Monday, July 6, 2009


Peter and I had a little contretemps on Thursday. Thursdays and Fridays are big days, because Silas is in nursery school, we are baby-free, and I get to row out to Sereia with Peter and do boat projects all afternoon. Last Thursday was particularly exciting, because with just one week to go before we move on board, I was looking forward to the finishing touches, like buffing the woodwork with a soft rag, and deciding what color scheme to use for my throw pillows.

When I got on board, one thing was instantly clear. Sereia isn’t ready for throw pillows.

To begin with, there was a six-inch hole in the cabin top. Peter’s temporary solution was a wad of shopping bags and duct tape, which had leaked, causing a geyser of water to cascade into the forward salon. He’d cleaned up the salt water and dried off my stores, thereby opening up all the lockers and destroying the single tidy area I’d managed to create on board. There were no safety nets or lee cloths to be seen anywhere, so visions of drowned babies floated gruesomely through my head. The entire boat was sprinkled with tiny bolts and screws, perfect for choking toddlers. And to top it all off, we still had to pee in a bucket.

I got very quiet.

After four years of marriage, Peter doesn’t care when I yell and make abusive wisecracks. Those are the good days, the days we cherish as a couple. He gets concerned when I’m kind and considerate, because that usually means I’m sick, and I don’t have the energy to be a bitch. And on the rare occasions when I shut my mouth completely and go quiet, Peter starts looking for places to take cover. It doesn’t happen very often. But when it does, I’m furious.

“But the head works,” he mumbled evasively. “It just leaks a little, so if you want me to fix the leak, I just have to take it apart one more time…”

We have one week,” I snarled, my voice shaking with emotion. “AND I DO NOT FEEL SAFE ON THIS BOAT WITH MY BABY.”

Really, that is just the most cynical form of female manipulation. It was a Molotov cocktail of all the deadliest weapons in a woman's arsenal: I implied that Peter was a bad father by not making the boat safe for his child. I implied that he sucked at boat work, the activity that gives him his greatest sense of accomplishment. And I managed to sound simultaneously weepy (making him desperately want to protect me), and enraged (making him think he will never get laid again, ever.)

Also, my reaction was unfair. I knew perfectly well that Peter had been busting his ass for a month, and that the fruits of his labour were simply not visible while standing in the forward salon. This is due to a universal principle known to philosophers as “infinite regress,” and known to alcoholic sailors the world over as “a goddamned cluster fuck.” In case you are reading this and do not have a boat, allow me to illustrate:

Beginning your work with bright-eyed optimism, you start project A, but soon realize that because your boat was built by sadistic gnomes, you can’t work on A before completing projects B, C, and D. D is located under project F, which will have to be dismantled in order to reach project D. Unfortunately, once you access project D, you accidentally spill water on electrical part G, which will now have to be replaced. Luckily, part G is very easy to access. It’s just inside locker H, but the hinges on locker H have been frozen shut by oxidation, so you’ll have to saturate them in WD-40 first, then clean up the rust and open them with pliers before you can reach part G. Eventually, you manage to lubricate locker H, access part G, replace it, fix project D, and reassemble project F. Now you are ready to complete projects B and C, but B requires a very tiny specialized screwdriver that you haven’t seen since El Salvador, and C requires the use of a bedding compound that will only harden in sunshine, and it’s the middle of the rainy season. You tear apart the entire boat looking for the tiny, specialized screwdriver, but can’t find it anywhere (although you do find some very swollen sardine cans from 1997 and shocking number of dead baby cockroaches) so you get off the boat and drive to three different stores looking for the goddamned screwdriver. No one has it. You get back on the boat and notice that a) you’re taking on water, and b) the bilge pump is making a very weird noise, so you reach down among the filth and slime of your nasty bilge, only to find the teeny-tiny-assed screwdriver sucked into the bilge pump. Using the bitch-whore-piece of shit-fucknose screwdriver, you finally manage to complete project B, the sun shines just long enough for the bedding compound to cure on project C, at which point you ascertain that the parts for project A are only available in Bologna and will have to be ordered in Italian.

Then your wife yells at you.

I’ve lived on my boat for years. I knew this about boat projects, and yet I still rode Peter’s ass about Sereia not being ready. I choose to think of this less as selfish and unreasonable behavior on my part, and more as a form of delightful feminine whimsy. Peter, on the other hand, demurred.

“I don’t deserve this,” he retorted. “The boat will be ready. The boat will be safe. If you don’t feel safe, we’ll rent a place on land until you do.”

A place on land??? What would I do with a place on land? With all that refrigeration and pressurized water? With all those fruity throw pillows? I’d be bored out of my skull in a week. I’d be so bored, I’d probably have to get a job or something.

Besides, I’m good with languages. And somebody’s got to call Bologna, to order those parts.

Um. How do you say “turnbuckle toggle jaw” in Italian?


  1. That sounds about right, we're supposed to be out of here on Tues, our slip has been promised to someone else, and still have a shit load of stuff to do which is not helped by having to spend the day recovering from last night's 4th of July celebration.

    Good luck getting everything in order and finding a normal routine again.

  2. No disrespect here but i think prefer a boat that holds 900 people and has 3 cocktails lounges ..... oh, and a menu 3 times a day. When you need a screw ( driver ) a crew member will get you one. What's in that slimey bilge anyhow ... do i want to know? Get that head fixed Peter ...

  3. "bitch-whore-piece of shit-fucknose screwdriver"

    I wish you women would keep up with the technical (men) amongst that a bitch-whore-piece of shit-fucknose Philips screwdriver?

    A bitch-whore-piece of shit-fucknose ROBERTSON screwdriver?

    Seriously, the context is lost on us guys without that vital bit of information.

    Tell her Peter....tell her you feel that way too...tell her it's just like I said.

    Then hide and don't come out until Silas heads off to college.

  4. And I thought I was the only one to use " bitch whore piece of shit fucknose" as a prefix. Sailorisms, the TRUE international language.......martin