Wednesday, July 05, 2006

July 3rd

My wife and I and the wee one sauntered in Mattapoisett, Massachusetts again. The afternoon before July Fourth was a hive of preparatory activity. Not for us; we're lazy and unmotivated and unpatriotic, apparently. Everyone else was busy preparing for a road race, and a fireworks display, and a teen dance at the gazebo in the center of the park hard by the boat ramp. We were gratified to simply keep the three year old out of the traffic. The road race would have been much less strenuous. There is no trophy, however.

We sat on the screen porch of the Kinsale Inn, across from the water, and ate lunch. A rare and wonderful thing, that -- time together in a restaurant without any clowns, real or fiberglass, on the premises; perfect weather to be out of doors; the little one co-operated enough for us to stay seated for thirty minutes straight; no where to be after to hurry us along and ruin the feeling of repose. The little one mugged for the waitress and smeared food on his face, and my wife and I just smeared the food on our faces. Far off across the common, you could occasionally hear the flag snap in the breeze.

We walked after past the old stone wharf and snapped the picture of the skiffs lolling in the gentle surf, waiting for their moment. This is the first year in a while I don't have a boat in the water. The remnants of Hurricane Katrina blew through Massachusetts after languidly making their way up the spine of the country, and dismasted my little yawl. I gave it away rather than fix it.

A boat is a terrible thing. It taunts you. You have no time to use it, but somewhere in the back of your mind, you turn over the calculations of all the money and time and effort you've put into keeping the thing in the water, then figure in how few times the weather, the personnel, and the necessary free time coalesce into a boat trip. It's the death of the thing when you do arithmetic for your fun.

It occurred to me what a strange man I am, looking at those skiffs. I own a boat a little bigger than them, and until they reminded me of it, it had left my mind.

I built that boat, a fourteen and a half foot sail and row skiff, the entire thing made from magnificent mahogany and mahogany marine plywood. I finished it three years ago or so. I had worked on it in a desultory fashion, ten minutes a year it seemed sometimes, for the previous ten years or so. The half built boat and the lumber was in the way after a while, and a constant source of irritation; so in a fit of exuberant effort, I finished it, more or less, and then promptly stored it in a garage and assiduously ignored it. It gleams there, in the artificial twilight, the motes of dust drifting past through the light cast from the window the only tide it has ever seen. It needs only the final coat of paint on the clinker hull, and the name to be inscribed on the transom. Who wants to make a boat more than they want to use a boat?

My wife and I spent a jolly moment talking about what to name it -- a favorite pastime. There are always more names than boats to go around. Garlic and Gaelic; Sailbad the Sinner; Miles to Go II; Sunshine and Ravioli ...

I have no doubt we will have more fun talking about naming it, and spend more time doing so, than we will ever spend in the damn thing.

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