I know boats…

Je connais des bateaux qui s’égratignent un peu

Sur les routes de la mer où les mène leur jeu

 (transl. “I know boats that get little scratches
On the ocean roads where their games lead to”)

 Mannick, Je connais des bateux

The “Idea of Self” has given me trouble since I had memory. When sailing became an unexpected reality in my life these identity troubles got complicated.

The very first time I sailed it was on a 51ft sloop with a dead engine that we took 136 miles away from departure to give her a brand new propulsion apparatus. I still remember that as no biggity, even though I should ask Fernando (the skipper) about it. All the work needed to push the boat with the dinghy through a swinging bridge in a choppy channel in front of a crowd of waterfront breakfast eaters was just new fun activity for an incompetent sailor like me.

Sailing fun
Ignorance can be a bliss

Then there was the first dream about taking off on my own boat: it was a sailing Cayuco (dugout canoe type) from the Kuna people, my belonging stuffed in watertight barrels, coasting South American shores and pulling on the beach every night to enjoy a bonefire and a sound sleep on a hammock. No mosquitos were bothering me in those fantasies. I even dared picturing some offshore sailing in such a craft. It remained a dream when other events dragged me away from Kuna Yala before I could accomplish it.

My Dream Boat
My Dream Boat

What is left of that naive man today? Training and experience, in one word knowledge, added layers of complication to the art of sailing. The present is filled with words like safety equipment, ideal ground tackle, auxiliary mean of propulsion and proper sized elecrical wiring, as well as a lot of gadgets and products that “you can’t sail without” pushed by marketers and opinion leaders. It is extremely hard to make order in all this crap.

Since Tranquility owned our lives, I experienced shifts in what was to be expected from a boat, oscillating from “really just a hull that don’t take water in” to “safe, unsinkable, performance-oriented sailing machine”, sometimes being happy to fall in the first category, sometimes working hard to achieve the latter.

It’s hard to tell why Tranquility chose us, she won’t tell. Being far from the “perfect boat” she challenged our own Idea of Self, our needs and our goals. She proof tested our skills and endurance, she took the majority of our money, forcing us to visit places we had not planned to, before leaving us stranded in an unknown point on the chart. She made ask ourselves if we were ready and when that will be. In synthesis, she changed us.

I am happy I am a different myself, even only for the fact that there was a path in these years, any path really. I can still look behind, look at me now and think about what will come ahead. When past and present look alike, there’s a chance that the future won’t be different. So in the end I am happy about this incongruity.

I usually welcome change. Helping others going through change was part of my career back in pre-financial crisis Italy, so I can’t exclude I suffer from the prejudice that sees change as inherently good, necessary and unavoidable. Sometimes I look back with nostalgia to the man that wouldn’t hesitate to embark in an unsafe, uncertain journey on an ill-equipped vessel, and I wish I hadn’t changed.

Knowledge and experience can be a heavy and safe anchor, but when it grows too big it could block any movement at all. The restoration chapter of Tranquility has gone through the same pattern. We started performing the quickest cheapest and unfinished jury rig repairs to be able to leave before the winter gales, and now we would spend a considerable amount of time and money to make things “the best we can”.

Tranquility undergoing surgeries
Tranquility undergoing surgeries

There are definetely good learning coming from this endeavor, but the more we remain attached to a dock and in the range of hardware stores, marine suppliers and Amazon Prime, the poorer we become and the less likely we are to unmoor as the perfect boat is nothing but an illusion.

 “Je connais des bateaux tellement enchaînés
Qu’ils ont désappris comment se libérer!”
(transl. “I know so chained boats
They have forgotten how to break free!”)

Maybe Tranquility needed somebody who would give her an anti-age treatment, new life out of tiredness. Maybe she had something to teach two illiterate sailors like us, or she was looking for warmer climate to retire. Maybe it’s all or none of that, it’s very hard to get her to cough the story up. Or maybe she is not immune to different Ideas of Self battling for supremacy. She used to sail across the ocean, she has it in her bones and chances are that she misses it very badly.

I know boats that are never really finished but this doesn’t stop them from setting sail. And I have the suspect Tranquility is one of those boats.

