I am a humble sort of bloke so it may come as a surprise to regular readers to learn that I hold the chair of Boat Psychiatry from the Institute of Marine Psychology, Oxford.
I have decided to break cover to make you aware of a disease that is spreading through our community – it is known among my fellow sailors as “too many boats disease” but us professionals call it Polynavicula Morbus or PNM for short.
outwardly sufferers can seem well adjusted and happy
At a recent gathering of boat psychologists and yacht psychiatrists held at the Institute we came up with a simple self diagnostic tool to help sailors understand if they might have a problem. Simply total up the hull length of boats you own, or have a part share in. Canoes, windsurfers and paddle boards count, multihulls and tris you count each hull. Surfboards are obviously excluded.
We have come up with some preliminary categories.
less than 20 hull feet dormant or in remission.
20 to 50 infected but benign
50 to 100 advanced
100 to 150 serious
150 to 250 chronic
250 and above severe PNM
too much boat stuff is a classic symptom
Of course this is a very crude rule of thumb and the concept of counting each hull on a cat or a tri does cause some controversy. But if you know any cat or tri sailors then you will understand that their brains are wired slightly differently from those of “normal ” sailors.
It has also been pointed out that an oligarch with one 260 foot superyacht is clearly in need of a permanent crew and a few bodyguards rather than a “one on one” with a qualified boat therapist such as myself.
the provenance of boat paraphenalia is always in doubt
Some people have suggested that PNM is not really a disease but I must put in a call for compassion. Take one of my clients, I shall call him Lance but his real name is Cedric. He has sixteen boats that add up to a total of 260 feet.
Outwardly Cedric appears to be as well adjusted as any normal sailor such as you or I, but his dark secret is that he actually hardly sails at all. On a good day with warm sun and a fresh breeze he stands on his back stoop and drinks three coffees while deciding which boat to sail. The by the time he has finished duck shoving boats around his jig-saw puzzle of a yard the morning has all but gone.
Cedric has to park his truck on the street in front of his property because there is no room for vehicles in his garage or on his drive. His neighbours are not happy with him. His wife is not happy with him. She used to be a keen gardener and now faces a sea of white plastic when she steps out into her back yard. All she has is the window boxes.
PNM sufferers will often have several identical boats but can dream up reasons for owning each one
Once the chosen boat has been hitched up, the lighting board has been found, the bearings greased poor Lance then has to try to find the right sails, rudder and rigging to go with the boat.
By four in the afternoon Lance is ready to go sailing but he is so exhausted that the moment has passed and the pleasant morning breeze has gone.
I am sad to tell you that last year Cedric only went sailing twice – and that was in a friend’s cat boat which suffers from such terrible weather helm that it takes two strong men just to keep it on the most approximate of courses.
We have two reported near mortalities that can be attributed to PNM. At the age of 32 Charlie from Illinois started to accumulate Lasers – at least one of each type. By the time he was forty he had no less than 13 of them. He built a rack in the workshop to store them.
One day while working on his third PD racer the whole rack came away from the wall.... terrible, terrible. Nobby from the Oklahoma pan handle had boats on both seaboards and was found at the wheel of his truck unable to decide whether to head East or West. To all intents and pruposes the man is now a vegetable and has taken up golf.
To offer us a tool for greater refinement in the diagnosis of PNM, Yacht Psychologists such as myself, multiply total boat length by the number of hulls – so Lance with his 16 hulls adding up to 260 feet has a true PNM of 4,160.
One of the main problems with PNM sufferers is getting them to acknowledge that they have a problem at all. Some men say that they need all the boats so that they have just the right vessel for every situation. Some say that they have large families - but on further questioning they usually sail alone.
In the past, when boats were made of wood, the PNM afflicted would watch their vessels slowly rot away and return to the ecosystem. Now that plastic boats are immortal some PNM sufferers are so deluded that they regard their fleet as an investment rather than a burden that stops them from actually sailing.
If you think you, or a friend, is afflicted here are a few extra questions to consider:
Do you monitor ebay for bargains? Do you ever sell boats? Do you feel that boats sometimes need to be rescued? Do you lie to your partner about how many you have and how much you spend on them? How many of your boats can you see from Google Earth or Google Street View?
Some people see it as a simple psychosis but recent studies suggest that Polynavicular Morbus has many of the characteristics of a true disease in that is can spread from man to man. Potent vectors include long conversations in sunny cockpits, damp deck shoes, soup, dorritoes and sometimes modest amounts of alcohol.
Women for some reason are generally immune to PNM but there are many who suffer from being married to the afflicted.
Please feel free to email me with your problems and case histories.
Yours Dr Dyl 45 feet – three hulls
Cedric is in remission and has found a use for some of his surplus boats