Nimbus, Howard Chapelle, the American Fishing Schooner
One of the goals for this project is to bring together those most comfortable in the doing of a thing with those more prone to wondering what things mean. It’s a sad fact that in our compartmentalized culture we find it hard to open ourselves to different perspectives. We react to difference with alarm and too often discussion polarizes into polemic. It doesn’t “pay” to do otherwise if we measure everything in relation to money. Too many fortunes, too much power is concentrated and held by those who profit from division. In this climate we lose the ability to find connections or even express simple tolerance, and we tend to harden into thinking that money, or power, will insulate us from the consequences of our isolation.
Those of us here share a common bond. We are besotted by boats. Whether we just “mess about” in them, or like to cogitate and proclaim over them, we all love boats. “There’s no money in it!” We hear, “Boats are holes in the water…” Even Arthur Story, a Yankee boatbuilder in at least the fourth generation of a family that built crack fishing schooners in Essex Massachusetts said at the beginning of the Twentieth Century, “We lost money on every boat. We made up for it with volume.”
Here’s what I think all that means. We get value out of boats, out of all proportion if we were to judge simply by a financial measure alone. This is as true on the seller side as on the buyer’s, just ask anyone who’s ever sold a beloved boat. What can we take from this? Especially at a time when money is scarce?
I’ve always felt that the 1930’s were such a high point in boat design, a time when so many truly classic boats were conceived and built, not in spite of the hard times, but because times were tough. At such times the hubris and vanity of flush owners and the more predatory practices of mercenary builders, has been torn away. The people on all sides of the process who remain involved do so because they are holding another standard. At no time is it easy to make a killing with boats. In hard times that’s soberingly obvious to all.
The result in the 1930’s was the creation of a crucible in which those who were clear-eyed about why they were involved with boats got on with making the best boats they could. No one could afford a crappy boat, so the incentive was strong to chose quality. Again, this attitude was there on both sides, builders and owners.
We are once again in times when we need to reassess what matters to us. We can no longer afford the fantasy that we can “have it all!” We need to figure out what we need. For those of us intimately involved with boats that means figuring out how to make arrangements that help us to focus more on achieving quality and meeting each others essential requirements in the process, rather than going after quantity and expecting loose cash to lubricate our way.
The first step along this road has a lot to do with recognizing that we need each other. If nothing else comes of this project than a growing and grounded understanding of that fact, and if we can take a few tentative, yet hopeful steps in that direction, then this will already have been worth it. That experience alone will be more valuable than something to we might “take to the bank!”