Summer Doldrums

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barely suppressed urge to travel is surfacing again and the time once spent researching online boat building sites has been replaced by fare-shopping on Travelocity (“Hmm, I could get the whole family to Madrid for $2,500…”).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.

Avery (in the rear) and his friend Alex built a cardboard boat in two afternoons. It didn't last long, but they had a lot of fun.

Avery (in the rear) and his friend Alex built a cardboard boat in two afternoons. It didn't last long, but they had a lot of fun.

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.

5 Responses to Summer Doldrums

  1. Bob Denman says:

    Paul, I’ve been following your blog since I found it on the web, and have gotten a lot of good from your accounts. I just wanted to tell you that I’m 56 this year and just now kind of going thru what you are. I just want to encourage you to keep at it and don’t let it bog you down. Eventually, you’ll come out on the other side, and I believe be a better person for the experience. Speaking for myself, you’ve been a great inspiration for a lot of us.

  2. Paul Boyer says:

    Bob, Thanks so much for the kind words and encouragement! Keep pushing me forward whenever you see me slow down. I think we all need that kind of support.

  3. Tom Raidna says:


    I turned 46 this past May, I feel ya!!!

    When I got to feeling bogged down I would make lists of the tasks to do. Then cross off the items as they were done, even if it was just a gusset, or a small part, they all have to be done. I promise it will be worth it when you are done, and yes your boat will float and take you on great adventures, which will give you even more to write about. After reading your entry about the sunfish sailing, I would reccomend a book to you that might also help with mood. It’s call “First you have to row a small boat” it’s really a sailing book and fits the feel of your sunfish entry.

    Keep up the great work !!!

  4. Paul Boyer says:


    Thanks for the book recommendation. I read some reviews and it looks like a good read. I’ll order a copy today.

    I made some progress this week and now realize that I’m nearly ready to attach the sides. This is giving me some inspiration.

  5. Tom Raidna says:


    Just a thought before you attach the sides is there anything you want to prime/paint before you close everything in. Forwared of the fore bulkhead, underside of deck cabin floor….
    Just a thougt – been there it’s not fun curled up like a pretzel trying to paint in nooks and crannies.


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