After years of breaking things and learning how to fix them on my own, I have been lectured repeatedly about the value of owning good tools. I know this is true, but good tools are expensive, and until an opportunity to feel their absence presents itself, I find this to be an easy truth to forget. Also, I know that when the right tool falls into inexperienced hands, it can sometimes be too much of a good thing. Most of my education on tools and things mechanical took place aboard my boat, which was serviced by a toolbox that was always being upgraded in step with my repair skills. I remember the day some time ago when for the first time I used a new socket set that replaced some less convenient open-ended and boxed wrenches.
I was in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, somewhere between the Azores and the East Coast of the US, a mass at rest with only 10 gallons of fuel and a seven-horsepower engine, dependent on wind to become a mass in motion again. For a weary sailor, a flat calm can be a thing of beauty, fostering thoughts of oneness with nature. The horizon, the sea, and the sky all come together in shades of blue, creating the picture of perfect tranquility. This is a time to reflect, to regroup, to write flowery prose and romantic poetry, and when it has been fully appreciated, to wonder just how long the lack of forward motion will last. With no wind, there is no need to navigate, to steer a course, to adjust sails, or depending on the tack, to walk on the walls. As capable as I was of delighting in this laziness and time alone with my thoughts, seven days of calm and inactivity were beginning to drive me up the walls I had been fantasizing about walking on.
Suddenly, a new sound pierced the monotony. The hissing, blowing, and splashing of something big had the cat and me out in the cockpit in seconds. There it was, our first pod of about 10 truly gigantic whales, surfacing and sounding its way across our bow. Awed by the tremendous bulk of my fellow mammals, I stared for a minute until the thought that each one outweighed my 26-foot boat by several thousand pounds sent me right to the starter button. The engine rattled to life and I grabbed the tiller to steer a wide berth around the stragglers, simultaneously thrilled and wary of the unexpected company. Paying me not the least bit of attention, they continued deliberately on their northward passage and soon enough, they were gone. Once more, I was alone with the puttering engine that decided, then and there, to falter yet again.
In the course of more than two years of sailing long distances with this boat, I had become proficient with the process of bleeding the diesel engine fuel line, albeit reluctantly. This time, though, instead of cursing it out, I jumped down into the cabin eagerly to fetch the new socket set I had purchased in Gibraltar. Having recently discovered the beauty of this tool, the sound of the clicking ratchet still excited and empowered me. The wind could play games with my emotions, but with the socket wrench, the engine was all mine. Here was something beneath me in the pecking order, something I could control. I knew how to fix it with inferior tools and now better technology was going to make the task seem like fun and preserve the skin on my knuckles.
As I have continued my journey of discovery in the world of tools and repairs, job by job, I've become more savvy about the nuts and bolts and what can happen if they are over-tightened. On a boat, when the right equipment can mean the difference between life and death—or skin or no skin on the knuckles—I learned that good tools are only half the battle. Knowing their limitations and how to use them is the other half. Don't get me wrong. I haven't turned into a gearhead. I just like tools that work easily, ones that make the process of fixing things as simple as possible. But, it seems there is always something more expensive that will work better.
I was reminded of this truth again with the lawn mower when a friend who owned a superior toolbox happened by and helped. His socket wrench had a longer handle than mine, therefore more leverage, and he had a huge pipe wrench instead of the vise grip I had been using to counter the socket wrench. As usual, the right tools worked like a charm, and I find that I have graduated to needing my own pipe wrench and a more sophisticated socket set. Too bad Mother's Day has come and gone already.
|Currently Active Users Viewing This Thread: 1 (0 members and 1 guests)|