Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Marriage of Visions


It’s been a tough few days. We struggled with this decision to fly to Florida and look at boats. And we have had to narrow down our list of which few boats to see.

In the process, the Hans Christian pilothouse has been sunk.

That is hard for me. I felt like I had set such high hopes on the HC ketch when we first traveled to Marmaris. Remember the “Mythical?”

That boat wasn’t it and it was disappointing.

Then, after a lot of looking around, and visiting boats, and talking to brokers, we expanded our online searches to America and found this pilothouse. And it seemed to beautiful to me. Even though it has been neglected and it would take time and money to restore.

But I could never fully energize Jennifer with my vision of the boat. I tried to convince her that she would enjoy the huge galley; that she would be so excited to have friends stay for a while; that we could host dinners.

All of that was overshadowed by how big the pilothouse was. It is ten feet longer than Dolphins was. That’s a lot when it comes to boat. It amounts to three-times the size that Dolphins was. You can begin to understand that when you compare displacement.

Dolphins weighed or displaced 20,000 lbs. The pilothouse displaces 60,000 lbs. That is a massive, massive boat.

“That’s just not who we are,” Jennifer said. “It’s too big.”

The huge stateroom with a queen-sized bed and full length couch would go mostly unused, she argued. Along with the dedicated bathroom just for that stateroom.

And there are the economics: Every time you dock, you pay for length. Every time you paint the boat, you are painting more. You are paying more insurance. More in repairs and maintenance.

What did I have to counter these arguments? Well, for one, I reminded her that she never liked Dolphins to begin with. She didn’t like sailing. She didn’t want to go on a cruise. She thought Dolphins was too ostentatious.

“You paid $75,000 for a boat?!?” she said. “That’s just crazy! Who does that?”

Those were her early words to me.

When I reminded her of this, she inhaled to counter, then froze, and finally said, “Oh yeah, I did feel that way, didn’t I?”

What else did I have to counter her reasonable objections to this pilothouse?

Not much.

Besides telling her that I think she will eventually come to love it as much as she loved Dolphins, my only reason for wanting to pursue the pilothouse is purely emotional.

I love it. I love the feeling that she is a grand ship. I will love the greatness of her. I can also imagine our lives on her.

During our cruising time together on our trips to Maine, up and down the Hudson, and throughout the eastern part of the Mediterranean, Jennifer and I learned that it is not so much about the sailing. We prefer to sail instead of motoring, but what we like most about the cruising life is ... the life. Waking up and having coffee. Going from place to place with our home. Enjoying dinners. Doing crosswords and watching movies in bed. What we enjoy mostly about being aboard is the interior life of being aboard.

And this pilothouse would provide a wonderful, comfortable interior life.

Yet that is my vision. Not Jennifer’s. Her vision of this boat is that it is more to take care of. More that would be empty and vacant. It would give people a wrong impression of us. (I hope I am portraying her feelings accurately; and if not, hopefully she will chime in.)

I called in advice from my “counsel.” My brother and my boat guru both and another friend said that it was too much boat in several respects: financially, time investment, and its six and a half foot draft limiting its sailing territory. Neither of them advised against getting it, but just that it didn’t seem like the best match.

My friend Joel spoke to my emotions and reminded me to listen and be true to what I want. Remember the compass? Well, he is my human compass of want.

Jennifer felt a bit vindicated by those saying the boat was too big, too much.

For days, we pulled on opposing lines of that boat. I, pulling on the bow line, trying to secure it to the dock. Jennifer, tugging at the sternline, trying to pull it back out to sea.

I had to concede today. Jennifer and I share this adventure together. It can only work if we both are going to enjoy the same boat. I felt horrible and defeated that I had to give up on this boat, but I knew it was the only way to move on. There will be another boat. The pilothouse is not the only boat I can enjoy. But it is one that she is not sure she can.

Jennifer feels horrible and sad that she cannot share my enthusiasm for the boat. She was near tears today.

“I don’t want to be the one to tell you not to get what you want,” she said.

“I get it,” I said. “And I don’t want to be the one to force my want on you.”

This is what marriage is about. This is where all that makes the difference in relationships comes to the test. One person has to let go.

I get credit for conceding this time. But in fact, I have been so extremely lucky in my relationship with Jennifer. She gets credits for conceding much more in our relationship.

