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The Mast-Head: A ‘Done List’

Wed, 11/16/2022 - 17:07

Cerberus came out of the water last week, formally ending my sailing season. She or it (I haven’t made up my mind on that) now sits awkwardly in my sister’s yard. The keel’s weight rests on wooden cribbing; five steel boat stands do the balance work.

Tuesday night’s blow sprinkled the deck with pine needles, which will be easy enough to sweep off before the winter cover goes on. Most boats these days are ashore and wrapped in plastic long before November, so I am pleased that I held out so long and was able to get Cerberus out to shake its legs about a week and a half ago.

Aside from the boatyard power washing the bottom, I have done all of the work on my little ship myself since sailing it down from Marblehead, Mass., in October two years ago. This is a satisfaction by itself, even though it means that the tasks are never done. There are would-be sailors who get a hold of a cheap boat with the intention of fixing it up but never go sailing; I am not one of those. All the major parts are there and sound — rigging, sails, engine, head, navigation — that is, safe and functional. Cosmetics, such as varnish on the brightwork, and not-necessary bits, such as rehanging the door to the head, will be tackled as I get to them.

One thing I have learned well as I get to know the boat inside and out is not to be downcast about what remains to be completed and, instead, notice what I have accomplished. I cannot claim credit for thinking of a “done list,” but, beyond my electric sanders and wrenches, it is the most potent tool of all.

The idea of a done list is to avoid starting each day feeling at a deficit, with its inherent risk of self-criticism. Instead, one keeps a tally of tasks finished, whether written somewhere or simply in the mind. There are always things not done, the point is not to be burdened unnecessarily by them.


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