THIS JOB, LIKE EVERYBODY’S, has its “down-days.” Mine seem to involve the guy who calls on a Wednesday (usually the Wednesday before a holiday) and says “Two years ago my power tilt started leaking and now the engine won’t go either direction. I need you to see if the boat lift is functioning, then fi x the leak while the boat’s on the lift. I have grandchildren coming this weekend and they’ll want to use the boat.” You wonder why I’m compared to Andy Rooney’s curmudgeonliness?

I have at least a half-dozen scenarios like that a year. To start the year, though, let me say I just got the “Grinding” part of “Grid’s Gears” out of the way, and in the holiday spirit thought I’d tell you the job ain’t all bad.

I have a young customer with a growing family. I understand the expense of boating and am always willing to help teach him what he needs to know about various repairs he can effect. Last year his twin boys and daughter decided they wanted a boat, so I kept my eye out until I found a neat fi berglass skiff that could be hauled ashore on rails when not being rowed.

The kids were ecstatic, and somewhere along the line one asked his dad, “Does Mr. Grid just fi nd boats for children?” John, in his solemn way, said, “No, he builds submarines.” And when the kids go to bed at night and the parents tell them stories to put them to sleep, the kids want to know when I’ll build them a submarine. I found them a great four-stroke engine for the boat and the whole family enjoys it as much as the big boat. But no submarine. Finally I ordered a small model sub from Amazon and wrote a story about a bad little boy who grew up sinking wooden boats, but he thought that’s the way subs came—always sinking. That’s their Christmas present from me.

Most of my friends are the kind of guys you’d want in your booth at a redneck bar. Somebody might start teasing me about drinking unsweetened ice tea while everybody else drank Wild Turkey, and the next thing you know, there would be wounded bodies all over, except in my booth. My friends are educated and highly skilled in their professions.

What ties us together is the telltale grease under our fi ngernails. One of these friends is William, aka Willie. Willie subscribes to Sea and Boating World (told you he was educated). Willie purchased a 23’ Grady White cuddy and somehow—before we were friends, just customer/mechanic—I ended up working on the venerable Yamaha. Willie had the boat a few years and decided to sell it, unbeknownst to me (as though I had a say!). The fi rst I knew I got a text from Willie—CALL ME!! I did and he proceeded to tell me about a guy from Seattle (Joseph, aka Joe) who was going to fl y in, test the boat, pay him and have someone pick it up and take it to Seattle. SCAM! SCAM! SCAM! “This is classic Craigslist,” I told Willie. “I thought so too,” he said, “but then I was telling the guy Grid takes care of the engine and he says, ‘Grid? Writes for Sea and Boating World?’ So I fi gure he’s okay.” As it turned out, the whole deal was perfectly legit. I left home at 5 a.m., got there at 7 a.m. to go for a frigid boat ride on the James, and because our town is locked down for the Oyster Festival, got to spend 12 delightful hours with them until I could go home, all the time listening to Joe saying, “You’re a real person, not just made up! You’ve got grime and ink stains on your hands! You’re a real person!” Yup. 2891 miles from Seattle to Urbanna, VA to discover I’m real. Willie’s real. Chuck’s real. Terry’s real. And Joe? We think you’re real, too.

Now I’ve gone from local to national repute, let me tell you about the two gentlemen from the World Bank who met in a restaurant in Moscow. After an hour of work chit-chat, the conversation moved to where they lived (100+ miles apart), the joy of boating, and how each was lucky to have a mobile tech named….Grid.