She is the one who left her career of documentary film making in Boston to move to Burlington, Vermont. She is the one who left her friends and family behind to live in my world. She is the one who said she could never imagine going cruising aboard a sailboat and yet, now is.

Jennifer is a wonderfully cooperative person when it comes to the nuts and bolts of everyday life in a relationship.

I can let go of this ship, because I know I have what is far more important: a great woman; a fulfilling relationship.

Easy? No.

Worthwhile? Yes.

The Road of Trials


In every myth, the hero faces struggles, challenges and dangers. He meets some who are helpers and some who are distractors from his mission.

We are in the midst of that phase now.

We have met some brokers who are helpers. We have been able to avoid at least one broker who is a complete sleezeball.

We have met some people who have become our friends and given us emotional support. And we have met some people who have presented themselves as friends, but more of their goals was to profit from us financially.

We negotiate this landscape with much turmoil. We come home and wonder if the person we met today was helper or distractor. It’s not always clear.

We have gone into the labyrinth seeking our boat, talking to brokers, walking docks and looking online. We have gotten so lost that often we don’t even know what it is we are looking for anymore. We say it’s a boat. And we can name the criteria, but then when we see a boat that might be “it,” we pick it apart: Too expensive. Or: too far away. Or: needs too much work which will take too long.

We have convinced ourselves that to find a boat we have to travel to America. A number of knowledgeable people have told us that the kind of boats we want aren’t here in the Med.

And so, now we begin that phase of this adventure. Traveling away from this place which was supposed to be the easy place to find a boat.

Perhaps it’s time to read Joseph Campbell’s words for “The Hero With A Thousand Faces.”

"Once having traversed the threshold, the hero moves in a dream landscape of curiously fluid, ambiguous forms, where he must survive a succession of trials. This is a favorite phase of the myth-adventure. It has produced a world literature of miraculous tests and ordeals. The hero is covertly aided by the advice, amulets, and secret agents of the supernatural helper whom he met before his entrance into this region. Or it may be that he here discovers for the first time that there is a benign power everywhere supporting him in his superhuman passage. The original departure into the land of trials represented only the beginning of the long and really perilous path of initiatory conquests and moments of illumination. Dragons have now to be slain and surprising barriers passed—again, again, and again. Meanwhile there will be a multitude of preliminary victories, unretainable ecstasies and momentary glimpses of the wonderful land."

This is the adventure cycle we are in. But we don't have that nifty little backpack.

Tomorrow we fly to Istanbul. Jennifer will spend a week there with her friend Nirmala. I will spend a few days with the ladies, then continue on to spend a few days with my daughter, Zoe.

From there, Jennifer and I will travel to Florida to visit with my parents for the holidays and look at boats there.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

A Love Story


The love birds of this story.


It is time for a love story.

This love story was once known as wide as the world was then. But the world is wider now and it thinks wiser. In fact, it is no wiser now than then. Just more cynical and judgmental. So it is good to remember great loves of yore.

This is a true story and so, though it begins with “once upon a time,” we can fix that time to about 400 years BCE.

The story starts in a place not too far from here: Milas, Turkey. Or Mylassa as it was known then.

There, a girl was born. A princess. Every great love story has to have a princess. She was born to Hecatomnus, a great ruler. He was a satrap, as they were called.

Satraps were governors of the Persian Empire. This was at a time when the Persian Empire was vast and vibrant. It stretched to the borders of India in the east, it included Saudi Arabia and Egypt to the south, and north into parts of modern day Russia.

The Persian Empire ended at the shores of modern day Turkey. Across the Aegean was their cantankerous neighbor (Which neighbors weren’t back then?) and sometimes enemy, Greece.

Greatness is created by friction, by conquering challenges, by being amidst great discord and creating therefrom great opportunity. And it was on this border of two great nations that Hecatomnus ruled.

He was a clever general and an even smarter diplomat. He was ordered to build an army and subdue an uprising in Cyprus. He had ships built and went to war at sea, but lost the battle. Later, it was rumored, he had funded his enemy’s war coffers.

But his loyalty was never questioned and despite the defeat, he was awarded a substantial overlordship of the largest Greek settlement in Asia Minor.

Hecatomnus was fascinated by Greek culture, even while he fought them by land and by sea. Perhaps what propelled him to greatness is that with one hand, he saluted the Persian Empire and with the other shook hands with the Greek people. A practice in diplomacy that might do the powers of today some good.

