Taming the Green-Eyed Monster

Boat envy is real. The thing is, it can also be entirely surprising.

yacht and sunfish
I think the best sailors out there on the fanciest yachts are chasing the same kind of joy that a kid can find on a Sunfish. David Blake Fischer

My dock mate has a Beneteau 235. So, naturally, I’m jealous.

Ash’s boat is just 23 feet overall—a foot shorter than mine—but has an honest-to-God cruising interior. The table converts to a bed. The head transforms to a nav station. Looking around, I saw cubbies and shelves and a small galley. If I tilted my head, I could almost stand.

So, yeah, I’m pouty, ’cause I’m over here on my Cape Dory 25, contorting on a settee with no seatback, using an empty shoe to hold my beer. I’m not tall, but in this little cabin, I feel colossal. Add my wife and our two kiddos, and now we’re playing Tetris with our bodies. “Whose leg is this?” I ask in the darkness when we “sleep” aboard.

“Mine,” all three say in unison.

But Ash’s little Beneteau is the least of my problems. Because out here in Marina del Rey, California, there are Hinckleys and Shannons, Swans and Oysters. On a typical day, we pass Foggy, Frank Gehry’s 74-foot daysailer, and a superyacht named Invictus. “Dad, I know we love Delilah, but we gotta get one of those,” my 8-year-old said the first time he saw it.

“What do they have that we don’t have?” I asked.

Ezra scanned the yacht’s six decks. “A hot tub?”

Ezra and I out on a father-and-son sail aboard Delilah. David Blake Fischer

Our Delilah is 24 feet overall and just 18 feet on the waterline. Inside, we have less than 5 feet of headroom. When friends come aboard, the tour begins and ends in the same spot. “Very cool,” they say, stopping in the companionway, opting not to hunch and dive deeper inside the cave. “Really, super-cute interior!”

Maybe I should’ve bought a bigger boat. Maybe our little family needs more cabin space, a nice U-shaped dinette or, you know, creature comforts. Problem is: While one part of me can picture myself on a 40-footer, relaxing in a spacious salon and drinking from a hollowed-out coconut, the other part of me knows that my preoccupation with amenities, my qualms about Delilah’s interior, and boat envy itself are all just distractions.

See, I have a theory. I’m just a noob cruiser, but I think the best sailors out there on the fanciest yachts are chasing the same kind of joy that a kid can find on a Sunfish. I think sailing is simple, and too often we complicate it.

Consumerism doesn’t help. We live in a world that tells us we’re one purchase away from happiness. If only I had that boat, that wheel or that canvas, then I’d be content.

Then, there’s our complexity bias, our tendency to believe that complicated is better than simple. We wander the marina, fantasizing about bigger boats, better systems and more stuff. Trouble is, we spend so much time staring at the boat we don’t have that we overlook the best parts of the boat we do have.

We forget to smell the roses. Or worse, we don’t even notice them.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with moving up. New boats are amazing. Big boats are beautiful. I’m not here to shame us for daydreaming. I’m just saying we’ll likely feel anxious or envious even on the dreamiest of yachts. And that’s OK too.

“Dad, I know we love Delilah, but we gotta get one of those,” my 8-year-old said. David Blake Fischer

The other day, Ezra and I were out on a father-and-son sail. When the wind died, we sat in the cockpit, eating SpaghettiOs and listening to our favorite songs as the sun set and Delilah bounced around like a fishing bobber.

On our way back, a fancy looking couple on a Beneteau Sense 50 flagged us down in the channel. Our outboard was making a racket, so I cut it to hear what they were yelling.

“We love your boat!” the woman called from behind one of the Beneteau’s two enormous wheels. “Sometimes I wish we had a little sailboat!”

“What?” Ezra asked after they passed. “They wish they had our little boat?”

I kicked my feet up on the orange bucket we use as a cooler. I looked at Ezra and smiled.

C’est la vie.

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David Blake Fischer is a “noob” sailor living in Southern California whose work has appeared in McSweeney’s, BuzzFeed, the Moth, and Good Old Boat. He hasn’t crossed oceans. In fact, he’s only recently crossed the Santa Monica Bay. Follow him as he fumbles out the channel, backwinds his jib and sometimes drags his fenders on Delilah, his Cape Dory 25. Find him on Instagram @sailingdelilah.

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