Boat Builder's Obsession

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Do you realize how much work is in a simple ladder?

It’s been going on for at least a decade or so: the possession of my husband by the incubus of boat building. No matter what the incantation, the evil spirits have not been driven from his soul.

It started small enough. A nice little pocket cruiser that we could use to sail around Green Bay on weekends. This evolved into a 58 foot catamaran for blue water sailing.

He has spent hours, thousands of them, researching designs and design elements, and speaks in some type of code that only engineers can decipher. He has spent hours, thousands of them, on the phone, reading books, picking the brain of any hapless soul who happens to have the merest shred of information about boats, boat building, catamarans, woodworking, power tools, sails, welding, epoxying, fiber glassing, plumbing, hydraulics, you name it. He sets upon them as though he is a hungry vampire and drains every bit of knowledge from them, asking questions that could only be described as arcane and obscure, and then he asks more. Not knowing the answer to a question is not good enough for him. He must have the answer. He sets off on a quest, another obsessive-compulsive chase. Once he’s found the answer, another question pops into his head. It starts all over again.

In between, he builds boats.

We are now the proud owners of a good and very extensive set of power tools. Cordless drill? Got it. Heavy duty router? Got it. Tough circular saw? Ditto. Table saw? Natch. The list goes on and on. Some of the tools are second and third generation. Just as my mother said I was hard on shoes, he’s hard on power tools. They have to be good quality (with the accompanying

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Elwood keeps building in his summer work shop on his 58' dream catamaran.

price tag), or the smell of melting plastic will fill the air within hours. He’s even worn out some of the very good tools, with switches broken and gears grinding, and outsides coated with layers of grungy epoxy. We are on a first-name basis with the plywood people, the foam people, the epoxy people, and the Lexan people. I have spent evenings cutting most of his remaining hair off his head, like a monkey picking nits, because it’s hard to comb glued chunks that stick out around the cap. I’m waiting for the day he actually glues his cap to his head. Some days, he’s bleeding from who knows what. Some days, his knees are so bad he can barely walk. Our families wonder if we’re still alive. But does he stop? You already know the answer.

A few months ago, while driving to Menards to get more of something for the boat, he said. "Once I’m done with this boat, I don’t ever want to build another one." He couldn’t figure out why I was laughing hysterically. It’s because his soul is boat building, through and through, and the thought of him not in the middle of building a boat would be like cutting off an arm or leg, or removing his brain. And just the week before, he told me all about his plans for a sailing dinghy that folds up, sort of like a kayak, but not quite, with outriggers, but he really hasn’t thought it out yet....

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