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Old 21-11-2011, 11:48   #1
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The Boat as Idea

Hi - Jim Carrier here, a contributing editor at Cruising World (US).

I'm working on an essay for the May issue and thought you might have an anecdote or thought that would spice the stew:

The piece is about boats as "ideas," that is, their value above and beyond the actual sailing. I have gathered stories from Maine to Morocco about people who own sailboats but rarely use them. About people who never take them out of the harbor -- or even storage. There's a guy in New England who drives to the harbor, sits in his car and watches his boat on a mooring. Day after day. There are plenty of people in Spain who use their boats as cocktail lounges only. There are boats all over the world that gather moss for years on end.

I'm the classic example, with a boat in the Med for a decade now, but precious little sailing time. (That will end in March 2012, when I bring her home on Dockwise.) Because of that sorry record, and perhaps justification for it, I've come to think of Ranger as an "idea" as much as a sailboat, a vessel in which I store dreams and memories, plan voyages that I will never take, and hold dear as an ultimate backup should another disaster strike our household, as it did in Katrina.

How much time do you actually spend sailing on your boat? Do you have stories of other mariners who own floating ideas?

Feel free to reply here, or email me directly at: jimcarrier*at*msn*dot*com.

I'll assume I can use your story in the piece unless you indicate otherwise.

Jim Carrier,
Madison WI

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Old 22-11-2011, 08:25   #2
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Re: The Boat as Idea

Welcome to the forum Jim...thats a cool "idea" for an essay.
I love my boat.
I love working on her and sailing her, sitting and sleeping on her and looking at her as I drive from the marina....but most of all, I like the idea of being self contained and independent (as so far as possible) an if need/want be, being able to sail off to distant shores.

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I love my boat, I can't afford not to!
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Old 22-11-2011, 08:34   #3
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Re: The Boat as Idea

Greetings and welcome aboard the CF, Jim.
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Old 22-11-2011, 08:56   #4
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Re: The Boat as Idea

Originally Posted by jimcarrier View Post
I'll assume I can use your story in the piece unless you indicate otherwise.
I assume we will be able to read the article on CF - for buckshee........

.......or are you paying by the word
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Old 22-11-2011, 09:59   #5
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Re: The Boat as Idea

I sent you an e-mail, but then I thought that I might as well post my comments here. Maybe my thoughts will help others to verbalize their own thoughts about the "idea" of a boat...

Right now I am "between" boats. I have been boatless now for quite a few years. Probably more years than I care to think about. I can charter boats when I want to, of course, and I have, but it's not the same.

For me the "idea" is as much about me as a boat owner as it is about the boat itself. I don't like not owning a boat. It doesn't feel right. I don't like the idea that I cannot wander down to the dock and step aboard anytime that I want. I don't like the idea that I can't take off for a weekend--or a week, or a month--anytime that I feel like it without needing to schedule it with someone else, get their OK, and pay their charter fee.

From a strictly financial viewpoint, owning a boat does not make sense for me. The truth is that at this point in my life I don't have as much time for sailing as I would like. If I owned a boat right now I would not get nearly as much use out of it as any proper boat deserves. (You know that proper boats really LIKE to be sailed, don't you?) I would spend more on maintenance and storage than it would cost to charter a boat every time I felt like getting out on the water, even for short day-sails. Of course, because of the planning necessary to chartering, I don't get out quite as often as I might if I owned my own boat. But that's not the point.

It doesn't matter to me that I know I wouldn't use it as much as I should. It doesn't matter to me that it would cost more to own a boat than it does to rent someone else's. What matters to me is that I want to be a boat owner. For some reason--that completely escapes me on any sort of rational level--ever since I was a young boy growing up in Nebraska, I have always wanted to own a boat. I have always dreamed of sailing off, over the horizon. The years that I have spent as a boat owner have been among the happiest in my life. Almost 30 years later, one of my most treasured memories is the first night that I ever spent at anchor, sleeping aboard my very own boat.

