Three men in a boat.

– Or rather 2 men and one woman in an elderly Zodiac.

With Islamic terrorists murdering people in Paris as a horrible part to the weekend, I thought it would be good to write about something amusing and cheerful and not at all multicultural, seeing as that doesn’t seem to be working out too well. SALON says it’s all our fault, just so as you know. Oddly I suspect the evidence stacking heavily on it all being the fault of the like of SALON and all they support, and all who are supportive of them. I am sure that by the time the pixels are cool File 770 denizens will be blaming the Puppies (but that’s hardly an insight. We’re to blame for everything. It’s not easy being evil you know. So much responsibility.)

Anyway I finished my first draft of TOM – the most recent book, the tail… uh tale of a young feral Tom-cat who ends being transformed into being a boy, to the apprentice to a particularly curmudgeonly old magician, who had been reduced to this by his inability to keep human candidates. Today I took off. Tomorrow I work again. But today had a lot that applied as much to writing as it did to life.


I took off to take my boat for its first proper working outing. Now, I’ve spent most of life going to sea. I’m a good deckie, a good fisherman (and on old-fashioned commercial boats and quite a few ‘recreational’ ones I’ve worked on, the catch is divided: 1 for the skipper, one for the boat, one for the fisherman who catches it. That means unless you’re good, you won’t get a ‘site’ on the boat unless they can’t get crew at all – and then as a fisherman, you ought to ask why. Think about that writer-terms. Oddly enough the same rule applies to writers as skippers – 10% catch 90% of the fish. You want to be on their boat.). I’ve done a bit of skippering (I have an operator’s license) and I have a regular spot on a few boats. Basically, if they’re going, I get asked to crew. With my main dive partner, I do a lot of the skippering – because I find the fish better than he does. We’re not the best on the Island, but we do well.

Let’s face it, particularly the diving, but even the long-lining and hand-lining are a mug’s game. Mike Rowe would be right at home with us. Once again, like writing – there are easier, less demanding ways to earn a living (or get a feed of fish) that don’t involve being 30 feet underwater in a cave (or writing novels). Still, it is what I am, and given a choice of most other things (Heaven help me, I could teach kindergarten, or spend my time in a Shopping Mall, or as a cubicle vole. I am very grateful to the people who do these things, so I do not have to. It’s a win-win because they’d hate what I do – both the writing and the other daft stuff.

Getting back to the ‘my boat’ thing. I’ve never owned a boat. Been in charge of boats, but never owned them. As someone said they’re boat-shaped holes in the water that you keep open by pouring money into them. And as I’ve always had ten places — my kids’ education for a start — to pour my money, a boat always seemed a piece of self-indulgence.

The down-side, of course, was that I have been dependent on other people to get to sea, and if I’m lucky end up with a 1/3 of my catch. That can still be a lot, but as fisheries regulation tightened down on what we’re allowed to take, and the weather here is erratic – and I can take advantage of great days when my fishing and diving partners cannot (which all has parallels with publishing).

So I bought the floating Zoo – which is a VERY elderly 18 foot Zodiac – of the kind that was still made in France, the kind you kind of expect to see French Special forces piling out onto the beach in 1950’s movies. It is light – weighs about 220 pounds – and can carry 10 people, and take 60HP outboard. It’d need 10 people not to become airborne with that. It’s stable, seaworthy, and most importantly, because it was old, very cheap.

I’m not whinging about money – hell, I do better than a lot of authors, we could survive on my income. Sort of. So long as I grow veggies and do the hunter-gatherer thing, and as Barbs works too, things are recovering from the vast expense of emigrating. But there are still more important places to put that money, most of the time, than a boat. Of course I’d like more, who wouldn’t? But it means the boat as taken a hind teat, and the project developed as time, junk from the tip, throw-outs, garage sales and very small expenditure allowed. I had to take a lot of things that really weren’t suited to the job, and make them or fix them (outboards…. Aaaaaaargh. I have three I’m working on. One going – the smallest and worst.). I’m fairly good with my hands (better than my head). There are some things that for safety cannot be contrived (the compressor, which is a dive compressor as well as great for blowing up the boat, and boat’s safety barrel). Once again – think in terms of self-publishing… for most of us we could not just throw money at it and we’ve had to learn skills that save us money if cost us time.

The boat and trailer and motor cost me less than $1200 in the end (The compressor about twice that). All of them could use improvement. But I brought home about twelve pounds of Abalone and a load of good fish meals today. Which was good. If I look after the equipment it’ll pay for itself long, long before it wears out.

But for the point of my story was that: Yes. I did go indy, and do well. I can do it at my convenience, and at minimum cash expense, and produce a workable project. Just like going Indy with a book…

BUT… my range is limited and the amount of time, effort and responsibility are an order of magnitude higher than going in someone else’s boat. I fish off a $100 000 boat, that I couldn’t afford to run, let alone buy. But I easily treble the owner’s catch, and he takes me further and in worse weather than I would dream of taking my little Zoo to sea in. So my take home share is still bigger than I manage to do in my own boat. And – when I got in this evening, first I had to pressure-wash the boat, then the trailer, and then the ute, then wash down the dive hoses and mouthpieces, wipe down the compressor, run fresh water though the outboard, and then re-grease everything, and oil the bits that can’t be greased, wash wetsuits, hang everything up and pack everything and clean the catch. It took me an hour and a half to get the boat ready to go to sea, and around three hours to finish. The decisions and responsibilities were mine, and so are the risks. Once again, very like going Indy.

I always come back from sea dead tired. Three hours labor on the end of that ain’t fun. The guys who dived with me today, were at home, with their feet up when I just got started. I’ll get better organized, but it does take a lot more than just saying cheers to the owner (maybe giving a hand with a few things first) and then going home with nary a care.

