Tag Archives: perfection

We’re here to fish…

Every so often, one of us will say or do something so notoriously noteworthy that our friends and family will never let us live it down. Sometimes a simple statement will live on, years, even decades later, haunting us, taking on a life of its own. My husband made one of those infamous quotes, and it’s gone on to embody a certain philosophy our family holds to, especially at times like these: the holidays.

It wasn’t long after we’d met; we were both still in high school at the time. It was one of those perfect summer days: the sun was warm without being hot and there wasn’t a trace of humidity. The sky was a flawless, cloudless cerulean blue that went on forever. It was an ideal day to go fishing. With his kid brother along, we slid his flat-bottomed boat into the bed of the pickup, loaded up our tackle and headed up to a nearby lake. How could anything go wrong?

Well, to start with, upon arrival we discovered the battery for the trolling motor never made it from the garage to the truck. Frank had asked his brother to load it; his brother thought Frank had grabbed it. But we had oars and we had rods and tackle, so we forged ahead.

It wasn’t long before it became obvious the fish weren’t biting. Obvious to his brother and I, at least. But it was a beautiful day and it was peaceful just drifting in a little boat on that sparkling lake. I put my rod aside, leaned over and trailed my finger in the cool water. Frank’s brother leaned back and gazed up at the sky, soaking in the sun’s rays. But Frank refused to accept defeat. He continued to cast and reel with great determination. I watched, bemused. Cast, reel. Cast, reel. Cast, reel. At last he finally paused, regarding me and his brother, our rods down and towels clearly thrown in even as we enjoyed that summer afternoon and he uttered that memorable quote:  “Damn it, we’re here to fish, not to have fun.”

No sooner than those words left his mouth, a look crossed his face as his brain processed what he’d said. I promptly burst out laughing and he shook his head in defeat. “You’re never going to let me forget that, are you?” he said.

I haven’t. In fact, that statement’s gone on to symbolize whenever the quest for fun turns into an epic battle. When doing what you love becomes more of a chore than a pleasure, you’ve reached the ‘here to fish’ moment. We’ve all been there: we get so wrapped up in what we’re doing that we lose sight of why we’re doing it to begin with. Most anything we do for pleasure can gradually turn on us if we’re not careful. Vacations fall victim to the ‘here to fish’ mindset; the hopes and expectations are so high, the time limited, and people make themselves crazed in an attempt to do it all. And it happens a lot this time of year, with the pressure to have a perfect holiday often overriding the point of the holiday to begin with. But whatever you’re doing, be it celebrating with family and friends, or fixing a boat or writing or even fishing, always remember why. The object of the game, plain and simple, is to have fun.

Happy Holidays, and a safe and healthy New Year to all!

Letting go of Perfection

Another winter is right around the corner, and once again, Annabel Lee remains right where she’s been for far too long.  No, the work I’ve been doing should have never taken this long, but sometimes health, hurricanes, and life in general get in the way. All the same I do know for certain (with the exception of any unforeseen impending disasters, of which I’ve had enough, thank you very much,) I am on the home stretch. If all goes according to plans (okay, go ahead and laugh. I know the boat gods are even as I type this.) her completely re-cored decks will once again be sheathed in fiberglass, and she WILL WILL WILL be afloat come spring, her decks nice and solid, her engine gleaming and purring, and her new-old mast standing high and proud. I may have mentioned in the past, it’s my delusional optimism that keeps me going. Hey, sometimes you just have to work with what you’ve got.

Now, I’ve heard the whispers. I know what some people are saying. I’m a perfectionist, and until I come to terms with that, the boat will never be done.  And that is true to some extent. For one, no boat is ever truly done –that just goes with the nature of boats. And I am a perfectionist when it comes to the boat, but only to a point. For example, I have a strong dislike for leaking decks, and I believe if you’re going to tear them all up and re-core them, you might as well do it once and do it right. So no, I won’t cut corners there. And I strongly believe that the engine room should be the cleanest, shiniest area on the entire boat, because then if there are any leaks, they are clear and easily located and addressed. But beyond that, I’m actually rather partial to the New England workboat philosophy – minimal brightwork, minimal shiny bits, and simply freshen up the paint once a season.  Let the boat look respectable, let her show she’s maintained, but don’t sweat the finish. Personally, I’m seriously considering simply rolling the hull with a nice, flat, off-white paint.  It’s a look I’m rather fond of, and not just aesthetically.  It’s a look that says, “This boat isn’t just a show piece.”

Don’t get me wrong – I’m the first to admire a truly beautiful, meticulous finish. You’ve got to respect the work and discipline that goes into achieving and maintaining it, and brightwork that gleams with flawless richness is truly a thing of beauty. I’d been that obsessive on my old catboat, Myra Lee, and took great pride in the admiration she attracted. But these days I’m letting go of that ideal. So long as she’s mechanically and structurally sound, I’d prefer  Annabel Lee be less of a show piece and more of a functional, functioning boat. A boat I won’t mind dogs romping around, and one I won’t mind hauling a striped bass aboard. A boat that guests don’t have to remove their shoes to board. A boat that dinghies can thump against all night without concern. A boat I don’t have to pamper. A boat with the lowest maintenance-to-use ratio I can achieve.  A boat I can simply enjoy.

It’s easy to get caught up in the quest for perfection. As a writer, there’s always another sentence we can tweak, and on boats, there’s always something that could shine just that much more.  But there’s a point where it might be best to let go of perfection in exchange for ‘good enough’. Because in the end, once Annabel Lee is finally anchored out, as the sun dips below the horizon as the clouds streak the sky with a magnificent pink and orange display, the last thing that will matter is how shiny her hull is.

And on that note, I found this video had been emailed to me from Jamestown Distributors, and it sums this philosophy up perfectly. It’s well worth watching.