we hadn’t understood the question. In reply, I pointed to the boat we were standing in.

But that, it seems, wasn’t the answer he was looking for, so this time he rephrased his question. “But the ferries aren’t running yet. How did you get here?”

Am I missing something here? My husband and I look at each other, perplexed, and this time I state the obvious: “We came by boat.”

Still Carver looked as baffled as us, and finally he elaborated enough to explain his confusion and clear up ours. He said, “But the ferry isn’t running this early. How did you find the island?”

Ahhh! That’s what he meant. I pointed to the compass and my husband held up the chart.

“Oh,” Carver replied. “You know how to use those? We just follow the ferry.”

And sure enough, later that day as we hiked around the island and saw the ferry arriving, it was trailed by a small flotilla of boats, much like a duck with ducklings. Apparently, our friend from the docks wasn’t the only one who used that method of navigation. And while it may have been a reliable way to get from point A to point B in those pre-GPS days, personally, I’d rather plot my own course to explore new and unfamiliar waters, rather than follow in someone else’s wake.

The K.I.S.S. approach to cruising…

C.E. Grundler

The other day I overheard a couple discussing their ideal boat, and I’ll have to admit, it was impressive. The fun of theoretical boats lies in the fact that no expense need be spared — we’re talking theoretical, after all.  But as I listened, I recalled that very boat, the *ideal* boat, because I’d been docked beside it once, years ago.  And more important, it brought to mind a lesson I learned along the way – one that has stayed with me ever since.

My husband and I took a little cruise aboard Sandcrab, the little cuddy-cabin we owned at the time. It wasn’t much of a cruise, really, just a short getaway. Our daughter was small and my parents offered to watch her for a week, so we threw a dufflebag of clothes and an ice-chest of coldcuts, soda and bagels onto our 23’ vessel and set out for adventure… or at least a few days to ourselves. And let me tell you, we were cruising in style.  Amenities consisted of vee-bunks beneath a deck that leaked (some things never change) a porta-potti, and the aforementioned ice-chest. Instruments consisted of a compass, VHF and a depth finder that read ‘ERR’ whenever the water got skinny, and we had a stack of paper charts.  That was it. This was before the time of GPS on shiny tablets, cells phones and all the other bells and whistles that many couldn’t imagine leaving the dock without these days.

And yet, aboard that little boat we traveled to some wonderful locations. There was no set cruise plan; we picked a spot, set out, and since the boat itself hadn’t drained our budget we were able to tie up in some very nice marinas each night. With a boat that small, there was never need to call ahead; they’d always find some spot to tuck us in, and transient fees were minimal. At Mystic Seaport we found ourselves placed into a slip meant for a boat three times our size, surrounded by vessels we could only dream of, towering over us quite comically.

The couple to our port side were lovely people, liveaboards with a well-used boat and countless miles beneath their keel. The couple in the shiny new ketch to starboard, with the TV flickering and the AC humming, however… well, let’s just say HE wanted that *&#@%! boat, and SHE wanted to spend that money remodeling the kitchen… and needless to say, neither of them were happy. With the way sound carries through fiberglass hulls and water in the quiet hours of the night, we all knew in great detail just how unhappy they were. He kept raising the volume on the TV, and she kept raising her volume to match. My husband had walked down the road in search of ice to replenish our cooler, and I was about to go over and say something when the fellow to port had a word with starboard about keeping it down.

When my husband returned, all was once again quiet on the waterfront. As he climbed aboard with the ice, he looked to starboard and remarked about ‘someday, a boat like that.” I explained how not everything about that boat was as shiny as it appeared. And while that couple stayed below with all their fine amenities, simmering anger and resentment, we happily ate our cold sandwiches in the cockpit, then wandered the now silent, darkened Seaport filled with magnificently restored square riggers, schooners and sloops, sitting ghostly in the moonlight.

That little boat took us many places, on that cruise and others, and through it all I came to appreciate the freedom that came from keeping things simple. We could tie up just about anywhere, and occasionally we even skipped the baloney sandwiches for dinner in some very nice restaurants. And when we chose the trawler we have now, we intentionally sought something on the small and simple end of the scale. Yes, it’s nice to have an enclosed head, a real stove and standing headroom, but 32’ still leaves us the ability to cruise in the style to which we’ve become accustomed… at least, once we’re back off the hard, that is!

And for a bit more on really K.I.S.S. boating, a ‘build your own’ video, (it’s funny how much these engines sound like my diesel,) as well as a wonderful demo video of the boat pictured above, (sorry, no subtitles, but I do love that this guy is wearing an ‘Eight Heads in a Dufflebag’ tee-shirt!): Ponyo Pop-Pop Boat

 

5200 and True Love…

It’s funny how certain memories can slip to the back of your brain for years, filed away so deeply that they’re all but forgotten, yet the strangest triggers can retrieve them instantly in perfect detail. In that moment of catching a few notes of a song I haven’t heard since high school, drifting from the open window of a passing car, suddenly I recall the precise lyrics as well as friends I was with one rainy afternoon so many years ago, friends I hadn’t thought about in decades. It’s something I’d all but forgotten, yet it all comes back to me in with such vivid clarity, as though it had only been yesterday.

