In recreational boating, as in recreational flying, there is a thing called “get-there-itis.” Get-there-itis is a disease where a normally very sensible pilot or captain makes a blindingly stupid decision to take some risk or put his crew in some uncomfortable situation, in order to arrive at a destination at a desired time. In flying, the outcome is often fatal (departing into bad weather or running out of fuel); in boating it’s usually just a crappy day that makes everyone hate the boat. Either way it’s not worth it.
Get-there-itis is a natural result of us conflating transportation with recreation. We use things for fun that we also use to get places, so it’s hardly surprising when one bleeds into the other. Get-there-itis is also likely to come about when more than one vehicle is involved — one captain has to return the boat before another, or has a higher tolerance for crew pain, etc.
The antidote? In flying, it’s simple — don’t ever fly for work unless you are a trained professional. When you are flying for fun, do it on clear days when the pleasure of flying is at its best. In boating it’s a bit more tricky, because you usually have a group of people with you, and the boat is functioning as an RV. So it does need to go places. The one thing you can do is not link yourself to another boat or a flotilla, so that you can be your own master.
With that, off I go to follow the other boat into a rainstorm…
We had dinner at Abe’s By The Sea last night. There wasn’t anything particularly unusual about it, it was a traditional Caribbean lobster dinner. What was unusual was that Abe’s has a brand new building after his old building was wiped out in the hurricane. The new building is in fact better in every way — when it’s truly finished there will be a bar out front with a full restaurant behind.
Ron, my father in law (pictured below with wife Claire), first visited Abe’s we think in 1975. The famous story is that his partner Dean ordered a scotch on the rocks. Abe, behind the bar, got out a 12-ounce glass and poured it almost full of whatever scotch they had, then reached down behind the bar with tongs, pulled one ice cube out of a cooler, and dropped it into the scotch. “We a little low on ice, man,” he said…
Abe’s may not have the best lobster in the Caribbean, but it is a special place and I’m very happy he is coming out of the disaster. Saba Rock, too, up at North Gorda Sound, appears to be recovering well. The Bitter End, by contrast — maybe the most famous resort in the BVI and possibly the oldest — is now more or less an empty beach. All the old structures have been demolished and cleared away and there seems to be no motion towards rebuilding.
One is tempted to see some good in all of this — in the insurance-driven rebuilding and resetting of things, opening up new opportunities and unleashing new energy. War can be thought of similarly. Would the great post-Civil-War boom that built New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Detroit, Cleveland, and Chicago have happened without the Civil War? Not at the same rate, probably. On the other hand, the South did not rebuild at anything like the same rate, and it was hit far harder. So no, I reject this idea — some good may come out of disaster, but it’s rare that it equals the good that is lost.
In the end, though, humanity seems to recover, by some means.
I’m not sure how boats became part of my life. I grew up in Atlanta, after all, far from the sea. The most experience I ever had with the water was skiing on man-made lakes (which was fun but not really boat-y). Given I have no family history, then, it’s a little funny that I spend so much time today thinking about being on boats, taking pictures of them, writing about them, and so on.
In the end I have to credit my father-in-law Ron, who has been a major influence in my adult life, with getting me into boats. Somewhere I have photos and videos of Kim and me at ages 25 and 22, respectively, on my first ever sailing trip in the BVI, on the sailboat Priority II — a beautiful Taiwan-built Tayana 55 — that he and his business partner Dean Burtch had just had built for themselves. I had no idea that I was ascending to the pinnacle of sailboating my first time out of the gate.
At the time I never dreamed I might some day myself own such a thing, or even rent one and captain it. But Kim and I have fallen into exactly that, between river boat trips in France and now our first sailboat charter trip in the BVI. Chartering in France is a great vacation and not wildly expensive. It’s quite a bit more expensive in the BVI, but still manageable… and here we are doing it. Strange.
But rambling about boats wasn’t actually the reason for this post. I wanted to write about owning versus renting, about the possessing of things versus the using of them for fun.
For reasons that aren’t clear to me, American culture has long been obsessed with ownership. Maybe it’s the only way to signify social standing in our supposedly classless society, or maybe it’s the role the private property aesthetic and legal structure played in our forbears’ theft of the land from its former occupants… who knows. Anyway it boils down to the “who dies with the most toys wins” wisecrack you hear now and then.
I accepted this principle — that more and better stuff was unquestionably a good thing — without question until we moved to Europe a few years ago and rented an apartment for the first time in a very long time (having left most of our possesions behind in Philadelphia). The apartment was lovely, stocked with the basic stuff we needed to live, and I found myself very happy not to have to worry about repairing it or being responsible for it in any way. I had accidentally discovered for myself the great truth that your stuff owns you just as much as you own it. Every single thing you acquire puts some level of demand on your mental energy, worrying about its welfare or whether it was worth purchasing.
So, back to the beautiful boat above. I’m not likely to have the means to purchase such a lovely thing, but I don’t think I would even if I could. On the whole, I’d rather rent.