Micro Essay's

Marine Micro-Stories: It’s not the size of the story that matters, it’s the content.

img_9814Today at the marine store I purchased an $80 gallon of bilgekote. I commented that it was going to be fun painting the bilges. The very nice gentleman said, “Oh, you are such a good helper!” Eric was standing next to me and didn’t miss a beat. He enthusiastically said, “Oh, it’s her boat. I’m the helper!” Enlightened Men: this is how it’s done.

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On a cool spring day, I was taking a break from bulk head replacement in tight quarters. I sat on deck in my Tyvek suit drinking in the fresh air and sunshine. An older gentleman walked up and said, “You look like you know what you are doing! Are you in the marine industry?”

Proudly I said, “I do know what I’m doing, but my day job is a therapist.”

He said conspiringly with a wink, “Oh, you must be a lesbian then!”

Flatly and with internal rage-sass I said, “Nope, I have my boyfriend in the bilge doing my bitch work right now.”

You could almost see his salty eyes bounce back and forth as his brain tried to process. He recovered with a stuttering, “Well, so how are you going to do your brightwork?”

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Eric screamed a high pitched howl like a small wounded animal from the front of the cabin. I thought he was injured. Alarmed, I bolted upright from the v berth and asked what was going on.

He got mad. He ignored me, mumbled, and waved me off.

No blood, he’s moving, he’s okay, I went back to my reading.

A few minutes later he came over and sheepishly admitted he took a giant swig from a water bottle by the sink. Dramatic pause. 

“I forgot I had mixed the water with soap last week to make a cleaner.”

I tried to respond with empathy, “Oh sweetie, that’s awful.”

No, that didn’t happen, that is a blatant lie. I wish I was the kind of person who would respond with empathy.

Instead, I laughed hysterically.

He gave me his dirty look, hands on hips, head caulked, lips pursed, eyebrows creased. His dirty look is not very dirty. It’s more of a pleased and exaggerated irritation from the amusement being at his expense.

Eric loves attention in any form. It induced  more loud cackles from me. 

He said with a dramatic wave of his hand, “I’m just grateful you make us use that hippie soap shit because it’s non toxic.”

This is when my snorting laugh started. It took me a while to come down off of this whole foible. 

Later, while snuggling on deck, he burped and it smelled like lavender hippie soap. You all know what my reaction was. This time, he joined in. 

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I was walking down the dock as a commercial day-fishing boat was coming in. Two women in crisp new high end pink sporty gear, including painted on Lululemon pants, are coming off the boat. Their ponytails were somehow still perfect with white visors adorning their dainty heads like a crown. Polished acrylic nails and pristine tennis shoes finished the look. They made a show of their departure with little squeals and supportive hand holding as the large boat moved slightly as they stepped onto the dock. The deck hand looked concerned and said with subtle annoyance, “Be careful there.”

Husbands, also in very new and unused gear were talking shop with the salty dude gutting a 30lb salmon off the stern. Deep manly laughs happened with each taking a turn at the old “one up.” You could almost see the urge to beat their chests and get to higher ground.  Which one is the alpha? Their side eyes went to the women on occasion. The ladies stood on the dock watching the man show with seemingly zero interest other than feeding adoration for masculine egos. 

I was almost past them, strutting quickly up the dock in my grungy coveralls to wash grease and oil off my hands at the marina bathroom. The brunette says to the blonde in a spectacular west coast OMG tone, “You look so cute after fishing! I look so gross! How do you do it?”

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When I was first sailing the PNW through a club, we went on a flotilla across the bay to Port Madison. The man skippering the boat was in his mid 60s. He was salty. He had leathery skin, a long white beard, and an earring. His belly hung through his life jacket, and he wore jorts. Though the boat was full, I was the only woman there over 25. He kept talking to me. I found out that he was single, had a great career resume, a lot of money, wanted to sail the world, and was part of the club to find a good “first mate.” I was polite, but not encouraging.

He kept giving me all the hard jobs on the boat and critiquing my every move. It felt like I was on a job interview I never signed up for. I held in my annoyance and focused on the boat. On the way home, the sunset was spectacular. Across the bay it sunk behind the Olympic Mountains turning the mountains purple and the sky crimson and gold. I said to everyone aboard, “The view is so beautiful!” The old salt blatantly stares me up and down and says, “It sure is!” The amount of awkward seemed to shift the ballast of the boat. Everyone noticed, no one said anything. Young Millennials stared with anticipation at the Boomer hitting on the Gen-Xer. My heart rate sky rocketed. 

Tensing with anger, I coldly and calmly stared him up and down. I said, “Really? NO. I’m not playing this game.” Then I moved to the bow and never looked back again. All the way across the bay, and to the dock, even at departure I ignored him. I also did not let it ruin my ride, I focused on the water and waves, the warm summer air, and dreams of owning my own boat. What I didn’t need to tell him is that I am not built to be a “first mate,” I don’t need a man to sail, I’m the goddamn Skipper.

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Seen at the marina today: Gaggle of young white men in expensive outdoor clothing strutting down the dock where the big yachts are. They are laughing loudly with all the confidence and security that money, skin tone, age and gender can provide. Rowdily, one is throwing firecracker poppers on the ground every few feet on the dock. He throws them at his friends. This is what privilege and ignorance can look like. That’s littering you assholes. Also: dumbass, you are surrounded by fuel and throwing sparks. 

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Institutionalized Sexism

Eric: Just run up and wash that out in the bathroom work sink.

Jenn: Bathroom work sink?

Eric: Ya, the utility sink in the marina bathroom.

Jenn: The women’s bathroom doesn’t have one.

Eric: ……….what? (Surprised)

Jenn: …………ya. (Not surprised.)

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“What’s the name of your boat?”

“Poop Deck.”

“I guess decks can get really messy and gross. What do you clean it with?”

“Poop Deck is a nautical term for the uppermost deck of a ship where the captain calls the shots.”

“Oh, I thought maybe you just don’t like cleaning decks.”

“Nah, I just think my boat is the shit.”

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6 thoughts on “Marine Micro-Stories: It’s not the size of the story that matters, it’s the content.”

  1. So. Good. I would also have laughed hysterically when Eric drank soap but I would have also made a sympathy face and apologized while doing it because…maybe I have a similar story where the soap ended up in my mouth.

    Liked by 1 person

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