Nautical Necessities


  • Someday the weather will break and our neighbor will get this back in the water.  He has been busy these last few weeks, getting off the tarp and fixing everything he can.  A boat is a lot of work.  There’s a saying that “the second happiest day in your life is when you buy a boat.  The happiest is when you sell it.”
  • Any hobby can consume us.  That is part of being fully human, and makes us feel more alive.  I have had my own passions and enthusiasms for which I am grateful.  There are far worse ways to direct your days than to dream of open waters and strange shores.  Nevertheless, each of us, blinded by inner certainty, finds it easy to ridicule whatever that other guy is doing.  I try, often unsuccessfully, to keep such an attitude under control.


  • Another boat about to be lowered to join the recreational fleet.  In spring, under the right conditions of luminosity and humidity, lichen can glow with almost supernatural fluorescence.  Contrary to myth, it does not grow only on the north side of trees.  Around here, trying to navigate out of the forest using green on trunks would simply lead to frustrated madness and eventual starvation.
  • I’m frankly surprised that neighbors _who frantically, expensively, noisily, and chemically attempt to turn their lawns into rugs without a leaf or dandelion blemish _ allow lichen to remain.  Surely there should be yard crews scraping and scrubbing the stuff off, maybe polishing the rough bits of bark as well.  Corporations like Ortho and Scotts are probably ramping up such an ad campaign already.


  • Work will have to be done, but sometimes a beautiful day is just a beautiful day, a lovely scene need not mean something more than itself.  Traditionally, perfect days are sunny and warm, but there is a bewitching softness in cool light fog and the luminous grey light that coats everything in silver shades.  Heavy air damps sounds of machine civilization, so that birdsong is more penetrating and remarkable.
  • Even though I know all this, there is sometimes a difficulty in getting on all the necessary gear and leaving the warm bright house into dark dank soup.  Once I have made the transition, the experience can be wonderful.  Making that transition out of a comfort zone is the problem.  Make of it what deeper spiritual metaphors you will.


  • Like visions from Ahab’s nightmares, shrink-wrapped leviathans congregate along docks and are beached in every square yard of available flat land.  Perhaps all that plastic, soon to be removed, will be recycled, but the extremely wealthy who play with these toys are not known for ecological awareness.  Admittedly, none of these are quite on the scale of Moby Dick, but some which dock later in the year would be well worth harpooning.  Needing to have something really big to prove worth has been a human characteristic since at least the time of the Pharaohs.
  • More by necessity than virtue, I have rarely been so afflicted.  Lacking the means to own, I learned to enjoy simply by observing.  That gained me the additional delightful ability to regard a leaf floating along in the current with as much pleasure and enthusiasm as if I were roaring about swiftly in a mechanical monster.  Like all people with no real choice in the matter, I think of my own behavior as morally superior.


  • Twenty-odd degrees plus harsh wind _ no matter _ the calendar declares the buoys must go out.  From now on weekend mariners want to believe they could take their boats for a spin anytime they get the notion _ even though they will not really ever have the time nor inclination until nearly July.  A lot of maritime work must be done in nasty conditions, at least these guys will be able to motor over to Halesite and get some coffee and hot chocolate.
  • Technology frees us from being slaves to the weather, which is on the whole a good thing.  But that also means that artificial requirements and inflexible calendars encourage us to ignore the weather altogether, except when it slaps us in the face with a big storm.  How often have I been trapped in an office during a fantastic spring morning, only to find that by the weekend dank chill driving rain trapped me inside my house!  Even now, I find myself too driven by schedules when I should be open to serendipity.


  • With typical Gallic overstatement, the French have just celebrated the “tide of the century” (which comes every eighteen yea
    rs) and hordes of onlookers watched places such as Mt. St. Michel surrounded by higher and lower water than normal.  There are no forty foot differences here, but anyone tied to the bottom of one of those pilings would not survive the next cycle _ the depth varies more than it seems at first glance.
  • Communities along this shoreline must pull floating docks up on the beach each fall to avoid the ice, and refloating them in the spring requires a keen coordination of high tides, acceptable weather, and weekend mornings when residents are available to help pull the ropes.  As the harbor also continually silts up _ well evident here in the mud flats _ mariners must be also aware of the times of day they are likely to run aground.  I love the varied panoramas presented by newly exposed seaweed or high waves slapping against bulkheads, a continuing drama without end, always the same, always different.


  • March, like February, has been exceptionally frigid and snow filled.  But as farmers always knew, there is no use waiting for weather to match mood.  Chores must be done in anticipation of seasons, regardless of the day.  So around here it is time for the docks to be repaired, or in this case rebuilt from scratch.  The activity is not unlike that of little European fishing communities in the old days, each boat club and neighborhood pitching in on common work for a while.  Up next, naturally, will be working on the boats themselves.
  • I did a lot of this when younger, but like so many things I have had to give up some of it with age.  For me at least, age is not an illusion, and overdoing something can require a long recovery.  Pushing too hard can lead to long-term ill effects.   As a spectator, I enjoy the hard work of the younger crowd, and remember when I was involved more completely.  Then I walk on with nothing more to do but think and eventually write.  Not morally better, not worse, just as it is.

One thought on “Nautical Necessities

  1. I really enjoy your meanderings through the neighborhood. I especially like how you framed this week's blog into your observations about life in a place surrounded by water and the rhythm of the work that must precede the enjoyment of, let's say, an oversized pleasure boat. I am horrified by the amount of plastic used to swaddle these monsters through the winter and don't doubt at all that the plastic is not recycled. It's just not that kind of community…sigh. The descriptions of local men working together to accomplish necesary tasks to prepare for a boatworthy season are wonderful. Only a daily observer like yourself would have a window into that world and would turn it into something so enjoyable to read. In our society, women don't engage in such communal work but they do spend a lot of time communicating in other ways. There's something very healthy and purifying about accomplishing a physically challenging task with the help of others, We don't have enough if those challenges anymore to bring us together. Thanks for noticing and sharing.


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