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Boating: A goodbye to a trusted friend

September 26, 2012
by boatguy Ed , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Over the years I've come to trust a very able boat mechanic named Bob. He became a good friend several boats back when he rescued me from a night on the water anchored in the Back Bay. I know his family, grandkids, sons and daughters and the in-laws. We've been drinking buddies and confidants and I've recommended his work without any complaints.

Bob was a regular person in a sea of flakes when I first met him. In 1987, he helped remove inboard/outboard engines from old Grady White boats that I found lying about. I sold same boats to New England dealers who reconfigured them to be outboard boats and resold them to blue fin tuna fishermen who patrolled far offshore out on the 'banks.'

I've had several bad experiences with shade tree mechanics that claimed they were master mechanics with years of marine wrench time under their belts, but most of them lied. Before Bob came along, I was in need of an honest and truthful man but I was like Diogenes carrying a lantern searching in the dark.

"That should take me a couple of hours if you have a mini-hoist," he said upon inspecting the transom of a Grady from which he was going to remove the outdrive and engine.

He was back in my office in two hours. Hands washed and ready for lunch. "Going over to the 'Pit' for a barbeque sandwich. Do you want any?"

"If you're done with the boat, I'll buy," I said and he told me to go have a look. The engine was still hanging from the mini-hoist and the outdrive was on the ground. I bought a good lunch.

Not to say there weren't other great mechanics around, but they needed 40 hours a week. I didn't have that much work, and Bob was happy to work as a dockside mechanic when I needed him. Eventually, I had to make an appointment for his services but I was glad to wait.

"He deserves a rest," said Pensacola Slim. "Over 25 years, he's been bending down to work on our stuff."

"He can't retire! Who can retire these days? I'll guarantee he'll be back to work in Virginia when he could stay here and work for us," I lamented.

"You carry on so," said my wife. "He'll be back for three months in the winter."

"I wish I could get Jerry to work on my boat. He could change the name from Jerry's Tire and Auto by just adding Marine," I said. I'd found Jerry just about the same time I found Bob and the results were just as satisfactory. Jerry is pretty much retired but Warren has taken over day-to-day operations without missing a beat.

"You're just old and set in your ways," said Boston Bob, as I was wringing my hands and gnashing my teeth over impending boat maintenance doom! He's wrong of course. I am very flexible. I enjoy happy hours at many different places and the 'Dead End Canal Yacht Club' members and I are always looking for a new place.

I also believe in serendipity. When I broke down in Matanzas Pass and anchored next to Bob's sailboat, I believe it was meant to be. When my starter went out at the bank near Jerry's Tire, it was the same thing! Bob hip-towed me back to my office with his dinghy and Jerry's Tire sent a mechanic over to help me. Things didn't always go smoothly but they always did what they said they would and for the right price.

There were other dockside mechanics that could have won my trust, and there were other very capable auto service places. But it's that serendipity thing. Jerry quoted me a price and despite the job taking three times as long, that's all I paid. "Sorry about the delay but my young mechanic will never try to replace one on a cold engine again," he said. The 'Diogenes the Cynic' in me expected a much larger bill.

I learned a valuable lesson from them, stay with them until something goes wrong. It hasn't, and I'm sure it never will. But now Bob is gone and I'm taking applications. Are you listening Jerry?

One more story about Bob. He was living on a 35-foot sailboat in the Back Bay with his wife and two kids. I had a lot of work around the Isles, so Bob moved his boat near Pelican Island in the shadow of a newly completed high-rise building. Two problems developed when his kids kept taking their little boat over to the seawall and helping themselves to the pool, while Mrs. Bob sunbathed with very few clothes, if any.

Binocular sales at Boat-US went through the roof but eventually some residents figured out that they WEREN'T being used for bird watching. The complaints piled up, and Bob moved the boat. Ah, the good old days. Goodbye and best of luck, Bob.

Boatguy Ed is a hard working manufacturer of the best bottom paint, Super Shipbottom. ( The past commodore of the 'Dead End Canal Yacht Club', retired television producer and a heck of a nice guy but don't EVER try to buy him a beer. Comments to;



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