New England fishermen are as effusive with conversation as Putin is with accolades for Ellen hosting the Oscars. The watermen have a word for things that are good and wonderful – “finest kind.” I fished around for some of the finestkind things learned from simply messing with boats.
#1. Water always wins. It doesn’t matter whether your vessel is a little plastic toy floating in the bathtub or the Titanic – water can sink it in a jiffy. The sea can mount a hostile takeover with a single wave that sweeps everything below without a trace.
Water is sneakier than the brightest of rats. It has the patience of Job to stow away in the lowest, dankest point of the boat until it is joined by billions tiny moist molecules whose sheer volume outweighs the boat and takes her down. Wakes, waves, splashes, rain, snow, ice all leave welcoming instructions for the next form of H2O to come aboard. The majority (57% – 70% – depending on how many tequila shots you downed last night or the number of hours recently spent skiing sand dunes in Dubai) of the human body is composed of water – but it’s not enough to trump the power of a body of water, whether it’s a puddle, pond, or ocean.
Babies are nearly three fourths water which in fact makes them – as far as hydropower rules – even stronger than adults. Everyone of us was gifted a finestkind moment of triumph over liquids when we broke our mom’s water and were born wet into the world. That is why deer, the climate, and fish on the Georges Bank fear mankind – as a species – we’ve got a lot of water power to flaunt and minimal impulse control.
#2. Beauty is a beastly thing to maintain. It doesn’t matter if you’ve got a 12’ plastic kayak or a 34’ fiberglass sailboat, taking care of her means providing protection from the sun (much like slathering sunscreen so you’re not bothered by paparazzi mistaking you for Dame Maggie Smith on holiday by the sea), keeping her hull, topsides and cockpit clean and buff (think a mani & pedi in Brazil), and her working parts functional (throw in a full body massage – plus tip). The finestkind moment of spring commissioning is when a skipper finishes fixing, scrubbing, and polishing only to gaze at the boat, grin, gasp and fall in love for another season.
#3. Trust thy boat as thyself. Wise sailors learn to appreciate the rule of water and the physics that separate floating from sinking. If you’re going to own a boat, no matter how many safety rules you follow, you’re gonna make mistakes. Survival also depends on a metaphysical sense of trust between you and the vessel. Respecting water doesn’t mean being terrified all of the time. Safety rules. You’ve got to know what you can (make a call on the Ship to Shore radio, reef the sails) and can’t (navigate in fog, sleep with rain streaming through the overhead hatch) do – and when the can’ts threaten the safety of the souls aboard – what to do next. If you are comfortable alone with your boat there’s a fair chance you’re also comfortable in your own skin. The finestkind of trust between people and boats floats comfy on competence and confidence – both are born of experience and mature into wisdom.
The finestkind sense of being boaters is buoyed by memories of past days afloat that warm our souls during these frosty months when water play is simply a soggy dream.