Sunday, July 25, 2010

Icy Strait, Alaska

I hate boats.

I hate the smell, the damp, seasickness, the cramped spaces and the marginal personality types all found out on the water. I'm not the first to say that going to sea offers all the benefits of prison life, with a better odds of drowning.

And yet here I am, charging around the Alaska panhandle in a 22-foot C-Dory cruiser. My living space extends no bigger than a six foot cube. I've been in larger phone booths. But it has all I need for a summer exploring the wild corners of coastline here. I have a bunk, a stove, some heat from time to time, an icebox for the beer and a steering wheel that takes me in whatever direction I'm foolish enough to point it.

The fact that I know fuck-all about boating is not the hindrance you might imagine.

Boat life means having all of the adventures that saner souls leave behind upon departing the cub scouts. Imagine a cross between dorm life and homelessness. Avoid bathing for weeks on end. Crap in a bucket. Sleep on the sofa. Drink alone and to excess. Jabber to yourself and try to avoid law enforcement types.

I finally understand why guys go fishing. It's not about the stinkin' fish.

One more upside? Stuff to buy. And new words for everyday household items which, due to their maritime provenance, have an extra zero tacked onto the end. You need maps (charts), lots of rope (line), a GPS (chartplotter) and several truckloads of additional silly shit. It's like learning a new language, but it's still English.

When I first bought the boat I wandered the aisles down at West Marine with eyes glazed in retail narcosis. It's easy to go a little crazy at first. How else can I explain three zodiacs, four anchors, an arsenal of flare guns and the entire chart set for the Northwest Passage.

But the thing I love most is a chance to go off on my own, into an entirely new wilderness, and explore. Mercifully, there are still places in this world without an RV hookup or Walmart. Riding around in the boat offers the chance to scare myself witless on a regular basis, see cool new stuff and never be at a loss for something to complain about.

They might be a normal person's definition of heaven, but it's pretty close to mine.


Iain D. Williams said...

Ah I see you are still with us Paul - perhaps a little less sane, but still beathing air at least. Your post summed up boating especially well - especially the buyer's glaze and the way their is an extra 0 after everything. An arsenal of flares sounds like fun though.....Didn't you buy a solar shower - those black plastic bags work really well - but you then have to carry the extyra fresh water. By the time you pile everything in you need a trailer with floatable tyres. SAFE travels, Iain

Ron and Janine said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ron and Janine said...

That is hilarious!

Unfortunately, or fortunately, I can relate!

Ron Niebrugge

Anonymous said...

Chuckled at the first bit. Especially since I know you've rubbed shoulders with John Cornforth...