Thursday, May 31, 2007

Turning in My Credentials

I like to think of myself as a post-modern feminist. Or a post-feminine modernist. Or just someone for whom busting gender roles is not really a calling so much as an inadvertent Truth. I am an unabashed computer geek in a sea of gamers for whom the phrase “Frost Shock!!” actually means something. My best friends discuss the relative merits of GTD applications over IRC, and purchasing my first Mac in ten years was close to a sexual experience. I don't own a lacy bra, I selected a birthing center based on the speed of their WiFi, and I get new clothes only when my mother buys them for me. It's fair to say, I've earned my butch chops.

The move to boat life, as a result, has been fraught with opportunities to fail in my endless non-effort to be a model of all that is 21st century woman. For one thing, I like to cook. I like messing with our gimpy oven and experimenting with two-burner cooking. I also like to navigate, communicate with our land-based friends, and provision the linens. In the sailing world, these are the Girl Jobs. Dr C in turn loves to mess with the engines, tear apart and rebuild the electrical system, and build a water maker from scratch. These are Boy Jobs. I teach school and take care of the children; he works at the office and brings home the cruising kitty. It's like we threw away twenty years of marital equality and stepped into an episode of Leave it Beaver.

So when it came time to purchase an outfit for my eldest daughter's Irish dancing competition, I dug in my heels. Just because I'm the girl doesn't mean I should have to do the shopping. I hate shopping. I hate clothes. I especially hate clothes shopping. He's the one that gave me three girls and no little boy sperm. It's his fault they want to wear something frilly and hop up and down like flower fairies with backbones made of pogo sticks. He could just take them off to Target and take care of this little matter while I read through the manual on our new SSB.

Unfortunately about a half glass of wine after they left, the heater kicked on and a strong smell of diesel began to waft up from the starboard cabin. Boats often smell like fuel, but whenever you append the word “strong,” you've got a problem. I flipped off the heater, grabbed a flashlight, and headed into the starboard hull to figure out what was going on.

And it wasn't good. The bilge was bright pink.

Now here's the thing about the bilge. Bilge water comes in an array of colors that would do a paint store proud, and each color tells you something about what you're going to spend your next thousand dollars to fix. For example, let's say the water is green. Green means you've had standing water in that bilge for long enough to grow algae. Look to your bilge pump as the culprit since either the pump, the relay, the electrical attached to the relay, or the sensor is busted, loose, or missing in action. How about clear and getting higher at a visible rate? Well that would be a hole. Holes in a boat are Bad. Brown? Let's just remember what always slides down hill.

But pink. Pink is probably the worst. Pink equals diesel. The brighter the pink, the greater the spill. This is not something you can just pump out unless you don't mind being held by your fellow mariners in the same esteem as the captain of the Exxon Valdez. Pink means pulling out hazardous waste buckets, oil-soaked clothes, and a pair of gloves that go up to your elbows.

It took some crawling around to figure it out. A fitting on the top of the diesel fuel tank for the starboard engine had worked its way partially lose. Fuel had splashed out and down. Lots of fuel. Enough fuel to coat the hull beneath the tank and overflow into the bilge. As long as we didn't move the boat, no more would come out. Unfortunately, boats move. It needed to be fixed, the fuel mopped up and disposed of in the proper receptacles and with complete compliance to all the relevant statutes, laws, and ritual sacrifices to the gods of marina purity. Finally, the fitting needed to re-affixed in a way that would prevent a reenactment.

And it couldn't wait. The repairs took two hours of slogging work soaking up fuel, scrubbing everything with Simple Green and salt water, power sucking out the water, and disposing of all the waste. Dr C and the girls showed up just as I finished, all in great spirits with a really cute outfit, ice cream cones, and babbling about their pleasant evening with their father.

To hell with feminism. I should have gone shopping.

No comments: