There’s an old quote from the children’s books Wind in the willows, often passed around the boat community:
Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing — absolutely nothing — half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats. Simply messing… about in boats — or with boats. In or out of ’em, it doesn’t matter. Nothing seems really to matter, that’s the charm of it. Whether you get away, or whether you don’t; whether you arrive at your destination or whether you reach somewhere else, or whether you never get anywhere at all, you’re always busy, and you never do anything in particular; and when you’ve done it there’s always something else to do, and you can do it if you like, but you’d much better not.
Often reduced to: There’s nothing half so worth doing as simply messing about in boats.
Never was a phrase so damned true. A kid’s book, but then some of the greatest truths come from kid’s books. I still sleep with Winnie the Pooh under my pillow and I’ll fight anyone who wants to make somethin’ out of it.
After being on boats many, many years – it may be different for folks who have to work on ‘em, as opposed to those who just mess with ‘em – there’s nothing that can compare.
The other day a neighbour in Princess Bay fired up his sailboat’s engine, and listening to that burble of exhaust almost bought a tear to me eye. That’s the sound of freedom, of adventure, of not knowing what the day will bring. Closest thing a landlubber will relate to is firing up an old VW camper for trip down the Baja, and how often does that happen?
With a sailboat you can be going a lousy twenty miles and have more adventure, more risk, and more joy of arrival than that 4,000 km journey across two countries, and no goddamn cops, neither, nor crazy sunsa bitches with guns. When’s the last time you heard of a sailor climbing his mast and shooting up the place?
Stinkpots are less so, of course. You put it in gear, shove the throttle, and try not to hit rocks. That’s pretty much it. No wonder every knucklehead out there drives a stinkpot: my dog could do it. But with a sailboat, nature is in control and you’re forced to work with her, and she got a real dark sense of humour.
Sailing takes, cunning, skill, patience, practice, and balls. The first time your asymmetrical gets hit with a gust from nowhere when you’re close hauled and your 20,000 lb vessel spins around 180 degrees in her own length, while heeling over at 50 degrees, you realize you’re in control of jack shit, and you only make headway when nature feels like it.
You’re like a lizard picking flies off a lion: it’s all great as long as the lion goes along with it, but if it changes it’s mind, lizard poop will be flying. Oh yes, sailin’ keeps you humble.
The one advantage a stinkpot has is way more room for unit length than any sailboat. Stinkpots are made for comfort and dockside swinger parties. Oh sure, you can cruise with them, but be prepared for a second mortgage to pay for the fuel. I talked with one fella who blew over 30 grand in fuel taking his 40’ boat down to Mexico and back. That amount of carbon should help stave off the next ice age.
I’ve never understood how a 30,000 lb boat that you can move by pushing it with a finger burns so much damned fuel, less than 2 miles to the gallon. I had a 24’ RV that weighed 10,000 lbs and you couldn’t move with two guys pushing on it, and yet got ten miles to the gallon. I’m surprised the conspiracy idiots aren’t all over that.
The sea is the last frontier where a fellow can still go where he damned well pleases. No roads, no cops, and no rules that anybody pays attention to, least of stinkpotters. Lots and lots of space, empty space and wilderness with no goddamn bears to rip out your gizzard in the middle of the night. I bloody well hate bears. Every goddamn bear should get a 00 buckshot enema as far as I’m concerned.
Boat life is also great for meditatin’. Being a student of the Zen arts and a certified crystal master, I’ve long sought out enlightenment an’ wisdom among the waves. It’s a natural for those of us with a sensitive disposition that makes our livin’ on the sea. But I got this problem: each and every bloody time I figger I got this bitch called life nailed down, time comes along and shows me to be a complete fool. I thought I had it all figgered out in my twenties. Nope. Again in my forties. Nope. And until recently I thought I had it figgered out as a wise old man of th’ sea. Again, nope.
Now that don’t mean I don’t see things and haven’t got a few points to make, but I now get that there ain’t no one big truth, one final big flash that goes off and then you and the Buddha are clinking beer mugs. If there’s anything I do know now is whatever truth you think you might got is truth for you, right now, and I bet a diamond to a barrel of pig shit, that truth will be traded somewhere down the road.
And what seems so damned obvious to you, might only fit you, and the path only you are on, while if you try to tell it to the next guy, he might look at you like you got a dick growing out of yer ear.
Maybe that’s the problem with movements. Maybe that’s the problem with self help books and seminars: maybe only you can figger out why you’s so squirrely, and followin’ somebody else’s ideas is just a distraction from the crap only you can see and only you can deal with.
For me, boats has helped me on my road to enlightenment. But that’s me. Boats has taught me patience, humility and damned near equanimity. For me wife, they just make her wet her pants and swear like a longshoreman, which don’t help her along her enlightenment path one bit.
Now I ain’t saying there aren’t any big truths: there are, and theys mighty big ones. But I can’t tell them to you; I can only say what pointed me towards ‘em. You gotta find them yourself, and you will as long as you keep lookin’
Afterwards, when we’s old and hoary and laughing at all the stupid shit all those young folks do, we can probably compare notes and agree on some big principles. But we wandered our own paths and ended up at the same place, and that’s not by accident.
But we each gotta find our way there. And screw Deepak, he’s no sailor.