I am expert in sanding. I can’t say I have a formal training but I achieved many hours of hands-on the job. Wood, metal, fiberglass, epoxy, I dragged sanding paper of different grits on many surfaces wrapping it around fingertips, hands, blocks or machines. Some times it’s a precision job that requires eye-hand coordination and caution. Some times it requires brute force and endurance. But the main skill to achieve a quality finish is to be focused and present while doing the job. Of course this is valid for every human activity but it’s particularly difficult when sanding.
Sanding is mainly a slow and repetitive task, even when using power tools. It is also a labored task, that requires more mental and physical toughness than one could suspect. When you sand for hours it’s not a big deal. You gather your patience and you actively watch the progress of your work, adjusting your action to achieve the perfect finish.
If you are busy with extensive surface restoration or large paintjobs you may need to sand for days. In this stage it’s important also to divide the work in little areas and make sure you complete one job before moving to the next one. Concentration is very important.
When you are restoring every surface on several different projects that’s weeks and weeks of endless sanding with several passages over certain areas to blend everything together in a smooth composition. At this stage you establish a deeper connection with the surface you are working on. You start to notice that objects have singular details and characteristics and you may think you are bonding with them.
When you are counting your sanding time in the order of months it’s a survival situation. Just stay alive and don’t lose your mind!
When I was living in New England I was a dedicated participant of Zen meditation groups. The technique can simplistically be described as mind training in self-awareness: observing thoughts as they wander in different directions without fighting them but trying instead to bring the focus back to the present situation, here and now, that usually is you sitting on a cushion inside a room with other people staring at a wooden floor.
The natural tendency of the mind is to keep weaving an internal conversation, putting in line positive or negative judgments about ourselves or other people, entertain with stories about the past or dreams about the future. The meditation setting and the constant practice have the purpose to give you some rest from the unstoppable noisy chatter of your mind, and to let it dissipate allowing yourself to reach a primitive state of no-mind, the “don’t know mind”.
After too much sanding in boat restoration projects my mind broke loose of all the Zen techniques and started to escape rushing in a daydream modality. I failed in redirecting my concentration, and instead of engaging in a useless fight I encouraged this spontaneous roaming, as a prototypical member of Homo Ludens (alternatively, “Playing Man”) species would do.
There is no life I know
To compare with pure imagination
Living there, you’ll be free
If you truly wish to be
After some time I noticed that this ludic vagabonding has its center in a main topic: building the perfect cruising yacht having an unlimited budget. I am not proud my thoughts gravitate spontaneously to a complete pointless activity: I don’t have an infinite budget and it seems nobody is willing to grant me such a sum. As if that was not enough I should aim my thoughts and energy towards a more realistic target: improve Tranquility and make her a good boat to sail ocean passages.
So even if the power of imagination provides me with an unlimited budget, a team of expert designers and boat-builders working for me I am not envisioning a 100ft luxury yacht with all the luxuries and toys on the market. I am a modest dreamer and I can see in this world of imagination is a 38ft cutter rigged mono hull named Arctic Tern.
She would be a fast cruiser, with the minimum internal living space to comfort for a 2 adults who may get 4 more people as guests. Artic Tern has a narrow beam and her lines are very close to the waterline. She would be as light as possible and built using composite materials, with Kevlar for the underbody and areas of great stress, and carbon fiber for the rest. All the systems would be simple, although built to the highest standard and quality. A simple and solid and safe sailing machine comfortable for ocean passages and that can sail fast enough to make the experience enjoyable. Even if this project is “modest” compare to what’s actually sailing the ocean nowadays, it will be several hundreds of thousands dollars or even a million. But this is not a problem as in the world of imagination I can spend all the money I want to get the perfect boat.
There is no perfect boat, no matter how much money and good ideas you have. I feel this wandering through imaginary worlds is giving me relief from the hard truth I am facing. My boat is kind of slow and pretty cramped for two people, and I can’t afford to hire specialists to upgrade her to the maximum extent. I have to be the specialist so it’s better to study (and dream) as a specialist. The more I dream about non-existent boats the more I get ready and learn about real boats and different designs.
Tranquility is giving me the hardest task: the budget is very tight as well as the space on the boat. On Tranquility there is no room for surplus or amenities, everything must be essential and some times having fewer choices is harder.
The dreams are on everyday, I can’t have control over them. Sometimes is Artic Tern knocking at the door, or Tranquility rebuilt anew or fast trimarans, dinghies and other imaginary crafts. I am starting to accept the visions as they uncoil behind my eyes, they snatch me and then leave me behind with wide open eyes, making me wonder if I already sanded that surface of the boat or not.
Not all those who wander are lost – J.R.R. Tolkien