If you spend most of your time watching a boat at sea it is remarkably easy to forget what it’s like to actually be on that boat on that sea. A life spent around water is one spent around boats, and a life spent around boats usually, at one time or another, leads to a live spent upon those vessels. This last summer, I spent lots of time around boats. I spent some time on boats too, but the time spent around them far outweighed the time spent on them. A showing here and a showing there, houses vary and locations too, but the constant is a boat on a pier resting on a lift or hanging in a slip, the houses change but the boats follow me from May through October.
My own boat, the boat I spent most of last winter pining over and tweaking and polishing and adjusting, that boat of mine, I saw that boat an awful lot this summer. I saw it every month from late March when I launched it, though now when I recall the launch it might have been April, but either way, it was early and now it is late. From the time I launched the boat my enthusiasm ran high. So high. I caught my first bass on a fly from the bow of that boat sometime during April, and if my enthusiasm was high before that fish hit a stripped clouser minnow then it was absolutely unmeasurable after. The chance that the greatest boating summer of my life was about to begin was very, very good.
And then when April turned to May and work piled higher and higher, the boat sat more often. No matter, it was still out there, tethered to a buoy not all that far off the end of my parent’s pier. I could make my way to it any time I wished. And I did wish. But wishes mean little if you put nothing behind them, so I wished and I thought and I saw that boat nearly every day but I rarely found myself at the helm. In June this was how it was, and in July too. By August, the boat sat and the water line grew visible- pure chalky white above the water and mossy beneath. Spiders strung decorations from the t-top and down to the chairs, and the white dash that I had replaced in February wasn’t so much white as it was a color that resembled white from a great distance but not so much up close.
From August until this past Saturday evening, I might have spend on hour on that boat. One hour. On the boat that I cared about so much during the prior January, February, and March, the boat that I went out to check on during those months, to knock some snow off of the ugly tarp that I wrapped tightly around it sometime last November. That boat that I loved so much was the same boat that I abandoned over the last three months, and while I could rattle of many excuses- a deep dose of work, a new house project- none of them matter. I could form a list of excuses that I used each summer day, and at the end I would be as Orual, my lengthy list of once important excuses rendered absolutely meaningless in the grander scheme of things. For whatever reason, I spent a long summer looking at my boat and a very short spring actually using it.
So last Saturday when I charged the batteries and cranked the engine for quite a long while, I drove that boat slowly from Conference Point towards the Williams Bay Launch. The trip was short, but like most good things abandoned, I realized very quickly how much I missed driving that boat. The perspective of a lake changes so much when viewing the shore from the water instead of the water from the shore. Those who act as if they know lakes cannot know them unless they skid over them in something that floats. I pushed towards the launch, then unceremoniously pulled the boat onto the trailer before driving it a mile or two down the road where it will rest until next spring. Over this coming winter, many things will fill my days and flood my mind. It’s a sure bet that this old white boat will be one of the more important things. Next summer it’s going to be different. I promise.