Hecatomnus had four children. Two daughters and two sons. One was the princess of our story.

Her name was Artemisia, a name whose meaning derives from the Greek meaning of “Great Mother of Nature.” To be exact, she was Artemisia II. Her father had named her after a great queen: Artemisia I who lived about 100 years before.

This was no mere arbitrary choice.

Artemisia the First performed so admirably as the only female commander for the Persian king Xerxes in a battle against the Greeks that Xerxes presented her with a jar. That jar was handed down through lineage and ended up in the hands of Hecatomnus.

Hecatomnus had such grand hopes for his daughter that, in addition to bestowing his daughter with the name of Artemisia, he gave her the jar as well.

We can assume that Artemisia was raised strictly but with lack of want. Surely, she would have been trained in combat and military strategy. She would have learned several languages, math and geography, and we know for a fact that she was a scholar of botany and medicine. For our story, we are going to imagine her as beautiful. Long black hair, which she would braid for battle. Smooth, defined facial features which she would work to her advantage. Woe betide the arrogant politician who confused her beauty with lack of brains.

For such a daughter of promise, Hecatomnus arranged a marriage. It was the only way to ensure the family’s dynasty and his vicarious dreams for his daughter.

Luckily for Artemisia, she loved the man chosen for her. He was strong and he was handsome. This we don’t have to imagine. There remains a statue of him. His name was Mausolus.

Certainly, just as important as his long, wavey hair and his trim, stylish beard, he was smart. Mausolus was a brave soldier of the highest rank.
Mausolus
He even had the diplomatic intuition of her father: Mausolus made good friends with the Spartan king Agesilaus. He had a “xenia” with him; a formal acknowledgement of mutual hospitality. How he achieved this is not quite known, but in order to have created this xenia, the two must have met and bonded.

Finally, this brave, smart commander was destined to succeed her father, Hecatomnus.

In almost every way, Mausolus was like her father. And why shouldn’t he: Mausolus was Hecatomnus’s son, the brother of Artemisia.

This marriage of siblings was the marriage arranged for them. This marriage was also both of their deepest desires.

Soon after the death of their father, the couple moved their headquarters from Mylasa to Halicarnassus, or, as it’s known today: Bodrum, this town in which Jennifer and I are now living.

They had considerable challenges as new rulers. To the south, Egypt had gained independence and the Persian king wanted it back. To the north, the ever-troubling Cadusians were waging rebellion again.

With the Persian king’s desire for control, ever-greater authority was granted to Mausolus and Artemisia. Greece became nervous that Mausolus and other satraps would use their newfound power to independently invade Greece.

While the brilliant couple kept Greece guessing, they built their empire at home. They reinforced Halicarnassus and glorified the city with marble and statues. This was a lively city back then with a Roman-style amphitheater, an active harbor and trade probably much like the modern day Thursday and Friday markets of today.

The couple spread the wealth to other cities as well. In particular, he fortified and rebuilt Greek cities. Always a clever strategy in winning the hearts and minds of your weary neighbor. Mausolus’ success in war and diplomacy in his region of Persia made him so powerful and so independent that he became a sort of king himself. He was signing treaties and in some references was actually called king.

The two were busy, to be sure. But let’s imagine the lovers’ evenings. This part of the world can be truly magical. The waters are so clear you can see down 20 feet and count the minnows. The air is so pure it seems as if it springs from a well. Growing on trees are mandarins, pomegranates, apples, pears, and olives.

Artemisia and Mausolus would have reclined on a couch, overlooking the Mediterranean bay, feeding each other slices of juicy mandarin. Playing as if they were the first and only lovers in a game of senses. The setting sun would be steeping the white city in sanguine hues of pomegranates and passion.

“It could only ever have been you,” he would say.

“It was always and will ever be you,” she would whisper back.

But as soon as they exchanged those words, they began to echo in Artemisia’s mind.

Ever? Would she be able to enjoy his love for ever and ever? She said it would always be him. But how could she make sure.

The next morning, while Mausolus was in conference with his advisors, she called her own council.

“I want a tomb built for Mausolus in Halicarnassus. I want you to employ the best Greek architects. I want it to be understood that this tomb will be and ever be the most grand tomb to protect and honor the everlasting soul of my husband and your ruler.”

And so it was designed.

