There is never, ever, a logical reason to have a boat.
Boats are expensive, and if they aren’t they are broken, and need expensive repairs. You need special training to know the navigation, language, and other magic of boat-shit to use a boat. The toilet is called a head. it clogs if you look at it funny. A flat tire is called “sinking”. Everything is trying to kill you or empty your wallet. Everyone on the water is a drunken asshole, with maniacal jet skis swarming about just waiting to lose control and punch a hole in your hull.
But that’s just the cynical view. Mostly true of course, but cynical.
I love boats.
My family had a boat when I was young, not an uncommon thing his the Seattle area. Our first boat was a typical 20-something foot fiberglass Bayliner. It was nice, got pulled about on a trailer, and we dropped it into the lake for the weekend. That was fun, but not so memorable. After my parents divorced, my dad lived on a larger boat for a while. This was a 42 foot Grand Banks type of boat. Wooden decks and rails. A big, slow diesel engine. Multiple rooms and compartments beneath decks. This was the first boat that I drove, and I spent a lot of time on it.
We took longer and longer trips. I learned how to drive, dock, and tie lines. We navigated the Ballard Locks out to the Puget Sound on the way to Shilshole Marina, Blake Island and many other destinations. I always loved the locks, and still do. You pull into the locks, and the lockmasters direct you where to go. Boats stack alongside each other in an aquatic game of tetris, filling the lock. The bells sound when the gates close, and soon you are wrestling with lines to keep the boats from bouncing around as the currents of the escaping or filling water move you about. The gates open on the other side, the water close to level, but never perfect. Currents reverse and swirl as everything comes into balance, and the lockmasters shout down to start moving out. Lines are tossed from boat to boat, engines fire and you head through the gates, under the railway, and out the channel into the sound.
It never gets old.
Now our family has our own boat. We have a 33 foot, twin engine Carver from the late 70’s. It’s big, and slow. I regularly have to go below decks to replace parts that have worn, but the technology is so old that I can do almost everything myself. One engine is rebuilt, the other is overdue for the same. I have a full set of manuals and schematics, so I can work out what is wrong with a flashlight and a multimeter. The engines are Ford and use parts from a Mustang. It is a fiberglass boat, but has just enough wood trim to not look too modern. It is an old Cabin Cruiser design, with the controls on the upper deck, and a full cabin below. Long windows look out from the cabin, so we have views when we motor about the lakes.
Our best summer times are just floating in the sun. Sometimes we anchor, sometimes we find hidden docks along the edge of the lake. You can be right next to where you go every day, but when you arrive by the water it feels like another world. Life and business on the water is different than on land, especially in a city like Seattle. Seattle has a long history as a port town, but also an interesting history in the lakes. Lake Washington is connected to Lake Union via the Montlake Cut. When this cut was created, the lakes weren’t the same level. The cut dropped Lake Washington nine feet. Two islands became peninsulas. The city built the Hiram M. Chittenden locks in Ballard, and cut from Lake Union to Salmon Bay. Marine traffic could now move from the ocean, to Puget Sound, thorough the locks and up into the inland waterways. This was completed in 1917. It completely shaped our city.
You can drive around the lakes and bridges in the Seattle area, and you see the upscale restaurants, marinas, and parks on the water. Do the same from the water and you see neighborhoods of floating homes and liveaboard boats. Some in the organized marinas, others in little side moorages sandwiched between industrial boat docks and shipyards. Pleasure boats cruise alongside commercial traffic. Seaplanes swoop just feet over your boat and land behind you in the crowded water. The view of the city feels older, like being back in time.
We do have to deal with some really ignorant and awful boat owners on the lake. This weekend is Seafair, which is the big airshow and Hydroplane races on the south end of Lake Washington. The event is amazing, but it brings out the worst of the worst, and now we just avoid it. We spent Seafair on out boat, away from the events. We had Lake Union to ourselves. We know a public dock in Ballard near the Locks, and went there to cook and swim. We sat and enjoyed the sun. A few planes form the airshow buzzed over our heads. We had no crowds on our cruise back to the dock, and stayed at the dock until the sun went down.
Boating isn’t about the boat. It’s the escape away with your family and friends. It’s a different view of your area and environment. And it is well worth the time spent under decks and in a stinky bilge. The reward more than beats the cost for me.
I was up early.
I had packed a picnic basket the night before. It was actually, a basket, we had purchased it several years earlier, and was woven wicker with a nice set of glass glasses, plates and silverware. it had a plaid cloth interior. I had some seltzer, sausage and cheese, fruit, an energy drink, a veggie tray of some sort, and a bag of trail mix. I used a few bungee cords, and strapped this to the luggage rack on the boot lid of my Triumph Spitfire.
