After boating comes the selling and the wallowing

Waves of nostalgia begin to wash over an almost-former vessel owner

Observations

April 24, 2005|By Rob Hiaasen | Rob Hiaasen,SUN STAFF

There comes a time when you are old enough to appreciate old sayings, such as, "You're only as happy as your unhappiest child." After that, no one needs to write another word on parenting.

There's another kind of happiness, covered in another saying: "The two happiest days of your life are the day you buy a boat and the day you sell it." After that, no one needs to write another word about boats.

But allow me.

It is the season of boat buying and selling, and I have sent my boat to a foster home: a boat broker. It's not important what kind of boat it is - it could be any one advertised for sale in the sports section next to the "Donate Your Auto" or "Total Body Concept" ad. The point is, I failed to sell my boat myself (my heart wasn't in the lousy job), so I need a broker to do the deed.

My family had good times on the boat - as authenticated by an independent group of non-boaters. This is required, since family members rarely agree on whether a "good time" was, in fact, "had by all." One must seek outside validation. It's easy. Find three people (ensuring a voting majority), present objective facts about trip (i.e., boat did not capsize; no one drowned; no other vessel was harmed), then request a ruling.

Be warned about bringing nonboaters into family business, though. When you tell people you have a boat, many will say: 1) "Wow! You have a boat?" 2) "I wish I had a boat!" or 3) "When are you taking me out on your boat?" I always make a point of sincerely answering: 1. Yes. 2. No, you don't. 3. Never.

We had bad times on the boat. This does not need to be authenticated since family members can generally agree that losing a boat's steering on the Chesapeake Bay - causing boat to make silly little circles as passengers pray things will straighten out - does not constitute a good time. Being towed does not enhance a boat outing, but rather underscores the boat owner's sinking feeling that he is a boat-owning loser.

Family members can also agree that being caught in a thunderstorm and having to flee to the nearest private dock and beg for shelter and blankets is a bad time. There were other bad times, too, but in the timeless words of Mark McGwire, let's not discuss the past but rather say something positive about the future.

My future, though, appears boatless. So, I shall return to wallowing.

Where did she and I go wrong? Did I not spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars cleaning and fixing and painting and docking and fueling and insuring and registering my boat? Did I not rebuild her steering and fit her with stainless-steel propellers? Of course I didn't. I paid some guy in Severna Park to do all that, but I would have.

It's not my fault the bay's average depth is something like 3.5 inches. Every time I ground her into the bay, I felt her pain. And it's not my fault my depth finder went on the fritz and I was too cheap to fix it on account of the hull needing anti-barnacle paint because after a week in the bay an untreated hull starts to resemble the wreck of the Titanic.

Maybe she was too much boat for me; I'm man enough to admit that now. Maybe I should have named her. In the buoyant beginning, I could have named her something ridiculously clever as "Final Edition" or "Comp Time." But after the marine bills began to flow in, I would have re-christened her "Chapter 11." Eventually, we were bound to fall out of love. But I'm still left with the nagging feeling that I didn't try hard enough.

I must let go. We had our good times. We saw the sunset on the Severn and the night lights from the Naval Academy. We anchored off Gibson Island to swim, we threaded Kent Narrows just to say we did, we chugged up Whitehall Bay to eat crabs at Jimmy Cantler's.

We had our bad times, too, but they really weren't so bad.

My boat never capsized. She just ran aground from time to time, like everything and everyone does.

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