Copyright 2005 by Cap’n Fatty Goodlander
Somehow I became, despite all logic and common sense, an ‘internationally respected marine expert.’ How? Well, I think it was a combination of four things: 1.) I was blissful… in the ‘ignorance is bliss’ sense, 2.) I didn’t know what I was talking about, 3.) I didn’t KNOW that I didn’t know… and, frankly, 4.) I didn’t care.
Let’s put it another way: the only two jobs I’ve ever had were ditch-digger and marine writer… and the ditch-digging tended to cut into my drinking time. Thus, I ended up an ‘award-winning marine journalist.’…stupid, eh?
You have no idea HOW stupid! Example: the last two weeks of my life.
“…shouldn’t we.. er… work on Wild Card a bit before we sail her around the world again?” asked my long suffering wife Carolyn.
Carolyn is like that. Always nagging. A worrywart. And, worse, a complainer: “The boat is out of water/diesel/rum,” she whines. “I don’t have any shoes,” she laments. “Could I have five dollars to provision for six months across the Pacific?” she begs.
Yes, it is always ‘a drama’ with that woman.
Sometimes she makes me regret I am, as one Old Flame delicately put it, a ‘raging heterosexual.’
“Don’t insult the vessel,” I yawned back at Carolyn as I fluffed my salt-encrusted pillow and resumed by after-lunch nap. “Wild Card is fine. Tip-top! Bristol! Cherry! Lloyds A1! Way-cool!”
Frankly, my vessel looks like a bomb went off. I never do anything to her, except deep-six all the crap that falls outta the rig, because I’m too busy telling other people how to maintain their pristine Hunklies, Swans and Little Harbors.
“What story were you working on between your mid-morning snooze and your afternoon nap,” Carolyn recently asked me.
“An article on gold-leaf,” I muttered.
“I didn’t know you’d actually ever gold-leafed anything,” she said.
“Well,” I admitted. “You might be right… but, hey, it can’t be that hard, can it? I mean, you just smear the gold-leaf over your genitals…”
“I think, my dear,” Carolyn said gently, “that ‘fig-leaf’ is what you’re thinking about.”
“Really?” I said, mouth agape and hand-on-chin in consternation, “perhaps more ‘diligent research’ is in order, eh?”
“Yes,” she said, “and, anyway, it is time to get up.”
“What?” I said, “but I’m just getting comfortable napping!”
“But you wouldn’t want to miss dinner, would you?”
“No, indeed,” I said briskly as I swung my feet onto the cabin sole, “…you know how goal-oriented I am!”
Where was I? Ah, yes. The last few weeks of boat-nightmare.
We left St. John on our around-the-world trip and got as far as Christmas Cove, about two miles away.
“Not a long passage,” Carolyn noted, “but a good one.”
“It was rough in the middle,” I reminded her. “Some of those wavelets were sort of sloppy. Current Cut is aptly named. I didn’t actually deploy our Para-tech sea anchor, true, but don’t think I wasn’t considering it!”
The real reason we pulled into Christmas Cove was because our exhaust system was leaking.
“That’s allowing poisonous gas to get belowdecks,” I told Carolyn. “We can’t have that… brain damage can result.”
“You’re handsome, kind, and a good wage-earner,” she said to me dreamily.
“DRAT!” I said, “Too late!”
There was a tiny pinhole in the galvy exhaust pipe but, alas, the entire section turned to rust-dust when I touched it with a putty-knife of wet Marine Tex. (Couldn’t they make the Marine Tex mixture less stiff, for gosh sakes?)
Thus, because of the ridiculous stiffness of Marine Tex, I had to replace my entire exhaust system from transom thru-hull to diesel manifold.
“There!” I shouted triumphantly as I wiped my greasy hands off on a copy of The Watchtowermagazine which I carry for just such a purpose. “Thank you, Lord! NOW we’re ready to sail around the world!”
“Aren’t we gonna… sea-trial the repair,” Carolyn asked. “I mean, take a little ten minute shake down cruise?”
“Ye of Little Faith,” I scolded her. “Honey, when I fix something, it’s fixed. F-I-X-E-D! As in, like, forever! Cast off, okay?”
