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.