Saturday, August 30, 2008

Where I Floated and What I Floated For

A great coincidence: On the boat I'm staying aboard while I fix my own, there is exactly one book, an annotated edition of Walden, which is readable, I find, even after several nightly shots of refreshing beverage.

Walden is one of those books you can read every year for the rest of your life and never run dry. I've often wondered if Thoreau ever considered living on a boat, rather than in his cabin, on Walden Pond. Forget what they say about boats being holes you fill with money; you might as easily fill them with the fruit of your own ingenuity. Money is so seldom really needed, I find. What is always needed is time, initiative, and good taste.

Whether by land or sea, though, living outside the village requires guile, a deep guile and cunning that can easily go wrong. It is probably good to remember that both Henry David Thoreau and Ted Kaczynski lived in small cabins. And add this to their difficulties: When they fail and catch fire and explode, they do so in no way comprehensible to their fellow citizens in civilization. A column of black smoke beyond the far hill, that is all that most will ever know of heroic failure of the very personal kind.

Speaking of heroism, I am celebrating 10 weeks of non-stop sailing by further postponing a reunion with my aunt and uncle, and working on my boat.

I haven't touched this boat in two years, and the solid layer of mold and crud on every surface will attest to that. I had to kill several nests of wasps just to get aboard, and several hours were lost in despair and hair-tearing for the job that had to be done. Thoreau would not approve of this aspect of boat ownership. But finally, after three days, things have begun to improve. I haven't decided yet whether boat ownership fits with a policy of voluntary simplicity, but at the very least the boat needs to be fixed, and care of our possessions is among our first responsibilities, is it not? So long as we still own them.