Alas, I was wrong. Slightly… well, okay, a LOT wrong. The brand new Fat-engineered exhaust system leaked worse than the old one. In fact, it had more leaks that the White House! Fumes poured out one end, saltwater leaked out the loose joints at the other. This required reassembling the entire mess TWICE… the final time at sea… becalmed off the north coast of Colombia… while slowly drifting sideways through a fleet of mid-sized, blacked-out freighters being loaded with drugs.
“Are you sure we’re safe here,” Carolyn asked, as we wrestled with our monkey wrenches. “I mean, I know you say the deck guards on the boats around us are waving welcome… but I could swear they’re waving us AWAY with those Uzis!”
“Hey,” I told her, “don’t be prejudiced just because their faces are covered in scars, topsides riddled with bullets and their vessel’s name is written in duct tape… after all, we’re rabid capitalists too!”
Finally, we fixed the exhaust system and went putt-putting away. To celebrate, I decided to have a drink, placed it on the coffee table/engine box, and tossed in an olive.
It tossed the olive back out.
“What the hell?” I said.
“Yeah,” Carolyn concurred. “Ain’t the boat vibrating a bit more than usual?”
It was. Very much. Being in the boat with the engine running was like attempting to live within a paint shaker!
“Damn,” I said as I threw open the engine compartment and observed the engine attempting to jump off its beds with each piston thrust, “we’ve got a loose engine flange mount!”
This required re-aligning the engine. We do this as a team. Carolyn places a .0005 inch feeler gauge between the prop flanges while I hit the engine with a ten pound sledge.
“Did it move?” I ask her.
“Yeah,” she said. “About a yard. But I think to ultimately get the engine to stop vibrating excessively underload… we’re gonna have to move it less than a yard at a time… say, even less than a foot at a time!”
“Hey,” I pouted, “I can’t help it if I’m all-man!”
Finally we got it aligned. Hooray! And the exhaust still didn’t leak. YAHOO! We felt we were pretty much home free… until we looked at the temperature gauge.
It was leaning to the right, and Carolyn didn’t like it.
“Hey,” I said, “Sure, it was middle-of-the-road when I installed it during the Clinton administration… but it is an American instrument on an American yacht… and Dubya is president now… and everything is leaning to the Far Right!”
“Don’t be silly, Fatty,” she said. “When was the last time you replaced the impeller?”
“Let’s see,” I said. “New Zealand, maybe? I mean it was DEFINITELY after the millennium!”
Carolyn wouldn’t except any mealy-mouthed excuses and forced me to ‘whip out’ the impeller.
“It looks okay to me,” I said as I handed it to her. “Both blades are still attached.”
“You idiot, Fatty,” she screamed. “It is supposed to have SIX blades, not just two! It is a miracle the diesel ran at all! Why did you wait so long to replace it?”
“Laziness?” I mused. “Cheapness? Stupidness? All-of-the-above?”
Finally we pulled into the Canal Zone and were soon belly-up to the Panama Canal Yacht Club bar.
“I’ll have a Jack Daniels, por favor” Carolyn shouted at the bartender, “and a Shirley Temple for the wimp I’m with!”
I was just about to dream up a scathing & clever retort when I was stopped in mid-formulation by a fan.
“I just wanted to tell you, Mister Goodlander,” the smiling yacht-attired guy said, “how much I enjoy your marine articles, especially the technical ones.”
I felt Carolyn slump beside me, and heard her mutter, ‘MISTER Goodlander?’
“Thank you,” I told the guy, then added brightly, “After all, most voyages fail before the boat ever leaves the dock! Preventive maintenance is the key, really, and by preventive maintenance I mean…”
I didn’t allow it to stop me, but I could hear Carolyn shouting loudly at the bartender, “…make it a double, Senior, and bring me a pair of earplugs too!”
Cap’n Fatty Goodlander lives aboard Wild Card with his wife Carolyn and cruises throughout the world. He is the author of “Chasing the Horizon” by American Paradise Publishing, “Seadogs, Clowns and Gypsies” and “The Collected Fat.” For more Fat-flashes, see fattygoodlander.com