The Spice Necklace Blog

Ann's Blog

Chaguaramas, Trinidad:
November 11, 2010
The Chief of Shitty Little Jobs

I stole the phrase from my friend Devi on the sailboat Arctic Tern: Chief of Shitty Little Jobs. I’m the Chief of Shitty Little Jobs on Receta. Yes, I’m back onboard and Receta is back in the water, tied to a dock at Crews Inn Marina. After four months on the hard, there are lots of jobs – both little and large – to be done before we start sailing. Chief of Shitty Little Jobs translates into “unskilled laborer,” with a title. One gets the position through ignorance: If you don’t know how to do wiring, install electronics, or rebuild pumps, you’re put in charge of the SLJs. A lot of them involve cleaning.

Yesterday, the Chief of Shitty Little Jobs acted as the shipboard equivalent of an OR nurse. “Scalpel,” the captain called. “Needlenose pliers.” “Roll of blue tape.” And I’d pass the requested item up from belowdecks as quickly as I could lay hands on it. Steve was mounting two new, bigger solar panels on the frame above Receta’s bimini, to give us more power this year. (Yay!) My other SLJ, besides passing tools, was…holding still: arms above my head, steadying the 5′ x 2′ (approx.) panels one by one, so Steve could drill holes and insert bolts.

And then there was the cleaning part: In between being the extra pair of hands, I sorted our food lockers, organizing what was there before starting this season’s provisioning – and discarding what had been in there too long, admitting to myself that some items really would never get eaten. Among the latter was the bag of instant mashed potatoes that had been onboard since 2006. (It had been purchased in the Dominican Republic to feed a sourdough starter that died – okay, was killed – years ago.)

Off duty: Receta and Arctic Tern rafted together off St. Lucia last
season, when Devi and I had no urgent SLJs and went hiking
There was also the never-opened bag of preserved ginger I bought in a Port of Spain shop because it looked interesting. (I tasted it before pitching: weird, and not in a good way; I can’t tell you, though, whether that was because it had been onboard too long or meant to taste that way.) And the rancid walnuts. And the buttermilk “powder” that had hardened into nasty dark chunks, dated “2005” on the lid. As Devi says, SLJs can be very satisfying.

Oops, gotta run: Captain is in the cockpit calling for his Swiss Army knife.

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