Insufferable opinions: Who’s a curmudgeon?

“You should keep your opinions on all this boat stuff to yourself, Dave,” my dear wife said the other day, just after I’d picked up the mooring and settled down in Elsa’s cockpit.

“They’re really just observations, not opinions,” I replied.

“People are different. They have different learning curves from one another. Different philosophies. Just let it go, Dave.”

Over the 35 years of our marriage, she’d put up with my insufferable “opinions” on the following: boat designs, boat shoes, shiny boats, mainsail covers, mainsails not raised, overpowered center-console boats, cockpits, docking, anchors, sea boots, instrument pods, huge dodgers, blisters and barrier coats.

So I won’t give my “observations” to her anymore. Instead, I’ll give them to you, gentle reader. One at a time. As column length and the future permits. (Note to editor: these “observations” should be good fodder for filling up the Letters to the Editor page.)

Boat Shoes: After reading my book, “Watching for Mermaids,” the marketing team of the world’s largest boat-shoe maker took me – and several other “seasoned sailors” – to dinner several years ago. They were working on a boat-shoe rebranding project and looking for material.

I helped where I could, ate my free meal, and drank my free drinks, and, in return, I also received a gift card for any boat-shoe they made, including one gorgeous, very expensive, lambskin-lined model with 24-carat-gold-plated eyelets.

What they didn’t know was I have never really liked, wanted, nor needed “real” boat shoes. (How, pray tell, did the Polynesian sailors ever get along in their dugout sailing canoes without boat shoes?) I’ve always preferred bare feet, or, in cold weather, wearing my sneakers, in particular my ancient Saucony model 2044-274s, the best deck-gripping shoe I’ve ever encountered. Stylish? Not so much. Cost: 28 bucks (one sixth of high-end fancy boat shoes). Grip? You could climb a mast with these without using your arms.

Yet, as far as I know, boat-shoe-wearing sailors outnumber low-cost sneaker-wearing sailors about two million to one. Of course, that’s because there are all types of boat-shoe-wearing sailors, including those who have no thought of actually ever boating, and just want to look like boaters. These are the same folks who buy Indiana Jones hats to wear on fantasy expeditions to Patagonia, and drive Range Rovers with those big-water, buffalo-protecting grids on the front for use in the outback. You never know when you might meet a raging water buffalo on the way to your suburban supermarket. These folks don’t care about deck traction. They simply want to look “right.”

Then there’s the boat shoes of the real sailor: terribly worn out all over, their little “non-skid” slits on the bottom gone, worn smooth like generations of wave-beaten beach rocks. The sole of the shoe half off – usually in the front, making an odd flapping sound as the sailor sways toward the shoreside tavern. The laces and stitching broken, the seams open, and all the leather salt-stained white. And, if you’re downwind of one, there’s that smell, matured to a distinct odor after years of no socks on hot summer days.

That’s my observation, anyway.

Time for another?

Giant instrument pods, oversized dodgers, cockpit enclosures: I’ve always marveled (ask my wife) about those boats that appear to have an antipathy to the outdoors or to any plan about physically being outside or looking ahead. Maybe I’m wrong, but I’ve always felt that one went boating to be outdoors, use one’s senses, enjoy the views, and take in the fresh air.

But every time I pass one of these giant instrument-podded folks, they always seem to be staring into their electronics rather than into where they’re going. (Then again, with that giant dodger/enclosure, maybe they can’t really see ahead.)

Granted, I don’t have an instrument pod – just a leaky old compass with a barely-floating compass card inside – but I do like GPS. I also like seeing where I’m going and enjoying the reason I’m out there: to be out there. So if it’s foggy or I’m not sure where I am, I just reach into my pocket for my instrument pod, glance at it (an iPhone 7, waterproof) for my exact location. Then I put it back in my pocket.

But that’s just me.

What do I know.

It’s only my opinion observation.

Dave Roper’s new novel, “Rounding the Bend: The Life and Times of Big Red,”was released in mid-June and is available from and Barnes and Noble.

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