Monday, December 13, 2010

Stewardship, not ownership

Are you planning for your boat to sink?  No?  Then to burn, perhaps?  Not that either, then.  Hmmm.  Then the only alternative remaining really, is to eventually sell her.  To a new owner.

In most cases, boats outlive us, or at least outlive our interest in them.  It is therefore inevitable that at some future time, each of us will be classified as the dreaded Previous Owner.  So whether we consider ourselves as owners, we are caretakers, hopefully stewards, over them for a period of years, but then they will move on to the next owner.   It behooves us to take the stewardship of our boats seriously then.

When I think of "ownership", I get thoughts like:
  • She's mine.  I can do whatever I want to her.
  • Who cares if I use this red wire for the negative?  I'll always remember
  • I'll do it right later; this'll get me by for now.
  • Maintenance log?  Why would I keep one of those?  Just do what needs to be done.
  • Patches are good enough.
But "stewardship" brings to mind thoughts like these:
  • I don't want to be the dreaded Previous Owner - I do want to be  "that great guy who had her before me"
  • I should use the right wire to do this - someone else will eventually be trying to figure out what I did here.
  • Long term thinking instead of short term
  • What will the next owner think of this?
  • Improvements, not patches
I should also point out that eventually, you will become your own Previous Owner.  I am embarrassed to admit that on at least one occasion, I have found myself doubting the Previous Owner's intelligence and breeding, only to find that it was me that had made the change.  Yeah, that's really embarrassing, on several levels.

I believe the key thought above is the one that goes "Improvements, not patches."  Whenever something needs to be fixed, I try to spend some time thinking about why it has failed, and whether a better design or better (more modern?) materials might be called for.  And when appropriate, I try to implement those design or material changes.  This applies to both those things that the Previous Owner did (which goes without saying, of course), but also the factory who built her.  After all, they too were only human, and undoubtedly made decisions based on the twin expediencies of cost and time.

In the boating world, we learn from our failures.  Standards to which boats are built are in large part empirical.  That is, the tried is the true.  But sometimes, in an effort to distinguish themselves, a manufacturer will try something which turns out to be not so "true."  Or we will all decide together that the old way can be improved upon (2 NM navigation lites vs. oil lamps, for example).  The boat owner who is a steward will make his changes and hew to the current standards, rather than just replacing the old.

Done well, and your pride and joy will be something in which you can justifiably take pride, and will be in better condition on the day you sell her than the day you bought her.

Unless you sink her, of course.


Mike said...

I like the way you think, Bob. We aspire to keep our boat in as good condition as the previous owners did!

bob said...

Thanks. And I am sure that you will Mike. Now, go someplace WARM!


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