Ode to ship restoration

Note to dreamers, hopefuls and romantics. Ode to ship restoration
Vessel name: Hippopotamo
Vessel type: Venetian Vaporetto 1935

A postcard still hangs on to a Portside window with a bit of green insulating tape curling at the corners, weld-dust pock-marked declaring ‘CREATIVITY TAKES COURAGE’. No one seems to notice this hanger-on, this corridor-preacher, but it keeps my inner flame flickering on my toughest days. Boat building and restoring is about patience and devotion. Those who are easily distracted, impatient or wish to impress will stumble and fall too often to feed the dream. Those whose hope and romance for life is foolish, and can regroup in a crisis on the head of a pin, have a chance. I aspire to the latter though I am as vulnerable to the former as anyone.

It has taken me two whole years to realise that preparing a boat as a moving home is one small terrified step towards spiritual fulfilment. This process cannot be pushed, prodded or rushed. It admonishes frivolity and frugality and scolds thoughtlessness and speed. It applauds total humility to the task, and grins beatifically at active integrity. When you slip up or lose sight of what the ship needs, you feel the pain. It is a desperate stretch for clarity and definition at every decision point, just like our journey through life.

It all boils down to the people you surround yourself with.

Trust, support, reliability authenticity and integrity cling to a boat (and a heart) like an extra thick protective layer of two-component love. I recognise bullshit much faster now and can comfortably hold my own in a room of bullish men who foolishly make assumptions. I must mention ma Playfair the strongest woman I know and one riding every tidal wave with me. The ship is hers, the ode is to her spirit. It will be ready in time for adventures maman, I promise. The Boss- he knows who he is, a secret lady and Theo who will probably never read this as he eschews the internet. They are each angels on my shoulder. Funny and irreverent and kind. There are many others, dear people – great friends who are so patient and have given their time for visits, send fortifying words, hours of hard highly skilled work or kindnesses (some so huge I barely know how to thank them), souls that send positive vibrations through the core of the ship and the atmosphere we all share. Kind gestures have wide reaching effects. I have learnt to lean on those special people and hope they will lean on me too. It is a skill to accept help gracefully and I am learning. The prize for Hippo, me, maman and loved ones will be as constant and as long-lived as the required maintenance and rust management. If my gaze wanders from the task, we all pay the price. The responsibility is now inescapable.

A boat is not simply a moving home, it is a symbol of freedom, an engine purr to independence, a Tai Chi gesture of peace and balance, repetition and fluidity, a cheeky eyebrow lift at The Establishment, a nod of ackowledgement to the ingenuity and pace of the past. We need symbols, memory, things to respect. We need faith and we need rebellion too. And we need to share their power. It is not escapism, it is connectivity. I can’t wait to share this beautiful old girl with those who need her healing.

As the ad campaign remind us as we leave the aeroplane: ‘The best journeys are not measured in miles’. That is such a deep statement that it stops me in my tracks every time. Every single time. There will eventually be gallons of gin on-board. I believe they call it ballast.