Letters from Mike – Down time, Working, Lunch times

Down time, Working, Lunch times

by Michael Beebe – Rockport, Texas – USA

Down time, Working, Lunch times

Down time

Renewal! Renewal comes in all forms. Some gentle and simple as a good nights sleep, some violent as raging forest fires, ships awash in wind-blown harbours.

Yearly maintenance of sailboats, or sore knees and backs. Forced renewal. Oh how we wish it wasn’t so but at times it is.

The spirit still soars, the voyages continue if only in our minds while healing continues. The slows in life after a while can be seen as a good thing, a slower gait to actually see and ask the wife, ‘how long has the garden looked so?’ Her smile doesn’t even need words to show the understanding and love captured over the years.

I’ve a picture clipped and saved, thumb-tacked to the cork board. It shows two elderly, a man and a woman, the man with a cane, arms around one another, legs a bow. Grey and old, wearing rumpled sweaters, ambling down a garden path. I’ve written below it one word, ‘Us’. A hopeless romantic perhaps, but I knew for many years the possibilities of genuine love to be found could also be owned and enjoyed as well.

Sore knees and backs are a thing of life. Sailboats and dreams ‘on the hard’ as its said when the boat is yanked out of the water, place on the hard concrete, propped up on jack stands for the absolute necessity of repairs.

The voyage does not stop, the characters one meets on-the-hard are every bit as interesting as those met in far-flung harbours across miles of sea. We accepted and enjoyed a dinner invitation aboard a 36′ catamaran stationed for a time in the do-it-yourself-yard in a commercial marina.

“Come on by at six” we were told, “We’re near the water behind the two shrimpers, next to the travel lift, the step-ladder is off the stern”. We’d never seen a sunset aboard a cat, motionless, between the rigging of shrimpers equally motionless. Five years on we’re still friends, he’s off now circling the world by bus, train, and various cruise lines.

“Be gone for ninety days” he says. He’s an inspiration, he’s also pushing 76. Another encourager I had the pleasure of meeting a few years back while sailing the Texas 200 was an eighty something sailing with his 29 years old grand son on a 14′ Lido. Go now, they say, you might not get a chance later to do it.

So the down times can be used to advantage. Once recognized as part of the process, a vital one as well. It’s easier to accept them for what they are. My Linda and I while sitting around surfing the net, or flipping pages of magazines tell each other jokingly, “I’m working!” And actually we are. Doing research.

So the slows are here but the voyage continues. Sea you out there.



Tis evening, about 8:20 pm. Talking with Linda about a friend we have from New Jersey. A very likeable guy, a very excitable fellow as well. Trying to pin it down, this excitableness, I used the following description:

Him: it’ll take hours to get back from the island, doing six knots, it’ll take all day.

Me: how long is all day?

Him: four hours at least!

Me: the island is only six miles off the coast, we’ll be doing six knots, how many hours? I guess six would seem to be crawling compared to full-out planning at 25mph.

And so it goes. New Jersey. I’m going to ask him if the other guys are the same back there. Years ago, working in a Honolulu boat yard, two of the crew, of about twenty men, two shifts, had come from the Bronx.

Seems as if a Friday night bar hopping ended with the two of them on an airplane heading to Honolulu with one way tickets. It was get a job Monday morning time.

I met them at the yard. I remember seeing them standing around Wednesday lunch time not eating. Well payday was Friday, every other Friday, and toward the second week in the pay period, the last few days the cupboards sometimes got bare in my apartment, the fridge neigh empty.

These poor guys were far worse off than I. So I shared my lunch with them the next three days. What makes it memorable, I was down to cabbage sandwiches. Bread and cabbage, the cupboards were bare, remember.  They were much appreciative. Later they invited me to their apartment, completely empty except for the two bedrooms; furnished the same: a single sleeping bag in each bedroom, on the floor, no bed.

These two were paired up as a team at the boatyard. We were working on an old wooden ship? About 110′ in length, converting it to a Waikiki dinner cruiser. So these two Bronx boys, one on the inside, the other out side, sharing instructions, yelling, screaming, cursing. The blood will soon be flowing, I’m thinking. Even the foreman stopped for a moment, then walks off shaking his head.

At the end of the day they’d walk through the gate with arms around one another’s shoulders. Bud’s from childhood.

The last I saw of them was in downtown Honolulu, the one leading the other into a restaurant. I was invited to join them for dinner. Cabbage sandwiches by then, were a thing of the past. The leading part, was literal. Seems one was watching a wielder, although told not to, construction trades were new to these fellows. With bandaged eyes, they were still buddies. The one quit work to help his friend. Soon, they said, they’d be heading back home; with stories to tell, laugh about, shared with their friends, during their Friday night capers at the local bars.


Lunch time

In for lunch, while asking a blessing for today’s meal, I hear my wife laughing her head off. I thought she was going to end up rolling on the floor laughing. “What’s up?”

I says. My backwards hat with the pencil seemed to be the issue. Some are easy to please.

Her question, “Why the hat on backwards?” Tells me she just doesn’t understand sunburnt scalps, and epoxy matted hair. Yesterday glassing inside a locker the bill keep hitting the locker edge and the hat would fall down over my eyes. Off it went over the side onto the grass. Today I turned it backwards, that’s not to bad I thought, only took a day to think of that solution and the wife gets a big kick out of it. I’m not one to get upset at a little ribbing, not with a plate of tacos in front of me.

Michael Beebe

The day before yesterday I was inside the boat, that’s where the matted hair comes in. On my back, laying on a rib, reaching under the cockpit, I remembered thinking of doing the far reaches of epoxy work first then the stuff nearer so I wouldn’t stick my head in the fresh poxy. Well the remembering came a bit late. I tell my Linda I can’t see it in the mirror, is as good as saying, I can’t see it from my house. It’ll grow back soon.

Years ago before epoxy use was so common we glassed our surfboards with polyester resin. Whew! Stinky stuff. In the Surfer magazine at that time, this was in the mid sixty’s, a cartoon showed two high school girls walking to class caring their books. One says to the other,”He never notice me until I started putting resin behind my ears.”

Oh epoxy! The bane of clothes, ruining a good pair of pants is one thing, sitting on the couch is quite another. My Linda is constantly on me to dust off. In the house already, she states: “You didn’t dust off did you?” In my defence I ask how she can tell? “You leave dust behind on the ice box where you close it with your knee!”

Another time an elderly neighbor gal comes by for a visit. I had been outside cutting something. I get up and excuse myself, leaving the two of them talking. Seems I left some saw dust behind on the very chair offered to the guest. I heard later about that one.

I bought an air compressor, a small cheap one, to help with blowing the dust off. This was before the shed. All work being done out in the open under the oak. The sun’s uv rays destroyed the air hose in no time and it was back to a brush. It was noisy anyway.

Sometimes I think I’ll wait till she leaves before I start sanding or grinding, but I’m only fooling myself. The fridge will tell on me.

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