One of these days (soon, I hope) I will be a boat owner again. It may just be a little daysailer, or it may be large enough for my wife and I to spend months at a time on. I don't know. I don't care. So long as it has a mast and rudder, and so long as I can say that it is mine, I will be happy, because I like the idea of owning a boat.
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Old 22-11-2011, 10:09   #6
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Re: The Boat as Idea

I think one "idea" that occurs a lot is that people buy a boat, put it on the hard and work on it for 2-10 years! They love the dream that someday they are going to splash the boat and sail off into the sunset. You see these boats in backyards, barns etc. Unfortunately, many of them never reach the dreams end and life priorities change... but there are the few that make it happen!
"I spent most of my money on Booze, Broads and Boats. The rest I wasted" - Elmore Leonard

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Old 22-11-2011, 10:51   #7
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Re: The Boat as Idea


I think that every boat is a repository for its owners' "ideas" perhaps more accurately characterized as dreams. I know that our boat is on several levels. We spend as much time as possible on it now, but it represents so much more for us. As it is named after our daughter, adopted from China some years ago, it represents in some measure our family. Currently, it represents our lives as they are and our time together as our family grows. As an intended retirement home, it represents our future and our freedom from many things that constrict our lives now. There are times that being on the water gives us a welcome disconnect from things going on in our lives on land, gives us different, and at that moment in time, more important things to concentrate on.

Over many years on and around the water, I have seen the boats that never move, the boats that are the floating weekend condo tied to the dock, those that seem to be a millstone around the owners' neck! Yet in each case, the boat provides some emotional sustenance to the owner that other things in their live cannot.

Boats must provide that emotional sustenance and must be the repository for our hopes and dreams. Otherwise, no rational person would ever buy one!
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Old 22-11-2011, 11:13   #8
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Re: The Boat as Idea

A friend of mine here on Nevis kept a 26' (or so) sloop on the Chesapeake Bay when he was working in Washington, DC, and sailed it when he could find the time. When he retired, he set off to sail it up to Maine, where he had a home. He got washed up on the beach in New Jersey when a storm came up. The boat wasn't damaged too much, so he had it trucked to Maine. He moored it in a cove below his home and enjoyed sailing in Penobscot Bay.

He's pretty old now, and hasn't sailed for some years. Nonetheless, every year he has the boat put in the water and taken out to her mooring. He can see her there from his front porch when he has his coffee in the morning, and that's enough for him.
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Old 22-11-2011, 12:49   #9
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Re: The Boat as Idea

Welcome to CF, Jim.

We all live most of our lives responding to the carrot and the stick.
It's the stick that gets us up every morning to drag our sorry asses off to work, makes us pay taxes and behave like responsible citizens.
Life would be pretty miserable if lived by stick alone.

A boat on the other hand is pure carrot.
It represents all kinds of possibilities and is something tangible to pin our hopes and dreams to. We can mess around with a boat, endlessly, and pretend.
Nothing wrong with that, and not much more costly than weekly therapy, without ever having to admit that you have a problem.

Look forward to the article.

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that's what a ship needs. Not what a ship is. What the Black
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Old 22-11-2011, 13:24   #10
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Re: The Boat as Idea

Here's one for you Jim..

A few year ago when we purchased our 42, we had it hauled from a lake in northern Idaho to Coos Bay Oergon.. It was late in the season so we dicided to wait out the winter there and head south in the spring..
In the Boat yard of Coos Bay, there lies a piece of property of about 20 acres behind the boat yard where boats are kept on stands, some are stored, and some are in some type of dis-aray..
Durring the 5 months we were there we wittnessed an odd accurance that took place each week.. Calling them the coffee crowd, and being of anywhere between 3 and as many as 10 of them at any given time, these gentelman would show up on Saturday morning, coffee in hand and as a group they would walk around the boat yard pointing at the boats and talking about the hows and whys of boat building and where they were going to go once they finished the project they were working on..
Come saturday afternoon, you would see them atop their boats sanding a piece of wood or polishing some tarnished piece..and accasionally you would see someone setting at the tiller, boat on the stands, beer in their hand and gaising off into distance..
Saturday evening you would see the extension cords out and little lights from the inside of these boats,
and then on Sunday morning they would all climb back into their cars and dissapear.. Only to repete the same process the following weekend.
After checking with a couple of the people in the boatyard, I found out that a couple of the boats had been there for a good number of years and had seen more than a few different owners..
And then I realized, some people dont have to have the spray of the sea washing over the foredeck, or gazing at the midnight sky through the sails..
Some are just happy to set back and dream about it...
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Old 22-11-2011, 13:34   #11
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Re: The Boat as Idea

