Don went diving today. This was not a pleasure dive. Colorful coral
and tropical fish were not on the agenda. The water was a chilly 60 degrees and somewhere down there in the sand was a little
machine screw, a very necessary screw whose purpose was to plug the gear lube in our dinghy engine, a screw that had previously
been located up inside a recess directly over and perpendicular to the surface of the water. Who, in their right mind designed
I have referred to our Yanmar engine as Don’s mistress, so I guess that made the Mercury outboard engine his concubine. She didn’t get the attention that the Yanmar did.
She was only used for quickies across the water and therefore didn’t qualify for equal status to her bigger counterpart.
At least that was the case until we started living at anchor. At anchor, the dinghy became our only means of transportation
to shore and back, and the Mercury gave us the power needed to navigate against strong currents. While motoring back from
Boca Grande, the Mercury sputtered in distress and we feared it wouldn’t be long before we were adrift in our tiny tender,
swept out to sea with the outgoing tides. It was time to rectify the situation. We’d tried new spark plugs to no avail.
Hopefully fresh gear lube would do the trick.
Don took on the task, and I did my part - staying out of his way. Engine
work is always frustrating and the last thing he wants to hear is my incompetent comments. Jostling around in the dinghy underneath
the outboard hanging off the stern was awkward, but hanging onto the little plug screw after it was removed from the bottom
of the tail was impossible. I became aware of the mishap from the wild digging for dive gear, interrupted only by frequent
position checks, and punctuated with some choice words. I had some serious doubts that retrieving this screw from the depths
was feasible and delicately offered up what I believed to be a more viable course of action. When I lived in a house,
I will admit to having it embellished with my fair share of chotchkies of which I’d gathered over the years; house plants,
tea pots, exotic musical instruments, etc. Albeit not as decorative, my current collectable fixation comprised of nuts, bolts,
screws and washers. Whenever something broke beyond repair and had to be chucked, I became an expert scavenger certain that
one day the parts I’d salvaged would solve a critical problem such as this. I proudly pulled out my vast assortment
of miscellaneous fasteners for Don to root through.
But he was a man possessed, certain this unique screw was not something I had obtained in my collection. Time was wasting,
time that would allow us to rotate on our anchor, losing the screw’s resting place in the 690 square miles of water
that is Charlotte Harbor. So I helped him into his gear, gave him a safety check, and then offered up a strainer from the
galley to sift through the sand. A massive magnet on a line was added to the ‘gear needed’ list. I prepared to
be surprised when he surfaced with the prize, while he prepared to be shocked by the cold water. Alas, after a valiant effort,
he surfaced empty handed and the only surprise I got was due to the amount of shrinkage I observed when he stripped off his
So there we were, stranded on Re Metau with only oars to get us ashore. And shore was a long ways away. With
no other recourse left, Don reluctantly fingered through my assortment of fasteners. Ever so quietly, I heard him mumble “Hummm
- this one might do the trick.” It did. Don had the Mercury back in service in no time.
I never said “I
told you so”. I think it’s best not to antagonize the captain. I’ve heard too many horror stories about
the breakup of cruising couples. Usually the woman is abruptly abandoned in some third world country while her mate, in a
fit of rage, sails off with all the chotchkies.
I seriously doubt this will ever happen with us. We’re figuratively
and literally in the same boat and we’re both devoted to keeping the crew intact and happy. Besides, time and time again
Don has proven his extraordinary ability to keep my engine revving, and now he knows that I can provide a good screw when
he needs one.