I arrived at Reagan Airport on a rainy day in November, rented a car and headed to the eastern shore of Maryland. Clouded memories of my youth driving from Bethesda to Ocean City filled my mind. I hadn’t been to that part of the world in about 40 years and it was funny how familiar it all seemed. I spent the night in Annapolis where my dad used to take me to the Annapolis boat show. Went to a West Marine, then over the Bay Bridge, to Cambridge Md. To see the boat, to meet the owner. His name was Bob.
It all begins with Bob. Tuns out Bob was a survivalist, a hoarder, a cheapskate, an engineer, then perhaps down on the list, a sailor. His first priority seemed to be how to save money and do it on the cheap. There was some method to his madness in his own brain, but unfortunately his brain had been scrambled in a car accident not too long ago so he had lost much of the ability to access his version of organization.
Bob’s boat was organized much like Bob’s brain. Lots and lots of stuff pushed into every drawer and every shelf. It was filling the seats, the heads, the galley, the v berth, the stern cabin. Upon first inspection it felt like being at the auction of an abandoned storage locker. You could peer across the rope getting glimpses of possible surprises within. No way of telling if it was crammed full with treasures, or trash. It seemed like in some of those drawers there would be the special somethings that made it all worthwhile. But how to be sure?
The bones looked good. The surveyor said perhaps a diamond in the rough. He liked it. I liked him. The engine inspector was a good old boy that people kept saying was the best. He said he could tell almost everything about an engine by just sitting and feeling the vibration. His ass said yes. This boat had a lot of potential. And at some point in it’s life it had been loved.
You can find out amazing qualities of a person by inspecting their boat. How was it maintained? Was it cherished, lavished upon? It is also a testament to the personal economy of the owner. People seem to go through times of abundance and scarcity, and nowhere is it more apparent than in what they spend to keep their boat floating. But throughout abundance and the tight times there is an undercurrent of the personality of the owner.
Are they an artist? Do they do things the right way, the easy way, the temporary way, the half way? And as easy as it is to point the figure at Bob I find I too am giving a choice every day. I would like to say I have always taken the highest possible course. But of course one can not escape oneself, one’s history, one’s own personal Bob. Where is the Bob within? So easy to point out in others. Mine is more cloaked and nuanced.
And then, for me, the struggle between trying to do something that actually makes sense, and my ongoing ability to get caught up in the moment and do something crazy. I’ve sold things. I’ve bought things. I understand the emotional high of desperately wanting it, and not listening to the signs that maybe this wasn’t the right time or the right idea or perhaps the right boat.
I meditated. I pondered. I bonded. I skyped Elia. I called Brother Ben. I stood on the dock looking at her and just felt so damned happy.
I made an offer. There were concessions. We reached consensus. The deal was to leave all the stuff on the boat. I would pick through it later. I had a month to back out if I needed. Many things had to fall into place.
Ethan was planning on going for a year abroad. Should know by December 10th. Elia was getting better, but had to get a sense of how that was shaking out.
Maxo was talking about next year. College? Gap year?
And then of course there was the small problem of coming up with the money…