Why would anyone want to build a boat?

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

-Langston Hughes

When I was a kid I helped my Dad build a boat. He was great to work with and a consummate teacher. That was lucky, because I made a lot of mistakes. Many times I learned firsthand that I should have followed his advice. He graciously allowed errors into the finished boat because the process was more important to him than the product.

Despite the errors I had one genuine point of pride. I hand carved an ash mast step to extend our 2nd hand hobie rig to the necessary height for our sail plan. It was a tricky piece of work and I did it all myself. Looking at it today with a critical adult eye I can’t see how it could be better. That experience of mastery, of doing something really well, was a high. After that I always thought I would build a boat myself. One day I would create and launch a beautiful craft that would match the artistry of my mast step.

You need three things to build a boat: time, money, and space. I always seemed to lack at least one, so I contented myself with looking at plans and reading about techniques. I gradually deferred the boat to the nebulous “someday” where ideas and dreams are put out to pasture.

Then, my Grandfather died. Like me, (like you?) he always dreamed about things he would do someday. His dream was to build a log cabin. He bought the land and had the knowledge but he never broke ground.

I realized that my own plans were gradually slipping away.

That’s why I’m building a boat.

I started soon after his death but at some point I lost focus and the project languished in my garage untouched.

Then the strangest thing happened…I noticed.

I noticed that time was passing me by again.
I noticed that I wasn’t working on the projects that interested me and energized me the most.
I noticed that I was checking off the mundane tasks of life that didn’t really matter to me.
I noticed that I was tired and it was hard to get up in the morning.
I noticed my kids asking when they’d get to ride in the boat.

That’s why I’ll finish it this year.

Tell me in the comments, what will you finish this year?


One Comment on “Why would anyone want to build a boat?”

  1. […] My well-to-do burby neighborhood has watched in supportive fascination as one of their own removed his Gray Flannel Suit and took a public risk by creating something. […]

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