A few years ago, when my son was barely able to steer without help on his sailing camp’s Mercury sailboat, he was handed down a pretty beat up Optimist dinghy. It was better than Christmas when we went to drag the boat out of a leaf pile, under the tree of a very lovely fellow Yacht Club family. The mom made some funny comments about the boat repair work her son had attempted on the boat years ago and wished us *luck* with the latest member of our fleet. And just like that an obsession was born. My now ten year old son, Oliver had his OWN boat to work on. He had big plans for repairing the ignored dents and a new paint job and oh my gosh – what would he name it? The ideas and dreams were circling inside his head and such is the story of yet another man (to-be) with big boat ideas and little practical knowledge.
Oliver’s dad is a super handy boat guy. He is regularly repairing bits and pieces of one of the various members of our fleet. And when he saw the Opti roll in on the car top – his dreams for other projects on his to-do lists went AWOL and he went pale…He now had another vessel to maintain and repair and some teaching to go along with it.
Enter Mom with her new job at boat repair heaven. Fiberglass, paints, epoxies, fancy Festool vacuums and sanders, power tools galore and a fat, well appointed shop to get it all going: My kids (husband included) eyes lit up. Jamestown Distributors has now trumped any candy store we have ever met. And we love candy.
The JD TotalBoat shop – as I’ve explained – is a testing ground for all the TotalBoat products. And man – have we tested and tried some products out. Fiberglass and epoxy lessons were first up as Oliver repaired some of the existing dings and dents. This first job was a back yard operation, which rarely goes as well as when the boat is enveloped in the luxury of the TotalBoat Shop. Then, plenty of sanding, LOTS of new parts purchased for the *free* boat and then some more sanding. And finally (we thought) came a half baked paint job in WetEdgeSeaFoam Green Topside paint. (we were giving JD money long before I started working here). The green made my eyes hurt but Oliver thought it was the best. It was his ship and he is the captain and commander of his own color scheme. (Remember this….) All this work to get her up and running – But still, no name was rising to the top of the list of possible [horrible] names.
Then came Opti season 1 last summer. The boat fared well – until the final day. The cute, often bumpered (but not this time ) front corner of another Opti punched a hole right next to the very spot that Captain Oliver had worked so hard to repair. No biggie. The season was over and as luck would have it – we waited to repair and the TotalBoat Shop (and TotalBoat Show!) entered our lives in time to repair the beast for this season: Opti Green Fleet.
This meant little boys with dad (younger bro assisting to be certain of the fate of the boat when Oliver is done) got to spend plenty of time in the TotalBoat Shop. And as the repair went on – the process was refined. There was less instruction and more observation and hands-off guidance. There were more tools and opinions (always – right?) and just days before Opti camp started, the mighty Opti was ready to again be painted.
NOW came the hardest part of all: choosing paint color. The SeaFoam Green was so last year. But Oliver witnessed the Whaler video we made in the shop and fell in love with Boston Whaler Blue WetEdge paint. For his Opti? The hallmark turquoise color of Boston Whaler interiors that the TotalBoat team worked so hard to nail (many variations of the color – only ONE that was 100% right) was now destined to be the exterior of an Optimist?? Really? Not my boat. Not my project. STAY OUT OF IT, MOM was a message my questioning was delivered loud and clear.
And so, it was painted. Whaler Blue Opti – still nameless (it seemed so important at the time to him to name that boat?) was about to hit the water in the nick of time – complete with spanking white rails (all the better to hike out on) and a coat of Fire Red “bottom” paint. (paint on the bottom… not the antifouling, ablative type…) WAIT – What? YES! He wanted to paint the bottom of the boat in Fire Red WetEdge paint and then add some dashes of the old favorite, Sea Foam Green as speed stripes on the topsides. (Mom’s eyes rolling in head), It was becoming a veritable rainbow of TotalBoat WetEdge paint colors…. Not my boat. As long as he’s happy….. but those layers of glass and paint aren’t making this old beater boat any lighter, and son, that means no faster either…. Speed stripes or not.
And that brings us to today. Opti Regatta numero UNO. Big Deal! Around here it has been blowing a consistent 15 knots and more daily for his Opti classes. And Oliver’s boat has been flying! It’s probably those speed stripes. He was reporting his practice finishes nightly with pride – leaving out that he was practice racing against a fleet of… 8 maybe 10 boats. So I had parental concern for his potential disappointment at Regatta #1 with a very windless forecast. All I want for him is to have fun and love what he’s out there doing – and to appreciate the effort, money, time and hard work that goes into boat ownership…. and not be concerned with winning or a top finish. Silly me.
So as I helped him rig still nameless Opti amidst a sea of white boats with very fast looking bottoms and extra doohickies and super crispy sails, I was more than a bit worried. Not for his ranking or score, but for his mojo and his enthusiasm. But as I looked around I questioned how many of these kids actually understood what boat ownership was about. They all looked like spoiled little Opti groms to me (with apologies to the spoiled Opti Groms). Few had ever touched sandpaper, much less fiberglassed and epoxied their boats on their own. And then I wondered how I would ever pick out my kid from the park where I planned to spy on him during my lunch break. And then that Whaler Blue paint jumped out at me. NO OTHER boat had red bottom paint and there definitely was no other Whaler Blue Opti. They were ALL WHITE. I was golden! I could see him from about 4 miles away! (barely – but I saw streaking blue!) I was so excited I was ready to sharpie a name on that transom in celebration of his brilliant paint job: Paint Chip. How fitting for an 8′ boat with about 8 pounds and 8 colors of WetEdge paint on her? I loved my idea…but alas, I was without a sharpie and out of time before the skippers meeting.
And although I had that sinking feeling about the heaviest boat in the fleet – I felt proud for my brilliant son’s boat ownership efforts! He chose the perfect paint for a standout boat (as long as you’re not over early) and the name for his boat made me grin even if he didn’t get or appreciate my naming. And wouldn’t you know that the mighty Paint Chip took on the 48 boat fleet in 5 knots of wind and finished 8th!!!
So when your kid asks to help with the boat work, and is dying to don a respirator and nitrile gloves and get dirty and painted up – don’t fret. Embrace the messy, possibly ill-fated repair jobs on their own collisions and battles and grab the teachable moment for the lessons in boat ownership and repair. And when they select the craziest name or color for their spirited vessel, be assured that they will fly through the fleet with a minimum return of major satisfaction and pride for their handiwork. And apparently that Whaler Blue paint really can make you fly…. GO PAINT CHIP!