Have you ever stopped and added it all up: the pleasures of owning and operating a classic wooden boat, minus the costs and problems that come with it? It must be “worth it,” right? Otherwise, you wouldn’t be doing this and coming back for more.
The more I thought about the benefits, not the costs, the more amazed I became by the wealth of things wooden boats and wooden boating have done for my family and for me individually. What I thought would be marginal affirmation, turned into overwhelming gratitude. I wanted to share this with other WoodyBoaters.
Our classic wooden boats.
They are challenges to buy right, expensive to restore, pricey to maintain, and never profitable. And we all know their problems, gremlins, shortcomings, and idiosyncrasies can baffle, frustrate, humble, disappoint, and even enrage, leading to bloody knuckles, bruises, breaks, cuts, scratches, burns, disappointments, and damaged pride.
Yet we love them.
We love them because they are primitive and simple. Naturally imperfect and free from efficiency.
We love them because they are made of the real. Real wood, leather, iron, bronze, brass, glass, chrome, varnish, paint. And what is not real in them, is real cool, like Bakelite, Tenite, or Marmoleum. Their realness makes them honest. What looks heavy, is heavy.
They are gloriously mechanical to run, aren’t they? Their switches, knobs, hinges, buttons, springs, and levers click, turn, pull, push, swing, and glide — sometimes authoritatively, sometimes gracefully, sometimes reluctantly. (And sometimes not at all.)
They operate without instructions but with “ways” — figured out over time and passed along generationally.
Our boats are time capsules and living history — styles and tastes of bygone times, built on centuries of trial, adventure, experience, tragedy, and discovery. They are harmony with, and victory over, water.
Designed and sculpted by the minds, eyes, and hands of artists and craftsmen, our boats don’t just shine for us, they glow.
They give us freedom from rules and freedom from good intentions. There are no lines, limits, ratings, stickers, governors, restraints, cut-offs, buzzers, chimes, or warnings. We get in and go, wherever we want.
Our boats have soul, and they are medicine for our souls. They are sensory kaleidoscopes, sounding, smelling, looking, and feeling wonderful. And they take us to special places — coves, beaches, bays, channels, and open water — with those same qualities.
Our boats make music on command — whispering to us, burbling with us, barking at us, and thundering for us.
They fit us loosely, but embrace us completely. Our boats are escape pods for solos, carriage rides for couples, party barges for friends, shuttles for cottagers, and floating family funships.
They catch fish, pull skiers, thrill kids, delight guests, and amaze spectators. They cradle us when we float, calm us when when cruise, and thrill us when we jump, bank, spin, and speed.
They are excuses to dream, research, buy, restore, repair, putter, tinker, detail, and collect. They are weekend and wintertime escapes, diversions, and salvations.
Out boats give us reasons to explore, travel, show, compete, win, write, photograph, network, make friends, share advice, trade parts, help others, be generous, and give freely. They bring out our best.
We anticipate time with our boats, just as we do best friends. They bring instinctive smiles on sighting. We part company wistfully.
They are habits and rituals. They mark the true start and the true end of our summers.
They are family heirlooms that beg to be used, maintained, rebuilt, used again, and deeply treasured.
They trumpet a new day and precede silence at day’s end. They tee-up sunsets, and ensure we linger to soak them in.
They serve up adventures and tales of conquest. In our boats, we race lightening, best squalls, defy downpours, brave darkness, and thread rocks. And we survive.
All said and done, our boats are somewhat like children. Despite all, through it all, because of all, and above all, they are just worth it.