Thursday, 16 August 2012

Doing things the old way

When Dad died in 2007, he left Mum his old wooden boat. Suffice it say that my Mum's not the most mechanically minded person (God Bless her) so the upkeep and maintenance rests with me and my brother-in-law.

The Pisces now sits awkwardly on Jetty #2 at The Swan Yacht Club in East Fremantle.

The hull rim needs replacing, the boat needs sanding and painting and now the engine's stopped working. I go down there every 2nd Friday night to give 'er indoors a bit of peace and quiet and spend time with my mates. One of the members was going to have a look at the engine, but after a few missed appointments and several un-returned phone calls, I went somewhere else.

The Swan Yacht Club has operated in a certain, "charming" way for over 100 years. Mostly this is a club built on the back of working tradesmen and small businesses. These men have built the club into what it is today. Need a new wall? "Member Bob will fix that." Engine kaput? "Hand me that old spanner, I'll give it a turn." Broken window? "Get a bit of tape on it." Everything done the old fashioned way, on the cheap or even for free by devoted and loving members.

But the old way of doing things is wearing thin. The Swan River Trust are concerned about pollution and in a bid to raise revenue, the East Fremantle City Council wants to turn a 100yr old peppercorn lease into a real lease. Several other Working Mens' Clubs are being ousted from their old haunts and are now on the hunt for new premises. Because Associations aren't allowed to turn a profit, they come with assets and the promise of financial injections to rebuild the SYC anew (providing other clubs' needs are also catered for).

It's the promise of a fresh new spring for Working Mens' Clubs in Fremantle. But there's a problem.

If not kept in check, the problem could spell the systematic end to all old gentlemen institutions. Unlike gracefully maturing ladies, old gents tend to get grumpier in their old age. The SYC membership is 90%+ male and they are aging. Old men like to voice their concerns, stand up for their rights and garner "the respect they deserve" by having their opinions heard. Perhaps their kids, now grown up with families of their own don't listen to Dad's rhetoric. They've heard it all before.
"When I was a boy, we . . ."
"Sure thing, Dad. See you next weekend."
With insurance companies, lawyers, environmental lobby groups, tax and financial institutions needing to see a paper trail for just about everything, all these concerns end up in writing and could spell the end for this bygone generation. "Getting in a mate" in to fix it "next Tuesday" (if he turns up) is sadly, not be the way things get done in our time-poor world.

Yesterday I had Richard, a marine engine mechanic with years of experience look at the Pisces' old Perkins engine. Unlike the club guy, he was 2 minutes early, wore a pressed shirt (with pen in top pocket) and handed me three business cards to give to my friends. He announced his credentials, handed me three business cards (for my mates) and was very by the book. He wouldn't commit to a price until he'd been right through the old girl with a fine-tooth comb.

I signed his Terms of Agreement and now await the quote with some apprehension.

While I wasn't super keen on Richard's crossing of Ts and dotting of Is, I know that this bloke will fix Dad's old boat properly. He'll do it next week and I will pay $X. I also know that it will be done legally and with all the associated paper-trails, safety clearances and insurances in check.

To be honest. I didn't like the experience.

Like Dad, I love the idea of getting my mates to chip in here and there, wrapping a bit of lecky tape around wires and using re-purposed car batteries instead of proper marine batteries. But if this old boat is to stay afloat and allow me and my mates to have a bit of fun cruising down the Swanny every 2nd Friday night (while rewarding girlfriends and wives with a "night off" at home) it all has to be done properly.

Sadly, perhaps, by the book.

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