Back when I was sitting in my sophomore high school English class, the then-future Jackie O was still deciding what color sheets to put on the Lincoln Bed in the White House. A while back.
One of my biggest discoveries in that class was that not every aphorism is as relevant to the reader, as it may seem, to the writer. Good ol’ Mrs. Bochmeyer put it this way, to all of us budding Steinbecks and Hemmingways: “Some phrases are trite and hackneyed, the first time they are used.” Good advice. Sooooo hard to resist, though.
Case in point. I’m really not sure if last night was the end of the beginning, or the beginning of the end. Poor little Punkin’ Seed has been on and off the operating table about a dozen times this spring. It was supposed to be a relatively simple spruce-up, and out the door. More or less an “outpatient procedure.” Oops, another one of those metaphorical things. It just slipped out. Sorry about that. Anyhow.
I ordered a bucket of this kinda-expensive fairing goop from Duckworks. Of course, I believed every word of the promo piece. This stuff was gonna’ go on like Brylcream to Elvis’ hair. Smooth and buttery. Like magic. Sure. My little almost-40 year old plywood day sailer was on her way to the concours d’elegance. I just couldn’t figure why nobody else had done something like this for the little spit kit sometime in all the years since the Man from Plains left a few peanut shells of his own in the Lincoln Bedroom. Smooth and buttery, I tell ya. (Like the man said, “trust meeeee…”)
Well, I ran outa’ magic fairing goop not even half way to the finish line. One side had a variable-thickness pancake makeup look. The other side was still multi-coated with spray-on primer. Yeah, I know. My sophomore-year science teacher told us not to have more than one experimental variable in the stew at a time. Yours probably did to. But, life is too short not to mess around with multi-variate matrices now and then. And, what better place to try “something new” than on the aging skin of a 37-year old plywood boat that once lived in a chicken barn? So, I ordered another bucket of goop from Chuck, and shifted to some sorta’ small details while I waited for the Pony Express rider to come galloping up the trail with my stuff. Oops.
Another aphorism. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!!
I’ve been piling on the ‘pox and glass tape around all the likely places water can find a way from the lake to the bilge. And, when I started spreading this amalgam, there were a whole lot of those places. I’ve been back to the same launch ramp a bunch of times since the ice left. Poor boat never leaves the trailer. Just sort of a sitz-bath. I back the trailer in, clamber aboard, and mark the spots with my Sharpie pen. After about the third try, a pattern began to emerge. Good ol’ scientific method, still valid after all these years.
Little pools of water just sort of emerge from someplace, and get deeper - in about the SAME places. More like-magic stuff, I suppose.
So, I decided to really lay it on. I mixed up the last of the ‘pox I had, and ordered more, of course. I slathered it on every seam and crack I could find. And, while I was searching for a place to rest my elbow, while sort of kneeling and leaning over in the little cockpit, I shoved my knee into one of the main stringers that pretty much holds the bottom of the boat into boat-shape. And, it crunched like a package of Shredded Wheat under your boot heel. This ain’t good.
Funny, sorta’. The innards of that mahogany stringer, lovingly mortised into those mahogany frames, and lovingly copper nailed through the quarter-inch marine ply skin all those decades ago; actually LOOKED like shredded wheat. WET, shredded wheat.
And another ineluctable truth. I learned this one, while serving on a couple really-old navy rust buckets. “Don’t chip the bilge. Because, you can’t paint running water…”
Well. I “chipped the bilge.” In fact, I took the whole centerboard trunk out, and am considering more “invasive procedures.” Punkin’ Seed has been admitted to the hospital. No more of these simple office visits. She’s either gonna’ get a new spine and hart. Or. She could die on the operating table.
I’ll let you know. When, I know…