The Tarp to End All Tarps

When David made his exit from the boat project in late 2021, he was decent about it and left behind a workable frame with a professionally latched tarp and a porch area that could be accessed even in rain, nice and cozy. I still recall him saying, “If this tarp wears out before you finish the project, there could be a sacrificial tarp — just to tide you over.”

A sacrificial tarp.

He wasn’t exactly laughing, but there was a sense of an endless stream of sacrificial tarps and no reality whatsoever about the fact that I am never going to finish the boat that isn’t a boat but is an object on someone's lawn.

I am looking around here.

I dont see a lawn.

I see place that is supposed to have these objects on it — they are fun.

But I do have the problem of a fraying tarp and winter coming with lots of rain. 

The situation with the original tarp is that it is pretty okay except for the place where it was resting on the frame. That is where it is frayed. So naturally, being a sempstress, I thought, why not reinforce the spine of the tarp so that it lasts a bit longer, maybe even long enough to finish the project?

So I bought some marine vinyl from the outdoor fabric store, pink, in keeping with the theme of the project as a woman’s boat; cut it into long strips; and spread the tarp out in the yard.

That is where the trouble started.

I didn’t realize that the tarp was folded the wrong way from the factory. I laid it out, doubled, and it fit perfectly in Via's little postage stamp suburban lawn, so I put the stripe on with glue and tape. 

Victory was mine — or so I thought. 

I got it to the boat and realized that the stripe was on the tarp exactly 180 degrees the opposite to what I had thought. 

So I could rip the stripe off and put it on long ways, or maybe have a very wide tarp instead of a narrow one. 

It was late in the day, the old tarp was off, leaving the boat exposed, I was having a philosophical discussion about what to do with some extra vinyl that may or may not extend the life of this tarp from two years to three.

I came to that state of mind that many boat refitters reach after so many oops moments, and decided that WHO CARES was the right approach. 

So there. I had spent my entire day off gluing vinyl onto vinyl and being so clever when no one else had a reinforced tarp, and here I was, with a weird tarp.

The boat looks nice, but she looks like she’s wearing a dress.

BOAT BUCKS: The Pink Fridge


Well, as anticipated, it was not flawlessly smooth to change jobs.

The emotional turmoil was intense — I just had to tune out. Change gets harder as we age. The brain no longer has as many locations for chemical bonds and instead has to rely on constructing new neurons. That takes time. Thus the older brain takes longer to learn new tasks, but once they are learnt, they are more solid than in youth.

So here I am, learning a new facility, with the inevitable neurological backlash within my own being for change.

Then there were all those shifts. 

CNAs get very high on the management’s list of Faves when they pick up a lot of shifts.

Everyone gets sick or has a family emergency. That is how life is. But women bear a disproportionate burden in family responsibilities, hence the last minute call of the woman in her prime, “I can’t make it in,” and my manager is on the phone to the older worker whose nest is empty and whose coffers can use a little boost in the final years of heavy-duty wage earning.

So, as usual, I am staring down the boat.

I took a trip to Port Angeles last week. That drive across the Hood Canal bridge reminds me of why I got this old bucket. The water is smooth as glass.

You got to do something for the boat, so I got a tiny fridge, just enough for coffee fixings and a can of refreshment or two. Now that’s a weekend’s entertainment!

IMG 3514

Kingston, while waiting for the ferry. In 1990 my great-aunt Lura Mae and her husband Clifford treated me to fish and chips here at the terminal right before I got on the ferry to Edmonds. 

The New Job

So much of everything is determined by your job. I hate that, but I concede.

Now that I have a job 3.7 miles from the boat, the refit is looking like something strangely reasonable, and not a nuisance too far to be convenient but too familiar not to keep amidst the neurological upset of constant change and the sight of nice people sliding toward death.

Nothing ever turns out like you plan but the boat. 

The plan for the boat is to drive up to the marina, park my car in my usual spot between the office and the bathroom, and take a nervous glance at the tarp. Is it still reasonably tidy? Have the ties frayed to extinction such that the assemblage is flapping away at an embarrassing rate? 

I should have painted the framing hot pink like the rest of the project. But no, the wood is unfinished.

I dont approve of unfinished wood. It is stupid.  

The aimless clanging of the halyard is a sound well-known to boat people. That, and the screeching of gulls. 

There is always more wind where there are boats. It is strange. It is almost as if boats cause wind. 

When I am in the boat, relaxing with a dry cider after a long day of staring down the project after working a shift or two, I can sometimes feel the entire edifice shifting. I keep thinking that someday it will fall and I will spring suddenly bolt upright trying to brace myself as she goes over.

But no. That will have to wait for the next good earthquake, which, if my luck holds, will be when she is resting safely in a slip. Then the Richter scale cosine of change will register as a slight buoyance following by the neighbors yelling. 

Hello again. 


