I’ve been called an optimist, but I believe better times are ahead and that we’ll all have a better appreciation for them.
A good haircut. A meal at a favorite hole-in-the-wall breakfast spot. Travel—of any kind. A drink with friends. Dinner with family. A spontaneous—and all too regular—trip to the ice cream shop. Non-grocery-store-related adventure. Freedom. Of all the things I’ve been missing while social distancing, I think it’s that last one I’ve been craving most. After all, you never want something as bad as when you’re told you can’t have it.
At the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S., I found myself blissfully beyond cellphone range aboard the new Summit 54 from Kadey-Krogen as part of a delivery crew taking her from Savannah to Stuart. Long, rolling hours at sea, a nighttime arrival at an unfamiliar marina, waking up before the sun and a sprint down the ICW—it provided just the right amount of adventure, a jolt to the soul. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t take it for granted. The delivery concluded, I took a flight home and began to settle back into my routine.
Then the pandemic and panic really hit. Full stop. My wrinkled clothes were still rolled tight inside my duffel bag when “the new normal” began. I’m not ashamed to admit, I was scared. Scared for friends and family working and living in major cities. Scared for my wife and our first child who’s expected to make landfall in September. Any pretense of being a “tough guy” went right out the window with the news of impending fatherhood.
In those first fear-filled weeks, during that sweet spot where -everyone seemed to band together and work towards the common goal of survival, I found sanity in a familiar place: my old boat. In the evening I’d throw varnish, stirrers, sandpaper, etc. into an orange Home Depot bucket and depart for the boatyard. Eerily empty streets and radio hosts losing their minds didn’t do much to ease my mind. But the work that followed did.
I’d put music on and work towards refinishing some neglected brightwork. There’s something honest about working with wood, especially bringing it back to life. You get what you put into it; there are no politics involved. If you want it to look good it takes time; there’s no way around it. Rush, get distracted or try to cut corners and you get drips and sags, and once that happens, well, there goes a few more sheets of 180 and a couple layers of skin.
Little by little, day after day and week after week, my old boat was showing new life. It’s amazing what a few coats of paint and varnish will do for a boat and your soul.
Now don’t get me wrong, for as many days that I worked in a state of zen, I had twice as many where I came home with varnish on my hands, paint in my hair and a chainsaw on my mind. Still, I’m thankful for the work, and the excuse to get out of the house that the boat has provided these past months.
Now, with that in my wake, I can shift my focus to the summer ahead. Exactly what this summer will look like is impossible to tell. On the surface, social distancing and boating should mix as well as oil and water. What’s boating without friends and family to share it with?
I can convince myself of anything, and I can get down about it if I’m not careful. But then I remember all the things that boating offers us. The sun, the waves, the water. The smell of sunscreen, the tug of a fish, the taste of a rum drink toasted beneath a setting sun. A fresh breeze blowing through the cabin as you sleep and the promise of a new day that starts out on the water. If that’s all we got, that’s all we need. It’s plenty. We’re the lucky ones.
See you on the water.