I’M SITTING HERE on Thanksgiving eve, twiddling my thumbs and wondering who we should give thanks to for inventing boats. It’s a naive thought, of course. Nobody can know who first had the idea of hollowing out a log and sitting in it to cross a river or get to an island too far away to swim to. There’s not much point in pursuing that train of thought, so another train quickly blots out the first one. I wonder how much I’ve spent on boats in my lifetime? There’s a sobering thought for you.
Some people are clever enough to make money from boats, but I’m not one of them. You have to admire sailors such as Lin and Larry Pardey, who found a way to make money by sailing around the world enjoying themselves. They are professional sailors and part-time writers. I’m a professional writer and an amateur sailor. I’ve never sold a boat for more than I paid for it, and that’s not even including the time and money I’ve spent while owning it. But I’ve never begrudged a penny of it, and I’ve never tried to add up what it has cost me. God, no. I’m scared my wife might read this and start realizing why we have a 12-year-old car and the very basic television service.
Nevertheless, to get back to my first thought, there is a lot of thanks to be given for boats by a lot of people. They sure bring a lot of weekend pleasure into the lives of people with humdrum office jobs and they introduce the element of adventure into all kinds of boating. Sometimes trying to start an outboard motor is an adventure in itself. Then there’s the business of docking your boat in front of a critical audience, or diving over the stern to free a propeller from a rope you stupidly backed down onto. You might not realize it at the time, but these are things to be thankful for. They brighten your life and sharpen your wits and make your mate appreciative of the wonderful knack you have for getting out of messes of your own creation. Boats are especially good at helping you create messes like that.
Perhaps if I hadn’t been interested in boats, I would have found some other way of spending money hand over fist. Maybe I would have built a marvelous stamp collection or bought one of those fancy recliner chairs that gives you a massage and hands you a gin and tonic every 15 minutes. Maybe we would have a car whose back bumper isn’t chipped and dinged by all those idiot drivers in the grocery parking lot.
But that would mean we’d have missed out on some of life’s most wonderful treats. I don’t have to tell you about them. I’m thinking of the glorious surge of an ocean swell, or a peaceful anchorage after a hard day’s sail to windward. I’m thinking of sitting in the cockpit, tiller in hand, and marveling at the beauty of white sails swelling in the breeze. The hiss of a million bursting bubbles in the wake. Sailing at night under a brilliant full moon. Catching a nice salmon on a trailing lure. Sipping drinks with sailing friends in the cockpit at sunset. You know what I’m talking about.
Give thanks for boats. And to hell with the cost.
It was dramatic to watch my grandmother decapitate a turkey with an ax the day before Thanksgiving. Nowadays the expense of hiring grandmothers for the ax work would probably qualify all turkeys so honored with “gourmet” status.
— Russell Baker, NY Times, 27 Nov 85
“Where did you get that nice new anchor?”
“Well, I was going to the boat yesterday when this beautiful blonde came along carrying a 25-pound CQR. When she saw me, she threw it to the ground, took off all her clothes, and said: ‘Take what you want.’”
“Ah, good choice. The clothes probably wouldn’t have fit you anyway.”
(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)