Lately I’ve been feeling a tad bemused. On the one hand, I’m glad to be sniffing the conclusion of my lengthy rehabilitation of the Betty Jane II, a project that has cost me dearly in many ways. Heck, for almost two years now I’ve spent virtually every weekend working on my gorgeous, 30-year-old Cape Dory 28 Flybridge, replacing all her old systems with new, and sprucing up her teaky interior. And, as you might imagine, such a nose-to-the-grindstone regime has slowly but surely taken its toll—on my relationships (especially the primary one, with my significant other), my work ethic (which has faltered of late, if ever so slightly) and my bank account (which has also faltered, but not so slightly). I’d be crazy not to applaud the end of such an extravaganza, right?
But here’s the deal. While I certainly welcome the prospect of finally polishing the project off and being able to reward my wife, my friends and myself with some real, waterborne relaxation on the weekends, I simultaneously feel just a tad sad about the conclusion of it all, a little nostalgic even. And what’s more, the nostalgia seems to percolate up from a surprisingly odd and unexpected quarter.
The following two tales may help explain. The first one dates back to the very beginning, when I had the bright idea of using giant plastic garbage bags to contain all the components of Betty’s old sanitary system as I removed it, the point being to carefully avoid contamination of my hands, feet and torso with ancient, residual effluent. Did this stroke of genius actually work? Lord, no—in fact, it morphed into one of the most sordid, disgusting bathing jamborees ever to besmirch a boatyard. But get this. When I look back upon this gruesome episode today, I get fond amusement, not horror.
Then there’s the time, much further on, when I was installing Betty’s new air-conditioning ductwork; an endeavor that entailed, at one dicey juncture, enlarging an existing circular hole at the rear of a deep, narrow locker using a powerful, right-angle electric drill turning a monster six-inch hole saw. Drama ensued, I can tell you. I mean, when I pulled the trigger on that high-octane drill and that giant hole saw grabbed hold, my entire body, which was squeezed into the locker like a hot dog in a bun, attempted to rotate with all the oomph of an Airbus 380 at takeoff—thunk, YOW, thunk, YOW . . . bam!
When it was all over, I, of course, turned the ether blue with a venomous slew of remarks that are not repeatable here. But still and all—and weirdly enough—I now look back upon the affair with a faint smile, seeing a halo of humor around it, despite all the moolah I’ve since had to shell out on pricey chiropractors and massage therapists.
See my point here? Yeah, I’m very happy about coming to the end of Betty’s rehab—the project has demanded a level of ongoing commitment that’s often skirted the dark depths of lonely obsession. But hey, at the same time, I look back upon the entire thing with good humor and fond appreciation. And what’s more, the stuff I enjoy recalling the most is the stuff that, at the time, seemed to be flat-out, freakin’ deplorable.
So, here’s my plan. Over the next few months, as I chug along our nation’s waterways in the ol’ Betty Jane II, or maybe just kick back for a weekend in her cockpit with a good book, I’m gonna be careful—I mean, really careful—about using my flair for simple-minded good riddance to dismiss the difficulties that seem to arise. Instead, I’m gonna try to enjoy everything, in the moment, both good and bad.
And by the way, I’m really not hallmarking the end of an era at this point. Since I’ve devoted the past two years to Betty’s systems and interior almost exclusively, I’ve still got lots of topside chores to perform, like fixing the stress cracks on her foredeck, replacing the worn-out bedding compound under her stanchion bases and painting the … oh well, you get my drift!