Some time ago, Janet decided that I needed something to do. Isn’t it wonderful how she looks out for my welfare like that…making sure I have plenty to do and no “wasted” time?
I started running through a mental checklist of things I could do to bring in a couple bucks and keep myself off the streets and out of the bars.
I thought about doing some freelance civil engineering work…for about a nanosecond.
Nope, been there, done that.
Maybe I could be a Walmart greeter?
Nah, I’d be too inclined to tell the slobs coming in wearing their PJ’s to go the hell home and get dressed.
Perhaps I could volunteer at the local library and help them stack books and stuff.
Oh please…shoot me now.
And then I thought “Wait! What you need Jimbo, is a job where there is a moderate chance of bikinis!”
And of course, knowing me as I do, I was right!
So I quickly ran through a list of jobs that might fit this criterion:
Bikini fitting room attendant…no, too many guys already on the waiting list for that one.
Super-buff beach lifeguard…yeah, right.
Bikini portrait photographer…tantalizing, but almost certain to cause telescopic-lens-up-the-butt syndrome when Janet finds out.
Then, a flash of inspiration…it is well documented that there are occasional bikini sightings at the marina, ergo, I shall WORK AT THE MARINA!
A quick phone call, a written application that would do the CIA proud, a background check that must be absolutely laughable in its ineptness, and voila!…I’m a dockhand!
So now you find yourself asking “Why am I reading this?” …No wait, you’re asking yourself “What scintillating duties are assigned to a dockhand?”
Well dear reader, they are many and varied. Please allow me to paint a word picture of a typical day as a dockhand. (For the purpose of this exercise, we shall assume this fictitious day takes place during the summer, greatly enhancing the chance of an encounter with the local species of Bikinius Tinyus.)
In the morning, we open for business at 0700 hours. (Most of you would refer to this as 7:00 AM. I know the conversion is complicated, but try to stay with me.)
The morning shift is responsible for setting up the dock for the day. That means unlocking the two skiffs we use to get around the marina by water, getting a couple of the bikes out so we can move around on the dry side, reading and recording the tiny little numbers on the fuel pumps so we can keep track of how much fuel is pumped that day, and hosing copius quantities of duck poop off the fuel docks. Not sure what the draw is, but the ducks just love the fuel dock, and I guess they didn’t get the memo about “Never poop where you sleep.”
These and a few other less exciting tasks are performed each morning, and then we are ready for “The Show”. The cast of The Show are the boaters who come in and out of the marina. I’ve found that boaters come in three broad categories.
The first group, and by far the fewest in number, are boaters who have their shit totally together. They know how and when to use the VHF radio to talk to you and to each other, they know how to operate their vessel and how it reacts to wind and current, they have lines (landlubbers refer to them as “ropes”) attached to the boat both fore and aft, and they are a joy to work with when they come in for fuel or a pumpout. (I’ll expound on that “pumpout” thing momentarily)
The second category contains all of the boaters who have at least a basic idea of what is going on, could probably engage the appropriate authorities in case of an extreme emergency, and do not, by their simple existence, pose an imminent threat to others on the water.
The third category is comprised primarily of those who exemplify why birth control is a good idea. These folks are clueless as to the operating rules of boating, have no idea whatsoever of the forces that act on and against a boat, and should not be allowed to operate anything more complicated than a manual can opener.
Among those in the third group, my favorites from a comic relief standpoint are those who approach the dock with a fist full of tangle, knotted, frayed line, and a wild-eyed look, just itching to throw that line at somebody, anybody, at the first opportunity. Never mind that the wind is pushing the boat slowly toward the dock…they seem to think that if that line is not thrown, with vigor, straight into the dockhand’s face, that their tenuous attachment to earth will be lost, and they’ll mysteriously vanish into the stratosphere.
So usually, just to humor them, knowing full well what is about to transpire, I’ll say “You can toss me that line now” and then watch as they go through a windup that would do a major league pitcher proud, and then let fly with the aforesaid rat’s nest of rope, only to have it splash ignominiously into the water about eighteen inches from where they stand. Of course by the time they haul it all back in, wad it up again and begin a second windup, the wind has eased the boat alongside the dock and I gently reach out and take it from their hands.
These folks will then begin to shout at each other to “Put the bumpers (buoys) (round things) out!” They fear damage to the side of their craft from rubbing against the dock, neglecting to note that the entire edge of the dock is lined with a rubber rubrail designed specifically to prevent such damage. And as to the “bumpers/buoys/round things”… come on folks, they’re “FENDERS”… bumpers are on cars, buoys are attached to the seabed, not the boat, and “round things”?…don’t get me started.
Once the hoopla is settled and we have them all fueled up again, we’ll ask those in the larger boats, if they need a pumpout. Many moderate to large boats have a bathroom on board (in boat-speak, it’s the “head”) and everything that goes into the head is collected in a tank on board so that we don’t drop a few ounces of poop in the water (not to be confused of course, with the hundreds of outdated municipal wastewater treatment systems that drop tons of poop in the water…every day) and that tank, the “holding tank”, is designed such that it can be emptied into a landside sanitary sewer system.
The method by which this is accomplished is really quite simple. Imagine if you will, a 30 to 100 gallon box filled with raw sewage. I know, it kind of gross, but imagine it anyway. Now imagine that there’s a hose running from the bottom of that box to a hole in the top of the boat, and there’s a nice dockhand standing at that hole with an industrial strength vacuum cleaner in his hand. That, in essence, is what we do. Granted, it’s not really a vacuum cleaner, it’s a vacuum pump, but the effect is the same. The vacuum pump sucks the sewage out of the holding tank, and discharges it into the sanitary sewer system. Now this all works just hunky dory, as long as the seal between the vacuum hose and the boat is nice and tight.On those occasions where the seal doesn’t stay tight, and those occasions do arise, well, let’s just say we sometimes need to make a mid-shift change of shirts/pants/shoes, depending on the trajectory of that which escapes through the leaky seal.
The above, repeated several times a day, is pretty much what we do.
But what, you ask, (at least I know the guys are asking it) about Bikinius Tinyus?
Well, in the winter months of course, it’s in hibernation, but from spring through fall, it can be found proudly adorning many (predominately female) boaters of all ages, shapes and sizes, and without any apparent regard for age, shape or size.
Common reactions to sightings of Bikinius Tinyus range from “Oh my goodness, I must have died and gone to Heaven” to “Oh my goodness, please gouge my eyes out with a red hot spoon.”
Now please…before you start sending in complaints, just let me state that I am only too aware that if Mark Spitz were to stroll down to meet a boat full of ladies wearing his Olympic Speedo, the reaction would be much more positive than if I were to do so similarly garbed. I’m just saying that some displays of Bikinius Tinyus are more ethereal than others, and we, as properly trained dockhands, are always keeping close watch so as not to let any sightings go unsighted.
For a pittance per hour, and a few tips occasionally thrown our way, we labor in sun or rain, heat or cold, to make our boating public happy. So the next time you stop at a marina for fuel or a pumpout, please remember…your dockhand is your friend…tip generously, tip often. And if we seem distracted by a nearby Bikinius Tinyus, please bear with us…we’ll be back in a minute.