Aug 04

Bring on another thousand

Tag: introspection,musings,preparationjonny5waldman @ 1:01 am

[Reposted from my Outside blog]

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. Anecdotal evidence already suggests the opposite.

First, buying Syzygy was no fun. Buying the boat — literally paying for it — entailed electronically wiring the largest check I’d ever written to some obscure bank in Seattle, while at the same time second-guessing myself and wondering if I’d made a grave mistake. Was I buying the right sailboat? Had I taken 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. A bad day at the dentist was better, because at least there was progress. With the boat, I wasn’t sure if I was going forward or backward. I can’t fathom how the first part of this myth was born.

Second, I saw Syzygy’s previous owners a year and a half ago, when we met them in Mexico to take the boat for a sea trial, and I would testify in court that they assuredly did not enjoy selling their boat. I think owning it made them feel young, spirited, engaged, and adventurous, and that selling it only reminded to them that life’s circumstances — increasing age and flagging ability and mobility — had finally caught up with them and forced their hand. It took them three years to sell their boat, and it’s difficult to imagine that, at the end of the ordeal, there remained, as far as Pavlov could be concerned, any joy still associated with their boat. Relief: sure. Annoyance: yup. Finality: fine. But exultation? No way. That’s not what I saw.

There is another cliche about boats and money that does hold true: they say a boat is a hole in the water that you pour money into. Some say BOAT stands for Bring On Another Thousand. Absolutely. Here’s how you quantify it: You think a project will cost $500? Triple it. Even if you’ve already beefed up your estimate, added some wiggle room — triple it. It’ll cost $1500, I guarantee it. It is absurd how much stainless steel, copper, and “marine-grade” parts cost. The only way to spin it positively: at least this isn’t aeronautics.

On top of projects and maintenance, there’s the cost of keeping a boat at a marina or, if you’re really feeling flush, at a yacht club. To most sailors, this is an extra cost, in addition to rent/mortgage for a dwelling on land. When the economy sours (as California’s has), boat owners promptly stop paying their slip fees. Marinas, in turn, chain up boats belonging to such delinquents, so that the owner can’t just sneak in one day and sail away. There are a few such boats here. Apparently, you can put freedom in shackles.

I suspect that John Tierney, in last month’s NYT science column, called “When Money Buys Happiness,” was right. He examined the relationship between money and happiness, and reported that houses, higher education, travel, electronics, and fancy cars, though expensive, tend to provide happiness. On the other hand, there’s children, marriage ceremonies, divorces, and boats. These things are also expensive, but don’t provide happiness. Tierney sums it up: “Boats: very costly, very disappointing. Never buy a boat.” I wish he’d told me that a year and a half ago.

There’s a corollary rule about time that’s related to money and happiness. If you think a project will take 5 minutes, that means 10 hours. If you predict 3 hours, that means 6 days. The rule: double the number, and step up the unit – from seconds to minutes, from minutes to hours, from hours to days, from days to weeks, and from weeks to months. Accordingly, as projects abide by this rule, and drag on and on, it’s easy to see where the happiness goes. It swims for shore, headed to Colorado. Boat owners chase after it, and before they know it, a few years have gone by and the bank account is near empty. So it goes.

Perhaps the best rules of all, though, I learned last summer from Tim, a friend who also owns a sailboat. We were at a bar, yabbering on about the ongoing nature of boat projects, when someone interrupted and asked if there were any general principles to sailing. He answered immediately. “Keep water out of the boat, keep people out of the water, keep the girls warm, and keep the beer cold.”

There’s only one last important rule, lest you are prepared to lose all of that happiness, time, and money: Keep the boat off land.

One Response to “Bring on another thousand”

  1. Brittany says:

    Oh.My.Gosh. I *completely* understand and identify with this post!! I am in the process of outfitting my boat to sail around the world (departure Aug. 2010) and am, no pun intended, in the same boat – but you know what? If that’s the price I have to pay to make my dreams come true – I say “bring it!” – Good luck you guys!! I’ll be keeping up with this blog!

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