I’ve asked the Experts. It really is a simple question. Or, so I thought. At least, I get a very simple answer. “Dunno.” Simple, sure. Satisfying? Not so much.
Most of us go to what we think of as small boat “events.” The longstanding tradition of going to a “messabout” is a central column of our subculture. Forums, online articles, and social media are a recent-but-popular method of expanding our exposure to each other. Sort of a continuous messabout. And, that’s nothing but cool.
So, back to my question. Is just looking at, talking about, and what distills rapidly to just a vicarious experience, “enough?” That iconic Peggy Lee song, from the late ’60s asks the same question, “Is that all there is?” She answered her own question with, “then, let’s just keep dancing.” Certainly, the musical Grande dame, who gave voice to “Lady and the Tramp,” knew a thing or two about existentialism. Certainly.
Heck. This basic wonderwhat has been bandied about for millennia. Plato and Aristotle and their gang of cognoscenti took regular swings. More recently, our good buddy from Philosophy 101, Mr. Descartes, crunched the whole enchilada into a Cliff Notes’ friendly version, with “cogito ergo sum.” But, I seriously doubt ol’ Rene ever labored over whether to build a Bolger/Michalak over a Welsford. Sail or putt-putt? Workboat, or work of art? Nope. Those eggheads from Phil class all neatly begged the question.
I’m gonna’ keep asking it, until I finally get some answers. And, not just any old answers, either. Afterall, this is election season. We as a nation-here in the xenophobic “Land-of-the-Big-PX”-are collectively spending billions on a similar proposition. It’s called confirmational-bias. Another pretty basic dilemma. The psychobabble definition suggests that if you already have emotional/intellectual/physical investment in an idea or position, then you will go to just about any length to find evidence to support that way of thinking.
Rene must be doing flip flops in that ol’ pine box, eh? We’ve managed to cut his catchy slogan down to Twitter-friendly size, by sidestepping at least 60 percent of his equation. On the macro level, we’re down to a simple, “is.” Back to my question, that the boat-experts also sidestepped.
Is talking about, and reading about other guys’ boatrips, really, enough? If so, then I’m not even being subtle when I suggest that the whole shebang is pretty un-sustainable.
When I really want to be in-the-know, I ask the great Seer from Bradenton. The Lucas is never charry about expostulating his view of the world. Dave regularly extols the virtues of whatever boat he is currently building as “the very best.” And, maybe this buck really does stop at the Tiki Hut. Maybe. But.
Dave never “goes anyplace.” Well, other than down-river to that beer and hot dogs joint someplace closer to Tampa Bay than his World Headquarters of the Lucas Boatbuilding and Happy Hour Club. Then, he scuttles back to the Tikiguys before that Florida sun gets too close to the western horizon. Don’t get me wrong. I really respect the Bard of Bradenton. He really knows his shtick. But, I’m trying to salve my own minority-opinion confirmational-bias. So, work with me, here, willya?
Let’s just stop dancing for a minute and listen to the orchestra.
I’ve been to a whole lot of places – especially this summer – that are pretty cool places to put boats into and explore. Over the past half-century, or so, that adds up to tens of thousands of miles of paddling, sailing, and putt-putting around. Back to confirmational-bias.
Waaaay back when Small Boat Journal was gonna’ live forever and ever; I read about a guy with an old Ford half-ton pickup and a cute little Montgomery pocket cruiser who hooked up and headed out. I don’t remember his name, or even where he went. But, doggone it. He hooked up and headed out! Years before my own land-water voyages of discovery. He is still my anonymous hero.
And, I think he should be yours, as well.
We ALL should be hooking up, and heading out. And, not just vicariously. Sailing back and forth on our own local puddle, bay, river, even ocean, is OK. Probably the best excuse to be poring over those nifty study plans-for the “next one.” But, seriously folks, IS THAT ALL THERE IS!?! Nope.
Let me try this from another angle.
I’ve sort of slid into being a two-bit mini cruise leader. For example, I get this lunatic notion that it would be really cool to go play in the rain before or after the jet skis are hatching-and-swarming. I go a bit further down this slippery slope and start looking for playmates. Several thousand eyes anxiously scan the Boat Porn Channel each and every morning. I put out the word that we’re gonna’ go hook up and head out. Usually fewer than half-dozen boats will actually show up. And, that’s awesome. But, what about everybody else?