Every Saturday after services, the Messianic synagogue’s festive lunch, and the Rabbi’s fine hour or so of Torah study, the remaining congregants would gather in the basement and play mah jong until Havdalah, the closing ceremony of Shabbat.

I always worked Saturday afternoon, and had to duck out after lunch, but I had a standing invitation to the game. I had fantasies that someday I would, indeed, arrange to be off on Saturday so I could stay for that very special long afternoon with a shot of vodka — L’Chaim! — and plenty of good cheer. 

So many Jews are also Buddhist — hence the Chinese food on Christmas. I suspect there is an ambient sense of the connection between the non-Christian peoples on the Lower East Side of New York, and that has clung to the culture. It just makes sense.

Not that mah jong isn’t fun.

Peggy’s breast cancer was the longest slog. Then Covid descended and I got pulled into so many shifts as a Nurse’s aid that I could not really focus on the day off, the restful hours of union with G-d, the gorgeous luxury of the day of the two souls, the temple's communion in bright and happy ways playing a game in the activity room.

I was looking the other way when she died. 

I am aghast. 

Why didn’t I take the day off when I could? Now it is a memory. 

I will pray for her soul in the usual way. I will light a candle on her death date for her yahrzeit. 

She was quietly good at many things, including boat refit. She ran the office at two boat yards for many years and was still working when she passed away. 

Fair winds and following seas, dear Peggy.

Peggy Anne Vargas, January 10, 1956 - May 30, 2023

A Moment of WIstfulness

I had a moment of staring down the project. As usual.

Steve Brown of South Park Marina always assures me that it is all right to sell because I work too damn hard as a CNA. Who has time for a boat with all those pick-up shifts?

Then I show up and take a gander over to where she is. This yard is full of old vessels that people pay for month after month and never splash. 

I stare down the Spencer. There is a complete universe out there of boats that could be mine with the same cash. Many of them are nicer. I often shop for them on Craigslist.

But I know in my soul that if I sell her now, I’ll only take pity on her in a couple of years and buy her back, and she will be full of mold. 

It is the lesser of two evils to have this boat that I take care of at least with a new tarp every year.

And who knows? This might be the year the deck gets finished, the toe rails replaced, and something done about the companionway doors.

So I stand down, and Steve assures me that that is okay, too. Look at everyone around here trying to sell their boats. It never works out.

And someday . . .  someday . . . SOMEDAY Im going to get this boat in the water.

But someday isnt coming this year.

I have enough cash to do one project a year.

I know my soul. I am a Capricorn, ruled by Saturn. Saturn says, WHAT IS THE MOST DIFFICULT AND IMPORTANT PROJECT HERE? Not, what is the low-hanging fruit.

It is the fiberglass on the cabin that was patched up with epoxy.

My readers will know what I think of epoxy. It is easy. Yes, there is a hole, and, yes, you can mend it, for now, with epoxy, but you will only be kicking the can down the road. In a decade, that epoxy will turn pull away from the wood and be an intractable cement that does not hold but does not go away. Then you will be staring it down with a hand scraper, which is illegal at South Park Marina. No, we have to lie about our tools. What we have here is a Festool vacuum sander, for rent for $45/day, not raw muscle. 

Someday Im going to get caught, but I will ALSO have a Bosch die grinder with a pile of 2 techno pumice heads and a vacuum that will solve problems with less muscle than I can afford.

I can hear my grandfather calling in from the grave. It will take three Bosch die grinders to complete the job, and didnt Bosch just discontinue your favorite die grinder?

Woe is me!

My grandfather taught me to always buy the best tools. He was a house painter who could walk away from any jerk — he was that good. The only paint he used in the fifties was Pittsburgh Paint. You’re not gonna touch it with the cheap stuff. 

I know what is coming. I will be buying Andy’s supply list on Boat Works Today for $20 and getting that very roll of fiberglass, that very can of gel coat, that very paint.

And it will be my color of paint. A girl paint. 

Why not be ridiculous with all those dings and roofing tape? We are going tie dye with the cabin. Accents not in zebra but I think leopard or something. We need animal prints. Not just pink. Then the pirate hats. 

A former owner of the vessel, E. J. Johnson, saw the ad on Craigslist  and who doesnt always keep an eye on Craigslist for the boats? it comes with the job  and contacted me with this beautiful photograph. He assured me that Little Wing was, in fact, NEVER just a dirty guy fishing boat for a couple of decades. He knows 3 or 4 of the former owners, and they were NOT all guys. In fact, he sailed her around Vancouver Island in 2008. I have his very log in my files. He made good time and, if that were me on that trip, I would be stopping short of all those exploits in the Strait of Juan de Fuca with the lethal conditions and visiting my brother in Port Angeles where the boat should stop in once in a while as shes tootling around the Hood Canal where my ancestors would have put in with boats. 

It is not a yacht. It is an eco-friendly method of transport to fish, hang out with your own thoughts, and get to the store for bread and milk.

© Joann L. Farias 2023