To the Editor:
My concern was not so much about the accuracy of the short article regarding my boat, Mass Transit 105, but how what was said was so out of context with regard to storm damage, to which you had devoted most of your paper, i.e., nine pictures on the front cover, entire centerfold (25 pictures), other articles, editorial, etc., all of which was that much more appropriately sensitive to other proud boat owners’ concerns, Island vulnerability to these storms, and the very reassuring need for and importance of community support when a storm of this nature hits.
Now, compare that to some of the impertinent side comments made in the article (same issue) referring to and singling out my boat (one of five broken loose from their respective moorings), made out of trash and secondhand parts by some tightwad fool who thinks he can build a $500,000 mast for $8,000! (An assertion, by the way, that was not only taken out of context but was factually wrong.) But what does any of that have to do with related storm damage other than to demean one particular owner? According to many of your readers (friends of mine who have called me), this reflects badly on both of us. It was intentionally hurtful and insensitive. If your paper cares to get into the construction of the boat, would it be unfair to mention that it was designed and built in full compliance with the most stringent ABS and USCG rules and regulations governing same? That her well-known and prestigious designer, Alan Gurney, considered her much stronger than necessary, and in his words, “bulletproof”? That the mast was designed by one of the leading engineer gurus of the America’s Cup races? Then again, what does any of this this have to do with a severe storm that impacted the entire coast … and what cares the sea how strong my boat or another boat is that has come loose? Do you think the sea would be impressed? As the leading ABS onsite supervisor assigned to my hull during construction once explained, “No ship designed to float can be built strong enough to survive a worst-case scenario of any and all groundings. It would be physically impossible. There is no material strong enough. It’s the same God-driven fate that puts a vessel into danger that can predict the outcome of its survival.”
I don’t expect everyone to love my boat as much as I do, just as I don’t admire every boat I run across, just as I don’t respect every editorial I read or news commentary I hear. But I do expect, at the least, with fairness and support from a community paper where I live, on an Island, my right to choose and build the kind of boat that I want, with the best natural geographic protection and ground tackle I can provide, not the boat that somebody else wants me to have with limitations on how best to secure it. After all, isn’t it that kind of freedom (we are told) we are fighting for; what our country, since birth, is supposed to be all about? What this surprisingly powerful storm taught me (once again) was the message I’m sure every boat owner (and everyone living on the New England coast) already knows: When it comes to weather, prepare for the worst, err on the side of conservative, and hope for the best. Those caught laughing at me, no thanks to your article, may not be so lucky themselves in the next blow. Of course experience helps. I’ve been doing this all my life. But in all cases, when dealing with Mother Nature, it doesn’t matter how experienced. Learning is a forever process. And that’s something every experienced mariner knows, respects, and lives with. It’s called humility.
Speaking of support when needed most, I would like to take this opportunity to mention how I am forever grateful to my good friend, Ralph Packer, without whose mariner support, knowledge, and keen understanding of community I would never have gotten this far. Without him I would have been gone a long time ago. So you can blame Ralph, a true inspiration and hero in my book, that I’m still here trying, as best I can. His understanding of my passion has been humbling, to say the least. His own work ethic leaves me truly amazed, that in steady devotion comes so much more reward. Whenever I feel overcome by my own project and in the least bit sorry for myself, I think of Ralph and try to emulate his calm. This storm was not the first time Ralph was there to help me (and so many others) out of a most serious situation. His crew, Paul Bangs, Randy Jardin, and Jeff Simmons, are much devoted and among the finest in the trade. Also indispensable and high on my list of those to whom I owe an enormous debt of gratitude over the years (not just for this storm) would be Steve Ewing of Edgartown, who so generously allows me use of his winter mooring, and on more than one occasion has helped me out with manpower (in this instance, Josh Kresel and Phil Reynolds), pumps, tools, or whatever was needed and might be needed for what seemed at the time insurmountable odds against success. That takes empathy and a special kind of understanding amongst mariners who have been there themselves. Of course, my gratitude extends to harbormaster Charlie Blair and his assistant Mike Hathaway, who at crunch time, when the marbles count, have never let me down. What more could one ask but perhaps a little more understanding from a local newspaper claiming to acknowledge the importance of community?
Nick van Nes