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September 12, 2009


I have 8 years left till I can retire.  Actually, it’s more like 7 years, 7 months, 16 days.  Yes, I know it’s too early to start counting months, much less days.  It’s not that I hate my job, and am crossing off days on my desk calendar until I can make a break for it.  I work for a library, for chrissakes.  I love books, remember?  Although, as the years have gone by, and I’ve moved up the library ladder, my job has less and less to do with books.  Still, it’s not a bad job. 

It’s just that there’s so much I want to accomplish, that having a full-time job precludes.  My dream is to build a boat.  Not a little row boat, although I’ll probably start out building one of those, to get the hang of it.  But my ultimate boat is a 28 ft. sailboat (a Herreshoff H-28, if you must know). 

I caught the bug some years ago, after my father died.  He wasn’t a carpenter, or wood-worker by trade, but he had all the tools, and was a pretty fair handyman.  His oldest brother was a finish carpenter, and their father built houses, so he had all of their tools as well. 

So when he passed, I found myself in possession of a fine collection of woodworking tools, many of them hand-made.  I had never had any interest in using them as a kid; just didn’t have the patience.  And my dad didn’t have the patience to teach me, either.  But now that they were mine, I wondered what to do with them.  I thought about selling them, but quickly decided against it.  These tools had built houses, cabinets, furniture, etc… and I couldn’t just see getting rid of them.  But if I kept them, I also couldn’t see just putting them into sentimental storage—they needed to be used.

So I started teaching myself the art of woodworking.  I had cultivated some patience over the years, and knew not to give up if my first creations weren’t masterpieces.  And they weren’t.  But over time, I got better and better.  I’ve built cabinets, tables, chairs, etc…  As I said, the first creations were not what one would call aesthetically pleasing, and many were consigned to the trash heap after subsequent, more successful models were reproduced.  It’s funny, when I built my first cabinet, I thought, “Wow!  I built that, and it works!”  But after building a few more, and learning from my mistakes (which is the only way to learn, I’ve discovered), and seeing them side by side, the first one looked like an aberration, by comparison. 

But somehow or other, the idea of building a boat started to insinuate itself into my brain.  I’m still unclear as to where it came from, but once I started thinking about it, I found I couldn’t stop.  And to top it all off, talking with my uncle one day, the only remaining relative from my dad’s family, he tells me that their oldest brother had actually built a boat himself.  Nothing fancy, mind you.  He was an avid fisherman, and just wanted something to tool around in the gulf with, drink beer and catch fish (not a bad existence, if you ask me.)  So some of the tools I now owned, had actually built a boat!  I hoped they still remembered how, because I would need all the help I could get.

The sailboat I want to build is probably not big enough to sail around the world, but I could go for some very exciting excursions in it.  My wife has already told me I’m on my own when it comes to that.  She has claustrophobia, and the thought of being cooped up in a small cabin in a small boat on a large ocean gives her the heebie-jeebies. 

Some people are lucky enough to have a career in something they love doing, and wouldn’t think of stopping until they were forced to.  But most of us aren’t that fortunate.  So what would you do with your time, if you didn’t have to work for a living?  And if you’re already in that situation, are you doing what you want?  In 7 years, 7 months, and 16 days, I certainly hope I am.