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Why Boats Are Good

I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to say that boats – or just being on or near the water – make life better. Although not my cup of tea (actually, one of my worst nightmares), the appeal of cruise ships as a way to get a “watery” experience is incredibly popular with newer and bigger ones coming online all the time. The newest, Carnival Cruise Lines ICON OF THE SEAS – 5 times bigger than the TITANIC overall – has 8 neighborhoods (whatever that means), 20 decks, 3,000 staterooms and accommodates 7,600 guests served by 2,350 crewmembers. If you dig the cruising scene, God bless you, but I get on a boat to get away from people and the hassles they cause in my life. Plus, even if not the vessel’s captain, I like to at least participate in the running of the thing by handling lines, taking a turn at the helm, whipping up some beverages or snacks and just reveling in the feelings of freedom that one gets out on the water. I’ll vigorously argue there’s no better way to spend one’s time and I honestly believe a life is better lived if a good portion of it is spent afloat. It activates the mind and soothes the soul, and it’s a darn shame that more people don’t get to do so. But most importantly, we Americans get a true sense of real freedom when on a boat, the complete opposite of the cruise ship experience, and that’s the part that bothers me the most. On a cruise, it’s all decided ahead of time and you do what you’re told. And so many people are good with that, so long as the midnight buffet is on time.

Similarly, boats are also about freedom when the “you know what” is hitting the fan on the international stage. As our nation’s military leaders gather to begin strategizing as to how to handle one kind of a problem or another like a natural disaster befalling some small poor country or when one of our adversaries starts getting a bit too “adventurous”, the first question asked is, “Where are the aircraft carriers?” It’s the ultimate projection of power in the world today, and despite its size and sophistication, it’s still basically a boat… a boat free to rein its destruction or aid globally, in the name of freedom.
For over 30 years now I’ve been fortunate to live on or very close to water and all of those landfalls have had an open path to the sea, and never more than a few miles from an inlet that would permit me to depart for any place in the world. I’m somewhat claustrophobic in a two-level way. First, of course, I don’t like the doctor’s little windowless exam room, airplanes and dark closets and I call those my “micro” symptoms. But to relieve my “macro” symptoms, it’s knowing that even though it’s quite unlikely to happen on a whim, I have that clear path any time I like to the freedom of the open sea and that helps keep me on an overall even psychological keel.
Moreover, boats just make things better… just about everything. Food tastes better onboard and drinks seem colder. Sunrises and sunsets are more brilliant. Swimming off the swim platform is so much more satisfying than diving in a pool. Conversations are more interesting. Those who don’t like my cigar smoke have an easier time staying upwind. You’re more likely to notice the little subtleties in the changes in clouds and weather. Surprise visits from all sorts of critters frequently occur. And we all constantly wave at one another.
I’ve always thought that the world would be a much less contentious place if more people just went boating. I mean, look at all those places in the world where misery and violence are most likely to occur. Top of the list? The Middle East. Deserts and sand dunes as far as the eye can see, and water is just a mirage. Great segments of those people who dwell there are EXTREMELY angry and have been for centuries, not surprisingly so. Or Central Africa, where the only water comes in savannah engulfing monsoons that deluge the entire landscape for a few months at a time, then it’s back to sun and dust. Or Russia, whose rulers throughout history are always in violent search of a warm water port, meaning not tropical temperatures, but just not frozen over. Those places are full of mean, angry, dissatisfied people. And what few boats they do have are called things like “dhows”, “koch” and “kad’yak. Doesn’t sound nearly as fun as “sports cruisers” or “party barges” now, does it? And although the Chinese have access to open waters, they call their boats “junks”. Again, sound inviting?
Our national defense and diplomatic strategy would probably be well served by shipping those folks’ humanitarian relief supplies in the form of boats, coolers and neoprene pool noodles. They might be a bit less uptight and easier for our ambassadors to deal with then.
So please, before deciding to spend the discretionary income earmarked for facilitating family fun on an RV, a country club membership, or a cruise vacation, please reconsider a boat. And nowadays you don’t even have to jump in with both feet and buy a boat. Boating clubs, where you become a member and then choose from their fleet of boats, are all over the place now.
Either way, trust me, your life will improve and you’ll feel freer than ever before. To help facilitate your decision-making process, I’ve included the accompanying flow chart for your consideration.
See you around the docks.