Arnie and I were just discussing what color to paint the sheer strake when I saw the motor boat entering the cove.Two uniformed men--Fishery Oficers I assumed-- they always picked a fine day for their excursions, But II was wrong. The leader- about the same age as my grandson approached with hand outstretched.
“Hi, i’m Rolf and this my colleague Tony. He pointed to his badge. The new Water Craft Inspection Agency. WIA we call it for short. Just wanted to make sure all your boats are in compliance”
“We heard you had an old- timer here” added Tony. Having just turned 87 I felt a slight tremor. “yes,this one here is a hundred years old--the design not the boat of course”.
“Mind if we take a few measurements?”
“6.2 meters. That puts you in Catagory IV-- the six to sixty meter class. Requirements are pretty stringent: self- bailing cockpit;100 kilo minimum flotation; water- activated inflatable device on the mast head in case of a capsize; submersible mobile phone; LED navigation lights; ; GPS of course and an ELT capable of 30 hours continuous transmission. A 15 HP Yamaha you said? Well you’ll need a Class Four fire suppression system plus a Safe Operators license”
“But that would cost a fortune”
“You could probably do it for $5 or 6K. “
“But the boat’s only worth $500. Look here why can't we just settle this between ourselves. What do you fellows like to drink”?
“I wouldn’t take that tack,sir, it could get you into serious trouble, well like
“Well what do you suggest?”
“That's up to yourself,sir. We're just here to do our job”
Matts cheery manner had become cool, even frosty.
“What about cutting the bowsprit off so she’s under six meters? Wouldn't.t that put her in Catagory three?”
“ Can!t do that, sir, the specs are already recorded in our data base”
“Well I suppose I can always cut her up and take her to the landfill”
“Can't do that either sir-- not without removing all the copper screws, nails and rivets. Iron would be OK but not copper.
“Well how about cutting her up on the bandsaw and feeding her into the workshop stove over the winter?”
“Couldn't do that either sir, that's treated lumber--both sides-- and that pine tar is a known carcigonen”.
“Well, all right I’ll just have to take her out, ballast her with rock and sink her”
“You’ll need a permit from the Artificial Reef Society, Sir--and they don’t like wooden boats--scuba divers get splinters in their wet suits. ”
“Surely there’s no objection to my just putting her out in the yard and planting her with Petunias?”
“This is a designated scenic area sir, and no unregistered vehicles or boats are permitted”
Well, OK I'll just have to trailer the boat out of the country to Mexico--no not Mexcico she'd get shot up by some crazed border vigilante. Canada then?”
“Can't do that, sir we've recorded your position on the GPS and it's already in our data base--and that includes Canada”.
“Let's have the the bar codes,Tony. These are the new, high- definition bar codes. They can be read by satellite and even taking the boat out of the building would constitute a moving violation and you’d have the WIA folks down here to investigate.
“Well I guess she just stays where she is”
“That's about your only option sir. Just one last formality. We are required by law to disable the boat to make sure it doesn't,t go back in the water”
“And how do you plan to disable her?”
“Just cut it in half with a chainsaw”
“But that's a half inch steel centerboard”
“No problem-- we’ve cut up much bigger boats than yours, sir. Iron ballast keels and all. Lead keels are the worst--we have to call in the EPA folks and get kitted out--hazardous waste suits, masks, helmets and all that”
I watched as Tony switched on the electric chainsaw, and began chewing into the gunwale, slicing through the planking, the centerboard case...then there was a shower of sparks, and a frightful screech and everything went black.
The next thing I knew I was on the workshop floor with Arnie helping me to my feet. “What happened” I asked. “
“Well we were just discussing the color of the sheer strake and you was taken queer all of a sudden. You want to take it easy and i’ll come back tomorrow?”
“No” I said, “ I'm fine, what about chrome yellow for the sheer strake”
“Fine with me” said Arnie, “it will sure show up in the fog”.
Simon Watts, 2016