, ,

I’ve had a hard time catching the right mood for writing lately. Partly, I suspect, because I’ve been so busy around the house and yard. Despite literally everywhere else in North America having a shitty summer (either too much rain or too little) our summer in central Ontario has been nigh on perfect. Every few days we get a good steady rain which soaks things nicely, then two or three days of fine, steady sunshine. We’ve rarely had so much as a thunderstorm, and those haven’t been severe. (Cue desperate knocking on wood.)

So of course The Wife™’s garden has gone insane, and I’m mowing the lawn twice a week. On the plus side, we’re taking a pint of raspberries off the fence every day or two and the local farmers’ market has some amazing stuff available, so it’s not all bad. Even the heat hasn’t been too overwhelming — it’s been breezy and dry most days without much humidity let alone air quality alerts. All in all, it’s been an almost-perfect spring and summer, and this year I’ve had the free time to enjoy it.

Things progress. We’re planning a quick trip to California next month in order to visit The Wife™’s siblings, who she hasn’t seen since their father’s funeral, and whom I haven’t technically met at all (Skype and Facetime are handy, but not exactly a proper introduction.) That trip will follow next weekend’s visit to the home of my twin sister and her husband so that we can drop off an antique dining room table (which we don’t use anymore but which is far too nice to just toss or donate.) Our visit is also likely to be the last chance to spend time with my sister before her baby arrives on or around Labour Day weekend (I’m going to be an uncle for the first time!) so that’s some good news.

The bad news is, despite my best efforts, I haven’t gotten so much as a job interview this summer — and the clock is ticking on my EI and the economy is sinking ever-further into what the government resolutely insists is not a recession, so it’s starting to get a bit stressful. I worry that a good job isn’t going to come along and that I’ll have to settle for another bullshit, low paying, no-future call-centre job… if I’m lucky.

In the meantime, however, this means that certain long-term goals aren’t progressing the way I wish they would. Primarily, the boat. Even though I’ve not been able to get out on the water since before the Canada Day weekend, I’ve resolved that my lack of employment is not going to stop me from pursuing this dream, so I’ve decided to start lay the groundwork despite a lack of resources. The impetus for this came from a rather odd place — I bought an e-book.

There’s this guy who calls himself “Cap’n Fatty” Goodlander; he’s a liveaboard sailor, a writer, and what is kindly referred to as a “character.” A self-described “sea-gypsy”, he’s written several books on cruising which are entertaining, informative, and irreverent, sometimes to the point of being offensive. Political correctness is not in him, but he’s got a marvellous way with words and can yarn a sea-tale with the best of them. I’ve enjoyed his books and articles for a couple of years, so I purchased a Kindle copy of his book Buy, Outfit, Sail, which is about getting a sailboat in the water on a very tight budget.

Well, that certainly fits my circumstances. So I had a good read, and one of the best suggestions he comes up with, right at the beginning of Section 1: Buying The Boat, is the “boat charm.” The most important attribute of the small-boat sailor is tenacity, he claims, far surpassing even intelligence: “You can’t lose if you don’t quit.” The boat charm is literally that — a small metal boat, such as would go on a charm bracelet, or a pot-metal Monopoly piece, or something similarly nautically-themed. It has to be small enough (and cheap enough) to stay in your pocket or on your keychain so that you’ve always got it with you… preferably mixed in with your pocket change. And every time you pull out your pocket change you see it and when you see it you think about the boat. And then you ask yourself, do I want to spend money on this, or do I want the boat?

This is not to discourage you from living your life, it’s to encourage you to think twice about how you allocate your meager funds. The example he uses is drinking with your buddies on a Friday night: sure, go out and have some pints with the boys, but when the second or third pint is gone, he says, look at the boat charm and ask yourself “What do I really want to do — drink tonight or sail tomorrow?” And then you make your decision. There’s no wrong decision there, but the boat charm is designed to keep you mindful of the eventual purchase of the boat.

I happened to have a suitable boat charm lying around the house (it’s a tiny metal viking longship, used as an SCA site token a few months ago) so that’s covered. And I’ve decided, when I ask myself that question, if it’s at all possible, I’m going to take the money I would have spent on that fourth pint (or that candy bar, or that book, or whatever) and throw it in the big coffee tin in my office I’ve marked “BOAT FUND.” Add those deposits to that the fact that, come hell or high water, I’m putting at least $10 a week into that tin regardless of my personal financial straits and it should start adding up. No money comes out of that tin, period. (Once I’m working I hope to increase that minimum amount, but we’ll have to see how it goes.)


Emptying the tin for use is an entertaining story. For years I tended to buy my coffee in those big 1kg tins because I went through a lot of coffee. And an empty, metal, 1kg coffee tin is a damned useful item to have around the shop, so I would often keep one or two out of the recycling. And then most coffee manufacturers switched from tins to cardboard cans, and suddenly the few old tins I had lying around became incredibly precious. They hold tools, bits, bolts, screws, whatever, and they don’t disintegrate under their weight of their contents like a cardboard can will.

The BOAT FUND tin was being used as a coin dump. Like most men with a billfold wallet, I have to keep my spare change in my pocket, so when I get undressed for bed I’d gotten into the habit of dumping it in a small bowl on the nightstand, or on my office desk, and I rarely bother to put the coins back in my pocket in the morning aside from the occasional loonie or toonie for parking. Every once in a while I’d decant those containers into the coin tin (or the change jar) and then forget about it. A couple of weeks ago I realized that the coin tin was almost full, the change jar was overflowing, and I had little piles of change everywhere. We’re talking years worth of pocket change. So I gathered up all the coins, dumped them into a bucket, and took all 15kgs of it to one of those machines in the supermarket that automatically counts your coins, rakes off an 11% surcharge, and gives you back cash. I got back $183.63, a Bahamian quarter, a Jamaican 10-cent piece, an a 1960s-era Ontario tollgate token. The $180 got put in the tin. The $3.63 got dumped in the change jar which will, in the fullness of time, be run through the counting machine and then dumped into the tin. The foreign coins got added to the foreign coin collection, and the tollgate token got laughed at.

And I’d gotten a head start on my sailboat purchase.

At this rate, it’ll take two or three years to raise the two or three thousand dollars I’d need to even start thinking about buying the boat since I’m looking at something like a Nordica 20 or a Halman 20 (which can be found for well under CDN$5000 at the moment… so long as you’re willing to put in some work into it) or maybe something smaller like a Siren 17 which can go for as low as CDN$2000, including a trailer. I just have to bear in mind (as Cap’n Fatty says) that every dollar I save on the purchase price is likely to be several dollars’ worth of sweat equity during repair and refit before the boat is seaworthy.

So even if I get a good job sooner rather than later (oh please, let it be sooner) I’m probably looking at a couple of years of saving before I can even buy a sailboat, much less launch it. At minimum. But it feels good, really good, to have something concrete in place and a plan for the future.