May 12

My first week on the boat

Tag: boat work,musings,victoriesjonny5waldman @ 7:07 am
I’ve worn the same pants for a week now; they tell the story of the last seven days — my first week living on the boat — better than I. Embedded in them are bits of caulk, epoxy, and grease; stains of sweat, salt, snot, and blood; smudges of pasta sauce, wine, and melted chocolate; metal filings, fiberglass strands, resin shards, and saw dust. It’s been a week. I haven’t shaved. I haven’t washed my hair. I’ve been washing dishes with my fingers, pissing in a bucket, drinking wine out of the bottle, and sleeping sound as a baby. If tools are like pets, and they enjoy being petted, or maybe just held, ours are very very happy. I’ve kept vice grips in my back pocket most of the time, and relied heavily on a screwdriver, crescent wrench, hammer, tape measure, and awl. I’ve alternated between the drill, dremel, grinder, and jig saw as if they were pens and pencils, occasionally using a drill press and a die grinder hooked up to our compressor. This week, Matt and I put the new rigging on the mast, which entailed disassembling and servicing the furler, which is an ordeal in itself — more on that next week. We poured resin into the rudder, patched up holes we’d drilled in the hull, and fiberglassed over a crack in the keel. We re-bedded the through-hulls, added backing plates, raised the exhaust through-hull 6 inches, and fiberglassed over the old hole. We cleaned the mast step. We drilled a bigger drain hole in the bottom of the mast, rewired the mast lights, and cleaned the propeller and shaft. And we’ve begun 10 other tasks, if not more. In between all that, I moved in, taking up residence in the V-berth – the little V-shaped room in the bow. I shoved all my clothes into one locker, and dumped a few extra things — my checkbook, toothbrush, and a few books, on the shelf above it. During a couple of other moments, I rode over to the grocery store, and bought some food; somehow the addition of food in the galley makes the boat seem more like a home, even if the counters are covered in stacks of toolboxes and bags of screws and pieces of hose and piles of brushes and cleaners and fixtures and instruments and other various boat parts. I mention these projects and tools and parts a) so I don’t forget, and b) because for a certain type of person, satisfaction is more meaningful than pleasure, and these projects have been intensely satisfying. I’ve rejoiced so many times over infinitesimal mechanical achievements — extracting rusted/welded screws, for example — that I’m beginning to feel like the master of the universe, or maybe just the master of the 40-foot universe that is my sailboat. Along the same lines, for a certain type of person there’s also a direct relationship between the length of time since the last shower, and happiness, such that if you’re that type of person, you’ll say oh yeah, and if you’re not that kind of person, you’ll have no idea what I mean. This only occurred to me recently, when I realized that I felt something like I felt when I rode my bicycle across the country seven years ago. I was so out-there, so busy doing my thing, so engaged, that there was no time or place to worry about comfort and cleanliness and appearance. That’s how I feel when I’m climbing, and that’s the feeling I’ve enjoyed most of this week. There’s a cliche about boat-owning: they say that the best two days of a boat-owner’s life are the day you buy your boat and the day you sell it. Empirical evidence already suggest the opposite. First, buying the boat was no fun. Buying the boat — literally paying for it — entailed electronically wiring the largest check of my life to some obscure bank in Seattle, while at the same time second-guessing myself and wondering if I’d made a grave mistake. Did I get the right boat? Did I take a big hasty jump too soon? Did I just screw myself for the next three years? Five years? Life? My concerns ranged from tiny to huge, such that the actual boat-buying was fraught with anxiety and concern and distress. Which is to say that the day I bought the boat was not one of the best days of my life — 99% of the other days in my life, in fact, were better. So I don’t know what’s up with most boat-owners. Maybe they lead very boring lives? Maybe psychologically, they think that they can buy their happiness, rather than create it? Who knows. Point is, every day since the day I bought the boat has been more satisfying. That much is clear after one week. Second, I saw the previous owners of this boat five months ago, when we took her for a sea trial, and I would testify in court that they assuredly did not enjoy selling this boat. I think having it made them feel young, spirited, engaged, and adventurous, and that selling it only reminded to them that life’s circumstances — age, ability, mobility — had finally caught up with them and forced their hand. I bring up the cliche because recognizing it as false is somewhat vindicating, given that I’ve only lived on the boat for a week. It makes me feel like my experiences thus far are propelling me into the life of a true sailor (or at least boat owner), and if taking this step only takes one week, then shit, maybe I will sail around the world next year. Speaking of time, I was concerned, to say the least, that moving onto the boat would eat up all my time. I wondered how I’d have time fix up the boat while still having time to cook, write emails, deal with work, and answer my cell phone, let alone read the news, keep up with the New Yorker, and keep playing Scrabble online. Thus far, things have worked out well. I’ve found that I can bounce from fix-it mode to domestic mode rapidly, and probably because fix-it mode is so satisfying, I look at my computer less. At the same time, I rejoice a little more when I get a good email. Unfortunately, I fall asleep reading, but I wake up rearing to go.

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