I am looking hard at boats for sale right now, and the question I ask myself daily is: "why buy another boat?" Boats are expensive. They are not good investments as they never increase in value. Time on a boat can be considered "antisocial" in that you cannot have all your friends along and there are long, lonesome delivery trips to get the boat where you want it to be. As an alternative, I could get a lake house, a beach house, a condo in a ski area. Any of these would be good investments. Any of these would provide a place for family and friends to gather. Any would be places to relax without the hassles of operating a boat.
The answers are not simple. First, I have owned a boat for 16 years. My boat has always provided me a refuge when I needed it...a place to get away when the world was not always going as planned for me.
Antisocial? Perhaps. But my boat has also been a place where I have formed enduring relationships that come from time alone in close quarters. I courted my wife aboard my boat. I have spent time with acquaintances on long voyages and had them become true friends. I have had too much to drink with Hamlin. I've run into a range marker with James. I had an engine blow up with my three young children aboard. I had a fire in the engine room with my wife's Uncle Randy. I stupidly ran out of fuel in the Atlantic Ocean with my nephew Sam. I grew close to my son aboard my boat when he finished college. I have come to be close friends with captains and boat yard owners and mechanics and electronics specialists that I would never have known without a boat. I have sailed into New York Harbor with my wife and all of my children aboard. I have had long talks at anchor alone with a friend on the aft deck over cigars and brandy at night. I have come to know and love people in a way that would never be possible in a larger group anywhere.
A voyage by boat allows me to see the world in a different way. I could fly into a remote resort in the Bahamas and experience the beauty and solitude. But I could never replace the awareness of place that comes from travelling across oceans to discover the perfect anchorage just off the perfect beach. I could never experience the remote island towns of coastal Maine without travelling there on my own.
There is an intellectual challenge to boating. Keeping the systems running smoothly, navigating, communicating, provisioning, finding safe harbors, arranging travel logistics. All of these challenges keep me alert and involved, and are infinitely more rewarding than relaxing in a great resort, where the challenge of the day is arranging tee times or getting good dinner reservations.
Ultimately, boating keeps me alert and involved and alive. I have had many great adventures in my life, from climbing Kilamanjaro in Africa to dogsledding in Quebec. But nothing has ever approached the pure rush of planning and setting out on a great voyage by boat. There is never a guide along. Iteneraries are always flexible and dependent on weather and performance of the boat. You often don't know where you'll spend the night. But yet, you are safe and secure in your own vessel. There's simply nothing like it.
So despite the insanity of it all, I continue to look at boats. I've had to lower my standards considerably, partly because of the money I've lost on previous boats. But there's something out there in my price range, and I'll keep looking until I find it.
Come, my friends,
'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho'
We are not now that strength which in the old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal-temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
From Ulysses, by Alfred Tennyson
"`Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing -- absolutely nothing -- half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats...Nothing seems really to matter, that's the charm of it. Whether you get away, or whether you don't; whether you arrive at your destination or whether you reach somewhere else, or whether you never get anywhere at all, you're always busy, and you never do anything in particular..."
From The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame