I don’t know Andy Boat as well as I want to. Boat is one of those people who exudes a quiet sense of confidence that is balanced by a cheerful curiosity about the world. When he asks (with a slightly goofy inflection), “How’s it going?” he really wants to hear the answer. When he says that he’ll throw something together, not only does he do it, but it actually works.
When I met Boat last summer, he was out cruising around the Sound in a row boat he constructed. Wearing a t-shirt, straw hat, and flip-flops, he was the very image of relaxed. He had a cooler by his feet and while I can’t recall whether there was food or a six pack of beer in there, I somehow suspect the latter, since food could of course be found on an island, but beer – who knows?
Months after an extremely informal conversation where he mentioned he could build a boat for me, I asked him if he was serious. Although he is not a professional boat builder, he replied, “of course,” with no uncertainty. During the whole process of building the hull, I kept expecting Andy to call me up with minor crises or delays due to one complication or another. Those never came- in fact, I think I can only recall one time when I heard him say he made a mistake. I don’t think that’s because Andy is perfect; it’s more that he seems to see problems as opportunities, or perhaps just part of the process of getting something done.
Andy is also impressively patient with my endless greenhorn questions about varnish, epoxy, sailing, rigging, you name it. When it finally came time to put the zillions of little screws, cleats, pins, and parts back together, poor Andy Boat was subject to a whole barrage of new inquiries. But he never bristled or brushed me off. He was sincerely interested in seeing the boat, his creation, come fully to life and done right.
One day over at the Shipyard, I tried to assemble the kick-up rudder. Not only does it steer the boat, but it is designed to go up and down so you can land on a beach without dragging it on the bottom. I kept staring at the rudder and the various holes that lines were supposed to go through to operate it. No matter how many different ways I imagined it, I was convinced the design wouldn’t work. I kept bugging Andy about my doubts. He assured me that it would work just fine and even made me a sketch. When I actually set it up, it worked flawlessly: I just had to listen and trust him.
As I’ve put the final pieces of the boat together, I’ve weathered the rough spots by trying to be like Andy: do a good job, put my heart into it, be open to advice, and don’t sweat the little stuff- this is a fun adventure.