And that’s true of getting someone else to publish your books for you.

But it is kinda nice to have the flexibility, to not rely on anyone else. And you can seize the moment and no-one can stop you.


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23 responses to “Three men in a boat.

  1. There’s probably a happy medium between owning a boat that you pour money into by the truckload and owning a boat that takes hours and hours of labour to make vaguely functional and which gives you a small amount of fish.

    Of course it’s hard to tell exactly what that value is until you overshoot and get the moneyhole in the water.

    There’s probably something similar for the Indie/small pub/trad pub continuum as well.

    • Kind of like keeping chickens for the eggs, I would imagine. Between purchasing and assembling a flat-pack coop, enclosing part of the yard, buying the three pullets and all the food and feeders needed – I think we were out about $600. For two eggs a day, since early September.
      But the eggs are very good, and the chickens are amusing … although one turned out to be a rooster…

      • The Other Sean

        The rooster and the hens could help supply you with even more chickens, in turn producing even more eggs.

        • We are leaving that option open, but the yard is small and the rooster is noisy.
          Fortunately, the neighbors within earshot all were raised in the country, and are sentimentally fond of the sound of chickens…

          • The Other Sean

            I loathe roosters. When I was about 12, my family moved into a new subdivision surrounded by farms and orchards. It was very nice, in many ways. Except for the roosters. Dad liked to turn the air conditioner off on summer evenings if it cooled down. To stay cool, I had to open my window… which faced the nearby farm. So summer vacation finally rolled around, and I could finally sleep late, except that every morning Dad turned off the AC I was waking up around 6 AM because of the darn roosters.

          • Holly

            We had a landlady who liked our chickens for that reason, years ago.
            At the moment we have about four dozen eggs. Anybody want to buy some?

      • Not dissimilar. But then I made my chicken tractor with scrap chicken wire, scrap timber, and scrap corrugated iron, and scrap wheels. It looks it! but for 5 years now we’ve have had roughly 3 eggs a day…

        Depending on the type of chicken the rooter/hens may not be fertile 😦

    • Yep. And some things just need (or you’re bloody stupid not to) to be spent on in both.

  2. Damn. I *knew* this writing business was all wet!

    Well, =someone= had to say it. [gd&r]

  3. Admiring your energy AND your tenacity, as I sit here procrastinating on doing battle with Word for the print copy Scrivener cannot quite produce.

    There is something sea-like in the requirements: Scrivener will do practically everything except handle widows and orphans (and hyphenation, but that’s not sea-related). I will not have a print copy that leaves a single word on a page all by itself, nor will I be going in there and fiddling by hand, because I’m sure I’ll miss something else somewhere else. Sigh.

    But my ‘job’ is done in a heated house next to the bed where I will now go to take a nap, as I do every three hours. I can’t imagine spending three hours cleaning your boat.

  4. An excellent comparison. And boy, are there ever days when I wish I could just hand over a manuscript and let someone else deal with the mechanics of producing a book.

  5. I grew up on crappy old boats and motors. You learn a lot about doing yourself with a boat and no money. the boat can be nearly indestructible, the motor not so much. One thing is that a 55 gal drum makes a great stand for running them on fresh water. Second, running a boat is a pain and you never want forget rinsing a motor out.

    • 🙂 I use a 44 gallon plastic barrel for the job.

      • Those plastic barrels always strike me as being too flimsy for things like that. On the other hand they don’t rust. Those steel barrels seem to have gone out of style too.

        • John I have my plastic barrel rigged so I have a stout wooden ‘transom’ above it. I agree, too flimsy

        • We used one to keep our critters in for about twenty years or so, through rain, sun, getting chewed on by the neighbor’s dog, and so on. 3/4″ thick plastic, whatever it originally was meant to hold, stood up without weakening pretty well.

        • at work, much of what comes in for us in ingredients is in steel drums and for product going out, we have mostly plastic drums, but we have one product the biggest customer demands it to be in an Epoxy Lined Steel drum. It is flammable (Isopropynol i.e. rubbing alcohol) so they want to ground the drum when handling it (earth it for Dave and the overseas folks). Also they make plastic lined steel drums. But for the very best, they make Stainless Steel drums. Very pricey things. About $450-$750 a drum.
          Plastic in bulk run far far cheaper. I think we pay $35 or so but we buy them 360 or so at a time

  6. The gent who oversaw the flight-instructor training I took this past weekend says boat stands for “Bring out Another Thousand.” He has a cruiser that he sails on the Great Lakes, where the weather’s not _quite_ as exciting as off your island. Unless a Witch of November comes along.

    • It’s NEVER safe. Trust me on this.

      • No,it’s not safe. Flying and boating share a lot, but it is a wee titch bit easier to pull a boat over and work on the motor if it conks out while you are on the water. Most planes I’ve flown, well, hovering is not on their list (I have “hovered” in a glider in mountain wave. It feels a touch unnatural.)

        • agreed. Of course most things fail when you can least afford them to fail… (which is why I chose a calm day with a slight onshore breeze for this test)

        • A Coastie who served during the search for the Fitz said those were the roughest seas he had ever been in, even worse than a Gulf hurricane or a nor’easter. As another old sailor I heard said about freighters and ore boats, “Shelter might be closer on the Lakes, but often can be harder to reach”.

  7. mrsizer

    The two happiest days of a boat owner’s life: The day you buy it and the day you sell it.

    That said, I do miss my boat. I used to go waterskiing every day before work. In Denver, there just isn’t enough water nearby.

    You’d think that an inboard (which is just a car engine plopped in the middle of a fiberglass hull) would be low maintenance – especially in fresh water. It mostly was, but when it wasn’t, wow!