Fiberglass trees? Say what?

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You hear a few things in the nooks and crannies of the industry.

“This boat could turn on a dime and give you 9 cents change,” says Mike Wright, a surveyor and delivery captain, reflecting on the loss of his beloved 86-year-old, 56-foot Elco motoryacht, Hermione, destroyed in a marina fire this past winter.

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We all know the old saw: “If God had wanted fiberglass boats, he would have made fiberglass trees.” A high school science student recently swore up and down that plastic is a natural plant-like substance that grows, well, that grows much like trees. I’m not kidding — nor was the student.

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You’re going to have to determine whether this is a marine urban legend. A mechanic friend of mine was taking an outboard certification class when the instructor asked whether everyone knew the difference between clockwise and counterclockwise. Turns out he’d just finished teaching a class where two of 14-some-odd techs didn’t know “lefty loosey” from “righty tighty.” The pair of aspiring wrenches had grown up in the digital world and never learned to tell time on an analog clock.

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Overheard in a coffee shop in Essex, Conn., one rainy morning: “You know what the farmers in New Hampshire say: Cold wet May fills the barn with hay.” It doesn’t, however, fill dealer showrooms with customers (nor did it make it easy to get my brightwork done). Read Reagan Haynes’ report in the July issue of Soundings Trade Only on first-quarter sales and the effect that spring floods, tornadoes and drought had on businesses across the country.

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“It’s the Fibonacci sequence,” sailor Matt Coburn explained to Soundings sailing editor Dieter Loibner in describing the lovely proportions of the classic Six Meter sailboat Margaux, built in 1914. “It’s just right. It’s a kindergartner’s dream when he wants to draw the perfect sailboat.” It was enough to send me to Wiki, where I deduced that the Fibonacci sequence, in conjunction with something called the “golden ratio” (more mathematics), produces proportions considered aesthetically pleasing. I was trying to tell a stinkpotter friend about Fibonacci numbers when he snorted, “Sailing … going sideways at 4 knots … booooring.” Non-believers notwithstanding, what the eye of Bjarne Aas produced nearly a century ago in Margaux is a wonderful, functional piece of nautical furniture.

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Insider comment picked up yesterday: “The industry is very fragile these days.” Bright spots: pontoon boats and small jetboats. More on pontoon popularity in next month’s issue.

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From a June 4 Wall Street Journal report: “You could say we’re the best house in a bad neighborhood,” BlackRock chief equity strategist Bob Doll told the newspaper. “We have fewer problems and more solutions than Europe or Japan.”

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More from the Journal, June 5: “Double-dip concerns are well founded,” says Jack Albin, chief investment officer of Harris Private Bank in Chicago. “The government changed a flat tire in 2008, and now we’re driving around without a spare.” I’ve heard enough double-dip talk for a lifetime, but I liked Albin’s metaphor — it had traction.

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Speaking of metaphors, I close with a favorite from Jack London: “To touch that bow is to rest one’s hand on the cosmic nose of things.”


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