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The Marrying Kind

By Diana Roberts

Photos courtesy Diana Roberts

Stanley Pendleton checks the radar on a foggy run off Isleboro.

Married nearly 30 years, Diana Roberts and Stanley Pendleton still find moments to relax on Islesboro in the summer. Are you thinking about marrying a boatyard man? Might I advise you on how it might play out? Might I offer some maternal tips from the wizened (as in wised-up) wife of a boatyard owner? Glad you asked. I’m not going to sugarcoat it.

For starters, know that along about the month of May, you should be gearing up to become a completely self-sufficient pioneer woman, able to mow lawns, deliver your own baby, fix leaks, change flat tires, eat every meal alone, and possibly shoot a panther if there’s one on your cabin roof (well, maybe not, but I pretended to shoot a panther often when I was 8 and in the thrall of Bonanza). Your man—the man who once doted on you, caressed your slender fingers, and stared into your baby blues—is now gone and will be for some time to come.

In the early years of my romance with my boatyard man, I believed it when he said, “It will get better after the Fourth of July,” meaning that the workload would lighten from 18-hour days to 12, once launching season ended. But now I am less naive, a gray-haired elder who knows a falsehood when she hears one. Things will get better after Labor Day, and not a moment before. By then, you’ll be living, not with a man, but with a wet noodle wrung through the wringer. Think Soba. Think Spin Cycle. It will be months before he resumes his position as a fully cognizant, rested citizen, at home in his body and at peace in his mind. Until then, you’re going to live with a zombie. Mark my words. 

Stanley Pendleton builds a dock for a customer. I’m “lucky enough” to live right next to the boatyard with this man. Try it, you might like it. I can watch him, with or without binoculars, from the comfort of my window perch. I see him rigging a Dark Harbor 20 off the boatyard float, racing the tide to get the damn thing done and onto a mooring before it rests on the muddy bottom. I use binoculars for the finer points, like to check if the boat is taking on water and he’s freaking out. Or to see who he’s talking to if she looks pretty (if I have just my stupid reading glasses on).

It’s “great” we live so close to where he breathes—I mean works. In theory, I could bring him lunch because he hasn’t had anything since his 5 a.m. Cheerios and his cup of coffee. But he would curse me if I brought something down to the dock. He is racing against Father Time and Mother Nature (tide waits for no man, blah, blah, blah). Plus Real Men don’t eat, at least not in front of other Real Men. So, I might—and you could, too—leave some fried potatoes on the stove, with the ketchup right next to them, and a note saying, “Eat the whole thing.” Maybe he’ll pass through around 2 p.m. to shovel it in. Maybe not.

...steps the mast on the family’s 38-foot Vagabond... Do you like to keep a schedule? Think again. Some days, he says he’ll be home for dinner when the boatyard crew leaves at 4 p.m. He wants to eat early because A. he never got lunch, and B. he wants to go back to work afterward, and C. he wants to fall into bed like a stone at 8 p.m. at the latest. 

Other days, he forgets he got married and works two or three more hours after the crew leaves, because he can get more done when they’re gone. So the wife is confused. The wife is tired from mowing and giving birth and killing panthers. She would like to eat at, say, 5 p.m. She tries not to text him. She tries not to call him, even though it rings directly into his hearing aids. What if he’s in the bilge of a boat and he knows full well it’s the wife, the perfectly capable, self-sufficient, independent pioneer woman he married so very long ago? I’m often in a pickle about dinner time, and this is how it’s going to be for you, too. Go mow the lawn.

...and mends a jib in the Pendleton Yacht Yard chandler. Early in the marriage, I complained to my mother about my husband’s work ethic. It’s too good. It’s over-the-top. It brings in the bacon, sometimes the whole pig. Mom was an even tougher old broad than me. She said tartly, “So? That just gives you more time to do what you want to do.” I try to hold that front and center. But my tendency is to try to match his frenzy with my own, as if to say, “Oh yeah? You think you got a lot done and are exhausted? Well, watch this, Buster!” I don’t just sit and read or knit as I’d like to. Instead, I match him chore for chore. If he’s splicing lines for pendants at 8 p.m., I’ll vacuum. If he gets on the first ferry to drive to Cape Cod Shipbuilding in Wareham, Massachusetts, to pick up a boat for a customer, I’ll rototill and plant the whole garden. 

Ladies, you have a choice to make. You can read or you can till. Either way, you’re on your own.

Is this the life you would choose? Have you considered marrying a banker (banker’s hours) or a teacher (summers off)? There are many fish in the sea. Would you rather the evening conversation not include such gems as, “She was taking on water, but I put the sawdust right to her!” or “It turns out it was the injectors after all!”? Perhaps a man with suede elbow patches discussing The Tempest would be more your cup of tea? Perhaps a loan officer, a stock broker, a movie star? 

All that summer work pays off, giving Diana and Stanley a chance to escape on adventures such as watching the start of the Sydney-Hobart Race in Sydney, Australia. But September will roll around. Boats will be hauled and put away. Winter will bring a saner work schedule and a saner husband (if he’s still alive). He may have time now to shave or get a haircut. He may even, if you’re really lucky, stare again into your baby blues and tell you he loves you. As Scuffy the Tugboat so aptly put it: “This is the life for me.” You might just decide to try it, too. 

Diana Roberts lives on Islesboro with her husband, Stanley Pendleton, proprietor of Pendleton Yacht Yard, and attributes her long and happy marriage to a highly refined sense of humor.






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