Perversions of Spring

By Tom Neale, 5/29/2008


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Spring Fun
Varnish? Sand? Paint? Wait a minute. This is supposed to be fun. And none of that stuff is. It’s a long standing tradition that we’re supposed to do all that and more each spring to our boats. Every spring, magazines are full of pictures of people wearing masks and sanding, varnishing and painting, smiling underneath the masks, we’re led to believe. We’re supposed to look forward to this. We’re supposed to have fun doing it with our friends. Well, I think I know why those people in the magazines are wearing masks. It’s not because of the dust. It’s because they don’t want to be recognized. In my opinion, this tradition is perverted. It’s too much like work.

But I have to admit that I too suffer from a bit of perversion. Before I roll my 1985 Mako off the trailer each year, I do perform some consensual acts. For example, I clean my bilges. It’s not fun, but it is exciting. I never know what I’m going to find there. It’s better than watching Animal Planet. I also spray down the innards of my outboard with water dispersing penetrating oil and give it a good spray of anti-corrosion stuff. I figure this doesn’t really count as boat work. Whatever you can spray from a can is OK with me. And it exercises my finger--my index finger. But I can handle that. I need muscles in that finger for other things, like punching the buttons on my fish finder.

And I do paint my bottom—every few years. I figure if I don’t, I won’t be able to afford the fuel even more than I can’t afford it now. And consistent with that philosophy, I clean the bottom between paintings. I usually let it get a good growth and then jump in the water with a brush or a paint scraper. It’s not that I let it get a good growth because I’m lazy. I just like seafood. And I’ve found that when you let plenty of weeds grow on your bottom, you get all sorts of little shrimp or krill in the water when you clean it off. They taste like seafood (salty) and they have a nice crunch. And when I’m down there with a snorkel clamped between my teeth, I usually get plenty in my mouth. So there’re a lot of reasons to dive your bottom—particularly in this day and time. You go faster, you save fuel, and you get a free meal.

I also clean out my anchor locker each year. You may think this is strange, since the cool people lounging on the docks never look into anchor lockers, but I have my reasons. My reasons are wasps. They kept building nests up there. I wondered why I had so many of them when I first got my Mako, which had suffered through various previous owners. I finally figured it out when I realized one painful day that the wasps were actually mud daubers. There was so much mud in my anchor locker that they saw it as a perpetual free lunch. They never had far to go to get from their new nest site to prime mud, and I guess they were lazy too.

About Spring Cleaning

1. If you must do it, (spring cleaning your boat) start in the winter. That way you’ll be able to get out on the water much earlier.

2. It feels good to mess around on the boat when you get a warmer weekend in the winter. It’s great therapy for winter blues.

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So I got the appropriate equipment for the job and squeezed my shoulders into the little space and began digging. It was actually kind of fun. I felt like one of those people in the cave searching for the Lost Arc. The job was going just fine, the bow was rising, and the mud daubers were already looking for some place else to go. Then I hit water. I hadn’t really expected to hit water. It’s true that I was using a shovel and a pick ax, but I wasn’t using them that hard. I don’t like to work that hard. But my fears were soon laid to rest when I noticed that the water wasn’t rising. I apparently hadn’t put that pick ax through the bottom after all. I’d just pierced the final layer of mud under which was a small bucket filled with water. The first owner, in a transitory moment of cleanliness, must have put it there to hold the chain to keep it from making a mess. At this point in the bucket’s history the only thing it was holding was the bottom tenth of a mess and some very muddy water with some mysterious formerly living inhabitants.

Speaking of which, I also clean the bait well. This job wouldn’t be so important if I could just remember when I put the boat away in the fall to take the bait out of the well. It’s been interesting over the years trying to figure the evolution of that mess of bait as the winter months pass. It obviously dies first. Then it obviously rots. Then it obviously freezes. And thaws. And freezes again. And so on. By the time spring rolls around and I sneak up on the hatch with a wet towel over my nose, I never know whether it’s in its next phase or two of evolution or what. I do know that I hope it’s not moving—again. I’ve found that the safest way to do this (and also the easiest) is to jam a hose up the drain for the bait tank and turn the water on full blast, with a silent prayer that the stream is strong enough to keep any of the silent mass from swimming up it and into the plumbing.

I also carefully check and sometimes clean the little glove compartment type of space in the center console. It’s that place where you put things like suntan lotion, sun glasses, your wallet, and your cell phone. One spring I put my hand in there and found a black snake. I guess maybe it had been hibernating there. At that moment it was waking up and getting ready to do whatever it is that black snakes do in the spring. I’m sure that whatever this is has nothing to do with cleaning boats, because he beat me getting off the boat and I was moving pretty fast. The only problem was that I was out on the river at the time. I’d heard that black snakes don’t swim, but you can’t always believe what you hear. I do swim, but I had a hard time making up my mind as to which way I wanted to go—to the shore or back to the boat. I made up my mind quickly when I saw which way the black snake was going. Fortunately it was headed for the shore. I climbed back aboard, and began my first cleaning of the glove compartment.

In case you think I’m making up some of this, let me say that I would never make up stuff like this—well, maybe sometimes. Or maybe it’s somebody else. You’ll never know. I’ve got one of those masks over my nose and mouth. I wouldn’t want anyone to see me smiling while I’m having this much fun.

Copyright 2004-2008 Tom Neale