Monday, March 23, 2015

A Day on the Edge …

Kintala is sitting in the worst possible anchorage for 15 knots worth of wind out of the west, which is exactly what the wind is doing. With 2 and 3 foot rollers topped with white tossing the bow around, it is the kind of day where little gets done aboard. Since this is a remote Cay with nothing on shore and I don't really want to launch the Dink, nothing will get done off board either. In conditions like these I do much better sitting out in the cockpit than I do being below so, in order to pass the day, I decided to sharpen some of the cutlery laying around here. (I sharpen knives for the same reason my Farther-in-Law used to do knitting, keeping my hands busy enough to occupy my mind when there isn't a lot going on.)

With the edge of the galley working knives something near useful again, and the day still young, some of the rest of the sharp-ware came next. The oldest of those is a Buck 110 lock-back that used to belong to my Dad's Dad. The very tip of the Buck is broken off and I have a hazy memory of Grampa Akey doing that while trying to open a can of wood varnish for me down in his little basement shop. I got my first real introduction to tools in that shop, though I remember Grampa mostly as a fisherman. He was also a printer and Union Activist back the last time working people had to wrest control of the country from the idle rich and arrogant elite. My guess is he would be disappointed that the victory his generation won at such a bitter cost, was so quickly undone. Barely 3 generations later and his great-great-great grand children are facing the same challenge.

The Buck is a pretty thing with a brass and wood inlay handle. It is a bit bulky by today's standards, and I only carry it when someplace cold enough to require heavy jackets and jeans. Another too-bulky-to-carry-every-day knife came from my Dad, a Sharp 300 lock back. Dad is in the home now, with a mind too far gone for sharp things to be left laying around. The Sharp is a good knife, not as pretty as the Buck but lighter with a wood inlay on the handle as well. Both have blades that are four inches long. If one pulled one out today to open up an envelope I'm sure security from somewhere would be right over to see what was going on.

Dad's normal use knife was a sharp 200, same as the 300 but with a 3 inch blade. He liked it enough that, in 1981, he gave me one as a gift. I carried that thing for years and years and still have it. It stays tucked away though. I taught myself the trick of gripping the blade and snapping the knife open with a flick of the wrist. It was a useful skill since, very often, one doesn't realize a knife is necessary until there is some greasy, slippery bit of something about to fall deep into some engine recess somewhere, already keeping one hand busy. Apparently the lock back bar wasn't really designed to be opened that way and, after a couple of decades, the lock failed. The only thing my old Sharp is good for would be to cut off a finger when the blade folded up under use. I can't bring myself to throw it away though, and it is here on Kintala.

Another gift from Dad, circa 1989 – Dad loved his electric inscribing tool - is a Gerber two-edged dagger in a boot sheath. Eight inches overall with no shearing guard and nothing wrapping the handle for grip, it isn't the most useful knife in the drawer. I call it my “punk knife” as it is mostly for making one look like a bad-ass. It did come in useful once when one of the old Harleys in the group suffered an electrical glitch and faded to the side of the road. As it turned out a serrated edge – if one is careful – makes for a working wire stripper. And, in this particular case, the screws needed doing and undoing could be worked by the tip. A multi-tool would have been much more useful, but I wasn't carrying one of those that day. (People who ride, or ride around with, old Harleys, should always carry a multi-tool.) In some 25 odd years, I think that was the only time the Gerber was drawn with a purpose.

The knife that got the most attention today was a Boker Plus sheathed, two-edged dagger salvaged from The Bear. The fool who owned the boat clearly “sharpened” the knife with a file. (Idiot, its a knife not a lawn mower blade.) I have worked on getting it to take a descent edge – on and off – since last Fall. It is taking some time. Time is what I had today.

Kintala bumped and rocked in the waves, settled (sort of) in this pretty little cove. At night this place is as dark as anywhere I've ever seen in the Arizona Desert, the flare of the Milky Way and a galaxy of stars uninhibited by any artificial light. There is no one here but us and we are pretty close to the edge of what passes for normal in the US today. The edge of the “Bear Knife” sang across the sharpening stone and, along with the Buck and the Sharps and the Gerber, caused tiny bits of the history that leads to this place to float by. I miss the crew of the Bear, would love to have them anchored nearby sharing this place. It was not to be, but we got close. Grampa Akey passed a long, long time ago and most of my memories of him have passed as well. But I remember some things, and they are all good. Keeping his old knife sharp and polished just seems like the right thing to do. Someday, maybe, it will find its way to a fourth generation of his family even though that generation will have no memory of him at all.

Dad is further away than just the distance between Crab Cay and the Home. Near the end of his journey, he is beyond my reach. But I smile at my “punk knife”, keep it sharp and shiny, and remember that we rode many miles together. He flew airplanes long before I sat behind a yoke, and spent thousands of hours underwater as a SCUBA diver and instructor. My gypsy past may have come from my Mother's Dad, but the adventure in me came from the other side of the family.

Soon we will be gone from this place, getting ready to stage back to the States, heading north for the hurricane season this year. These bits of the past will go along as we extend our own history just a little bit more. But it was a good day sitting on the edge...

1 comment:

Unknown said...

A man is not properly dressed without a knife. I have knives everywhere; car [knife and Leatherman], tackle box [Swiss army with pliers], tool box [junk blade], hunting bag, I even clip a knife to my chest when climbing and wearing a harness, just in case I need to cut myself out. I bought that big 12" "survival" knife from Harbor Freight, junk but fun to carry when hiking.

There was an email going around about the great things about being a man. My favorite line was, you can 'do' your nails with a knife.