My annual fitting-out advisory

June 2009

By Dodge Morgan
Since boat owners can be sorted into two categories – those who do their own fitting out and those who pay others to do it – we should review some role definitions for this spring ritual. Counseling the do-it-yourselfers is the easiest.

Never carry tools to your first spring visit to the boat – not a jackknife or even a fingernail clipper – because no boat will welcome casual use of sharp devices. Bring a flask filled with rum and some stale crackers.

Quickly remove the boat cover and do so without caressing the hull. Find a seat of contemplation far enough away from the boat to see her beauty yet blur out any finish flaws. Uncap the flask and repeatedly toast to the poetry of boats and the sea.

While rumming it up, mentally organize a set of easily forgettable fitting-out priorities and establish related launch date options, ranging from an over-optimistic June through a probable August.

When suitably buzzed, replace the boat cover and immediately contact the anticipated crewmembers, who will be counted on to actually perform the fitting-out work, to regale them with the boats and sea poetry somehow slipping in work-assignment proposals.

Advice for the boatyard-dependent owner is not so simple because the key objective is bonding with the yard workforce. This is the time of year boatyard workers are treated to the yearly return of the boat owners, a migration not unlike the annual return of the comedians to sunbelt nightspots.

Those who possess a boat, of course, too often exhibit the arrogance of ownership, a momentary attitude of vacant superiority causing them to deliver orders out of ignorance. They see the yard workforce as a bunch of anti-social screwballs who have been cooped up and ignored in dark and dusty places for months, now out in the sunlight and over-anxious to please. But the workforce evaluates boat owners for their capacity to employ their ignorance and arrogance to entertain. The owners who best fill this entertainment role will find themselves and their boats most appreciated and earn them a license for a wide range of aberrant behavior. My favorite owner role is the yard’s unpredictable eccentric. Here are some possibilities:

Invent a series of intimidating professions for yourself and give them engaging job titles, one day an Undercover IRS Agent, another day a Flatulationist, an Actual-size Roadmap Designer, a Freckle Surgeon.

Visit the yard often at random times. Bound around the yard like a vibrant cheerleader dispensing advice and critique of work under way.

Refer to individual workers with nicknames of your own invention. Or if you cannot remember names of any type, use one common name given to everybody, like Horatio or Moose.

Replace boatyard jargon with Freudian language and boat-part names with female anatomy words. Sporadically burst into song, favoring sea chanteys, the bawdier the better. Occasionally for yard wanders, don theatrical garb and read from a volume of “Sayings of Chairman Mao.”

Treat the yard accountant with extra-special attention, sending weekly treats such as nips of coffee brandy and tubes of hemorrhoid cream.

Build a covert and remotely actuated affair with the bookkeeper, no matter the gender, composed of explicitly sexual love notes. Sign your checks with engaging names not your own: Obama, Captain Bligh, Dolly Parton, Josh Slocum.

In the lower left space on your checks meant for payment identification, write “for sexual services provided.”

Do not fret if you are fired as a customer. There is always another boatyard – or you could take on the fitting out yourself.

Dodge Morgan was a columnist and long-time friend of Points East magazine, as well as being an accomplished business leader and sailor. In 1986 he became the first American to sail solo, non-stop around the world. He died in 2010.