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A Relaxing Saturday Sail, or Messing About in Boats?

We often approach the weekend with thoughts of spending our Saturday and Sunday sailing. We picture ourselves coasting along, looking up to watch the telltales drift against the blue-sky background, perhaps looking across the Bay at the Headlands, the cityscape, or the Bridge. We can even feel the fresh air in our nostrils and detect the faint taste of salt on our lips. Then we remember: The boat isn’t ready to sail. Perhaps we have an engine to repair, or the rigging needs tensioning, or maybe we’re partway through some sanding or varnishing, or painting. Whatever it is, sometimes it’s enough to keep us tied to the dock. What are we to do?

We have options. We can stay at home and sulk, we can call a friend and catch a ride on their boat, or we can go to the marina with our work gear and complete some of those jobs that are keeping us tied down. Whichever way, we’re still “messing about in boats,” and as Kenneth Grahame wrote, “…there is nothing — absolutely nothing — half so much worth doing…” And we agree!

How often have you gone to your boat, feeling a bit grumpy and down about the “work” you have to do, only to get there and happily get stuck into even the dirtiest of jobs? For us, this is usually the way things roll. We forget that in between the sweating and cursing, there are those moments when we stop for a break; perhaps we brought coffee or lunch, and we sit on deck and enjoy the sounds of the Bay that surround us, even at the dock. We might even stop to chat with our neighbors, many of whom are doing pretty much the same thing we are: “messing about in boats.” And, at the end of the day, there is immense satisfaction in what we did achieve.

Messing about in boats
There’s always something that needs doing.
© 2022 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Monica

The moral of this story? Just because you’re not going sailing, don’t assume you won’t be having fun.


  1. Ben Shaw 1 year ago

    You’ve captured my feeling of doing jobs on the boat perfectly Monica. I’m almost always in a better mood after working on the boat than before.

  2. Jane Piereth 1 year ago

    Sailing Education Adventures, the non-profit, largely volunteer community sailing program in San Rafael, has “Messing About in Boats Saturday” the first Saturday of every month, where our members, young and old, come down on do a bit of work on the SEA boats. Last month, sail camp counselor Julian Levash, and “Gentleman of a Certain Age” Doug Moler, worked together on the rigging of our Cal 20, Jeanne!

  3. milly Biller 1 year ago

    This is absolutely, totally true John, and my boat is a case study in deferred maintenance, but the truth is that I enjoy working on it almost as much as sailing it !

  4. Larry Watkins 1 year ago

    One day it became apparent that there was a serious leak in the engine raw water system. No problem, I can do this. I assessed the situation, gathered up the necessary materials and tools, and set to work. As it happened, I decided to keep track of how long this project would take, and I did. After it was done, I was having a cocktail with my wife, and I happened to mention, “Yeah, that repair required lots of skill and ingenuity, and took 20 hours, but it needed doing and it’s working great.” My lovely wife looked at me and her face became blank. “Is that so?” she said. “Well, I’d like to see you spend 20 hours applying skill and ingenuity working on this house!” That was the last time I kept track of time spent working on the boat, and I never mentioned anything about it to my wife again.

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