January 31, 2010

The madness of love

SOMEONE WHO SIGNS HIMSELF “Another John” writes from Oswego, N.Y.:

“I own a Cape Dory Typhoon sailboat. My wife says I love it more than I love her. I don’t know how to compare different kinds of love, but I admit that I love my boat and I love it quite a lot. Is this so very wrong?”

Hell no, AJ. You don’t lose your manhood if you love a boat. You might lose your wife, but that’s another matter.

I loved the very first boat I owned. It was an International sliding-seat canoe that I bought in a moment of love-induced madness. I didn’t realize at that moment that I wasn’t man enough for this little beauty. I was a scrawny youth, weighing all of 125 pounds, and 125 pounds was just not heavy enough. After repeated dunkings I came to the conclusion that this was unrequited love, the kind I already felt for my high-school English teacher, who had wonderful legs and magnificent pair of … but no, I digress.

The boat was a singlehander about 16 or 17 feet long and about 3 feet 6 inches wide. She had no stability of her own. You kept her upright by flinging yourself out onto what looked like a seesaw sticking out from the side. She was very pretty, very fast and very demanding. She had a tiller extension as long as an elephant’s trunk and when you went about you had to handle the extension, the mainsheet, the jib sheet, and the sliding seat all at once, and sometimes the centerboard, too. You really needed to be a 200-pound, eight-armed, lightning-fast octopus to handle that boat. But what a thrill it was (for those few brief moments before she capsized) when she flew up onto a plane and went skimming over the bay in a cloud of spray.

While I’m in confessional mood, I might as well admit that I had a previous love. A steamroller. A lovely green-and-black steamroller came along one day to make a new road near our house and I fell head over heels in love. I used to come running home from school to spend my afternoons with it. And I was heartbroken when its job was done and it just clanked away without a backward glance at me. I think maybe the sliding seat canoe caught me on the rebound.

Anyway, AJ, my advice to you is to go ahead and love your boat. Wives come and wives go. There seem to be plenty of them around. But Typhoons are not made any more. Those little beauties are getting rarer by the day. Do your duty, AJ. Love it, come what may.

Today’s Thought
Loving can cost a lot but not loving always costs more, and those who fear to love often find that want of love is an emptiness that robs the joy from life.
— Merle Shain, Some Men Are More Perfect Than Others

Readers’ comments
Bob K7ZB said ...
Keep 'em coming, John! I have been sailing only a few years now on my own boat and have found your columns very useful. For example, last summer sailing on Lake Michigan I found that I was experiencing things you would write about the following week. So, I do think you might work on the synchronization of your columns as we get closer to the season — it would help to know what's going to happen to me BEFORE it occurs for a change!
Sabre 28

Boaters’ Rules of Thumb #8
The first boat to anchor has the right to ask others not only to give her room to swing freely but also not to hinder her maneuvering room when she wishes to depart. But the first yacht MUST inform the newcomer of the possibility of fouling. (U.S. Admiralty Court decision number 124-5861 of 1956.)

“Your name?”
“Sparks, Your Honor.”
“What’s the charge?”
“Officer, place this man in a dry cell.”

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