The other day I was working on the boat as usual, after all that is how I spend most of my time onboard. For every 100 hours of repairs I get to go sailing for an hour or two. That is how it’s supposed to work isn’t it? The definition of a work boat; “a boat used for work purposes (as commercial fishing and ferrying supplies) rather than for sport” Can’t say I agree with this, my experience has been that a work boat is any boat that I own because I am always working on them. And lord knows I never make any money from them!
This day I was working on my roller furling up on the pointy end of the boat. You know sort of like being on the high wire without a net. I had taken the roller fuller drum apart to remove the unit from the stem fitting in order to accommodate the travel lift. I had to haul the boat out so I could work on the bottom and cutlass bearing (see the trend here.) While attempting to put fruler back together that one special part (you know the one, that part that cannot be replaced without sending off to Australia) had decided it had, had enough of the sailing life and attempted a successful escape over the side. The precious bit of shiny stainless was gone in the blink of an eye! Hmmm isn’t this how the Lord of the Rings got started; Sméagol finds the ring in the water where no doubt some hapless boater had lost it years before. NO! Not my Precious! Gone! Gone!
I stood frozen, time seeming to slow to a crawl as I watched in disbelief as the “precious,” with a last glitter and twinkle, slowly swirled out of sight into the murky water. Thoughts raced through my mind, should I jump in after it? Can I reach down fast enough to grab it? What if I………… but it’s too late it’s gone. Nothing remains but the ripples on the surface and a few tiny bubbles floating to the surface as if to tease me. “I’m down here come get me!”All too soon the ripples and bubbles are gone too, yet I continue to stare into the depths as if I could will it back to the surface. Maybe just maybe, hope upon hope, it will float back up where I can grab it! Hope fades as I continue to stare blankly into the murky water. Damn you gravity!
It is at this point that the emotions flooded over me. That sick feeling I had as a teenager when my first love walked away from me comes rushing back. I find myself wanting to call out “Please baby! Please come back!” ” I promise I will not be so clumsy next time!” But I know it is too late, it is gone. Desperately, thoughts of how to retrieve the “precious” race through my mind, just as thoughts once raced through my mind of how to retrieve my lost love. “If I send her flowers, maybe if I write her a song or I could………” Staring over the side my mind begins to race.
“I know I will get that big magnet I bought at that yard sale last year” I think with a glimmer of hope! But just as quickly I realize that won’t work the “Precious” is made of stainless steel it will not stick to a magnet. Damn you magnetism! I then think about different methods of using that old fish net I have buried in the aft lazerette. There must be some way to get it back, there simply must be! After all it is only 8 feet below me, not that far really, just a lousy 8 feet away. I could dive for it if were not for that alligator lurking off on the other side of the marina. He has been waiting for me to make just such a mistake. And of course the fact I could not see my hand in front of my face once in the water. So close, yet so far, it is like it has dropped into another dimension. It might as well be on the surface of another plant! The water is like the interface into another world, a world just beyond my reach. Frustration and anger begin to creep in.
As hope fades my emotions change, I feel the anger at myself for being so clumsy, for not holding on tighter, for not taking my time. Just like my lost love I blame myself and think of all the “if only I had done this or that.” But this is pointless and I know it. Just like the cute redhead of my adolescent dreams I know in my heart the “precious” is gone. But I must try I cannot give up without at least trying. After all you never know till you try, do you? And I am a sailor, a seafaring man, sailors never quit, never give up, not even when all hope is lost. We are a stubborn lot, not willing to let a bit of shiny stainless get the better of us!
So with head hanging low I head back to the cockpit to try and find any tools that will help. The tide is high now and I know if I wait a few more hours I will gain a few needed feet closer to my lost bit of shiny stainless. Digging in the depths of the starboard lazerette I find the old fish net the kids used 3 summers ago to catch minnows in the shallows. With duct tape in hand (no problem can be truly solved without duct tape) I tape the net to the extending boat hook. Stretched out as far as it will go I carefully lower the net into the water. Not a religious man, I offer a brief thought to God, just in case, one never knows and surely it cannot hurt. Ever so gingerly I feel the net touch bottom and drag it closer to where I think my lost hopes will be. As I pull the net slowly to the surface I hold my breath my heart races. Laying the net on the dock I start to dig through the mud and shells. There to my surprise and joy is the laying in the mud is a shiny bit of stainless. That small bit of shiny metal that will allow me to set sail one more time. My Love has returned! Life is good!
With my “Precious” clasped firmly in my hand I return to the cockpit and set it safely down below. I have had all the excitement I can handle and feel I have used up all my luck for the day. The repairs will wait for tomorrow. Time to settle back with a well deserved glass of rum and cancel that order placed to Australia!
As published in Latitudes & Attitudes
By Capt. Wayne Canning