Aaron loves outboards, and he knows them all. If he's seen a boat before, he can tell you what it has hanging on the back before you can see it. He can tell you who is going past in the dark by the sound of the motor. We first noticed this trait when he was a little guy. He was into monster trucks then, and could identify all the pickup trucks he saw on the road. And he loved tools.
We see our jobs as parents as helping the kids follow their natural interests. We have no expectations that they will grow up to go to college to be doctors and lawyers. No offense to anyone intended, but we think the world has enough doctors and lawyers. What we really want for them is to be happy in whatever they choose to do. And no matter what they do, we want the boys to learn a trade, to have a marketable skill and learn the value of hard work.
There is a father and son team of mechanics here in the anchorage. We call them The Jims. They buy broken outboards by the lot, tear them all down, fix what they can and resell them. They do all this work in the cockpit of their boat. They very graciously offered to let Aaron come by and watch sometime. I wanted to go too, and took him over there. It's something different every day over at the Jims'. On his first day, Aaron rebuilt his first carburetor.
We go over there most days now. When Aaron has finished his schoolwork, and I've done enough work to take some time off. I'm learning, too. Some days are slower than others and sometimes Aaron loses sight of the big picture. He was not impressed one day to find them working on a small generator. That motor had a broken connecting rod and they took the block completely apart to get to it. It was the coolest thing I'd ever seen. After just a few weeks over at the Jims' I've learned more about motors than I ever learned from a book.
When our 25 turned up sick, what I'd seen at The Jims' gave me confidence to haul the motor into our cockpit and work on it myself. I ended up not putting the carburetor back together quite the right way, and I had to limp over to the Jims' for help. Through the course of tuning the carb and telling them what I'd found elsewhere, we determined that the motor had serious issues. They thought the problems justified buying a new motor if I could afford it, or they'd help me fix it. Of course I can afford a new motor. The dinghy motor is one of our most critical pieces of equipment. But there are no guarantees that a new motor isn't going to strand you somewhere, either. In the end, Tanya and I decided that even if with money out of the equation, it is better to have a motor you know than one you don't. So we're going to try to fix it. If we can't, or it gets too messy, or it dies on us later, then we'll get a new one. Probably in a different country where they still sell the good ones.
The Jims are clearly providing a valuable service to us and to Aaron, but it doesn't seem to be a one-way relationship. They appear to truly appreciate having Aaron around. Partially I think they enjoy passing on their knowledge and hard-earned experience. It is rare these days to find a child who respects adults, and is interested in anything but video games. Sure, he slows them down, but they don't mind. Every day when we leave they invite us back. And every morning when Aaron's finishes his schoolwork, he comes to tell me he's ready to go.