Thursday, April 21, 2011

Bad Dog

This morning has been a slightly disheartening reminder of why people save money (note—I said "slightly". There's nothing major to worry about here. You can read on.), namely, to pay for problems that arise, unexpectedly, just when you're looking outside at the brilliant sun and thanking the powers that be for the (finally!) advent of spring. I have just realized, just now, that Ian and I in general do not lead too frivolous of lives. Sure, I've been suffocating in sweaters and we could build a second home entirely out of books (almost entirely out of books that don't fit on our shelves, even—that's the next level of discharge that we must engineer); but we don't really bandy about large wads of cash.

Except in the case of our boat.

You will remember that I grew up in a power boating family. We started with a ski boat, moved on to a 26-foot cabin cruiser, and ended with a 36-foot luxury yacht (by our standards, of course, not Paul Allen's). For several years, I didn't do much boating, but then I bought Ian's and my current home in Wallingford, a mere six blocks from a lovely lake. I yearned to have a boat—a power boat—to feel the speed, to sneak peeks into the backyards of the rich and famous, the weeping willows dipping into Lake Washington, and all the faded, curving fiberglass slides that no one ever used standing as sentinels on the ends of docks. More than that, though, I wanted to be able to take said boat and visit—quickly—other islands amongst the San Juans than just those four serviced by the ferries.

I yearned for years, but could never quite make the decision to buy a boat because I knew, from deepest childhood, the troubles that went along with the joys and I also knew that my father, the Mechanic, saved us countless hours of aimless, dangerous drifting and thousands of dollars of repair and maintenance costs. It is, in fact, very true that a pleasure boat can be defined as a hole in the water into which you pour money.

Anyway, when Ian and I subsequently did NOT move to New Zealand in late 2007 (subsequent to renting our house and selling our cars and spending four months flitting hither and thither about Europe and then living for three months in the lovely but small guest room of some dear friends—all mere months before beginning this blog), I declared that we would be buying a boat. If we were here, we were going to have access to all sorts of water.

So we did, and we have. We bought a Sea Ray because they have a good reputation and it is, in fact, a really fun, fast, stable boat; and we had a radiator put in so that the normal engine cooling system—sucking up water—would be circumvented so that we could go in sea water (which, with its salt and electrolytes would corrode important parts of the mechanical workings that make the boat go) . . . and herein lies our unforeseen expensive problem, poised to chomp away the first tender shoots of a savings account that I've been so carefully tending the last several weeks.

If you alter the basics of a boat, there will be issues. In our case, the radiator that was installed to cool the engine just wasn't efficient enough and so, for the last 111 hours of engine use, even though the boat hasn't been overheating, it has been running hot, which is hard on the engine in the long run. Mercury, which makes the engine, has suggested adding some sort of pump to the system which makes it better somehow (I have a better picture in my mind than I am able to explicate here), and we need to have that installed . . . for $1,008. Or not use the boat. Or use it for many fewer years than we would like.

One thousand dollars, of non-frivolous money, for frivolous, non-environmental fun. Sure, we share this fun with as many friends as possible in the summers (and, it sounds like with the upgraded system we'll actually be able to keep the boat running all winter, thus sharing with intrepid friends all year long), and we are SO looking forward to more outer-islands in the San Juans again this year, but wow. Huh.

I stood up to shake it off after hanging up the phone with Dave, one of my friends at Sea Ray, and took a quick trip to the bathroom. I returned to the living room, my chair, my laptop, my coffee. I sat down, replaced the computer on my lap, picked up my mug, took a sip, replaced the mug on top of the cedar bentwood box Ian made me for our first Christmas together, next to my cell phone, turned back to my computer . . . turned back to look more closely at the top of the box. LITTLE SPLASHES OF LATTE EVERYWHERE. On the box, on my phone, on the pens lying there. What the . . . ?

"HOOVER." I said, and he, sleeping innocently 3 feet away, leapt up and came wagging over, tail down, ears back, a picture of guilty contrition. "YOU WERE DRINKING MY COFFEE." Apparently, EVIDENTLY, GUILTY AS CHARGED.

And a little more insight into how I view the world—I did not think "EWWW" and race to the bathroom to throw up—I thought "Damn. Now I don't have as much coffee anymore," as I finished it off.

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