We Come From The Haunts Of Coot
It was one of those moments
that come infrequently to this author, a moment of startling
realization, deep insight, crystal clarity and enduring understanding.
(My wife thinks I could probably benefit from more of such moments...)
I was standing in the midst of a lovely patch of manicured lawn,
an assortment of small wooden boats around me in every direction,
people of all ages and clothing styles ogling the boats, examining
the displays of spar varnish, discussing the relative merits
of one brand or another of topside paint, bragging about the
pot life of the epoxy they prefer, calculating the area of a
little spritsail and mizzen, and other such appropriate topics,
when, unbidden and unexpected, like a bolt of lightning, it
hit me: we are the lunatic fringe.
Now some of you have already
figured this out, but for me, well call me slow, but I always
thought we were common as dirt, citizens of Mayberry sitting
in the sun outside the barber shop, chewing the fat and hoping
that Mary Sue would come along and invite us to the malt shop
for a milk shake.
It turns out though that we
are really the mad mead makers, the crazed yak
butter churners, the obsessed rotary
engine tweakers, the twitching train
spotters, and the wild-eyed angora
rabbit wool carders. We are the people that normal
people step back from in alarm when they discover our true nature.
Surrounded as I was by like
minded sorts, all taking in the sights and sounds of the Wooden
Boat Show, I should have felt as secure and serene as a clam
in mud, bobbing happily like a duck on a pond, swimming contentedly
with other fish like me in waters we called our own...
But for some reason I suddenly
realized that in the boating world, we accounted for a microscopic
fraction of the whole. Macintosh users are the whacko fringe
of the computing world, and they account for what, about 8%
of small computers. Can you imagine one boat in 12 on the water
being home made, hand made, wooden, small, designed by Bolger
Can you imagine throwing a Mouse boat on the roof rack, driving
20 miles to a pond and heaving it in, and finding two other
Mouse boaters you had never met or heard of? In the eight years
that I’ve used my Monfort
canoe, have I ever even once run into another of
his designs on the water? (That would be “no”..)
I realize that we Duckworksers
are not all of one type– some prefer paddle or sail, others
use motors, and some even admit to an affinity for frozen
snot. Yet we are mostly of a family that is but
distantly related to the majority of the Boston
Whaler gang, the 42 foot LWL tribe, the 425hp crowd.
The coastal harbors are filled to capacity with big boats, shiny
gleaming fiberglass boats, boats with motors that cost more
than a new Toyota Camry. And even the lakes and ponds are home
to aluminum and roto-molded canoes and kayaks, made by companies
large enough to have regional distributors, local reps, national
I’m not suggesting that
we are better than the folk who go to a store and take out a
bank loan and buy a boat that has more horsepower than a small
airplane*. But I remain still, some days after the lightning
bolt, surprised at the magnitude of our distance from the mainstream.
We may row, paddle, sail and motor the same waters, but we are
more among than of the vast majority with whom we share those
waters. Perhaps if we were to preach our Gospel louder and harder
we could convert more to the cause, divert the masses from their
current thoughtless course and get them on a heading to nautical
truth and enlightenment. But I suspect that like street corner
prophets, ours is a message that would fall unheeded among the
unsaved, and dissipate like mist in the morning sun.
Oh well, at least we may count
ourselves among the nautically saved. And so let us say,
Michael Connelly raises sons,
Volvos and boats in coastal Maine.
* (Okay, I might think it, but I wouldn’t be so rude
as to say so..)