The Fix-It button

Has your recent experience with a too-low bridge got you singing the blues? No poblem. Just this the Fix-it button. Photo by Christopher Birch

March/April 2021

By Christopher Birch

“If you could have any boat, which would you choose?” my son asked me.

“Easy choice,” I replied. “I’d take that new one with the Fix-It button.”

You may not have heard of this newfangled device. I think I first saw it on Reddit. It works like this: When something onboard breaks, you just push the Fix-It button and – boom! – it’s fixed. I’m pretty sure it comes as optional equipment from one of the Swedish boat builders. I bet they put it in that spot labeled “Spare” on the DC distribution panel. It would fit right in, take up very little space and you would hardly even notice it. If priced appropriately, I think it would be a fine feature to have.

Engine overheating? No problem, just press the Fix-It button and the sea-strainer is cleared, a new impeller is installed and the temp needle drops back to 170F before you can say “Wow!”

Left the new dock lines back on the shelf in the store? No problem, just push the Fix-It button and the old ones, nearly chafed through in spots, are suddenly as good as new.

Your kid’s friend clogged the toilet again? No problem, just push the Fix-It button and that head will immediately be running as free and easy as the old trough urinals at Fenway Park.

Let’s be honest, boat repairs just slow you down. And preventative maintenance is such a bore. April is peer pressure month down in the boatyard. Everyone sanding and painting away. It’s exhausting just to watch them work. Do we really need to wax the hull and install new zincs every spring? They say you’re supposed to brush your teeth every day, too, but who has the time? There just aren’t enough hours in the day. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to keep my blood, sweat and tears for a change. Tapping the Fix-It button and kicking back with a magazine and beverage sounds like the way to go.

Boats have so many parts, it can be hard to find the motivation to repair every last thing aboard. “The manual bilge pump can’t be that important, you hardly ever use it,” notes my friend Rusty. To the same point, many of us hate being nagged by the expiration date on our flares and fire extinguishers. We didn’t exactly get a lot of bang for our buck out of those things last year. Will this year be any different? Why throw good money after bad?

Then there’s the issue of the hailing port. It’s rumored that the hailing port on the transom is supposed to match the hailing port on the documentation paperwork. But in the real world, who’s going to come out and check that sort of thing? A simple Fix-It button would clear up some of these ethical quandaries nicely.

Are you tired of singing that classic old sea shanty, “But That Repair Would Cost More Than the Boat Is Worth!?” Well then, the F-I button is for you. Or is Popeye’s lullaby, “The Boat Is Only 19 Years Old, Why Would the Shift Cable Be Broken Already?” stuck in your head? Then now’s the time to trade her in for the new marvel of naval architecture making waves in the Baltic Sea.

Boating is supposed to be all about freedom. We want to be as free as the wind blows, and to ride our vessels without having to answer to The Man. With an F-I button, we’re free to go where we want to go without obsessing over each and every pesky rock that might be in our way. We’re free to fly our spinnaker in a gale. And we’re finally free to start a race on port tack.

Now if only those crafty Swedes could build one with a Clean-It button . . . .

Friend of the magazine Christopher Birch is the proprietor of Birch Marine Inc. on Long Wharf in Boston, Mass., where he’s been building, maintaining and restoring boats for the past 34 years. He is also one of Points East’s two new monthly columnists.