A tribute in marble that was massive and solid. The designs presented to her showed a tomb grander than any ever built.

“Not enough!” was Artemisias’ response. She was consumed now, by the urge to impress upon her brother, her husband, her lover the depth, the near-pain of her love for him and everything for which he stood.

The architects showed her new designs. They doubled the height. On top of the tomb was a new level. It had ten columns on every side of the square tomb. In between each column was a statue. At the ground level, the base was widened; a stairway was created up to the tomb. The stairway was flanked by lions. The walls had bas reliefs, depicting scenes, for example, of the battle of the centaurs with the lapiths, and Greeks in combat with Amazons.

“Not enough!” screeched Artemisias as she dashed the drawings from the table.

She was becoming ever more desperate. What was she feeling? That the weight of marble in balance with the heart is never enough? Or was it the impending finality of legacy?

Her conflict was this: If permanence is achieved more securely through matter than word of mouth, then how much matter grants how much permanence?

The architects returned. They added a new level of equal height to the last two. This one was a pyramid, with steps narrowing to a platform. On top of the platform was over-life-sized chariot drawn by four horses. Inside the chariot rode the figures of Mausolus and Artemisias.

No one knows exactly what the Mausoleum looked like. No sketches  remained. Only a few descriptions by travelers is all we have. So there are a few renderings, but all are based on few facts and mostly imagination. 

Presented with this, Artemisias looked at the chariot, focused on Mausolus and fell silent. Whoever had drawn this had done a superb job of rendering his strong jawline, his bold face, his thick wavy hair.

She fell silent. And workers in the hills fell into mining marble.

Then, one day, the feared inevitable happened. Mausolus died. Her lover. Her husband. Her brother. The son of her father. Her life.

She retreated into the room overlooking the Mediterranean and had the construction begin.

Her enemies tried to take advantage of her mourning. They attacked. But they underestimated her. The protected harbor she and Mausolus had built and her cunning in warfare proved them fatally wrong. She defeated the attacks. And with that victory earned herself the title of Queen Artemisias II.

But at night, she could not avoid the defeat she felt in her heart. She mourned as passionately as she had loved. She sat on the couches overlooking the Mediterranean. She turned toward the pitcher of water placed next to her. She poured herself a glass of water. From her pocket, or perhaps it was from a vile she wore as necklace, or some marble box she would refill on secret, moonlit visits to the tomb, she scooped a spoon full of her brother’s ashes, mixed them into her drink and swallowed him. Imbibed him. Brought Mausolus back to life by making his ashes her body.

Every day, she drank her love, her brother, her family, back into herself.

Was it the ashes or the grief which killed her? We cannot know, but merely two years after Mausollus’ death, her body was burned as well and her ashes placed in the tomb.

The work she had architects begun, continued. They were so impressed with the tomb she had commissioned, they continued at no pay. Just for the honor and glory of being part of such a massive monument to love.

Soon word spread. All throughout the known world, travelers came to see the tomb to Mausolus. It became known as the Mausoleum.

And so are all grand tombs known today. So who is to say that her insistence on marble instead of words wasn’t the exact right way to immortalize their love?

In fact, so well known became the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus that it became one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

And yet, ironically, in full circle, barely anyone can remember any of them. And I wonder how many can name the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus.

To add insult to injury, the Mausoleum no longer exists. Alexander the Great got to admire it when he invaded the city 20 years after the siblings died. And it is known that it stood for over a thousand years from various reports surviving from those days. But sometime in the 13th century, it suffered major damage from an earthquake.

When the Knights of St. John arrived in 1402, it was already in ruins and the knights pillaged the site for decorative reliefs and building blocks for their castle.

Every 25 or 50 years, another addition was built onto the castle and the Mausoleum was raided again until nothing was left but the foundation.

Surrounding residents took their share of the stones as well, every time they built a house. In fact, Tina and Hermann, who are renting their home to us are convinced that some of the large marble blocks in their courtyard could only have come from the site, which is only a few streets away. How else, they ask, would such huge, fine pieces of marble end up in an otherwise brick and mortar home?


Sometime, on a sunny day -- it is about sixty degrees here during the day this time of year -- I will sit on one of those stones in th courtyard. With me, I'll have a collection of poetry and I will look up something by Edna St. Vincent Millay. She is the literary chanteuse of passion. I will read and let myself be transported.

