Tuesday 12 April 2011

The Community of The Process

     "How do we spend our lives, if there's no one to lend us a hand?"
                                                                       -Alan Parsons Project

    nerd (noun)A person who gains pleasure from amassing large quantities of knowledge about subjects often too detailed or complicated for most other people to be bothered with. 
                                                                                                           -Urban Dictionary Definition

 I confess that I am an unrepentant, incorrigible boat nerd.  Being a boat nerd has had a (not entirely undesirable) impact on my social interactions.  Here's what I mean:

     At lubber gatherings, especially those that are work related, while I am trying to cadge some free food  and cheap booze from the picked over refreshment table, some chatty soul will cruise up and say "I hear you're quite the boater.  I am thinking about buying a boat.  What should I get?"  

     Nine minutes later I see my assailant's eyes glaze over, and I haven't even gotten to why he/she should avoid a saildrive or an OMC outdrive.  I usually get a watch glance and a mumbled departure excuse before a quarter hour has passed.  This chatty soul will tell everyone he/she can buttonhook how I won't shut up, and I get left alone for the rest of the event, able to drink my Coors Light (*grimace*) and nibble dry chicken wings in peace.

      What, you may ask, is the difference between a boater and a boat nerd?

     Boaters utilize their boats as tools, or toys.  Cast off, play with it, or use it to get to where the fish are, then return. A boater's boat has all of the required equipment in good repair, and always takes care of regular maintenance. Haul it, wash it and cover it in the fall,  bottom paint it and splash it in the spring.

     There's nothing wrong with that.

     Boat nerds enjoy the process.  Understanding how things work, the science of  propulsion and hull design, fixing and puttering and changing and adding and modifying equipment.

    In short, a boater will buy a $15 000 boat and sell it a decade later for $12 000.  A boat nerd will buy a $5000 boat and invest $10 000 (before we stop counting)  in a boat that will then be worth $7500.

    In the days before the interweb,  boat nerds were often on their own.  You've seen us, perusing book stores and libraries on a solitary quest for works we hadn't already read, wandering yards and docks with camera and notebook in hand admiring the sheer of this hull or the bow thruster design of that boat, noting how somebody has built a dodger and shaking their heads at a boat sitting low on her lines because the cockpit drains are blocked.  Problems got solved and plans got built, but there was a lot of waiting and head scratching.   The off-season meant solo hibernation in a workshop or garage, cleaning and varnishing and building and rebuilding and cursing and drinking.  Once the boat is in the water, we are positively THRILLED if somebody notices the projects that we sweated over all winter.

    Today, the tribe of boat nerds has formed communities, thanks to the WWW.   Boating bulletin boards and forums are spiritual homes for boat nerds, our virtual local pub.  Post a question on a forum and in minutes you will have input from around the world.  Need guidance on an unfamiliar task?  Somebody has probably been there, done that, and posted a pictorial on his website that he/she will be happy to show you.  Need somebody to ooh and ahh over the hatchboards you just varnished?  Post pictures. Input is available 245/7/365.


     Plus this:

    Equals this:


     And the web gives us a place to argue.

     Ohhhh, do we argue.
     Topics that would be met with dead silence and bovine stares at dirt shindigs will generate hundreds of responses and tens of thousands of  page views on boat forums.  If nothing else, it is often entertaining, and it sure as hell beats shoveling snow.

     The network of boat nerds linked by the web has also created a pool of  callused hands willing to help on a big project.  Need a boat moved,  a finished hull turned, another pair of hands to help rebed deck hardware?  Send up a signal and it's not unusual for help to travel hundreds of miles (and/or kilometers), especially if you offer free food and booze.

     Another really cool outcome is that more boaters have become boat nerds-thanks to almost -instant, fingertip- accessible information more skippers have become hands-on.  Varnishing leads to adding a shelf or a fiddle in the cabin, next thing you know somebody is recoring a deck or painting the topsides.  More on that later.

    Thanks for taking the time to check us out.  Feel free to "Talk the Dock"!  Link us, follow us, or just tell your friends.


1 comment:

  1. The thing with boat nerds is that they are damn handy to know. I don't need the internet, boating equipment catalogues, even the odd hardware dodad that holds the ramisflagen to the misencurd. The boat nerd either has it or can get it or knows someone who either has it or can get it or his cousin who knows someone.............
    Like serial killers, boat nerds are almost always male. They think cargo shorts are fashionable and their knowledge can usually can be accessed with Pussers universal lubricant or a well placed shrimp or barbque rib. They bring joy and dimension to the whole boating experience. A little wierd and obsessive, but usually affable, and totally at home on dock 6.
    God bless the boat nerd and all that sail on/with him.