When I wrote Designer & Client this is what I saw:
So much of what we do is… required of us.…
…no one is forcing us to have a pleasure boat. No practical purpose is fulfilled by owning one…
A boat is an opportunity to create a dream and act on it. Most such dreams are modest: to float…, to be in the outdoors…, to escape…. The sacrifice involved… is relatively great, the cost in money and time…. Yet many of us seem to live for this. Why? Finding answers to that question is fundamental….
There was a time when everyone… knew his or her role…. People with boats had had them for generations – …watermen and fishermen or …yacht owners…. They …lived in waterfront communities …immersed in the maritime culture.
…that system has broken down…. … most … are new to boating, others live far from traditional centers.…
Traditional boats have become submerged in a… consumer-driven mass market…. Anyone looking for a way past all that – looking for something different – is in for a difficult time….
…the deeper I draw from traditional craft, the more I see my job as one of interpretation, even translation, of designs of the past. …to strike a balance between… traits that attract us and the demands these craft must meet today.
One sees things in need of correction and sets out to use understanding as a tool to make these changes.…
The situation has evolved. We certainly are in difficult times! It has grown increasing clear to me that we need to connect our yearning with a purpose.
I still see what I do as an act of translation, dealing with anachronistic collisions between aspects of a deeper past we admire and the demands of the present.
When I was in Boat School I dreamt of building a Kingston Lobster Boat and a few wooden traps. At the time Pete Culler’s neo-coasting schooner designs were getting some attention as vessels intended to carry cargo under sail once again. My modest proposal might not have seemed so farfetched….
The renaissance of cargo-sail didn’t materialize. My career as a sailing Lobsterman never got past building a half-model of this boat from Chapelle…. A few years before the Club of Rome’s report on The Limits to Growth, I’d stumbled upon the predicament that has loomed over us all our lives, a silent colossus, the Enormity of our Age. The tractor trailer truck made cargo sail impractical. Fishing under sail in a time of fisheries collapse made no sense.
The fault does not lie with an intent to find a less polluting way of moving goods or a method of limiting the impact of industrial fishing on a depleted ocean. What doomed these strategies is that we judge them from within the same paradigm that brought us to our impasse in the first place. It takes a hundred foot schooner to carry as much as a trailer.
Such a schooner might cost over a million dollars; take a year or more to build; and take a week to travel as far as a truck will go in a day. In a consumer market this doesn’t add up. In 1858, say, fishing under sail was a simple proposition. Fish were abundant and easy to catch. The hardest part was getting them to market. Today we face an empty sea. Enormous deep sea trawlers vacuum the depths for what stragglers remain.
Does that make these attempts to change direction a mistake?
Yes, and no…. This is the trouble with predicaments. If we react to them as if they are simply problems to be solved we get stuck spinning in vicious cycles. Everything we attempt comes back at us in a cascade of unintended consequences. What has to happen is a change in us. We need to imagine another way of being, of acting, and see that while our range of responses in some ways is quite constrained; if we access creativity and use imagination; we can affect changes that reverberate outwards.
Our Tragedy is that we cannot seem to imagine a way of life that is more whole than the one we’re stuck in now. This is quite understandable. We’ve all inherited a random collection of attitudes and ways of making sense of the world. They just don’t work anymore. At the same time we have eroded our capacities to cope with difficulties. These conditions set us up to tremble paralyzed between an uneasy feeling that something is seriously wrong and a strong desire to hide from this realization or jump to angry and disagreeable conclusions.
We need a “Sand Box.” In this case, a playground. An arena we have turned to for the simple pleasure it affords us. We need boats.
We are drawn to boats. Somehow we know they are important to us. Important in some over-riding way. Our yearning for them is deep.
So, what do we do?
The real question is,
What do we do with our boats?