Perhaps this one:

And you as well must die, belovèd dust,
And all your beauty stand you in no stead;
This flawless, vital hand, this perfect head,
This body of flame and steel, before the gust
Of Death, or under his autumnal frost,
Shall be as any leaf, be no less dead
Than the first leaf that fell, this wonder fled,
Altered, estranged, disintegrated, lost.
Nor shall my love avail you in your hour.
In spite of all my love, you will arise
Upon that day and wander down the air
Obscurely as the unattended flower,
It mattering not how beautiful you were,
Or how belovèd above all else that dies. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

And now... A note from the Technical Department

I've made some updates to the blog design. 


I've added "Labels" on the right hand side a while ago. That helps you find all the blogs on a particular topic. Today, I added "Of Boats" to the label list.


To make it easier for all you tech-savy to follow, I've added all these buttons of which I know little about: Facebook, Twitter and RSS feeds. 


On the left-hand side, I've started a list of blogs, sites and magazines I like. Please feel free to suggest others.


Jennifer and I really enjoy all of your comments. We love it when you post comments. We read them all and talk about them.


If you want to link to our blog, there is a "Links to this Post" line at the end of every post. And you can link your blog to this. I think. I'm not really sure how that works.


Basically, I'm trying to make this as interactive as possible. Make it useful and enjoyable. So if you have suggestions, please fire away.



A Home for The Winter of Our Dislodged Selves


This is the best shot of Bodrum, Turkey I could find on the internet. It represents the town well. The others are too touristy. 

Jennifer has found us a place to stay for the winter in Bodrum. She did it in typical Jennifer fashion. She is a bloodhound when it comes to finding the best flight deals, the most fantastic restaurants, the most beautiful and romantic places to stay at reasonable prices.

After hours and days online, she found a place listed for summer rent by the week.

“Maybe I’ll just email them and ask them if it’s available for the winter,” she said.

“Go for it,” is my usual response to “Maybe I’ll...”

Turns out, it was available.

And turns out, it is the most beautiful and romantic place to stay.

It is a classic, white stone Bodrum home rebuilt from crumbling stone walls hundreds of years old. It is down a narrow, pedestrian alley. You go through a door and find yourself in a courtyard with a small, one-story guest quarters to the left and the two-story home on the right. Most of the courtyard has a vine-entwined pergola overhead. There is a cactus garden next to the guest quarters, a (now empty) relaxing pool made of concrete against the back wall, a tool shed in the corner, and just in front of the kitchen door, under the pergola, an outside teak table flanked by vine-circled columns supporting the pergola.

On one wall of the courtyard is a large ship’s wheel. Hanging next to it, descending from the pergola, are huge, pumpkin-sized ships’ blocks. I make a mental note.

You enter through the kitchen and then into a cozy, warm living room with a fireplace. On a bureau next to the fireplace is an eighteen-inch long wooden model of a pilothouse motor-sailor in a glass box. (Mental note.)

Up an open, wooden stairway is the bedroom which has windows and a doorway to a terrace overlooking the courtyard. It is a protected mini-castle within an ancient village.

So sweet.

The owners had listed the home as a weekly rental for the next summer. Jennifer emailed them and asked if it might be available for the winter. And indeed it was.

Hermann and Tina Fuchs are quite the couple. Both Germans, he is in his mid-sixties and she is in her late fifties. In 1972, Hermann came to Bodrum in his twenties and bought a boat, which, at the time, seemed totally outsized for him. But what could he do? He loved it.

Hermann is a tall man; deceptively slim for his large frame. He once carried a full head of wild, curly red hair, now tamed by age to almost white and combed straight back from the middle of his head to his neckline. An old newspaper photograph reveals that he has always worn a full North Sea-type of Walrus mustache.

Yes, he says, the ship’s wheel is from a ship he once owned. With the precision of intonation that reveals naked pride, he tells me that his boat was a 1942 “Kriegsfischkutter.” A wartime fishing cutter.

As can been seen in the poster-sized photograph in the kitchen, it was a gaff rig, cutter-ketch with a supplemental square sail on the fore. With a length-on-deck of 75 feet (100’ LOA) and a portly displacement of 120 tons, this ship was designed to be an agile motor-sailor which could assist with wartime duties and then be converted to fishing purposes once the Reich had subsumed control of all the seas in addition to the cities, fields and mountains.

