We Come From The Haunts Of Coot And Herne
by Mike Connelly

It was one of those moments that come infrequently to this author, a moment of startling realization, deep insight, crystal clarity and enduring understanding. (My wife thinks I could probably benefit from more of such moments...) I was standing in the midst of a lovely patch of manicured lawn, an assortment of small wooden boats around me in every direction, people of all ages and clothing styles ogling the boats, examining the displays of spar varnish, discussing the relative merits of one brand or another of topside paint, bragging about the pot life of the epoxy they prefer, calculating the area of a little spritsail and mizzen, and other such appropriate topics, when, unbidden and unexpected, like a bolt of lightning, it hit me: we are the lunatic fringe.

Now some of you have already figured this out, but for me, well call me slow, but I always thought we were common as dirt, citizens of Mayberry sitting in the sun outside the barber shop, chewing the fat and hoping that Mary Sue would come along and invite us to the malt shop for a milk shake.

It turns out though that we are really the mad mead makers, the crazed yak butter churners, the obsessed rotary engine tweakers, the twitching train spotters, and the wild-eyed angora rabbit wool carders. We are the people that normal people step back from in alarm when they discover our true nature.

Surrounded as I was by like minded sorts, all taking in the sights and sounds of the Wooden Boat Show, I should have felt as secure and serene as a clam in mud, bobbing happily like a duck on a pond, swimming contentedly with other fish like me in waters we called our own...

But for some reason I suddenly realized that in the boating world, we accounted for a microscopic fraction of the whole. Macintosh users are the whacko fringe of the computing world, and they account for what, about 8% of small computers. Can you imagine one boat in 12 on the water being home made, hand made, wooden, small, designed by Bolger or Michalak or Gav? Can you imagine throwing a Mouse boat on the roof rack, driving 20 miles to a pond and heaving it in, and finding two other Mouse boaters you had never met or heard of? In the eight years that I’ve used my Monfort canoe, have I ever even once run into another of his designs on the water? (That would be “no”..)

I realize that we Duckworksers are not all of one type– some prefer paddle or sail, others use motors, and some even admit to an affinity for frozen snot. Yet we are mostly of a family that is but distantly related to the majority of the Boston Whaler gang, the 42 foot LWL tribe, the 425hp crowd. The coastal harbors are filled to capacity with big boats, shiny gleaming fiberglass boats, boats with motors that cost more than a new Toyota Camry. And even the lakes and ponds are home to aluminum and roto-molded canoes and kayaks, made by companies large enough to have regional distributors, local reps, national advertising campaigns.

I’m not suggesting that we are better than the folk who go to a store and take out a bank loan and buy a boat that has more horsepower than a small airplane*. But I remain still, some days after the lightning bolt, surprised at the magnitude of our distance from the mainstream. We may row, paddle, sail and motor the same waters, but we are more among than of the vast majority with whom we share those waters. Perhaps if we were to preach our Gospel louder and harder we could convert more to the cause, divert the masses from their current thoughtless course and get them on a heading to nautical truth and enlightenment. But I suspect that like street corner prophets, ours is a message that would fall unheeded among the unsaved, and dissipate like mist in the morning sun.

Oh well, at least we may count ourselves among the nautically saved. And so let us say,

Michael Connelly raises sons, Volvos and boats in coastal Maine.

* (Okay, I might think it, but I wouldn’t be so rude as to say so..)