Try a little character around the yard

May, 2001

By Dodge Morgan
A boat owner’s relationship with the boat yard is extremely complex and delicate, a duel of two very different perspectives towards the only reason for the relationship in the first place: The boat. It may appear on the surface that the key variable is money, but this is not necessarily true. If money were the “Holy Grail,” then one wouldn’t choose a boatyard for a business in the first place any more than one would choose to own a boat for net worth enhancement. As in so many of our life adventures, money is a way to keep score, but comes not even close to measuring the true experience. The role of money in almost anything falls to that old maxim, “If you got 10 bucks and what you want costs nine, you’re rich, and if what you want costs 11, you’re broke.” Personally, I never pay bills joyfu1ly, and that is especially true with boat bills. But if she tells me she has been well nurtured this year, the money matter fades fast.

To the owner, the boat is a love affair. To the yard, the boat is a work order. Love affairs are delightfully irrational. Work orders are prosaically practical. The owner’s sole object is the boat. The yard’s primary object is the time challenges of spring. What connects the two is the subjective, diplomatic relationship between owner and yard people, and the diplomatic burden falls to the owner.

A liberal owner’s approach would be laden with compassion and forgiveness. A conservative approach would celebrate power and confrontation. Given that the owner sees this relationship much as he would that of his love’s gynecologist (or she would that of her love’s therapist) and the yard sees it as a battle with logistics, I do not believe either of these polar approaches works that well.

I believe the owner should combine fringe elements of the wussy liberal and hard-assed conservative to create a relationship best described as boat yard eccentric. Here are some thoughts for you boat owners.

On all yard visits, carry an open umbrella stenciled “Jesus Saves” and an open jug labeled “Panther Piss.” Sporadically flash your permit to carry a concealed weapon.

Wear one of those Medical Alert bracelets claiming you are a dyslexic. This will excuse you for transposing the numbers on checks you write. In the space on checks for identifying the payment purpose write, “for sexual favors.”

Fall in love with the yard bookkeeper no matter the gender. Send weekly gifts of daisies, bottles of designer water, whiskey nips and those tiny bottles of mouthwash found in fancy hotel bathrooms. Offer to pay bills with “in-kind” services without ever identifying what you have that they could possibly want.

Tour the yard giving free advice in a loud voice. “Tall mast goes aft.” “Preparation H will shrink those fiberglass blisters.” “Nice waterline; a man on a galloping horse will never know the difference.” “Remember to flax the teeth on that worm gear.” You get the idea.

Never make private deals with individual yard workers but woo them with effusive praise and bawdy sea chanteys. Amuse them by transposing the nautical terminology for parts of a boat with names of body parts. The shaft log opening becomes her nether orifice, the foredeck her pelvis, the cockpit her, well you get the drift.

Using these ideas, given here only for purposes of example, will earn you a clear role as yard eccentric and may result in your not being invited back there next year. Unless, of course, your boatyard is also staffed with happy screwballs. Many are, you know. And ain’t that great.