So, my question. What would it take to get YOU to join in the fun? It’s a simple question. And, if I get any answers, I do have another question.
Think of it as a modest proposal.
A Modest Proposal – Part 1.2
OK. I asked around. Several folks that I correspond with regularly offered some rather thoughtful feedback. Occasionally, the answer was more personal in nature, “Dunno why I don’t.”
Then, I got a note from the Big Kahuna himself. Bob Hicks.
“The Shallow Water Sailors in Maryland have over 100 members, their annual cruises in spring and fall attract a half dozen at most. Our local chapter (eastern MA) of the Wooden Canoe Association has about 75 members, their more or less monthly day trips (5-10 mile paddles on local flatwater rivers) draw a half dozen of them at most and the annual trip to the north country for a wilderness paddling holiday half of that.”
Those ratios seem to match what I have observed, elsewhere. It’s at least a baseline. Generally, it seems that people join and continue to belong to organizations and looser affiliations via social media, that enhance a continuing opportunity for vicarious experience. These groups are notionally made up of folks who build, maintain, modify, and sail/paddle/motor vessels occupying the “small” end of the small craft spectrum. There is, collectively, a great deal of time, effort, and expense obligated to this endeavor.
Mr. Hicks’ monthly compendium is, first and foremost, in the business of conveying vicarious – small craft related -experience to his readers. I’m honored to be a regular contributor to that effort, this past decade or more. And, I don’t belittle that apparent vicarious thing one bit. Hey, at my age, I tend to do something, build something, or go someplace; and then I sort of forget all about it. MAIB shows up in the mailbox, and I get to do it all over again. For that matter, I’ll admit to waiting up until midnight (Pacific Time) most week days. You too?
Midnight is when the Boatporn Channel comes on. Duckworks online magazine puts out the latest story of an adventure, a build; even a monthly collection of random letters and prose sent directly to Chuck (Our Father Who Art in Texas). About once a week they publish one of my opus’. I get to see what I’ve been up to that way. Vicarious experience of the most personal kind!
I think I understand that part of the story. But. That’s not quite what the question really boils down to. My question iterates as, “Is that state of affairs really enough?” More to the point, does this apparent consensus that we will simply stay home and read about what some other guy went out and did, a satisfactory solution for the majority? And, I do have a follow-on question.
If so, does it need to be so?
This is my personal take on the demographics of the thing. Damn near everyone I know in this small craft community of ours are not only men; but they’re retired guys on social security. This is certainly not because you have to wait until you’re old, to sail and paddle and build boats. It’s not even close to a requirement that you must wait until you no longer have to go-to-a-real-job, to finally build a boat. Nope.
I’ve been doing this stuff since I was shooting marbles on the grade school playground. There’s about 6 decades in between, filled with all the “normal stuff” of education, and military service, and families, and careers. But, the whole time I was doing “normal stuff” there was a boat on the sawhorses, or on a trailer, or in a slip someplace. One time, or another, I’ve tried to estimate the number of miles sailed/paddled/motored during that 60-odd years. Probably on the order of 30,000 nautical miles. Probably more. And, the important part of this, is that most of us have been doing this stuff our whole lives.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out, that our favorite pastime-hobby-life style choice could likely die with us. To my way of thinking, that would be like extincting the bald eagle, or something like that-because nobody was “interested.” Still, the likely outcome.
We’re the “last generation” that really does this stuff. Scattered examples to the contrary, we old guys are at the end of a storied line. I have no interest in trying to convince anybody to do anything they really don’t want to do. The task at hand is a whole lot harder than that.
I’d like to continue to “entertain and inform,” as my high school creative writing teacher listed the several methods and motives for putting words together on the printed page. I’ll leave the persuasive discourse to our pundits and operatives. Now, there’s a crowded and apparently lucrative genre, for ya’. This boat thing is just for fun-or as Mrs. Pardey would have us understand, “for as long as it’s fun.”
Sooooooo, back to the question(s).
How do we continue to make it fun? And, how good/big/often/exciting is “good enough?”
Finally, I think it’s time to get around to my modest proposal. I’ll be right back, with part 1.3.