Mike Babcock, chief engineer on a 68m motor yacht best described as ‘vintage,’ is enjoying a leisurely English breakfast in the crew mess. He is on his second cup of tea, and fourth piece of toast. “It’s Saturday,” he remarks, as he leisurely turns the page on a newspaper, ignoring a deckhand asking him where the tap and die set has gotten to. “Fuck off.”
“Look,” he levels with us, stirring his tea slowly and turning his radio down to inaudible, “the problems are going to find you themselves, don’t you worry about that. The trick is to not waste your time and energy looking for them. The crew think I’m lazy, but I’m not. I’m waiting.”
An alarm sounds somewhere in the boat, and Mike remains unmoved. It stops after awhile, and is followed by an ominous banging deep in the bowels of the steel hull.
“Second engineer.” Babcock offers, apparently giving this as an explanation of who answered the alarm, why he himself didn’t bother, and for the banging. “If it’s important he’ll get me.”
“There are more problems on this thing than there are solutions, or hours in the day to apply them, or fucks I have left to give in my life. I could literally spend all of my remaining breaths charging around finding reasons to have a nervous breakdown. Or, I can let the problems find me, and when they do, ask them if they’re absolutely sure they want to do this. You would be surprised how often a hard look will make trouble get back in its box.”
It was at this point that the second engineer went through the mess at a clip, sweating, and with his coveralls covered in a variety of unappealing substances, the kind that are meant to stay inside things, not get smeared across your collar. He shot a panicked look at the chief as he passed, but didn’t stop to interrupt his sanguine boss.
“It does take time to learn that,” Mike observed, glancing after his red-faced understudy. “But you do. Or you don’t and you burn up, like a pump that’s lost its prime. Either way you end up stopping, it’s just that in the one instance you start again and in the other you’re broken for good. Now if you don’t mind, pass the brown sauce, and go away. It’s Saturday.”