One hot and humid afternoon, Andrew laid aside his practice torch and decided to meander over to the yard office to shoot the breeze with the yard crew. I hear his flip-flops snap away, growing further in the distance until I see him chatting with Adrian – the resident electrician and master of schedules. Andrew’s posture straightens up and he bounces on his toes for a moment, then they disappear into the office. I hope this means what I think it means. I wait, on edge, until they emerge. Balanced in Andrew’s arms are three packages that look like disintegrating cardboard – smashed, dented, soggy, and possibly mauled by a bear. Could those be….
I wish Andrew would bring them over my way, but instead, I can see him turn his back to me and drop those boxes onto a table closer the yard’s workshop. Everyone swarms the table and peeks toward something located in the center of the man-circle. What IS it!?!?
I’m trying not to get my hopes up, but those packages must be for me, and it must be the box I am waiting for. This is like Christmas! So much suspense until… Andrew turns around and waves at me.
He holds a “J”Shaped object in the air like a victory trophy.
MY KEEL BOLTS!
I knew it. “Don’t wave at me, just bring those over here!” Eventually, he listens. He wraps up his bolts, grabs a bag of washers and nuts, and returns to his work-station at the foot of my jackstands. Climbing my ladder in three trips, he takes each bag up one at a time.
“Heavy!” He tells me. The texture of the bolt looks silky until the ridges and grooves of the bolt threads shine and shimmer in the sunlight. Oh, they are so beautiful. Andrew opens the bag of washers and nuts, and I can smell the tinge of copper in the air. (Silicon Bronze is an alloy mix of 95% Copper, 4.5% Silicon, and .5% Manganese) They look so strong. I cannot wait to put them on.
“Should we put one on!?” I ask. Andrew mumbles something as he totters down my ladder. “Can we!” I chase him with my demands as he shuffles away. I see him wandering aimlessly through the yard, darting between boats, making idle chatter with whomever he sees out and about. I get it. I see what’s going on here. He’s not going to put one on today. Harumph.
He arrives the next morning, and the next, each day with something he deems more pressing than my bolts – usually Grin’s benches. (You wouldn’t think Grin would be left behind in this whole refit process do you? – He is getting three, fancy new benches made of honeycomb and fiberglass.)
I nag and nag. “These benches are NOT your most pressing matter, Andrew! What are you doing? This is ridiculous. No one will sink if Grin’s benches aren’t new. Grin! Tell him! Grin!”
“Hush up, you old nag.” Grin says in response. “These are going to be Ferrari benches.”
I roll my eyes. They are taking forever. “Andrew. Seriously, you don’t have to take so long with these benches. Just slap some patches over his old benches and call it a day. Can’t we play with my keel bolts!?”
Andrew smiles and blinks at me, just like he does to Leslie when she wants him to do something he doesn’t want to do. OURRAAHGHGHH! That IS annoying. I make a note to be less judgey when Leslie falls victim to a one directional “heated-discussion” in the future.
“Sonrisa, I’m practicing my fiberglass skills on Grin’s benches so I can do an excellent job at reconstructing the skeg you will not let go of.” Andrew explains to me one afternoon. I am not persuaded. We need to focus!
Toward the end of each afternoon, Andrew sighs and, as if to placate me, he picks up his torch. But, he doesn’t put in any of my new bolts! He just starts melting and re-melting that ridiculous old blob of fishing weights again and again.
Two WHOLE weeks go by.
May 1st arrives and I can’t take it anymore. I must appeal to his sense of mathematics. “Didn’t you say you wanted to have this keel project done in two months? We are one month down and you have a plan to do one bolt per day. I have fifteen keel bolts, so if we have any hope…”
Hours go by…
“…any hope at all of finishing on time…”
“You do want to make the North Indian Ocean sailing season for 2020, don’t you?”
Hours more go by; he drinks a beer with Boat-Yard Ryan. I am going to pull my eye sockets out.
It’s 6:30 p.m. and the yard has fallen to a silence. Everyone has gone home for the day and it’s nothing but Me, Grin, the Ghost living in the boat down the way, and Andrew fidgeting with his torch.
“It’s now or never, I think.” He says. I hear the weight of responsibility in his voice. I hear whispers in the wind from all the people who said over and over again my Captain is crazy for attempting this on his own. Suddenly, I feel a little guilty for being awful. But, you see, I’ve never doubted my Captain. I know he can do this. I know if anyone can do this, he is the one. So, I guess I forgot myself in my enthusiasm for the installation of new boat bling. I’m a little spoiled. I admit it.
“I can’t learn without doing it. If I mess it up, hopefully, I can just fix it. Right?” Andrew says, I nod in response. The torch gives it’s pop as it ignites, a poof of orange flame bursts out of the nozzle and then it starts roaring with its stream of white heat. He goes straight to his first bolt, making little swipes as he goes. Molten lead pours away from my keel like a waterfall in the silver light of moonshine. He collects it in his cake pan puddle until one whole channel big enough to remove my old bolt is melted away from my keel. If my heart were in my keel, this would definitely open-heart surgery.
But, my heart is not in my keel, nor my mast, nor my rudder. So, having all these pieces strewn about the yard is no matter. Andrew looks up at me, having finished his first cut. “I’m still here. Not to worry Captain Andrew. My soul is intact.” He nods, and decides to make his second cut.