Low Tide

Yacht Designer Tad Roberts' Web Log

I Hate Perfect Boats

I hate perfect boats.

That’s not really true, I can appreciate all the work and effort required to achieve a perfect coat of paint or varnish. And I can appreciate replacing rotted wood with new. But often it seems as if history is being re-written, as if all the hard knocks of real life did not happen. The mania to sanitize our world is often about re-writing history, to sand and putty over the dings where you missed a shift and rammed the dock, or got confused and went aground. Reality is that the real adventures are often the result of misadventure. I’ll not forget (though it happened many years ago) putting a big boat ashore in the dark and having to wait 12 hours for the water to return.

It’s probably that I’m lazy. Of course I feel good when my boat is freshly painted and varnished and those passing all say, “beautiful boat!”. But frankly I better appreciate those who stop and say “nice boat” even though she hasn’t seen paint in a year and the boottop is growing moss. I think these people see the real beauty, the beauty of line, shape, use, and of function. They understand that this thing they are looking at is living history. This boat is not spending her life under a full cover or tied in a shed, but is out on the water doing as was intended by the makers long ago.

It really bothers me to see an old fishboat or tug with shiny new guards and caprails, or an old sailing yacht with a perfect new interior. This is the restorer’s dilemma, when to stop.

The photo above was taken in an area of Copenhagen called Nyhavn, a “Heritage Harbour” for traditional vessels. Work on the boats goes on here, note the work float alongside and tarps keeping the rain off. The passers by don’t seen to mind, judging by their numbers these boats and the overall atmosphere are an attraction. Recently here in Silva Bay we’ve been told that work floats are, in the view of waterfront property owners, unsightly and must be removed. All boats should be properly painted (no rust streaks as you see in Copenhagen) though you cannot have a work float to conduct this painting and repair. Again the mania to sanitize, work must be done but not in our sight.

The proper role of “yachts” is to be tied in shiny plastic and stainless steel rows in a marina. They almost never leave the dock as their owner’s are very busy doing important things elsewhere. Oh what a dead and sterile world…….I would bet that the owners of these boats in Nyhavn don’t refer to them as yachts. They are boats, they are part of life, a member of the family, and daily life includes the boat. Like each member of the family the boat is imperfect and has demands, also obvious blemishes. One boat shows rugged character while another is sleek and svelte, still another is in the throws of a rebuild and her character is hidden under a tarp. Let’s celebrate that character……

Thanks to Kaa for the pictures.

Ketches moored at Nyhavn

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