2008-07-10 / Sam Bari

I'll never give up, no, never ever give up - that ship!

You can't beat a system you can't understand
By Sam Bari

The economy, without a doubt, is in the toilet. Not just here, but in most of the civilized world- times are bleak.

I suppose there are a few oil-rich countries in the Middle East that are faring well, and possibly Monte Carlo, and Mallorca are holding their own. But these are the playgrounds of the rich and famous as well as the rich and infamous. Let's face it- that's a fairly recession-proof group they're entertaining over there.

We can't deny that the people running those places had some forethought and marketed their little corners of paradise to the right folks. If the mega-yacht crowd ever goes under, we will all sink with them. As long as they continue to live well, we have a small window of hope.

And those who entertain the fabulously wealthy share in the benefits. The host countries to that elite sector of society deserve well-earned credit for their efforts. They certainly had the right idea when they went into business.

Nonetheless, those people may as well be on another planet. Most of us are destined to endure hard times now and again. But we've been here before. We know how to survive, don't we? Haven't we always bounced back and experienced a few good years? Well . . . maybe not. Maybe we're not the survivalists we think we are.

During these trying periods, have you ever noticed how people attempt to survive the so-called glitch in our tired old economic machine? It's rather interesting.

For instance, a couple of days ago, I was having a conversation with a good friend about the cost of fishing with the exorbitant fuel prices being what they are. Back in the old days, like a couple of years ago, a 100-mile trip offshore to catch a few tuna ran a few hundred bucks. But fun and relaxation out on the water was worth it.

You came back with a cooler full of fish for the family, enjoyed a couple of days with friends in the fresh salt air, and all was well with the world. Not any longer.

Even a small sport fishing boat is going to burn up $500 worth of fuel to take the trip out to tuna territory. If the fishing gods are not on your side and you return with a couple of small ones or less, you'll be paying a lot for those little fish. Look at it this way- the high-end fish markets don't charge $30 a pound for anything.

Now if you decide to add the cost of the boat, the expense of a slip or mooring, maintenance, winter storage, etc., we could be talking very serious dollars. Something in the neighborhood of several hundred dollars a pound for just about any fish would be closer to accurate.

However, did you ever notice that no matter how hard times might be, fishing boat owners and sailors will lose their homes before they will part with their boats? They will send their children out to forage on their own first. It's true. They will never, under any circumstances, ever ever ever give up- that ship.

Do you know why? There's a very simple reason for this seemingly illogical behavior, particularly with sailors. That "ship" represents freedom. If all goes wrong, and a sailboat owner loses everything to the point of being penniless, but still manages to hold on to his boat- he can sail off into the sunset and leave his problems on shore.

After all- air is free. He can catch fish, go to exotic destinations and pick coconuts off of trees on sunbleached beaches. It would be the ultimate adventure. It's the stuff that novelists write about. Sailors sit in their easy chairs all winter long sucking on their pipes as they dream about such things.

I guess it never occurred to any of them that most safe anchorages in warmer climates of the world are lined with things like hotels, resorts, and marinas. They also charge dock fees, mooring fees, and if they are in a foreign country, cruising permits are required. That also has a fee attached to it.

They probably didn't think about things like running out of coffee, and once in a while they should eat a vegetable. Steal a coconut or mango off of some guy's beachfront property and he will more than likely have you arrested. And let's not even consider that eventually something could go wrong with the boat and it will need service, repair, or . . . a new set of sails. No - that would spoil the pipe dream.

Nevertheless, the last thing to go when times are difficult will always be the boat. Owning a boat in a slumping economy is part of that system that we have no hope of ever understanding.

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