Starting a British car is a ritual. You begin with the choke in. (note: if you are young, the choke is a knob on the dash of your car that you pull in or out to give your carburettor extra gas when you start it.) (Second note: if you are young, a carburettor is a fiddly little device that controls the gas and air mixture of your car (in place of the fancy computer systems of a modern car) ) You turn the key, and let the engine crank a few times, just to get the oil flowing. Then you press the gas, and pull the choke out. You turn the key again, and after a few sputters, the engine springs to life with a symphony of noise and oil smoke. now starts a ballet of fluttering the gas pedal, adjusting the degree of choke on the choke knob, until the engine gets warm enough to start running smoothly on its own. It takes practice.
It also tends to wake up your wife who was trying to sleep in. It is noisy, smelly, and wonderful. Today, I was going to the British Car Show.
Check in ran from 8am to 11. if you wanted a good spot, it paid to be early. The early hours were also when you would get to send some time with the locals and club members you knew before the main public got in.
I set my stereo to the disk of British music that I kept in it, and headed out. The show wasn’t too far away from my house. That was pretty lucky, as this was a big show, and brought people all the way from Vancouver, CA normally, and this year even had someone who drove from New York to attend. It was around 450 cars in attendance. For me it was just a drive around the lake. From my house to Kirkland was the normal street drive, but outside of Kirkland as I headed north around the lake, the drive was much nicer. I turned onto Juanita Drive, a winding wooded road around the north end of Lake Washington, and was soon followed by a Jaguar X-Type and an MGB, We were winding through the narrow, tree-lined road towards the park where the meet was.
It was beautiful. Cool air flowed through the trees. it was going to be a hot day, and even early in the morning it was warm, but with the shade and lake air it made a perfect drive in. The Spitfire was cruising wonderfully, and I would have been happier to drive much further. but I was there quick, and waited in the queue to get my spot. I had hoped to pick a place in the shade, but the meet was much more organized this year and I was corralled to the proper area, which unfortunately was in the direct sun and near the toilets. Bugger.
It was still a nice place, and I chatted up some of the Triumph folks I knew, and waited for the rest of my family to arrive. Yulia and Sasha were coming with more food, out wiener dog, Oscar, and some wine. My Dad and stepmom were also coming this year, and they were bringing their Delorean. Most people don’t know that the Delorean is a British car, but they were made in Northern Ireland. the company itself was killed due to the political machinations of Margaret Thatcher, who should be noted, is an epic fucking cunt. (Side note: this may seem offensive to some, as it is not polite to compare a cunt to Margaret Thatcher. I apologize to any cunts so offended.)
Traffic got bad heading into the park, and my dad arrived just in time to get a far spot in his appropriate section. Yulia and Sasha took even longer, as the lines to get in stretched out. It was hot by the time they arrived, and I left my car in the open heat, and took my food to a shady bench closer to the Delorean. It was a good call. Yulia, Sasha, and Oscar arrived overheated, and we just hid in the shade.
It turned into a wonderful family picnic.
We sat, ate, and drank wine. We watched people look over the Delorean. Unlike most Deloreans at car shows, this was not decked out as a “Back To The Future” time machine. This car was stock. And it was all the more amazing for that. People loved it. Everyone wanted to get a picture next to it. We let some nice folks and kids sit inside to get photos, and they were thrilled.
Once we cooled down, we walked though the cars in the show. There were some beautiful cars there. Both my dad and I are big Lotus and Aston Martin fans, as he had both of those when I was a kid. Sasha loved the Land Rovers decked out for African Safari, and Yulia loved the Jaguars. The old, racing Bentleys were amazing. And the cars just went on and on.
Once we heated up, we headed back to our shade again and relaxed.
Part of the value of owning a classic car is sharing the experience with other fans of classic cars. When you go to a he show like this, it is even more intense. In a good way. everyone around you has a love for their car. it isn’t rational, but it is shared. Each car in the show is an extension of the owner’s passion. Some have restoration journals, others are decked out for rally or safari. Some have British regalia, and almost every classic Rolls Royce has a jar of Grey Poupon mustard somewhere.
These cars are about the journey, not the destination. And many times the journey is an emotional or nostalgic one.
Eventually the show ended. We said goodbye to my dad. Yulia and Sasha left, and I took Oscar with me. We fired up and cruised back along the shady road, waving to other classic cars as they headed back to their homes and storage. The air was hot, but cruising along cooled everything off again.
Once home, I pulled the Spitfire into its place in the garage. Oscar was curled up in the seat. I shut the engine down with a clatter, then silence. Just the tick, tick, tick of hot metal cooling and contracting as the car came to rest.
We might need to go out a few more times than normal this year.
