Ten thousand hours

I had a chilling phone conversation with my friend, John, last week. He’s been following my adventures in the boatyard, and he was puzzled by something. He phrased his question using an example he knows a lot about: Rally racing.

According to John, in the world of rallies, there are people who drive race cars (in his case, navigate), and there are people who work on race cars.

So he wants to know, am I just someone who works on boats, instead of sailing on them? Because in the years he’s known me, all I seem to do is work on boats.

I was flabbergasted. You know that story about the emperor with no clothes? That’s how I felt. “No, no,” I protested, “I’m not one of those people, like Oscar, who just work on boats forever.”

Oscar is the fellow here in the boatyard who has been working on his boat for 14 years with no sign of progress.

Still, I started to wonder, how does my working-on-boats time compare to my sailing-on-boats time?

Since I met John in 2002, I have worked on boats for 44 weeks and sailed on them for 25 weeks. Barry’s numbers are even worse — he’s worked for 48 weeks and only sailed for 23 weeks.

This brings to mind another phone conversation, this time with Lee. I was talking about my steep learning curve in fiberglass layups, portlight replacement, hatch installation, painting with 2-part paints, and all the other things I’m trying to learn this week. He pointed out that there’s conventional wisdom saying that a person needs to do something for 10,000 hours before they master it.

If I’m working toward 10,000 hours of boat repairs, I’ve got a long way to go.

Meanwhile, Lee points out that I already have my 10,000 hours in things like writing and graphic design. I would add marketing, editing, web design, content management, business analysis, cooking…

Which explains why it’s so much easier to sit down and write this than it is to fit a new hatch.

I also already have my 10,000 hours in one other area: Sailing. To answer John’s question, I’ll get back to that one of these days — after I learn how to fix boats.

3 thoughts on “Ten thousand hours

  1. So is sailing the curse of the drinking class or drinking the curse of the sailing class or is sailing a subset of the working class?


    Be well.

    Dave Z.

  2. No, there isn’t anything particularly dishonorable about spending more time working on boats than sailing boats. In fact, our plan is to become cruising sailors, and even then, not spend too much time actually sailing.

    Right now, our ratio is about 2:1 working:sailing. I expect that many cruising sailors have a similar ratio. But the more important point ratio is a different one–I often said that I expected when cruising to spend 1~2 months per year sailing and 10~11 months per year hanging on the hook or tied up at dockside hanging out, meeting people, drinking, exploring new places and otherwise having fun.

    So what I’m aspiring to is not a 10:1 sailing:working ratio….but something more like a 2:1:10 or 1:1:10 sailing:working:drinking ratio!

  3. I certainly understand the concept, but I have a question: Is there anything dishonorable about becoming a boat-builder as well as a sailor? My own analogy here is cycling. I prefer to ride, but, given the state of my finances, I have to earn my ride by doing my own work.

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