The most exciting commodity of being on land again, though, was having a car to drive. I turned up the radio and turned on the air conditioning, just because I could. I drove around town aimlessly, amazed at how many miles I could cover! When Mark tells me that our next anchorage is 15 miles away, that means about 2.5 hours of sailing, but in a car it only means about 20-30 minutes, and it doesn’t matter which way the wind is blowing!! Amazing, right?
|Kids love to row our dinghy|
|Dinghy parking lot|
|Kids securing dingy on beach|
But, then comes the hate part. Mark was recently out of town attending a memorial service for a few days. Before he left, he gave a quick briefing about battery charging and the anchor watch and had me try to start the dinghy when it wasn’t warmed up.
On the motor, there is a pull cord (much like that of an older lawn mower), a throttle and rudder combo, a choke, a kill switch, and a gear switch (reverse, neutral, forward). There is also an emergency kill key (like on a jet ski) and a lever/lock to lift the propellers up. Along the fuel line, we have a bulb that helps us prime the engine. The fact that I can tell you all of that makes me realize that I have absorbed a little “boat-ese” along the way, too!
But, what good is a powerful motor that can’t be started? Herein lies my problem. I prime the fuel, I put the throttle in the start position, I pull out the choke, I make sure it is in neutral, I grab the cord, lean forward, and YANK back with all my weight. Nothing. I try again. Nada. I push in the choke a bit so that I don’t flood the thing. I yank again. Zilch. I take a deep breath, curse under my breath, and plop down on the bench, defeated. Elizabeth pipes in, “You’re doing great, Mom. Keep trying.” With that, I stand again, brace my feet, and yank even harder. It sputters, but refuses to start. I become suddenly aware of others watching my struggle. Then, a neighboring boater shouts, “I’ll be there in a minute, hold on!” He comes to my rescue, starts the engine (with some difficulty - a welcomed confirmation that it’s not easy) and I am free… discouraged and wondering how I’ll get it started at the docks to come back to the boat, but for the moment, free.
Other cruising women have told me, “Learn to drive the dinghy. You’ll need the ability to get away.” So, I have learned to drive it. The kids will tell you I drive a lot slower than Daddy, but I can drive it, regardless. I just can’t start the darn thing!! A few times I have re-entered my Blanche DuBois role and relied on the “kindness of strangers” to get it started when I’ve been at a dock or along the beach. Just yesterday, Elizabeth and I pulled it up on shore and tied it up, only to need help dragging it back into the water when the tide went out and left it beached. This dinghy creates quite the dilemma.
|Mark pulling kids on ULI paddle board|
I find myself daydreaming about starting a car with the push of a button. I dream of parking without having to tie a bowline knot or having to pull up the heavy motor to keep the props out of the sand. I dream of driving in the rain without having to wear a raincoat!
Life aboard sounds luxurious, and I do feel very blessed, but that doesn’t mean that it’s always easy. Maybe next time you hop in your car and zip on over to Target, you’ll squeeze your steering wheel a little bit tighter and gaze lovingly at your windshield wipers! And maybe when I untie our dinghy today and glide over the waves to the beach, I’ll be thankful for a dry bench and a speedy ride.
Mark has composed a video of a beautiful place to which our dinghy carried us - a tiny mangrove creek on Shroud Cay with long stretches of white sand and an interesting driftwood camp that a lone sailor created. Our dinghy brought us somewhere a car could never go – another reason to love my dear dinghy.
P.S. - We have found a possible way to add an electric start to the engine, but will not be able to get the parts until we reach Puerto Rico. Meanwhile, I will be eating spinach and batting my eyelashes!!