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Ahhhhh, Perfectionism!

Having a little chat with a good friend clarifies what’s always seemed like, what you might call, “one of my issues.”

I had an interesting talk recently with a good friend of mine, Pat, who owns a small construction company specializing in fine carpentry. Pat’s about my age, maybe a bit younger, and has been in the carpentry biz for more than three decades. We were talking about getting stuff “just right,” i.e., in total accord with a given individual’s take on things. You know, what you might call the perfectionism syndrome.

“Of course,” Pat said, “perfection is not really obtainable. It’s something you shoot for.”

“Yeah,” I replied, getting slightly defensive. “But I gotta admit I’m just a little perfectionistic about my boat. I mean, everything’s gotta be just right. What’s so bad about that?”

Which is where the interesting part kicked in. Pat’s one of these good ol’ southern boys, you know, a persuasive storyteller, with a beautiful riverside home he calls “The River House.” And he promptly produced a parable, sort of, that involved his watery residence and an acquaintance of his who’s a tad more practical (as in aesthetics be damned) than he is perfectionistic. Pat said he’d recently hired the guy to fix a soffit at The River House because he’d got himself jammed up with other stuff. The result was serviceable but far from pleasing to the eye.

“He put a two-foot scarf into it,” Pat complained, “when he should have just bought himself a whole brand-new board. That woulda been the right way to go.”

I agreed, of course. But then Pat doubled down on me—he opined that going for top-shelf performance these days, whether you’re talking soffits or boats, is wholly unrealistic, considering the time sensitivities a man’s gotta deal with.

“I guess so,” I finally agreed, walking away. But then, in less than an hour, I zipped right back to my original perfection-lovin’ position, opting to buy a new, super-precise Dremel Saw-Max to complete a woodworking job on the Betty Jane IIrather than hang with the clunkier tools I already own. “Might as well do this job right,” I told myself, “And hey, maybe I’ll be able use the Saw-Max on some other fine-tolerance project somewhere down the line.”

The whole affair sorta put a bee in my bonnet, however. So, with the conversation with Pat still fresh in my mind as I forked over my credit card to pay for the Saw-Max, I began wondering for the first time in my life—why, really, am I never, ever satisfied unless things are precisely right on board a boat? Is it just some neurotic habit? Is it just an outgrowth of the conviction that things that float need to be carefully maintained and cared for in order to continue floating? Or is it just plain ol’ cussedness?

The answer surprised me. Heck, I’ve always thought of myself as a free spirit, a roll-with-the-punches kinda guy who’s the farthest thing from a control freak. Was I wrong?

Well apparently ... yes! When it comes to boats—like the Betty Jane II, the Betty Jane, the Scrumpy Vixen, Misty, and all the other vessels I’ve owned and enjoyed over the years—I seemingly need total, absolute, politically incorrect, pain-in-the-transom, deeply perfectionistic control. Why?

Consider “The World” for a moment. Is it not a confusing, disturbing, imperfect place, especially these days?

Now consider a boat. Is it not different? Is it not a special, if admittedly small, place apart from the vast imperfect whole, which if carefully managed and maintained, constitutes a temporary refuge that’s precisely the way you want it, that’s perhaps even precisely the way it should be? And hey Pat, I ask you again, man: What’s so bad about that?

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

This article originally appeared in the January 2018 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.