I really hate to admit this, but there are at least a few boaty folks out there who can do a better job than I can.
Remember how, in a recent column, I said I was gonna hire a cleaning service to give the Betty Jane II periodic washdowns, the point being to give me a little respite from Florida’s volcanic summer heat? Well, guess what—I haven’t actually done it yet. But I’ve come pretty darn close, thanks to a guy named Dave who recently agreed to slap three maintenance coats of Epifanes Clear Varnish on Betty’s brightwork. We made the arrangements over the phone.
“Well,” said Dave, at the conclusion of the festivities, “I wouldn’t mind giving your boat a bit of a washdown before I start taping off the teak and moving on to the varnish. Just makes for a better job. Whatdaya think?”
“Sure,” said I, marveling at how fate sometimes hands you options you’ve been vaguely contemplating for umpteen-million years. “Go for it.”
Chalk up what happened next to a breakdown in communications, partly due to my inattention to detail and partly because the marina where Dave and Betty do their respective things is so meteorologically different from my home—roughly 200 miles away—that the weather in the two places is seldom the same. Hence, oodles of rain fell upon the marina over the following week, nixing the varnish job but allowing the washdown to proceed, while at the same time the sun shone bright on the homefront. So, when I arrived at the marina on the weekend to see how things were going, I had no idea that things had not really gone anywhere.
“Wow,” I marveled, when my wife and I first caught sight of Betty, “what a job that guy Dave did. Those three coats of varnish look spectacular, and so does the rest of the boat. She darn near sparkles.”
“Hey Dave,” I soon enthused via cellphone, “the varnish looks spectacular. So does the boat. What a job! Betty looks brand new!”
“Well, Bill,” Dave replied after a long pause. “I hate to burst your bubble, but all I did was a washdown. That was it—too much rain for anything else.”
Yikes! I was uncharacteristically tongue-tied for a moment, struggling to wrap my head around this newsflash. Then, tentatively, I said, “Well, Dave, ya know, I’ve been washing down boats, both commercial and recreational, for more than 50 years now and I gotta say—apparently I’m not that good at it.”
Talk about an ego buster! Was I, whom I’ve always considered a ruggedly individualistic, wholly self-reliant DIY hero, at least when it comes to most boat-related chores, perhaps WRONG, or at least partially so? And more to the point, was I not nearly as competent at taking care of boat-related biz, or at least certain aspects of boat-related biz, as I’ve always considered myself to be?
I pondered long and hard, until finally an old-time western movie came to mind: The Professionals, starring Lee Marvin, Burt Lancaster and, among others, Claudia Cardinale. I saw it, I guess, back in the mid-60s, and it featured a wild bunch of desperado types, each an expert at his own brand of violent endeavor, crossing the border into Mexico, with dynamite, horses and plenty of armament to retrieve a kidnap victim (Claudia) during the last days of the Mexican Revolution. The underlying theme? Getting a serious job done right often means hiring a highly skilled specialist or specialists.
This was a perfectly acceptable idea, of course. Yeah, the ruggedly individualistic, self-reliant approach to boats is okay, even necessary at times. But more often, a professional—or a whole cadre of professionals—is a better bet, especially when a whopper of a job arises, like an engine overhaul, a canvas or upholstery replacement, a total brightwork rehab or, in my own sad case (and I hate, hate, hate to admit this), the need for a thoroughgoing, thoughtful washdown.