Catching up by phone recently with fellow writer and esteemed colleague Doug Logan sent us two boat scribes of a certain age fishing for the treasures that drift in the ocean of experience. That came naturally, not just because we’d toiled for the same masters at one time or another, but also because Logan’s latest book, BoatSense: Lessons and Yarns from a Marine Writer’s Life Afloat, published by Seapoint Books provides all the bait and tackle needed for the occasion.
Owner of an Oldport 26 (7.92m) launch with pilothouse and cuddy cabin, Logan put this anthology together from previously published material in Practical Sailor (where he succeeded Dan Spurr, who had moved to Professional BoatBuilder), Powerboat Reports, Sailing World, Cruising World, and various websites of Boats Group.
“Had I known how difficult it was going to be, I’d have written a book from scratch,” he laughed when I asked him about his impetus for this endeavor. “Honestly, sometimes I couldn’t see the forest for the trees.” Not to worry. What BoatSense lacks in heft, it makes up in balance between education and entertainment. After loosening up the mood with an episode of “Pat and the Rat,” a tale about a proud and crafty rodent that stowed away on a fellow liveaboard’s vessel at Thwaites Boatyard in the Bronx in the 1980s, Logan takes his readers through many topics that define boat usage and ownership: buying a vessel, getting the right kit, and barking your knuckles while doing repairwork below deck.
Avoiding an instruction manual’s rigid format, BoatSense is a delightfully meandering journey of personal sentiment mixed with solid advice scattered throughout the pages in technical sidebars on topics like basic electrical work, engine care, tool choices, and boatyard chores.
BoatSense Counsels and Entertains
Boatyard professionals might get a chuckle from the section on budgeting for maintenance, which discusses their daily bread: hourly rates, yard estimates, and how age, size, and type of craft influence the amount of sweat equity or money paid for upkeep and repair. The suggestion that “the sense of accomplishment and satisfaction in boat ownership is enhanced by the willingness to embrace the hacksaw” will ring true for hands-on boat owners, a fading breed gradually being replaced by millennials who grew up in the sharing and concierge economy big on outsourcing.
Digging through this bounty of wry humor and school-of-hard-knocks wisdom, I found Logan’s material after all these years still fresh, because the simple truths of boat ownership do not change, no matter how much kit is stashed on board. “Entropy rules the universe, and it is the nature of all things to break,” he writes. “Thanks to the environment they operate in, it is the nature of boats to break more often and in less convenient places.” That’s not just reality for boating novices, it is the daily bread of the readers of this publication who work in design, refit, and repair.
One of my favorites is the part called “Choose Your Seductions,” highlighting how advances in technology turned once-extravagant equipment (like electric winches) into basic kit that is taken for granted—except that the illusions of simplicity and convenience come at a price, not just costing money but also increasing complexity, which begets more complexity in the supporting systems. “So it’s important to think how much of your labor you want saved, how much of your thinking you want done for you, and how many of your skills you really want to outsource,” Logan advises.
Hundreds of books claim to enlighten beginning boaters, helping them make sensible choices when buying a vessel and learning the ropes of ownership. Few I have read accomplish that as well as BoatSense, perhaps because few authors who live, breathe, and bleed boating as Doug Logan does have the skill to share experiences and lay out personal preferences in authentic fashion and with a dash of humor. This slender volume is a handy compendium for beginning boaters, but it’s just as useful for professionals in the trades as a reminder that less is often more—as in: less hassle but more fun.
BoatSense: Lessons and Yarns from a Marine Writer’s Life Afloat, 122 pages, $17.95, Seapoint Books + Media LLC, P.O. Box 21, Brooklin, Maine 04616 USA, tel 603–380–5317.