It’s better to live now than then.


The Thayer/Atlantic thing is still gnawing at me (fellow Leaguers may have noticed a passel of false starts in our draft cue.) My thoughts continue to be half-formed, but some side conversations have brought the below passage to mind.

It’s Phil C. Bolger’s introduction to his book Boats with an Open Mind: 75 Unconventional Designs and Concepts, a book that has been something akin to a bible to me; a source of profound wisdom, but also a means of meeting the like-minded. No Boats with an Open Mind, no Bob Wise. No Bob Wise, no shooting the Real People, Real Life, Real Sex documentary series on film; no shooting the series on film, no INTEMPERANCE; no INTEMPERANCE, no James Fallows; no James Fallows, no MON TIKI.

Or something like that. Chains of causality are hard to prove, even after the fact:

“The Norfolk wherry was developed to carry bulk cargo on the twisting rivers of the southeastern England. Fifty or sixty fee long, a wherry was sailed by two men. It set a boomless gaff sail, which might be 1,200 square fee, on an unstayed mast about 14 inches in diameter. The mast was counterweighted (lead-block weights averaged a ton and a half), and the whole rig could be lowered and raised so quickly that it was the practice to sail straight at a low bridge, lower sail, lower mast, shoot through on the momentum, and get the rig back up and drawing on the far side without losing steerageway.”

“These vessels had no freeboard loaded, and full decklines at each end, but underwater the lapstrake hulls were fine-lined and graceful. They had long shallow keels that could be dropped of and reattached with the wherry afloat. As related in “Black-Sailed Traders” by Roy Clark, the sail was black, “brushed over with a mixture of seal oil and tar, and finally with a coat of herring oil. Very often to get rid of some of the stickiness, black lead powder is added.”

“All this is fact: These craft were carrying cargo in living memory, and a few of them still amuse vacationers, though with less handling élan. I’v seen no account of how often they hit bridges, or how much time they spent tied up because conditions weren’t right. The patience of seaman of times past, and their tolerance of high accident rates, needs to be steadily in mind as we admire the feats they routinely accomplished.”

“The seal-oil-an-graphite treatment has so far not stimulated a profitable thought, except that it’s better to live now than then. But that keel has been worth study, as have the arrangements for lower that massive mast on the run. The underwater lines are an aesthetic experience.”

“History is a deep mine of such unexpected options in boat design, one beauty of which is that the requirement is hardly ever so sharply defined that the designer has to master a critical optimum. Even in the obvious matters of speed and weatherliness, and inferior options isn’t usually bad enough to preclude the use of an out-of-the-way idea offering some convenience or simply amusement. The category of Entertainer includes boat designers along with classical musicians and strippers.”

I can’t connect the dots between this passage and the difficulties faced by a creative person in authoring their own life (it’s a pun, get it?). Not yet at least.

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