On a transatlantic voyage, there come a point where a sailor travels too far to turn back, but remains a disturbingly long way from his destination. There’s no land in sight, just an endless horizon of water, day after day. Progress is being made, but it doesn’t feel real; despite the effort, everything looks about the same.
That’s what it feels like with my boat right now. I keep working, but I don’t seem to be getting anywhere. Out of habit and a kind of stubborn determination, I spend at least a few hours in the workshop every week, but I don’t really feel that I’m moving forward. The gussets I’m cutting now seem so small and inconsequential when I contemplate all the work that remains.
A few old doubts have reemerged. Why, exactly, am I doing this? Will it really solve all my midlife problems? Never mind that: Will it even float? Some days I survey the boat with pride. On other days, I’m so critical, my eyes practically burn holes in the hull.
It doesn’t help that I turn 45 in a week.
I find myself distracted by other fantasies of adventure. My long held and barely suppressed urge to travel is surfacing again and the time once spent researching online boat building sites has been replaced by fare-shopping on Travelocity (“Hmm, I could get the whole family to Madrid for $2,500…”). We lived in Mexico for two years, but that was nearly four years ago. I’m ready to speak another language and a plane will get me overseas faster than a boat.
It occurs to me that it’s probably at this point that many boat projects slow, stop and quietly disappear—scuttled by the multiple forces of boredom, distraction and a feeling that completion is too far away.
These ruminations were reinforced by my son’s successful launch of a cardboard boat in the stream behind our property. Built with a large packing box and several roles of duct tape, it required nothing more than a few hours of work with a friend. Of course, it only lasted a half hour before water seeped in and turned the boat to mush. But the fun to effort ratio was high—higher, I think, than it will be with my Pocket Cruiser.
Try as hard as I might, I can’t really get the hang of being young and carefree.