Growing up, spring weekends were spent as a family at the boat yard. Seeking to undo winter’s atrophy and breathe life back into a labor of love that would serve as our summer home. Still dry-docked, we’d jockey the pickup truck under the hulking keel of Dad’s 36 foot, wooden, sailboat and spend days climbing aboard to sand, varnish, tighten, clean.
I can recall those early spring weekends with high-def clarity. The assaulting scents of diesel fuel, moldy sail cloth, seaweed, urethane. The baking heat of sun on our backs inside the cockpit fifty feet off the ground. Anticipatory impatience for the June day when she would be set afloat and we could finally load in the bedding and the duffels, the powdered donuts and salty chips otherwise forbidden in our cupboards.
Dad will laugh to read this one. To note the bit of selective memory I hold about summers aboard “Phalarope”, sailing being his passion, not mine. But there is a certain nostalgia I have for the late afternoon coming about to slip into a harbor a few miles off the mainland. Setting anchor in the dead calm, the sun still high but deeply orange. Taking the painter to guide the dinghy around to the starboard side, hopping in with deft certainty, pulling the oars to make the perfect landing ashore. Playing house amongst the boulders, collecting sea glass, exploring. Freedom of a sort. Safety. Sea-salty and windswept. Definitely a way of life aboard a vessel that was all our own.
I most often think of vessels as things that move. Cross great oceans. Carry goods from port to port. Big shipping comes easily to mind. Containers. Enormous steel bows. Keels that break the sea into a rolling wake. Cutting a path for the rest to follow. As if the ocean can be cut in two. Stalwart. Steady in the vast overwhelm of Poseidon’s lair.
But I also think of a vessel as something that holds something precious. The structure. The frame. The hardware and hardscape. Something that holds its inhabitants and their important things: A fancy teacup. A flower vase. A sculpture made by a second grader. A Grateful Dead t-shirt from 1995. A yearbook from 1982. Every novel read in English-Lit. A grandmother’s ring. A grandfather clock. Things, items, that are tangible and representative. Held inside a stable container. To stabilize. To remind us of who we are or where we came from. What once mattered. Or what we want to still matter. Held in place. Inside our home.
I recognize that the vessels we build at FH Perry Builder don’t move. Our vessels get sited and situated. Set in place. With permanence. The lines hold. Providing, perhaps, the end of the path. The splitting of the ocean into a destination. A landing. To hold its less sedentary people, the ones who come and go – like small versions of container ships that leave port and return. Tour about, gather goods and experiences, and bring them back. Sometimes the worse for wear, in need of repair. Sometimes aglow. Reinvented. And we get another phone call.
We build houses. Homes. Respites. Havens. We create spaces and places. For couples. New parents. Newly widowed. Newly divorced. Newly relocated, in some way. Geographically. Emotionally.
It’s a bit of a privilege really. To join these lives at these junctures. To be invited to play. To recreate. To resuscitate. To hold.
Whatever your vessel may be, I hope it feels like mine did as a kid coming into harbor as the sun began to set. Free and safe. Held. Situated.
All my best,