The dream boat

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 teak trim

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

Willy Wonka

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


10 thoughts on “The dream boat”

  1. Sanding time – just sand.
    Dreaming time – just dream.
    Don’t check your mind, then in any situation – tranquillity is no problem.

    Good to hear from you. Stay well,

  2. OK, it is not rational, but there is something compelling (for some of us) about the Columbia 29. I know what you mean, nothing against the Triton, but S and S drew a very nice boat. I have always fancied them and I just found one too, hull #37, and I had to buy it. It even came with original line drawings, sail plan and a letter from Olin Stephens responding to the original owner’s query on metacentric height! I feel like I hit the jackpot. I have only had her 3 weeks but I love the way she sails. With a little fixing and upgrading here and there it should be ready for Channel Island cruising. There are always other boats, of course, but I am with you on this point; the C29 is, by any measure, a fine little boat. In life, how do we keep dreaming yet keep hold of the satisfaction of something that is great, as it is, for what it is? I am not surprised a Swan owner would admire it, he has good taste in boats. I very much enjoy following your contemplations on cruising, repairs and the boat.

    1. Thanks for taking the time for a comment. I am glad to know you are sailing a C29, I’ve ben on her today for a quick paint job before installing new floors. For a while I will only write about cruising as I am stuck on land for bureaucracy and work, but we hope to resume cruising as soon as all this is done. Do you mind if I ask you the name of the boat? Or did you change it when you buy it?

      1. The original owner’s wife was from Greece and she named the boat after one of their revered ancestors, Pythagoras. The name, now that I know, just adds to the sense of history that I enjoy about her, so the name is growing on me. I will not change a name unless I have a very compelling reason to do so. My old Columbia 24 came with the name “Magic Twanger.” While I did enjoy its whimsical reference I did rename her after a bird, the egret, that I thought was particularly beautiful, and that figured prominently in a brilliant and detailed dream I had when I was sick with a high fever. I sailed that boat all around the Channel Islands off Santa Barbara for 10 years. In fact I learned to sail on that boat and it was a very forgiving boat when I got out in conditions I wasn’t quite ready for! So the feel of the tiller of Pythagoras feels like coming home in a way; the old 24 and 29 are very similar. It has been 25 years since I had the C24 (which is up in Montana now on Flathead Lake,) but that gap in time disappears when I sail Pythagoras. It’s great. Now if I only had about 2 or 3 thousand to do all the improvements, upgrades and paint job… but they will have to be put off, for now I’ll just sail her as is, which is still great.

  3. That name has a great lore.
    We didn’t change the name of our boat either “Tranquility” even though we thought about it and we came back to that thinking recently, as the boat is going through a very extensive refit who is changing her a lot. Anyway it reflects a bit how I am so I should keep it.
    I found the C29 very forgiving, and that’s what I like. I also like that you dont need to reef very soon,

  4. Yes, this boat name thing is a bit personal, or at least I think it should be, as a reflection of the love you have for the craft and enterprise you are about to undertake.

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