Getting Wisdom

Spinney let me accompany him one afternoon while he did a marine survey of a sloop one of his regular customers was interested in buying. The sloop was on the hard, so Spinney first walked around, taking in the general lines and appearances of the boat. Next, he noted and mentioned to me items the general upkeep and condition of the boat.
“Many people think a coat of paint will hide disrepair, but you’re not only looking at the superficial, but you’re also looking at the deeper fitness of the vessel, and paint can only hide so much.”
Walking to the transom, he got up on a ladder, closed his eyes, and ran his hands along the wood. Then, smiling, he hopped down and brushed his hands off. ” Transom is overdue for work. If the owner ignored the transom that badly, the next spot I’ll check is the garboard planks.” The garboard planks are the wide planks closest to the keel. Spinney pulled out a long icepick and gave me a playful look, then he stabbed the garboard, and the ice pick slid in easily.
“Well, I’ll finish the survey, but I’d never advise Johnson to buy this sloop; too much work deferred too long and not enough maintenance. So forgo the basics this year, and in the next, you’ll have double the work to do on a wooden hull.”
On our way to Spinney’s boatyard, I opined that he must have a lot of experience in surveying to know what to look for when doing a survey. He gave me a narrow-eyed squinty look, shook his head, and reminded me that experience isn’t wisdom.
“Wisdom is acquired by understanding the lessons of experience. Most people go crazy gaining experience but take no time to examine its lessons. It’s all a rush to add something to a resume. Years go by, and they haven’t gained a single shard of wisdom from all that experience.”

This getting of wisdom is still something I work on bit by bit. It sounds so easy, but it’s so difficult.


You cannot duck certain duties. There comes a time, as the days lengthen and winds slowly shift to south-westerlies, that you can no longer delay the inevitable. The boat’s ” on the hard,” so you make pilgrimage to the boatyard and get under the wraps to see what winter has wrought.

Let see:

  • Clean out the nests that kept the yard cats comfy all winter as they swept the yard for rodents.
  • Pick up empties from the last visit of the fall when you and Terry had a few too many.
  • Check how successful your other winterizations were.

There’ll be more down the line. You’ll gradually move in with cleaning supplies, paint, varnish, sandpaper, steel wool, mops, and brooms. You’ll have the yard mechanic check on the diesel; your skills there are much too shy a full load to handle that.

You begin the slow job of totaling up costs. Every year the old saying – ” a boat is a hole in the water into which you shovel money” seems more accurate. 

You’ll be in the water before Memorial Day, with luck. The cost is high, but it is such sweet anguish.