Soundings - - Contents - By Mary South

Good enough is per­fect when it comes to get­ting on the wa­ter quicker.

Afine line sep­a­rates good enough from per­fect when it comes to boats. Most of us are not am­bi­tious enough to go any­where near it, but for some, noth­ing less than im­mac­u­late will do.

My friend and col­league Bill Pike, for in­stance, bought my Cape Dory 28 Fly­bridge more than a year ago. I would have rated that boat a solid 8 on a scale of 1 to 10, but I can see why a per­fec­tion­ist might have given it a 7. So far, Bill has re­placed the san­i­ta­tion sys­tem, re­placed the fresh­wa­ter sys­tem, plans to in­stall a new air con­di­tioner, has ap­plied new ve­neer to the set­tee and helm sta­tion, and has plans to re­var­nish the in­te­rior, in­stall a new head­liner, cur­tains and up­hol­stery … and I’m quite sure I have left sev­eral im­por­tant things off this list.

Bill is a per­fec­tion­ist — the kind of guy you’d def­i­nitely want to buy your boat from — and it’s clear he gets as much fun out of work­ing on his ves­sel as he does cruis­ing it. Of course, be­ing able to do these things him­self is prob­a­bly what makes it en­joy­able. (Writ­ing checks to the boat­yard in a quest for a 10 would likely dampen even Bill’s zeal.) I wish I had more of his am­bi­tion in my ge­netic makeup, but I’m afraid I’m very much a good enough kind of per­son on many fronts, es­pe­cially when it comes to boats.

My West Pointer is now sit­ting on her trailer, 100 yards from the house. The seller de­liv­ered her to Rock­land, Maine, three weeks ago, the day af­ter I sprained an an­kle. Since I was hob­bling around in a boot cast, some very kind Ma­tini­cus folks brought her across on the ferry, and as my an­kle healed I chipped away at the list of things I needed or wanted to do be­fore launch­ing. An island this far off­shore is a good place to find skills of every sort: Self-re­liance is a must in a place where few ser­vice calls are an­swered.

I hired a friendly lob­ster­man to in­stall my new Garmin GPSMAP 742xs, Air­mar P66 trans­ducer and Lowrance Link-8 DSC fixed­mount VHF ra­dio with AIS. I’ve played with these only the tini­est bit in or­der to spare my bat­ter­ies, but I can’t get over the wealth of fea­tures. A touch­screen chart plot­ter with sonar! A VHF with DSC, GPS and AIS! I nav­i­gated the en­tire East­ern Seaboard with­out a plot­ter, and I used a very ba­sic iPad nav app on the Cape Dory (with backup pa­per charts and a dated GPS, of course), so I am in elec­tron­ics heaven with this sim­ple but mod­ern helm.

I reg­is­tered my boat in Maine but un­der­stand it will be weeks un­til I get my num­bers so I can ap­ply them to the hull. In the mean­time, I have a tem­po­rary regis­tra­tion sticker, and I’ve or­dered let­ter­ing for the stern. (Af­ter a lot of con­sid­er­a­tion, I de­cided the wi­ley Gan­net seemed more ap­pro­pri­ate for the boat and her wa­ters than the gen­tle, shore-bound Plover, though I ad­mit it sounds a lot less mel­liflu­ous.)

A so­lar-pow­ered bilge pump should ar­rive this week, just to play short­stop to the wired Whale in the bilge. I bought SOLAS flares, an emer­gency board­ing lad­der, a ring buoy, a fresh fire ex­tin­guisher, chain for my an­chor rode, a moor­ing line and float, and an in­sur­ance pol­icy. In truth, most of my pur­chases have been safety-ori­ented be­cause be­ing 22 miles from shore is some­thing you don’t want to treat ca­su­ally.

Launch­ing is this week­end, even though I know there may be things I haven’t done that I’d like to. Time’s a wast­ing. Be­fore long, I’ll be back in Philadelphia, and Gan­net will be hi­ber­nat­ing for the win­ter. I know I’ll think of her, tucked in a barn while the wind whips this gor­geous lit­tle lick of land, the few sum­mer vis­i­tors long gone, the three­sea­son lob­ster­men re­lax­ing ashore. Only a hand­ful of diehards will still be here to see the bare ap­ple trees and bright spruce against the flur­ries that tie the skies to the sea in one long, gray splice.

For now, I plan to spend as much time as I can en­joy­ing the im­per­fect beauty of my boat in the heaven she de­liv­ers me to: soak­ing in the sun­shine, the sea air and salt spray and feel­ing the ex­hil­a­ra­tion of want­ing noth­ing more than what I have.

“To de­sire noth­ing be­yond what you have is surely hap­pi­ness. Aboard a boat, it is fre­quently pos­si­ble to achieve just that.” — Car­leton Mitchell


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