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Wednesday, April 02, 2014

If You Make Things, You Are My Brother: Wooden Breeze Buckets


A sailboat is a hole in the ocean into which you pour money.

I built a wooden boat once, from scratch. The design was called a "Flapjack." It's a 14 footer or so, designed for rowing or sailing. It's made almost entirely from mahogany of one sort or another. I began it -- well, I don't remember when I began it. I recall there was no Internet then. I bought the plans mail-order, long before I began working on it. I read a book or two about boatbuilding, and daydreamed about building it from time to time. I also recall having the desire to build a wooden boat as far back as the 1970s.

I began building it, oh, I don't know, maybe fifteen or twenty years ago. It was just some forms for the planking, a bow, and a transom for a long while. It was in my basement. I used to joke that I worked as steady as taxation on that boat. Forty-five minutes a year, without fail. Eventually I needed my basement much, much more than I needed a half-built boat, so I finished it in a couple weeks of furious activity, and put it outside under a tarpaulin, and eventually, in someone else's garage.

When I say I "finished" it, I meant it was a launchable boat. It didn't have a mast for a sail, but you could row a boat like that if you'd rather. Then again, it didn't have rowlocks for oars either, because they cost money and I never had any money that didn't have a use more useful than oarlocks. I could have put a gusset on the transom in order to mount a small outboard motor I own, and forget about oarlocks and mast and sail entirely, but I never got around to it. I guess the siren song of the sea can't be heard clearly over a running table saw.

I have finished, to a fare-the-well, so many things since I started that boat that I'd be unable to calculate their number or value -- big things, little things, expensive things, enormous things, all sorts of things. It's strange that I would associate this almost-made boat with leisure, because there has never been even a hint of leisure in it so far, and I know there wouldn't be any leisure in it if I did turn the last screws in it, either. Perhaps I know without thinking that I have not had anything resembling leisure for almost the entirety of my life, so the boat is better unfinished. If it was entirely finished, perhaps it would weigh on my mind that it went unused. In its current condition, it doesn't bother me like that. Almost done isn't done. I am very careful that I'm never past almost done, myself.

It's outside my house, its third home now, upside-down under three feet of snow. I know in my heart that if I finished it, I would die, or have to take a day off, which is much the same thing. Some things, like marriage, or raising children, or building a boat, are best done continuously, but never finished.


4 comments:

vanderleun said...

One of my pals out here sold his boat after many years of pouring water into it. He's deft and accomplished with wood. So deft that he's in the process of building his own spiral staircase. I'll put him on a boat project right after he's done with the scraps.

Mike said...

Thank you.

Building a wooden boat is one of many things on my list that are not yet done.

Golden West said...

That is a thing of beauty.

chasmatic said...

Sipp, all I can say is — never finish your last job.