by Guest Columnist
David J Robertson editor@woodenboat.net.nz  


Not the kind that sees you dragged away from the pet project for a few hours in the middle of a weekend but something closer to our hearts. At the risk of being called irreverent, I am directing your mind to the thing the people of my land call Œwairuaš, the spirituality of things and deeds. I want you to think about this question. Do wooden boats have a natural bond with mankind?

If walking along the road you come across a piece of a wood. Might be a crate or part of a house. You might run the eyeball over it prior to spiriting it off to your wood stack but that is all. 

Walk along a beach or around a rocky foreshore and find a piece of a wooden boat. I would bet that no matter how small it is you will be wondering who built it, how far has it come and its life story.

I walk daily for an hour along the beach front not far from here. The Keeper of the Yard needs her daily exercise and swim after sticks and I need to clear my head. Most days just a few miles out to sea the Americašs Cup yachts are practicing. Even though I know many on board the yachts they do not register as boats nor do I feel anything for them. They are just composite machines that will soon be discarded in favour of yet another theory about going fast.

I appreciate aluminum workboats and I actually have a great fondness for the metal itself and can easily dwell an hour or two in the extrusion racks at the local outlet, but there is no wairua.

I have fitted out a few fibreglass hulls of my own and built them for a living but I never sat around thinking about them once they were sold. Steel. Now therešs a conundrum! I have worked under steam, diesel and sail, even square riggers and they had no wairua at the time. There is no doubt they do have life when the engines start to run and the water is moving on the hull but no wairua except when they are very old and due for the breakers yard or to be laid up. Itšs almost as if time dulls the sharp corners and mellows their steel. You see them sitting quietly rusting away and can almost sense the resignation their work for man is done and they patiently await their inevitable fate. Išve watched my old ships being towed away and they never fail to tug at my heart strings.

Did the ferry trip from Seattle to Victoria back in 1989 and that old ship had wairua.

But if its made out of wood it's love at first sight. Išm totally convinced and I only wish I could get the boats around here to shut up for a while so I can get some work done. Even the new ones, all they can do is gab gab gab.

Want more proof? The greatest cure for sea sickness is go stand under a tree. Itšs wood that does it!

Dave Robertson


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