If You Build It, They Will Come

“If you build it, they will come.”  The quote was made famous by the movie Field of Dreams (1989).  The movie was based on the book Shoeless Joe by W.P. Kinsella, published in 1982.  If you are familiar with the movie (or the book) you know that the quote is from an unembodied voice that directs Kevin Costner to build a baseball diamond in his corn field so that Shoeless Joe Jackson might return from beyond to once again play ball.  The quote is actually “If you build it, he will come”.  But for some reason it has morphed into “they will come” because the character played by James Earl Jones uses it later to say “they will come” referring to the people who will come to watch the game.  Since “they” works better for most people when using the quote (including myself), it stuck.   Regardless, it is about an act of faith.

While I’ve enjoyed reading a number of books by Kinsella over the years, I can’t credit him with the origin of the quote.  It comes from the Bible story of Noah and the Ark.  Or some interpretations of it.  Certainly Mr. Kinsella’s interpretation of it.  I’m not accusing Mr. Kinsella of plagiarism.  While the Bible is copyrighted (a bit of a puzzle for me) it appears to be open game for using quotations (also a bit of a puzzle).  Regardless, the story of Noah building the Ark is a story about faith.  

In the years that I spent getting Leda back on the water, I always had faith that once I got her done that there would be people who would want to go sailing.  That if I built it, they would come.  I was stopped often in my work on the boat by someone walking in the harbor who would remark “I’d sure like to get out sailing on this boat.”  My standard reply was that I was saving space in the crew for people who picked up a paint brush.  The invitation to get to work usually chased them off.  As it turns out none of them ever came back.  So perhaps my attitude was a bit harsh despite the fact that I always offered it with a smile.  Maybe I should have told them to line up two by two.

But the truth is that I always thought that once I got Leda back on the water that she would be a big enough draw that people would want to go.  People still tell me they would like to go sailing on her.  I no longer threaten to turn them into labor slaves in trade for time on the boat.  It hasn’t worked in the past to bring aboard free labor or would-be sailors.  Instead I now offer to take them.  It has become a bit of a quest for me to have people experience what it is like to go sailing on a boat like Leda.  Not that many show up.  There are a number of reasons for this.  Part of it is that I live in an area that when the weather gets really nice that there often isn’t any wind.  To get a good rousing sail you need a bit of threatening weather.  People who have grown up using motors and going fishing as a reason to get out on the water tend to avoid these days.  There is also the misconception that we need 20-knots of wind to get the boat to move well.  In truth about 8-knots is perfect as the boat moves well and handles full sail easily but the conditions don’t require precision execution from the crew.  It is just fun. 

I tell people who show interest in going sailing that there are two ways to plan a day on the water.  The best is to drop everything when the conditions are perfect and just go.  Since this rarely works for people (it does for me, I often singlehand on some of the best sailing days), the other way to plan it is to schedule a day on the water and go no matter what the weather does.  This often produces less than desirable results.  People who do a lot of sailing know that you don’t always get the perfect ride.  It isn’t a whole lot different than going fishing.  No matter how good of a fisherman you might be, you still have to find fish to catch any.  So it is with sailing.  Experience helps to define when the conditions will be right, but there is nothing you can do to make them happen.   When Terry Hammond visited us in 2010 we motored out into Favorite Channel and sat around drinking beer and telling stories for a few hours before a breeze came up and offered us a good sail  We were patient and it paid off, but it doesn’t always work that way.  I was grateful for it that day to be sure.

Of course there is also the problem that people have their lives planned with a list of things they are supposed to be busy at.  I’m no different really, it’s just that on my list is “Go sailing” and just below it “Take time to goof off doing what you want”, which is often redundant.  For most of us, life has gotten so busy that we even have to schedule in goofing off.  And we are not very good these days at just goofing off.  Having a hole in the schedule to do something spontaneous is pretty much unheard of.  We spend all of our time working so we can buy toys and then when we get time away from working we feel like we need to interact with our toys.  Our stuff.  We have become slaves to it.  I’m no different.  I’ve spent my adult life taking care of a vintage wooden boat.  Wouldn’t it make sense that I would see it as a good way to spend my free time.  Otherwise, what was the point? 

It’s come to pass that all of my friends who enjoy boating or specifically sailing wanted to be captains of their own vessels.  Buying a boat is the biggest killer of spending free time with friends next to having children.  If you own your own boat, you want to go out on “your” boat! When I was a young adult none of us had any money.  Whoever scratched up enough money to have a boat had an instant crew.  We all spent lots of time together on the water.  But of course we all ended up buying our own boats and put an end to that!  Now of course we are all hitting retirement age and are set in our ways.  We have the ability to goof off but it takes all our time.  But it is still a good goal to get people out sailing.  Boats like Leda are vanishing.  We should cherish them while they last.  I’ll save further discussion on that for another time.

Getting back to the topic at hand, which is having faith and building things, I also had some faith that if I built this web site that people would come to it.  I’ve opted not to make room here for public comment.  I’ve seen too many nice web sites filled with spam and hate to invite public comment.  I do however hope that people who read any of the content here might be moved to get in touch.  I’m receptive to corrections or criticisms (about the web site or the boat!).  I would be happy to debate about preservation techniques used on these boats.  I’d be happy to offer advice to others, or just talk about boats in general.  I’ve never been very good at joining clubs or organizations.  My lifestyle of living semi-off-grid in Alaska should be indication enough of that affliction.  I do however have a commitment to community.

As stated elsewhere here, I may be reached by email at: leda.alaska@gmail.com.  I’ve thought about adding a contact form to this web site.  However, in our modern world, one doesn’t do this without using a filter to keep out bots.  It seems that asking persons to actually write an email is a good filter.  To date it has been 100% effective, much like my offers of crew space to those who supply labor.   But I know there are others out there who have an interest in keeping these vintage vessels sailing.  I have faith.