Very good. A few people have asked me why I continue to work slowly on my 42 foot boat in my yard here next to my house. I'll state it simply, "I'm keeping the dream alive."
Yes, its an idea of returning to my old cruising days.
kind regards,
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Old 22-11-2011, 14:42   #12
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In his later years my dad lost his medical endorsement to fly after a heart attack. He still kept 3 airplanes. He would go to his hanger every day and putter around. 2 airplanes were airworhty and one needed a new engine after a conrod bent during start. It was a radial and the oil in a lower cylinder had not been drained. The engine was out but every day he would futz around with a piece of baffling or exhaust tube. Clean it drive out a couple of rivets and then have lunch. Shoot the breeze with passing visitors and go home after 4 or 5 hours. Those airplanes kept him alive for an additional 12 years and were worth every penny in hangar cost and insurance premiums.

I recently moved to a marina with a dock. I had been on a mooring ball for 3 years. I am a pretty busy guy so I would hustle down to the dock, load my crew and take off. Upon return the sails are stowed as we approach the marina. Tie up takes 5 minutes and we head off. I hadn't spent any tome getting to know anyone.

The last few times I have been futzing on the boat. Installing solar, new bilge pump etc. All day long people drop by to say hi and shoot the breeze. Many folks are having lunch and drinks on their boat. A few go out but more stay. Across from me is a gentleman with a 45 foot Bene. He sits there in the cockpit stern to and has a kind word for everyone. We strike up a conversation. He used to have a 32 footer. His boys loved it. His wife tolerated it, but tolerated it pretty well.

His wife said she wold enjoy more if the boat were bigger. The boys were big now and they certainly could help sail a bigger boat. He traded up. The boys went to college and got distracted with their own lives. The wife isn't as mobile as she used to be so rarely comes down. The boat doesnt go out much if at all.

"well, heck. I have a full crew of miscreants. Why dont I get them aboard a couple times a month and you can take us sailing?"
"oh, no thanks. I really don't have time. What with all the friends I have here to keep up with."

It took me a while to get it but that boat is definitely keeping this gentleman alive. He has a lot of aquaintances that drop by and he always has a story to tell. I think he is getting exactly what he wants out of his boat and I say more power to him.
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Old 22-11-2011, 16:37   #13
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Re: The Boat as Idea


Thanks for taking me down this road. I think the reason I now own a cruising sailboat with some level of offshore capability (so, what's bluewater?) is the same reason I've subscribed to CW (and Sail and Sailing and the rest) for many years. There was always the vicarious thrill and anticipation of someday, "I could"....the freedom it represented, my goal as I moved from cubicle to private office. I've raced dinghies and small keelboats since I was a kid in NJ and have moved around the world, again doing some racing, hitching rides, owning smaller boats, and still racing. I finally settled in the Midwest (so, what's bluewater) finished a rewarding career and found a partner that shared my dream. Lake Superior isn't exactly bluewater and the season is awfully short. Sometimes we don't sail it much (sailboat as lake cabin?) but now it's no longer "someday" and now "I can" when I want to. In a word; Freedom.
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Old 22-11-2011, 19:00   #14
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Re: The Boat as Idea


I look forward to reading your essay.

If you have the time, see if you can scare up a copy of "Small Craft Advisory" by Louis Rubin, Jr., circa 1992. He included a chapter on this very topic that really hit home for me.

We sail our boat, not as much as we'd like; but there's something special about "ownership" and the idea that we can step aboard whenever we like. I spend some time every day on the boat doing something, making her a little more what we want her to be and a little more "ours." And it's occured to us, laying in the forward cabin looking out at puffy clouds floating by and feeling a light breeze through the forward hatch, that we could be anywhere, from tied our dock to anchored offshore at Tahiti.

So, it's as much about the idea of cruising, as it is the reality of it. And knowing the boat is there anytime we want, waiting for us, is a bit part of the "idea" - and, heck, the reality for us.
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Old 22-11-2011, 19:25   #15
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Re: The Boat as Idea

Ten+ years ago I had a series of "cardiac events". We had been sailing weekends and vacations since 1976. After my medical problems, we spent the last years living aboard and averaging over 5,000 miles each year between the East Coast and the Caribbean. This year, we have moved ashore as my wife says I can't climb the mast off-shore anymore. The sailboat is for sale but I bought a smaller power boat to keep me busy. We lived my dream and look back on our memories every day.

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