There are three types of dinghy sailor in the world:
- those that can do boat maintenance, and are very good at it
- those that can't do boat maintenance, and should be banned from even attempting it
- and those that can't do boat maintenance, but think they can do boat maintenance
People from category number one are relatively rare. If you know one, you should treasure them. Feed them their favourite type of alcohol. Laugh at their jokes. Tell them the colour of their wetsuit really brings out their eyes. Whatever it takes, look after them because sooner or later you are going to need them.
I fall into category two. I'm not one of these people that takes pride in my ineptitude, but I have come to accept it over time. I long for someone to ban me from trying to fix things. My boat maintenance generally follows this schedule:
- Something breaks on the boat.
- I consider whether or not I can get by without fixing it.
- If it is still possible to sail my boat without fixing it then I leave it.
- If I have to accept that it needs to be fixed before I can sail the boat then I get irrationally angry about it for a while.
- Having slept on the problem for a couple of days (while hoping for a solution that will not involve any manual labour), if no solution has come to mind then I make a list of the things I will need to fix the problem.
- Now I pull out my toolbox. My toolbox is very clean and very light in weight because it is hardly ever used, and contains hardly any tools. In fact it is mostly populated by old screws that were removed during previous attempts at boat maintenance.
- I look through my toolbox and consider whether I can make do with the things I have in order to fix my problem, rather than having to go to a chandlers to buy the correct equipment. I then make an elaborate and convoluted plan to do the job using old screws, some tape and a piece of frayed rope.
- I have another sleep.
- I wake up panicked, realising that my elaborate and convoluted plan will certainly fail, so decide to go to the chandlers to buy the correct equipment.
- I check the chandlers opening times, and find that they match my working hours almost exactly. The only time I can go is on a Saturday morning, when I have already agreed to do something else.
- I extricate myself from my previously promised plans by making new promises that I will never be able to keep.
- I drive to the chandlers.
- I tell them what I need to buy. They ask me what it is I am fixing. They tell me that I am going about it the wrong way, and give me the things that will actually fix the problem.
- I drive to the sailing club.
- I attempt to fix the problem. (It is normally about now that I hope that someone that is good at boat maintenance will arrive at the club soon)
- People come up to me to chat, ask me what I'm fixing, and helpfully point out where I'm going wrong. Some try to help, and together we make the problem far worse than it originally was.
- I keep looking around to see if a boat maintenance expert has arrived.
- Eventually I arrive at the point where I am fully aware that if I do anything else I will irreversibly damage the boat. I stand back from my work, making sure that I am holding a tool of some description, and look pensively at the thing I am fixing. I try to present the air of a man who has come across an unexpected complication in his work, and needs to consider his options before proceeding.
- Someone who is good at boat maintenance normally turns up at this point. I approach them and ask for advice regarding the problem I am fixing.
- He comes to have a look, and nearly manages to keep the look of shock off his face as he surveys the work I have done so far.
- He then says "I'll just get my toolbox. I think I have some bits that will help us fix this."
- He gets his toolbox, fixes the problem in about five minutes, generously allowing me to hold things in place while he drills and screws - I think ostensibly so that I will feel that I have contributed to the work.
- I go and buy him a six pack of beer to say thank you.
The third type of person in my original description are actually very similar to me. The only difference I can see between us is that they are more optimistic and self-confident. Where I would approach a maintenance problem with a sense of impending doom, they approach it with glowing confidence that it will be fixed, and that they will have a sense of pride in having fixed it. Other than that, we are very similar - we can do small jobs by ourselves, but for anything remotely complicated we will eventually fall back on the help of an expert.
I really wish I was a category three person (as I realise I'll never be a category one person), because at least they enjoy the whole process.