Boat Maintenance: The Satisfaction of Hard Work

It's a fact: fixing up and maintaining boats can be hard, painful work. It's also some of the most satisfying work you can find.

As I begin to type this blog, I look down at the backs of my hands, and they look like they’ve been put through a cotton gin. My hands ache from tugging on wrenches. My fingertips are callused and numb from starting nuts and bolts. The tendons and muscles are throbbing, and there’s a fine layer of dirt and petrochemicals in the crevices of my fingernails. The knuckles are all scabbed and cracked.

I suppose that’s what fitting out a used boat for its first outing will do for you.

Of course I could have started earlier. Work kept me from getting to it after I first bought it in December. Then, of course, came Christmas and New Year’s, which is a busy time of year for everyone. Once the college bowl games were over, I went out to the driveway, looked at everything that needed to be done, lost all motivation, and walked back in the house — and then it hit me. I had promised to take my kids boating the first weekend in March, which was two months away, and there could be no more delays. So I headed back out to the driveway, surveyed what needed to be done, opened my toolbox, and got to work.

It’s a used boat, so I had to change all the fluids. It also needed a bellows boot on the stern drive, which revealed that it needed a gimbal bearing repair. Then I needed to take it to a shop to have the engine and drive aligned properly. I had to find the slop in the steering and throttle cables, clean all the electrical connections, and replace an exhaust manifold gasket.

I still had to make time for my family and have some energy left for them, too. With no daylight-savings time to provide light after dinner, that meant working in the dark. And I really don’t like working in the dark. Then, on the Monday before the weekend I promised to take the kids out, I looked at my wife and said, “I don’t think I’m going to make it. There’s just too much to do.”

By the Friday before the first outing, I was in a sprint. I dropped the kids at school, came home, hooked the boat and trailer to my truck, and took it to the shop where they could align the engine and drive.

I got home just in time to get the kids off to a couple of “away game” play dates. When they were gone, I began to load the truck and trailer for the weekend. I went back to pick up the boat from the shop and arrived home just in time for the kids to come home.

I don’t think I have worked that hard physically in a long time, and I can’t tell you how many times I questioned my own sanity. But a promise is a promise to 8- and 10-year-old children. At the end of that first weekend, as I pulled the boat back onto the trailer, I knew it was all worth it. The kids were all smiles. Nothing leaked, broke, or failed, and that brought a sense of satisfaction that made all that hard work worthwhile.

During the drive home, something else occurred to me. All across the country, there must be thousands of boaters experiencing the same sense of satisfaction. I hope they found hard work as rewarding as I did.

- Brett Becker

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