May 13, 2009

Waiting for the first scratch

KAREN LARSON AND JERRY POWLAS are two very happy sailors. They’re grinning so hard they could start a brush fire with the sparks from their teeth. The Cheshire cat has nothing on them. And all because they’ve had their boat’s deck painted.

Karen and Jerry are the founders, owners, and editors of Good Old Boat magazine. Their boat, Mystic is a 33-year-old C&C 30 that was showing its age last fall when they came back from their annual cruise on Lake Superior and handed it over to a boatyard.

But now it is transformed. Its gleaming finish looks like new. Better than new, in fact. And the lovely thing about a new deck, says Karen, is that you can see it and appreciate it all the time you’re sailing. A new paint-job on the hull is nice, too, of course, but you have to leave the boat to admire it. You can’t just sit there and drool over it and pat it now and then, like you can with a new deck.

I hope their enjoyment lasts a long time. Longer than mine did last time I painted a deck. Because of incompatibility between two lots of epoxy undercoat, my whole polyurethane deck peeled off in one piece two weeks after I finished it, and I had to do the whole damn thing again.

Even after I eventually got it right I didn’t experience the inner joy that’s making Karen and Jerry burst with happiness. I was always afraid some fool would drop a winch handle and chip it. Or some landlubber would sit on it with a marker pen in his back pocket. Or some damned seagull would drop his freshly picked mussel on it from a dizzy height to break it open. The suspense was killing me.

In the end, I invented a ceremony that brought me peace of mind. I called it the First Scratch Ceremony and made it a chapter in my book How to Rename Your Boat — And 19 Other Useful Ceremonies . . .

The essence of the ceremony is that you deliberately put the first scratch on your new paint job in an inconspicuous place. And then, when your gleaming paintwork finally does get ravaged by some thoughtless idiot, you won’t be consumed by a paroxysm of rage. You will be able to control the very natural urge to commit homicide because it won’t be the first scratch.

The ceremony ends with a lovely (even if I say so myself) little prayer to Aphrodite, the guardian of love and beauty, imploring her to bless the first scratch that will spare us the agony of the endless wait, the awful anticipation that keeps honest mortals awake at night, staring into the darkness, wondering when that wonderful new paint finish will first be violated.

If I were the owner of a C&C 30 with a magnificent new deck I would definitely organize a First Scratch Ceremony and party. And I wouldn’t stint on the champagne, either.

Today’s Thought
The absence of flaw in beauty is itself a flaw.
—Havelock Ellis

“Why are you puffing so much?”
“Man, I just saved myself a buck. I missed the bus and ran after it the whole way.”
“Jeez, you dummy, why didn’t you run after a taxi and save $10?”

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