This production line became the largest German commissioning of a series ship, according to my research on Wikipedia.

Kriegsfishkutter "Barracuda." A 1942 warship cutter. Shot taken from the internet.
Hermann bought this ship, “Barracuda,” and ran a sailing vacation business in the day when chartering was still young and new to Turkey.

“In those days,” Hermann said, squinting his eyes behind the coke-bottle thick glasses from the smoke of his pipe, “we were the only ones.”

We were sitting in their living room, getting to know them over coffee and tea.

“We were the biggest yacht in all of the harbors,” adds Tina, in a German accent just as thick as Hermann’s. “At the end, with these gigantic gulets, you had to look to find us.”

The end, of which Tina spoke, was marked in wet footprints across a searing hot deck on day in 2007.

Ever since he was 20, Hermann has suffered from diabetes. Back then, he was slowly dying with an undiagnosed organ problem. Lying on a gurney, down to 110 pounds from not eating for weeks, practically dead, a doctor finally cut him open to pull out a huge cyst on his pancreas. But in the process, he nicked the pancreas, which produces insulin. Hermann was granted life at the price of being diabetic.

But he’s never complained. When Jennifer mentioned she was a bit depressed about the never-ending boat search, he said, “I don’t believe in being depressed. Look at me!” he said as he pointed to his slim belly where the scar surly still is proud.

His diabetes led to his creeping eye problems and to numbness in his extremities. Which brings us back to that fateful day in 2007. He was walking barefoot across the deck of his ship, which became searing hot in the daytime temperatures of 120 degrees Fahrenheit (50C) and he noticed wet footprints. He reached down to touch his feet and his hand came back up with the skin of his sole.

Third degree burns on both feet put him out of commission for all of, well, two weeks.

“I had to get back up. We had a charter. Everything was booked. I walked with lots of bandages around my feet.”

But after that, health considerations and lifestyle choices led them to slow down.

Tina took a deep drag on her cigarette and exhaled toward the ceiling, laughing.

“It was hard work. We would be up with our guests to three in the morning!”

Tina is a slim woman with an even slimmer face and youthful hair. She has a fresh and sassy attitude, which is why I first assumed she was a native Berliner, the hometown of my mother. But it turns out she’s from Munich.

She came to Turkey on vacation with her sister back in the 70s and met Hermann for a week or so. Apparently that was enough to entice her back. She returned and created three decades of history with Hermann.

A few years ago, they sold the boat. You can still charter it if you want. According to Hermann, the only thing to survive the rebuild is the ship’s name “Barracuda.” The pilothouse was cut off.

“Sssst!” he hisses and strikes his flat hand sideways across the imaginary deck. “And the bow. Sssst!”

Then this, then that. Everything was rebuilt: A new pilothouse. A new bow but with a different sheer. A different this and a different that. Now it is a luxury charter boat operating in Italy.

This is "Barracuda" after her renovation. If you compare the two photos, you can see the more steeply-sloped sheer towards the bow. The pilothouse, once metal, is now wood.
“Terrible,” he concludes and leans forward from the couch to knock out his pipe on a cork island in a glass ashtray.

The model in the glass box? Yes, of course: a perfect scale model of Barracuda. The story of that will have to wait for a future blog entry.

Hermann and Tina spend summers in Bodrum and winters in Berlin, close to family. Which is why we have the good fortune of being able to rent their home.


Sunday, December 4, 2011

Infatuation With A Boat - Nay, A Ship


Falling in love with a boat is like any romance. Full of fire and lurking with sudden disillusionment.

My daughter once asked me, “Why do they call ships ‘she’?”

Why indeed?

I have always known the answer deep in my being, but I had never had to articulate it.

I remember, vaguely in the details but emotionally accurately, learning as a young man that one referred to machines and ships with the female pronoun.

Even then, I felt I knew “why” in some vague way that nine-year-olds think that all knowledge of the world is by vague feeling. It just made sense.

It might have been while I was watching my father repair some appliance, maybe a toaster, in his basement workshop.

“Machines have a soul,” he said. “You have to understand them. They work in a particular way and if you understand them, then you can fix them, you can use them in a way that will make them last longer. If you treat them right, they will gladly work well for you.”

And that’s exactly how he treated his Snapper lawnmower which he ran only at slightly less than full speed.

