“If I had the slightest idea that I’d be buying a wooden boat, I wouldn’t have even come to Seattle!” That’s what Greg said, anyway, but as we know – talk is cheap. I once heard that the reason talk is so cheap is: “Due to simple economics – supply is so much greater than demand.” Which seems to also be the increasingly common economics of wooden boats in our quick-n-easy consumer world.
Hueishin and I made the five hour drive to Seattle to meet my longtime friend Greg and attend the International Boat Show and the winter Boats Afloat Show on tiny Lake Union, several blocks from the base of Seattle’s well known Space Needle. Shortly after our check-in at the Lake Union Courtyard, we walked past the Maritime Heritage Museum and the Center for Wooden Boats (CWB) on our way to “I Love Sushi” for dinner. On our stroll, I lingered just long enough at the CWB to notice a cold, lonely orphan begging for a little attention. She was a wooden cutter rigged sloop of very classic lines who quietly reached her little boom through the cage towards me, tempting me with promises of safe passages, sweet sunsets, and adventure-memories for life – if I would only adopt her and take her home.
At dinner Hueishin asked me, “Why are you so quiet?” I had no idea, of course. Hueishin and I met five years ago in Seattle. We’d become good friends over the last several years, finally making a major trip together last summer. We fell in love on the Mediterranean beaches of France and spent enough time travelling the coasts of Italy, France, Spain, and Portugal for Hueishin to know – and understand – my passion for the water and sailing. After dinner, as we strolled past CWB in the dark, I threw another silent pitiful look towards the little “Temptress.” “Not again,” I silently decided. “I’ve paid my dues at the wooden boat altar.” “Are you considering that sailboat?” she asked.
We picked up Greg late that night from the SeaTac Airport, and went back to the Hotel. Greg and Hueishin became good friends almost instantly on this, their first meeting. It was some of the natural magic that I’ve learned to recognize and appreciate in my life. We shared a little red wine and some snacks, and stayed up late into the night, laughing, telling stories and plotting our boat-viewing strategy for the morning. “This year, let’s only look at boats that we could actually buy,” we agreed. I don’t know how many times we’ve attempted that strategy before.
After our morning “Starbucks” (ok, I admit it, we too are minor consumers), Hueishin headed to town for some needed shopping therapy and to gracefully provide some “buddy time” as she calls it. Greg and I headed to the Boats Afloat Show. The rain didn’t slow us a bit. We’d done this many times before, and we quickly fell into our routine of scrutinizing, discussing, imagining, and dreaming. We both work the “9 to 5” and dream of extended cruising abroad. We looked at the new “Malo 41”, the sturdy “Waterline 50”, the sleek “Najads”, and the many other $175K to million dollar yachts that “should be ours.” We talked about our dream trips through the canals of France, Mediterranean Spain, Italy, and Greece, crossing the Atlantic to the Americas – and not until then deciding whether we were on a one year sabbatical or we had permanently lost our dock lines and heading south. It is a well-rehearsed play. It is also at such times that Lin and Larry Pardy’s “Go simple, go now” mantra springs to mind, like the ballast needed to keep my light head balanced.
Needing a break, I asked Greg if he’d like to walk over to the CWB for some quiet and a “little contrast” (very little to the untrained eye). Hesitantly, Greg walked down the plank (a metaphor?) to see the 34-foot Temptress with all of her accessories, being offered for a pittance of an adoption fee. We laughed about piracy, guys with “big bowsprits”, and ultimately, the lunacy of even thinking about a wooden sailboat. Rejuvenated from our break away from the masses, we made our way back a few hundred feet east to the now very busy show. After several hours of looking at more boats that would require years or decades of indentured slavery to even own, we stopped, ate some lunch, sobered up a bit about our lot, and walked back past the CWB. It was then that I finally verbalized “Pardy’s Mantra” for Greg. He surprised me by countering with, “Better to have a small boat tied to the dock than a yacht tied to the bank.” I was impressed with Greg’s quick comeback.
I met Greg when he was just 19, already dropped out of college and, although obviously very bright, “mostly just hanging around” as he used to say. He blasted through the door of my canoe and kayak store one afternoon, a tall skinny Finnish blond kid with a big grin, exuberant with, “I HAVE to get one of these kayaks!” He had just paddled about six miles across the lake in his friend Jake’s kayak and wasn’t even winded. Greg would hang around the store for hours, helping out, and earning a few dollars for fun-money, and saving to buy himself a kayak.
In the process, we became good friends. Greg is 19 years younger than I am and on more than one occasion I’m sure he was asked if I was his dad. Although our age difference is mostly invisible – except for the gray in my moustache, or so I tell myself – I’ve had a good feeling about being a positive influence on Greg, especially in the areas of sailing, kayaking, Euro-weird cars, and fringe-musicians like Tom Waits. I’m sure his parents would rather I not encourage their flatland Wyoming kid out into the dangerous oceans but, in my own defense, Greg is as much of an influence (likely more) on me these days. I suppose we both subscribe to the “what goes around comes around” philosophy also.
We returned to the CWB and this time went through Temptress like a worried mother over a sick child. Finally, we went back to the hotel for a break from the rain and to tell Hueishin of our discoveries. Staring out the window at the Lake, we were absolutely stunned by an incredible double rainbow. The brighter band actually ended on the mast of the “Temptress” from our viewpoint. I uttered something about it being a “Tempting” sign from God/Buddha (Hueishin was raised in a traditional Buddhist family). We also realized that Temptress was built in Taiwan in 1972 – the same year my little Taiwanese travelling-companion-turned-wife was born. The puns started to flow like the Merlot we’d just opened. I suggested that Greg should have Temptress for his own. He shrugged his shoulders with a quizzical look (his own patented variety) and said, “Ya know, if I had the money I would probably buy her.” We went to dinner at Cafe Bengodi, and let ourselves swing out a bit wide on the corners of imagination.
We went back to the Hotel… laughed and “what-if’d” a bit, and committed to returning to the CWB in the morning for a final look. “Will she look as good in the morning?”
Temptress DID impress us once again. We also learned that she was quite endeared to Patrick, Vernon, and a few of the other CWB staff that we’d started to become friends with already. “Ok, I’ve had a half dozen sailboats already,”I said to Greg, sitting in the cockpit, “and I love Temptress, but I honestly think she really needs to be YOUR first sailboat, Greg.” (Big smile.) On the back of a soggy napkin, we worked out the details and made a full-price offer with a contingency for haul-out and inspection in two weeks. Greg would own his first sailboat and have an interest free loan. I would have another sailboat to play (and work) with on Lake Union. We would BOTH have the boat that would take us down the Pacific coast, through the canal, across the Atlantic, and to our dream-destinations afloat. A good deal for both Huck and Tom!
Greg and I met up again in Seattle on January 25th to haul her, inspect her bottom (which it turned out was near perfect, having been recently caulked and painted), bleed a little cash, and take her to her new (temporary) home on Lake Union, where we’re enjoying many fun weekends doing what ALL people with wooden boats do. We are preparing her for a July sail through the Straits, and down the Pacific coast to San Francisco where she’ll be “Greg’s steady girl” until we take the big step and cast off on our year – or two – or…? of adventure and magic. Hueishin is still smiling (or politely laughing?) at our adventures and learning all of the new sailing words!