Sometimes I think Laser sailors have no imagination at all.
A while back, Tillerman was lamenting having too many regattas and not enough weekends to fit them all in. He asked his readers to come up with excuses for not sailing so he'd have some time for other things.
Frankly, I think the pressure to free up some weekends was coming from another member of his household, but that's just my own theory. And please, don't ask how I arrived at that theory.
But how vast is the sea that separates Laser sailors from those of us with keelboats!
For a keelboat sailor, finding excuses for not going sailing is as easy as falling off a Laser. I have a keelboat, and, because of that boat, I hardly ever go sailing.
In fact, there are some keelboat sailors who never sail at all. They are on the dock every weekend working on one thing or another that needs either fixing or 'preventative' maintenance.
Before I got a boat I thought 'preventative maintenance' meant work you do to keep stuff from breaking. Now I know the only thing it prevents is me from sailing.
The problem is I'm outnumbered. Fighting on the side of good, it's just me. But my enemies are many - an evil axis of rust, corrosion, UV damage, delamination, electrolysis, metal fatigue, and all sorts of other gnarly things with fangs and teeth that go drip in the night.
For many in my position, maintaining a keelboat in itself becomes the primary focus of life. They become gurus - not of sail trim or boatspeed or racing tactics, but of plumbing, electronics tinkering, rig tuning, and diesel engine karma.
Eventually, a hierarchy develops on the docks among those who never sail - the novices (like me), the journeymen, and the masters. But above them - at the very top - is the most holy and sanctified dock yoda of all, the ultimate high priest of boat maintenance - the Varnish Master.
Every dock has its resident Varnish Master. He is aloof and deigns not speak with the unwashed (guess who). He bestrides the dock like a colossus. His gait is measured and steady. His gaze straight ahead.
Like any other high priest, the Varnish Master is generally a quiet, contemplative individual of few words, closely in touch with both his inner conciousness and the spiritual world. Certain practices of his art may be performed only during specific phases of the moon and alignment of the planets.
Did you know, for example, that critical stages of the varnishing process may commence only two hours after sunrise on days when the relative humidity is below 40 per cent, the temperature below 80 degrees, and the wind not above eight knots and out of the east - the traditional direction of the Epifanes factory?
Varnish Masters serve an elaborate apprenticeship, progressing through ever finer levels of varnish awareness, which are curiously analogous to the grades of wet and dry sandpaper that most of us laymen find so unfathomable.
Eventually, the Varnish Master enters a transcendant state wherein he is at last able to hear the sound of 800-grit sanding.
I realized long ago that I do not have the rigorous mental discipline that is required of a Varnish Master. I have accepted my lot and am content with annual applications of Cetol. But, please, do not reveal this to anyone. I suffer enough humiliation in life as it is.
My Cetol requires no special gift or intellectual refinement to apply, no incantation of holy texts, no cultivation of sacred brushes, no careful meterological observation, no selfless dedication to a life of endless labor and spartan deprivation. To the Varnish Master, my Cetol is the symbol of all that is base, rotten, uncultured, and morally bankrupt in life.
But in the harsh marine environment, I cling to it for survival.
In a way, Cetol is the touchstone of my slipshod approach to boat maintenenance. I'm just trying to get by - to put off the inevitable for another season. I still hold onto hopes, however slim, of sailing occasionally. And that makes me feel guilty whenever I do manage to sail. I know that somewhere, in the deep recesses of my boat, rust is winning another battle. And it is like any mortal battle - the weak and the unprepared and the uncaulked shall perish.
But unlike the unfortunate Laser sailor, I, at least, can find an excuse to not go sailing whenever I wish.