Issue: May 2001
A Monkey Wrench on His Back

We have a little problem on our boat. It's my husband's tool bag. The first time he handed it to me as we were loading up for a weekend, it dropped like a Zamboni to the cabin sole, taking most of my rotator cuff with it.

"Oops," he said, grinning nervously as I glared upward and contemplated spousal abuse or at least some sort of verbal snippery. "Sorry. Here, let me get that." He slung it forward in the notch under the V-berth, where I would later step on it in the dark and gore an appendage with some hex-nut driver or other.

I don't know where in the grand scheme of boating things we girls got the bad rap for dragging too much stuff onboard; probably it started back with steamer trunks and hats like feathered zeppelins. But for as long as I've been boating, it's the guys who win the schlep award, hands down. The male beer and chips quotient alone is enough to outweigh the toiletries, lotions, creams, fuzzy garments, lacy underthings and chocolate that a woman might pack onto a boat for a weekend.

Our tool bag, for example, easily out-ballasts the cooler. It's a dirty-white, canvas rigging bag bristling with implements. Admittedly, having a serious set of tools onboard is a good thing, especially for someone who runs a boatyard. And I do take a secret pride in knowing the finer points of biscuit joiners, fornster bits, pocket chums, yankee drivers and various other tool arcania. But must we have two of every wrench and driver known to man?

The answer is yes, of course, and this is because my husband is a tool junkie. The bag that's heavy enough to be extra crew weight in an upwind pinch is actually his valiant attempt at minimalism, a mere snippet of what it could be. And I do use the word valiant, because for a man in the throes of a knee-bending tool jones, it's all he can do to maintain. Cold sweats every time we get near a Delta dealership. The shakes at the Porter-Cable store. Back issues of the Tool Crib catalog, fondled to onionskin, stashed in that little dust-bunny warren between the bed and the dresser.

For a time I thought he had it under control. When we bought our boat we took a solemn oath: We would worship no plastic until our sin of monumental spending had been forgiven and expunged. The checkbook was in rehab. Then I started noticing it on the monthly credit card bill: "Snap-On Tools . . . $125.00." "Snap-On Tools . . . $88.00." Once, twice, then an apparent cooling off period. Then there it was again.

"Okay, what's up with you and the Snap-On Tools guy?"

"Hmmm?"

"You know what I'm talking about," I said. "The Snap-On Tools guy. Your enabler. What's going on."

The confession was quick, though I could've done with a little more remorse. He tried that old "But tools can make us money, honey" argument, but this time I was a rock. The plastic is now safely hidden, along with the Grainger catalog and the latest from Harbor Freight. My husband seems to be doing much better these days. Maybe a couple weeks of cruising, far from the Snap-On Tools guy's influence, will complete his recovery. I'm just not sure how we're going to fit a table saw in the lazarette.