Life Is A Beach: A Boat Wrapped In Red Tape

Bruce and I have spent a month in the garage, just the two of us. July and August are miserable in Virginia. Humidity hangs in the air, and we’ve had two weeks straight of temperatures in the upper nineties with no relief. I sit in a dry-docked boat, no water lapping at the sides, no ocean breeze, no cool drink. Sweat runs down my forehead and drips into my eyes. Box fans don’t cut it. I remove my glasses again, wipe at the salty sting, and curse the day we decided to buy a boat. How could this much work be worth it?

We have less than a week before our Chincoteague trip and not only are we still without a title, we don’t even know whether the Evinrude outboard motor will run. It sits, attached to the end of the boat, its cover off, wires, like wild hairs, stick up in all directions.

Bruce stripped the boat when we got it home. The hull was fairly sound, but everything else needed an overhaul. I’m no mechanic, nor am I a carpenter, and I’m certainly no boat repairwoman, but I have cleaned, scraped, sanded, and patched fiberglass, measured, cut and pieced the wood flooring, laid carpet, stapled upholstery, cursed bolts into uncooperative holes, then held parts in place while Bruce cursed the same bolts. He’s in charge and I’m the fed-up helper. We’ve barked at each other, pulled ourselves up and over the side of the vessel hundreds of times, and so far, our only reward has been a dizzying high of inhaled epoxy and fabric adhesive.

My back can’t take much more. Last night, I stretched out in the bottom of the boat, looked up into the Spackle sheet rock of the garage ceiling, and grieved the loss of seven hundred fifty-two dollars spent on this sixteen foot untitled, unregistered, illegitimate watercraft.

My plan had been for Bruce to do the boat repairs while I handled the paperwork involved in getting the title and registration for the boat. I found that although I’m very efficient in collecting the evidence needed, the state of New Jersey and the state of Virginia are in no hurry to help me.

I go to the mailbox each afternoon, hold my breath, reach inside and look for that Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries envelope. Our illusive title is so close. The process began June 24th, but nothing involving the government is easy or quick.

The state of Virginia requires that a buyer without a title (that’s stupid us), make every effort to contact the previous owner of the boat to obtain the original title. This involves sending a certified letter, return receipt requested. If the title is not available, the former owner is asked to send his own certified letter, to us, stating that the title is lost. If the previous title-holder has been searching for his boat, he must send a letter stating that he wants it returned immediately as it’s been lost or stolen. If the past owner is dead or has moved without a forwarding address, our certified letter is required to hang around the post office for fifteen days, after which time, it is stamped as undeliverable and returned to us. Our letter was mailed July 6th. We tracked its location online and waited. The letter returned to us, unopened, undeliverable and un-signed for on July 26th.

The state of Virginia also requires that the unopened certified letter, along with a copy of the letter inside the sealed envelope, the New Jersey lien-holder form, a copy of the bill of sale, copy of the cancelled check, copy of the former registration/title holder information, a notarized Affidavit for Transfer of Watercraft Registration/Title form, all be sent to the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. Within thirty days, if all checks out, we receive a title in the mail. Thirty days from July 26th is August 25th. Our vacation falls in the middle. We’re screwed.

Bruce punches numbers into his cell phone. He explains what we have done so far, that the papers and the check are in the mail. “There’s no way to float this boat until we get a title?” he asks the person on the other end at The Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

The nice lady directs us to Walmart, where we receive our temporary boat registration. It’s good for thirty days. The form states however, in big bold letters across the top: “This form does not constitute ownership.”

No worries. No one, not even the two of us want to own it at this point.

 

A Boat Wrapped In Red Tape © 2011 M Dawn Thacker. Click M Dawn’s tag to read her last installment on the saga of the Larson Shark. Read M Dawn’s latest on Now.readthisplease.com

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