April 5, 2009

The loneliness of springtime

SAIL, AND THE WORLD sails with you. Sand, and you sand alone.
The truth of this saying becomes more evident as spring gets under way and boat owners start shopping for varnish, bottom paint, and sandpaper.

It’s a strange thing, but it appears that the persons who crew for you on the Thursday evening races, and who join you for weekend cruises in the islands, always seem to imagine that they’re doing you a big favor. They’re not doing it for their pleasure, you understand. They’re doing it so you can get your old wreck of a boat out onto open water once in a while and boast about it. Thus, when the season arrives for the hard muscle-work of maintenance and repairs, you are on your own. Your faithful crew is nowhere to be seen.

This situation arises from a disconnect between the size of the boat and the plumpness of the pocketbook. Small boats don’t have this problem. They can be sailed singlehanded, and it’s no big deal to paint them. Rich owners don’t have this problem. They can afford the $90-an-hour yard fees and paid crew. In between lie the rest of us, the great majority, with boats too big or too inconvenient to sail or paint singlehanded, and pocketbooks too skinny to pay the professionals.

The answer, of course, is to scale back. There is often said to be an inverse ratio between the size of your boat and the amount of sailing and pleasure it provides. But under the present economic circumstances it’s very difficult to swap a big boat for a smaller one. The used-boat market is in a terrible state. Nobody wants to buy your big old boat.

So there you are. You’re stuck with it. And you’ll have to sand, paint and varnish on your own. Your crew will come crawling out of the woodwork as soon as you’ve finished and the weather starts warming up again. It’s one of the facts of life the broker never told you about when he sold you the boat. It’s not even in the fine print.

I’m writing to my U.S. Senator about it. I want her to sponsor legislation calling for greater transparency in yacht sales. I want brokers and sellers to be forced to explain to prospective owners exactly who is going to have to do all the work and pay all the bills, and who is going to kick back on the foredeck and get all the thrills and all the pleasure. Maybe I’ll get the unions involved, too, and possibly the ACLU or Mr. Geithner, someone who can stir things up in Washington. And when it’s all over, and you’re all benefiting, kindly remember who went to all this trouble on your behalf. Think nicely of me from time to time. Thank you.

Today’s Thought
Work is of two kinds: first altering the position of matter at or near the earth’s surface relatively to other such matters; second, telling other people to do so.
—Bertrand Russell

Thieves who broke into Robert ("Mad Bob") Mugabe’s private safe over the weekend are reported to have got clean away with the results of Zimbabwe’s next general election.

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