“Don’t make the motor work at full speed,” he said. “Baby it.”

That lawnmower lasted over 20 years.

Now I had my twelve-year-old asking me why ships were called “she.” Why, essentially, we consider they have a soul and why that soul is female.

Imagine, I exhorted her, you were a sailor several hundred years ago. This would have been before sailors had GPS’s, when they sailed to territories of which they had no charts. Back then, they didn’t even have compasses. They sailed by instinct and superstition. And both were born of each other and worked equally as well in guiding them through fog, dark of night and storms.

All these men could rely on were each other and their ship. Their ship kept them afloat. It was hearth, home and their only safety in a world of dangers and worse unknowns. In such a world, they knew they had to do everything to ensure their ship was in good condition. While in harbor and underway, they maintained it and repaired it. Each individual was willing to give their life to save the ship, because only by each single sailor being willing to do that, can the entire crew depend on its survival.

Now imagine, I continued, you are such a burly, sun-burnt, poor slog of sailor. And you are doing all this for this ship in return for safety and protection? What only other relationship is like that? Who provides you with home and safety? Your mother. Maybe a wife. Furthermore, if you are going to anthropomorphize the ship, would you want to imagine you are on your hands and knees scrubbing the back of a man or a woman?

Calling a ship a woman is a form of worship. And as such, it justifies the work, the sweat, the potential sacrifice of life.

Finally, being a parent of my generation and conscious of gender stigmatization, I added:

“Now, you can call your ship, your future car or any ‘thing’ of yours whatever you want. He or she or it. I told you the history of why, not the rule of how it has to be.”

That’s all fine and good for a twelve-year-old. I am a 51-year-old pirate. Ships are female. And that’s that.

So when I say that, recently, I’ve been falling in love with a certain ship I’ve seen online, it is with the full assumption you understand exactly what I mean.

It is the same feeling you get when you can’t think straight anymore. You have to admit to something more than just attraction. Your head is constantly hot. You can’t focus. And you secretly worry that it isn’t what you hope. It’s better to be honest and call it infatuation.

Now granted. I must be careful. I am easily bamboozled. Let’s remember the “Mythical.” And I won’t even tell you about my secret flirtations with a Hans Christian 33 in Brittany, France by the name of “Le Clemence.” C’mon, how can you not look twice at a sweetie with a name like that. Especially after all we have been through.

So, when I speak of this new love, I admit to some fickleness in the love department. Here today and who tomorrow?

I can’t remember how it came to be that we even contemplated ever larger and more expensive boats. Was it because we first clicked on the listing of this boat, or was it because we first decided to not set any limits on ourselves.

Whichever. Now loading on the screen in front of me was a Hans Christian Pilothouse 44.

Hans Christian Pilothouse 44 on the hard. I love boats with a hull color other than white.

This... this is a ship.

A pilothouse sailboat has a superstructure on the deck which encloses an interior helm station, often a salon table, and on this one, a full-sized galley. Surrounding all this are windows, making the interior bright even on a dim day and keeping the helmsman warm and dry even on a cold and wet day.

This shot is from a Hans Christian 44 Pilothouse that used to be called Wandering Star. The boat we are looking at is in horrible condition, but I am showing this one to show the potential; the diamond I see in the rough.

On the deck behind the pilothouse is an outside helm station, so you can enjoy sailing in fine weather as well.

This; this is a ship.

Down below are two full-sized berths, another salon, two heads, shower, and an actual engine “room.”

The upper shot is from "Wandering Star." The lower is from the one we are considering. In the shot above, note the pullman berth beyond the salon, just like we had on Dolphins. Below is a shot of aft stateroom with a queen-sized bed. On the left, you will see a door which leads to a stairwell up to the pilothouse. To the right of the bed is a hallway forward, through a head, then workshop, then the salon.

and – yes – a room with a counter-height workbench.


Was it the workbench? Was it the internal helm station? Was it just her lines? Or was it that this beauty was, mais quelle surprise, a Hans Christian?

This. This is a ship.

And who knows; maybe it isn’t even a detriment that she has stood mostly on the hard for the last fifteen of her thirty years. Maybe that means that Jennifer and I can make her our own; can resurrect her from the coma she has suffered for so long. And once kissed and sanded and painted and appointed and loved, she will awake to love us back. Serve us. Provide us with home and safety.

We, her crew. She, our ship.