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.