8 thoughts on “I know boats…”

  1. Hey Fabio
    Great post! I couldn’t agree more after purchasing our 29 and sailing it 180 miles home .I realized something about these fine little boats they just wanna sail. I’ve only been sailing a few years and find myself sometimes getting caught up in the tech crazed world of sailing . The previous owners of my new to me boat were old school and kept Gull very simple. She sail us home safely with a well maintained original Palmer gasoline motor and very basic systems . She was just happy to be free of the dock lines and so were we ! I think that’s what make these old boats so special , if we sail them true to the vintage of time they were made it keeps a lot of extra cash in our pockets. Not to mention the list of to do’s are limitless so I’m gonna have to ignore the idea of perfection and embrace the nuances linked to her age ! Well anyhow while looking at your post I noticed another difference between Tranquility and Gull that I wasn’t aware of it appears your cabin hatch is off center while mine isn’t I’m presuming its to accommodate the dinette style . The progress looks great thanks for leading the way on the hatch rebuilds I’m not far behind !
    Cheers
    Jimmy

  2. Hey Fabio
    Great post! I couldn’t agree more after purchasing our 29 and sailing it 180 miles home .I realized something about these fine little boats they just wanna sail. I’ve only been sailing a few years and find myself sometimes getting caught up in the tech crazed world of sailing . The previous owners of my new to me boat were old school and kept Gull very simple. She sail us home safely with a well maintained original Palmer gasoline motor and very basic systems . She was just happy to be free of the dock lines and so were we ! I think that’s what make these old boats so special , if we sail them true to the vintage of time they were made it keeps a lot of extra cash in our pockets. Not to mention the list of to do’s are limitless so I’m gonna have to ignore the idea of perfection and embrace the nuances linked to her age ! Well anyhow while looking at your post I noticed another difference between Tranquility and Gull that I wasn’t aware of it appears your cabin hatch is off center while mine isn’t I’m presuming its to accommodate the dinette style . The progress looks great thanks for leading the way on the hatch rebuilds I’m not far behind !
    Cheers
    Jimmy

  3. Hi Jimmy, thanks for your comment!
    It’s always nice to hear from people that love these boats, they have a little magic inside.
    Yes my companionway is slightly offset for the dinette style, I wish they built it differently as it was a pain in the butt when it was time to restore it. I found a lot of modifications on Tranquility, the previous owners didn’t kept her original. I liked the change in the rig and chainplate, the differente mast and boom, but other things were not to my taste. The problem when you change a boat so much is that the following owner may not have the same tastes or ideas.
    I am looking forward to see some of your progress on Gull, I bet you will have fun too!
    Cheers

    Fabio

  4. Hi Jimmy, thanks for your comment!
    It’s always nice to hear from people that love these boats, they have a little magic inside.
    Yes my companionway is slightly offset for the dinette style, I wish they built it differently as it was a pain in the butt when it was time to restore it. I found a lot of modifications on Tranquility, the previous owners didn’t kept her original. I liked the change in the rig and chainplate, the differente mast and boom, but other things were not to my taste. The problem when you change a boat so much is that the following owner may not have the same tastes or ideas.
    I am looking forward to see some of your progress on Gull, I bet you will have fun too!
    Cheers

    Fabio

  5. Fabio
    I hear ya mine is very close to stock , there were a few changes made over the years . One was moving a chainplate to the outside of the hull as well . Not sure if u are interested but I have some pics of Gull and a short video of my sail on Instagram . You can find me at @traband . Not sure if ur on there .
    Otherwise I did upload some pics on the Columbia site
    Cheers
    Jimmy

    1. I’d love to see pictures of Columbia 29s. They are so rare. I am not an instagrammer but my wife is so I will put her on a hunt.
      Cheers

  6. Fabio
    I hear ya mine is very close to stock , there were a few changes made over the years . One was moving a chainplate to the outside of the hull as well . Not sure if u are interested but I have some pics of Gull and a short video of my sail on Instagram . You can find me at @traband . Not sure if ur on there .
    Otherwise I did upload some pics on the Columbia site
    Cheers
    Jimmy

    1. I’d love to see pictures of Columbia 29s. They are so rare. I am not an instagrammer but my wife is so I will put her on a hunt.
      Cheers

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