Howard Chapelle’s American Small Sailing Craft
Often the hands will solve a mystery that the intellect has struggled with in vain.
This insight is behind my deepest impulse to do, to make things. When I’m in doubt, I want to work on something. One of my few certainties is that I am more likely to find what I’m looking for that way. Not planning, or strategizing, or thinking about a problem or predicament, but beginning to do something.
The key is in what that “something” is, and how we approach our task. If we lash out in action, acting in re-action, not much comes of it, except perhaps a deepening of the hole we’ve been trying to climb out of. What Jung is talking about is an approach to activity in which we really open up to the intelligence beyond our conscious control. This isn’t meant to support any particular spiritual view. Spiritual and metaphysical pondering on such questions seek out explanation. We don’t really need one. The miracle is in the action, not its ultimate cause.
The impulse behind Boats for Difficult Times is fully in keeping with Jung’s statement. One of the ways I answer the question of what to do is to follow my inclination and desire to work with boats perhaps above all other “things.”
Recently, discussing what is possible while building a boat, I said,
The most important thing in building a boat is to keep thinking, looking, and feeling all the way along. Every decision, every action, should be an open question until it has to be closed. No plan is as good as the open judgments that can be made right there in dealing with the real thing. Every trip to the wood pile is a conversation between the intention, the plan, and the material at hand. Every space, every form, is felt and adjusted as it’s being made. The hand falls where the line should go. Placement is the result of being there and engaging with space and form.… A wonderful design is one that is open to and invites this attitude. A good designer inspires confidence when we find along the way that they’ve touched upon the question of the moment and they have left some hint in the plan that corroborates our own sense of how the boat is best served as we come to our decisions, or as we confront what is taking shape in front of us and out of the labor of our hands.
If you open yourself to this, boatbuilding is one of the most exciting things you can do! It’s also daunting.
It’s not just building, it’s also designing, it’s also writing, or painting….
This is true of many activities, but there’s something special when we’re dealing with boats.