He Who Must Be Obeyed has ordered up yet another of his writing projects (is there no end?). This one has something to do with Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. That alone told me I'd better take it very seriously. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was one serious dude.
Even though he was only an architect, he hung out with the intelligentsia of the 1930's - a very picky group. People doted on his every word. He'd say something like "less is more" and everyone would just fall all over themselves writing that down. No kidding.
It must have been the way he said it. I think he used a long, dramatic pause after the "Less".
At any rate, He Who Must Be Obeyed has also seized on this "less is more" thing and has commanded that we write up something about 'minimalism' - which is really just a minimalistic way of saying, "Less is more."
When I first got my boat, I was a fanatic about boat maintenance.
I'd spend every waking hour polishing, cleaning, varnishing, and checking a million little things. But, I started looking around O Dock and saw that no one else was doing that. A lot of my dockmates snootily looked the other way as they went by, somehow offended that I was waxing my topsides. I just wasn't fitting in.
It took me a while to ease into what is the preferred behavior on O Dock - carefully studied nonchalance. It's OK to have a nice boat, but you should never be seen actually working on it. In the shadow of the yacht club, patrician attitudes permeate everything. It may be alright to be seen sweating on the other hardscrabble docks of the marina, but not on O Dock.
Lately, I've been able to take that idea of never working too hard to the next level. I like to think I've turned it into a form of art. I've started applying the almost Zen-like idea of minimalism to boat maintenance.
I've discovered that I like having weeds growing along the waterline. The marine growth puts oxygen back into the water, so is much healthier for the environment. In the galley, I find the gentle drip-drip-drip of the faucet soothing and restful. And the rhythmic cycling of the pressure pump adds a cheery, syncopated beat. A silent cabin just seems eerie to me.
The harsh glare of sunlight off a freshly-scrubbed deck is jarring to my sensibilities, too. So, with agonizing patience, I've allowed the deck to return to its natural, mildewed state. And all of those seagull droppings that used to get on my nerves are just so much artwork to me now - nature's Jackson Pollack. I'm just careful to take off my shoes before going below.
The same holds true for docklines. Who wants those crisp, white lines that just shout 'newbie'? On O Dock, nothing is more gauche or annoying. I've learned from my dockmates to let the lines age and develop a nice chafe - the sign of a confident, salty veteran who knows what he's about.
And to think of all the hours I used to waste fussing around with the engine - oil changes, filter changes, impellers, zincs, belts. But is this not a sailboat? Do I not threaten its very sailboatyness by lavishing all that attention on some ridiculous collection of machinery that has nothing at all to do with communing with the wind and the sea and with nature?
As long as the engine runs, I figure it must be OK. Remember, I've got to remove the settee cushions and pull out plywood covers just to get to the damned thing. Obviously, if the boat manufacturer felt it was necessary to access the engine frequently, they never would have designed it that way. Do I have to pull the seats out of my car just to check the oil?
Minimalist maintenance has also helped me stay in shape. When I got the boat, the mainsail went up and down the track far too easily. I wasn't getting any useful workout from it at all. But now, after years of studied neglect, it takes a solid 50 lbs of force to get it moving (and you can do warm-up reps by using a longer winch handle). This has been great for my pecs and deltoids. And, an added bonus, the halyard sheave at the top of the mast just glistens now under the added load.
So, I owe a great debt of gratitude to my colleagues on O Dock. They've helped me discover what it means to be a true sailor, to be free as the wind and unfettered by heavy responsibilities - the key is minimalist maintenance.
And they've also taught me another of life's cardinal lessons:
Just before that major engine inspection is due - sell the boat.
Less is more.