Life as Spectator Sport
Music and boats share a lot of parallels for me it seems. I recall after
getting into music as a kid, I began to play guitar and write songs, yet I was very
uninspired by the popular music at the time (Of course now that it's
"retro" I enjoy it.) Then I went to my first folk festival in Boone
North Carolina and was surrounded by dulcimers, and banjos and hammered dulcimers, and
music that had been made up and sung and passed along for hundreds of years, and it changed my life.
I began making music and building musical instruments for the next 20ish years.
Similarly, my first wooden boat festival was a balm to my
fiberglass tortured soul! Same kind of feeling of coming home.
(Caution, here come the ranting part.)
Our culture has this nasty habit of taking many of the activities of life that used to be participated in
regularly by everyday folks and turning them into spectator sports. You are either a "musician" or you are the audience. We do the same with sports,
humor, dancing, storytelling and lately I've come to see boating embodies the same dynamics. There was a time,
I'm told, (See Howard Chapelle's
American Small Sailing Craft) in communities in proximity to water, that it was not
so un-common for ordinary folks to fasten some planks together and make a skiff
and get out on the water. ('Twas almost the equivalent of teenagers getting their drivers license these
days.) Today, if most of the magazine on store
shelves are to be believed, boating is an eclection of fiberglass, and gel coat and stainless steel and teak bright work and expensive
electronics, available primarily to the moneyed elite.
"Don't try this at home folks! We're the professionals here. Just leave
it all to us, and get out your credit cards."
Nothing pleases me more than to see people overcome this cultural programming and pick up an instrument and start playing music, or writing
songs - or better yet - borrow some tools and make an instrument and learn to play
it, or a boat and learn to sail it. A more hands on approach to life results in more interested, interesting and fulfilled human beings with all that
that implies to a community. (end of rant.) So get your hands
dirty. As the T-shirts at the community
boat building event said: