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Cloak and Dagger

Ever feel guilty about all the time you spend working on your boat? Listen up, compadre. Here’s a solution.

First, let me tell you how things used to go. Toward the after end of each and every weekend—usually pretty late on Sunday afternoons—I’d conclude a 150-mile trip home from a far-distant city with a couple of very boaty, highly productive days behind me, working on the restoration of the Betty Jane II. I’d feel good, real good. But then, as I’d wolf down the nice little dinner my wife had prepared for me, a subtle gloominess would descend.

You know—gloominess. Of the sort you feel when you realize—and I mean really realize—just how much time you’re spending away from your family and friends, an insight that can make you feel just a little guilty, perhaps even guilty enough to seriously consider some form of behavioral modification.

Of course, because I’m such a great guy, I’d do my best to ignore all this, with sotto voce rationalizations like, “Well, the restoration of this boat will eventually come to an end and then I’ll dial it back.” Or, “Once I finish the 12-volt system and get the new air-conditioner installed, I’ll take a break, maybe stay home every other weekend or, heck, maybe even three weekends in a row.”

Then a robust state of denial would kick in. So typically, on Monday mornings, as if butter wouldn’t melt in my mouth, I’d start strategizing for the upcoming weekend in the same way I’d been strategizing on Monday mornings for months. Should I hit the trail for the boat on the upcoming Friday afternoon or would it be better to wait until Saturday morning? Should I announce my weekend plans immediately or hold off until Tuesday or Wednesday? Or should I maybe even wait until Thursday, by which time virtually all twinges of guilt would have evaporated?

Such mental machinations, incidentally, were always accompanied by a litany of concerns and anxieties too numerous to mention, a different set for every day of the week. But nevertheless, sooner or later, despite every machination, concern, and anxiety, off I’d go to work on the Betty Jane II for yet another weekend, thereby perpetuating a cycle that was becoming, despite my blithe state of mind, increasingly grim.

Nothing lasts forever, though. Several weeks ago, I got hit right between the running lights with a great big fat epiphany. “Cut back on your boat time,” a still, small angelic voice advised. “Or else.”

I weighed the implications. If I obeyed, whole weekends would be absolutely devoid of the perfumes of diesel fuel and epoxy. And for days on end, I might be separated from the joys my favorite socket wrenches and screwdrivers impart when I take them lovingly in hand.

Oh, let me tell you, dear reader! I wrestled hard with this development, for days and days and nights and nights, until finally, like a Buddhist cracking a Zen koan, I came up with an idea of such genius that I dare describe it here, unabashedly, as “The Great Awakening.”

Let me explain. Imagine you’ve got a nice little onboard project in mind and a great weekend coming up to address it. But, for some reason or other, you’re feeling vaguely guilty about paying a long-term, work-related visit to your boat or even getting near her, at least in the physical sense.

But shoot, there’s more to life than the merely physical, right? Or more to the point, instead of succumbing to despair, why not do a little advance planning so that, well before the weekend arrives, you’ve brought your project—or at least part of your project—home. Then, somewhere between Friday evening and Sunday evening, you can simply slip away to repair, refurbish, or recondition the darn thing in the privacy of your very own shop or garage and in the process stay psychically connected with your boat, even though she’s miles away. See what I mean? Genius!

Just don’t forget subtlety is key. Making too big a deal about toodling off right after Sunday dinner or late Saturday afternoon to play around with air-conditioning pumps and sea strainers (check out the Boatyard Tip on page 74 for more on this subject), or to tweak an old ship’s clock, or varnish a discombobulated teak handrail, is likely to engender just as much grief as you’d generate otherwise.

And sometimes, although I really hate to admit it, a bit of devilish cloak and dagger may be called for. I mean, go ahead and quietly abandon the moonlit remnants of an evening’s barbecue in your backyard if you must. Or sneak off from the last tatters of a cheery Saturday night shindig in your dining room. But hey, don’t immediately flick on all the lights in your garage or shop so everybody can see what the heck you’re up to. Think, man. Use a freakin’ head lamp!

Read more of the Exploits and Misadventures of Capt. Bill Pike here. ▶

This article originally appeared in the July 2017 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.