Here’s a boating story.
My father worked as a kiln operator for Lafarge Cement in Richmond for 42 years. It was a good union job, almost too good; the kind of good that settles into your soul and steals your will to leave for something more suited to your nature.
He was saved by his love for the ocean, the enemy, and opposite of concrete. According to his passion, the size and power of his boats grew, from a homebuilt wooden punt to a 1960s fiberglass runabout, then a lighter aluminum cartopper, and finally his last boat, still small enough to trailer, but now ocean seaworthy. For years, until the cancer, he fished every chance he got, usually putting out from Tsawwassen, and occasionally coming home with a fish. As a teenager, I would laugh behind his back, guessing that fresh salmon was running him about $130 per pound.
As if I could weigh the cost of an open sky over the ocean against concrete.
You may find yourself somewhere in this story and see your own employment in a progression of boats. The old salts call it “two-foot-itis,” the lust for a bigger boat with more horsepower. It can cost a lot to float. Responsible boaters take courses if they need to (Canadian Power Squadron-Cape Lazo), apply and pay for licences (PCOC and ROC-M), either plate a boat trailer or pay moorage fees (ballpark $500 a month for a local 40-foot slip), plus marine insurance ($850 for our 20-year-old, 30-foot sailboat), and this is barely a start on the cost to maintain a vessel full of electronics sitting in saltwater. Even your bare feet on a paddleboard or a kayak on the car roof are marine activities offering plenty of expensive optional must-have add-ons.
My father was a complicated, conflicted man, frugal with his money. So what did the cost of all those boats bring to him or his family? Or yours for you? In the short story Youth, Joseph Conrad, that great writer of sea stories, described the purchase like this: “The sea was polished, was blue, was pellucid, was sparkling like a precious stone, extending on all sides, all round to the horizon – as if the whole terrestrial globe had been one jewel, one colossal sapphire, a single gem fashioned into a planet.”
In these words, I find my father and myself at peace with the cost.
Barb Thomson is a boating enthusiast who writes regular columns for the Comox Valley Record.