March 17, 2015

She was pretty, fast, and demanding

A COUPLE OF DAYS AGO I was wondering whether it’s possible to love a boat, in the truest sense of the word. Since then I have remembered that a man once wrote to me from Oswego, New York, confessing that he loved his boat so much that his wife was beginning to have doubts about their relationship.

“I own a Cape Dory Typhoon sailboat, “ he said. “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?”

My reply was:

Hell no, A.J. 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 affair. 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, A.J, 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, A.J. 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

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

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)


Alden Smith said...

Hi from New Zealand. I came here from a google about Trekka - Love that boat - one sold on TradeMe here is NZ on the auction for about NZ$1600 !!! Can you believe it?

I have put you on my blog list so I will be back - You have a nice site. Keep up the good work / Boat Love.

Jack said...

A wise old salt once said to me, never name your vessel after your wife. As its more likely at you'll change a wife before your boat....... Sage advice I would say!

John Vigor said...

Hi Alden:

I love Trekka, too. John Guzzwell lives about 80 miles from here as the fly crows. A sistership of Trekka's is for sale nearby, too, in wonderful nick at a reasonable price.


John V.

John Vigor said...

Jack, you should see the cover of a book I wrote called How to Rename Your Boat. Look it up on


John V.

Edward said...

Jack , My wife would not let me name any of our boats ,8 and counting, after her. Think she is trying to tell me something:)