Imagine your best friend is in the hospital. They need an operation. The hospital is located in a bad part of town at the end of a busy airport runway. The din from the constant air traffic is unrelenting. Discarded medical equipment lies everywhere, some used and blood stained, some still in the original sterile packaging, dropped carelessly about because it was apparently too much trouble to put away. Some of the gear monitoring your friend’s life signs works, some doesn’t, and most of it is powered by patched up electrical cords and duct taped hoses that may or may not last another shift. The cords and hoses often randomly disappear, requiring a search through broom closets and other patient’s rooms to retrieve them. On the morning of surgery, your friend’s surgeon seems competent and alert, but the anesthesiologist appears hung over and does everything with a lit cigarette hanging from his lips. At least they’ve shown up though. No one has any idea where the scrub nurses are or when they might make an appearance. You notice as they wheel your friend into the OR that someone has left a window open, and a huge cloud of dirt, dust and debris generated by a lawn maintenance crew using leaf blowers is drifting inside and settling on everything and everyone. Your friend’s last words are “Please get me out of here before they kill me!”
Welcome to life in the shipyard. A place where your boat starts out needing just a bit of work, but ultimately deteriorates into week old road kill. A place where “colorful” does not begin to describe the various tradesmen wandering about. A place where OSHA fears to tread, as flip flops and bandannas are regarded as appropriate safety equipment for crane lifts. A place that exists beyond time, as “now” means “later,” “definitely” means “possibly,” and “we’ll do it on Tuesday” means “maybe on Friday. Maybe. If we feel like it.”
We’re among the lucky ones. We escaped with our boat intact before the money ran out. Others are not as fortunate. Various corners of the yard are littered with the carcasses of abandoned or discarded boats, each a cautionary tale of crushed hopes and insolvency. They silently bear witness, waiting, waiting for your spirit to break, your ambition to fade, your bank account to run dry, so that your boat can join their grim cavalcade of despair.
To many of the tradesmen, we were a curiosity. We actually worked on our own boat. But I see now why so many owners drop their boat’s keys off and then just run, run for their lives, never to be seen again until launch day. It’s because shipyards are painful places. They hurt. But we persevered, we pushed through, and we managed to arrive safely on the other side. And it feels so good when it stops…