All looks, No Action

On repurposing the family catboat, Puss.

November 19, 2016
Tell tales
On repurposing the family catboat, Puss. Steve Haefele

As I slogged down our dock with a fresh jug of diesel, I struggled to recall the last time I’d fueled our aging catboat, Puss. She burns less oil annually than a few cars I’ve owned. Good God. Had it been a year? Yup. It was the anniversary of her last cruise upriver to her hurricane-resistant summer home. I jammed a funnel into her feeding tube, and she burped back all but a quart of fuel. Was it time to sell?

I arrived at my pal Capt. Bob’s yard with cumshaw in hand: a bottle of bourbon. We tipped a cup and discussed Puss’ internment. “She’s a smart little vessel,” he observed, savoring her aged spruce mast and traditional lines. “My customers love her. They’re rather traditional.”

While I spare no expense on Puss, the investments have been a pittance compared to the funds Bob has drained from my wallet servicing past rides. “She’s yours for the summer, unless you’d like her a bit longer?” I offered.


“I prefer to enjoy her from a distance,” Bob said.

I shared Puss’ dusty logbook with the Admiral (my wife, Nelia). “The only fuel she’s burned in the last 12 months was consumed on the trip to and from Bob’s yard?” I said to the boss, feigning surprise. “She does have a sail,” the Admiral countered.

“No, dear,” I answered. “I’m afraid we didn’t use that either.”


“Well, she looks beautiful dockside. The neighbors love her,” the Admiral offered in Puss’ defense.

“True, but they’re not paying the support. Maybe it’s time to update our fleet,” I suggested.

“You know you’ll only buy her back!” the Admiral retorted.


She had a point. I had bought Puss’ remains and shipped them from New England to Florida 20 years ago. After investing $20,000 and hundreds of hours of child labor, I’d gotten her to better than new. Six years later, my labor force migrated to college, and in a holiday funk, I sold her to a pharmacist in New England. Six years ago, in a grape-fueled bout of lust, I bought her back and blew another $20,000 on her rehabilitation.

“She’s sure pleasing to the eye. What do you want for her?” my broker pal Tom asked during a phone call soon afterward.

“Hmm, if you’d really like her, perhaps we could … ”


Tom interrupted me with an abrupt capish, (his parents hailed from Italy).

“Well, considering the scope of my investment and the cost of her restorations, I’m thinking she’s worth $60,000, but I’d take $20,000,” I proposed.

There was silence on the line.

“Coyle, this is why we don’t have a sailboat division,” Tom offered politely. “Have you considered donation?”

I was beginning to feel ill.

I tried peddling Puss on other industry pals who had bummed rides aboard her, but I only heard the same. “Ya can’t sell her, Coyle. She looks great behind your place.”

It occurred to me that Puss was not unlike our swimming pool: It looks nice, it consumes cash and we don’t use it much anymore. Ergo my epiphany: Puss serves better as a water feature than a boat.

“No need to sell,” I announced to the Admiral. While I am still noodling the calculations, I think Puss will be spending next season in the swimming pool.


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