Assholes and Elbows

One of the best things to come out of our journey so far is consistent evidence that people are good.  We have experienced unsolicited kindness in every place that we have stopped.  Complete strangers have loaned us their marina keys until we were able to attain our own, offered use of their vehicles, helped push us off of or pull us onto a dock in strong current and wind, dropped off a bottle of wine just to say, “welcome to their city,” divulged their secret anchoring spots, bought us meals, and become our biggest supporters.  The Humboldt Yacht Club let us use their clubhouse for our NPR interview, and the Point San Pablo Yacht Club allowed us to keep our boat at their guest dock for two weeks so that we could attend Rob’s father’s memorial.  We’ve made new friends over impromptu happy hours and hometown tours, as well as while pushing Mapache into the Santa Barbara Harbor.

The last boat log left us anchored without use of our propeller.  Despite lack of sleep from the previous two days’ passage, we were up early motoring our dinghy into the harbor.  We spoke to Santa Barbara Harbor Patrol, who were immediately understanding of our circumstance.  They secured us an end-tie (the easiest spot to dock in a marina).  Our assigned end-tie was directly in front of Warren Buffett’s partner’s mega-yacht, a massive and immaculate catamaran that holds 149 passengers.  Our plan was to use our dinghy with its outboard engine to push Mapache off anchor, around the wharf pier, through the buoy-marked channel, into the harbor, and tie up while avoiding the dozens of paddle boards, kayakers, small and large sail and motor boats, and that mega-yacht.  I would steer and Rob would captain our “tug boat,” the dinghy.  As we rode back to Mapache on the dinghy, its engine started failing.  It would take several pulls to get it running again, but it was clear that it was now unreliable.  Trouble enjoys company, I suppose.  

As we sat on Mapache contemplating what to do next, a dinghy holding three people drinking cocktails, one of whom wore a pirate hat (it was Halloween), motored alongside us.  They called out and threw us a couple of breakfast sandwiches and two White Claws.  It turned out that the pirate was my mother’s friend’s son, Matt.  He and his family have a sailboat in the harbor and live in town.  Having known them for all of two minutes, they gave us no alternative to them helping push Mapache with their dinghy.

Matt traded his passengers for his teenage son, Shane, and the two of them gripped onto Mapache’s port stays while standing in and motoring their dinghy.  Rob pushed the nose of our dinghy against Mapache’s stern.  We easily made it off anchor and were underway with enough momentum for me to steer from Mapache’s helm.  Our dinghy’s motor repeatedly gave out, leaving Rob behind, but Matt and Shane provided enough power alone.  Shane and Matt got rocked in wind waves, took water over their dinghy’s bow, and were yanked around as they held tight.  But they never let go of Mapache.  We successfully navigated the channel and into the marina, with some help from Chris, Matt’s wife, paddleboarding ahead and warning people not to cross in front of us.  Rob caught up to push Mapache again, so Matt sped ahead and dropped Shane on the dock to catch lines.  Matt stood by in his dinghy to help adjust Mapache’s positioning as needed.  Harbor Patrol also stood by, sensibly positioning their boat between our assigned dock and the giant catamaran.  My focus in the marina was on that catamaran, telling myself, “just don’t hit that!”  We gracefully pulled alongside the dock, Shane caught our midship and stern lines, and a harbor patrol officer caught our bow line.  We tied off, and it was a smooth success.  If it wasn’t for my excessive thanking of everyone, we might have looked like professionals.   

Knowing Matt, Shane, and Chris (and later, Matt’s and Chris’s daughter, Quinn) is an honor.  They are the type that see a way to help another and jump in, no questions asked.  They take away any awkwardness in the situation, providing easy confidence and positivity.  We have found that there are a lot of people who want to help others, but only some of those people take steps to do so, and even fewer keep at it no matter how much worse the problem develops.  Rob describes the people who help others and see a job to the end as people who are willing to jump in, “assholes and elbows.”  The term comes from his navy days and is a compliment.  Urban Dictionary defines the slang term as “working hard at a task,” allegedly originating from farm work, where “[i]f a group of field hands are busy and bent over picking crops, then a supervisor looking out over the group would see nothing but ‘assholes and elbows.’”  Matt, Chris, and Shane are those “assholes-and-elbows-type” helpers.  To top it all off, they also left us a six-pack of local, craft beer in our dock box.  

We are thrilled to have made so many new friends and seen the good parts of human nature.  But we definitely have not forgotten our old friends and family.  They also keep us going, sending us a spontaneous messages of encouragement, answering our calls in the middle of a workday to provide a second opinion on the forecast or a boat repair, visiting us when they can, accepting countless packages for us, and so much more.  Thank you, new friends and old, for being part of our journey.  

Now, it’s time to repair the boat!

Matt and Shane–our heroes

Sarah steered as Rob pushed Mapache with our dinghy.

Matt and Shane (while wearing a pirate hat) pulled Mapache into the harbor.

We carefully docked in front of Warren Buffett’s partner’s giant catamaran.

Matt, Chris, Shane, and Quinn left us a surprise six-pack in our dock box.

Cheers to a truly special Saturday afternoon!

9 thoughts on “Assholes and Elbows

  1. Sunsets and palm trees come and go, but these are the memories you will cherish long after you are done cruising.

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