"Never a ship sails out of a bay, but carries my heart as a stowaway."
- Roselle Mercier Montgomery
- Roselle Mercier Montgomery
Was there ever such a romantic notion as the outward bound traveler? There he goes. The things he will see! The adventures he will have! The challenges he will face! God I wish I was that man. That is the romance of the boat leaving harbor.
But what about the boat that will never leave the harbor again, the rotting, sagging, peeling, crumbling hulk of a dream that once was the most perfect combination of aesthetic perfection, efficient function and self-sufficiency? There is also romance in the old wooden boat that has been left to rot in the field. Maybe more.
That guy who is sailing away. He has done it. He is no longer a dreamer. He is traveling. He is an insult, a smack in the face, a painful reminder that I am still on shore, dreaming my dreams. He is an asshole. (Well, not really, but since he is there and I am here, I don’t like him.)
However, standing next to me on land is a wooden boat that long ago was the prettiest thing on the water.
It once carried a young man to the Bahamas where he spent three years aimlessly roaming, the sun on his shoulders and the horizon in his eyes. He got sick and had to put the boat on the hard. He carefully wrapped it in many layers of plastic bail-wrap cast off by the farmer who owns the field. He wanted to get better so he set to refitting the boat. But he did not get better. The wind caught a corner of the plastic and blew it away. The squirrels discovered that boats are great larders. The sun blistered the varnish and the rain washed away all the salt that once remained from those years in the Bahamas. That man and I are brothers. We are both on land (well, he is in the land) hoping to get out to sea. Most people are not sailors, they are on shore looking out to sea. Even the sailors, most of the time they are on land wishing they weren't. Many people feel a great urge when they look to the edge of the world where water and sky meet. We feel the pull of the tide and we begin our romantic fantasy, we begin to build our dream to leave the harbor.
Four out of five dentists agree that the best way to get on the water is to buy a used plastic sailboat. Rebuilding an old wooden boat is the most expensive way to get an old wooden boat. Everything you do to fix this derelict only reveals more things that need to be done. It is a never ending headache of problems, except to the person who also takes pleasure in the process. Some people like working with wood. Some people like old things that still work. There is great satisfaction in knowing you did it yourself. And, it is an old saw that it isn’t about the destination. It is the journey that matters.
This particular romantic fantasy begins the moment you put your hand on the old wooden hull and think to yourself, “I can do this. I can see this boat in the water.” Maybe my travels don’t start until I hoist sail and head south. But my journey starts the moment I touch the hull and begin to plan her return to the water. Yes, it would be nice to be that man (or woman) sailing into the sunset. It’s like watching a movie and pretending that you are the main character. But maybe what we need and truly want is to be already on our journey, to be one who is working to put that dream into reality. That is not going to the movies, that is writing your own script and that is much greater romantic adventure.