Scents are even more powerful. One whiff of mothballs and I’m eight years old, rummaging through the trunks in the attic for hidden treasures. The right combination of a bus passing outside Starbuck’s, and my brain remembers a backdraft of diesel over the transom mingling with the aroma of fresh-ground coffee as we passed the massive neon Maxwell House cup, perpetually dripping that last drop of coffee, glowing like a beacon along the Hoboken shoreline as we motored down river. The scents of sawdust and varnish don’t have any specific moments attached to them, or perhaps it’s that there are so many years of moments that they’ve all blended together, but whatever the case, it’s not so much a single memory so much as an emotion. I smell that smell and my brain switches to ‘happy’.

truelove

So what is it about removing old 3M 5200 from Annabel Lee’s rudder components, a task I’ve been attacking with a pick, thread by thread in endless sessions and feel as though I’ll never complete, that brings to mind my late friend Butch, and leaves me with a smile? It’s not a sound or a scent. It’s a riddle Butch once said that my brain retained as surely as if he’d set it there with that very adhesive. “What’s the difference between 5200 and true love?” he’d joke.  “5200 is forever.”

Brochures for the abnormal boat buyer…

The other day I was looking at some new boat brochures.

No, don’t panic! Don’t think that I’m even considering letting go of my beloved Annabel Lee for something sleek, glossy, and modern. That’s just not happening, especially now that the great deck re-coring is nearing the end. (For real, dear readers! But that’s another post for another day.) No, it was more a case of morbid curiosity. In my eyes these newer boats, with their sloping bows, asymmetrical salon windows and roll-bar radar arches, all seem to look alike, and I’d always wondered what sort of interior lurked inside one of these shiny new vessels.

Well, for the most part it was pretty much as I expected. Page after page of brochure showed nicely dressed beautiful couples and smiling families enjoying perfect weather as their boats skimmed across smooth water. Sunsets, tranquil anchorages, all in the comfort of beautifully spacious cabins. Everything inside is equally as sleek and modern, with sweeping curves designed to maximize every inch of cabin space per foot. More photos showed décor options and extras. Upholstery choices. Comfort groups. Even fitted sheets. Yes, fitted sheets were an available option. But as I reached the last page, there wasn’t a single picture of the one thing I really wanted to see – the engine room.

Apparently, I was told, engines weren’t something the normal boat buyer wants to see. No. Engines, it seems, are low on the list of concerns with a prospective customer making that all important boat buying decision. Fitted sheets, yes. Engines, not so much. It turns out, there are actual study groups, with actual normal boat buyers, (oddly enough, I wasn’t invited,)  to determine what it is new boat owners are looking for in a new boat, and these brochures are the direct result of these studies.

So there you have it. It’s no surprise to learn I’m not exactly a normal boat buyer. Which, I suppose, is a good thing. Otherwise, brochures would have pages of dirty, itchy people, sweating away in paint and epoxy stained clothing, surrounded by power tools and scraps of lumber, rolls of fiberglass and resin. Photos would show core construction, accessibility of fuel lines, detailed diagrams of hydraulic steering systems, and engine rooms galore! No fitted sheets, though. I’m not saying they wouldn’t be nice – just that they’re waaaaay down on my list of priorities, boat-wise.

Come to think about it, I’m starting to see the reasoning behind these new boat brochures.

The WHOLE thing?

The whole hole. Think it’ll leak?

I’m often amused by the reactions our work aboard Annabel Lee draws from onlookers and passers-by. Last weekend a fellow stuck his head into the shed, hoping to locate one of the mechanics and a set of jumper cables to fire up his Jet-Ski. He looked up at my husband and I, decked out in tyvek pjs, filtration masks and full-face eye protection, then he looked to the powertools in our hands and the massive opening where the salon ceiling once was and said, “You’re fixing this boat? That WHOLE thing?”  Another fellow once told me how he’d love a boat like ours, with all her character, though he didn’t feel he was “brave enough for a project like that.” But the comment I most frequently, and the one that amuses me the more than any, is how lucky my husband is.

Me, looking my most glamorous!

If I had a nickel for each time I’ve heard that one… well, nickels don’t go that far these days, but you get the idea. I’d look from our boat, which appears to have come through a missile-testing site, to my stylish apparel, and in truth, at first that statement used to baffle me. Apparently, it turns out people are under the impression that my husband has the most understanding and helpful spouse; after all, I’m always down there at the boat, working away. In fact, I’m down there more often than him. And around our yard, around the scary-project boat area at least, it’s a man’s world, one where women are few and far between. I never thought much of it, after all, compared to Christine and several other friends, I’m merely a weekend boater; an amateur by comparison. It still comes as a surprise to me that others find my presence odd.

