Wednesday, September 12, 2007

It Smells Like Dead Cow

If you own a boat, then there is no doubt that you have run into the marine tax. The marine tax is a very exclusive, limited tax on any product that professes to be appropriate for the boating and marine community.

I believe that the marine tax uses a principle very similar to the doctor tax. The doctor tax is the premium charged doctors for any product that is remotely medically related. While it makes some small amount of sense for purchases such as finely produced medical instruments or access to medical databases or sophisticated billing and electronic medical record software, it is utterly baffling when applied to recall post cards. A post card is a post card. Why does a post card that says, “Come see your doctor!” cost more than a post card that says say, “Your plumber loves you! Get your pipes cleaned!!” And so it goes in the marine community where anything presented is priced at roughly 300% markup.

Let's take for example the lowly barbecue. To celebrate the purchase of our new boat two years ago, I decided to purchase a big, burly, boat barbecue for my handsome husband. Being relatively new to the B.O.A.T. (bring over another thousand) world, I gathered the troops and headed off to the local West Marine. There I was presented with a fine display of grilling devices, all of which were half the size of my toaster oven and priced roughly the same as my wedding ring. If this were not sufficiently appalling, the mounting brackets came in a bewildering variety of over-$40 styles, customized to suit the requirements of any captain-cook-connoisseur.

I couldn't do it. I couldn't spend $250 on a device to burn meat. For one thing, I'm not a man. I suppose if I had balls, I could have done it. That still doesn't mean I would have, but at least I would have been genetically capable. But in the X chromosome is a little known gene sequence patterned to avoid spending needlessly on things not actually required for the reproduction of the species or looking good while walking down the street. I couldn't see that BBQ bringing me either. I just don't put out for grilled chops.

In despair, the girls and I headed out to complete our other errands. When looking for a present for my husband, I confess that we are hopelessly stereotypical. It is always possible to find what we are looking for at Home Depot. Always. This time we were particularly fortunate in that Home Depot was having a sale.

A really big sale on... now wait for it people...


Yes, I could purchase roughly the same unit as available at the marine store for $25. No mount, of course, and no shiny chrome bright work that would only give the illusion of protection from sea spray while simultaneously looking like absolute crap unless polished frequently. But it was a propane driven BBQ with lots of grill space. Proudly I presented it to Dr C that year for his birthday along with a punch card for nine more of them. I figured he could cash that in every year for the next ten years, and I'd still come out ahead.

You do the math.

This barbecue, however, is not without its downsides. Since I never did purchase a mount for the thing, Dr C is forever experimenting with where to put it. At various times, he's stowed it in just about every locker on the boat and – on one memorable occasion – in our bedroom.

I say “memorable” because a BBQ suffers from a unique form of halitosis due to its repeated exposure to meat and bone. It happily yields that smell to anything with which it comes in contact. Do not under any circumstances grill meat with your barbecue resting on the cockpit table in an enclosed bimini during the winter unless you really enjoy the smell of charred bone and dead cow. The odor permeates every fiber of your enclosure and seeps into the plastic of your boat. Nothing removes it. Ever.

My recommendation to fellow boaters if that if you choose the “disposable grill sans mount” strategy, identify a location to stow it, get a nice plastic box with a lid, and stash it where you don't care what things smell like. Cheap is good, but sweet smelling boat is better.

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