Old Time is still a-flying:
And this same flower that smiles to-day
To-morrow will be dying.
Early on, Anke and I spend some time in the boatyards of Port Townsend, WA. We were at work on our first boat, BRAMBLE - a lapstrake, life-boat conversion to gaff cutter. Life and death intervened, as it will, and we ended up building and sailing out on ZOON, ex Bolger LONG MICRO.
During this period, we made many friends at work on their own projects; building, restoring, rebuilding. Several finished up and sailed on, but many more did not. Some were abandoned, while others lingered on in apparent perpetuity.
What struck us was the amount of time poured into these.
By time, I mean years. Years and years. Years a'building, stretching sometimes across decades. Amateurs and pros alike. Years siphoned off in financing the materials, tools, transportation, building site. I mean blood, sweat and tears. Keeping body and soul together with one foot nailed ashore. Loves lost (though sometimes, also won). The sheer effort of building and all the necessary chores building entails.
Some stuck it out, produced a beautiful, curvaceous vessel and sailed off to enjoy the returns on that heavy, initial investment. Not a few finished up, took a slip in the harbor, and left her there, but for the rare, public appearance and seasonal haul-out. Others are still at it. Many traded that dream for others. A few clutched tragically at their chest and keeled over, their dream half-finished in a shed.
We mulled all this over and simmered it on the back burner of our own project.
And then there was YEE-HA! She was a simple, plywood sharpie. Obviously she had been thrown together without much consideration for the esteem of others. Her cabin was... well... chunky. Resin dribbles and tape edges had not been faired. Her gear was plebian - neither brass nor bronze graced her decks. Rig was DIY and wouldn't be winning any races.
Yet here was clearly a boat who could live up to her name.
She opened our eyes to what turns out to be a whole fleet of simple, sub-yachty vessels. How had we missed them? Because they're, for the most part out there! They're not often lingering at a dock or in the yard. They don't often get photographed or written about, unless with a sneer and jeer. Their performance is derided; often from ignorance and often held to requirements far from their intended use.
And yet there they are, exploring backwaters both literal and literary. They can be seen as the odd dot in the distance, or tucked away in sloughs and estuaries, the remote coves of remote coasts. The pages of Messing About In Boats and DuckworksMagazine abound with their adventures.
True, no boat gets built without gumption, effort and persistence (and, yes, a certain amount of fun). Especially not if it's to be your home. There'll be challenge enough. But the time required for a simple boat can be measured in months, not years. And the view is the same, whether from decks of teak or burlap.
So come all ye dreamers who dream of the sea! It's the Ugly Duckling who flew with swan's wings. Building a boat happens on land, but that's not the dream. In the words of St. Larry the Cable Guy, "Git 'er done!" The simpler the boat, the closer you are to "Got 'er did!"
From To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time
by Robert Herrick