Be sure to check out the new blog from Librarian and Lifting genius Josh Hanagarne: Night Wieners.
It is a blog about writing. Check it out. A clip:
Here’s the “too long, didn’t read version”: Go do some writing. Then do some tomorrow as well. Do that many times. One day you’ll be done. Trust yourself.
Not entirely too recently, I purchased the move “Rush.” This is Ron Howard’s new film about F1 racing, and I have watched it several times now. It is really less of a story about the competition between two drivers, axis is an exquisite bit of car porn.
Quite early in then film, One of the characters notes that, “Men love women, but even more than that, men love cars.” Quite likely, this could be taken as a terribly sexist or even misogynistic comment, but to do so really would misunderstand the situation.
One scene, only very brief, in the early moments of the film shows the initial firing up of a series of formula 3engines, with waves of gasoline spreading across the throttle plates of the carburetors of the engines as the men get ready to race. I watch that, and am no less aroused than the scene earlier when James hunt is making it with a terribly sexy and nude nurse prior to the same race. But it’s a different thing.
And perhaps it’s stupid. I can’t really tell. I’m a guy, and frankly I’m not all that bright all the time, but I try to be just a bit perceptive about it.
I’ve heard it said that Women are sex objects, and that men are Success objects. That’s obviously an oversimplification, but not too far off. and I think a lot of the love of cars within men comes from that. The idea that you can take metal, rubber, and gasoline, and turn it into a race car is a very successful concept for anyone. Really, it shouldn’t be a male/female split, and I think it is becoming less so.
I see some men appreciating their looks, and women appreciating their success as well. And I think this is great. especially as it hits close to home.
Outside some anthropological drive for automotive and success-oriented superiority, cars have a drive. They have their own draw to many, and I have been pleased as I have seen my daughter’s draw to cars.
I learned to love cars. partially, from growing up around so many. At least I think that’s a big driver. But in any case. my list of cars falls unser the following:
- ’71 Oldsmobile
- ’77 Honda
- ’75 Cadillac
- ’75 Bug
- ’93 Jeep
- ’02 Subaru
- ’04 Chrysler
- ’05 Dodge
- and on the side, a ’76 Triumph
This list also betrays my fetish for ’70’s cars in general. Can’t say why that is. but it is.
and while there are a lot of men who only see their cars as a mode of transport between two points, I have always had a close relationship with my cars. Each one meant something to me, positive and negative. Even something as simple as having an American car has always carried meaning. But, in general, I think keeping the relationship with a mechanical car is what always pulls at my heart.
For me, being able to deep dive into the inner workings of my current british project, with no power systems at all, has meant a lot. each system that I fix carries meaning, and gives me a personal boost, even if no one else ever learns about it. It is a small part of my success, and grants me confidence.
I have been very glad to learn of my daughter’s interest in cars. She is a beautiful girl, and probably could choose to skate by on her looks if she choose. but she is smart and curious. And I have infected her with my passion for mechanical and loud gasoline devices. and while I doubt that any specific knowledge on how one or another car works will ever be of deep value to her, I know that the lack of fear and deep inquisitive nature that starts the questioning process will pay off in spades in her life.
I also hope to saddle her with a British car, so that the opportunities for reflection never cease. But not a French car, that would just be mean.
I was around 3 or 4 when I remember my dad making reel-to-reel tapes of his voice. He was sending messages to his brother, who was living in England. I, of course, had no idea what that meant. But from this start I had a life long exposure to English culture, and specifically, mechanics.
With the next mail, I got a present. It was a small, metal tank. unlike a lot of american toys, this was heavy, with working treads, and a spring loaded barrel. it was probably supposed to come with some small plastic bullets or something, but those were missing, so we broke bits of spaghetti into short bits, and they shot out of the barrel quite nicely when we flipped the little lever.
This was my first Corgi toy. Corgi made amazing toys, most famously the James Bond cars, with shooting rockets and ejector seats and such, and my uncle sent them along with his tapes. Not too much later, something much larger arrived.
A flatbed truck with two very, very small cars arrived. Bigger than my tank, but smaller than any American car that I had seen.
These were Minis.
Between the two, I found out that one had a good body, and the other had a great engine. Both were rolled into our garage, and I watched as they were torn into bits. These bits were then reassembled into one working car. Ten the thing of the working car began. I watched as this little blue car, smaller than the hood of my grandfather’s Oldsmoblie, was upgraded and tuned, in our own garage.
Racing seats and five-point seat belts were added. Front rally lights were bolted on, and the whole car got “works” tuned. This was during the 70’s gas crisis, and this tuned sports car got over 30 MPG, and was our daily driver.
Then the Lotus arrived.
