Over the weekend, we put our Hunt Harrier day cruiser back together. The shrink wrap came off a week or so ago, and the detailing crew did their usual great job washing, waxing and making Blue Angel look her best.

Right before Memorial Day, I put back the cushions, bimini top, life jackets, and the other parts of the boat that are best stored off the boat during the winter. It is my spring ritual.

This year is different. I chose to get some help and not do it all myself. I got a friend to help move some boats around, and I enlisted my wife’s help to put back the cushions and stuff and to help me with putting on the bimini. In years past, I did this alone, and one of the stainless bimini supports would always swing back and hits me in the head as I fumble with the cover. No worries, it is all part of spring commissioning.

This year I admit I no longer feel the athletic solo sailor who can conquer it all myself. The aches in shoulders and arms are gentle reminders that I am now a senior who spent the last year in a bubble. Okay, maybe this now gets me a discount at the movies, or slight price cut at the supermarket on Tuesdays, and wine on Wednesday. Overall, I feel the same as ever. But I know things are different.

Seen below: "BLUE ANGEL"

hunt harrier boat

And that is not a problem, if I embrace reality. Things change and that is life. I first noticed this after we returned from a charter in the British Virgin Islands a couple of years ago and realized for the first time that I appreciated the value of an ice machine more than a boat’s self-steering vane.

I always thought the life mantra was that one must keep going to stay young. Silly me. We must keep going to keep going, nothing more than that. It is not about staying young. And as age comes upon us, we must approach things from a new angle, and use our imagination and experience to think of better ways to accomplish something other than using sheer brute strength. Those handy canvas snap tools make light work of reinstalling a boat cover, as fingers just do not have the strength to overpower material that has shrunk with age. Funny how things seem to get old suddenly. This year my boat cover is in really bad shape, and I can’t imagine how the detailing crew reattached it, including fasteners that really don’t line up any more.

I helped stage a couple of Jeanneau sailboats for an open house this past weekend at our Crusader Yacht Sales operation at Port Annapolis. Handing over bags of pillows, towels, and pieces of art I intended to come aboard to help arrange these accessories to bring a splash of color and elegance into otherwise plain new boat interiors.

Seen below: The finger pier docks at Port Annapolis Marina.

port annapolis marina docks

Standing on the finger pier I attempted to step over the lifelines to board a Jeanneau 410, only to find the top lifeline was too high off the deck to comfortably step over. The design of the new Jeanneau boats includes a sloping side deck into the cockpit, and the height of the lifeline is quite a bit higher at the stern at cockpit level compared to the side deck. Unfortunately, while these production boats do come with lifeline gates to step through, they are located amidships, far beyond the reach of the finger piers at Port Annapolis.

I realized a younger me would not have even noticed and hopped aboard without a second thought. In my current configuration, however, I did not attempt such a gymnastic maneuver, fearing a gigantic wedgie would surely spoil my day.

So, I handed over the bags of accessories and walked the docks instead. I can only assume someone would need to remove the lifelines for the open house. While that would make boarding easier, it would also be less secure with nothing to hold onto.

Perhaps you have noticed this too, approaching boating from a slightly different perspective. Rather than leaping around like some muscled monkey working the foredeck of a racing sailboat, I now look for hand holds and safe places to step with a degree of confidence.

I know that I must adapt to continue boating and that is okay with me. I watch others climb into cockpit lockers to reach steering cables and other controls and wonder how I might fit into those spaces if needed. Access is a big thing for me, always has been, and it irritates me that so many cruising boats have terrible access to critical areas. Being on a boat is supposed to be fun but watching a recent video of an owner who taped a mirror to his outstretched hand with duct tape to see the back side of his engine to change a raw water impeller is the height of absurdity. It should be easy to accomplish such routine tasks. Too many builders are out of touch when it comes to owner maintenance access.

The solution one might conclude is to give up and find a more sedentary activity, but that would be wrong. The healthier attitude is to adapt, improvise, and find ways to do things that work for us now. Using Channel Locks to pull canvas tight, that Top-Snapper canvas snap tool, and more ergonomic hand tools to work on machinery, pumps, and hoses. It is all about mellowing the work into more manageable forms and eliminating tasks that require sheer muscle in tight spaces with resulting scrapes, bruises, and cuts. We are too old to always be bruised and black and blue.

Seen below: The Top-Snapper canvas snap tool.

top snapper boat tool

When I board a boat now, I am much more aware. I am told it is normal to feel ever-so-slightly off balance as we age. So, I take things slower, and move about with more forethought. I am totally fine with that.

Even the style of boat we own has to do with how easy and comfortable it is. I recall a wonderful trip around Michigan where we toured the coastal areas. We stopped for lunch at the cute little town of Leland, an historic fishing village on the Leelanau Peninsula between Lake Michigan and Lake Leelanau. We also walked the docks of the marina. It is a cool place and a popular local cruising destination.

Seen below: Fishtown is a very unique place to stop by boat, located on the Leelanau Peninsula.


While others were shopping, my friend and I watched an older couple come in on their gorgeous Eastbay 49. We helped them tie up, and then the woman stepped ashore with her small dog to stretch their legs. I complimented her on the beautiful condition of their boat. She said their previous boat was a Grand Banks 49, but they now preferred the Eastbay because they think a “ranch style” boat is a better choice for their age. I always got a kick out of this down-to-earth Midwest explanation of cruising layouts. They no longer want to climb up and down steps and ladders.

In the scheme of life, all of this is quite marvelous. Many years of boating have given me a rich patina of experience, and I am comfortable that I no longer need to prove myself by climbing a mast to change a lightbulb, or haul aboard an anchor covered in sea grass. My tools, my foul weather gear, everything I own seems to have aged, some better than others. So, when a 30-year-old power tool finally dies I don’t stress over it. It got old, just like me. It broke, as I surely will someday.

But until then I will enlist the assistance of others, or engage younger talent, to get things done on the boat. No matter if it is varnishing the cap rail on hands and knees or changing the leaking exhaust manifolds of Blue Angel’s big engine. It is now my choice to decide when to do something or have it done by someone else. I have earned the right to sit back occasionally and just watch.

I think I have just described the big picture of getting older and choosing to age with a certain style. And enjoying it all as much as I did when it was just me against the world.

A funny thing happened a couple of days ago. One of my joys is an older Porsche 911S, manual shift and all. In the days of everything electronic and Internet of Things, it feels wonderful to drive something mechanical that is not plug-and-play or fly-by-wire. It has a radio, but I never turn it on. The engine sound is music enough.

Last Friday we drove into town for an early dinner with friends, and we took the 911. My wife rarely goes anywhere with me in this car, and on the way home she asked what that squeaking sound was. I had no idea, as there are certain frequencies I apparently no longer hear.

I still get those bumps and bruises, of course, and they remind me that it is a boat, after all. You want to be unblemished all the time? Find something else to do. Go wack some golf balls.

I’ll be on a boat.


Enjoy these other boating and cruising articles by Bill Parlatore: