Thursday, April 25, 2019

Throwback Thursday - The What and the Why

This post is for any of you that are considering the cruising life, but are still stuck in a cubicle on land. We still had our starter boat, Nomad, and were a year from buying Kintala.

The what and the why

There is no way to avoid it, we spend a lot of hours working on little Nomad. Much of the work is pretty serious stuff, engine cooling systems, electrical charging systems, bottom paint, re-bedding life line supports and bow pulpits; the kind of stuff that makes the boat work better and sailing her safer. (Though I tend to play it down a bit, it is possible to get seriously hurt on any sailboat, even on our little lake.) Jobs like replacing the step carpet, water damaged and moldy side panels, head hoses, and headliner, keep her cleaner and dryer and a more healthy place to spend one's days. New interior lights make her cabin that much more inviting. And all that teak work? That just makes her pretty.

We spend a lot of hours working on the boat, but not near as many hours as we spend working at jobs to support the boat, and the house, and cars and bikes... We enjoy all of those things but sometimes I wonder about the "degrees of separation" between what I am doing and why I am doing it. When I work on the boat there is no separation at all between the what and the why. My hands are in direct contact with my goal, get the boat in the water and enhance my experience of living on her for the weekends. When I'm at work, sometimes, I am not at all sure just what I am doing sitting at this desk, and I sure as stink sometimes wonder why.

Living on a boat, I imagine, is not the only way to have such an intimate connection with a life. A farmer might pull it off, a rancher, maybe a mountain man. But I have never been any good at making things grow, I don't really care for animals, (particularly ones that are much larger than I am and can kick me into next week) and there are no mountain men any more. I do machines, and have a killer case of wanderlust. At the end of a "boat-work" day I can pour a Rum & Coke and sit right down in the middle of what I got done that day. And then, if I want, I can pull up an anchor and head off somewhere else. (Unless we are on the hard!)

I suspect I am more than a little out of step with my world. From our first days at school we are taught to find our place in a complex society where the bit we learn to do can be added to the bit someone else has learned to do, all the bits added together, run through an even more complex medium of exchange and distribution, and somehow it adds up that most of us can pay to have a roof over our head and food on the table. It works pretty well too, modern society taking better care of more people than at any time in all of history. (Well, recent history might be an exception. The bits aren't adding up as well as they used to.)

But sometimes my bit doesn't seem to make a lot of sense, and how all the bits add up to credit card bills and house payments, a little vague. The bit I do this morning will be forgotten by lunch, the bit this afternoon lost in the haze before the drive home ends. Come evening I am not exactly sure what I spent the hours doing, or why it was worth one of my allotted days. In fact I can't think of anyone, anymore, who works for the shear joy of doing what they do. And that may be the saddest thought I have had in a while.

But it also explains my fascination with working on Nomad. I love working on our little boat, and not just to get her back in the water. I enjoy making her work a little better and look a little nicer. And when she does splash and make her way into the lake once again, she will be a tiny spec of form, function and joy moving across the water. In fact, I am of the opinion that every boat that hoists sails makes that day a better day. In the scales of the world having a good day or a bad one, a set of sails pulling hard in the breeze offsets a lot of ugly.

1 comment:

Tod Germanica said...

Wow, good post back then a good one now. You were dreaming and doing back then, planning and hoping. And you got to live the dream too, least for a spell.
And now you're back on the hard and pretty far from the beach. If you walked down the main drag of big MO with an oar on your shoulder somebody would say "what's that thing?".
So you're in a similar spot now as back then but are smarter and experienced now. You know it can be done because you already did it.
My success rate on projects is not good. But if the thing makes you happy working on it and dreaming about it it can't be a total failure, I figure.
And, in truth, probably a good thing I never flew my decrepit Stitts Playboy homebuilt, or sailed my $500 Columbia 22 with the rusty keel bolts on the mighty San Joaquin River.
We dreamers like to see other dreamers succeed.
Enjoying the posts both new and vintage.