My Evil Pencil Zinc and I have a hate/hate/hate relationship. I hate, hate , hate it. The seemingly simple, routine chore of checking it can send me into a cold sweat, depression, or possibly therapy.
What rocket scientist decided to put it underneath the nearly impossible to reach heat exchanger, at the back of the engine, behind the access opening? I fantasize about meeting up with that engineer in a dark alley with a crowbar in my hand.
Evidently there is something about balancing upside down on one knee, with an ankle wrapped around my shoulder, cocked sideways, hunched over, using one hand to support my weight, my other hand wielding a tool with a 90-degree elbow extender, and my crucial third hand at an unnatural angle poised underneath to catch the nut just before it falls into the bilge that brings out the inept in me. Whoddathunkit that a smart girl like me could be so confounded by righty-tighty-lefty-loosy given this position?
I go through all the usual stages, starting with cheerful optimism and a can-do attitude, progressing through pathetic begging/pleading with my inanimate object, then jaw-clenching frustration and reassessment, and finally descending into an infantile Eddie Murphy-like colorful F-fest. By this time I can count on bruising, blood, and yes, must I admit it, some totally embarrassing girlie tears. It’s only a wee nut – 9/16″ to be precise – and yet my utter humiliation is palpable. I can touch it, but I can’t loosen it.
Whether it’s that epic release of profane creativity or simply the Boat Maintenance Gods in a moment of spent amusement and overwhelming pity, I can’t be certain. What I do know is that it’s at this final stage, as I’m thinking either I’m not cut out for boat ownership or I need to hire someone to help, that some random technique I’ve tried 5 times before suddenly works, and the evil thing is in my hand. Ah! So THAT’S the trick! Got it! I won’t forget again … until next Groundhog Day three months from now.
Enter Captain Holly, on an otherwise benign afternoon, to whom I rather haltingly mention I need to check my zinc, hoping I sound even slightly confident and nonchalant about it. In reality, I could have been informing her I’m headed off to capture an elephant. If she noticed my ill-concealed quivering lip, or the terror in my eyes she kindly refrained from mentioning it. Casually tossing off my engine cover as though no evil lurked beneath, she matter of factly asked for a different tool and a Sharpie. (A Sharpie? Really? Hmmmm…)
An amused bystander could probably discern my almost OCD struggle at that moment it donned on me she intended to use the Sharpie to mark on my heat exchanger! Such was my neat-nick upbringing that in my mind’s eye, I didn’t see a piece of dirty, crusty metal and a harmless marking pen; I saw a sloppy ladle of gravy poised over my finest white linen tablecloth. But solution-oriented, no frills Holly didn’t notice my discomfort at marking up my boat; in the blink of an eye I’d been Sharpied and my life was forever changed.
With a few simple strokes of the marker, as if by secret decoder ring, my heat exchanger was transformed into a guide showing me which way to face, where to find the zinc, what tool to use, and how to twist the nut. Now this chore is drama-free and I don’t even need that third hand to do it.
Once you get over the ego notion that you shouldn’t need reminders, and the childhood admonition that you’re not allowed to mark on stuff, you’ll begin to see Sharpie-esque tasks everywhere you look.
So unleash your inner Picasso and doodle meaningful symbols. Write up, open, off, check, leave, dump, left, first or even NO! Notate brand, size, dates, reminders or techniques. Label it, circle it, draw an arrow to it. When it comes to marking stuff on a boat, there are no rules. Do it your way. Whatever helps you see where to find something or remember how to do something is an opportunity to exercise your Sharpie skills. Be one with your Sharpie. Write on!
To my adorable pencil zinc: I love you, man. To my omnipresent Sharpie: You’ll always be my favorite onboard tool. And to the ever-resourceful Captain Holly: Uh … gee … thanks. I shoulda’ thought of that myself.