My German Engineer

Just for fun… an article I was recently reminded of but hadn’t posted here. Now’s the time!

Lucky me: I have my very own German Engineer husband. He’s very sweet. He never barks orders. He’s the man on hand for anything that goes kaputt – or doesn’t, thanks to his diligent preventative measures. Just what you need for cruising!

Here is a guy who can ground the SSB to the water tank in an afternoon. Who can not only install a charge regulator, but can understand the need for one, too. Ham radio licence? Got it! Knot for every occasion? Goes without saying!

You can imagine this has its advantages, like the time the Wind Pilot broke in mid-Atlantic. And yet, there are compromises to be made, such as witnessing the over-engineering of straightforward tasks. You want to build a simple toy raft for Junior to tow behind the boat? Not possible. Buoyancy, balance, displacement are all accounted for in his creation. If necessary, we could abandon ship to it.

Well, I am exaggerating, and also suffering from an inferiority complex. While I admire his successes, they make me shirk from attempting anything less than a graduate level project. I’m a person who approaches repairs with a roll of duct tape. If that fails, I hit the broken gadget. The Engineer, on the other hand, makes calculations, sketches, and drafts.

Take the ingenious system he rigged up after a broken fuel injection pipe started spewing diesel into the bilge, 100 miles offshore in a calm. Markus managed to rig a hose from the cracked pipe to an empty jerry can so that the engine could run on two of its three cylinders; the hose ran neatly through a cork trimmed to match the jerry can’s mouth. Not a drop spilled! (Too bad I was the only one there to appreciate his handiwork.)

As for me, I track water consumption. Snap sunset shots. I identify the whales. I carefully calculate the number of cookies needed for passages – always with a comfortable margin of safety! I make lee cloths and hammer in grommets.

He downloads GRIB files.

This is not to say that I don’t do any of the technical work. I once managed to take apart and reassemble the toilet pump, but I am more in my element engineering full sentences in foreign languages.

Our priorities differ vastly. After a slow Atlantic crossing, we finally arrived in Antigua. My thoughts: Shirley Heights reggae night! Must check time! His? Must check steering cables! Despite occasional teeth gnashing, our characters complement one another well. Often, we are both right: the steering cables were threadbare, and Shirley Heights reggae night was an awfully good time. Vive la différence!

This article originally appeared in the February 2011 issue of Cruising World Magazine and also appears in my book, Pacific Crossing Notes.