Myra Lee – MUCH less work!

Years ago, when I had my lovely little catboat, I heard some strange remarks as well. When I first bought her she was a bit rough around the edges, but each season I tackled more projects, and as time went on she really began to shine. My husband didn’t sail and I think in all the years I owned her, I had him aboard twice. But I recall walking down the dock one summer day to find an admirer gazing at her.  He pointed to the boat and smiled, saying how much he would love to have a boat like that… but all that brightwork! He told me, “I heard some girl owns that boat.”  I nodded as I climbed aboard. “Some girl,” I agreed. “Oh, it’s yours? Who does all that work for you?” he asked.  “Some girl,” I replied. It’s my boat. Who else would I have work on her? And when we first went to look at Annabel Lee, the broker immediately angled his conversation to my husband, who informed him, “Talk to her. She’s the one buying this boat. She’s the one who knows boats, not me.”

Perhaps if it was just me alone, it might not seem so strange. But as a couple, the assumption is that it’s the husband’s insanity, and he has such a supportive, understanding wife. But in our case, it’s the other way around. Yes, we work as a team and we’re in it together. Truth is I’m the insane one, (which is the reason we named her Annabel Lee, as you Last Exit readers might have caught) and I have a wonderfully supportive, understanding husband, though people seem to think he’s joking when he tells them, “This thing? It’s her boat. The whole thing.”

Annabel Lee – A whole lot of work!

Right or left???

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. My days of working in and around marinas and boatyards, either as an employee or a customer, has provided me an abundance of writing material.  Boats sinking, burning, heavy objects being lifted and shifted by heavy equipment,  stray electricity, storms, heat, ice,  and so on. Case in point: the above photo. The memorable quote in the above case was: “The mechanic stated he smell gasoline, and when he started the boat it just burst into flame.” Uhm….yeah. No comment. Amazingly, no one was hurt. A bit singed, perhaps, but the boat was a total loss. And then there’s the humans you find around the water. The marine environment attracts some truly unique and interesting characters, from the yard crews and office staff, to the customers, and even an occasional critter hiding in the attic. The transient pictured below was gently and humanely relocated to the nearby marshland. I could — and ultimately will — fill pages with the things I’ve seen and heard over the years. Of course, in a fictional context, names and situations will be changed, but the material I encounter is a virtual well-spring of inspiration on the behavior of humans on and around boats.  Some times I have to shake my head and laugh, (or at least try to laugh,) because you simply can’t make this sh*t up.  For example: the boat we found tied to the dock in the morning, half sunk, with a flooded cockpit, the forward hatch open, THE MAIN UP and the jib piled on the deck and hanging overboard. When I called the owner, he replied that he had left it that way because he “went sailing yesterday and will be going out tomorrow,” and he couldn’t, or wouldn’t, understand why leaving his boat under sail at the dock was an issue. It was a miracle it hadn’t gone over during the storm we’d had overnight, though he fully acknowledged that his cockpit drains were permanently clogged, which explained the abundance of water on the wrong side of the hull. Yet he couldn’t understood why I felt it necessary to call him on any of these matters. Maybe I’m being too picky, but behavior like that makes my head hurt. It’s something marinas deal with constantly, so we should be used to these ‘quirky’ customers.  And whenever I think I’ve seen it all, like the fellow complaining that someone dinged his boat – – a bashed up center console that annually sinks, is filled with junk and quite literally has grass growing through cracks in the cockpit — that I get a call that takes the prize. Caller, sounding slightly aggravated: “Yeah. How do I figure out where I am on the river?” Me, already getting a bad feeling: “You’re calling from a boat? Are you in distress? Is there some sort of emergency?” Caller: “No. I just want to park at the restaurant for lunch. How do I find you guys?” Me: “Uhm. Charts. Navigational instruments. Do you have them aboard?” Caller: “I don’t know how to use them. Can’t you just tell me which way to go?” Deep breath. Me: “Where did you start from, and are you travelling north or south.” Caller: “I got gas but I don’t know where that was, and when I left there I made a right. I don’t know that north and south stuff.” His tone grew more irritable. “Can’t you just tell me if I should go right or left?” Wince. These are the people we share the waterways with.  Another deep breath. Me: “Do you have a smart phone? Look up Google maps. That should give you a general idea.” Caller: “Oh, hey! Great! Thanks!” And when ultimately he did arrive, aided by his data plan,  it was aboard a shiny new $250K boat sporting every bell and whistle, including all the latest and greatest nav instruments. No, you can’t make this sh*t up.