Re-post: A Boat is a Hole in the Water

A tale of unsinkable integrity

“Dear friend, if you’ve gone into hock with your neighbor or locked yourself into a deal with a stranger,

If you’ve impulsively promised the shirt off your back and now find yourself shivering out in the cold,

Friend, don’t waste a minute, get yourself out of that mess.

You’re in that man’s clutches!”
-Proverbs 6: 1- 5 (MSG)

Here’s a real-life parable:

When I was twelve, one of my father’s colleagues was trying to sell his boat and he asked Dad to help him find a buyer.  Being the sales pro that he is, Dad found an interested prospect in an acquaintance he met through my brother’s Pop Warner football team.

With the seller’s permission, Dad arranged to tow the boat down to the ocean — over three hours away — to use the boat for the weekend and to allow the prospective buyer to take it for a test drive. That was the plan, anyway. Our family did get to take a brief boat ride that first evening,  After that, we hardly saw the boat all weekend.

Outboard, motorboat, drydock, marina

“A boat is a hole in the water into which one pours money.” – ancient proverb

I say we hardly saw it, because toward the end of our stay, the prospective buyer told my dad there was something wrong with the boat.  We drove down to the dock to find the borrowed boat filled with water.  The prospective buyer had tied the boat to the dock at low tide and didn’t leave any slack.  As the tide came in, the moorings held the boat fast, preventing it from adjusting to the rising water level.
The prospective buyer left dad to clean up — and pay for — the mess he ( the buyer) had made. It seemed he couldn’t get out of town fast enough.
In contrast, Dad was a stand-up guy. While we collected the life jackets and other escaped items, Dad got the boat out of the water and onto its trailer. The outboard motor was the not going to crank after becoming sunken treasure, so Dad asked around and found a local marina with an excellent reputation.  The proprietor, named Monk, was more like a saint, working a minor miracle in reviving the ruined boat.  He dried out the engine and got it running. He rehabilitated the soggy interior — he said sunlight was the best thing for it — and put a shine on the fiberglass hull and the chrome fittings.   Despite having just seen how much trouble a boat could be, I almost wished we could buy that boat.  Notice I said, “almost.”
Of course dad paid the bill with no help from the guilty dog and towed it home to explain the whole episode to the owner.
I learned several valuable lessons that weekend:
  • Leave some slack – When tying a boat to the dock, leave some slack to account for the tide.  But in every other circumstance, leave yourself some margin.  Things can go wrong.  Don’t make life harder for yourself
  • Don’t assume – In any endeavor involving another sentient being, discuss your expectations in advance.  You can avoid a great deal of unhappiness by getting your respective expectations into the open.
  • Leave it better than you found it – If you borrow it, take care of it and return it.  If you lose it, replace it.  If you break it, get it fixed.  Monk and my dad turned a catastrophe around for the owner of the boat, who was grateful.
  • Excellence is miraculous – When a man excels in his work, hopelessness disappears.  Although I never saw him again, it’s a joy to think about Monk and his work ethic all these years later.
  • Honor is paramount – It’s always time to do the right thing. You don’t know who may be watching, or the impression you’ll make.
  • Plan what you’re willing to give in advance – I believing in generosity and I teach and practice tithing as the Biblical minimum.  Outside of that sphere, I’m not towing the metaphorical boat to the shore unless I get to use it. Only a handful of people have a legitimate claim to my time. Everything else is up for evaluation. A man should recognize the value of his time and figure out how much of it he’s willing to spend on activities, causes and people that don’t bear fruit.

There’s an old saying that the two happiest days in a boat owner’s life are the day he buys a boat — and the day he sells it.  I got to see those played out over the course of a long weekend.  I’ve enjoyed boating since, but have not had the desire to own a boat.  I wonder why…

So how about you? What lessons did you learn from a debacle – boating or otherwise? Add your comments below.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic. Bring your best manners, please.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *