Saturday, May 7, 2016

Living ways

Kintala in her shady corner. Endless thanks to The Nice
Man at the Marina who thought to put us there.
There is so much going on in the world today, or at least in the tiny bit of the world we call the US of A. Donald Trump is going to be the Republican offering for POTUS. It probably doesn't take much of a clairvoyant to guess what I think about that. It appears that the other choice will be Hilary Clinton. It may take a bit more clairvoyance to figure out what I think about that. But the reality is, I don't actually think much of it. Nor do I think much about it.

What I do think about is getting through the day, doing the best job that I can, and getting back to Kintala in, more or less, one piece. Don't get me wrong, if a person has to have a job then a job like this one isn't a bad one to have. I am working with my hands, using skills that have evolved and matured over decades of working on and operating machines. But, like any environment where the work is physical and the machinery large, getting hurt is only one misstep or careless moment away. I am not as sure footed and lithe as in days past.

This is an outdoors job which, occasionally, adds to the risk and excitement. Earlier this week thunderstorms rolled through just before the crew punched in for the day's work. As my bi-lingual friend Edwin and I stood in the open bay door of the big shop, he nursing my toddler espaƱol, lightning stroked the palm tree standing just a few yards away. It was a close hit, thunder and flash at the same moment, leaves and bits of tree falling to the ground moments later; the air crackled and the smell of ozone floated by. Edwin was rattled, as would be any normal person.

I laughed.

All of us spent most of that day working in driving rain. The yard flooded so deep that one hesitated driving an electric gulf cart across the lot. The running joke of the day? “This is a NO WAKE careful of manatees.” But the work went on.

If I recall correctly, that day saw me on three different boats, ending up inside a Hunter sitting on the hard, with water pouring through every overhead hatch and skylight while lightning flashed overhead. Normally one would worry about the lighting, but this was just one of dozens of masts poking up into the sky. The odds were good that Thor would pick some other boat should he decide to tickle one for fun. Beside that, lightning had struck within yards of me already that morning. What are the chances any one person would see two such events in one day? Statistically, anyway, I was probably the safest person in the yard. Not that it mattered. “I'm afraid of thunder” isn't an excuse for cowering in the shop.

The good news is that the worst offender in the “leaking hatch of the Hunter” department was directly over the bilge. Removing a floor panel let the water fall directly into a ready made bucket where it could be pumped overboard without doing any (more) damage to the interior. The bad news was that the bilge pump would not work in either the “Manual” or “Automatic” mode. That meant yours truly was kneeling over said bilge trying to sort out wiring which had endured a savage mauling; wire nuts, open wires, broken wires, and corroded wires with multiple – unnecessary - splices within inches of each other. Getting the pump back online took a while, and all that while the leaking hatch dripped a Chinese Water Torture on my bald head, while the lightning flashed and the thunder rolled. (Oddly enough, the survey listed the trashed wiring but didn't say anything about the pump not working. Wouldn't you think it would be the other way around?)

The whole scene was so absurd that all one could do in response was laugh. Nearly everyone in the yard shared rueful smiles and snide remarks in passing with, “It's a lovely day in the neighborhood” being a common refrain. (Somehow I think Mr. Rogers would have understood our pirating his signature line, and approved.)

Nearly everyone, but not all. One of the other “new guys” (one of three and even newer than me) soaked to the skin and apparently unhappy with his lot in life, punched out mid morning; never to be heard from again. Not everyone has the needed sense of humor to do this kind of work, and it is probably better that he realize this sooner rather than later. Still, new guys have a tough enough time getting accepted around here. Having one walk away because of a little rain isn't helping any.

That was a couple of days ago, but the boats and the days all seem to run together. At the moment the Tug is still hanging out there waiting for glass work and parts, the Hunter is waiting for the owner to decide just how much broken stuff he wants us to fix. There is another boat on the hard that has no toilet in the head, (I took out the old one but the new one didn't fit so a new, new one, is on order). By the end of the week I was hip deep in an Island Packet that is getting all new instruments and mast wiring. That boat is already sporting new holding and fuel tanks along with a ton of other work that I know nothing about. But, like I said, it all tends to run together. Days get lost. On Wednesday I was convinced it was Tuesday which, all said and done, isn't a bad thing. It meant that Friday was a day closer than I thought.

The view of the Manatee River from the shore by the office.

Not all days are ones where Sister Sky is threatening to scorch one with a bolt from the blue. In fact, most days are sunny, with a view of the Manatee River, Tampa Bay, and the sure knowledge that the Gulf of Mexico is just “out there”. The ocean breeze blows and the water sparkles with reminders that there are far worse places to add some cash to the cruising kitty; places like offices and cubicles. One takes the sunny days, the hot days, and the days filled with thunder, as they come. The parade of broken boats never ends.

Sometimes I wonder why human kind evolved this way, with most of us endlessly grinding out “projects” to keep the “life kitty” solvent. On the other hand, the moments of each day are very specific, very centered. That is not a bad thing at all. The sages and the mystics all tell us that being focused on something is the very fount of wisdom. But having spent nearly three years living and traveling on a boat, where the “big picture” mattered more than the minutia of every day, I am still trying to adapt to the change.

The view towards Tampa Bay and the mouth of the Manatee River.

Now the focus is much tighter: run this wire, make this connection, replace this pump, make this engine run right. The “big picture” doesn't matter. Trump or Clinton, thunderstorms or sunshine, soaking wet in the rain or soaked with sweat. This thing, this thing that has barely anything to do with the rest of my life, needs to get done. And then there is the next thing. It is the way most of us live, and we have all gotten used to it.

But there is another way to live as well. Someday, I will live that way again.


Duff said...

It is so true, we all get caught up and focus on the wrong things far too often.
My current job is stressful, but at the same time is the most interesting job I have ever had and I really enjoy it. The stress is from the boss who has daily yelling and swearing sessions with many of us. He cant yell at the staff because of HR issues, so targets he the contractors. The yelling can get you down, but the sense of achieving things out ways the verbal bashing.
Until the project is finished it is helping with the sailing kitty, so I shall not complain. This current project is my last before starting my cruising plans where I wish to relax and soak up tranquil views.

Jeffrey Michals-Brown said...

You may have been the safest man in the yard, but that's nothing to do with the earlier lightning strike. Your just as likely to have your penny land "tails" no matter how the previous toss landed!

TJ said...

Ah, but BEFORE that first coin toss the odds of getting two heads in a row is one out of four. There are lies, damned lies, and statistics...

Matt Mc. said...

I actually get in trouble sometimes for smiling or even chuckling at meetings and such where "serious" topics are on the table. You HAVE to keep a sense of humor or you won't last (a la the morning punch out guy). The sun does come out and the tough days are (usually) balanced by lighter, more fun days.