Life with Liz: Not quite ready to set sail
While the rest of the world has been preoccupied with the giant boat stuck in the Suez Canal, I’ve been obsessed with the fishing boat that has been stuck on my lawn for almost a year now. When last summer’s activities were put on hold, the Wonderful Husband decided that it was time to strip down his boat and rebuild it in preparation for lots of socially distanced adventures this summer.
Before I continue, I feel like I need to add a disclaimer that no actual boat terminology will be used in this column, and if it accidentally sneaks in, it’s probably being used incorrectly, and I may or may not be doing it intentionally to aggravate the sailors in the family.
The first step in this process, the boat was hoisted up on some pretty permanent looking horses right in the middle of the front yard. This was apparently the ideal place, as it allowed quick access to the tool shed, and electrical outlets were well within reach. The next step was to kill all the grass in the area. Well, at least I assume that was the next step. It was the logical conclusion to dumping paint stripping chemicals all over the bottom of the inverted boat.
When the first round of paint stripper failed to get all the way through the many layers of paint that had been applied over the years, the WH coated it with another thick layer of stripper and then covered it with a tarp and tucked it in for 24 hours. Underneath the hot sun, the boat resembled what I look like when I’m getting my hair colored and the stylist puts the foils on and sticks me under the dryer for 30 minutes.
The good news was that did the trick. The bad news was that everyone had to help scrape while it was soft and scrapable. Petulant kids armed with sharp edges and chemicals is such a fun way to spend a summer afternoon. A few hours later and we had a gigantic aluminum monument sparkling in the sun.
The next step involved something to do with leak testing and riveting. I probably should have paid more attention to this as I think it has some actual bearing on the seaworthiness of the craft going forward, but I was way too fond of saying “I don’t find this riveting.” I was quickly dismissed and ordered to never, ever make that pun again.
After that, the rebuild started in earnest. G and the WH collaborated on color schemes and gadgets and mapped out repairs to the outside, the inside, the electrical system, and the motor. I kept getting summoned to UPS to pick up yet another oddly shaped package that had to be handled with care. Our steady stream of Amazon packages was disrupted by deliveries from marine supply stores all over the country. I’m not positive, but there is a good chance that we single-handedly kept many of those businesses thriving these past few months.
As winter approached, the work came into the basement. Dinner table talk was full of plans to disassemble and rebuild motors and other electronic parts. After dinner, the interested parties would disappear into the basement, and eventually a faint smell of motor oil or varnish would waft up through the house. It was a nice break from the never-ending home repairs that had become monotonous over the past few months.
After one or two excursions down there, I decided that it was really better if I didn’t know what the inside parts of a motor looked like. Try as I might, as winter dragged on, my own interest in the project started to wane. I think the idea that we had to make a big mess to fix the big mess didn’t help my enthusiasm. But, the boat did serve to alleviate some of the boredom that came with a quarantine winter, so it had that going for it. Meanwhile, the hull slumbered through the winter, covered up and coated with snow. It was easy to pretend it was just another pretty drift of snow.
But now spring is here, and we’re in the home stretch of boat repair. At this point, I understand exactly how the ships waiting to move through the canal behind the Ever Given felt. There have been times when I’ve been sure that that thing is never, ever going to budge off the lawn again. I may also have threatened to turn it into a giant planter. I think it would look lovely filled up with dirt and petunias. No one else seems to like that idea, but they are definitely working faster these days.
With all the repairs, the WH estimates he’s breathed another few decades of life into the old girl. It was one of those projects that he always meant to get around to but was never sure he’d have the time to finish it all. This past year has certainly been a gift where time is concerned, and the memories and adventure that went into getting our boat unstuck will be just as valuable to us as the new memories we make on all the future fishing trips.
As for me, I’ve been promised some sort of special seating, ideal for soaking up the beautiful weather and lazy afternoons of reading books, while the fishing goes on around me. Now, I’m really looking forward to getting that boat off the lawn.
Liz Pinkey is a contributing writer to the Times News. Her column appears weekly in our Saturday feature section.