I've been reading off and on Small Craft Advisory by Louis D. Rubin, Jr. It is the tale of his quest for his perfect wooden boat. It's a great read and I highly recommend it. He has some excellent points on the difference between those that own a powerboat and those that own a sail boat. If you want to really get the full meaning of this, buy the book, but as he boils it down, "Sailing is not merely a kind of boating; it is a stance, a face with which to meet the world, an attitude toward life. You operate a powerboat, you are a sailor. The sailboat aficionado thinks, reads, dreams about sailing" This has really struck me as I've thought about my future boats. In my other life I'm a traction engineer, I play with boilers that move, and that could be said about those of us lucky enough to follow that endeavor. But where I can't dream about building my own traction engine (The 210 Maxwell-Seitz notwithstanding) I can dream and am going to build my own boat. How empowering is that?
    Near the end Louis talks about the symbolic gesture. Letting the imagination help take the place of reality and do what you can to make that reality come true. Think of gardeners ordering seed catalogs in December. It is the imagination that will keep you moving if reality is stubbornly refusing to release it's grip on your dreams. For me, again in my other life, it's wandering down to where our steam tractor is stored and looking it over, inspecting things, gazing and standing by it. Maybe taking pictures. It helps ease the longing for when it runs again and I and those I work with are once again in control of the mammoth, hissing beast.
Today I've done a few symbolic gestures towards my goal of building my own boat. I've printed the plans for the Harley 8. All 84 pages of them and had Kinko's bind them for me. Now I have the plans wherever I go if I so desire. In my head I'm thinking "If I wanted to, I could build the boat right now!" It makes the boat, and the dream, a little more concrete a little more real.
    I've put in a request for information with the Coast Guard Axillary. This is the volunteer arm of the USCG responsible for boater safety checks, safety classes, inspections and the like. I figure if I'm going to do this why not fulfill a little bit of my boyhood dream of joining a sea service? Not only that, what better group to affiliate myself with as I go through this process?
    I've also looked into getting my boater education card. Again if I'm going to be a boater I might as well go all the way. As with steam traction, I don't just want to be a one trick sailor. I want to be a sailor, period. That means cover as many bases as you can and do it right the first time.
    And lastly I went and looked at plywood for my boat. I've now seen what she'll be made of. And it will be the most famous wood for building boats. The S/V Dauntless will be made mainly of oak 1/4 of an inch thick. That is of course nothing compared to the 21 Inches (54cm) of the USS Constitution AKA "Old Ironsides". I doubt cannonballs or even musket balls will bounce of my hull, but today I touched the material that will make up my microsloop.
    So who cares if it's currently below freezing, the lakes and rivers I hope to sail on are frozen over and I haven't even bought a sheet of plywood yet? I've taken some small steps that bring my dream of owning my own boat a few steps closer and that is how it's done. A few steps at a time.