Flotsam and Jetsam

As soon as animals stop eating boats, I’ll stop eating animals
Sketch of scaffolding, by Carol L. Douglas

On Monday I wrote about painting despite lack of inspiration. Yesterday I was inspired. It was the first truly lovely day of spring. Bobbi Heath was visiting and we were heading to the North End Shipyard to paint boats. Even though the Willow Bake Shoppe isn’t properly open for the season, I did catch the delivery guy, who gave me two packages of doughnuts for the sailors.

Heritage is up for what you might call the long haul—a week out of the water. She is having her worm shoe replaced. This is a strip of wood that runs along the keel as a sacrificial dinner for shipworms. Shipworms aren’t actually worms, but mollusks. Teredo navalisstarted life in the North Atlantic but has since spread around the world, probably courtesy of sailors. No timber treatment for shipworm damage has been completely successful; the only solution is to periodically replace the submerged wood.
Who knew that a 145′ schooner would have a centerboard? Of course, it’s several times bigger than my car.
Sam Clark works on Heritageduring the fit-out. When I asked him how it was going, he rolled his eyes. He had just wrestled a piece of the keel out. The shipworms had finished off what was on their plate and more.
When a new painter joins me at the shipyard, I like to take him or her on a tour of my favorite vantage points. I asked Captain John Foss if I could paint off the floating dock. “Sure,” he said, “but your angle will change.” That I thought I could compensate for, but I wrenched my back climbing back up. Bobbi, more sensible, set up to paint off the landing, and I went to retrieve my things from the car. That’s when I realized I’d left my field palette at home.
As they say, I’d lost the light.
I’d just returned when Bobbi got a call from Margaret Burdine of Artists Corner & Gallery in West Acton, MA. She was in Camden and wanted to stop and say hello on her way home. We had a lovely chinwag and a lunch of boiled eggs and cake.
By that time, the sun had flipped over to the west side of the boat. I should have known enough to move along with it, but I’d invested time in that sketch, and I was infatuated with the manlift. I foolishly invested the bulk of the afternoon in it. It’s not inaccurate, it’s just not lovely.
Bobbi, meanwhile, had wisely cut her losses early and gone to paint Heritage’s bowsprit from the sun side. I decided to set up nearby and just swirl paint around on a small canvas until she finished. The result, top, was no more than a half-hour of work, but it’s a lot more interesting than my earlier painting was.
Sam Clark fixes what the shipworms hath wrought.
When I left, Sam was cheerfully scarphing a new piece into the keel, Bobbi had a lovely painting, a new crewmember had arrived, and I was happily sunburned. It was less productive than Friday, but far more enjoyable.
I want to introduce you to the real meaning of a phrase we use all the time: “flotsam and jetsam.” Flotsam is the wreckage of a ship or its cargo. Jetsam is cargo that has been jettisoned, or thrown from a ship to lighten its load. 
Sometimes I float like a jellyfish through the currents of life. Sometimes I’m a beachcomber. But in either case, it’s the flotsam and jetsam, not the main chance, which intrigues me.