The Lotus Super Seven was a british kit car, not in the American sense that you would take a cheap car, like a VW Bug, and slap a body onto it to make a kit, but in the sense that you would get an open wheel race car in several boxes, and assemble it in your garage. This one was driven by my uncle in London, and now we had it. it had frozen badly in shipment, and was torn down to the frame by my father for rebuild.
We had a tubular frame in our garage for quite a while, I remember being able to pick it up and carry it around before getting yelled at for running off with the car. Bits would get riveted and bolted on each week, and it became more and more of a car. It was mostly back together when the Aston Martin arrived.
I kew the Aston right away, as I had the Corgi James Bond toy on my shelf. This was a DB6, not a DB5 as in the movies, and was in surprisingly good shape.
This was just my start with British cars.
My entire childhood was spent around little bins of parts saved for reassembly, marked and kept, as replacements were hard to find. We watched Monty Python and The Prisoner on channel 9 at night. I recognized the Lotus 7 in the credits, naturally. I also wondered why the other kids did not. and wondered why they looked at me funny when I mentioned watching The Prisoner.
Much of this explains why, earlier this year, I had no choice but to buy a Triumph Spitfire from my friend Henry. He made me an offer that I couldn’t refuse.
When he dropped it off, I could see that he was nervous. He was afraid that I might be upset by the condition of the car. The body was dented, the passenger floor had major holes from rust, as did the battery case. No lights worked. The brakes were built from hopes and wishes.
But I knew, that for a British car, this ranked as “average”. Henry had already dropped in a new engine and rebuilt the front suspension. These were the money jobs. The rest I could do.
And so far I have. Older cars are very easy to work on compared to modern cars. The systems are simple, parts are pretty cheap, so long as it isn’t a true classic. Tearing into this car and rebuilding some worn out system doesn’t feel like work.
It feels like home.
Anyone who has the misfortune to spend much time around me knows that I have a pretty serious obsession with health.
Not just in an abstract fusion either, but I like to drill into what can practically be done to impact weight, longevity, quality of life, disease, all that crap. I’m not terribly big on so much of the “hey, heres some abstract concept on this obscure part of diet, but there’s nothing you can do about it” type research that seems popular. I like to focus on what we can do.
I just finished reading “Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease” By Dr. Robert Lustig, who if you don’t know is famous for his “Sugar: The Bitter Truth” Lecture on Youtube. This is a great resource on the biochemistry and politic side of obesity and the impacts of Metabolic Disorder.
I Have also been thumbing through “Testing Treatments: Better Research for Better Healthcare ” Which has a great discussion on how clinical trials are generally mishandled, and “Death by Prescription: The Shocking Truth Behind an Overmedicated Nation” Which gives a lot of data on taking personal action in your use of prescription drugs.
Much of this is interesting by itself.
I started caring about this because I hit a point in my personal life where I was tired of being fat. As a typical obsessive-compulsive nerd, I was drawn in as I dug deeper. Americans (followed by the rest of the world) live longer lives now. But the quality of those years has declined. We have had was was once the last five years of our life lived with “significant” quality impairments increased to the last “twenty” years of our lives. See the rise in those fucking scooters for the mobility impact.
Alzheimer’s and cognitive issues are on the rise. Cancer is on the rise. Fuck, the lack of fitness in Americans has impacted the military recruitment, and is becoming a National Security issue. Fuck, can we start taking this seriously yet?
I have some deep opinions on the best way to do things, but that’s no longer even the point. How about we simply stop doing the worst fucking things possible?
Eat less than 130 pounds of sugar per year.
Safe levels of sugar were once calculated back when the average was 40 pounds per person per year. now we eat 130. If you want to know why this is an issue war Dr. Lustig’s video above. Or of you think that only calories are the issue then just imagine the calories (hint: at this amount, the calories are overwhelmed but the impact on insulin and your liver)
Actually, I can stop advice right there. Just sugar alone is probably the worst of the worst of the worst. Just fixing that in anyone’s diet (stop drinking sodas and fruit juice, quit foods with added sugar, etc) would make a big impact.
Then, get off your ass and do something. Anything. (but not jogging, that shit’s useless) Do 50 pushups each day. Take the whole day, I don’t fucking care. do it. Add 20 sit-ups. get two empty gallon milk containers, fill them with water, and duck-tape them closed. carry one in each hand and walk around the block.
If all that’s too easy, go buy some Kettlebells. Show up at my house and I will personally show you how to use them. Lift more heavy shit.
Personally, I chose to do a lot more. I still eat a paleo diet, and have barbells, kettlebells, and bodyweight workouts that I mix. But not everyone needs to be as insane as me to make a difference. Just. Do. Something.