Sunset in the Yard
31 August 2020 | Deltaville
I like walking through the boat yard at sunset. There are hundreds of boats. To me, they are like a field of dreams. Their masts sprout from the decks like silver telephone poles awkwardly planted in boat-shaped flowerpots. The boats are propped upright in jack stands, waiting patiently for their future. For many of the boats —sometimes I think for most—- it’s a future that will never come.
Each boat represents someone’s dream. Sometimes the names read like chapters in the owner’s dream. Boats like “Something Else” or “Plan B” or “Retirement” seem to invoke scenes of an argument with the boss, a financial crash montage, or a zoom-out of a person stamping papers and passing them to the next desk for another stamp. Some of the jack stands are covered in a layer of dirt and clover. I fear that these owners’ lives are stuck on scene-repeat.
Some of the boats are covered in tarps. With long-empty paint cans and broken stepladders, the owners seem to be struggling to make the future a reality. They care. They have not abandoned their dreams. They want their dreams to become a reality. But wanting it isn’t enough. The dark cloud of the inevitable, slow decay of the boat and its systems–ever present, even in the yard—fogs their dreams bit by bit --- the fog obscures faster than their will, or perhaps their means, clarifies. Each visit they make to their boats results in a few repairs or upgrades, but more problems are discovered than resolved. And, their dreams fade.
I imagine a bright and colorful dream when boats first arrive in the yard. In most cases, it is easy to imagine that dream. There are boats with sleek, long hulls and slender, finned keels poking out between others. They seem to be poking their heads out as though they want to race into the water on their own, white gurgling water sprinting past their polished blue bows and golden trim. Other boats are wide-bodied and full-keeled with enormous barn doors hanging off their sterns (or missing from their sterns). These boats, or owners, dream of long, slow passages in deep blue water with a huge spread of tan canvas under puffy white clouds.
There are always a few cars in the yard. Very few. Some of them drive into the yard and park quickly, positioning their wheels precisely in ruts left from their previous visit. Their owners empty their trunks and climb the ladder. It is clearly a ritual. They have parked, emptied and climbed hundreds of times before. Their smiles seem to grow with each rung of ascension. I like to think that these owners don’t dream of racing or cruising. They dream of working. Working on their boat is their dream. When they reach the top of the ladder, they cross the transom of bliss.
For me, the happiest moments in the yard are the often the strangest. Yesterday, at sunset, I looked up when I heard four people high in the air speaking and laughing loudly in a language I didn’t understand. They were all seated in the cockpit of a deep-draft, fiberglass cruising boat. They spoke with the ease and pleasure of old friends enjoying a light breeze and a full spinnaker on calm waters. But actually the boat was suspended in the travel lift, hovering with the keel just a few inches off the ground and a fresh coat of black bottom paint mellowing by the late evening’s orange and red hues. I don’t know what the couples were saying but their boat was screaming: “The future is now. The dream begins tomorrow.”